How Can We Know That We Have Eternal Life?

This is an interesting exchange from a blog that my friend Ed hosts. The blog post was about the book of Hebrews and its overall theme of moving on from elementary things and toward Christian maturity, which I think is a sound argument. During the conversation Ed asked me a question:

Ed:

“On the same subject, however, how do you know that Jesus gave YOU eternal life?”

Dan (me):

“It’s not because I walked an aisle, prayed a special prayer, or ‘gave my heart to Jesus’. I did however recognize that I by nature deserve God’s wrath, but knowing that God sent his son to be a propitiation for my sin and having repented and believed the gospel, I have been given eternal life. I suppose those are the same reasons all who have genuine assurance would give.”

Ed:

“You see, that is exactly what non-Calvinists do NOT believe. We believe that it did take a prayer, to ASK Jesus to forgive us our sins. Our asking is not considered a work. Talking to God is prayer. I really do not like how the “religious” folk make fun of that “special prayer”, that special conversation with God that people do. Relationship (WIFE) with Jesus (HUSBAND) is giving your heart to Jesus, putting your trust in him. I am sure that you give your heart to your spouse, and that she does the same to you, and that she trusts that you will take care of her, and her you. That putting your trust is not a work, either. In Calvinism, you lack relationship. I recently debated a Lutheran, and he does not believe in “relationship”. He only believes in “obedience”. I see the same with Calvinists, in general. I really, truly, do not believe that Lutherans, or Calvinists really grasp the whole concept of what the gospel REALLY is.”

“On that same line, Born, the Bible states that Jesus knocks on the door, and that whoever answers that door…We have to answer. Opening the door is our responsibility, our part. Jesus does not say that he knocks the door down, but that our responsibility is to open the door. Is that opening of the door a work?”

Ed’s question is a good one. I chose to answer by first saying that my assurance of salvation comes not from man’s methods, but because of Christ’s command to ‘repent (of my sin) and believe the gospel” My assurance comes from Jesus’ promise that those who believe in Him are granted eternal life and that they would never perish (John 3 & John 10).

Ed then states that what I said is precisely what non-Calvinists do NOT believe. That is simply a useless and hasty generation about non-Calvinists (Ed doesn’t care for Calvinists). . I know a lot of non-Calvinists who agree with me wholeheartedly. He then makes the point that uttering a special prayer and giving our hearts to Jesus contribute to our ‘knowing’ we have been given eternal life. I have only a couple of things to say to that.

First of all, I would admit that ‘praying the special prayer’ and ‘giving our hearts to Jesus’ can help us ‘feel’ saved, especially since there are a lot of folks that will tell you that if you have done one of those, you are in fact saved! Also, there are a lot of folks these days who ask you to pray the prayer and give away your heart so you can have a better life down here, without ever getting to the issue of sin, which is the reason Christ came to Earth in the first place (See Matthew 18). All those folks are doing is helping the lost continue on the broad path to Hell.

And secondly, there is not a single instance in all of the NT of anyone ‘praying a special prayer’ or ‘giving their heart to Jesus’. Not one! On the other hand, there are instances of God opening hearts so that they could understand the message of the gospel followed by believing the gospel that was presented to open hearts.

Concerning Christ knocking on doors, Revelation 3:20 is about Christ knocking on the door of the lukewarm church at Laodicea, not the heart of one of the lost sheep.

And of course Ed states that praying special prayers, giving away our hearts and opening doors are not works. I’m not sure how he is trying to define a ‘work’, but any of the three puts the one who is praying, giving away his heart, or opening a door as ultimately having saved himself after God has merely made it possible by the death of His Son.

I refuse to even address Ed’s notion that in Calvinism you lack ‘relationship’. That’s just too silly for words.

If you would like to comment, please do so. I will also post my reply at Ed’s blog.

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