Salvation: Break Free From the Chains of Doubt :: By Daniel Payne

For those of us who are concerned about eternal life and have recognized through the work of the Holy Spirit our need for a Savior, and have become brokenhearted over our sins against God, and have accepted the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and have believed in Him as payment for our sins… have likely at some point doubted our own salvation.

“To err is human, to forgive divine.” Alexander Pope’s famous quote conveys the notion of forgiving our fellow human beings. Another way in which we humans “err” is through doubt; to doubt is human.

From Protestants (including Methodists and Baptists) to Catholics and Orthodox, etc… No one is immune to doubting salvation. Unfortunately, these doubts have led many to seek assurance of their salvation through rituals and works, rather than the authority of the Word of God. Many people in various church groups confess that actively engaging in a process of works and rituals relieves doubts of their salvation.

Doubt is the consequence of not understanding the strength of Christ. If you understand that He is far stronger than any human being, then you will have better assurance in His strength to save you.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Our salvation is not ours to earn in the first place, it is His to give:

“Behold, God is my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).

The Way

A great way to crush doubt is to understand that salvation is through belief in Jesus Christ. Jesus is our salvation, He is the Way.

“Jesus said unto him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me’” (John 14:6).

At this point it must be said that there is a stark difference between doubting whether or not you are personally saved, and doubting whether or not what God says about salvation is true. The Bible clearly states that “the way” of salvation is only Jesus Christ.

Our “journey” toward salvation is not The Way; Jesus Christ is “the way.” Salvation is not a process. Demonstrating our faith through works does not equal salvation through works.

“For with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:10).

Biblical Infallibility

Doubting whether what God says is true is not as innocuous as doubting your own salvation. If you doubt the truth of the Word of God, then that is a very serious and completely different matter altogether.

The Word of God stands on its own truth and authority. It does not need to be added to or taken away from by church fathers or church councils:

“These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him” (1 John 2:26-27).

John means that the true Christian does not need any teaching apart from what is found in the Word of God. Faithful teachers will only teach what is found in the Word of God. In John’s day, the Gnostics professed to have additional truth, which gave rise to additional teachings. However, John says that there is no need for additional truth apart from the Word of God in our heads, and the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Be wary of anyone or any group that would rather quote the words of men in regard to biblical truths, as opposed to reading the words of God Himself. Quoting the Bible should always take precedence over quoting the “blessed” church fathers or councils.

“As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15b-16).

Simplicity of the Gospel

Although there are things that are hard to understand in the Word of God, the way of salvation is not one of them. Why would God cause someone who has not even yet been spiritually born (again) to be confused about how to be born again as a new babe in Christ?

Think about babies; they start out drinking milk before they move on to solid food and learn how to walk. Then they become toddlers, then adolescents, then young adults. Babies don’t start off with the ability to do algebra and learn the “classics.”

“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2-3).

The same God who set the order of human growth to begin with a helpless baby also set the order of being born again as one of His spiritual children, with understanding a simple truth:

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3).

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:6-7).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

We are born again through belief:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).


God says that we must love Him and love each other. Even if our works could save us, God says works without love equal nothing. No amount of works can please God if they are not born from love:

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3).

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30).

Salvation = Relationship

Salvation equals a relationship with God. Prior to salvation, we do not walk with God, we are separated from God.

“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” (1 John 1:6-7).

This is what God thinks of vain human works apart from a relationship with Him:

“But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).

How can it be possible for works to lead to salvation when, prior to salvation, God regards those same works as equal to filthy rags? Remember, we are not our own salvation but: “Behold, God is my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).

Result of Faith not Works

We are not saved by our works; we are saved by faith:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

We cannot please God without faith. He rewards those who diligently seek Him through faith:

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

We are assured of our salvation through our faith, not through our works:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Salvation is a gift through faith, not a reward through works. As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, salvation is a gift from God, and we cannot save ourselves through works:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not a result of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If someone has worked a certain amount of hours for their employer, then their employer owes them wages based upon their work. But does God owe us anything? Of course not!

That is why salvation is a gift from God not based upon any work(s) that we have done. He “paid” our sin debt for us once and for all at the cross. It is finished!

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished,’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30).

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

Wanting to add human works to salvation is nothing new. People asked the Lord Jesus what they must do in order to work the works of God:

“Then they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?'” (John 6:28).

Man has always tried to earn his way to heaven. If he can somehow contribute to the saving of his own soul, then he can boast (Ephesians 2:9). However, the answer from God cannot be clearer:

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent’” (John 6:29).

Jesus told them that the first thing they must do is accept the One whom God had sent. It is the same today; many are seeking to earn their way to heaven by good works. Before they can do good works for God, they must first believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Good works do not precede salvation; they follow salvation. The only good work a sinner can do is to confess their sins and receive Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Further proof of the wickedness of human pride is demonstrated in the response from those to whom Jesus had just answered with the very easy to understand concept that salvation equals believing in Him:

“Therefore they said to Him, ‘What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do?'” (John 6:30).

On the previous day, these same people had just witnessed the Lord Jesus feed over five thousand people with only five loaves of bread and two fish. Then the very next day they demanded that He show them a sign that would prove He was the Son of God.

Like most unbelievers, they wanted to see first, and then they would believe: “That we may see it, and believe You.”  However, that is not God’s order of salvation. God says, “If you believe, then you will see.” Faith must always come first.


Another very clear example concerning the way of salvation is found in the following verse:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

The Lord Jesus stated in words that could hardly be misunderstood; that whoever believes in Him has everlasting life. This is one of the many verses in the New Testament that teaches that salvation is not by works and not by church membership, but simply by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The obedience that salvation requires is obedience from the heart:

“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:23-24).

Faith is more than an intellectual acknowledgment; it is a genuine acceptance with our mental, emotional, and conscious abilities from the heart. A vivid illustration of the heart of true belief can be gleaned from the Lord Jesus when He quoted from Deuteronomy chapter 6:

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30).


Jesus Himself displayed His plan for our salvation when He came down into this world from heaven as a Servant, and ministered to those He created:

“So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, ‘Lord, do You wash my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Never shall You wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.’ Jesus said to him, ‘He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you’” (John 13:6-10).

Peter did not yet understand the spiritual significance of the physical act of the Lord washing his feet. However, soon he would experience it when he was later restored to fellowship after denying the Lord three times.

After Peter said “wash me all over,” Jesus said that Peter didn’t need another bath, but he did need to have his feet washed. The bath speaks of the cleansing received at the time of salvation. Cleansing from the penalty of sin takes place only once by belief through the blood of Jesus Christ.

By washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus was demonstrating the spiritual application of forgiving their sins. This illustrates cleansing from the pollution of sin that takes place through our daily lives.

The Lord’s forgiveness of our sin allows fellowship to be restored with Him, and follows our confession of our sins to Him on a regular basis.

Through studying the Word of God, confessing our sins to God, forgiving others, and prayer, we can have our hands and feet cleansed from the pollution of sin.

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

His Yoke is Easy

Jesus says that His yoke is easy; it is not weighed down by rituals and regulations and works for salvation. Notice that Jesus says His rest is His gift to us:

“Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

To “Come” to Jesus means to:

Hear: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

Look: “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22).

Enter a door: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

Believe: “So they said: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household’” (Acts 16:31).

Receive: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

Eat: “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’” (John 6:35).

Drink: “Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37a-38).

Our salvation is not in a church, a creed, or a clergyman. Our salvation is in a living Person, the Lord Jesus Christ. All who have Jesus are as saved as God can make them.

Crucify the Flesh

After we are saved we are to consider ourselves dead to sin:

“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).

We are to present our members to righteousness through the Spirit. We cannot “purify” the passions; we crucify the passions through Christ:

“Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25).

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:12-14).

Nothing “pure” resides in our flesh. After we’re born again of the Spirit, the will toward righteousness resides in our spirit, not in our flesh:

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Romans 7:18).

The lusts and passions of the flesh are not alien to man’s true nature; they are man’s true nature. Believers are commanded not to set their minds on the lusts and passions of the flesh, but to walk according to the Spirit:

“For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).

Judgment Day for Believers

In a coming day, each believer “will receive a reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:8). That day is the Judgment Seat of Christ which takes place after the Rapture, when all service for the Lord will be reviewed. The process by which the Lord will review our works is likened to the action of fire:

“Each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:13).

Service that has brought glory to God, along with blessing to mankind, will not be affected by the fire, such as gold, silver, and precious stones. However, that work which has failed to bring glory to the Lord will be consumed like dry grass in a raging inferno.

The Bema Judgment Seat of Christ is not a place that determines penalties for the sins of believers. The penalty for the sins of believers was borne by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, settled once and for all:

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

Our salvation is not at all in question at the Judgment Seat of Christ; rather it is a matter of service. Although our sins after conversion will have an effect on our service, we cannot lose our salvation at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15).

The Judgment of the Nations

The Lord Jesus will judge those still living during the Tribulation when He returns to the earth to rule the earth from His throne. This judgment is not to be confused with the Bema Judgment Seat of Christ which is for believers only.

The Judgment of the Nations takes place after the Tribulation and before the Judgment of the Great White Throne, which takes place at the end of the Millennial Kingdom in eternity. The Judgment of the Nations, or Gentiles (the Greek word, ethno, can mean either), takes place on earth after Christ comes to reign:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32).

The nations will be judged according to their treatment of Christ’s Jewish brethren during the Tribulation:

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land” (Joel 3:1-2).

Comparing the description of the winepress of God’s wrath and the reaping of the harvest with a sickle in Joel and Revelation indicates that the Judgment of the Nations is associated with the Tribulation:

“Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow—for their wickedness is great” (Joel 3:12-13).

Three different groups of people are mentioned in the Judgment of Nations: The sheep, the goats, and Christ’s brethren. Christ sits in judgment over the sheep and the goats, who are the Gentiles living during the Tribulation. The third group is Christ’s faithful Jewish brethren who refuse to deny His name during the Tribulation, even in the face of severe persecution.

Jesus explains to the righteous sheep that whatever is done for one of His brethren is rewarded as being done also to Himself:

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:37-40).

This judgment has been used to teach salvation by works. However, the consistent teaching of the Bible is that salvation is by faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Bible is also equally assertive that true faith produces good works.

If there are no good works, then that indicates that a person was never saved. It must be understood that the Gentiles are not saved by helping the Jewish remnant, but that their kindness reflects their love for the Lord Jesus.

Faith that works

True faith and good works are inseparable. A faith without works is not real faith at all:

“Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

James also says, “Even the demons believe” (James 2:19b). The demons only believe the fact of Jesus Christ, but they do not surrender to the Person of Jesus Christ. That is not saving faith.

James is not saying that we are saved by faith plus works. To hold such a view would be to dishonor the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we were saved by faith plus works, then there would be two saviors: Jesus and ourselves.

However, the New Testament is very clear that Jesus is the one and only Savior. What James is emphasizing is that works are not the root of salvation but the fruit of salvation; they are not the cause but the effect.

God’s order for salvation is: Faith –> Salvation –> Good works –> Reward.

First there is faith, then salvation follows faith, then good works will follow true salvation, then rewards will follow good works.

Dealing with Doubt

We cannot trust in our own feelings to know whether we are saved or not.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

However, we can trust in the Word of God:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

Just as we cannot save ourselves, we cannot “un-save” ourselves either:

“And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:28).

No man or woman, including you, can lose their salvation. We are kept by the power of God:

“Who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation” (1 Peter 1:5).

How can we destroy doubt? If we believe, then we know that we have eternal life:

“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).