How do we know if someone genuinely accepts the gospel?
How can we know if we have genuinely accepted the gospel?
I believe the Scriptures speak clearly about salvation and yet many (too many) people are confused, discouraged, deceived, and even defensive about basic truths as they relate to salvation. Yet, God desires us to live confidently in our faith, assured in our salvation, and discerning as we experience life and reach out to others.
I am convicned that Scripture speaks clearly to tough questions such as:
- How do I know if I’m saved?
- How can I tell if someone is really saved?
- Can a person lose his/her salvation?
- What about those who fall away?
This week I hope to tackle a few of these questions. (You can help by asking questions in the comments.)
Be aware, though. The goal is not formulas and checklists. There is no system or algorithm into which you can plug data and quatify your spirituality or someone else’s salvation.
If we are going to approach these issues biblically and find answers that makes sense, we must have the following handles by which we can grab hold and reach clarity.
1. God wants us to know Him and be confident in our salvation.
God is not a god of confusion (1 Cor 14) and He has spoken at large about salvation and how we can know we are His children. The apostle John wrote in his first epistle so that we might “know that [we] have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, emphasis added). His Word speaks so that we might be confident of His promises and our participation in them. Throughout the Biblical record it is clear that He does not intend for us to be uncertain of our status as His children.
2. We must rely on the Holy Spirit.
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God…”(Romans 8:16). His Spirit seals us, intercedes for us, brings conviction, and empowers us for ministry. The fruit of the Spirit displayed in our lives is another way we know we are saved. Assurance of salvation is ultimately a work of the Spirit and not the product of a scorecard. We must prayerfully, humbly, and earnestly rest in His Spirit.
3. We must prioritize God’s Word.
If we trust our experience, our reasoning, or our religious traditions we will continue to be confused, uncertain, disappointed, and discouraged. God’s Word has everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), but we trust His declaration of truth over our perceptions of reality.
4. We must weigh the totality of Scripture.
This is a big issue with many facets. We must look beyond reductionistic conclusions expressed in bumper-sticker theology based on our favorite verses. We must look into the totality of God’s Word to shed light on these issues from every angle. When we do the hard work of digging deep and thinking deeper, we will discover that Scripture offers three-dimensional solutions where we were only seeking one-dimensional answers.
5. We must wrestle in relationship.
Much of the New Testament was written to local churches encouraging them and guiding them to live faith together, seeking truth and glorifying God. We need one another. These issues were meant to be explored in the community of faith, the local church. Much of our confusion is rooted in our self-sufficiency. We have privatized our faith that was designed for communal expression. True, our faith should always be personal, but it should never be private.
God has always intended for our faith to be expressed in community and for our questions to be wrestled with in community. Where we want checklists, God offers relationships. He will not allow us to evaluate ourselves with a checklist; He wants us to submit ourselves to a people.
With these handles we can not only wrestle with these questions but we will discover satisfying, encouraging, and faith-building answers. But it’s going to require endurance and a lot of heavy lifting, so get yourself a team and let’s start digging.