Two men “know” they are saved.
The first man bases his assurance of salvation on his experience. He had been assured that when he completely turned his life over to Jesus Christ, accepted Him as his personal Savior, and received Him into his heart, that an inner peace and feeling of well-being would sweep his soul; that he would be able to recognize that feeling when it came; and that his peace and feeling of well-being would be unmistakable evidence of his salvation. In keeping with that teaching he did “receive Jesus into his heart.” He did feel this wonderful peace sweep his soul. And he “knows” that he is saved.
The second man’s assurance is based on the promise of God. He had read in God’s word, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). From other passages he had learned the necessity of repentance and confession of faith (Acts 2:38; 8:37; Romans 10:10). Trusting God’s promises of salvation, he obeyed from the heart those commands (Romans 6:17), and has never doubted since that God forgave him of all his past sins, according to His promises.
The first man’s assurance of salvation is based upon an unsure foundation. The Bible teaches neither the action he has taken nor the criterion he has accepted. We do not question his feelings, but we do question that such feelings are proof of salvation, for they are the product of his teaching. The cultist who has been taught certain gross practices in religion and has become the victim of his perverted leader will experience similar feelings. If the feelings of the latter are not sufficient proof of salvation, neither are the feelings of the former.
“But an angel appeared and spoke to me,” someone may be thinking; or, “I spoke in tongues.” The Bible teaches, however, that even unusual, inexplicable occurrences in one’s life cannot set aside the teaching of God’s revealed word. Many who will be in Hell will have said, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” (Matthew 7:22). But all their experiences, even “miracles,” will not substitute for their doing the Father’s will as it is recorded in the scriptures (Matthew 7:21, see also Galatians 1:8; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12; Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Colossians 2:18-19).
The second man has based his assurance on a solid foundation. God’s promises are sure. He cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18). What He has promised He is able to perform (Romans 4:21). The person who obeys His commandments through trust in His promises can know, because God is faithful. “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (I John 2:3).