The Three Marks of Salvation

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How do you know that you are saved?
Is the assurance found in a moment? That one prayer you repeated asking Jesus into your heart, the time you were baptized, the salvation poem you recited, the time you responded to an altar call…
Or were you born into it? You’re American, this is what you do, it’s what your family has done, perhaps for generations...
How do you know? How do you know when there are so many competing views on the idea?
In this day and age, knowing what a Christian is, is like asking what is a woman?
It’s treated like a mystery, but in reality it is not a mystery, and it is rather evident as to what a woman or a Christian is.
Think about it. How does one know she is a woman? How do others know that a person is a woman? There are certain marks, indicators, things that are distinct to a woman that cause her to be identified that way. Marks that are not shared with men.
Likewise, believers have distinct marks that are not shared with those who do no believe, and these marks are not mysterious, nor unknown, nor relative to the person, or something rooted in one’s own emotions, these marks are shared among the flock.
Sheep are not goats… tares are not wheat… though in the case of the tares and the wheat, they can be hard to distinguish until both reach maturity.
But that’s on the basis of the outsider, looking at the field… what if you are the tare or the wheat? Can you know? Again, yes.
You’ll note by title of the sermon that there are three marks I am going to speak about this morning that are found among the saved, the elect, God’s chosen ones, the saints of His of Kingdom...
And in reality, depending on how you want to slice it you could possibly have twenty marks, or even one mark - faith.... but if you go with one, you’ll have to qualify and explain what faith exactly is and how can one know it… essentially what are the marks of faith in a person who is saved?
Now, I have rewritten this sermon several times this week… there are so many ways to talk about assurance of salvation
At one point I was tempted simply to read 1 John and comment on it as I read it…
At another point I had come across 12 questions to assess if a person is saved and I thought about using those questions and answering them, but I didn’t like the flow of it.
Then I came to the three marks… Faith, Love, and Obedience
And while that message was fine, I think it strayed the main point, the main question of “How do I know I am saved?”
It certainly answered the question, but too much time was spent on the necessity of obedience in the believer’s life… so I rewrote it again…
Where I replaced obedience with repentance…
But in that effort I found Scripture continuing to highlight the need for obedience… so once again I rewrote it…
I kept the three marks, with the final mark still being obedience, but with a little more emphasis on repentance...
We will tackle each one in that order as each flows from the one that precedes it… Love flows out of Faith, and Obedience ultimately flows out of Love, and as such, all three are connected and are inseparable.
The verses on the back of your bulletin are from one of the earlier sermons, but most of those verses are still used— so don’t be surprised if some aren’t and some new ones come your way
Let’s begin by looking at the first mark… the mark of faith
Eph 2.8 - Faith is necessary for salvation
Ephesians 2:8 ESV
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
Rom 10.9 - Belief(=faith) is necessary
Romans 10:9 ESV
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
John 1:12-13 - those who believed, become children of God
John 1:12–13 ESV
12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
1 Jn 5:13 - Those who believe have eternal life
1 John 5:13 ESV
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
Jn 3:16 - whoever believes in the Son, has eternal life
John 3:16 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
If you are saved, you have faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God...
If you have not put your faith, your trust in the person and work of Jesus, then you’re not saved. But if you have then you are...
Is that it though? Is it about mere belief? Mere faith? In a way yes… but couldn’t that be subjective? How does one know if they have the right kind of faith?
Is it about how much faith? Or the strength of faith? No, certainly not, thankfully not.
It’s about placement, but how do we know we are truly trusting, truly placing our faith, our belief in Christ? In the right Christ? Is there a way?
After all, Jesus warns us of false Christs that will appear Mt 24.24
Matthew 24:24 ESV
24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
And we are commanded to examine ourselves on this matter - 2 Cor 13.5
2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV
5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
So, how do we know? There are two key marks in knowing if your faith is in the true Son of God. Love and Obedience.
Let’s look at love first, then we’ll consider obedience. For love is the motivation behind obedience.
Love is a fruit of faith in Christ
Why do I say that love is the fruit of faith? 1 Jn 4.19
1 John 4:19 ESV
19 We love because he first loved us.
Our faith, our trust, our belief in what He has done for us spurs us on to love.
Our salvation was born out of love… again John 3.16
John 3:16 ESV
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Therefore, since our salvation was brought about by the love of God… we love. But not just love for God. Love for others, especially believers— notice the verses that immediately follow 1 Jn 4.19— 1 Jn 4:20-5:1
1 John 4:20–5:1 ESV
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
Then earlier in 1 John, 1 Jn 3:14-18
1 John 3:14–18 ESV
14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
To be clear it is possible to love the fellowship of church to a degree, and not love God rightly… but it is not possible to love God rightly and not love His children, the bride of His Son
Think of the wheat and tares of Mt 13, or think of Mt 7.21-23
Matthew 7:21–23 ESV
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
So, this leaves us with another question.. if you say you have faith in Christ, and love for God and His people… how do you know the love you have is genuine fruit of saving faith?
How do you actually love God and how do you actually love His people? Is it true that love is love? That it doesn’t matter how you love as long as you “love”? What is love?
And this is important, because as John tells us God is love, and to know God, that is, to have fellowship with Him is to love others... - 1 Jn 4.8
1 John 4:8 ESV
8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
But again, what does this look like?
Well, John tells in 1 Jn 5.2-5
1 John 5:2–5 ESV
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
John is explicit… it is by obedience we know that we love the children of God… as well as how we know we have the love of God
And since obedience is how we know we have love, and love is a fruit of saving faith, then obedience, like love is a fruit as well… perhaps more specifically obedience is the activity of faith… thus it is evidence of faith...
Just as if there is an electrical current present, it gives off a charge… no charge, no current… if faith is present, so is obedience… no obedience, no faith...
Obedience in this sense is not legalism, it is faithfulness
Let’s go back to Rom 10.9 (don’t read)
Romans 10:9 ESV
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Where Paul says if you confess Jesus is Lord and believe in the resurrection you will be saved, we often ignore the “is Lord” part. If we confess that Jesus is Lord, that means we confess our need, our requirement to submit to Him. And you can’t faithfully confess that with your mouth and deny it by your life style
After all, we are called to be holy 1 Peter 1.16, 1 Th 4.7
1 Peter 1:16 ESV
16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Thessalonians 4:7 ESV
7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
And we were created for a purpose - Eph 2.10
Ephesians 2:10 ESV
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
But before we can be obedient as we are called to be, before we can walk in good works, there is one command we must first obey… and this is where repentance comes into play...
Consider the response to the first sermon of the church… with Peter in Acts 2.37-38
Acts 2:37–38 ESV
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
To be saved, one must repent and be baptized…
Both of these mark the lives of believers… this is why when a person refuses to be baptized by water, it’s a red flag… it’s commanded...
It’s not that baptism saves you, just as obedience doesn’t save you… but it reveals who you are...
Baptism is a public act, a public testimony and witness, of willfully identifying with Jesus Christ and all that He is about… to say no to that, is effectively saying I refuse to publically identify myself with Christ… the saints and redeemed of God do not refuse such opportunities...
Now, why repentance?
Repentance is the act of changing direction, changing paths of one’s life… you were going your way… now, go the way of Christ… and if you have faith, trust in Christ… you’ll listen to Him and you’ll follow Him… if you love Him, you’ll listen to Him and you’ll follow Him, for you will want to be where He is...
Think of John 10.27
John 10:27 ESV
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
As well as John 14.15, 21, 23-24; 1 Jn 3.9
John 14:15 ESV
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:21 ESV
21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
John 14:23–24 ESV
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.
1 John 3:9 ESV
9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God.
A love for God and others will lead to a hatred of sin and things that are unholy…
And at the start of your faith journey, your hatred of sin will be towards the big sins...
But as your knowledge of Christ, His truth, and His holiness increases, then you sensitivity and hatred towards sin will increase as well...
Those who love God will desire to mortify their sins...
So, if you’re wondering if you are saved, you should ask yourself these questions:
Do you desire to rid your life of sin?
Do you through repentance seek His holiness in all things?
Do you trust His voice? His Word? Are you willing and are you now, striving to follow Him?
If you say yes, then be encouraged… do not let fears, doubts, or insecurities get to you… do not be anxious… if you say you have faith… then believe Him… trust His Word… continue to faithfully follow Him… continue to mortify your sin...
Continue to hear His voice by reading and knowing His Word… by heeding the warnings that He has given… warnings that distinguish the wheat and the tares...
Now, you might say, but I do poorly at this… or I have this one sin...
Again, take heart… your salvation is not rooted in your work… your salvation is rooted in Christ… in His work… not yours
What matters on your end is your motivation… the motives of your life...
Your desire to be holy, your desire to know Christ, your desire to obey, your desire to love...
This is why we pray…
When fears assail us at night… we go to the throne of grace… sometimes crawling through puddles of tears… and we cry as the prophets of old, we cry as King David, we weep as Jesus…
We live in bodies that are perishing… and that are weak… but we depend on Him who is true and everlasting…
Do not think that if you have these kind of moments you’re not saved… what matters is what you do in those moments… do you run to Him or away from Him?
Do you run to Him or do you run to some checklist to see if you are approved?
Philippians 4:6–7 ESV
6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Don’t let the presence of sin in your life overwhelm you… until death, sin will be a close unwanted companion...
For though you are saved, sin still happens… 1 Jn 1.8-2.1
1 John 1:8–2:1 ESV
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
Along with prayer, this is why we have the church… the body of Christ, the one another’s of Scripture...
This is why we have elders and life groups - Eph 4.11-16
Ephesians 4:11–16 ESV
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
This is why we’re told not to neglect the gathering in Heb 10.24-25
Hebrews 10:24–25 ESV
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
We need each other as much as we need prayer… war is a tiring and fierce-some thing… we need the prayers of one another… as well as the shoulders of one another...
So, if you’re struggling with assurance, with peace about your relationship with God, let us know… share it, let us help you by God’s grace, truth, and love, find the peace God has promised those who seek Him...
Now, quickly, let me answer two questions about salvation… first, can you lose salvation?
No Eph 1.13-14, John 10.28-29, Jn 6.37, Ro 8:35-39 (What can separate us? Nothing)
Ephesians 1:13–14 ESV
13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
John 10:28–29 ESV
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
John 6:37 ESV
37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
Romans 8:35–39 ESV
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Can you give it away?
Can you reverse being born-again? Can you change back your nature? Will God lose any of His sheep?
Will an all-knowing, all-sovereign God, who does not lie, give what is everlasting, what is eternal… only for it not to be everlasting, not eternal?
Of course not… when tares show themselves to be tares, it’s not that God at one time gave them the free gift of eternal life and they decided to return it… it was because they were never saved to begin with… 1 Jn 2.19
1 John 2:19 ESV
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
Let’s pray
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