How May I Know for Certain That I Am Saved?

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In these remaining meditations for 2014, we will answer the second of the two most important questions we can ever ask, namely, “How may I know for certain that I am saved?”

The importance of making sure that we understand God’s answer to this question is augmented by the fact that the Scriptures repeatedly warn us concerning the eternal consequences of being mistaken. For example, Paul writes to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived” (1 Cor. 6:9). James warns his readers with these words: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). And our Lord Jesus Christ warned his hearers, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ ” only to hear Him say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness”
(Matt. 7:22–23).

There are several good ways to arrive at the right answer to the aforementioned question, such as studying Westminster Larger Catechism Q&A 80 or expounding the Beatitudes of Matthew 5:2–11. However, I believe that the best way to be certain that our answer is accurate and balanced is to consider some of the instruction found in the book of 1 John.

John himself tells us that answering this question was one of the central reasons he wrote this letter. He says to his readers, “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” (1 John 5:13).

This statement inevitably raises the question, What things did he write in order to strengthen the assurance of these professing Christians?

He does not tell his readers that they should write down the date when they “decided for Christ” and look back to that date whenever they had questions or doubts. Nor does he encourage them, in times of wondering whether they are truly saved, to look back upon past spiritual experiences and relive the thrill and spiritual high of those experiences.

Rather, throughout this letter, John identifies the present convictions and patterns of life that are the unmistakable fruits of the new birth and a saving union with the Lord Jesus Christ. I have chosen to designate these things as the “birthmarks of the true children of God.”

In the final three weekend meditations, we will consider five of these convictions and patterns of life that are indisputable evidences of a true work of grace in the heart of a sinner. In preparation for those studies, I would urge you to engage in a careful and reflective reading of the book of 1 John, seeking to discover those things that constitute “the birthmarks of a true child of God.”  

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.