How Can I Know I Am Saved?
July 9th, 1986 @ 7:30 PM
HOW CAN I KNOW I AM SAVED?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 3:24
7-9-86 7:30 p.m.
The study tonight is How Can I Know I Am Saved? And from God’s Word I have chosen seven signs of our salvation. Now let us turn to the Book of Acts, chapter 19, and we shall read the first seven verses together; the Book of Acts, chapter 19, verses 1 through 7. And if you do not have a Bible, your neighbor will share his with you, or there is one in the pew rack; and let us all read it out loud. Chapter 19 in the Book of Acts, verses 1 through 7, now together:
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
Then I’m going to add one—I didn’t read that with you—“all the men were twelve” [Acts 19:7], there were a dozen of the men. Oh dear! I had my mind on the other verse of Scripture that I am using as our background passage: in 1 John 3:24, “And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.”
Now, it was manifest to the apostle Paul that these dozen men that he met at Ephesus were not converted, they were not regenerated; they were [not] saved [Acts 19:1-7]. And when he talked to them and asked them of their experience of grace, they spoke about John the Baptist [Acts 19:3], who, of course, preached the gospel of repentance and baptism in water, in the preparation for the coming of the Messiah Christ Jesus [Matthew 3:1, 5-6, 11]. But they had not the Holy Spirit in their hearts. And when Paul asked them about the Holy Spirit, they answered, “We never heard of any Holy Spirit” [Acts 19:2]. Now if you are acquainted at all with the ministry of John, did he preach the Holy Spirit? He was the one, and the only one, who used that phrase: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire” [Matthew 3:11]. And yet these men say, “We never heard of any such as a Holy Spirit” [Acts 19:2]. Well, what happened—and I haven’t time to go into, it’d take all the time that I have—these men were disciples of disciples of disciples of disciples of John the Baptist; and in that succession, in that generation of disciples of disciples of disciples of John the Baptist—these men are at Ephesus—there had lost completely out of the message the real gospel for which God sent the forerunner to prepare the way for Christ [Matthew 3:2-3]. So when they heard the message of salvation in Christ Jesus, they believed, they accepted, and they praised God with glossa [Acts 19:4-6].
Now, we can know that we are saved, by the Spirit God hath given us. That’s what John writes in 1 John 3:24. If I don’t have the Holy Spirit, I’m not regenerated. I’m regenerated by the Holy Spirit [Titus 3:5], and if I don’t have the Holy Spirit I’m certainly not regenerated. Now, how do I know that I have the Holy Spirit? How would the Holy Spirit work His work of grace in my heart and in my life? Well, one of the signs is here: speaking in glossa [Acts 19:2-6]. That was a phenomenon that happened at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-6]. When they were filled with the Holy Spirit—and that’s the universal word; it is Christ who baptizes us with the Spirit [Matthew 3:11], and He baptized at Pentecost, He poured out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4]; and the word is always “the Holy Spirit is made a part of our inward experience and of our inward lives,” the word is always “they were filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2:4]—at Pentecost there was a confirming sign of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit by the phenomenon of speaking in glossa [Acts 2:4-6].
Now let me tell you one of the tragedies of speech. The glossa, “tongue,” my tongue, glossa, and “language,” the spoken language, in Greek is the same word. So you had a phenomenon in Pentecost, a sign, a confirming sign from heaven of all kinds of glossa, tongues, languages; in other words, in that dialektos [Acts 2:4-11]. And I think that’d be wonderful, it’d just be marvelous, if that confirming sign from heaven were repeated in everybody’s life. Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing? But God doesn’t do miracles just for the sake of doing miracles; it just doesn’t happen. In all of the days of the Old Testament, you’ll have, in the days of Moses you’ll have wonderful miracles; in the days of Elijah and Elisha you have wonderful miracles; in the days of Jesus you have wonderful miracles. The Bible expressly says that John did no miracle [John 10:41]. A miracle, to me, is a confirming sign from heaven; and when there is no need for the sign, the miracle is not done.
Now this glossa at Pentecost, the speaking of languages at Pentecost, everybody heard in his own language the wonders of God’s grace, and they were there from all over the Mediterranean, the Roman Empire [Acts 2:4-11]. That was a confirming miracle from heaven; but it is not a continuing confirmation. For example, in 1 Corinthians 13 and verse 8 it says, “Glossa shall cease” [1 Corinthians 13:8]. And for God to confirm my regeneration by some miraculous gift from heaven like glossa is not needed in my heart and in my life; and I’d be very amazed if you were to come and tell me, “Pastor, without that confirming sign in my life, I don’t believe I’m converted.” I’d be very surprised, very amazed. I’d be overwhelmed!
Now let me make one other comment about that before I go on to my message. All of this I’m just talking to you. All over this world, all over the world there have been recordings made of this modern jibberish—they call it “speaking in tongues”—all over the world there have been recordings made of it, thousands and thousands and thousands of them. And they have been sent to the greatest linguistic schools in the earth; but there has never yet been identified any jibberish that was a language. In Pentecost [Acts 2:6], and the same word is used wherever the phenomenon appears, in Pentecost and here at Ephesus the same word is used [Acts 19:6]: glossa, a language. There’s no such thing as an unknown tongue. That word “unknown” is stuck in the Bible; there’s no such thing as “unknown tongue” in the Bible. It’s always glossa.
Well anyway, how can I know that I am saved? I do not look for a confirming miraculous sign from heaven; I don’t. I think the confirming sign of glossa, of the outpouring of the Spirit, happened in those days of the New Testament, and then it was never repeated—not needed [1 Corinthians 13:8]. Well, how do I know that I am saved? I have seven things, seven things that confirm that the Spirit has worked in my heart and in my life, and here they are.
Number one: the Spirit leads me in repentance and faith and open confession to the Lord Jesus. That’s the first thing that happens. That happened to me when I was ten years old. I was led by the Spirit of God to turn. Repentance is a Greek word, metanoia, “to return, to turn”; in repentance, and in acceptance, and in belief, and in open confession of the Lord Jesus, that’s the first thing the Holy Spirit will do in your heart. He will lead you in repentance and faith to the Lord Jesus; Matthew 10:32-33 and Romans 10:9-10.
I learned a whole lot when I was a young preacher, country preacher. And down the aisle came the man that had the one store in the village where I was pastoring. And he shook my hand, and he said, “I want to take the Lord Jesus as my Savior; but I’m going back to my seat, and I’m just telling you.” Well, I was a lot bolder in those days than I am now, and I said to that man, “If you turn around here and go back to your seat, you’re not going to be saved; you’re going to be lost, and you’re going to be damned when you die. You’re going to hell.” He said, “Do you mean to tell me that for me to go to heaven, for me to be saved, I have to stay up here and confess publicly the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior?” I said, “You certainly do.”
“Well,” he said, “I have said all of my life I will never go up there at the front of that church, and I’ll never sit down on that front row, and I’ll never stand up there and tell them publicly that I’m going to be a Christian.” I said, “Then you’ll never be saved. If you turn around here and go back to your seat, you’re going to turn around and go back a lost man. You cannot be saved if you don’t stay up here and openly and publicly confess Christ as your Savior.” Well thank God; I praise the Lord that the Lord honored the boldness of a teenage pastor! He stayed. He confessed the Lord. I baptized him, and he became a wonderful Christian witness.
Isn’t that what the Lord says? “If thou shalt confess Jesus Christ as Lord, and believe in thine heart that He lives, that God raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart one believeth unto a God kind of righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” [Romans 10:9-10]. That’s the way we’re saved. “Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I deny before My Father which is in heaven” [Matthew 10:32-33]. It is as plain as that in the Bible. That’s what God says. So I am avowing just what the Scriptures say. How do I know I am converted, I’m regenerated, I’m saved? I know it by the leadership of the Holy Spirit in my heart and life, number one: the Spirit of God leads me openly, unashamedly to confess my faith in the Lord Jesus. I take Him publicly, openly, statedly as my Savior. That’s where it begins.
Now number two: how do I know that I am converted? When the Holy Spirit leads me in His saving grace to be baptized. “Well, do you mean to tell me that you think baptism is essential to salvation?” All I’m saying is that if you are saved you will want to be baptized; you just will. It’s a sign that you have been converted, regenerated; that you want to be baptized. And if you don’t want to be baptized, I am just avowing what God says: you are not obedient; you are not listening to the voice of the Spirit of God.
In the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts is one of the most dramatic stories you’ll ever read in your life: it’s the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch [Acts 8:26-38]. Taking the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah [Isaiah 53:1-12], the evangelist Philip expounded to that eunuch the way of salvation. “And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; I want to be baptized” [Acts 8:36]. That was the first thing that came into his heart. Listening to an exposition of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, he accepted the Lord Jesus as his Savior; and the first thing he wanted to do:
I want to be baptized. Here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip answered and said, If you believe with all your heart, if you have accepted the Lord as your Savior, if you have opened your heart God-ward and Christ-ward, you can. And he said, This day, this moment, right here, I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down, both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when he came up out of the water, the Spirit of the God took Philip away . . . and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing.
Now I want to show you how I meet that here in the city of Dallas. In the providences of God, because we have somewhat of a large Jewish community in the city of Dallas, in the providences of God there have been Jewish people who have come to our services and have been converted; they have been saved. I so well and poignantly remember a young man—oh, I’d say he was twenty-two, twenty-three years old—who came to the services, the son of a Jewish scion here in Dallas, a wonderful family. And he came down this aisle and openly confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus. And oh! you cannot imagine, you can’t describe the repercussion that made in the life of that Jewish family. And I talked to them, and they talked to me. And you know what they said to me? They said to me, “Our boy can go down to that First Baptist Church forever, and he can sing in the choir if he wants to, and he can attend the services, and he can just be everything, just so long as he’s not baptized.” I don’t know why, but baptism somehow separates a man unto God, it just does. “I want to be baptized”; and if the man does not want to be baptized, it is a sign that he’s not converted, he’s not saved, he’s not regenerated. That’s the first thing, when you accept the Lord into your heart, that you’ll want to do, “Pastor, see here is water; I want to be baptized, just as the Lord was” [Matthew 3:13-17].
All right, a third sign of our regeneration, that we belong to God: it is a desire in your heart, born in you when you’re converted, when you’re born again [John 3:3, 7], that, “I want to belong to the people of the Lord.” Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the gathering of yourselves together, the assembling of yourselves together.” First John 3:14, “We know we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.” One of the signs of a regenerated spirit and heart is, “I want to be with God’s people.” You’re just made that way, you’re turned that way, you’re born that way: “I want to belong to the fellowship of God’s redeemed people.”
I had rather go to church than anything else in the world. I’ve been that way ever since I’ve been saved; and I was saved when I was a boy. I love being here. You’d never have to drive me or coerce me to go to the house of the Lord. I love to be with God’s people. I love to be here with you. I’d rather be here than anywhere else in the world. And that is a sign of a regenerated heart.
“Oh, but pastor, you don’t understand! I can worship God on a creek bank just as well as I can in your church. And I can worship God out there with a rod and reel in my hand fishing under the blue of the sky just as well as I can the church.” That is a satanic deception and an out and out lie! You can’t do it. You can’t do it! You have to fellowship with the brethren, you have to love the brethren; and if you don’t love the brethren and if you don’t like to fellowship with the brethren, you haven’t been saved, you haven’t been converted. Why in the world would Jesus die for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], and why would He love the church [Ephesians 5:25], if we could do just as well in His name on a creek bank with a rod and reel in our hand, catching a stinkin’ fish, when you can go to Cisco and buy them? Well, isn’t that right, David? Absolutely!
Number four: how do I know that I am converted, that I’m a child of God? By a life of integrity and honesty. Could I sum it up in the word “morality”? Second Timothy 2:19, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” It would be unthinkable—and when I say it, it becomes unthinkable to you too—it would be unthinkable that a man was regenerated and born again, and he loved to frequent the bars, that he’d like to drive along and pick up a girl, oh! People who are saved and regenerated and born again just don’t be that way, they’re just not.
One time in Chicago, a young fellow took me to a speakeasy. And I was so out of place, the people in there laughed at me. I never felt so uncomfortable in my born days. The beer tasted like slop! I mean slop! And the whiskey they were drinking burned my tongue. I just took a sip of each one. They bought it for me, and you know, they thought that was the funniest thing they ever saw in their lives. I never was more out of place in my born days, never, never.
I want to give you an example of a wonderful Christian; I mean in another way than what you’d think for. I’m talking about the Christian life of integrity, and honesty, and morality, and just what it is to be saved. In these years gone by, I went down to Sao Paulo in Brazil, to hold a revival meeting with Rubens Lopes, who was pastor of the Vila Mariana Baptist Church. He died the last day of that revival meeting. He was the head of the Baptist work in Brazil and one of the leaders of the Baptist World Alliance; a great, marvelous man. And on his fortieth anniversary as pastor of the church, he wanted me to come down there and hold a revival meeting. In the daytime I spoke to a national Baptist conference, a Bible conference; and at night I held the revival meeting in that Vila Mariana Baptist Church. Well, what happened when I landed at the Sao Paulo airport, he had about two hundred or more of his people there, and he had arranged to have a service there in that enormous airport. Sao Paulo, they say, they think’s going to be the biggest city in the world. When I was there they had between ten and fourteen million people. And they said, “The day is coming when we’ll have more than thirty million people here in this city.” Well, when I was there they had between ten and fourteen million people. And they had a place, area, in the airport, where they were having a service. And when I landed, why, then that was the excuse to, oh, they praised God and sang songs and what have you. Well, I have a way of traveling that I don’t know whether anybody else does or not, but everything that is precious to me, I put in a flight bag. I don’t pack it in a case because I’m afraid they might lose it or they go off with it, or I don’t know what might happen to it. So everything that is precious to me I put in a flight bag. I put all my money in there, put all my traveler’s checks in there, I put my sermon notes in there, and I put my Bible in there, and everything that is dear to me I put in that flight bag. I put my passport in there, just everything you can think of I put in that flight bag, and I carry it with me, and I don’t ever let it go, and just carry that around with me everywhere—just like a woman, just like a sissy woman! I carry a purse, a big purse.
Well, when I got to that airport in Sao Paulo, why, Rubens Lopes, of course, had me up there to sing with them, and pray with them, and praise God with them, and to speak there in the airport. Well, I couldn’t stand up there in the pulpit with that flight bag in my hand; I couldn’t do it. So, I sat it down where I could kind of be assured of its safety. I set it down and went up there, and you know, get all caught up in the service and everything, and just happy and praising God, and speaking, and praising, and preaching, and on and on and on. So when we got through, why, one of the men came up to me and he said, “Now I’ve got everything in my car, and we’re going to take you to the hotel.” I said, “Fine.” So I got in the car, got to the hotel, he pulled up the back thing you know, the baggage part to take everything out, and I looked around there, and my flight bag wasn’t in it. Oh! my money, and I’m so penurious and stingy, my money gone, my traveler’s checks gone, passport gone, all of my sermon preparation for the revival, all of it gone! Going to lead a national conference, all of that gone; everything I had prepared, O Lord! My heart was paralyzed, literally paralyzed. I can’t describe to you how I felt. I walked into the hotel with that man and the baggage that he’d put in the trunk of his car—you can’t imagine how I felt with that flight bag gone. Dear people, you won’t believe this: when I was taken by that man up to the registration desk to sign my name into the hotel, there stood a Brazilian woman! I never had seen her before; had no idea who she was. There stood a Brazilian woman, and in her hand was that flight bag! In her hand was that flight bag! Oh! the feeling I had in my heart, the change in my heart, from despair to praising God for it. And I said, “Where did you find that, get that? Where?” And she said, “I was there at the airport, and when that crowd left I saw that flight bag left there in the airport. And I had seen you with it, and I knew it belonged to you. And I learned that you were here at this hotel, and I have come here to restore it to you. This is your flight bag.”
She was a—what’d I say?—a Christian, born again believer [John 3:3, 7]. Why, it would have been just like that for her to take that flight bag and all the money in it, and spend it on herself, nobody would ever know it, nobody would ever find it out. But that’s what it is to be saved, to be a Christian: “I’m not a thief. I’ve been born again”—a new somebody in Christ [2 Corinthians 5:17].
Number five: how do you know that the Spirit of God has led you into a new life in the Lord? You will find in your heart a desire to witness, to speak of it, to say something about it; you just will. When that Gadarene demoniac was healed by the Lord, God said to him, “You go back and tell the people to whom you belong what God has done for you” [Mark 5:1-19]. And he went back and published throughout Decapolis, that whole vast country on the other side, on the east side of the Jordan River; he published abroad what God had done for him [Mark 5:20]. I think that is impossible to hide in a born again Christian. I don’t think you can hide it; there’ll be something in you that’d just cry out to say something good about Jesus. Acts 5:42, “In the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and to preach the Lord Jesus. They were called Christians first in Antioch” [Acts 11:26], speaking to the Gentile community there. The Holy Spirit said, in Acts 13:2, “Separate Me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have called them.” You’re just made that way. You’re just going to say something about the Lord; you just are. That’s the way God’s Spirit works in us.
Number six: how do I know you’ve been saved? How do I know? Because of the kind of a home you’ll have and the kind of life you’ll live in it. The Christian home: Ephesians 6:4, “In the love and nurture and admonition of the Lord.” There’s an altogether different kind of a world in a worldly home and in a devout Christian home. You can just walk in and just see the difference as well as feel it. In a worldly home you’ll have a deck of cards on the table where the Bible ought to be. You’ll have a package of cigarettes on the dresser where the church envelopes ought to be. You’ll have a sex magazine in the rack where the Sunday school quarterly ought to be. You’ll have a can of beer in the icebox where the milk ought to be. You’ll have a frown and a snarl where a smile ought to be. You’ll have a curse and an oath where a prayer ought to be. It’s a different world, different world. The Christian home is a home where the Spirit of God dwells richly. I’ve got to close.
The seventh one and the last one: how do you know you’re saved? How do you know you’re converted? You will love His appearing. [Second Timothy 4:7-8], “Fought a good fight, have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” [2 Timothy 4:7-8]. Dear me! A Christian is always optimistic. “We’re going to win, and we’re not going to lose. Death is but a release, an open door.” I’m not avowing that a Christian doesn’t get discouraged; I get discouraged. I’m not avowing that a Christian is never down, never disappointed, never depressed; “sometimes I get so low I can’t hear nobody pray,” as the spiritual song says. I have moments of discouragement and disappointment, sometimes despair. But I can tell you this: I never doubt who is going to win! We’re going to win! We can’t fail. We can’t lose. God’s on His throne [Revelation 3:21]. He is the omnipotent Ruler of the universe [Psalm 103:19], and Jesus is our everlasting Savior [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. As Isaiah 42:4 says, “He will never fail, nor be discouraged.” It’s just wonderful to be a Christian; it just is. Whether we live or whether we die, whether we’re rich or whether we’re poor, whether we’re sick or whether we’re well, whether we’re there or whether we’re here, we belong to God. Bless His name! Saved forever, going to be in heaven with you, going to love Jesus, going to see Him face to face [Revelation 22:3-5], everything wonderful, loving His appearing: these are the things that make us Christian.
Now Denny, I want us to sing “Blessed Assurance.” And while we sing the song, somebody you to give your heart in faith to the wonderful Savior, or to put your life in the circle of our dear church, or to answer the moving of the Spirit in your heart, now is a beautiful time to come. And a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing; “Blessed Assurance.”