Arriving in my email inbox last week was a simple message that said this:
“Pastor Philip, can we really, actually know we are saved for certain?”
That simple question carries with it a tremendous weight. I can only speculate concerning this person’s intentions; perhaps they do not “feel” saved at the moment. Perhaps they recognize the gravity of their own sin and marvel at the possibility that salvation can be secured without any danger of losing it. Or perhaps they are searching for answers on Jesus Christ and eternity. Here is my best response.
Yes, we can really, actually know for certain we are saved. I recognize that in light of Matthew 7:21-23 where Jesus says “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven”, it would appear that absolute knowledge of our salvation seems impossible. I will address that in just a second. First though, let me share two wonderful truths that help us with this question.
The first truth is that the cross of Jesus Christ makes definite the ongoing and eternal redemption of those who believe. Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” There is no mistake in the cross and there is no chance of its power weakening. So, although we do want to admit the necessity of a changed life that comes about because of genuine salvation, the starting place of our assurance should not be our own judgment of how well we are doing, but rather the objective foundation and warrant of the cross where God’s forgiveness is made complete.
The second truth is that the Holy Spirit confirms and secures our salvation, bringing assurance to the believer. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. . .” It is this “seal” of the Holy Spirit that confirms and assures our name written in the Lambs Book of Life. Yes, deeds and works of a believer are important and necessary (James 2:17) and they will be judged; we will receive varying rewards based on them. Yet, the assurance of our presence with Jesus Christ is marked by the seal of the Spirit, not by the seal of our works.
Back to Matthew 7 for just a second. The mere recitation of a prayer, the walking of an isle, or the participation in baptism does not bring about a true relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only when God “flips the light switch” in the hearts of fallen humans that we see the glory of Christ and our need for him. 2 Corinthians 4:6 describes how God brings about that light: “For God. . .has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” The very fact that you are asking this question, that you are concerned and understand your need of Jesus Christ demonstrates you have a heart that is bent toward him.
So, I leave with you the words of 1 John 5:13 – “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” The cross has perfected our salvation, the Spirit has sealed our salvation, and faith working through love confirms our salvation. Of these things, you can have certainty!