Sometimes the question is asked: "It is possible for a person to know, for certain, that he is saved?" We answer unhesitatingly: "Yes, thank God, it is the privilege of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ to know that he is saved; to know that his sins are forgiven, and to know that he is the possessor of eternal life.
The next question is: "How can we know these things?" The answer is quite simple and wholly satisfactory to the believer. We may know these things on the authority of the sure, certain and unalterable word of God. It may be simply stated thus: The work that Christ accomplished on the cross makes the believer perfectly safe; and the word that God has given makes the believer absolutely sure of his salvation. Thus Christ's work makes us safe and God's word makes us sure. Grasp this simple fact firmly in your mind, for it summarizes all we shall have to say on this subject.
Now let us turn to God's word. In 1 John 5:13 we read: "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life." To whom is the Apostle John writing? To those who have believed on the Son of God. Does this describe you? Have you come to Him as a sinner and received Him by faith as your Savior? Then you have believed on the Son of God. Now what does God, through the writer, say to those who have believed on the Son of God? "That ye may know that ye have eternal life." Who says so? God says so, and that settles it, once and for all! Supposing you had asked one of these believers: "How do you know that you have eternal life?" What would he have replied? "Because God tells me so in His word." Could you wish for anything better than this?
How do we know that we are lost, guilty, helpless and hell-deserving sinners? Because God tells us so in His word. How do we know that God loved us and sent His Son to bear our sins and die for us on Calvary? Because God tells us so in His word. How do we know that if we will trust Christ as our Savior we shall be saved? Because God tells us so in His word. How do we know that we are saved, that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life? Because God tells us so in His word. Apart from God's word we would know nothing of our need of Christ or of His salvation. Shut the Bible and what do we know of these things? Nothing! Open the Bible and what do we know? All that God has been pleased to reveal. Is this clear?
Let us illustrate. Here is a man who has just paid his grocer's bill. Let us ask him: "How do you know that your bill has been paid and that you are freed from debt?" What will be his reply? He will take out the receipt and say: "Here is the proof, in black and white, in this receipted bill." The payment of the money made him safe from debt; the written word made him sure the debt had been paid. Here is a man who has been sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment for a crime he has committed, but the governor of the state has issued him a pardon. Naturally, the prisoner is overjoyed at the good news. Supposing you were to ask him: "But how do you know that you have been pardoned?" What would he reply? Would he say: "Because I feel happy." Of course not. He would simply show you the written words of the governor and say: "Here is the proof, read it for yourself!"
There is no such thing in the Bible as "feeling saved." Let us revert to our illustration again. Did the man know he was pardoned because he felt happy, or did he feel happy because he knew he was pardoned? Of course, the latter is the correct answer. Now let us ask another question: Does a person know he is saved because he feels happy, or does he feel happy because he knows he is saved? Again the answer is perfectly simple—he feels happy because he knows he is saved. Feelings have nothing to do with the knowledge of salvation. God's word, and God's word alone, is the basis of the believer's assurance, or certainty of his salvation. Some Christians make the sad mistake of being occupied with their feelings instead of God's facts. If they feel happy, they conclude that they must be saved; but if they are unhappy, they begin to be in doubt as to whether they are saved or not. Consequently, they have a fluctuating experience, with no settled assurance of their salvation. There is a chorus that runs thus:
"Believe, and the feeling may come or may go,
Believe in the word that was written to show
That all who believe their salvation may know—
So believe, and keep right on believing!"
No wonder someone said: "Be my feelings what they will, Jesus is my Savior still!"
Now let us look at some other Scriptures and learn more of the certainty of our salvation. First, turn to John 5:24. These are the words of the Savior Himself: "He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Does it mention anything, about feelings in this verse? No, here are facts to be believed, a Person to be received, and a salvation to be enjoyed. Have you heard His word and believed on Him? Then what does Christ say has taken place in the life of the believer? He is assured that he has everlasting life; that he shall not come into the judgment, and that he is already passed out of his death in trespasses and sins into the possession of eternal life.
Here is another verse, and again it is the Savior who speaks: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28). Here is the Divine assurance that the believer shall never perish, but is saved for time and all eternity. This is the "eternal life assurance policy" that Christ issues to all who trust Him! Again, in this Scripture, you will have noticed there is no mention of feeling secure, but of being eternally secure, a vastly different thing.
Let us glance at one more Scripture in order to drive this truth home to each heart. In Acts 13:38-39 we read: "Be it known unto you...that through this Man [Christ] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins and, by Him, all that believe are justified [or declared righteous] from all things." There is certainly no uncertainty in this proclamation, for it assures the believer that he is already justified (or declared righteous) by God. If you would like to read some more Scriptures on the assurance of salvation, read the following and mark them in your Bible: John 3:36; 6:47; 14:1-3; 20:31; Acts 10:43; Romans 5:1; 8:28-39; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 1:3-7; 2:8-9; Colossians 1:12-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 John 2:12; etc. These verses are well worth committing to memory and, as they are believed and stored in the mind, will bring assurance to you of the certainty of your salvation.
Three words should be kept distinct in our minds, and retained in the order in which they now appear—fact, faith, and feeling. They all begin with "F," so they can be easily remembered. First comes the fact of Christ's work on the cross. This is true whether it is believed or not. It will be always and eternally true that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." This is the great fact of the gospel. Next comes faith, by which the hearer believes for himself the fact of Christ's work, trusts Him as his own Savior and is consequently saved. Third comes feeling, which flows from the assurance of this salvation which is given in the word of God. The moment this order is reversed, confusion follows. It is not feeling, faith, and fact; or faith, fact, and feeling; but fact, faith, and feeling. Let us praise God for the glorious fact of the gospel, place our faith in the Christ of the gospel, and the feelings will follow as a natural result.
Some people get occupied with their faith and wonder if "they have believed in the right kind of way," but it is not faith that saves, it is Christ. It is not the amount of our faith, but the Person in Whom your faith is placed, that counts. I may have strong faith in a weak bank and place all my money in it and thus lose it all. I may have weak faith in a strong bank and it is perfectly safe. It was the kind of bank, and not the kind of faith that made it safe. The Devil will do his best to get the believer occupied with anything and everything except the Person and work of Christ. You will never have any settled assurance until you look away from yourself and your feelings, and rest simply in the bare statements of the word of God. Christ said: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away" (Matthew 24:35).
The story is told of an old lady who said she knew she was saved simply because God said so in His word. Someone remarked to her one day: "But if God went back on His word, then you would be lost?" "Yes," replied the old Christian: "If God went back on His word, I would be lost; but God would be the greatest Loser!" "How do you make that out?" inquired the objector. "Well," she retorted, "if God went back on His word, I would only lose my soul; but God would lose His character!" Yes, God is as good as His word. He cannot lie, nor would He deceive anyone, for "He is faithful that promised" (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 10:23). Rest, then, implicitly in His faithful word, fellow believer, and you will know, beyond any doubt, that you are eternally saved and consequently eternally secure.
There is an old saying that "murder will out," and the same is true of salvation! When one is genuinely saved, the evidences of it will be seen in the life. Where this evidence is lacking, one may question the reality of a work of God in the soul (Philippians 1:6; 2:13). Our Savior's words need to be pondered: "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20). We read in Hebrews 6:9 of "the things that accompany salvation"; that is, those inward evidences to oneself and the outward evidences to others that we have been truly born again and consequently indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible speaks of two kinds of professing Christians: those who are sham and those who are real; those who merely profess to be Christians, and those who truly possess Christ as a living Reality in their lives; those who give only a mental assent to the facts of the gospel, and those who give the consent of their will to Christ as the Lord of their lives; those whose Christianity begins and ends in their talk, and those whose Christianity is proved by their walk, or manner of life. The Lord Jesus solemnly warned His hearers: "Not every one that saith unto Me, 'Lord, Lord' shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).
It is not surprising, therefore, that many who profess to be saved soon go back to their old life and prove, by that very act, that there was no reality to their profession. Their emotions may have been stirred, their intellects awakened; but their wills were not yielded to Christ in a wholehearted acceptance of the gospel. Christ declared: "If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed" (John 8:31). Thus the proof of true discipleship is continuance for Christ, obedience to His word, and a growth in His grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18). May this be true of the reader!
From God's Good News: A Talk to Young People on the Way of Salvation by Alfred P. Gibbs. Fort Dodge, Iowa: Walterick Printing Co., [1940?]. Chapter 4.
>> More Doctrinal & Practical Writings