“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
It is important that we have a well-founded certainty of our salvation. Many people feel sure they are saved who have no right to feel sure; they have no well-founded certainty. Some are Legalists; they are trusting in “being good” and “doing good,” “obeying the Golden Rule,” “service,” “high ideals,” and so forth. But by nature we are sinful and we cannot do good so as to please God and merit eternal life. “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:30) .
Then there are Formalists, either ritualistic or non-ritualistic, who trust in forms of worship, sacraments, ceremonies, for their eternal salvation. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. “From such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:5) .
Another delusion is Church-membership, the great fallacy that membership in the Visible Church assures or conveys eternal salvation. Not every person on a ship is a passenger with a purchased ticket; some may be stowaways. They cannot enter the country; they will be deported hack where they came from. Not every member of the Visible Church will go to heaven; many will go to hell.
Yet another delusion, extremely common today, is Decisionism. People remember the date of their “decision” to “accept Christ.” They vainly suppose that a mere decision will save them, and that a mere mental assent to doctrines is the same thing as saving faith in Christ. They believe that, Christ saves sinners just as they believe that Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States. They have a formal decision, but no real change in their life. They are like the fireplaces in same ships staterooms: a 25 watt electric bulb under some red cellophane, which provides an illusion of fire, but has only a little light and practically no heat.
But there is such a thing as real certainty of salvation. To be “in Christ” is the same as to be saved, to be a new creature, to be born again. This change is instantaneous, but our consciousness of it may come gradually. The important question is not when but whether it has taken place. How can we know whether we are “in Christ”? Not by emotionalism. Those who “just feel” they are saved may be unsaved after all. Feelings are extremely changeable and deceptive. Nowhere in the Bible are we encouraged to trust in our own feelings as a ground of certainty.
We can be certain of our salvation when we find a real change in our life. Where there is smoke there must be fire. A real change–not merely an emotional change—evidences the saving work of God in our soul.
Old things are passed away. The things of the world, our sinful nature, our old sinful lusts and pleasures and ambitions will no longer dominate the person who is born again. If we are still living for the “old things,” then we are not born again. If we would rather go to a movie than to prayer meeting, the old things have not passed away. If we would rather read a comic book or “Sunday” newspaper than the Bible or sound Christian literature, then the old things have not passed away. If we attend church only occasionally, then the old things have not passed away.
All things are become new. When a person is really saved, he will love what he formerly did not love. He will love God, God’s Book, God’s Day, God’s House, God’s children. If we are really saved we will attend church, prayer meeting, practice family worship, study the Bible, engage in private prayer, not just because it is our duty, but because we love God and want to please him. We will have a new attitude toward our fellow Christians–an attitude of love and sympathy and helpfulness, instead of constant criticism, quarreling and discord.
By their fruits ye shall know them. And it is by our own fruits that we shall know our own salvation with certainty. When we see the real fruits of the gracious work of God in our lives, then and not until then do we have a right to be certain of our salvation.