If your life shows evidence of transformation by the Holy Spirit, then you have been given God’s guarantee. As with any matter of contract law, it would serve you well to consider what that guarantee is about and how it benefits you.
In the devotional study through Claiming Christ, we crossed a bridge that helped define a very important, but often misunderstood, truth regarding the assurance of salvation for Christians.
Hear the words of God:
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor 1:21-22)
The Apostle reminds us that we who claim Christ have been given a holy guarantee. It is not something tangible, physical, or transferable—it is the presence of God himself through the Holy Spirit dwelling within a believer. In short, God has claimed us as his own!
As the first sentence in the quote clarifies, this is of God, and not something of our doing. So as to not misinterpret the meaning of “makes…you stand firm”, it would be wise to consider other translations, like the KJV, which use the verb “establishes”, rather than “makes”. In that sense, Paul is telling us that our standing of faith in Jesus is by God’s grace, and not (as some prefer to interpret it) as something God “makes” us do against our will. This clarification is important to consider, because it impacts how we ought to view the meaning of our guarantee.
For some, they believe that this guarantee is an unconditional declaration of irrevocable assurance that they will be saved. It is an attractive idea, but I’d suggest that it doesn’t arise from the context of this verse, let alone from the rest of Scripture.
In this passage, the specific context is a presentation by Paul on the assurance of God’s promises (see v.18-19). In other words, this guarantee is addressing the absolute reliability of what God has prepared for those who love him and are called according to his purposes. It is not a statement about guaranteed entry.
The Bible records many people upon whom the Spirit came and through whom God accomplished his purposes. Some were believers like David and Peter; some were instruments through whom the Spirit worked, who had evidence of the Spirit in them, but who were not called by God to faith—like Balaam, Cyrus, and even the wicked high priest Caiaphas who prophesied of Jesus’ death. The Bible even records names of specific people within the early church who were part of this latter group.
The point here is that evidence of the Spirit within a person—including miraculous powers, speaking in tongues, preaching the word of God, and the like, are not reliable indicators of a guarantee of salvation.
As Jesus made very clear, not everyone who calls him Lord of their life, and who claims to have done amazing miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit, will enter the Kingdom (see Mt 7:21).
Even Paul admits to this possibility in himself when he stated that in his pursuit of the eternal crown, he doesn’t run aimlessly, but brings his body and desires into stringent subjection so that after he has finished preaching to others, “I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Since Paul is the one who records this guarantee, perhaps we ought to take his own views in consideration on what it means.
So if it is possible to claim Christ as Lord and not be saved, to have evidence of the Spirit working within and not be saved, to preach to others (like Paul was doing) and become disqualified for that prize of the “crown that will last forever”, then what does this guarantee imbedded in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, guarantee?
We have already noted that the guarantee is about the reliability of the promise and not about the assurance of our acceptance, but it is true that the promise has been given to each born-again believer. Without rewriting the detail already recorded in Claiming Christ, I will shorten the answer with an analogy:
The Spirit within guarantees salvation much like a ticket guarantees entrance into the concert stadium. You may even have reserved seating. Once you have that ticket, you have a guarantee from the coordinator that you are assured a place for the big event.
In this sense, Jesus cautions us:
“Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown”. (Rev 3:11)
Ticket holders have a guarantee of what is to come, but their attendance is not guaranteed. They can still choose to do something else instead. They can give their ticket away or lose it or even destroy it in the washing machine by carelessly leaving it in their pocket. They can even decide that they are no longer interested in that concert.
They must hang on to what they have. That is why the Bible so often says, those who endure, the same shall be saved.
The commentator, Adam Clark, put it like this: “We may learn from this that eternal life will be given in the great day to all who can produce the ‘pledge.’”
What are you doing to hang on to your guarantee?