The Assurance of Salvation
There are two additional ideas related to the resurrection on this Easter Sunday that I want to present, and both of them have to do to your ability to have an assurance of your salvation.
First, the resurrection of our Lord means that your salvation has been fully and sufficiently acquired by Christ. The resurrection proves that Christ’s sacrifice was accepted by the Father, and by that accepted sacrifice Jesus Christ has done everything that is required for the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and eternal life. In short, you need not contribute anything; your justification, your sanctification, and your glorification are all acquired by Christ and applied to you by the Holy Spirit.
Now, this idea gives some people heartburn, especially when it is wrongly inferred from this that God treats humans like rocks, which have no thoughts, feelings, or wills. But God’s sovereign grace in salvation first brings us to life and then works with our wills to desire to do his will.
While it is ultimately a mystery how the human will factors into the sovereignty of God in salvation, it is a necessary principle to hold because the alternative is utterly disastrous. If our salvation is even in a limited way dependent upon our will, then God’s grace is no longer irresistible.
And if God’s grace in salvation can be rejected, then man is the master of his own destiny in every aspect of life and in all relationships. Even “with respect to the most important point, that is, [the world’s] eternal destiny, the management of the world rests in human hands.”1
And if that were the case, then there would be no assurance of salvation, for even the slightest independence of the human will from the will of God “makes everything wobbly and uncertain—even the victory of the good and the triumph of the kingdom of God—because it hangs everything on the incalculable arbitrariness of humans.”2
Rather, we confess that in Christ our salvation is complete, and that yields to us the comfort and assurance of our salvation.
And yet, secondly, we must acknowledge that the resurrection is not the end of Christ’s work as our mediator. As the true prophet, priest, and king, he continues his work of salvation after the resurrection. After all, “Christ did not ascend to heaven in order to enjoy a quiet vacation at the right hand of God…”3
If that were true, then we’d be in trouble, for we would have our slate wiped clean but would be left on our own to figure things out from there. Even the toughest of parents who love their children wouldn’t do something like that because it just sets their kids up for failure. Even if you threw your children in the deep end to teach them how to swim, you didn’t go back to your lounge chair, waiting to see if they would ever show up again.
And if we wouldn’t do that, neither would our savior. Rather, as we’ve talked about recently, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men” (Eph 4:8 ESV). Among those gifts, Christ sent the Holy Spirit who applies the work of salvation in our hearts and unites us to Christ so that we receive the benefits of salvation.
This is what we have to remember: the resurrection is a pivotal moment, but it isn’t the last moment. Since the ascension, the exalted Lord has been working, and he will continue to work until he comes again.
And this ought to comfort you, for the one who is faithful and true has not stopped working to perfect you and present you, by his Spirit and as a member of his body, spotless on the last day.
So, you can sleep because your savior keeps watch over you; you can rest because Christ remains active even now; you can have assurance of salvation because the Author of life is not only resurrected, but has ascended to bring to completion his work of salvation in you.
1Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2003), III.567.
2Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, III.573.
3Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, III.474.