There are two strategies that the devil uses among men and women in seeking to frustrate the good that God seeks to do in them. The first and most basic strategy is to keep them from responding to the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4).When he fails here—for who can stop God when he places his divine call of salvation upon a human soul?—his second strategy is to cause them to doubt their salvation. This is a very subtle strategy. He knows that when this happens in the life of a believer, he or she becomes ineffective for the Lord.

Why do believers doubt their salvation? What causes their fear and anxiety? How can we overcome this problem? That is exactly what I would like us to address as we turn to the Scriptures. Let us address this issue by answering two questions. 

What causes believers to doubt their salvation?

Let us begin by reminding ourselves of the great salvation that is ours in Christ Jesus. It is important to begin here because sin is the biggest reason believers doubt their salvation. I propose only three points:

(a) What is salvation? Salvation is defined as the deliverance from the power and penalty of sin. We need to be delivered from its power because we were born in sin and, therefore, are enslaved by it (Ephesians 2:1, 2, Romans 3:23, 5:12). We need to be delivered from its penalty because to die without Christ is to spend eternity in hell, which is what we rightly deserve.

(b) How are we saved? We are saved by the grace of God. God put the punishment which we deserved on his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4, 2:8, 2 Corinthians 5:21). It should therefore be appreciated that neither repentance nor faith are meritorious works. They do not contribute to people receiving God’s favour. They are rather the means by which we receive his free pardon.

(c) What is the extent of our salvation? Our deliverance was decreed before we were born (Ephesians 1:4). Our salvation, in that sense, is past. This should encourage every believer. Our salvation is also present. We have been saved to live a holy life, to be free from the bondage of sin and the devil (Romans 6:1–11, 14, 19). Finally, our salvation is future in that we await our final redemption when our Saviour returns from heaven to take us to be with him forever. Where then do doubts come from in the light of such a great and secure salvation?

  1. Doubts come because of sin in the believer’s life

We have been called to live a holy life in order to show that our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, has conquered sin in our lives (1 John 3:8). When we sin, the devil comes, and, in a whisper, says, “You are still unconverted. If you were truly a child of God you would not have done what you have done.”

  1. Doubts also come from the consequences of sin

One of the consequences of sin is that our fellowship with God is disrupted. God is grieved (Ephesians 4:30). As a result, we no longer enjoy sweet fellowship with him and lose the joy and peace of our salvation (Psalm 51:12). The conclusion we are tempted to make is that we are not saved. We feel as though God is not on our side.

  1. Doubts also come because of embracing wrong doctrines

There are people who teach that though a person is born again, he can lose his salvation because of sin. If a person believes this, he will inevitably doubt his salvation when he falls into sin. The person will reason that since Scripture does not state how many times you have to sin in order to lose your salvation then you may have already lost it. The loss of joy and peace when you sin only makes this conviction worse. So, you tend to mistake the loss of the joy of salvation for the loss of salvation itself! Let me still say a few words here:

In the first place, we have to believe that the way we came to God determines whether we can lose our salvation or not. The Scriptures teach that God brought us to himself by a divine act. Consider this verse: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). When we come to the Gospel of John, Jesus makes it clear that salvation belongs to God: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…” And later he said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by my Father” (John 6:44, 65).

In the book of Acts, you cannot miss this: “When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, God has granted even the gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18); “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). It must be clear from this that our coming to God for salvation was not, strictly speaking, because “we wanted to” but because God wanted us to; he brought us to himself by his own sovereign good pleasure.

In the second place, we must believe that we do receive eternal life when we believe in the name of the Son of God (John 3:16). By its very name, eternal life should convince us that it is a life that will never end. How can it be called “eternal” life if someone can still lose it the very next day? Such a proposition should boggle the mind!

Lastly, we must believe that we come to him who is greater than all; hence the promise, “… and no one is able to snatch them out of my hand … and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27–29). If Satan could snatch you out of the hand of the Father, then he would be more powerful than God. But he is not and so it is impossible for him do so!

Having said this, then, let us consider the next question: 

How can we overcome our doubts with respect to our salvation?

If I could give a response to the above question in one phrase it is this: “Believe what God has said.” In looking at what God has said about our salvation, 1 John 5:11–13 is a great comfort for believers. Here are some of the things this passage tells us God has said.

 God has said we have eternal life

(a) Every believer has God’s own testimony. “And this is the testimony that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:11).

(b) Every person who has the Son of God has life. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).

(c) Every believer has assurance from God himself that he has eternal life. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

 

When you critically consider the above biblical statements, then you must go back to the foundation of your experience of salvation and answer some very pertinent questions: When were you saved? What happened on that occasion? Did you believe? In what or whom did you believe? Consider this: “…to you who believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13). If you have accurate, biblical answers to the above questions, I cannot say it better than the holy word: “…you have eternal life”! 

  1. God has said we are secure up to the day of our final redemption

Pastor Conrad Mbewe, in his booklet Biblical Church Government, brings out the following as one of the ways Christ manifests his headship; “It is he who is the governor and protector of the Church.” I would like to draw your attention to the Scripture reference he uses to support this; “my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My father, who has given them to me is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of my father’s hand” (John 10:27–29). Let me comment briefly on the italicised words in these verses:

 My sheep—that is you and I, as believers, and all others who the Lord will bring in the fold. In other words, it is the elect of God (cp. John 10:14–16).

Eternal life—this is not a temporal life, or a life for a limited period. It is endless.

Never perish—it cannot happen. It is impossible. Why is it impossible? Because…

My father… is greater than all. I need not say anything more on this!

Conclusion

So then, what happens to a believer who sins against God? Does he or she still have a right to claim sonship with God? Wayne Grudem has a very helpful explanation. He says, “Our legal standing before God is unchanged.” In other words, the believer is still justified even when he or she sins because “there is, therefore, no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Salvation is not based on our merits but is a free gift of God (Romans 6:23)”, Grudem further says, “The truth of the Bible is that Jesus died for our sins past, present and future. We are still justified even when we fall in sin. I know this sounds careless to my friends who think telling a believer about his security is encouraging sin. My response is that I will not shrink from speaking Scripture because it contradicts my human reasoning. I did nothing to be saved (Ephesians 2:8, 9); and I can do nothing to make me cease to be saved. In the same epistle where John says, ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us’ (1 John 1:8), he also reminds his readers, ‘Beloved now we are children of God’ (1 John 3:2).”

Let me suggest the following each time you fall into sin:

  1. God forbid it that you yield to the enemy’s lie to cause you to doubt your salvation, rather,
  2. Remember, and seriously so, that you have sinned against a holy God and the consequences are great. Run to your Father, who hates hypocrisy but waits always to forgive those who are sincere (1 John 1:8, 9).

Let me say one more thing as we draw to a close. In 1 Peter 1:3–5, Peter assures every believer of not only a rich future, but a secure present. He refers to believers as those “who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). May the Almighty God establish in your heart the truth that you are his and his forever, AMEN!

References

Bible: New King James Version, Thomas Nelson, 1979.

Grudem, Wayne, 1994. Systematic Theology. Zondervan; Grand Rapids.

Mbewe Conrad, 1993. Biblical Church Government. Evergreen Publishers; Lusaka.