“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.” (1 Thess. 1:5)
The gospel that Paul is referring to in this verse is the gospel that he received by revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12). It is the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day for our justification (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). Salvation is by grace through faith and no works whatsoever are required to receive it (Rom. 3:28; Eph. 2:8-9). If you believe that you have to do certain works to be saved, you have not trusted the finished work of Christ.
This is not just a message; it is The Only Message by which sinners can be saved in this present age. This message is not words only like all of the other messages that are preached by the religions of the world. This is God’s message of salvation and therefore it is accompanied by power, the Holy Ghost, and much assurance.
The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes it (Rom. 1:16). When a sinner believes the gospel, he is instantly regenerated, baptized, in dwelt, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. That certainly ought to make a difference in our life (Eph. 2:10)! The manner in which Paul, Silas, and Timothy lived was a testimony to the power of the gospel (1 Thess. 2:10). It also made a difference in the lives of the Thessalonians (1:3, 9-10).
God wants us to have MUCH ASSURANCE that the gospel is true and that by believing it we are eternally saved. Upon salvation, we are immediately and permanently baptized by the Holy Spirit into the church which is the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). This is the greatest, highest, and the most secure position we could possibly have. False doctrine attacks this glorious position. God also wants us to enjoy the riches of the FULL ASSURANCE of understanding concerning who are in Christ (Col. 2:1-10). We are complete in Christ!
What is assurance? Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines it as, “Firm persuasion; full confidence or trust; freedom from doubt; certain expectation; the utmost certainty.” The word “assurance” is used seven times in the Bible. The first two references teach us what assurance is by comparison and contrast. In the first mention, we learn that assurance is the opposite of hanging in doubt (Deut. 28:65-67). In the second mention, we learn that assurance is related to the peace of God (Isa. 32:15-18). There can be no peace without righteousness (Rom. 5:1).
The Four Groups of Assurance
Regarding the assurance of salvation, all professing Christians are in one of four groups:
- Those that are saved and enjoy the scriptural assurance of it
- Those that are saved but lack assurance of it
- Those that are not saved but enjoy a false assurance that they are
- Those that are not saved and therefore cannot have assurance
The most dangerous group to be in is the third one. Deception is a terrible thing. The worst thing to be deceived about is your salvation. The devil is the great deceiver. He wants lost people to think they are saved (he uses false gospels) and saved people to think they are still lost. He accomplishes this by casting doubt on the word of God and hiding the key to understanding the scripture (2 Tim. 2:15 is changed in the modern versions of the Bible).
False teachers say that it is impossible to have absolute assurance of salvation. It is impossible if you are trusting a false gospel, but those who have believed the gospel of the grace of God should have absolute assurance like Paul, our pattern, did (2 Tim. 1:12; 4:6). Paul had committed the unpardonable sin under the gospel of the kingdom when he blasphemed the Holy Ghost in Acts 7 (Matt. 12:31-32), but he was saved in Acts 9 by a gospel he received by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Under this gospel, justification is instant and permanent because it is “by the faith of Christ,” not our faith. We do not have to endure unto the end to prove our faith (Matt. 24:13-14). A number of people have told me that since learning how to rightly divide the Bible they now enjoy the assurance and confidence that they are eternally secure in Christ. You don’t get that from the Old Testament (Ps. 51:11) or passages about the future tribulation period (Heb. 6:4-8)!
What About Satan?
Why does Satan want us to doubt salvation? Doubting salvation will cause us to be unstable and unfruitful (Jam. 1:8). If we don’t know that we are saved, we will not faithfully serve God. If we are walking in doubt we are not walking by faith. Satan wants to hinder our Christian growth and walk because he hates us, and he doesn’t want us to lead others to Christ.
What are possible reasons for doubting salvation?
- Satanic attack (2 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 6:12)
- False doctrine (Gal. 1:7)
- Emphasis on self – feelings, and experience, must know the exact day, a certain degree of repentance or faith
- Sin – If I am really saved why do such things? We still have corrupt flesh!
- Feelings – “I don’t feel peace about it”
- Lack of growth (Eph. 4:14)
- Not really saved – some know the historical facts of the gospel but have not personally trusted Christ in their heart
How can we know for sure that we are saved? The only way to know for sure is by the word of God (Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2). Feelings change, but the word of God always remains the same (Matt. 24:35). We must look to Paul’s epistles for assurance of salvation because that is where the gospel of our salvation is revealed (Eph. 1:13). It is this simple: if you have trusted the finished work of Christ, then you are saved; if you haven’t, then you are not.
Many preachers tell people who struggle with doubt to go to First John to find assurance, but John was not writing to the Body of Christ (Gal. 2:9). The epistles of John require works for assurance (1 Jn. 2:3-6) and are aimed at Jews in the future tribulation period (1 Jn. 2:18).
The problem with basing assurance on our works is threefold:
- We are saved by grace totally apart from works
- It is possible for a lost person to appear good outwardly
- It is possible for a saved person to be carnal
The doubt that I experienced as a young Christian drove me to the word of God and that is what dissolved my doubts. I came to enjoy much assurance by meditating especially in the book of Romans. The only self-examination (2 Cor. 13:5) should be to ask ourselves, “Do I really believe what the gospel of the grace of God?” Struggling with doubt can actually be evidence of salvation because lost people generally aren’t concerned about their soul. Salvation is instantaneous but coming to enjoy “much assurance” may be a process as you learn to sift through false doctrine and traditions of men and get grounded in the word of God rightly divided.