Assurance of Salvation
by Glen Striemer, September 9, 2014: You hear it spoken across the land on a weekly basis, “We don’t believe in once saved, always saved. We need to die daily.” (1 Corinthians 15:31) This combination of thought undermines the good news of the gospel and is actually quite a prideful statement, in that by my dying daily to self I somehow manage to maintain my good status as being saved. This is why the doctrine of predestination was invented in the first place, because Calvin and his followers couldn’t accept that by doing you were achieving salvation. They knew that only a minority were going to enter into heavenly places, so they created a doctrine whereby only a few were selected by God for salvation, regardless of their performance. Luther’s followers, on the other hand, believed that the “just shall live by faith,” the only problem being that they believed it was by our own faith that we manufacture salvation. Here the religious world sat for centuries, until the year 1888 in a church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the world was re-introduced to righteousness by faith, the faith of Jesus. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is often to referred to as a “movement of destiny.” It cannot be because we believe in the seventh-day Sabbath, for that was taught to us by our friends, the Seventh-day Baptists; it cannot be because of baptism by immersion, for that was taught to us by the early Amish Mennonites; it cannot be because we pay tithes, for we have the Jews to thank for this truth. We are a church of destiny because we introduced the final stepping stone in the recovering of truths long lost since Pentecost. We were not supposed to reject this message which is found within the one unique pillar of Adventism, the heavenly sanctuary message. Dr. Waggoner was challenged from the audience by one of his hearers who cried out, “Are you preaching the doctrine of universalism!” To which E.J. Waggoner calmly and confidently replied, “I am preaching what the Bible says.”
As long as angels hold back the winds of strife, we are not saved by our understanding of doctrine, no matter how pressingly beautiful it is. This is easily proven when we read the dynamic prayer of Jesus found in John 17. Jesus tells His readers that He is one with His disciples and they are one with Him. At that particular moment in history, Christ’s disciples by today’s standards were not even candidates for baptism. They did not understand the cross or the resurrection, and they certainly did not understand the 2300-day prophecy found in Daniel, nor the eternal kingdom to come.
When we utter the words “We don’t believe in once saved, always saved,” it is as though these thoughts are directed at some huge religious movement whose followers do believe these things. One of my great surprises in 25 years of colporteur ministry was that I couldn’t find a single soul who actually believed in predestination. I know they are out there somewhere, perhaps hiding in the Primitive Baptist Church, but for all intents and purposes, that ship has sailed. A quick Google search shows that modern Baptists, be they Southern Baptists or mainstream, believe that everyone has a chance at salvation. Our continuing argument might have found an audience to debate back in the Middle Ages but not so much today. The only purpose this phrase serves today is to remind our own people that salvation is not merely historical but something that needs continual renewing, thus the tagalong verse of how we need to die daily. With this type of thinking comes the lack of assurance of salvation the Bible speaks so plainly about. Probably its greatest single effect is seen in the never-ending surveys amongst our youth, which reveal that academy and university students are quite uncertain about their salvation status.
If we look at salvation through the eyes of the Jewish scholar Apostle Paul, we grasp the Jewish concept that all Jews are one. It has been said that if you kill or hurt one Jew you do it to all. Paul capitalized on this thinking, expanding it into gospel terms his Jewish hearers understood all too well. “Therefore as by the offence of one, judgement came upon all men to condemnation” (Romans 5:18). Herein is defined the great corporate act of Adam in condemning the world to damnation. Adam’s act affected all men, in spite of the fact that none were present or partakers of it. You couldn’t choose to accept or reject what Adam did, for it came upon all men. Over the years many have deduced this Bible concept as being grossly unfair, especially when it brought along death as its penalty. But Paul doesn’t leave his hearers to lack faith in an unjust God, for he brings us to the other side of the great teeter totter of life. “By the righteousness of One, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Romans 5:18). Again, we were not present, nor did we have any part to play, and like Adam’s, it was a corporate decision which came upon all men without a chance to accept or reject its results. Sometimes it’s hard to believe but a murderer (Saul of Tarsus) or heathen (Luke, the Greek physician) stands with a corporate justification of life status of which they must either fall on their face and believe in, or consider it not worthwhile to believe in. At some point there is a line that is crossed (which only God knows) called the unpardonable sin, which grieves away the Holy Ghost’s influence in getting us to believe the good news. Unfortunately, most of the world chooses to not believe, and this is evidenced everywhere by their body of unbelief work manifested in unsavoury, selfish, cruel, evil deeds hoisted upon the innocent by their diabolic hand. For the small minority who choose to believe, as Abram did, God’s words remain steadfast: “He believed in the Lord and He counted it unto him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
There is absolutely zero merit earned when we accept Christ. We cannot receive justification of life when we accept Christ, for how can “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) be sacrificed every time a soul repents and comes to Jesus? The Lamb was slain spiritually in Eden and reaffirmed at great risk to God in a physical manifestation in sinful, carnal flesh at Calvary. In God’s eyes this was a singular act of sacrifice, not a dual one. It was the faith of God in action. If you doubt a realistic sacrifice in Eden, then we must ask how Enoch, Elijah and Moses ended up in heaven before Calvary? Our only conclusion – there is one way of salvation for all time. God did, and we believe – that is justification by our faith.
Once we’ve established where our salvation comes from, finding assurance of salvation is easy. You may have heard this phrase mentioned from the pen of inspiration, “There is not one in ten worthy to be saved.” Often, the “one in ten” gets expanded to include “not one in twenty.” And the speakers seem to quote this statement with a badge of pride. You can be certain they do not include themselves in the lost 19 while they pity the condition of their hearers. To appreciate Ellen White’s comment, let’s view it in context. In the Bible writings, holy men of old were moved by the Holy Ghost to pen their thoughts, using the vernacular of the day. A classic example is found in the book of Daniel, where the king found Daniel and his three friends to be ten times better than his own wise men when it came to knowledge, due to their vegetarian diet. (Daniel 1:20) This expression drives home the writer’s point of emphasis but in reality it is physically impossible for a genius to be ten times smarter than even an imbecile. Again, the furnace prepared for the three Hebrew worthies being heated seven times hotter than previous is again physically impossible but the point is vividly made how hot these flames were. Likewise, Mrs. White, whom we love to quote verbatim, line upon line, expresses her utter frustration with the ministry of her day who were treating this message with carelessness and flippancy in the light of the soon appearing of Jesus. It is not a yardstick on today’s congregations that only one in every ten or twenty is fit to be saved. This line of thought is not Biblical when it comes to believers faithfully worshipping on Sabbaths across the world. It does create a mindset of trying to manufacture a better performance, which is destructive and discouraging, not to mention hopeless. No wonder many youth conclude, “Why bother to try, if only 5% are going to make it anyway, especially those whom I look up to as being saints? Against those stacked odds I might as well live it up now.”
Because we are eternally tied into the Lamb from before the foundation of the world, we are also tied into His one sacrifice in matters of salvation. The Old Covenant way is to continually offer up sacrifices to ensure a saving state. But Jesus “needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice … for this He did once when He offered up Himself …” (Hebrews 7:27). Jesus entered in once into the Holy Place having obtained eternal redemption for us …” (Hebrews 9:12). Nor yet shall He offer Himself often … for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world, but now once in the end of the world hath He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself … so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:26,28). The New English Bible puts it plainly that Christ “bore the burden of men’s sins.”
“But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God … For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us … by the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10: 12, 14-15, 10). Our sanctification is tied into this one-time offering of Christ, and even though our personal sanctification (or performance) is the work of a lifetime, the act of salvation sanctification is a one-time act in Christ. For us to doubt salvation, to regard “I die daily” as meaning that I need to renew my salvation on a daily basis just because I don’t believe in once saved, always saved, is to enter into an old covenant experience. However, “a new covenant … hath made the first old” (Hebrews 8:13). There is “a new and living way, which Jesus hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh (sarx, which is sinful flesh). “All their sins and iniquities I will remember no more” because “there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10: 17,18)
The time is well past to graduate from the foot of Sinai, where “all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the Lord hath said we will do … and be obedient’” (Exodus 24: 3,8). That their intention was sincere there can be no doubt; that their performance failed time and time again, there can also be no doubt. We need to get to the New Covenant place where we “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, . . . having . . . boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10: 22,19). To the comers in ancient days it was a blasphemous thought for anyone to consider going into the holiest who was not a high priest. In New Covenant times, if we consider that our sanctification is as much a part of the free gift which came upon all men as is our salvation, then there is no room for works-oriented thinking, other than simply to please our Lord for His goodness and mercy by the holy life we choose to live. We can go boldly where no Old Covenant sort would dare to go because “ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)