Possibly one of the most common and most pressing questions that individuals ask related to Christianity is, “How can I know that I am saved?” Many times, even though this question is on many people’s minds, they are afraid to admit it because of the belief that to question your salvation is to deny your salvation. This is far from the truth as it should be realized that it is a healthy practice to evaluate our salvation. The Apostle Paul said, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Cor. 13:5 ESV). Then, Paul says in Philippians, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12) through which he is calling the church in Philippi to actively pursue making salvation visible in their lives. So, instead of making questioning our salvation a negative thing, we must realize that have a Scriptural mandate to actively test our salvation for its genuineness. In one more place, the Apostle Peter says, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7). What does Peter say is more precious than gold? The tested genuiness of our faith! The question is:
How can we test the genuine nature of our salvation?
The first step in this process surprises many because it throws off much of the mainstream ideology regarding salvation. The first step in testing the genuineness of salvation is to remove false assurances of salvation that are commonly accepted today. The thirteenth chapter of Matthew gives examples of this in the parable of the sower. In this parable, Jesus says, “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth or soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matt. 13:3-8) Sound a little confusing and irrelevant? Jesus explains. He gives the interpretation as follows: “Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matt. 13:18-23) In this explanation, Jesus gives one of the most vital explanations of true salvation in all of Scripture. The words are incredibly applicable today and forever because they show four different conditions of the heart of those who hear the gospel. First, there are those that hear the truth of salvation but this truth never penetrates their hearts and disappears from their understanding. These would be the individuals that reject the truth as Satan leads them astray from the reality of the need for grace from God. Next, there are those that hear the truth and are overwhelmed with joy over the truth. However, their joy is soon replaced with apathy toward God as the required sacrifice of being a follower of Christ turns them away. Third, there are those individuals that truly hear the truth and receive the truth but the concerns and love for the world supersede their love for Christ. These individuals make money, success, and other worldly idols their gods. Lastly, there are those individuals that not only truly hear the truth and receive the truth but they understand and love the truth. These individuals bear fruit or evidence of their salvation and they reproduce the seed of faith in the lives of others. Only the last example is a true believer because it can be seen through their fruit that they are truly saved. Sadly, many that believe that they are safe in their salvation are instead in one of the first three examples. They are there because their salvation is based upon a “walk down the aisle” or “repeat after me” salvation that never truly took root in their lives and produced fruit. This can be seen in modern day examples such as those famous television preachers that ask their viewers at the end of their sermons to “repeat after me”. Once the simple prayer is repeated, the person is believed to be “born again” because of the repetition of the prayer. Is that really all there is to it? Is there really enough security in that? In order for us to be secure in our salvation, there absolutely must be more to it than a “repeat after me” salvation. The fact is, as R.C. Sproul stated,
“There is nothing worse than having assurance of something that we actually don’t possess.” (R.C. Sproul, pg. 64)
Now, let’s get to the core of the question. What is the source of assurance in our salvation? This is so vital for each and every believer today that this section need be examined carefully. While there is no absolute “check off the box” tests for our salvation, there are things that will exists in a true believer’s life. The first is this: Do you have a genuine love for Jesus Christ? When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22 by the lawyer, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:36-37) Now, a person may say, “Of course I love Jesus! I attend church, read the Bible, pray, etc., etc.” These things ARE NOT what it means to love Christ. Instead, you can love doing these things but still not love Christ. Just ask the church in Ephesus from Revelation 2. You can do those things and still have no affection for the Lord. So, how do we know if we love Him? John 14:15 says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) It doesn’t say, “If you keep my commandments, you will love me.” See, to love Jesus truly is to love Him enough to desire to obey His Word. If you say you love Christ but you are willingly and unapologetically involved in a sinful lifestyle, then the love of Christ does not dwell within you. To love Jesus is to obey Him and to grieve over our sin when we rebel against Him. A second thing that will exists in a true believer’s life is true transformation. Theologians refer to this as sanctification which speaks of a change in the internal makeup of a person. When a person truly becomes a Christian, their old self is crucified with Christ (Rom. 6:6) and the new self slowly but surely begins to become evident in the person’s disposition. This new self will show evidence such as changing from old, sinful ways and mentalities found in Galatians 5:19-21 to living out the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22. A person may say, “Well, I am a Christian, but I just have never truly allowed God to work in my life to bring about the change that is necessary.” This is impossible! Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Notice that Paul says that Jesus will bring salvation to completion. This could be correlated to a process in which something is continually transformed from nothing over the course of time. Christ is continuously doing a work within your spirit if you are a true follower of Christ. He is continuously producing a new person within you that did not exist before. Due to our spiritual apathy and sinful flesh, this process is slower at some points than at others. However, the process never comes to a stop. Never! Lastly, a person can gain assurance in their salvation through the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. At salvation, each believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God and it is this Spirit that convicts us of sin, guides us in righteousness, and warns us of coming judgment. (John 16:8) How do we hear the Spirit’s voice? We hear His voice as we read Scripture. The more we dig into God’s Word, the more the Holy Spirit illuminates the Word to confront us and encourage us in the will of God. The witness of the Holy Spirit becomes so clear in a believer’s life that there is no doubt of His presence within them. If His presence is within you, you ARE a child of God!
In conclusion, there is no more important question to answer than whether or not your salvation is genuine. The more we see the genuineness of our salvation, the more we can give glory to God for the work that He alone is doing in our lives. So, ask yourself, “Do I know that my salvation is genuine? Do I know that I truly belong to Christ?” Make your salvation sure and walk in the joy of His salvation!
Sproul, R.C. Can I Be Sure I’m Saved? Reformation Trust. Lake Mary, FL. 2010.