How do I know if I am saved?
It should be of infinite importance to have the knowledge of salvation. And we should seek the correct answer at all costs. Yet, with so much varied doctrine out there that is taught as “true” Christianity, what am I to believe? How do I know for sure if I am saved?
(See suggested further reading: How to Discern Truth from Lies
There are four basic trains of thought about what is required for salvation:
* The first is that God saves everyone – (Universalism)
This belief says that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son for everybody – regardless of whether they believe or not. They believe that God loves so much that He could not condemn anyone to an eternity apart from Him and His heavenly kingdom. Yet, this is contrary to what Jesus Himself taught when He said that those who do not believe will be condemned (Mar 16:16).
Those however, who believe and, surrender themselves to the discipline and sanctifying (purifying) work of the Lord, will not be condemned along with the world (1Co 11:32). It escapes the notice of universalists that God destroyed the entire world, save eight persons, because of their sin, and is reserving the present world for fire in His judgement of ungodly people (2Pe 3:5-7).
* The second say: “Only believe!”
These teach that you only need to believe, and that your belief alone will get you to heaven. To them believing is synonymous with knowing. So, to know if I am saved, according to them, I just need to believe it. There is no assurance or consciousness within other than a mere belief.
But this nullifies the supreme command which is to love God with our all (Mat 22:37) which, if obeyed, would naturally produce an obedience from the heart not to offend (sin against) the Object of the supreme love of our lives. God is holy, and requires us to be holy in all our conduct (1Pe 1:15).
The same promote Christ’s command to believe only for salvation – using John 3:16 as their grounding. This word “believe” in the original Greek is pisteuō – to entrust. Nevertheless, in the same chapter, in verse 36 (John 3:36), scripture warns us that he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God continues to abide on him. The word “obey” is exchanged for the word “believe” in some translations; but this is incorrect, as it is translated from the original Greek word – apeitheō, which means to disbelieve with disobedience. Therefore, the correct rendering of the verse reads that those who disbelieve with disobedience to the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God continues to abide on him. This, the reader can see, is a far cry from what many churches profess!
But wait! Didn’t Paul say that we only need to confess and believe?
But, they will protest, Paul states that if we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead we will be saved (Rom 10:9). However, one cannot pull scripture out of context to justify one’s own desires. The demons also confesses that Jesus is indeed Lord (Mar 5:7), and believe that God raised Him from the dead because they witnessed His resurrection, yet they tremble (Jas 2:19). We see then that belief alone does not save being by its self. There has to be resulting works of righteousness (Jas 2:20).
For a true rendering of Rom. 10:9 as opposed to the “Confess and Believe” doctrine go here.
Do we need works of righteousness?
Further; the same Paul who said that those “who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” also said: “everyone who names the name of the Lord (i.e. calling upon the name of the Lord) is to abstain from sin” (2Ti 2:19). Paul tells us to cleanse ourselves from sin, and “be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” Anyone who calls upon the Lord, ought to do it “from a pure heart” – one that has been cleansed from habitual sin (2Ti 2:21-22).
Now, these “belief only” advocates who love to use Paul’s scripture above to justify their continuance in sin, fail to understand the very next verse which states that it is with the heart that man believes (not a mind consent but a heart assent), which results in righteousness (holy conduct of life); and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation (Rom 10:10). Jesus taught that what the heart is filled with, the mouth confesses (Mat 12:34). Therefore, if one does not love God from the heart, he cannot confess Him in truth. Such a one hasn’t even started his walk in righteousness and therefore cannot possess salvation. This means that I need to dig deeper to determine my salvation.
* The third have a works-oriented belief system
These profess Christ sure enough, but they have compiled a system of works, rites, confessions and chants. They believe that by following an order of works (although they would hardly confess to the word – “works”) that they have favor with God and ultimate salvation. Many pseudo-Christian religions and cults reveal this. But it also occurs in many Charismatic and Pentecostal circles.
For example; people in numerous such churches have told me that if one does not speak in “tongues” that he does not have the Holy Spirit! Not only is this unscriptural, but many of our church Fathers and Pillars of Christianity like Igantius, Ploycarp and Tertullian, for example, never “spoke in tongues” that we know. Neither did the prophets, King David, John the Baptist, and recently, Martin Luther, John Knox, John and Charles Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, etc.. Yet all of these had more of the Holy Spirit evidenced in their lives than anyone I’ve ever seen among the thousands of “Christians” in my forty plus years of attending church – which incorporated a number of fellowships.
For more on the truth of ‘tongues” in the church see “Talking in tongues” – The truth unveiled.
Paul said that we cannot earn our salvation through works, but through faith alone (Gal 2:16). Nevertheless, we need to understand what this faith entails.
* The fourth is through true saving faith in Jesus Christ
So, if salvation doesn’t come from:
- the universal love of God alone
- belief and confession
- or by works
then how do we obtain it? And how will I know if I am saved?
Belief is not faith
What is faith? Belief is the mental assent of certain facts, whether they are historical, doctrinal (or often just dogmatic), or of vain imaginations. Unfortunately, many rest their hopes on belief and not faith; but this cannot produce a qualified assurance of a hope in their salvation.
Christians often use the term “salvation” to mean God’s permission to the entrance of heaven, but in reality, it is to many just an escape of condemnation. What do I mean by this?
There are those professing Christianity who would be happy to continue to live in this life forever. If they never saw the face of God it would not worry them; just as long as they could escape the sentence of hell. They do not think much about the beauty of holiness in a benevolent kingdom where everyone serves each other. Rather, they think of heaven as a paradise – a utopia where all their needs (and wants) will be met, regardless of others.
But true saints long to live to serve God, starting here on earth. They give of themselves and contribute to the manifold benevolence of His kingdom. Only second to this, do they recognize that they will be partakers of that benevolence. However, their own gain is not their primary motivating factor. For selfishness does not exist in the kingdom of God.
Realize the gravity of your sin
When we come to the realization that we were created primarily for the good pleasure and glory of God and only secondary, to enter in that glory, then we are in a good position to receive the truth of the gospel. We also need to realize that it is our choice of sin that has separated us from the infinitely holy God in the first place (Isa 59:2). But God has made the provision of reconciliation for all of us through His grace. This is the atonement Christ furnishes. If we fail to recognize the gravity of this, it will be impossible for us to have remorse strong enough over our sins to compel us to truly repent.
(See the meaning of justification and sanctification here)
What is true saving faith in God?
True saving faith in God incorporates:
- The consciousness of the reality of God and His omnipresence.
- Recognizing what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.
- Being conscious of our continual repentance from sin.
- Receiving the pardon and mercy shown to us through faith.
- Continuing in the conscious presence of God (walking in His Spirit) with reverential fear and thanksgiving.
Saving faith sees what God has done for us which motivates us to live holy lives before Him. We have godly sorrow that leads to repentance from a sincere heart (2Co 7:11) and, through a real faith in the Person of God in Christ we walk in humble, loving obedience to Him. Our “works” now become the selfless expressions of our faith to glorify God and please Him. This is in lieu of the false notion of performing works to obtain just enough favor to escape punishment.
The evidence of salvation
How do I know if I am saved? The evidence of salvation occurs as a physical and spiritual experience, as we are of both essences. So, I will describe them as external and internal evidences.
Those who walk in faith in Christ walk in the consciousness of His presence. If you walked in the presence of a King how would your behavior be? Would you not conform to the King’s ordinances?
True Christians know that the Spirit of God not only is omnipresent about them, but also resides within them. They are aware that He knows the very thoughts and intentions of their hearts (Heb 4:12). They reverence this presence, and love God supremely for His goodness. Therefore, all their behavior before men, and also when alone, reflect this consciousness or awareness of His presence. Their happiness is derived from loving God in heart, and loving others through acts of genuine kindness and righteousness in what they do. They conduct their lives in such a manner as to reveal the reality of Christ living within them. And they know that it is not from selfish ambition that they walk so as to appease God. Rather, it is through a desire to faithfully follow after Him for the highest good, which is God Himself.
This is a tricky one to explain to the unsaved – i.e. to those who do not walk according to the Spirit of Christ (Rom 8:9).
One cannot perceive the absolute thrill of hurtling towards earth for a full minute from an aircraft at fourteen thousand feet during a free-fall skydive, flying around the sky wherever they please, as long as there is air between them and the ground, unless they have experienced it themselves. Such is trying to describe the internal evidence of being a child of God to the unsaved.
But for those who earnestly desire to have the assurance of faith given to them – that is; to be sanctified (without which no one shall see the Father (Heb 12:14)), here are some factors:
Factors of internal evidence to show how I know if I am saved
Love of God’s Word
They will have a love for God’s Word. Through this they discover ever-increasing ways to be pleasing to Him the more they get to know Him. It is only through God’s Word that they can experience a deeper walk in the freedom of His holiness. Those who do not love to read God’s word for what it says, rather than for what they want it to say, will find it difficult to have an assurance in Him. They would need to take a lesson from Lydia in Acts 16:14, who earnestly listened to the Word of God through Paul’s teaching so that she could obey it. And because of this, God opened her heart to understand. Those who love God keep His Word (Joh 14:23). The others are hearers only (Rom 2:13).
Love of prayer
The love of communing with God in prayer is a delight to the saved. They are not ashamed to come into His presence because they do not lead a life of sin. Therefore their consciences do not condemn them before His presence (1Jn 3:21-22). Their love for Christ naturally begets a longing to be with Him. And it is faith in the presence of Christ, through faith in prayer, they enter His presence.
The “Knowing”of internal evidence:
There are many internal evidences to speak of. However, it is hard to describe spiritual matters to the carnal mind. This is because it cannot appraise them as it does not have the Spirit of God (1Co 2:14). Nevertheless, of all the internal evidences, the main one is that “knowing,” which God’s Spirit gives us. It is the assurance of faith, which is that internal witness of God living within us. And He communicates to us the knowledge that we are of Him (Rom 8:9).
How to obtain the internal evidence:
We obtain the internal evidence by fulfilling the two prerequisites of repentance and faith (Act 20:21). This repentance is thorough, without remorse for forsaking the sin. Those who truly love God and His righteousness hate their sin. For it is their sin that has caused such infinite offense against God. When we have truly given up our sin we will know it.
Those who now decide to give up their sin through fear alone, inevitably continue in it. But when you repent through love coupled with reverence, you will learn just how grave your sin is. Your love for God, being supreme, outweighs your previous love for sin and your repentance is sealed. It is only when you rekindle your love for sin, and subvert your love for God, that repentance is undone. When this happens the you again separate yourself from an offended God and fall from grace.
Note on The Assumption of belief.
Many have the assumption of belief but not the assurance of faith. For those who choose to assume faith in Christ without the prerequisites will have a lack of peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. But for the true saints – God gives them the testimony within that they are children of God (Rom 8:16). This witness in itself, is the strongest defining point separating true Christianity from all other belief systems.
Let me know your thoughts on the above at email@example.com