Calvary Road Baptist Church

“ASSURANCE OF SALVATION”

Philippians 1.7-8

Turn in your Bible to the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. When you find Philippians chapter one, please stand for the reading of God’s Word:

1      Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

2      Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

3      I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

4      Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

5      For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

6      Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

7      Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

8      For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

Of course, Paul is writing from Roman imprisonment to his beloved Philippians. His introduction being in verses 1 and 2, Paul spends verses 3-11 telling the Philippians how he thanked God for them. In verses 3-6, he thanks God for the past, how it has been between Paul and the Philippians. We examined that passage last week. In the near future, Lord willing, we will examine Philippians 1.9-11, where Paul anticipates what the future will be like for the Philippians. Today, in verses 7 and 8, we focus on Paul’s thanksgiving to God for the way it is between him and the Philippians, as he writes to them from Roman imprisonment and awaiting trial.

If you ponder and meditate on these two verses before us today, and compare them with the rest of the writings of Paul, it will strike you just how strong he is here in standing up for public display his passionate feelings for these people. It is safe to say that Paul really did love all the brethren, just as you and I should obey God and love all genuine believers. However, who could deny that some of the brethren are so much easier to love than are others? These Philippians had successfully wormed their way into the deep recesses of Paul’s heart. Although Paul does not really say anything to the Philippians that he does not say elsewhere in his New Testament writings, what he does tell these people he does cram with more feeling than elsewhere. Philippians is very much a letter that has a great deal to do with feelings, and that is good because feelings are a wonderful thing, given to us by God. However, feelings are not supposed to govern our lives so much as fill life with passion and spice. Such were Paul’s feelings toward the Philippians.

In verse 7, Paul expresses to his beloved friends his personal assurance of their salvation. So you will understand what Paul refers to in verse 7, begin back at verse 6 with me and read both verses together:

6      Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

7      Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

Verse 6 is an announcement of Paul’s confidence toward God. And what a statement of God’s sovereignty verse 6 is. Salvation was begun by God, sovereignly. Salvation is continued by God, sovereignly. And at the coming of our Savior salvation will be climaxed by God, sovereignly. Whereas verse 6 looks to God in this matter of salvation, verse 7 looks to man. Specifically, verse 7 looks to the Philippians. As Paul wrote to those in Thessalonica of his personal assurance of their salvation, so does Paul the same here in Philippians 1.7. That is to say, he has absolutely no doubt in his mind and heart that those people were saved and on their way to heaven. However, is Paul right in his opinion of them? In the first half of verse 7, Paul indicates that he is justified in so thinking of them. “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart.” Consider, here, the word “meet” and the word “heart.” The word “meet” translates the Greek word for “just.”[1] Therefore, Paul is telling them that it is right, proper, and appropriate for him to be so confident that they are saved. Why so? Look at the word “heart.” In our culture, the “heart” is the center of feelings. However, in the Greek-speaking world of Paul’s day the “heart” was the place where rational thought was considered to be seated. Saying, “I have you in my heart” in Paul’s day would be like you or me saying, “You are constantly on my mind. I always think of you.” It is almost like saying, “You are a compulsion with me.” Thus, Paul believes himself to be very justified, on reasonable and rational grounds, for his conviction that the Philippians are saved people. However, he does not stop with feeling justified in his thinking. The last half of the verse shows Paul to have verified in his thinking that those folks were, indeed, believers in Jesus Christ. “and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”

What does Paul mean by “the defense and confirmation of the gospel?” Is he referring to his whole life of preaching the gospel, or is he looking to his impending trial now that he is in Rome? The reason I raise this question is because the words “defense” and “confirmation” are courtroom words. Therefore, he could be talking about his trial before Caesar that was coming up. Whatever he is specifically talking about, whether his entire apostolic ministry or his upcoming trial, the fact that the Philippians are in the fight with him is all the verification he needs to support his assertion that those folks are genuinely converted. I say this because the phrase “ye are all partakers of my grace” refers to the fact that those people he was writing to, as poor, needy, and helpless as he knew they were, did not allow their own inadequacies to keep them from rallying to the support of Paul. Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, those people ignored their own weaknesses, turned their backs on their own poverty, and confidently forged ahead for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake in helping Paul and in doing what Paul did. No wonder Paul has such assurance of their salvation.

In verse 8, Paul’s announcement of his feelings is stated: “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” Four quick things here: First, “For God is my record.” In other words, God only is witness to Paul’s inner feelings about those people. After all, whom would he tell? The Roman who was assigned to guard him? Folks, you cannot always tell everyone everything that is on your mind and heart. Therefore, until he wrote this letter, it is safe to say that the only one who knew of the depth of Paul’s gripping love for those people was God, Himself. Second, “how greatly I long after you all.” Again, Paul makes sure that he includes everyone in that church as being longed for. You know that some of you are more prominent than others. Know also that less prominent does not mean less important. Paul was mature enough to know that those people acted in concert to do what they did for him and for the cause of Christ, so it was for them, for all of them, that he had his feelings and his great love. Third, look at the word “bowels” at the end of verse 8. The Greek word translated “bowels” is a word that refers to your inward parts, and is the strongest word in the Greek language for the feeling of compassion.[2] As the heart was where the Greek-speaking world thought of as the seat of thought and reason, this region was thought by them to be the seat of yearning, feelings, and emotions. Notice, finally, that it is “in the bowels of Jesus Christ” that Paul longs for them all. That is, he recognized that his feelings for them came from the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul’s great love for them was the result of Christ’s great love for them and their great love for Christ. How could he not passionately love anyone who had such a love affair with his Savior? For all of this, their salvation and his feelings, he is thankful to God. When someone is really with you in your efforts to serve God and bring people to Christ, is it not so much easier to have assurance about that person, and so much easier to love that person, as with Paul and the Philippians? If someone had a problem with the Philippians, would it likely not be because they were mean-spirited and contrary, but because that someone was likely not a real believer in Jesus Christ?

Reflect on the Apostle Paul’s ability to write of his assurance that others were genuinely saved. What a thrill it must have been for those Christians to hear read to them Paul’s words that expressed his conviction that they were saved. Having mentioned Paul’s assurance that the Philippians were truly converted people, it is also helpful to point out another congregation Paul wrote to for whom he expressed similar thoughts. Turn to First Thessalonians 1.2-4:

2      We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;

3      Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

4      Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God.

Amazing. There was something about the Thessalonian church members that caused Paul to have great confidence that they were the elect of God, to know they were saved, instead of only thinking they might be Christians because they said they were. He did not have such convictions about everyone he wrote to, you know. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.”[3] To the Galatians Paul wrote, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain.”[4] Amazingly, both of those concerns were written to people who were absolutely positive they were saved. So, there were people Paul knew who he had no doubts about, and there were people Paul knew who he did have doubts about, or at least serious questions about, regarding their salvation. Toward some people, Paul’s concern was based upon their belief that they were saved and positive about it that he could find no evidence and justification for.

Pause with me just a moment before continuing on, to make sure we are all on the same page, that our understanding of terms agrees. Let me briefly define salvation as the deliverance from sin and the consequences of sins that only Jesus Christ provides by means of faith. Next, let me define eternal security as the reality that salvation, having begun at a point in time, never ends for any reason. If a person is really saved, he is forever saved. Third, assurance of salvation. Assurance of salvation is a feeling, a personal conclusion you hold about yourself or another being truly saved. Eternal security is a fact that is totally unaffected by reason, logic, or feelings. A saved person is eternally secure in Christ. Period. However, what about assurance of salvation? Since a person’s assurance of salvation is a subjective opinion that a person has, assurance of salvation can be either correct or incorrect. In other words, there are people who have assurance of salvation who are saved, and there are people who have assurance of salvation who are not saved.

Are you positive that when you die you will go to heaven? How does it affect you that almost everyone in America feels the same way you do? And do not say, “That’s their problem,” because it is also your problem. Could it be that the reason so many Americans think they are saved, despite the fact that we murder 1.5 million unborn babies each year and have a rising suicide rate, is because not everyone who thinks he is saved is actually saved? Could it be that most people who think they are saved are not, in fact, saved? Assurance of salvation is a wonderful thing. It can be most comforting. However, assurance of salvation, for it to be real and not a dangerous and soul damning self-deception, must be based on what the Bible teaches. Consider with me the two kinds of assurance of salvation:

First, THERE IS FALSE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

This is the assurance you have that you are saved, you think you are saved, but you are not saved. What do you suppose would cause a person to think he is saved when he is not, in fact, saved? Let us not deal with whether or not you can be deceived about such things, because there is an abundance of scripture to show that you can be self-deceived, you can be Satan-deceived, and so forth. I just want to review for you the false reasoning that you will use to convince yourself you are saved when you are not.

First, there is reasoning that is based on your past experience. “I went forward at a brush arbor meeting and got saved.” Another will say, “I remember asking Jesus to save me at an old fashioned revival meeting.” Those things are fine. Those remembrances are delightful. There is only one problem. There is absolutely no place in God’s Word that justifies assurance of salvation based on some supposed conversion event in the past. Friend, whether you actually did or actually were not really saved way back then, God’s Word does not justify assurance of salvation based upon anything in the past. I defy anyone to find scriptural justification for the assurance of his salvation based upon a conversion event that happened long ago.

Second, there is reasoning based on your present experiences. “I know that I am a Christian because I am so good.” “I know that I am a Christian because I serve God.” “I know that I am a Christian because the pastor says I’m not and I’m too ornery to admit that he’s probably right.” You need to be very careful about thinking you are saved based upon what you presently do or what you presently are. That can be a convenient cover for thinking you are not a sinner and that you think you are good enough to deserve heaven. Or it may be a cover for thinking that you can work your way to heaven. Remember, all have sinned.[5] There is none that doeth good.[6] And everyone is condemned in the sight of God from birth.[7] The fact of the matter is, most people who claim they are saved because of what is going on in their lives right now base it on the fact that they go to church and do religious things, but you are still wicked and have a perverse and hateful heart. You have turned the grace of God into lasciviousness.[8] You think the grace of God allows you to do anything you want. All that proves is that you are a slave to sin.

Third, there is reasoning based on your future expectations. This is the thinking of folks who know they are not saved, but they are extremely confident that someday they will be saved. I find such reasoning puzzling, since Ephesians 2.12 declares to us that unsaved people have “no hope.” Since “hope” in the Bible is the confidence of future blessings based on Bible promises, and since the Bible says that unsaved people have no “hope,” no unsaved person has any logical reason for any confidence that he will someday be saved. How can anyone be confident he will be saved when the Bible strongly asserts that salvation is not of man, but of God? In fact, there is nothing found in the Bible that gives anyone reason to look to the future with anything other than fear and foreboding as he anticipates dying and going to Hell for his sins. I know that there are always a number of people who base the assurance of their salvation, are basing their confidence that they are going to heaven when they die, on the things I have just mentioned. Perhaps such people are saved, perhaps not. In any case, basing one’s assurance on the things I have mentioned is no way to obtain anything like scriptural assurance of salvation. Why not? Because both saved people and lost people can convince themselves they are saved in this way. If that were the case, that kind of assurance is no kind of assurance to have. Why should it? It does not mean anything.

THE RIGHT KIND OF ASSURANCE TO HAVE IS BIBLICAL ASSURANCE OF SALVATION

Biblical assurance of salvation is the kind of assurance that is very hard for an unsaved person to get. Oh, it is possible for even an unsaved person to feel assured of salvation, since even Biblical assurance of salvation is subjective and based on what you or someone else personally feels. However, if you are honest, if you really are sincere, Biblical assurance is a wonderful blessing from God given by the indwelling Holy Spirit to the genuine believer. Genuine assurance of salvation is based on two things:

First, a Bible-based assurance of salvation considers what you say. First Peter 3.15: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” This a straightforward and simple verse of scripture. Why would anyone, based on this verse, object to being asked why he thinks he is saved, what he means when he says he is saved, who he thinks the Savior is, and what he you thinks Jesus has done, and things like that? If the Word of God commands you to be ready to answer such questions as these with meekness and fear, why would someone refuse to do so? If one really is saved, should he not be expected to have Biblical answers to such questions as these? If reasonable answers to reasonable questions are not given, is it not reasonable to suspect that the person without answers may not be saved? Thus, my assurance of your salvation is based upon your reasonable answers to my reasonable questions. Of course, this means that there are at least two assurances of salvation, one’s own assurance of his salvation and one’s own assurance of another’s salvation.

Next, we see that my assurance of your salvation, as well as your own, is also based on what you do. First John 2.3: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” What do you do? Do you seek the conversion of the lost? Do you love the brethren? Do you esteem them very highly in love for the work’s sake, those who rule over you? Do you faithfully attend church? Do you dress with modesty and shamefacedness? Do you speak only those words that minister grace to those who hear you? How can you say you are saved, and how can you convince others you are a believer, when you do not actively seek the salvation of the lost, do not noticeably love the brethren, do not highly esteem your pastor for Christ’s sake, do not dress with modesty and shamefacedness, and you are heard to speak with profane and vile words?

In short, how can you be so very sure that you are saved when you have never subjected yourself to the legitimate and well-meaning questions that will determine if you have a well-founded reason for thinking yourself to be saved? On top of that, how can you think yourself to be saved when there is nothing about what you do which agrees with the lifestyle that one who is truly saved will exhibit?

Please make no mistake. No one is saved by what they say or by the way they live. However, after you are saved God will enable you to verify to others that you are saved by simply telling them what you believe about how you were saved, and also by showing them how you live now that you are a child of God. Can you do that? Can you tell others how you were saved? Will it agree with what the Bible says about how a person is saved? Having told someone how you were saved, do you also live something approaching the Christian life? Do you keep His commandments? If not, my friend, in all likelihood you need to be saved.

I say this because you have no scriptural basis for any assurance of salvation, and no one else has a scriptural basis for his assurance of your salvation, either. It warrants looking into, don’t you think?[9]



[1] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 246-247.

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 545.

[3] 2 Corinthians 13.5

[4] Galatians 4.11

[5] Romans 3.23

[6] Romans 3.12

[7] John 3.18

[8] Jude 4

[9] For more on assurance of salvation see Samuel E. Waldron, A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, (Faverdale North, Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 1999), pages 224-231.



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org