Summary: Many Christians today sing "Blessed Assurance" but do not have it in their hearts. This sermon explores false ideas concerning the assurance of salvation and then looks at what the Bible say concerning how we can come to know that we are saved.
We sing “Blessed Assurance” but do we really mean it? We see Christians today that apparently do not have any assurance that if they died tonight they would go to heaven. As a result, they have no joy; their lives are filled with worry; they serve God grudgingly, out of fear and thus ineffectively; they are afraid to die if they are not on their knees in prayer or in church.
The subject of assurance of eternal life is certainly not new. The book of I John was written with this subject at least partially in mind. Throughout history there have been three main positions concerning this subject.
First, some have said that we cannot know in this life if we are saved. They contend that salvation is God’s secret and he will not tell anyone until the judgment day. But the Bible says we can know (I John 5:13). Therefore, if we cannot know we are saved then we cannot know if any of God’s promises are true. If we cannot know we are saved then we cannot know we are lost.
Second, some have said that we can feel within ourselves that we are saved. John Calvin said that we each have an inner witness of the Holy Spirit that says we are saved. In a word, we can “feel” that we have eternal life. But human feeling is neither a reliable guide to divine truth nor a safe index of our spiritual status.
For example, look at the story of Samson in Judges 16:20. “And she said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ and he awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.”
Consider also the church at Laodicea in Rev. 3:17. “You say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
How we feel about spiritual matters determines nothing. When we begin to determine our spiritual status and define our doctrines by our experiences, feelings and opinions, we have started down a path of error which can only end in everlasting disaster. So then we cannot know by feelings whether or not we are saved. How then can we know? This brings us to the third and I believe, biblical truth concerning this matter.
We can know for certain that we presently possess eternal life if God tells us.
ILLUSTRATION: Man inherits money but doesn’t know it until the will is read.
ILLUSTRATION: Man on death row has received a pardon but doesn’t know it until he is told.
Similarly we can know that we have received an eternal inheritance and have been pardoned from our sins only if God tells us. But God doesn’t tell us through our feelings, how does he tell us? He tells us through his divinely inspired word (I John 5:13).
Before we look into God’s word to see how we can know we are saved, we need to clear up a question or two. First, we are not advocating “Once saved Always Saved.” We cannot know if we will still be saved 5, 10, or 20 years from now. But we can know NOW if we are in a saved relationship with God. We must not react to one extreme by going to an extreme in the opposite direction.
Second, We are talking today to Christians; those who have already come into a saved relationship with God. The question before us is not how to become a Christian but how a Christian can know if he/she is still in a saved relationship with God. The Scriptures give a number of tests. The apostle John implies in I John 5:13 that we can by reading the preceding words in his letter whether or not we are at this moment saved. Look at I John 2:3-5 . . .
We do not keep Christ’s commandments to earn salvation but the keeping of commandments is seen here as proof that we are already saved. Conversely, not keeping the commandments of God is seen as proof that we are already lost. A dog doesn’t bark to become a dog. He barks because he is a dog already. Also, even if a cat could be somehow be trained to bark like a dog, it would still not be a dog.
Keeping God’s commandments will not by themselves save us. However, we cannot say we are saved if we are not keeping God’s commandments. Neither fellowship with, nor knowledge of God can exist apart from obedience to his will.
I John 2:4 . . . He is not merely guilty of certain statements and acts of falsehood, but is himself false in his moral state. He is a living lie.