How you Can Know you are Saved
Many Christians struggle with doubts and lack assurance of salvation. Perhaps you are one of them. Some people worry that their faith is not real and that they are just going through the motions of being a Christian. They fear that when they face God after death, they may be rejected and go to hell. This article will examine what the Bible says about how you can know you are saved and have assurance of eternal life in heaven.
A man asked me:
“How and when can I know that I am saved by faith instead of just having confessed faith?”
“How can I know that I will not be an active, sincere religious person who is mistaken so that Jesus will say to me, “Depart, I never knew you?”
These are good questions. Many Christians are struggling with assurance of salvation. If you are one of them, then this article is for you.
If you have never heard the gospel or trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior, then I would recommend reading, “How to Go to Heaven” first.
Assurance of Salvation is a big topic. It would take much more than one blog post to provide a thorough explanation. I plan to write a series of articles on this topic, but in the meantime, here is an overview in answer to this man’s questions which will provide many Bible verses related to assurance of salvation.
My Salvation Story
I was raised in liberal protestant churches that did not preach the gospel or inspire faith in the Bible as God’s Word. I was left with the scale like idea that if I did more good than bad I would be OK. If salvation were based on good works, one could never know whether they were good enough to get into heaven until they died and faced God’s judgment.
When I first heard the gospel at the age of 23, I thought it was preposterous to think I could KNOW that I was going to heaven because I knew I was not good enough to deserve it. I didn’t realize that this is the first critical step in getting saved. The first thing we need to understand is that we are all sinners (Romans 3:10-12, 23), our sin separates us from God, and we all deserve to go to Hell as the just punishment for our sins.
Most people want to think they are good enough to earn heaven, but we’re not. We need to humble ourselves and accept God’s free-gift of salvation as a baby accepts food from his mother without any thought of payment (Matthew 18:3; 19:14; Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).
Some people accept the gospel through faith in Christ but think they must somehow keep themselves saved through good works. But even after being saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit we are still sinners. We will continue to fall short, and our adversary (1 Peter 5:8) will use that to accuse us. But God has promised to forgive our sins if we confess them (1 John 1:9).
Our failures can make us question our salvation and rob us of assurance. But our salvation does not depend on our ability to be perfect. Our salvation rests solely on the completed works of Jesus Christ and the blood He shed on the cross. As Paul told the Galatians, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3).
I received Christ as my savior alone in my room after reading Christian literature that helped me believe that the Bible is in fact the trustworthy Word of God and explained the way of salvation through faith in Christ. I asked God to forgive my sins and save my soul based on Christ’s death on the Cross, but I found it hard to believe that was all I had to do.
I had not heard the gospel before and found it hard to believe that I could KNOW I was saved and would go to heaven rather than hell when I died. So, I lacked assurance of my salvation. At my first opportunity, I asked a pastor, “How can I KNOW I will go to heaven when I die?”
He asked me some questions to check my understanding of the gospel. He asked whether I knew I was a sinner and believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God who died to take away the sin of the world, so “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 / KJV).
I readily admitted that I was a sinner. (I had no doubts about that.) And I confessed my faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and His death, burial, and resurrection to pay the penalty for my sins.
Upon hearing my confession of faith, the pastor took me to Romans 10:9, which says if you trust in Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, then you “shall be saved.” It does not say that we might be saved or we can hope to be saved; it says we “shall be saved.” On that basis, I could know I was saved.
I never looked back after that. I have assurance of salvation and know I will go to heaven because “I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12 / KJV).
The other thing that has given me assurance is how much my life changed after I trusted Jesus as my savior. Sins fell away and I had new, godly desires. I was “a new creature;” old things passed away; all things had become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
I have written this article so that you too can know that you are saved and have assurance of going to heaven (1 John 5:13).
Your Salvation Story
But this is not about me and my assurance. This is about you, your life, and your assurance of salvation. What is your salvation story?
Have you recognized that you are a sinner who is powerless to save yourself? Have you confessed your sin to God and asked Him to forgive you?
Do you believe that Jesus Christ was and is God in the flesh, Who became a man to live a perfect, sin-free life so He could pay the penalty for your sin?
Do you openly confess to the world that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and admit that you believe that Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected to pay for the sins of the world so all who believe in Him can be saved?
Acts 2:21 says, “whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (KJV), and Acts 16:31 says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (KJV). Has there been a time when you believed in Jesus Christ and called on His name for salvation?
After you believed in Jesus Christ and called on His name for salvation did your life change? Did you become more aware of sin? Did some of your sinful ways fall away? Did you become a new, godlier creature?
If your answer to all these questions is “Yes!”, then you have reason to have confidence in the reality of your salvation.
If your answer to any of the above questions is “No”, then your doubts may be well founded. You may lack assurance of your salvation because you never actually got saved. In this case, I encourage you to take care of it RIGHT NOW!
- Admit that you are a sinner (Romans 3:9-12) and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23); and confess your sin to God.
- Believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that His death, burial, and resurrection paid the penalty for your sin (Romans 10:9-11; Acts 16:31).
- And call upon the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of your sins and to save your soul (Romans 10:13).
It could be that you have believed the Bible, confessed your sin, and called on the name of Jesus Christ, yet you still have doubts about your salvation.
It’s not that you doubt God or His Word; you doubt yourself. You fear that your prayer for salvation was insincere. You wonder whether your faith is genuine. You know you still sin and are concerned that you may be one of the tares in God’s wheat field (Matthew 13:24-30).
If you have trusted in Jesus as your savior but lack assurance of your salvation, then the next section is for you.
Tests of Salvation
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5 / KJV). We need to examine our lives to see whether there is evidence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within or whether we are still living according to the worldly desires of our flesh.
The following tests of salvation can help in your spiritual self-examination to prove to yourself whether you are truly “in the faith.”
What is Your Foundation?
You have come to Jesus for salvation and have heard His words, but do you put them into practice? Matthew 7:24-27; Luke 6:46-49) Is your spiritual house build on bedrock or on sand? Jesus said that those who do what He says have built their house on a rock. Those who don’t have no foundation.
You cannot have confidence amidst trials and temptations if your spiritual life is built on sand.
The question is: ‘Is your life founded on the wisdom of God?’ ‘Do you do obey His Word?’
Do you struggle with sin?
Genuine Christians will struggle with sin until they die. We may love God and have the Holy Spirit of God living within us, but our fleshly bodies are still corrupt and susceptible to worldly temptations and physical desires.
This inner battle with temptation and sin can make people doubt their salvation. Even the apostle Paul struggled with his flesh and sometimes sinned. Paul described his own struggle with sin in Romans 7:14-25.
Conviction of sin while desiring to please God is an indication that you are saved, because your new spiritual nature is battling with your old sinful flesh. In contrast, the lost tend to give themselves over to indulging their sinful flesh without being bothered by it.
Does Sin make you Feel Bad?
If sinning does not bother us or we can continue in a sinful lifestyle without conviction, then that would be an indication that we may not really be saved. But if you feel guilty whenever you do something wrong, then that would be an indication of the indwelling Holy Spirit convicting you of your sin.
Is Sin a Bump in the Road or a Habitual Way of Life?
All Christians will sin sometimes. We shouldn’t, and there is no excuse for it. But we will fail occasionally because our flesh is weak and sinful. But sin should be a momentary failure, not a habitual way of life.
Confession and Repentance
When we come under conviction that we have sinned, this should drive us to our knees. We need to humbly confess our sin to God and ask Him for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you always confess your sin and ask for forgiveness?
Are you Walking in the Spirit?
In Galatians 5:16, the apostle Paul commanded us to keep on walking in the Spirit so we would not fulfill the lusts/desires of the flesh. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please” (Galatians 5:17 / NASB95). Paul then described the works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit.
The Works of the Flesh:
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God!” (Galatians 5:19-21 / NET).
The Fruits of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:23 / NET).
Paul said that “those who belong to Jesus Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). None of us is perfect. We all slip and fall, but which list is generally true of you? Is your life characterized more by the fruits of the Spirit or the deeds of the flesh?
A related question is ‘how much spiritual fruit are you bearing?’
The gospels record Christ’s parable of the 4 soils and their response to the seed of God’s Word.
- The first (hard packed and unreceptive) soil (Lk 8:5, 11-12) clearly represents those who never receive God’s Word and never believe. So, they bear NO spiritual fruit.
- The second (shallow / rocky) soil (Lk 8:6, 13) represents those who are attracted to the gospel and welcome it into their life, but God’s Word never takes root in their hearts. They have knowledge in their heads, but no faith in their hearts. As a result, they are easily offended and fall away. They therefore bear NO spiritual fruit.
- The fourth soil (Lk 8:8, 15) is good, fertile, weed free soil that yields itself to the life produced by the seed that takes root within it. As a result, the plant grows healthy and strong, and bears abundant spiritual fruit. Those who turn their backs on the world and completely yield their lives to the work of God’s Holy Spirit within them can have assurance of salvation because of the abundant spiritual fruit God manifests through them.
- The third (weedy) soil (Lk 8: 7, 14) is trickier. The plants trying to grow in this soil are choked by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. This worldliness prevents the plants from being fruitful. There is some indication that the plants may still be barely alive spiritually, but it is hard to tell without any spiritual fruit. As Jesus said, people are known by their fruits (Matthew 7:16-20).
You cannot live a victorious Christian life while wading in the weeds of the world. Trying to live with one foot in the world will choke your spiritual nature. Even though we are IN the world, we are not to be OF the world (John 17:14-18). Lack of spiritual commitment and resulting fruitlessness may make you question your salvation.
You cannot live a victorious Christian life while wading in the weeds of the world.Bill Ogden
If you want greater assurance of your salvation, then you need to remove the weeds of worldliness and greed from your life, abide in the vine of Jesus Christ (John 15:1-8), and allow God to produce spiritual fruit in your life.
Who / What do You Love?
In his first epistle, the apostle John commanded us to stop loving the world (using a negative present tense imperative), saying:
“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. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:17 / NKJV)
In contrast, the two greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. And God’s children must especially love their fellow believers in Christ (John 15:12, 17; 1 John 4:20-21).
Who / what do you love the most? Do you love God with all your heart and other people as yourself? Or are you in love with the world and the things in the world?
Chastisement / Discipline
Hebrews 12:5-11 talks about God’s chastisement in the life of His children.
“For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”Hebrews 12:6-8 / KJV
Proverbs 3:11-12 also says that God disciplines those whom He loves.
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.”Prov. 3:11-12 / NKJV
Good parents discipline their children to teach them to do right. God disciples His children to keep them on the right path as well. Do you experience God’s chastisement when you sin willfully or continue in a sinful habit? Or do you seem to get away with sinful, worldly behavior even when you have not confessed and forsaken it?
If you turn your back on the world and live for God, confessing and forsaking sin when you err, and bear abundant spiritual fruit, then you can be reasonably assured that you truly are in Christ and will hear, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”
Tests of Salvation in 1 John
The apostle John said he wrote his first epistle to those who believe in the name of the Son of God “that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). And John provided many behaviors we can look for within our lives to verify whether or not we know Him.
- Do you routinely walk in light or darkness? (1 John 1:5-7)
- Do you acknowledge that you are a sinner and routinely confess your sin? (1 John 1:8-10)
- Are you obeying Christ’s commandments? (1 John 2:3-6; 1 John 3:22-24)
- Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ? (1 John 2:9-11; 3:14-18; 4:7-12; 4:20-21)
- Do you love the world and the things of the world? (1 John 2:15-17)
- Have you remained faithful, or have you walked away from the faith? (1 John 2 :19)
- Have you denied the deity of Jesus Christ? Have the devil’s lies led you to deny the Father and His Son? (1 John 2 21-23)
- Do you “practice righteousness” by routinely doing what is right? (1 John 2:29)
- Is your life usually characterized by sin or by righteousness? (1 John 3:2-10; 5:18)
- Does your heart (your conscience) condemn you? (1 John 3:19-21)
- Do you openly confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world? (1 John 4:14-16)
- Is your life in this world characterized by being like Jesus Christ? (1 John 4:16-18)
- Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the virgin born Son of God? (1 John 5:1, 10-12)
- Do you love God and demonstrate it by keeping His commandments? (1 John 5:2-4)
How to Have Assurance of Salvation
This article has reviewed many verses related to assurance of salvation and provided tests by which you can examine yourself to see whether you are truly know Jesus Christ, being in the faith and having eternal life.
If you lack assurance of salvation because you have never actually trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then I would encourage you to do so right now. To learn more about how to “get saved” by believing in Jesus Christ, please visit, “How to Go to Heaven.”
If you have already believed and trusted in Jesus Christ as you Savior, and would like to have greater assurance of your salvation, then I recommend:
- Remove as many worldly influences from your life as you can
- Add as many good spiritual influences as you can
- Read the Bible and pray every day
- Join a good church that believes the Bible and preaches it as the very Word of God. Make friends there and get involved.
- Replace worldly friends with godly, Christian friends
- Stop trying to please the world. Focus on pleasing God instead.
There is much more that could be said, but I hope this has helped. “Stay tuned” for more articles on how you can know you have eternal life, providing deeper dives on how to examine your life to ensure you are in the faith and will go to heaven when you die.
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