Today’s reading: I John 1-5.
“Is there such a thing as a test of my salvation?”
The tests of true faith are the meat of First John. John said, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” He didn’t write them to identify the faithless but to encourage the faithful. He prescribed a self-test that Christians can take to prove to themselves that they are one with God, or as the song says, so they can “know that they know that they know that they know.”
And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. I John 2:3
One test of salvation is the test of obedience. True believers keep the commandments of God. Perhaps you thought all the commandments went away with the Law of Moses. If so, you were mistaken. The New Testament is full of commands for Christians. “Be holy, as I am holy.” “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thank in all circumstances.” “Show no favoritism.” The list goes on. John said, “the man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar,” and “whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did,” and “you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” He also states this test in the negative: “Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. I John 3:14
The next test is the test of brotherly love. According to John, anyone who hates his brother is stumbling around in darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light of God’s guidance and will not stumble. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, killing in thought if not in deed, and those who continue to murder will not inherit eternal life. The one who loves will express his love in actions as well as words. He will lay down his life for his brother. He will share his possessions with his brother who is in need.
And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. 3:24
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 4:13
John also wrote about the test of the Holy Spirit. Those who are saved receive the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit within them testifies to the truth of their salvation. As Paul said, the Spirit, which is the down payment or earnest money of our heavenly inheritance, “testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). This is an assurance that comes directly from the Trinity.
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well…And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 5:1, 11-12
Some tests are tests of action, but the test of belief in Jesus Christ is a test of faith. The man who denies that Jesus is the Christ is opposed to Christ; he is an antichrist. “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.” “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,” and if we can make that profession then we know that we have God’s Spirit in us. If we believe in Jesus, we have accepted God’s testimony about him, that he is truly his own son.
There are a few other tests in John’s letter. There is the test of confession; the one who is saved does not deny his sin but admits it to God. There is the test of worldliness; the true believer hates the ways of the world and is devoted to Jesus. There is the test of habitual sin; no one who belongs to God continually repeats the same sins without remorse or repentance.
Do you see other tests of salvation in John’s letter? Remember, he gave us these tests to strengthen our assurance and to increase the knowledge of our salvation. For those who have doubts, it is an opportunity to examine whether you have repented from sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ as God’s son. John reminds us that we can confidently approach God with all our concerns, including concerns about our faith. He hears us, and having heard us, we will receive what we asked of him, even faith.
Image by ClemsonUnivLibrary on Flickr, CC by-nc 2.0