|Volume 20 Number 2 February 2018||
How Can We Know
that We Are Saved?
Louis Rushmore, Editor
How can one have confidence in one’s salvation? There are many schemes of redemption presented by a myriad of church organizations around the world—besides other world religions. The problem arises in that these plans of salvation conflict with each other. In what way, then, can a person be sure how to be saved from one’s sins?
Most world religions resemble polytheism and offer no more spiritual promise of human redemption than characteristic of Greek or Roman mythical idol gods. Some of these predate Christianity, but they do not precede God-authored religion. Instead, they are corruptions of original God-given religion (Romans 1:18-23). One particularly militant world religion, though, developed about 600 years after Christianity began.
However, only Christianity relates to God-given religion from the time God placed man on earth through the present. Christianity is God’s third and final phase in a succession of three religious systems through which mankind can come once more into the presence of a sinless, holy God. Patriarchy—a family-type religion—began with Adam and Eve after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Judaism—a national-type religion—was given to the Israelite nation in Moses’ day, which for its members replaced Patriarchy. Finally, nearly 2,000 years ago, Christianity—a universal-type religion—replaced Judaism for Jews and Patriarchy for non-Jews. Together and in harmony with each other, Patriarchy, Judaism and Christianity provide, in an interconnected way, the pathway from sin into which the world of men was thrust post-Garden to having the promise and prospect of living forever in God’s heavenly house.
The Bible, a collection of 66 divinely-inspired books, represents the successive phases of God-given religion. Further, only in the New Testament—pertaining to Christianity—can one find the ultimate solution for man’s sin problem. Jesus Christ is the perfect sacrificial anti-type (Hebrews 9:23-26) to the sacrificial types in the Old Testament whereby animals were sacrificed for the temporary atonement of sins (Hebrews 10:1-4). Only through contacting the blood of Jesus Christ can one’s sins be removed (Ephesians 1:7; Revelation 1:5).
Unfortunately and confusingly, thousands of variations of manmade churches differ from what is biblically authorized. They purport to offer schemes of redemption that are more palatable to modern man than what our Lord, His apostles and other inspired New Testament writers taught. Summarized, Jesus Christ taught that belief or faith plus baptism results in salvation (Mark 16:16). With this, other inspired penmen concur (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21).
Humanly devised schemes of redemption cannot deliver on their claims to take away sin. Certainly, those who are deceived thereby will be among the persons cited by Jesus Christ in Matthew 7:21-23, who will be sincerely deceived and eternally distraught as they appear before the Judgment Seat of our Lord.
Keenly aware of our unworthiness, even those who conscientiously and meticulously follow New Testament instruction about redemption may harbor doubts about their forgiveness of past sins and reception of eternal salvation. Happily, there is absolutely no reason for a person who complies with New Testament instructions regarding salvation to be troubled over either forgiveness of past sins or the promise of a home in Heaven with God eternally.
Aside from the summary reference above in Mark 16:16, there are specified responses to God’s offer of human redemption to which mortals are obligated to respond accordingly. Each soul is required to search out the Word of God (Romans 10:17), particularly in the Christian Age—the New Testament or Gospel (2 Corinthians 3:6; Hebrews 9:15-17; 12:24), whereby faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior will result (John 8:24). This faith leads one to repent of past sins (Luke 13:3; Romans 3:25); everyone must repent (Acts 17:30). Repentance naturally follows faith, and biblically, it precedes baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
Despite being held in low esteem by mankind, generally, and often omitted from denominational plans of salvation, baptism—which is immersion (Colossians 2:12)—is essential to one’s redemption. Therefore, it is emphasized in Scripture. It is said to wash away one’s sins (Acts 22:16) or save (1 Peter 3:21). Biblical baptism—contrasted to denominational baptisms of pouring or sprinkling water—acts out the death, burial, resurrection and walking in newness of life through which our suffering Savior went (Romans 6:3-5).
Correctly baptized, Jesus Christ (Acts 2:47) and the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) place a person into the church, which is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18). The reason for which someone is baptized is so important that being baptized for the wrong reason required some in the first century to be baptized again for the right reason (Acts 19:1-7). Many times today, people may be immersed in water for the wrong reasons—for instance, thinking that they received salvation already upon believing in Christ—for which they need to be baptized for the correct reason.
Hearing God’s Word, believing Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, repenting of past sins, willing to acknowledge Jesus as Lord (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:37) and submitting to baptism for the remission of sins equate to obedience to the Christian faith (Romans 1:5; 16:26) or the Gospel. Anything less equates to not obeying the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17). Jesus Christ is only “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).
Yes, even after we obey and continue to obey the Gospel, we do not achieve sinless perfection. Upon our obedience and continued obedience—though imperfect as it is, God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8) and mercy (Titus 3:5) supplement our obedience. Thereby, we are accepted on the basis of our redemption in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The blood of Jesus Christ by which sins were initially remitted when one became a Christian—a child of God—continues to cleanse one from sins daily (1 John 1:7).
Hence, we can know that we know that we are saved from our past sins and have reserved for us eternal salvation or life, as long as we persist in obedience to the Gospel, despite our imperfection. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him” (1 John 2:3-5 NKJV). Knowing Jesus Christ as our Lord means that we know Him as our Savior. He is coming back someday for us (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) to take us back with Him to Heaven (John 14:1-3).
Confidence in the Christian’s forgiveness of past sins and the promise of eternal salvation—that crown of eternal life (Revelation 2:10)—is not based on an emotional feeling. Rather, it is based on knowledge of one’s compliance—to the best of a person’s ability—in obeying the Gospel and continuing to obey it, along with the divine promises associated with salvation.