One of the constants in my ministry experience (12 years) has been a need for assurance when it comes to salvation. It’s a no-brainer right? We want confidence in our eternal state. We want to know beyond a doubt that we are in fact saved.
Though the Bible doesn’t give a 3-step outline for assurance it does seek to give us confidence in both internal and external evidences. Such as in Philippians 1:6-7 where Paul writes…
I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul is pointing out that the greatest reason for his confidence in the salvation of the believers at Philippi is the visible work of God in their lives from the first day until the present. The Holy Spirit had ‘opened their hearts’ to believe the gospel and the power of God was displayed at the time of their conversion (See Acts 16:11-34). The initiating heart work of God is the basis for any professing Christian’s assurance, but Paul doesn’t stop with the internal evidence, he then moves on to point out some external signs as well.
It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
Though the internal work of God is indispensible, the external signs of grace are also concrete indicators of our assurance. This balance of internal and external marks of grace is a consistent theme of the New Testament. Here’s a quote from J.A. Motyer on this issue…
We must not, despise inward personal and spiritual convictions about Christian assurance…Yet at the same time, if the professed awareness of being a child of God is not matched by the outward evidence of the kind of life a child of God should live, is not the ‘awareness’ a thin, even an unreal thing? The truth of assurance plays a large part in John’s first letter. It rests in part on our experience of God’s Spirit living in us, but, unquestionably, John’s emphasis falls on the public testimony of our lives – the evidence of genuine compassion, of keeping His commandments, of living as Jesus lived, and of loving the brethren. These are the grounds on which we can know that we are the children of God.
Paul wrote to the church at Philippi and assured them that he saw grounds for their salvation in both the internal and the external evidences of their lives. So, here’s the million dollar question: can the same be said of you?