Can we know that we have eternal life? If so, how do we know? We have begun a series in order to explore what the Bible has to say about these very questions. (I encourage you to check out parts 1&2 of Examine Yourselves if you’ve not done so.)
In part two of Examine Yourselves we discussed the fact that salvation is not merely a self-help tool designed to help me be all that I can be. I’d now like us to understand that while salvation most definitely involves obedience and doing; it is not simply keeping a list of do’s & don’ts.
Jesus said in Matt. 5:26 that unless our righteousness surpassed that of the Pharisees we would not enter the kingdom. The Pharisees kept the letter of the law, but missed the Spirit in the law. Remember, they knew that it was a sin to commit adultery, but; Jesus said, “You’ve missed it. We’re talking about the heart and faithfulness here and if you lust after a woman in you heart; you’ve already committed adultery with her. Or, everyone new that murder was forbidden by the law of Moses, but; Jesus said, “No, you’ve missed it. We’re talking about the the heart and love. In your anger, hatred, and unwillingness to be reconciled to you brother; you have broken this command.
Jesus told the Jews in John 5:39,40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” The Jews were hanging there hopes on the law of Moses and Jesus said, “No, you,ve missed it! Moses was talking about me! Come to me and know eternal life.” Eternal life is not just about keeping a list of rules and regulations- it’s knowing the one true God, and Jesus whom He sent (John17:3).
In John 18 we read of the events leading up to the crucifixion. Verse 28 tells us, “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” Did you catch that? The Jews were determined to keep their feast of Passover and would not enter into close proximity with a gentile (i.e. Pilate) lest they be defiled and therefore unable to partake in Passover. They were good rule keepers, but; they were blinded to the fact that the true Passover Lamb was standing right beside them! Like the Jews of Jesus day we often substitute a real relationship with Jesus for cold, dead, ritualistic religion.
When we look at Matthew 7:21-23 we find, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ So we can see that knowing Jesus (salvation) is not simply doing a bunch of miraculous things either. (Hmm, it’s possible for the miraculous to occur even though there is no true relationship with Christ.)
Let’s close with some words from Paul, a Pharisee of Pharisees: “for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh,although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee;as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:3-14 NASB)
We will see that true salvation does indeed include obedience (doing), but, we must understand that while one who is in Christ will surely do; doing, in and of itself, does not mean one is in Christ.