How do I know if I am truly saved by God? This is a right and good question to ask because throughout the Bible each Christian is told to examine and test themselves. You must know if you are saved for sure or not.
So what is the test of salvation?
- Knowing You Are Saved Starts With Knowing You Have Faith in Jesus
Throughout the Bible we are given instructions to test ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith. A prime example of this is found in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! 6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.
So what is the test Paul is referring to? Well if you read that whole passage in context, there are multiple references to “doing right” (2 Corinthians 13:7) and doing things “for the truth” (2 Corinthians 13:8). But I think even more clearly, the test being referred to hear is found in the phrase, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” When it says “in the faith” this certainly is not a generic faith but a faith in Jesus Christ; for as the next line says, “Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”
Salvation is based upon being saved “by grace” give because of Jesus and “through faith” placed in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are saved through believing in Jesus Christ and his gospel (John 3:16). If you don’t actually believe Jesus is God, that he came to earth, that he died on the cross, that he rose from the grave, and that he offers forgiveness and new life to all who believe – you should not have assurance of salvation. If you do believe what the Bible says about Jesus, then there is reason for you to believe you are saved.
- Obedience Is Observed in the Lives of Those Who Are Truly Saved
But just because you believe you are saved does not mean you actually are. We can fool ourselves very easily into thinking we have salvation when we truly do not. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus warned us that there will be people who think they are saved but really are not:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Here Jesus gives us a great test to see whether we are truly saved by God when he states, “. . . but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Throughout the Bible, one test for assurance of salvation that is given to Christians is the test of obedience. 1 John 2:3-6 again tells us how we can know if we are truly saved by God for sure or not:
We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys his word,love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
The test of salvation is clear here, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.” If you never obey God, if you have no concern to do his will, if your life reflects nothing of Jesus’ life, or if you consistently walk in darkness, there’s no reason for assurance of faith.
But let us also be careful here to not create a doctrine out of one verse rather than placing that doctrine within the whole context of Scripture. None of us obey God perfectly. None of us love him as we should all the time. Therefore obedience alone is not the only test to know whether or not your faith is genuine.
True Christians sin, but true Christians also have a conviction of sin, confess, and repent.
- You Can Know If You Are Saved If Conviction, Confession, and Repentance Are Present
While obedience should contribute to our assurance of salvation, we can also know we are truly saved when we regularly have a conviction of sin and confess and repent of our sins. 1 John 1:5-10 and 1 John 2:1-3 explain:
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 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. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
1My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.
John gives us great balance in these Bible verses. First he speaks of our “walk.” We must walk in the light and not in darkness (1 John 1:5-7). This means we must walk in truth and holiness, not in doctrinal errors and sinful living. But “walk” means our regular patterns in life, not every action we ever take. If you live in darkness, “walking” in it every day, this is a sign of a fake conversion.
But even if we “walk in the light” this does not mean we are perfect. In fact, if we say we are perfectly walking in the light and are without sin, we are actually lying and showing we are not truly saved by God(1 John 1:8-10). When we sin, Jesus is right there, being our propitiation (the sacrifice which turns the cursed into the blessed) (1 John 2:1-2). But again, we must not settle in sin and confession without repentance, for John goes back to obedience (1 John 2:3).
- We Can Have Assurance of Salvation If Sanctification Is Occurring
The Bible does not say we will be sinless once we are saved. But the Bible does say we should be sinning less and less after we are saved. We are justified at the moment of our conversions, and when we are justified we will always begin down the road of signification as well (Hebrews 10:14).
Justification is what God proclaims us to be and what he fully gives us in Christ. Sanctification is the process of becoming holy and learning to live from the blessings we have fully received in Jesus. In 2 Peter 1:5-11, for example, Peter says:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Christians are partakers of Jesus’ nature (2 Peter 1:4). And because of this, we should be making “effort to supplement [our] faith” with a maturing holiness and walk with God (2 Peter 1:5). For “if these qualities are yours and are increasing” (2 Peter 1:8) we are not saving ourselves but merely confirming our calling and election (2 Peter 1:10).
There will certainly be moments of backsliding for Christians. But you should have assurance of faith and know you are truly saved by God if your life has changed and if you are seeking to walk in the light more and more and not less and less as your life progresses with Christ.
- Love for God and Love for People Are Strong Signs of Salvation
We would be negligent when talking about “How to know if you are saved by God” and assurance of salvation if we did not mention the importance of love. To obey God’s commands ultimately means to love God and people (Matthew 22:36-40). 1 John 3:14-15 states:
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
None of us do this perfectly, but rather than this cause us doubt, this should bring us more assurance of our salvation because any true love for God must come from Christ and the working of his Spirit. If you don’t love him at all, then you are not a Christian.
But the fact that you do not love him perfectly only shows that you are sinful, and in your sin it would be impossible to love God at all without the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Even if you feel convicted, God is greater than your conviction and has based your salvation on Jesus’ perfections, not yours (1 John 3:18-24).
(For more on this idea, read R.C. Sproul’s article, “Can I Be Sure I’m Saved?”)
- You Can Be At Peace About Your Salvation Because Perseverance Depends on God
One of the primary signs of salvation is perseverance. This means that those who are truly saved will endure to the end. They will keep professing their faith in Jesus, they will keep obeying, the will keep repenting, they will keep being sanctified, they will continue to love God and people, and nothing will be able to separate them from the love of God. If someone does give up and does not return to Christ, it doesn’t mean they lost their salvation but rather that they were never saved to begin with. Perseverance, however, is completely dependent upon God’s mercy and grace:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
“And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”(Colossians 1:21-23)
God will present us holy and blameless before God, and you will know if you are truly saved “if indeed you continue in the faith.” As Jude 1:24-25 so boldly explains:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
How Can You Know If You Are Truly Saved By God?
So how can you know if you are truly saved by God? How can you have assurance of salvation? We must examine ourselves, we must pass the test of faith, but ultimately we must rest secure in the truth that God is faithful even when we are not. God alone is the reason you are saved. Trust God for your salvation and rejoice in the assurance he alone can give.