So You Feel You Are Saved?
David M. Battle
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 2. Fall 2010. Volume 28.
Date Posted Nov, 2010
So you feel you are saved? This is commendable, but it is not a question about which you want to be wrong. The Apostle Paul tells the members of the Corinthian church to examine themselves to see if they are holding to the faith (2 Cor 13:5). Have you tested yourself?
Jesus describes a very sad scene at the judgment. A group of people will stand before the judge's bench and will call out to Jesus saying, "Lord, Lord." They believed that they were saved and were destined to the New Heavens and the New Earth (Matt 7:21). Many had even done miraculous works in Jesus' name, but God said to them, "Depart from me, I never knew you" (Matt 7:21, 25:41). These people felt they were saved, but they were not. What a horror to discover on Judgment Day that you were destined for hell and not heaven! If you are wise, you will take the time and examine yourself to see if you are holding to the Faith and are not destined for damnation.
So you say that you are saved! This is good, but how do you know that you are speaking the truth? Salvation is a gift from God. By what evidence do you claim that God has actually given it to you?
The evidence of salvation is not a mere affirmation of the Gospel story or the participation in some ritual like baptism or communion. Even the Devil can recount how God sent His Son to die on the cross as the payment for our sins. He is more aware of spiritual realities than we are. Others are just self-deceived. I remember hearing a young man testify that Jesus had died for his sins and then later admitted that he worshiped Gia, Mother Earth. He was a pagan who followed the spirits of this world. He was not saved. I have even dealt with an alcoholic who testified that he had responded to an altar call and that he had prayed the "sinners prayer." He even testified to a "good baptism" which was affirmed by some miraculous sign. Yet, he boldly continued a drunkard's life. He clumsily ignored Paul's warning that drunkards will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:10; Gal 5:21). Both of these men claimed salvation for themselves. Sadly, both ignored the clear and repeated teachings of Scripture that neither idolaters nor drunkards will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They are walking straight into hell while singing, "I am bound for the promised land."
May the Lord have mercy upon those who encourage such delusions.
Friend, I do not know whether the grace of God has been applied to your soul. I know that Christ died to pay for our sins and that God sent the Holy Spirit to make us ready for His coming Kingdom. The question that we need to answer is, "is this grace being applied to my life?" How do I test myself to see if I am holding to the Faith as commanded by Paul ( 2 Cor 13:5)? Am I truly saved? Or am I a delusional reprobate? You must answer these questions for yourself. No other human on this earth can answer it for you.
Not everybody can have this knowledge. Those who do not believe on the name of the Son of God have no hope for eternal life. There is no other name given among men whereby anyone can be saved (Act 4:12), and Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). You must believe the message of the Gospel before you can have assurance.
Fortunately, God has revealed to us the tests that we believers should use to examine the destination of our souls when we claim salvation. The letter of First John in the New Testament was written so that the believers could know that they have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
John gives three tests for those who believe on the Name of the Son of God by which they may know that they have eternal life. The believer must examine himself by these three tests before he can know that he has salvation.
While the tests are developed throughout the whole letter, John summarizes them 1 John 5. The first test, that one who professes to believe in Christ must pass, is the test of divine love. He must truly love God. The second test is the life of godly obedience. When a believer experiences joy in obeying God, he will naturally live the holy life. The final test is that the believer must believe the testimonies of God.
The Greatest Commandment is to love the Lord God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. All who are forgiven love God for Jesus tells us that our love for God is directly linked to God's forgiveness. Jesus was once at meal and a woman came in and anointed his feet. The host recognized the woman as an unclean sinner and in his heart disparaged Jesus' spiritual perception. Jesus knowing what the man was thinking said to him. "If a creditor had two debtors, one owing $400,000 and the other $200,000, and he forgave their debts which one would love him more?" The host answered "I suppose the one who owed him more." Jesus agreed (Luke 7:41-43). The one who has been forgiven little will love God only a little, but the one whom God has forgiven much will love God more deeply.
John states the first sign that believers are born of God is that we love God (1 John 5:1-2). If we love God then we love those who are born of God for we cannot hate His children and love Him (1 John 2:9-10). James goes even further and describes as "dead" or "useless" a faith that does not reach out to the brethren who are in need (James 2:15-17). Furthermore, if you love someone, you want to be with them. The most basic expression of our love for God is the desire to join with His children in worship. In short, our love for God motivates us to congregate with believers in divine worship and to minister to needs of the brethren.
The less we love God the more tepid our is our desire for worship and our motivation to help others. If we are indifferent to God, we will be indifferent to the congregation of believers. The greater our indifference the fewer of our sins have been forgiven. Have your sins truly been forgiven? Do you pass this test?
The second test is the extension of our love into the life of obedience or the holy life. The believer who has full assurance is motivated by his love for God to seek and achieve that which is impossible for the unsaved. John states that we know we are a child of God "when we love God and keep His commandments" which the believer will find are not grievous or burdensome (1 John 5: 2-3). This is like a husband who deeply loves his wife. He will take pleasure in being with her and even being there for her during a time of difficulty. The husband who does not love his wife will find ministering to her a burden and a distraction from the things that he wants to do. When we love God, we will find that keeping His commandments are not a cumbersome yoke but a liberating application of righteousness and wisdom. John states further that the believer who obeys God out of love will find victory in the world (1 John 5:4-5) because he will overcome this world and its misguided passions: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16-17). These things will no longer be the rule or hold sway over the believer's life because the love for God will stand firmly in his heart.
The second test is divine love blossoming into the holy life. Is your life guided by your love for God? Do you find pleasure in obeying God? Is your life marked by victories over sins, especially those common to you before salvation? Examine your own life to see if you pass this test.
Once one affirms with his own heart and lips that Jesus paid for one's own sins and has begun to follow Jesus by obeying our Lord's commands, assurance may still be lacking. While true assurance cannot be had without first having a deep love for God and obeying His commandment, one can have these and still not have assurance. The third test is the key to assurance.
In the third test is the witness of the Spirit, which concludes the witness of God concerning His Son (1 John 5:9). On earth this witness comes by "the Spirit, the water, and the blood" ( John 5:6, 8). The divine testimonies of the water and the blood reaffirm two foundational truths that one must accept in order to have eternal life. God the Father testified that Jesus was His only begotten son at the Baptism (John 1:14, 32-34). A begotten Son possesses the same essence as His Father. The witness of the blood declares with power that Jesus is the Son of God by His body resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:4).
These two truths are foundational to salvation and one must accept them in order to gain eternal life. Yet, salvation is not a mere intellectual affirmation of these truths. One must chose to believe them by placing one's faith in Christ. Once one believes God, repents of his rebellion against God and lives in obedient faith, God promises to save.
The third test again requires that one believes that Jesus is the Savior from God, that one loves the Lord with all one's heart, soul, and strength, and that one is obediently overcoming this fallen world. The third test or the Witness of the Spirit is also the most difficult to explain. If you have it, you will know it. If you do not, you will not understand it. If you do not have it, go to God in prayer and implore Him to open your eyes and know that He is good.
The question here is, "How do you know that God has applied the blood of Jesus to your own soul?" You can love God, be living the holy life, and accept the first two testimonies of God and still not have assurance. Again, you cannot claim assurance if you do not love God, are not living the holy life, or reject either of the first two testimonies of God.
Even if you do have these things, you still lack one thing before you can be assured that you have salvation. In order to finally have assurance, you must have the experiential knowledge that comes from the witness of the Spirit with your spirit (1 John 5:10). The believer has full assurance of salvation when the Spirit of God witnesses with the believer's spirit that God has adopted him. The believer receives the Spirit of sonship which cries out to God saying, "Father" (Rom 8:15-17). Assurance comes at that moment when you can look over your life and you can say; "Yes, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the World" "Yes, I have a deep love and desire to please God." "Yes, God is working through me; and I find His work to be pleasing." Then at that moment you sense the Spirit of God reaching down and giving you a full embrace and whisper in your ear, "You are my beloved child" and your soul reaches out to God; crying, "Father." At that moment, you have full assurance.
If you know what I am writing about, take courage and grow deeper in your walk. Ask God to give you a deeper walk with Him, a deeper love for Him. Grow in holiness and may God give you ever more intimate assurances that you are His. May you live from faith to faith and from victory to victory.
If you do not know of what I am writing. I cannot give it to you. Only God can. Exam your life to seek what you lack. Do you truly believe the testimonies of God? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God come in the flesh? Do you confess that you are a corrupt sinner who has no claim on God's love? Do you believe that His death paid for all your sins and transgressions? If you do not, begin reading the Bible. If you were raised in the Church read the Gospel of John. If you were not, read the Gospel of Luke and book of Romans in the New Testament.
Is the love for God the center of your life? Are you expressing your love by your concern and care for His children? If you are not regularly attending church, begin this Sunday. Seek a church where the Bible is expounded and avoid those where self-help, emotions, philosophy or psychology are exalted. Be sure to seek prayerfully the guidance of the Spirit.
Are you living the holy life as the Spirit enables? Put aside every habit and worldly pleasure that keeps you from seeking God. Avoid doing harm to anyone and seek to do all the good you can. If you can say "yes" to all these questions, then go to God in prayer and ask Him to search your heart and to try you. Ask Him to reveal if there is any wicked way in yourself and to lead you in the way of everlasting life (Ps 139:23-24).
If you diligently search, the Spirit will reveal what you need. As John Wesley taught, assurance is the privilege of the believer. Every believer should have it, but no man can give it. Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and you will find grace.