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How To Know If You Are Saved

The young woman suddenly stepped up to him, blocking his way. “Brother,” she asked, “are you saved?”

She was not imposing in presence, and he was a bishop in a well-established denomination. She had been well taught that position in the church does not guarantee spiritual standing.

Remaining poised, the bishop took a theological approach with her. “Do you mean,” he asked, “have I been saved, am I being saved, or shall I be saved?”

His reply was not bad, because salvation has a past, present, and future tense. Christ saved us on Calvary's cross; He is saving us now by His Spirit and His heavenly ministry; and He will deliver us finally when He comes again at the end of time.

But the young woman's question was not bad either, if you pay attention to the tense. The question is valid in the present tense - are you saved now? If, by some unexpected accident or catastrophe, your life were to end in the next moment (such things have happened!), how would you stand with God? What kind of an eternity would you have?

Uncertainty on this point can lead to either despair or indifference. Can you know? Some may say the question cannot be answered without being presumptuous. It is true that it would be presumptuous to answer for the future, for the Bible clearly shows by many examples that a person can fall from grace. Jesus said, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10: 22). But the question is about now. Deal with your nows, and God will take care of the future. What about now?

The First Question: Can You Know?

The Bible makes it clear in the First Epistle of John that you can know whether you are saved. Although this simple little letter is not always easy to understand or explain, the Holy Spirit helps people to understand with their hearts what they cannot explain with their tongues. The purpose of the letter is revealed in 1 John 5: 13: “I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” John wanted his readers to know, not just to guess so or hope so, but to know so.

John compares being saved to being born he calls it being born again. Suppose someone asked you, How can you prove that you have been born? Even if you could produce no birth certificate, a reasonable reply would be: The evidence is my corporeal self - this body that you see! Similarly, if you have been born again, the evidence will be there to see. Jesus said: “The wind [or Spirit] blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). You cannot see the Spirit, but you can see what He does.

The Second Question: How Can You Know Whether You Are Saved?

This First Epistle of John is a manual of tests by which the readers can assure themselves that they have eternal life. The essence of 1 John is found in these three tests: (1) believing that Jesus is the Son of God, come in the flesh, sent by the Father to be the Saviour of the world; (2) loving one another; and (3) doing righteousness.

The first test is believing in Jesus. “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4: 15). John is very positive about this. “No one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23). “Every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:27).

The second test is loving one another. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3: 14). John contrasts this love with the hatred of Cain for his brother Abel, whom he murdered (verse 12).

Frankly, this is a hard saying. It is hard to love the brethren. Sometimes it is hard to call them brethren. After all, we are so righteous, and they are so unrighteous! But John says that if we love our heavenly Parent, we will love all that Parent's children (1 John 4:20; 5: 1).

I once saw a newspaper article about the most unusual insurance claims of the year. One of the cases mentioned was that of a man who was trying to sleep on a warm summer night, but who was continually vexed by the buzzing of a fly in the dark room. In the darkness he groped around, and his hand came to a sprayer. He grabbed the sprayer and sprayed furiously all around the room until finally he didn't hear the fly anymore, and he then went back to bed and had a good sleep. In the morning, when he woke up, he saw by dawn's early light that someone had sprayed red paint all over the room, all over the furniture, the books, the curtains, the stereo and records, all over everything! Upon inspecting the sprayer, he discovered that it had been filled with red paint. The fly was dead but the damage was horrible!

We are often like that man. We get “steamed up” over some insult or slight, or over some seeming threat to our power, position, or circumstance, and we flail around with a two-edged sword “defending our beliefs.” But the human debris is horrible.

It is easy to love my clone or my protégé. But don't the heathen do that? I must love my brother in spite of our differences, or even because of our differences. It would be a monotonous world if we were all just alike.

The third test is doing righteousness. “And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments… By this we may be sure that we are in him: he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:3-6). This is the first place where John directly introduces this theme of doing righteousness, though he has already spoken of its opposite, sin. Later he says sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). Here he says that we can know that we know God in Christ if we keep His commandments and walk as He walked.

Do you have an appetite for righteousness? Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). A living person has a healthy appetite, but a corpse has none. Spiritual life brings with it an appetite for the righteousness of God.

Here is the documentary evidence, the title deed of salvation. You are not saved because God in Christ says that you are. You are being saved, and you will be saved, because you were saved by what Jesus did, is doing, and will do.

In Jesus Christ God has stretched out His hand to you. If you have grasped that hand and kept hold of that hand, you have done all you should do, and the realization of what He has done will bring all that you need into your life.

The Third Question: How Can You Become Saved If You Are Not?

If you have applied these three tests to your life, you may have discovered that you lack something - perhaps you lack everything that is really important. If so, how can you have it?

The best way I can answer this question is to tell you what saved me. One lonely night God's Spirit led me to these simple directions in the little book Steps to Christ, by Bien G. White:

“You have confessed your sins, and in heart put them away. You have resolved to give yourself to God. Now go to Him, and ask that He will wash away your sins and give you a new heart. Then believe that He does this because He has promised” (pp. 49, 50).

I followed those directions step by step, and when I came to the last one something unutterably wonderful came over me. I have never been the same since. It gives me joy to tell you about it. After all is said and done, are you saved now? If you aren't sure, you can make sure. If you are sure, praise the Lord!

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