The signs of salvation
“I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, RSV).
A beloved professor once said to our class, “The Christian faith is not a ‘hope so, guess so, maybe so’ religion.” The writer of the First Epistle of John agrees. He wants believers to walk with confidence and know they have eternal life. In fact, the word “know” is one of the major characteristics of his writing. There are signs of salvation that help us know we are God’s children.
One of these signs is obedience to the word of God (2:3-6). John got this idea from Jesus, who said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words” and “He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings” (See the Gospel of John, Chapter 14). Of course, a knowledge of the Bible is essential if we are to know and keep the words of Christ. We are called to faithfulness in reading, study, and obedience. A second sign of salvation is intolerance for sin in our lives (3:9). John does not teach sinless perfection (see 1:8). His words are not the basis for religious snobbery, exclusiveness, or twisted views of sanctification. Rather, John means that we do not continue (wallow) in sin, tolerate it, or make it the pattern of our lives. A third sign of salvation is love for our fellows Christians (3:14). In fact, Jesus made this THE sign of real discipleship (John 13:34-35). John wonders, “How can we claim to love God whom we have not seen if we do not love our brothers whom we have seen?”
A fourth sign of salvation is fellowship with the Holy Spirit (4:13). In John 14 Jesus gave the promise of the Holy Spirit to all believers. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, calls to remembrance God’s word, grants us understanding and discernment, comforts us, and bears witness to Jesus. Do you “walk in the spirit”? A fifth sign of salvation is victory over the world (5:4-5). Again, it is not that we are sinless or exempt from troubles. Instead, we are not mastered by circumstances. We are not slaves to our weaknesses, vices, and habits. We are, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “overcomers”. A sixth sign of salvation is perseverance in the Christian life (2:19). We are “going on to perfection”. W. K. Wood said, “Faith that fizzles out before the finish probably had a fatal flaw in it from the first!” We might add a seventh sign of salvation – John strongly suggests that “answered prayer” is an indication of a vital walk with Christ (3:22; 5:14-15). This should not imply that every prayer is granted just as we ask, but that answered prayer is evidence that we walk in fellowship and communication with the Lord. Are there “signs of salvation” in your life?
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.