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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

If You're Saved and You Know It ...

In terms of being saved and knowing it, there are four types of people. There are those who are saved and know it. There are those who are saved but don't know it. There are those who are not saved and know they are not. And there are those who are not saved but don't know it.

The two who know correctly are easy to figure. My grandfather was not saved and knew it. He was right. No confusion. Many who are saved know it. They're right. No confusion. It's the other two categories that get a bit sticky. I'm pretty sure we all know people (or are or have been people) who question their salvation. The famous John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim's Progress, was quite certain that he had lost his salvation and was sure to be damned. In Pilgrim's Progress he wrote, "There was a Way to Hell, even from the Gates of Heaven." He was deeply concerned about the subject. It is easily possible to be saved but not have assurance. On the positive side, these people are saved and their lack of assurance is a lack of comfort, not salvation. Of the other side -- not saved and don't know it -- I'm sure you can think of examples, but the most sure one is the biblical one. Jesus spoke of those who He termed "false prophets" (Matt 7:15) who were quite confident that they were safe. "Many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?'" (Matt 7:22) Jesus states quite clearly that 1) it will be "many" and 2) they are not among the saved (Matt 7:23).

It is this last category that is the most troublesome. These people are not saved, but are quite sure they are. While the other version, saved but don't know it, is sad, this one is tragic. If you believe you're cured of a horrible disease, you no longer look for a cure. If you're not actually cured, that means you die of it. In the case of salvation, that means you go to hell for it. But you're not looking for a solution to hell because you're sure you have it already.

Perhaps that's one of the reasons why assurance of salvation is not easily offered in Scripture. The book of Hebrews has several disturbing passages to shake one's confidence. We are warned that "it is impossible ... to restore them again to repentance" those "who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away." (Heb 6:4-6) Over in chapter 10 we read, "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries." (Heb 10:26-27) The story of Esau in Hebrews is heartbreaking. "He desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears." (Heb 12:17) Esau had desire and even tears, but "found no chance to repent" and was rejected. There are so many other examples. Judas Iscariot was one of the 12. Cain communed with God. The entire epistle of 1st John was written on assurance (1 John 5:13) because it is both available but not cheap.

The upshot is that those who are quite confident, even smug in their salvation ought to be concerned and those who are not at all sure have reason for assurance. Indeed, I don't think I know of a single genuine Christian who has not struggled with assurance. It shows "the seed of God" (1 John 3:9). Those who don't struggle worry me. Paul's "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24) is reasonable; "I don't have a concern in the world about this" is not.

Bottom line, I don't know if you are saved. There might be clues one way or the other, giving me greater confidence or greater concern. Oh, there are some who are quite sure they are not and I'm pretty sure they're right. And I'm convinced that there are many (Jesus's word, not mine) that are equally convinced that they are saved but will face Jesus's, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness." (Matt 7:23) On the other hand, I think you can know that you have eternal life (since, after all, that is what John says (1 John 5:13)). I think it might be an arduous effort. (Read 1 John and see.) I think that Scripture precludes, "I said the prayer and I'm pretty nice, so ..." as assurance. But it's certainly worth it.

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