By Lasserre Bradley, Jr.
How can we really be sure we are saved? Many different ideas are advanced as to how assurance for salvation may be determined. Some assume because they were christened as a baby they are a Christian. Others believe that being a member of a church and participating in some charitable work clearly indicates they are children of God. And it is popularly advocated by many, that if a person believes in any god(s) this confirms he is in God's family. This view is generally held by those who contend that we all worship the same God. Some will say concerning a neighbor or friend, “I know that person is a child of God, because he is very kind and has a good heart.”
But personal opinion and speculation is not where we must go for the information we need.
As always, God's Word is the only authoritative source to which we can turn.
We are warned that there are false prophets and that we must be discerning.
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is in the world” (1 John 4:1-3).
So we learn that every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh—that is He is God incarnate—is of God. John opens his first epistle with a declaration of this truth: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1:1).
John describes Jesus, in the beginning of his gospel, in clearly divine terms: “the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14). John says we saw Jesus and we touched him. We know this to be the truth, so no denial of the incarnation can be tolerated. Many religions (or secularists) will say Jesus was a good man, or a great teacher, but deny he was God. But writing under the inspiration of the Spirit, John tells us that this doctrine must be identified as the spirit of antichrist.
However, with clarity, John writes: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him” (1 John 5:1).
While other evidences of grace are described, it is clear there is no evidence of salvation and, consequently, no assurance apart from believing in Jesus.
Many work hard to make a case for the unbeliever, but the testimony of John cannot be successfully disputed. The language is strong and to the point. “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son” (2:22). Jesus’ own words, recorded in John’s gospel, tell us that “all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him” (5:23). And again: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (6:47).
The idea of someone believing in the one true and living God, and not believing in his Son Jesus Christ, is foreign to the plain declarations of Scripture. Just because a person is religious and has religious zeal in not an indication that he has been born again and has a relationship with God. Idolatry—worshipping a false god—is not an evidence of grace.
The Jews hated Jesus and accused him of having a devil, because he said he was one with the Father and had come down from above. They felt secure because they were the natural seed of Abraham. But Jesus contradicted them:
“I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you...If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham...If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God” (John 8:37,39,42).
It is not politically correct these days to say there is only one way to God. Christians who confess to believing that are called narrow-minded and bigoted. But that is what Jesus taught, and we have no authority to update his teaching. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Someone may respond, “That just doesn't seem fair to me; I think sincerity should be sufficient.” But the fact remains—it didn’t matter what the Pharisees of Jesus day thought, it doesn't matter what public opinion may be today, or what seems right in our own mind—Jesus is the final authority.
Jesus says the only way to the Father is through him.
John continues to press this theme:
“If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God hath given of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:9-12).
How can anyone conclude that it really doesn’t matter whether you believe in Jesus? Failure to believe the testimony of God concerning His Son is to call God a liar. Failure to believe what Jesus repeatedly taught, that it is the believer not the unbeliever who has eternal life, is to call His teaching false.
What a marvelous change occurs when the Spirit does a work of grace in the heart of the fallen sinner! He now sees his sin and recognizes his need for a Savior. He now sees Jesus as the Son of God, he believes the testimony concerning him, and by faith he embraces him as his Savior. Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
When one is effectually called the gospel makes sense.
Whatever objections there may have been previously are removed; the message of “Christ crucified” is now the power and wisdom of God. The soul who felt lost and hopeless finds rest in Jesus. He can say with the hymn writer:
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.
The faith God gives in regeneration is a faith that will not die. There may be seasons of doubt, and moments of an overwhelming sense of unworthiness which brings about renewed self-examination; but the faith that is God’s gift is not a dead faith: it is both given and sustained by divine grace. If you today believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior himself says you have eternal life.
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