The Assurance of Salvation

By Larry Edwards

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For many years a question has been asked that demands an answer and this question is answerable. People who are well versed in scripture and have impeccable godly lifestyles are plagued by this unanswered question. This is an attempt to answer the question, "How can I know that I know Jesus?" Another way to ask this same question is to ask, "How can I know that I am saved?" This question is too important to ignore. The first chapter of John gives us some keen insight into this significant question. John's gospel records three penetrating statements made by John the Baptist. Let's examine John 1:19-34,19. And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent him priest and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20. And he confessed and did not deny, and he confessed, "I am not the Christ." 21. And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" And He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." 22. They said then to him, "Who are You? What do you say about yourself?" 23. He said, "I AM A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ' MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,'AS ISAIAH THE PROPHET SAID." 24. NOW THEY HAD BEEN SENT FROM THE PHARISEES. 25. AND THEY ASKED HIM AND SAID TO HIM, "WHY THEN ARE YOU BAPTIZING, IF YOU ARE NOT THE CHRIST, NOR ELIJAH, NOR THE PROPHET?" 26. JOHN ANSWERED THEM SAYING, "I BAPTIZE WITH WATER, BUT AMONG YOU STANDS ONE THAT YOU DO NOT KNOW . 27. IT IS HE WHO COMES AFTER ME, THE THONG OF WHOSE SANDAL I AM NOT WORTHY TO UNTIE". 28. THESE THINGS TOOK PLACE IN BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN WHERE JOHN WAS BAPTIZING. 29. THE NEXT DAY HE SAW JESUS COMING TO HIM, AND SAID,"BEHOLD, THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD! 30. THIS IS HE ON BEHALF OF WHOM I SAID, "AFTER ME COMES A MAN WHO HAS A HIGHER RANK THAN I, FOR HE EXISTED BEFORE ME". 31. AND I DID NOT KNOW HIM, BUT IN ORDER THAT HE MIGHT BE MANIFESTED TO ISRAEL, I CAME BAPTIZING IN WATER." 32. AND JOHN BORE WITNESS SAYING, I HAVE BEHELD THE SPIRIT DESCENDING AS A DOVE OUT OF HEAVEN, AND HE REMAINED UPON HIM. 33. AND I DID NOT KNOW HIM, BUT HE WHO SENT ME TO BAPTIZE IN WATER SAID TO ME, "HE UPON WHOM YOU SEE THE SPIRIT DESCENDING AND REMAINING UPON HIM, THIS IS THE ONE WHO BAPTIZES IN THE HOLY SPIRIT." 34. AND I HAVE SEEN AND BORNE WITNESS THAT THIS IS THE SON OF GOD. JOHN 1:19-34 R.S.V.

It is interesting to note that John the Baptist says of himself on two different occasions that He did not know Christ. He said of all of those who were there, including those who were the most religious, that there is One who is right among us and you don't know who He is. This is true in every church in the world today. The very presence of Jesus is in the room and there are those who are actually worshipping Him while there are those in the same room who do not know Him. He is among us but not known by all of us.

How do you know that you know Him? John the Baptist made two statements that need closer examination. First, John the Baptist said that he did not know him, but rather that he knew about him through the word of the prophets. He knew through Isaiah that Jesus was to be revealed to Israel. It was by the word of God through the prophet that John the Baptist knew about Jesus. There are people today who have read the Bible and know about Jesus but do not know Jesus. They know Bible stories. They know Bible terms. They may even know Bible maps, but they do not know Jesus. They have sat through hours of Bible study. They have their ten year pins from Sunday School. They can answer Bible Trivia, but they do not know Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord. It is from the scriptures recorded in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah that John the Baptist makes the declaration on the first day He sees Jesus that He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:22) It is the next day, however, that John the Baptist stands with two of his disciples and when he sees Jesus the Baptist proclaims for the first time with personal knowledge that this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.(John 1:36) It is in John 1:34 that John gives his personal testimony. "And I have seen and do testify that this is the Son of God." How did this man go from I did not know Him...I did not know Him (John 1:31;33) to "I have seen and do testify that this is the Son of God." God gave John something to assist him in his knowledge of the word of God. He gave him the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God revealed who the Son of God was. "He who sent me to baptize said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit'." (John 1:33)

In studying Romans chapter 3 and chapter 4, a legitimate question may be asked. How did those who lived prior to Jesus go to heaven? How did they know that they were saved? Whether you are an Old Testament Saint or a New Testament Saint, you cannot come to an understanding of God without Him revealing Himself to you. Your mind, in and of itself, cannot know God. It isn't you who comes to God, it is God who comes to you. You cannot know Him unless He reveals Himself to you by His Holy Spirit. The only way in scripture to be saved is by grace (God coming to you and revealing himself through His Holy Spirit) through faith, (you believing what the Spirit of God has revealed). Salvation is of the Lord from start to finish.

The apostle Peter is a great example of one who came to know Christ by God's revelation of Him by the Spirit. Examine two statements that Peter makes concerning his knowledge of Jesus. In the 16th chapter of Matthew there is recorded what has been entitled "Peter's Great Confession Of Faith". It is here that we understand that Jesus desires to be known by His disciples. He wants them to know who He is. Be aware. God does not want anyone to go around saying, "I don't know Him," or "I don't know if I know Him." "It is not God's will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9) The only way that you will ever come to eternal life and not perish is to know Jesus. "And this is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." (John 17:3) Without knowing Him, Jesus' disciples could not be saved and could not serve Him. It is obvious that unless you know someone, you cannot introduce them to others. Unless you know who Jesus is, you cannot share the gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is at this strategic point in the lives of the disciples that Jesus ask two relevant questions. First, who do men say I am? Some say you are John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say one of the other prophets. You do not know Jesus based upon what others say. Jesus isn't Lord because the prophets say so. Jesus isn't Lord because the Preacher says so. Jesus isn't less than Lord because the critics say so. The first question did not result in a right answer and it will not produce a right answer today. Men do not bring us into the Kingdom of God. Men are used of God to bring us the word of God. "How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?..." (Romans 10:14-15) Jesus asked a far more piercing question to His disciples. "But who do you say that I am?" (Matt 16:15) The answer to the first question is not good enough to answer the second question. Who do you say Jesus is? This is a question that you must answer by God's revelation. God may reveal His word through the preacher, but He will reveal the truth of His word through His Spirit. Listen to Peter's answer and Jesus' response to his answer. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matt 16:16) You must know this answer with all of your heart, with all of your mind, and with all of your soul. Jesus tells Peter that he cannot know this without the Father in heaven revealing this to him. God revealed this to Peter through the Spirit. John 1:34 states that John the Baptist says that he has seen and does testify that this is the Son of God. Peter states in the Matt 16 passage that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God. Unless you know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, you cannot be saved. "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shall believe in thine heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation... For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:9-10;13) Flesh and blood cannot reveal this, only the Father through the Spirit.

How did John the Baptist know that Jesus was the Christ? The Spirit revealed it. How did Peter know that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God? The Spirit revealed it. How do you know that Jesus is the Christ? The Spirit reveals it. Without the Spirit of God revealing the truth of God's word, we cannot be saved. We cannot believe what God says without faith, and we cannot have faith without a word from God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. God's word is true whether you read it, hear it, or speak it. You cannot believe that it is true without His Holy Spirit making it become alive by validating the truth of His word. The word must be present in order for you to be saved, yet, you cannot be saved unless the Spirit of God is present with the word of God. It is expedient that the Great Commission be fulfilled, but the world will not be won by proclamation alone, we must have God, through His Holy Spirit, affirming the truth of His word.

The second statement of Peter is in direct contradiction to his first statement. Where Peter's first statement is entitled "The Great Confession", his second statement is recorded as "The Denial" of Peter. Peter is confronted with an accusation. You know this Jesus who is called the Christ. There are times in our lives that knowing Jesus will not make us popular. To those who do not know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, a lower natural state of man rules his thoughts. For someone to claim to be Lord of our lives is a contradiction to the self life and the god that we believe ourselves to be. Peter says something that neither he nor the Lord believes in Matt 26:72. He says, "I know not the man." It is here that Peter is in direct conflict with God and with him- self. He knows that he knows Him, yet, he denies that he knows Him. Why is Peter called the one who denied the Lord and Judas called the one who betrayed Him? It is because Judas, though Jesus was among him on a daily basis, did not know the man and therefore betrayed Him. Peter knew Him, even though he said he did not know Him. When Peter looks up and sees Jesus, two things are understood. He knows Jesus and Jesus knows him. Peter goes out and weeps bitterly. Would Peter have wept bitterly for a con artist who had tricked him for the past three years? He wept because he knew that he had denied the very one for whom he had promised to live and die. This is significant for anyone who would question their salvation. As odd as it may seem, a knowledge of Christ can be assured, even at a time when you would deny him. Knowing that you know Jesus does not always mean that you will do everything right. Yet, even in your sorrow there is an awareness that you know Him and He knows you. Your actions deny Him. Your words deny Him. Your heart, however, cannot deny Him. You bow to the crowd, yet, you know that He is Lord. You cannot know that He is Lord unless God reveals Him through His Holy Spirit. A maturing process happens with Peter. Though he knows Jesus is the Christ and denies Him, he comes to a place in scripture that he no longer cares what men think. Perhaps you remember being embarrassed by your parents. Maybe they were too short or too tall. Maybe they were too fat or too thin. Whatever the cause for embarrassment, you may have indicated to your friends that you did not know them. Parents say to one another on many occasions, your son did this or your daughter did that as if to deny that they were the parent of this child. Maturity allows us look past ourselves and allows us to stand and confess without shame, this is my son or this is my dad. In Acts 4, Peter is told to deny the Lord. It is here that he says with maturity, "I cannot but speak what I have seen and heard" "And they took notice that he had been with Jesus." A reconciliation has taken place between Matthew 26 and Acts 4. John's gospel records this restoration process in John 21. Peter is asked three times by Jesus if he loves Him. Three times Peter denied the Lord and three times Peter says he loves the Lord. Will Peter ever fail the Lord again? Will he ever become self centered and afraid? Though it happened a hundred more times, Peter will assuredly know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Will John the Baptist ever struggle with the question of who Jesus is again? It is but just a few months after John the Baptist says that he does testify that this is the Christ that he sends a messenger to ask Jesus a piercing question. Luke 7:19 says that John the Baptist sent a messenger to ask Jesus if He was the Christ or should he look for another. Jesus was able to answer John the Baptist in a way that was understandable to him. Jesus said to tell him that the lame walk, the blind see, the dead are raised and that the gospel is being preached to the poor. How would this answer satisfy one who did not know who Jesus was? It could not. Often we question Christ because He seems to act out of character with who we expect Him to be. He doesn't heal a sick baby. Violent winds demolish city blocks. War torn lives are uprooted and it appears that He does nothing. Learn the lesson Jesus taught John the Baptist. Do not emphasize what you are not seeing Jesus do and concentrate on what He is doing. He is still healing. He is still caring. He is still saving sinners. Jesus allows John to ask questions. But, He also says to John and to all of us. You will be happy if you are not offended by me. He is the Christ. He can do what He wants to do, when He wants to do it, and it will be right. Our timing will always be off. Our motives will always be impure. Unless we are led by the Spirit of God we cannot work for God and we will be offended by the way that God works. His ways are always right. He is never in a hurry and always on time. He is aware of all things and has everything under control. Jesus did not accuse John the Baptist of being an unbeliever. He said that he was acting out of limited knowledge. You can be saved and question God. He is bigger than our questions. If you have the Spirit of God in you, He will answer your questions by allowing you to think from a proper perspective. How do you know that you know Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?are four things that can help you know that you know Jesus. You do not have to be perfect all the time, but you do have to acknowledge some things that indicate that the Holy Spirit of God has caused you to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. If these four things are not present in your life, it is possible that you do not know Jesus and that you may only know about Him.

Allow Me To Make This Section Personal

The Most Important Person In Your Life you know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, He is the most important person in your life. Do you have any idea who the number one person would be who would challenge that prominent place in your life? YOU! From the beginning we have wanted the preeminence. When you know Jesus as your Savior, you understand Galations 2:20. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." I am no longer concerned about me. I am concerned about Christ. This a mature concept. A baby is concerned about his/her own needs. Can I know Jesus and put myself first? He is the most important person in my life. The most important person in my life today, who walks on this earth, is my wife. I love her more than I love any other person. I know her better than any person in the entire world knows her. She knows me better than any person in the entire world knows me. It would be impossible for me to love her as I should love her, if I did not love Jesus more. My love is a selfish, self seeking love without a proper relationship to Jesus Christ. I cannot love you as I should love you without placing Jesus as the number one love of my life. He is the most important person in my life so that He can live and love through me. If Jesus is not the number one person that you love, you might want to check to see if you believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

We probably should do a love test here. How do you know if you love Him supremely? You love Him if you understand how to forgive. Ephesians 4:32 teaches us that we are to be kind one to another, tenderhearted, and forgiving one another. Why? Even as God for Christ sake has forgiven us. We forgive others because we have been forgiven by God. Jesus told his disciples that the world would know that they were His disciple if they had love one for another. (John 13:34-35) Jesus also stated that if we will not forgive, we will not be forgiven. (Matthew 6:15) We are shown God's great love through the forgiveness that He extends to us and if we belong to Him we have not only received His forgiveness, we are forgiving others. We love Him if we keep His commandments. (John 15:9-14) If we are always saying how much we love Jesus, but we do not do what He tells us to do, He is not our Lord. (Luke 6:46) You love Him if you want to know more about Him. My wife and I have been married for twenty-eight years and we knew each other for over six years before we married, yet there is not any person in the world today that I want to know more about than her. I talk to her every day. I want to know how she feels. I want to know what would please her most. If I did not care where she goes or what she does, can I say I love her? If you do not want to know more about Jesus, can you say that you love Him? How do you believe that you will know Him better? Talk to him in prayer. Read all about Him in his love letter to you. If you don't read your Bible from Sunday to Sunday, do you really love Him? You will know that you know Him if He becomes the most important person in your life. The more you know Him, the more you will love Him. We spend time with the most important people of our lives. He must be the number one person in your life.

The Most Important Purpose Of Your Life

If God has revealed that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God through His Holy Spirit, He is the number one purpose of your life. There is nothing that you are seeking to accomplish that is more important than what God is wanting to accomplish in your life. You have made it clear to the Lord that He can interrupt your schedule at any point He desires because your life belongs to Him. There is no goal, no day, no person, not even a personal desire that He is not able to control. He can interrupt your plans to interject His plans at any point in time that He desires. As the songwriter states, "Not what I wish to be, nor where I wish to go, for who am I that I should choose the way; The Lord shall choose for me, Tis better far, I know, whether He bids me go or stay." (His Way, Mine song title) The purpose that God would have for my life is overwhelmingly more important than any purpose that I would seek on my own. If you have your plans that you are trying to establish, your company that your are trying to build, your family that your are trying to raise; and Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God, is just one big interruption in your life, you might want to ask yourself if you truly know that you know Him? He is Lord. He is boss. If He is not the most important person in your life, if He is not the most important purpose in your life; you better check your salvation.

The Power Of Your Life

Jesus Christ is the power of our lives. Is your life totally defeated and do you go around sapped of strength all the time? Are you forever wondering what you will do about your problems? Are you wringing your hands and whining with your voice because nothing ever works out for you? Perhaps nothing has happened, but you are in constant fear that something might go wrong. A local church placed these words on their sign in front of their church - Why worry when you can Y2 Pray? When we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we believe that all power is given to Him in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18) He has power in heaven and power on earth and He empowers us. (Acts 1:8) He does not send us out as wimps to do His work, but He goes with us with all the power of heaven and earth. (Matthew 28:20) He wants us to go out and unashamedly tell others that that He is the Christ. The apostle Paul wrote, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16) God's people, through the ages have been the most courageous people on earth. They have not feared man nor beast. (Psalm 27:1) We do not receive anxious fears from God. "For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Because of this power, Paul continues to write to Timothy, "Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord." (II Timothy 1:7-8) We live our lives as if there is something or someone who has more power than God. We do not live with the mindset that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13) From where does my power come? From where does my boldness come? Where do I get my strength day after day? "They that wait upon the Lord renew their strength..." (Isaiah 40:31) If your life is powerless, always defeated, and there is always an overwhelming problem so that you live in constant despair; you might want to check your salvation. Do you believe that Jesus is Lord of all things? That same power that brought again Jesus from the dead is the same power that allows us to live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28) He is the power. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.

The Peace Of Your Life

If you are aware that Jesus is the Christ; if you can stand with John the Baptist and say that I have seen and do testify that Jesus is the Son of God; if you can stand with Peter and say that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God; if you have the divine gift of God that has revealed Jesus to you; then you can know that you know Him by the peace that is in your life. What a significant way to know that Jesus is the Christ! "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27) I recently visited a friend in the hospital who was to have extensive surgery. The twelve hour operation lasted about two hours when the doctors came out and told our friend's daughter that the cancer had spread too far and that there was nothing that they could do for her mother. As I visited with our friend after her surgery, she said to me, "I have a peace that I do not even understand. I know I'll understand it when I get into the word." I said to her, "That is the word of God." Philippians 4:6-7 states, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God: and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." If your life is in constant turmoil; do you know that Jesus Christ is Lord? He said that in this world we would have tribulation, but be of good cheer, He has overcome the world. (John 16:33) When you go through the most difficult times of your life, do you feel the Lord embracing you? Can you hear His voice saying, "Don't let your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid?" In order for you to have peace you must know who is in control. Jesus Christ, the Son of God is in control. John's gospel tells us in the first few verses that Jesus was in the beginning with God and all things were made by Him and without Him there was not anything made that was made.(John 1:1-2) He is Creator of the ends of the earth. He will make a thousand ways to make a way for you. He is able to bring into existence that which does not already exist. (Romans 4:17) He's got everything under control! He said, "I go to prepare a place for you and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also." He's got everything under control! Jesus Christ the Son of God said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." He can raise the dead. He's got everything under control! "Oh the peace that passes understanding." "Oh the peace we often forfeit. Oh the needless pain we bear." (What A Friend We Have In title) Do you ever wonder why certain people can go through unusual trials without breaking down and accusing God of gross neglect and an uncaring character? It is because they have turned their trials over to the One who has everything under control, Jesus Christ the Son of among us yet we do not know Him. John the Baptist said that he knew what the scripture said about Jesus but He didn't know Him until God revealed Him through His Holy Spirit. Suddenly, a boldness came upon him and allowed him to say that he could now stand and testify that he had seen for himself that Jesus is the Christ. You cannot know that Jesus is the Christ unless the Spirit of God reveals the truth of the Word of God. You must believe by faith that Jesus is who the Scriptures says He is. You must believe by faith that Jesus is who the Spirit says He is. You may one day stand as Peter did on that dreadful night in which he denied his Lord. You may in conflict with yourself and in conflict with your God say that you do not know Jesus. This may be reflected through your actions as well as your words. How sad it is to know that you know Jesus and still deny him. But, the saddest day that anyone will ever know, is the day that they stand before Jesus and hear Him say, "I Never Knew You." (Matthew 7:23) God has done everything necessary for us to come to know His Son. He gave us His Word. He gave us His Spirit. He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) If Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is not the most important person in your life, if He is not the most important purpose of your life, if He does not give you power to live a victorious life, and if He does not give you peace in the trials of your life; you might want to check your relationship with Him. If you do not know that you know Him, then today you need to hear the word of God and the Spirit of God tell you that Jesus Christ is Lord. If you know Him, do what Elijah instructed God's people to do in I Kings 18:21. "If the Lord be God then follow Him." If you believe and receive what the Father, God would reveal to you about His Son, then you will never hear Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God say, "Depart from me, I never knew You."