Can a Christian know for sure they are saved?

I John 5:13 – “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

Not guess, not wonder, not hope, not maybe, the Holy Spirit says Christians can “know” they have eternal life.

In the opening verses of this great book, John explains how a person can avoid God’s fury and arrive at a confidence of salvation.

I John 1:5-7: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and 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 Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

In this passage, John records three very important principles about walking in the light.

1) Walking in the light is a journey, not a single step

Life is a journey, not a single step. Walking in the light is a process, not a point in time. Like physical birth, the point of salvation can certainly be traced to the moment a person leaves the womb of water:

John 3:3-5: “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

Romans 6:3-4: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

But, like any journey, this single first step does not constitute a completed process. Just like a physical baby must receive nourishment and grow, a spiritual baby must receive spiritual nourishment so they can grow spiritually! Walking in the light means the same thing as Abiding in Jesus.

John 15:5-6: “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”

As long as you abide in (remain in, remain faithful to) Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ makes you free from the law of sin and death. Abiding is not about a single experience that you can rest in (I’ve got it made); it is about a relationship that you can abide in (lifelong process).

2) Walking in the light brings fellowship with God

Although the context may be talking about fellowship between Christians, it is important to remember that no fellowship is possible without God and Jesus at its center.

I John 1:3 – “…truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

Many, it seems, believe that attending Christian services makes a person a Christian. This verse clearly shows that all lasting fellowship is first rooted in a relationship with God, not first in a relationship with the church. God saves and then adds to the church (Acts 2:47). The church does not save and simply sitting in church services does not mean you are saved.

3) Walking in the light does not mean sinlessness

John says that walking in the light means that the blood of Jesus “purifies us from all sin.” If walking in the light meant sinlessness, then there would be no sin to purify.

In the very next verse he goes on to say, 1 John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Obviously, John is not talking about a sinless, perfect walk, he is talking about a journey that is under constant purification – continual cleansing, in spite of our sin.

Does this mean once a person is saved they can never lose that salvation? No, read on. In order for a person to remain on the path of light, there are three things that John says they must do. Notice the immediate context:

To remain on the path of light, a Christian must be honest about his sinful nature – 1 John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Whenever a person denies the sin he has committed, he strays from the path and the light of God no longer governs his journey.

To remain on the path of light, a Christian must confess the sin that his honesty has revealed: 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

To remain on the path of light, a Christian must make continual application of God’s Word in his life. 1 John 1:10 – “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”

When a Christian makes continual application of God’s Word in his life, it reveals his sin (point 1) so that he can confess his sin (point 2) and he can continue on the journey of applying God’s Word to his life (point 3).

Yes, it certainly is possible to lose one’s salvation. Consider the stories of Simon (Acts 8) and Demas (II Timothy 4:10).

2 Peter 3:17 – “I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends. Be on guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing.”

But it is equally certain that a Christian who honestly confesses his sin through constant application of God’s Word can “know that he has eternal life” (I John 5:13).

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