Are You Really Saved? What To Do If You Doubt It?

I much prefer practical discussions about following Jesus to theoretical, theological discussions about Christianity, though sometimes the theoretical must be addressed because it affects the practical.

Never Saved or Falling Away?

I have a conflict with most evangelical pastors over the assurance of salvation. In the twentieth-century, at least in my experience, evangelical pastors often told their congregation that they could get to heaven no matter how they lived as long as they believed Jesus died for their sins. Fortunately, more than 30 years have passed since my early experiences in evangelicalism, and evangelical pastors have mostly come to their senses and rejected that falsehood, at least in my experience.

There remains, however, a disagreement. If someone is not living for Jesus, are they in danger of falling away, or were they never saved?

Whichever answer you choose to that question, there is just one thing to do about it. Whether you wonder if you are really saved, or whether you wonder if you are falling away, the Bible has just one course of action for you.

How You Can Restore OR Begin Your Relationship with God

There are three things to think about here:

1.) If you were never really saved, but you did believe and were baptized, then the next step is not to believe and be baptized all over again. If that did not work the first time, why would it work the second time? As the saying goes, it is a mark of insanity to do the same things over again but expect different results.

2.) Mark 16:16 says that the one who believes and is baptized will be saved. If you have believed and been baptized, then you have a promise that God will save you. All denominations believe that the Christian life should be lived by faith. They all quote Galatians 2:20 to establish this. It is a great verse. So, you can simply step out in faith on the promise that he that believes and is baptized will be saved.

3.) Think about what happens when a person believes and is baptized and is really saved. What should happen is that all their sins are forgiven, they receive the Holy Spirit and, as a result, they live a holy life; i.e., they “bear fruit” (Jn. 15:1-10). If that did not happen for you, the Bible gives specific steps you can take to get all those things.

The forgiveness of sins: 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confess and repent of your sins (Cf. Acts 26:20).

Receive the Holy Spirit: Jesus said, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those that ask him” (Luke 11:13). Similarly, the apostle Paul says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18, NIV). Since Paul was writing to a whole church in a large city, it is safe to conclude that he thought Christians should be filled with the Spirit over and over again. Ask your Father in heaven to fill you with the Holy Spirit.

Live a Holy Life: If you asked your heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit, trust Jesus and begin obeying God. Peter said God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey him (Acts 5:32). He will help you every step of the way. Here are the ways you can begin obeying God:

How You Can Obey God</h3

  1. 2 Peter 1:3-11 is a great general passage to begin with. You have faith, and you have been baptized, and Peter explains how to add to your faith. In verses 3 and 4, he lets you know what God has given you as a Christian and what great promises he has for you, such as partaking of his divine nature (Wow!). He then tells you what you should add to your faith. First, there is virtue. Do what you know is right. Second, increase your knowledge by reading the Bible and finding other Christians you can help you. Third, practice self-control. Do those virtuous things, and increase your knowledge. Be diligent about it. Fourth, don’t give up (“add … perseverance”). There are days you will feel weary, but don’t give in. Persevere. Fifth, if you persevere in those first four things, you will find yourself becoming godly. Sixth and seventh, you will find your godliness growing into kindness and love. You feed the engine by doing those first four things diligently, and you will find that God ensures that you never stumble and that a grand entrance is provided for you into the kingdom of his dear Son.
  2. Perhaps the greatest passage for knowing the teachings and will of our Lord Jesus is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7. Encourage yourself with these chapters on a regular basis. As you do, you will grow to understand Jesus’s nature and attitude, and the promises in those chapters will encourage you that you can continue.
  3. No one can make it on their own. 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and Hebrews 3:13 and 10:24-25 will explain to you what the church can do for you. Make sure to read those verses because not all churches will provide those things for you. A once a week sermon will do great things for you for a short time. After a while, though, you will be bored because you are supposed to have much more than songs and a sermon. If you do not find people in a church or Bible study that are doing what these passages say, press on and keep looking. You need accountability.
  4. That is the prescription I see in the Bible whether you are not sure you are saved or whether you are saved but are not living for Jesus. James seems to tie the two conditions together by writing, “Brothers, if any among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (5:19-20).

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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6 Responses to Are You Really Saved? What To Do If You Doubt It?

  1. Doug Chamley says:

    I must missed this post when you first did it but reading it today helps clarify so many thoughts about, Am I? or Was I? saved? Being saved?
    Thanks for a clear and understandable prescription for salvation. Love it!

  2. Thanks Paul, a very encouraging post.


  3. KatieAnn says:

    Hi Paul, in regards to 1 John 1:9, I believe it’s important to confess our sins openly when possible. I know, in the early church, they used to do so openly in front of the other believers. I don’t know how long this continued as a common practice. But there is something very different about confessing a sin out loud to another individual, as opposed to only God in prayer. Doing so requires courage and humility. I think this is missing in many (if not most) evangelical or protestant churches today.

    • Paul Pavao says:

      Good point. James 5:16 is one of my favorite accountability verses. I meant to talk about walking in the light, but in the midst of writing it, I forgot. I don’t think I will add it, so thanks for making the comment. That will be addition enough.

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