Doubt vs. The Assurance of Salvation

By Dolores Kimball

Why do people doubt their own salvation? There are several possibilities and if you doubt your salvation, it's helpful to know why.

Some people who doubt their salvation do so because they're not really saved. God has promised that His Spirit provides a ‘testimony' to our spirits that we are truly His children, (Romans 8:16), so the best thing to do is to ask Him for that assurance.

There is also sometimes a sort of reverse pride that says: "I'm special - SO sinful that even the Creator of the universe can't save me." These people refuse the grace of God because to accept it puts them in the same category with all other sinners saved by grace. They would rather remain in their own special category, even though it leads them to hell.

But for those who are saved but who still doubt, there are several reasons why they suffer from a lack of assurance. For one thing, it could be that they have been in a home or church where confrontive, convicting preaching or teaching has not been balanced by strong teaching about the love and grace of God to undeserving sinners.

For sensitive souls with a strong natural sense of guilt, this can produce a relentless sense of sin so great that they feel they can't possibly live up to the standard. Frankly, this doesn't happen all that often today. The day of the pulpit-pounding, bearded, gloom-and-doom Calvinist preacher is a thing of the past.

Some people feel they are too sinful to be saved. They don't understand the scope of the cross or the depth of the love of God toward sinners. Too many people listen to the whispering of demons in their ears telling them they aren't good enough to merit salvation. This is one of Satan's favorite lies. He gets us thinking we have to ‘do' something, and then convinces us nothing we can do is good enough. That way we stay on his evil little merry-go-round, chasing our tails into an eternity in hell.

Some doubt their salvation because they have convinced themselves that every little thing has to be confessed to be forgiven. They obsess about every thought, word and action, trying to determine if it is sin and needs to be confessed. They don't understand the completeness of the forgiveness in Christ, that He paid the penalty for all sins – past, present, future. They don't understand that we have died with Christ and are resurrected with Him to "walk in the newness of life" (Romans 6:4).

That means we're completely new creatures. Sin has no hold on us. Yes, we still sin, but we don't have to obsess about it and fall on our knees every time a stray sinful thought crosses our minds. "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

Some are so keenly aware of their sinful flesh that they don't believe it's possible to be saved and still have thoughts and desires when they are now new creations in Christ. They don't understand the nature of the continual battle of the flesh against the spirit.

Paul experienced this same battle daily, and bemoaned the fact that he didn't do what he wanted to do and did the things he didn't want to do. This is the plight of all believers and causes us to say, with Paul, "Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" (Romans 7:24-25).

Believers also doubt their salvation because of the trials they experience, which they see as evidence God is not present in their lives. They lack the understanding of the role of trials in the Christian life, seeing them as either punishment from a God who is not pleased with them or evidence that God isn't in their lives at all. If He were, they reason, this wouldn't be happening to me. That simply isn't true. The Christian life is a spiritual battle and anyone who tells you otherwise does not know the Scriptures.

Ultimately, those who are saved and still doubt their salvation usually don't have a true understanding of the gospel. They believe faith is a work they have to accomplish, rather than a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9).

Some accept that salvation is a gift, but after they are saved, they believe maintaining their salvation is a matter of their own effort. They misapply "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" with a heavy emphasis on "I can do". When they fail to "do," they doubt themselves. They just don't understand the magnitude of being "in Christ."

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Published on 7-7-11