How Do I Know For Sure?
Read 1 John 5:11-13 (ESV)
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
Have you ever wondered how you can know for sure that you are saved? How do today’s verses reassure you?
Everyone has doubts from time to time. It gets especially confusing when false teachers spread doctrine that contradicts the Gospel. How can we know if we will really experience eternal life?
Assurance of salvation is one issue that the apostle John tackles in his first epistle. John does not address his letter to anyone specifically but instead refers to his readers as “beloved” and “my little children.” Like Paul, John felt a fatherly affection for the people that he discipled. John was an important leader of the church of Jerusalem (Acts 8:14, Galatians 2:9). But church tradition reports that prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., John left Jerusalem and ministered in Ephesus and the surrounding area. Thus, it is believed that John wrote 1 John from Ephesus to the churches in his sphere of influence sometime around 90 A.D.
Why did he write it? John covers many themes but he repeatedly stated his purpose for proclaiming his message to them: “We have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:2-4). John wanted his readers to experience the same joy in fellowship with God and the assurance of eternal life that he and the other apostles experienced. John goes on to give his readers indicators of a true Christian to help them evaluate their own faith and differentiate between true and false prophets.
First, John emphasized that God is perfect light with no darkness in Him at all. John wrote: “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7). In other words, if we say we are Christians, we shouldn’t still be living in the dark, harboring secret sins. Instead, we should expose our sin and confess it to God, and He will be faithful to forgive us. John boldly said that if we claim that we don’t sin, we deceive ourselves and make God a liar (1 John 1:8, 10).
Obedience to God’s Word is another marker of a true Christian. John wrote, “By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1 John 2:3). If we are walking in Christ, we should live like He did. That doesn’t mean that Christians will perfectly obey and never sin again. John urged his readers not to sin but gave them this reassurance whenever they do: “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). John further developed this point in chapter 1 John 3:2-10.
Who and what we love is also a strong indication of whether or not we are in Christ. John explained that true believers do not love the world (1 John 2:15-17) but instead love God and His Son. In 1 John 5:1-12, he elaborated on this. In 1 John 5:1 he wrote: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.” In addition to loving God and His Son more than the world, true believers love each other: “We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:19-21).
Finally, John wrote that we will be able to identify who is truly a believer by who has the Holy Spirit. In chapter 4, he said that you can tell if someone is influenced by the spirits of the world or by the Spirit of God by whether or not they confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. Likewise, we can know that we have the Holy Spirit abiding in us based on what we believe and confess about Christ: “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:13-15).
Friends, we can rest assured that if we know and love Christ, we will have eternal life in His name. If you are struggling with doubts about your salvation, I encourage you to read the book of 1 John. In just 5 short chapters, you can be reminded of the blessed assurance we have in our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Lord, thank You for providing reassurance that I have salvation in Your name. I confess that You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You, but I trust in You for the forgiveness of my sin. Help me to continue to love You and my brothers and sisters in Christ more and more. Help me to walk in Your light and in obedience to Your Word. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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