We May Know That We Are Saved
It was said of John The Baptist that he should “give the knowledge of Salvation” to the people of God “by the remission of their sins.” John was the last prophet of the old dispensation. This was the privilege of those under the old dispensation — to know that they were saved. Much more then is it the privilege of those who live under the new dispensation.
We may know we are saved today as truly and as really as we know that we live and are in health. Under the dispensation in which we live the word of God tells us, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God.” (Rom. 8:16.) And again Paul says to the Galatians, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son in your hearts crying Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4:6.)
This is the Bible doctrine of the witness of the Spirit. This is something not only to be desired but most important and necessary to a victorious Christian life. No one who has been seeking Christ ought to rest until he has the Witness of the Spirit to the fact that he is a child of God — that all his sins are forgiven.
Nevertheless, there are some good people who in their anxiety to be thorough make mistakes as to what this witness is. We hear them saying, “I have repented and believed, but I have not the witness.”
1) The witness of the Spirit is not an inference. There is a class of people who are teaching that the knowledge of salvation is all a matter of inference, deduced from certain scriptures. They are accustomed to say to a seeking soul, “Do you believe that Jesus is divine?” If an affirmative reply is given they then open their Bibles and point to the passage, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” “Do you see that passage?” “Yes.” “Well, then, just believe you are a Christian and you are one, for is not the Bible true?”
But a man may say all this and only believe with his head and not have that real heart faith that saves. This is the trouble with much of latter day Christianity. It knows nothing about real salvation but has only inferred it, from certain passages of scripture. We may as we said in the last chapter, believe in the physician but fail to take his medicine, and hence not get saved. Believing a time table will not take a traveler to his destination if he does nothing more. We have no right to say that we have arrived at the destination simply because we have believed in the time table. We have no right to say we are at the station of salvation until we know it and can see the word, SALVATION, on the depot. Believing a doctor is not the same as knowing you are cured. When a man is cured he will feel it in his system. Some of the most ungodly people have gone all through the motions of this reasoning and are no better but often made worse. Inference is not knowledge.
The Holy Spirit is not an influence as Jesus has told us in John 16th chapter. He is a person. And as a person it is his office and business to tell us that we belong to God. And this is a very important matter. Salvation is too great a matter to be left in uncertainty. It is too big an affair for a man to have on hand and not know it. It makes too great a change in the life to be an unconscious experience.
2) The Witness of The Spirit is Not an Ecstasy or Emotion. Here is where many are befogged. They say, “I have not yet received the Witness,” when they are looking for something they hardly know what. They expect great raptures, or a wonderful appearance of great light or ravishing emotions. These are not the witness of the Spirit. To be sure they may accompany it or they may not. They are not the essential thing.
Consequently there are many people who will not believe God until they have an experience of that kind. And such people never get it. For they have presumed to dictate to God just how he must do with them and he will not accept dictation. Hence we often see people who have trusted in their feelings more than they have trusted in God. Salvation with them is not a matter of trusting God but of trusting their feelings. The want God to bless them and then they will trust him. They want God to witness to the fact that they are saved and then they will believe. They want him to witness to a thing that is not true and then they will believe it.
But the spirit never witnesses to any thing until it is a fact. We may have the witness of the Spirit with a great many demonstrations, or we may have it with none. But most people want fire works more than they want to hear the still small voice of the Spirit.
They want a regular Fourth of July experience with all of the outburst and spectacular show. Here is where many get stopped and get no farther.
3) The witness of the Spirit is an inward persuasion that the work is done. This persuasion is wrought by the Holy Spirit. It may have more or less emotion with it according to the temperament or education, or manner of life of the person.
How may we know it when we have it? In the same way that we know other things. We may know it as really as we know that we are alive. Is this mysterious? Who does not know that he exists? But who can explain how he knows it? When the scholar who has puzzled over a knotty problem solves it, he feels a secret satisfaction and an assurance that he can not explain but it is as real as if he could.
4) The witness of the Spirit like all the phenomena of the soul can not be explained. This is the white stone which Jesus said he would give with the “new name written which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it.” Just as no man can tell another what the sensation of electricity is, save he that receiveth it, even so can no man tell another what the witness of the Spirit is. Thus faith becomes “the evidence of things not seen.” This is the reason so many have failed who have attempted to explain the witness of the Spirit and make it harmonious with human philosophy. This is the reason some have tried to make it appear to be only believing a passage of scripture. They have had no experience in the matter and so have attempted to make it harmonize with their lack of experience.
Persevere then until God tells you that you are saved and that your sins are forgiven. If you seek you shall find. Do not let someone else tell you that you are saved. Never give up the search until you have that divine inward persuasion that you are saved.
If you have not yet obtained, carefully go over the ground and see if your abandonment of sin was really genuine.
Perhaps you are keeping back something. Go before God daily and tell him that yen are really in earnest and that you will be his, at the cost of a right hand, or right eye. Tell Him that you are trusting him to save you now and that you will so continue and never give over until you know that you are saved. Such an earnest, honest business transaction with God is sure to bring the desired boon.
Remember if you do not know you are saved, then it is because you are not saved.*
Resolve never to stop seeking until you know:
“My God is reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear.
He owns me for his child,
I can no longer fear,
With confidence I now draw nigh
And Father, Abba Father, cry.”
*PLEASE NOTE: It is possible for one to know in his heart that he is a child of God, and the same time, to be beset in his mind with temptations to doubt. Jesus knew in his heart that He was the Son of God, and yet, while He had that heart knowledge, Satan injected a thought of doubt into His mind with the words, “IF Thou be the Son of God.” His mental temptation of “doubt” did not affect His “knowledge” in His heart that He was the Son of God! I suggest that McLaughlin’s statement above: “If you do not know you are saved, then it is because you are not saved,” should be spoken with some caution, and, at least to some, be qualified to say “if you do not know (in your heart) … etc.” For some genuinely saved individuals, when beset by a Satanic accusation of doubt, may thereby conclude that having a such a mental doubt means that they did not “know” they were saved, and therefore are not saved. And, when Satan thus tricks a hyper-conscientious child of God, the result can be a sad casting away of that Christian’s confidence and a pitiful plunge into mental darkness, bewilderment, discouragement, and spiritual defeat.