Can someone know that they’re truly saved? Many don’t think so, however 1 John 5:13 says “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.” (emphasis mine) Yes, it is possible to KNOW for sure that we are truly saved and have eternal life. The Bible book of 1 John was written for this purpose.
I’ve written previously about some of the doubts I’ve had about salvation and God’s love. This is a common issue for those who take eternity seriously. We want to know assuredly that we are saved.
How do we know? First, we know that we are saved because of God’s faithful promise of salvation. Here it is as expressed in Romans 10:9-10:
9 If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. 11 As the Scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.” 12 Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (NLT)
But in addition to God’s promise of salvation, 1 John was written to give added assurance and in chapter 2 there is a list of 7 tests that we can use to evaluate our faith and see if we are truly saved.
Here are the 7 tests which can show us if we’re truly saved:
Test 1. Keeping God’s Commandments
1 John 2:3 says, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.” (ESV)
But what does it mean to keep his commandments? The answer to this question is summarized in 1 John 3:23 which says, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (ESV)
Do you believe in Jesus? You cannot be truly saved without faith in Christ. For help to put your faith in Christ go HERE.
In my article about the tenants of the Reformation, I showed how salvation comes only as a free gift of grace—we cannot earn it. However, if we are saved, we will “keep His commandments” not in order to be saved, but because we have been saved. It’s a very important distinction.
This verse also says we will “love one another.” More on this later in this next test.
Test 2. Loving Your Neighbors
1 John 2:10a says, “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light…” (ESV)
Loving our neighbor can be difficult. Some seem so unlovely. But there is no qualification to only love those who are lovely. In fact, Jesus told us to “love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:44)
This is a test of whether we are truly saved. Do we love our neighbors, even when they are so unlovely?
Or do we criticize, ignore, undermine, retaliate, hurt, backstab?
For a great description of what it means to love, here is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 from the Living Bible paraphrase:
4 Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.
This is the ideal—the way to truly love.
Test 3. Remembering Your Spiritual Growth
1 John 2:12-14 outlines stages of spiritual growth, from childlike to adolescent to mature adulthood. Each stage has evidence of spiritual growth. Even if you are still a new Christian, you should be able to see spiritual progress since your new birth.
Are you growing spiritually? Then rejoice in your growth and how it shows that you have been truly saved. Remember how you have overcome sins, grown in your love for the Lord, in your knowledge of Scripture and in your love for others.
If you are not growing spiritually, then it is time to be concerned. Those who are truly saved will grow in their walk with the Lord.
Recently a friend told me that his child has “walked away from the Lord.” I was astounded. Previously he had worked for a Christian organization. What’s going on I wondered?
I’m sure my friend is concerned about his child’s salvation. How about you—are you progressing spiritually? If not, you should be concerned. If so, it is a sign that you are truly saved.
Test 4. Not Loving the World
1 John 2:15 says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (ESV)
Clearly, anyone who “loves the world” does not have the love of the Father, i.e. isn’t truly saved.
But what does it mean to “love the world.” In this context, it means the worldly system of sin, lust, evil, pride and rebellion against God. The next verse explains saying, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16 ESV)
Galatians 5:19-21 clearly describes some of what it means to “love the world”
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (NLT)
If you “enjoy” the world in these ways, you should be concerned about the issue of being truly saved. If not, you have passed this test.
Many think that doing the things in this list is the way to a happy life. “Let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” goes the saying.
But in fact, the “good life” is a life of loving God and not being conformed to the world: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2 KJV)
Test 5. Guarding Against False Teaching
1 John 2:18a says, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.” (ESV)
John points out that many have heard of the Antichrist, but in addition, “many antichrists have come.” What does he mean? He goes on to explain a few verses later, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:22 ESV)
These antichrists deny that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the one and only way to God.
But what is most interesting is that John tells us where these antichrists come from in verse 19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (ESV)
Here are two very important points about false teaching:
- False teaching comes from false teachers or “antichrists.” Note: Usually these people seem like very nice people. But “niceness” isn’t the test of false teaching. Falseness determines false teaching.
- These false teachers or antichrists usually come from inside the church or other religious groups. John says, “they went out from us, but thy were not of us.” They call themselves Christians, they’ve been baptized, they “fellowship” with believers, many became teachers and pastors. They look like Christians. But they are false teachers and antichrists. They’re “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Recently I read the example of a very well-known pastor of the previous generation who said this on the Phil Donahue television show, “It’s not necessary to be born again. You have your way to God, I have mine. I found eternal peace in a Shinto shrine … I’ve been to Shinto shrines and God is everywhere. … Christ is one of the ways! God is everywhere.” He denied the very heart of the Christian faith and replaced it with his doctrine of “positive thinking.”
The true believer is not only bothered by false teaching and false teachers like this who say such things, he or she also guards against them. True believers, therefore, are sometimes criticized for pointing out God’s Truth. For examples, read the comments below my article Warning, Stay Out of the Shack!
I’m not trying to say that everyone who likes The Shack or criticizes my article is unsaved. However, I encourage people to consider their criticism in the light of all the warnings the Bible gives about false teachers and false teaching.
Test 6. Allowing the Gospel to Abide in You
“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.” (1 John 2:24 ESV)
This test is the flip side of Test #5. False teachers deny the Gospel. Those who are truly saved continue to believe and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In verse 26 John makes it clear that he is writing to warn about false teaching and teachers: “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.” (ESV)
Believers must constantly guard against deceivers! To understand some of the deceivers of the current day and of the past, I recommend you study Tim Challies’ series on false teachers which you can see HERE.
For those who are truly saved, the true Gospel abides in them and they are not deceived.
Test 7. Abiding in Christ
This final test is found in 1 John 2:28, “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (ESV)
What does it mean to “abide in him?” It means to dwell, continue, and stay in Christ.
Do you fellowship with Christ day-by-day and hour-by-hour? Is He foremost in your thoughts and affections, or secondary, an add-on, a Sunday friend maybe, but not the rest of the week?
This doesn’t mean that true believers never do wrong or sin, but that when we do, we quickly confess and make it right with God, as taught also in 1 John: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)
It also means that we will not “shrink from him in shame at his coming.” Many Christians are ignorant of the fact that some believers will be ashamed and embarrassed when Jesus returns, because of the life they have lived.
2 Corinthians 5:10 tells believers about the bema Judgment, a judgement of believers not for salvation but for reward. It says, “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” (NLT)
Some will be ashamed, but to others He will say “Well done thou good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of the Lord.” (Matthew 25:21 KJV)
What will He say to you? How are you doing on these 7 tests?
Your thoughts are welcome! Please leave your comment below.
Note: I am highly indebted to the Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible for the outline of this article. It is a wonderful Bible resource.
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Additional resources about related subjects on this site:
- Who Needs Jesus, I’m a Good Person
- Facing Death Fearlessly
- How to Prepare for Eternity Now and Face Death with Confidence Later
- Podcast: Will someone lose their salvation if they commit terrible sins?
- Podcast: Have I committed the unpardonable sin?
- How I Moved from Doubting My Salvation to Assurance
- What Caused Me to Doubt My Salvation
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