Is it Real? 11 Biblical Tests of Genuine Salvation – John MacArthur (3/11)
Some people make some pretty amazing claims that hold no water. They claim to have fellowship with God–to be Christians (v. 6), to have no sin (v. 8), and even to have never sinned (v. 10). They think they are walking in the light when actually they are walking in darkness. It is characteristic of unbelievers to be oblivious to the sins in their lives. The individuals mentioned in verse 8 are not dealing with their sins because they think they’ve reached a state where they have no sin. But they are deceiving themselves. Those mentioned in verse 10 have never even confessed or acknowledged sin. With that attitude they are in fact denigrating God because God says “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23, emphasis added). Since unbelievers are so insensitive to the reality of their condition, human sinfulness is the right starting point in sharing the gospel.
Believers, on the other hand, “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light” (v. 7). We walk a virtuous walk, and what’s more, “we confess our sins” (v. 9). True believers have a right sense of sin. They know if they’re going to commune with God they have to be holy. When sin occurs in their lives, they know it must be confessed.
John takes this teaching a step further in the next chapter. “My little children,” he explained, “I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (v. 1). True believers realize they don’t have to sin. But when they do, they know whom to go to–Jesus Christ, the believer’s advocate. The intercessory work of Christ is one of the great trinitarian securers of our salvation. That’s an encouraging reality to hang onto when confronted with personal sin.
The person who is truly saved is sensitive to the sinful realities in his or her life. That’s the example Paul left us in speaking of his heightened awareness of sin’s work in his own life (Rom. 7:14-25). Consider how that applies to you. Are you very much aware of the spiritual battle raging within you? Do you realize that to have true communion with God, you have to live a holy life–that you can’t walk in darkness and claim to have fellowship with Him? Are you willing to confess and forsake any sin in your life as you become aware of it? Do you realize you can choose not to sin–that you’re not fighting a battle you’re obliged to lose? But when you do fail, do you go to your divine advocate? Do you sometimes cry out with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24 ) because you’re so weary of the burden of sin in your flesh? If so, you are obviously a Christian. And since salvation is secure, you might as well enjoy it and be fully assured.
:: 3 – Do You Obey God’s Word? ::
First John 2:3 couldn’t be clearer: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” If you want to know whether you’re a true Christian, ask yourself whether you obey the commandments of Scripture. That’s how Jesus described a true disciple when giving His Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples (Matt. 28:20). Obedience to the commands of God produces assurance–the confidence of knowing for sure “that we have come to know Him.” The Greek word translated “keep” in verse 3 speaks of watchful, careful, thoughtful obedience. It involves not only the act of obedience, but also the spirit of obedience–a willing, habitual safeguarding of the Word, not just in letter but in spirit. That’s supported by the word translated “commandments,” which refers specifically to the precepts of Christ rather than laws in general. Legal obedience demands perfection or penalty, whereas 1 John 2:3 is a call to gracious obedience because of the penalty Christ has already paid.
Verse 4 presents a logical contrast: “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” That person is making a false claim. “But whoever keeps His Word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected” (v. 5). How can you determine if you are a true Christian? Not by sentiment but by obedience.
If you desire to obey the Word out of gratitude for all Christ has done for you, and if you see that desire producing an overall pattern of obedience, you have passed an important test indicating the presence of saving faith.