A Child's Profession Of Faith: Navigating The Difficult Questions

Should I offer my children assurance of salvation after their profession of faith?

I have been thinking through this question for the last couple years. My oldest son has been wrestling with his profession of faith. He has awakened in the middle of the night fearful, as he doesn’t know if he is truly saved. It has been difficult to watch him struggle, but also a joy and blessing to see him wrestling with such a weighty topic such as his eternal destination. The discussions that have taken place because of this are profitable for both us parents and for our children. We are walking alongside so many other parents who have these same questions. I write this article as a result of my own study on the subject and conversations with older and spiritually mature parents.

I understand this can be an emotionally charged discussion when we are talking about our own children. We know our children better than anyone else, except the Lord, and our greatest desire should be that they be born again. But we need answers from the Scriptures. “What worked for us,” “this has been my experience,” or “I know my child’s heart,” are not sufficient for such a weighty matter.

First, I’d like you to think through these questions, then I will address them:

  • Is it possible for someone to make a profession of faith and not be saved?

  • What do the Scriptures explain as to who gives assurance?

  • What negative effects could be done by offering assurance to my child?

  • Do the Scriptures model giving another assurance when one is questioning their salvation?

  • What would be some reasons someone would make a false profession?

  • What causes someone to doubt their salvation?

  • Can we ultimately know another’s heart? In other words, can we ultimately know if someone is truly saved?

  • What should I do if my child is questioning their salvation and looking for assurance from me?

Let’s take a look at these one by one:

Is it possible for someone to make a profession of faith and not be saved?

Judas had performed miracles and walked and talked with Jesus Christ for several years. Near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, in Matthew 26, Judas goes to the chief priests to negotiate his betrayal of Christ. Shortly after Judas sought to betray Christ, Jesus has the final Passover meal with His twelve disciples in Matthew 26:20-24:

Now when evening had come, He was reclining at the table with the twelve disciples. And as they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” And being deeply grieved, they each one began to say to Him, “Surely not I, Lord?” And He answered and said, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me. The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt 26:20-24).

Notice how the disciples respond to Jesus’ mention of one of them betraying Him, “each one began to say to Him, ‘Surely not I, Lord?’” Each disciple questioned himself. In other words, they didn’t suspect Judas. Judas had fooled all the disciples. He walked and talked like a Christian. They had no idea that he was not one of them. This of course did not surprise Jesus as He knew Judas’ heart, and even continued to show love and care for him. Not to mention this speaks volumes to how Christ did not show partiality among the disciples, even with the traitor, but I digress.

The point is, Judas acted like a Christian. So much that it fooled the other disciples. We as parents can be fooled as well. Acts of obedience are certainly a sign of saving faith, but unbelievers can do acts of obedience and good works, too.

What do the Scriptures explain as to who gives assurance?

One of the many roles of the Holy Spirit is to give assurance to His children: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). God certainly wants all His children to have assurance, but it often comes through the trials and pains of life. When we see how God worked and brought about repentance in our hearts, when we were crushed and brought low, when we were in despair, when we were wounded, these are all ways we learn to simply trust God and His Word. When we are left with nothing else but Christ and we find Him wholly sufficient, this builds our assurance. This is one of the reasons we can “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (Jam 1:2-3).

What negative effects could be done by offering assurance to my child?

If your child is not saved, you could be aiding in Satan’s work of giving your child a false assurance of their salvation. One of Satan’s greatest strategies is to convince people they are headed to Heaven all while they are truly headed to Hell. If the child is doubting, and is not saved, you could be hindering the work the Lord is seeking to bring about in their life by telling them “Oh honey I know you are saved, you said that prayer!”

If your child is saved, you could be teaching them to rely on their feelings, your assessment, or past events, instead of the Scriptures.

Do the Scriptures model giving another assurance when one is questioning their salvation?

As far as I know, the Scriptures never say to give someone assurance. What I see are exhortations to examine oneself.

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you– unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor 13:5)

Peter then reminds us in 2 Peter to examine ourselves. Notice what he points our attention to, it’s not a past event, or that one time you prayed the prayer or when you “asked Jesus into your heart.” He tells you to examine yourself to see if you have these qualities of character:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:5-11).

There are many other Scriptures I could point to, but I think the most important is the book of 1 John.  He tells us his purpose in 1 John 5:13 “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”

John lays out several tests to know if you have been born again. Not one of these tests have anything to do with the past. The Scriptures point your attention to “ARE YOU SAVED NOW?” Do you see God’s work in your life now?

What does this tell us? That when one is questioning their salvation we point them to the Scriptures and allow God to search their heart. We ask them questions, questions that the Scriptures ask. And then we leave it there and allow God to do His work.

What would be some reasons someone would make a false profession?

Children could make a false profession in order to please their parents. Of course we desire our children come to a saving faith in the Lord. And of course our children know this. Have you noticed your children liking the things you do? Whether it be the same food, hobbies, sports teams, music, etc. They are impressionable and likely look up to you as parents. If you are saved as a parent, the most important thing to you will be Christ. It’s two-fold – they desire to please their parents and they fear displeasing them.

Children could also enjoy the blessings of the church. Whether it be the grace of friendships in the body of Christ, the appearance of holiness, or easing the conscience by attending church and going through the motions, there are plenty of reasons one could make a false profession.

What causes someone to doubt their salvation?

Although not exhaustive, one could question their salvation because they are: living a hypocritical life, living in sin, or one is weak in the faith and/or need to grow in understanding God’s Word and applying that to their lives. It is also true that many have assurance that should not have it. And some do not have it that should. Again, we should look to the Scriptures to gain understanding of what a Christian looks like.

Can I ultimately know my child’s heart? In other words, can we ultimately know if someone is truly saved?

We can not see into the heart or know the motives of the heart. But we can examine someone’s spiritual state by one’s profession and actions. For instance, if someone denies the basic doctrines of the Christian faith (the deity of Christ, for example – John 8:24) we can safely say they are not a Christian. But the Scriptures also speak about actions accompanying saving faith: “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:4). In other words, if someone confesses Christ and yet walks in an unbroken pattern of sin, then there is great reason to be skeptical of their profession.

What should I do if my child is questioning their salvation and looking for assurance from me?

As parents, we must teach our children to run to the Scriptures for answers and to allow their thoughts and experiences to be shaped from His Word. We want to teach our children to deal with their problems biblically, and teach them that the Scriptures are truly “sufficient for life and godliness.” And we as parents should live out the gospel every day. We repent when we sin, we strive after Christ, we pray together, we thank the Lord for all things, we submit to the Scriptures, we teach our children all that God has commanded, and we seek to walk out our faith showing them what a Christian looks like.

Bruce Ray in his book Withhold Not Correction says, “In a sense I will never be fully satisfied with my own child’s profession of faith until he establishes his own household and perseveres in pressing on. As long as he is under my roof, I will never know with absolute confidence whether his faith and obedience is in response to Christ, or to me. Children are under a great deal of pressure to conform to the expectations of other people (parents, teachers, pastor, Sunday School teacher, etc.). We need to be very careful that we do not encourage a false profession.”

I am not telling anyone to tell their children they are not saved after making a profession of faith. As parents we should encourage any sign of faith and eagerly look for the Spirit’s work in their lives. I am simply cautioning to not rush to give them assurance before they are truly tested.

These discussions are an opportunity to explain the source of the child’s fear, the awareness of their own sin, and the knowledge that God must punish sin. We continue to explain the gospel, reassure them of the extraordinary character of God and that God never sent anyone to Hell that was trusting in Christ alone. God will make everything clear in time.

ParentingMeg SmithComment