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Persistent Faith

How can we know that we have eternal life?

“that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, NKJV) 

Over the years I have helped many who have wrestled with their assurance of salvation. Lack of assurance can be quite persistent and, like a stubborn infection, resistant to the antibiotics of God’s truth. No sooner have I lifted the ladder of the gospel and talked them down from their precarious perch to rest on the solid ground of the Rock of their salvation than a month later we find ourselves in the same predicament. 

I think this is God’s purpose for John’s first epistle. God knows the efforts of the evil one to lure us to shipwreck on the rocks of despair. He knows how debilitating our sin can be to us. We are so prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love. We fail so miserably. Even our best of intentions can be infected by sin. 

John writes his letter borne by the Holy Spirit to pen the word of God Himself. When we read these words, we certainly want to hear the pastoral heart of John but we particularly want to understand it as the pastoral care of God to troubled hearts: “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). 

How can we know that we have eternal life? It certainly can’t be by feelings. Feelings are like a storm tossed sea that can dash us against the rocks. The devil likes to agitate our doubts and fears as he points out the continuing presence of sin in our lives, and brings us to question whether we are really saved, whether we really have the Son (1 John 5:12). 

The anchor for assurance of salvation is the revealed word of God that lends its diagnostic tools administered by the Holy Spirit. John constantly points us to Jesus. He agrees that we have sin. In fact, awareness of sin is a symptom of spiritual life. But he constantly points us to Jesus who made an end of our sin. As we have believed in Jesus, we are to continue to believe, to abide in Christ for life and living. 

John has also repeatedly reminded us of the nature of God’s love for us. We love because He first loved us. Sure, we are unworthy of His love and we prove that point all the time. But God’s love is filled with mercy and grace. 

In the account of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), Jesus could have brought down the gavel of guilt upon her but He did not. Yet, neither did He sanction her sinning. Rather, He said, “Go, and sin no more.” That’s just what John has told us: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1), and it is what he continues to tell us as he calls us to love God, neighbor, and one another in the conduct of our Christian walk in fellowship with our God. 

How can you address the interlopers of unbelief, doubt, and confusion?

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and ten grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale

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