John MacArthur

Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (2/11)

Now at first you might be tempted to think, Well, good for John, but his was not an isolated experience. In 1 John 5:1, he says, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him” (emphasis added). It is characteristic of any believer to love God and Christ. It is a sign of the holy affections Jonathan Edwards spoke of. A relationship with God is basic to salvation. It is what we as believers were called to. “God is faithful,” Paul says, “through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).

Paul described what that fellowship meant to him personally: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). There’s something very experiential about that truth–it’s not just a cold fact that we as believers have divine life living in us; there’s an experience to be enjoyed in knowing God intimately.

Jesus implied as much when He said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10: 10 ). If He had just said, “I came that you may have life,” we could conclude He was talking only about His gracious provision of eternal life. By adding that life could be abundant, Jesus was moving into the dimension of experience. The Christian life is a rich life. We’re meant to experience joy, peace, love, and purpose. When someone who’s about to be baptized testifies about coming to Christ, you won’t hear, “The fact is, folks, I’m saved, and I’m just here to announce that.” Invariably the person will describe to you the feeling–the overwhelming sense of forgiveness and purpose in his or her life.

Here’s a taste of the abundant life Scripture describes in terms of our fellowship with the Lord. The “God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:3); “the God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10); the God who supplies all [our] needs according to His riches in Christ (Phil. 4:19); the God who leads us to speak to one another in psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to Him (Eph. 5:19); the God to whom we cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom. 8:15 ) like little children to the daddy we adore; the God we draw near to in time of trouble (Heb. 4:16 )–He Himself so greatly enriches us. Our fellowship with Him is the abundant life we experience.

Have you experienced communion with God and Christ? Have you sensed Their presence? Do you have a love for Them that draws you to Their presence? Have you experienced the sweet communion of prayer–the exhilarating joy of talking to the living God? Have you experienced the refreshing, almost overwhelming sense of grace that comes upon you when you discover a new truth in His Word? If you have, then you have experienced the fellowship of salvation.

:: 2 – Are You Sensitive to Sin? ::

Let’s go back to chapter 1 of John’s first epistle, to this declaration in verse 5: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” John was saying that the message the Lord sent to us is about Himself, specifically that He is absolutely sinless. The Greek text literally says there’s not a single bit of darkness in Him. Therefore, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (v. 6).

Light and darkness do not coexist. One drives the other away. John went on to develop that theme: “If we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (vv. 7-10).

“Is It Real?” – An Article from Dr. John MacArthur

Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (1/11)

In 1746, about six years after the Great Awakening, in which Jonathan Edwards was the primary instrument of God to preach the gospel and bring about the greatest revival in American history thus far, Edwards wrote A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections. He wrote it to deal with a problem not unlike one we face today: the matter of evidence for true conversion. Many people want the blessings of salvation, especially eternal security, but no more.

In the explosive drama of the Great Awakening, it seemed as though conversions were occurring in great numbers. However, it didn’t take long to realize that some people claimed conversions that were not real. While various excesses and heightened emotional experiences were common, scores of people didn’t demonstrate any evidence in their lives to verify their claim to know and love Jesus Christ, which led critics to attack the Great Awakening, contending it was nothing but a big emotional bath without any true conversions.

Thus, partly in defense of true conversion and partly to ex‚Ȇpose false conversion, Jonathan Edwards took up his pen. He came to this simple conclusion. The supreme proof of a true conversion is what he called “holy affections,” which are a zeal for holy things and a longing after God and personal holiness. He made a careful distinction between saving versus common operations of the Holy Spirit. Saving operations obviously produce salvation. Common operations of the Holy Spirit, he said, “may sober, arrest and convict men, and may even bring them to what at first appears to be repentance and faith, yet these influences fall short of inward saving renewal” (lain H. Murray, Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography [Carlisle, Pa.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1987], p. 255).

How can you tell whether the Holy Spirit has performed a saving operation? As the principle evidence of life is motion, Edwards wrote, so the principle evidence of saving grace is holy practice (pp. 262-63). He said true salvation always produces an abiding change of nature in a true convert. Therefore, whenever holiness of life does not accompany a confession of conversion, it must be understood that this individual is not a Christian.

In the very year Edwards’ treatise was published, popular teaching asserted that, to the contrary, the only real evidence of true salvation is a feeling based on an experience–usually the experience at the moment of the alleged conversion. That teaching introduces the prevalent but erroneous concept that a person’s true spiritual state is known by a past experience rather than a present pursuit of holiness. Edwards flatly contradicted that notion: “Assurance is never to be enjoyed on the basis of a past experience. There is need of the present and continuing work of the Holy Spirit … [in] giving assurance” (p. 265). This is no esoteric theological debate: the substance of your assurance is at stake.

A number of New Testament writers, of course, were very concerned about this matter of true salvation, as was our Lord Jesus Himself. The apostle John dedicated his first letter to the subject, stating his theme at the end: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13). Throughout the letter is a series of tests to determine whether you possess eternal life. If you don’t pass these tests, you’ll know where you stand and what you need to do. If you do, you’ll have reason to enjoy your eternal salvation with great assurance.

:: 1 – Have You Enjoyed Fellowship with Christ and the Father? ::

This is an essential element in true salvation and the first test John presented. Look with me at chapter 1, which begins: “We [John and his fellow apostles] have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us–what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (vv. 2-3). Obviously he was going beyond just the earthly acquaintance he had with Jesus because he had no such earthly acquaintance with the Father. Rather, he was presently enjoying communion with the living God and the living Christ.

“Is It Real?” – An Article from Dr. John MacArthur

Search the ESV Bible


(e.g., John 1 or God's love)

The Ultimate Statistic