Can you know for certain that you are saved? Is it ever okay to doubt your salvation? These are difficult questions, but both questions can be answered in just one verse in the book of 1 John. 1 John 5:13 says, "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..." [emphasis added]. Right away that tells me two things: you can be saved and know it, and you can be saved and doubt it. John wrote the book of 1 John in order that we may know — without a doubt — that we have eternal life. And he gave us three major tests to deal with that doubt.
The Commandment Test
The first test is found in 1 John 2:3-5: "And hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him."
A person who says he is saved but doesn't keep the commandments of God is lying. I don't care whose church he is a member of, how much theology he has in his head, or what kind of experience he has had at an altar; John says if he's not keeping the commandments of God, he doesn't know Him. He is not talking about sinless perfection, but that the commandments of God are to be the standard by which we chart our course.
There are many people who join a church as if they were joining a country club. There's no change and they continue to live the same ungodly lives. Those people have no reason whatsoever to think that they are going to heaven. If you can sin willfully, knowingly, deliberately, and habitually and feel no conviction or remorse; you have no reason to believe you are saved.
The Companion Test
There's another test found in 1 John 3:14: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death." And in 1 John 4:20 he says, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen?"
If God is love and we have the nature of God, then we are going to have love in us. If we don't have love, we don't have the nature of God. If we don't have the nature of God, we haven't been born of God. It is very clear that another birthmark of the believer is love for the brethren. When I am saved, not only do I want to be right with my brothers, but I want to be with my brothers. If you love Jesus, you're going to love His Church.
The Commitment Test
The third test is found in 1 John 5:10-12: "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 gave of His Son. And this is the record, 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."
The word believe here really means "commitment" or "trust." And that commitment and trust is in the present tense. I cannot find a single verse in the Bible that tells us to look back to some experience for the assurance of our salvation. The Bible doesn't deal with what happened in the past for assurance. Verse thirteen says, "These things have I written unto you that believe...." It doesn't say, "believed." It means those who believe right now. Do you have that faith in your heart right now? Is there that trust and commitment to Jesus Christ right now? That's how to have assurance.
You can be saved and know it! You can be free from nagging doubts. It's so important to get this issue settled. Everything else builds on the strong confidence that God has saved you and will never let you go. Stand on His Word, and rest assured in your salvation.
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