Here’s a thought that struck me today: Even if we were made completely perfect right now, we would still need a Saviour.
We often struggle with assurance of salvation. Are we truly saved? Will we persevere in salvation? Will we enter into heaven glorified, or are we going to hear, to our shock and horror, the awful indictment of Christ: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ (Mat. 7:23)?
I often find that such anxieties are rooted in either an actual lack of salvation or in a lack of understanding of what salvation is. I’d like to briefly address the second kind.
What happens when we are saved is a two-fold exchange. First, our total and complete sin/depravity/falleness is counted to/accounted/imputed on Christ (1 Pet. 2:24) and second, Christ’s perfect righteousness is similarly counted to/accounted/imputed to us (Rom. 4:22-24). If only the first step took place, we’d be forgiven but could not enter heaven (Mat. 5:20); if only the second step took place, God’s justice wouldn’t be satisfied, and He would have to let unforgiven sinners into heaven.
When we fret about our security in salvation, it’s often because we’re confused about on one these two truths. And this usually manifests as: “I’m not sure I’m saved, because there is so much sin and imperfection in my life”. Translation: “I know I’m forgiven, but I’m not sure if I’m righteous/good/holy/perfect enough to enter heaven.”
Well, think about it this way: Imagine that you woke up tomorrow, and you found yourself completely perfect – I mean sparkling, squeaky clean perfect. Not a shred of perverted thought enters your mind. Not a hint of lust. No anger other than righteous indignation. You have divine wisdom shooting out of every pore. Your church has to change buildings to accommodate the fish in your evangelistic net. You minister 24/7, you have an all-consuming desire for God and your heart beats in perfect sync with His. You read passages like “…be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat. 5:48) and you don’t feel a smidgen of conviction – and for all the right reasons! In short, you’re living on earth as if you’re in heaven.
Question: If all this were true of you tomorrow, would you be able to enter heaven ONLY on the basis your now-perfect righteousness? Would God be satisfied enough?
The answer is no. Why? Because you would still be bearing the stains of your imperfect, sinful past – of the time before you were perfect.
Back to earth now. Will you or I ever be as perfect as that this side of eternity? No. Then how can we possibly be sure of ever being saved?
Answer: Because our salvation does not depend on our righteousness, crucial though it is. Our salvation, our entrance into the glorious, heavenly eternity depends completely on the righteousness of Christ, which, if we are indeed saved, has been imputed/accounted to us.
If you look to yourself, you will never have any assurance of salvation. If you look to Christ instead, and realise that His perfect righteousness is yours by faith, your heart will be bursting at seems with certainty – not because of you, but because of Him. And doubt will be as abhorrent to you as blasphemy.