Why People Doubt Their Salvation
by David J. Stewart | March 2007 | Updated June 2018 | Click to hear background music in a new window
For several years after I was saved at age 13, I doubted my salvation. I remember crying many tears of worry and fear, wondering if I was going to be cast into the Lake of Fire. What if? What if I'm not really saved? What if I didn't do something right? What if I go to Hell forever? These are very frightening thoughts. I remember reading as many Gospel tracts as I could get my hands on, reading them over and over, and praying the sinner's prayers dozens of times.
I remember oftentimes going to God in prayer, saying something like this...
"Lord, I believe I am saved, but am uncertain. I just don't know for sure. I am scared of going to Hell. I know I am a sinner. I know I deserve to go to Hell. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for my sins. I know there's no other way to Heaven except through Jesus. I've asked you many times to save me in the past, but I am very scared I am still not saved. Please don't let me go to Hell Lord. I beg you to show me if I'm saved, because I just can't get any assurance. If I'm not saved Lord, then please save me now and forgive my sins. If I am saved, then you owe it to me as your child to show me. Please!"
I must have asked the Lord to save me at least 50 times (perhaps much more) over several years. Those were tearful times of pain of soul for me. Not knowing for certain that your name is written in Heaven is a frightening ordeal. I wanted to know, but I didn't have anyone to show me. I went to my pastor finally at age 17, but he wrongly concluded that if I don't know I'm saved, I must not be. He was wrong, because in hindsight I now know that I did get saved at age 13, which is when the blessed Holy Spirit came inside me to live, and has been with me ever since. Anyway, my pastor (when I was 17) led me in another sinner's prayer. Oh boy, that's what misled me in the first place, continually wondering whether I prayed right or missed something. I did believe the Gospel, but I was confused on the matter, which hindered me from finding the sweet peace of assurance of salvation that every believer ought to have, and can easily have.
Jesus Doesn't Forgive Sins, He Has Already Paid for Them With His Blood!
Remember, Jesus doesn't forgive sins, He has already paid for them with His own precious blood. Thus, forgiveness of sins and eternal life are a gift from God. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” A “gift” is freely offered and freely received, without any obligation to the recipient! God the father gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, as a sacrifice on the cross for your sins and mine. God will not save anyone who is trying to be saved, He will only save those who are trusting to be saved. Salvation is not doing your best, it is having Christ's best put to your account through receiving Him by faith.
It is little big truths like this, which will help you settle any concerns over your salvation. Forgiveness of sins is a gift, that you simply receive to have. And when you receive God's free gift of forgiveness, it includes ALL of your sins: past, present and future. Once you are born-again, you are no longer under the curse of God's LAW, you are then under God's GRACE. Do you mean once I get saved, I can go out and live like the Devil and still be saved? Yes, that is exactly what I am saying, because that is THE TRUTH!
Albeit, Romans 3:31 says, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” No believer has God's permission nor blessing to continue living in open rebellion and sin. Yet, the truth is that no matter how righteous a believer may attempt to live, we all still commit sins. ALL OF US! The apostle Paul struggled with sin daily (Romans 7:14-25). Ah, but when a believer sins (and we all do), Romans 5:20 says, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” The believer is under GRACE, and not the LAW. So no matter how much a Christian believer sins, we can NEVER lose our position in Christ. Once a child of God, always a child of God!!! Our CONDITION in Christ may be horrible, tarnished by sin; but our POSITION in Christ as His child can never be jeopardized nor lost!
Many religious people snarl and have a big problem with such teaching. The very idea that a person can receive Christ as their personal Savior and continue living in sin repulses them! Yet, the truth is that there is no such thing as “turning from sins,” because even the best Christians still commit sin every day. So turning away from sins is a misnomer!
My Fear Was Rooted in Ignorance of the Scriptures
Glory to God! He did answer my prayer eventually. It wasn't until I was almost 20 years old that I finally KNEW I was saved, and had the peace of God in my heart concerning my salvation. Oh! What a time that was when all my doubts dispersed. I can't pinpoint any certain truth, date, or experience that caused my doubts to flee. All I know is that in my diligent search for the truth, I one day realized that my fears were gone, and I KNEW I was saved certain. Every time I heard a sermon in church, I hinged at the edge of my seat when anything dealing with "faith" was taught. The Holy Spirit over time taught me many wonderful truths, which prompted me years later to write a book about it.
The reason why I had feared so terribly is because I was IGNORANT of God's salvation, i.e., I didn't fully understand the Biblical doctrine of salvation. I knew I was saved in my heart, but had doubts in my mind which were rooted in ignorance of the Scriptures. I remember going down into the basement as a young boy. It was pitch black. Back then most lights were turned on by a string hanging down from the socket. I vividly remember the fear I felt in my heart as if something unknown might be lurking in the dark. I remember slowly walking forward, swinging my arms in the dark, desperately feeling for that light string! I felt indescribably happy when I finally grabbed that string and turned on the light. Whew!
The reason why I feared the dark was because I didn't know what might be in the dark. Likewise, I feared going to Hell because I didn't understand salvation. When I was 17 years old I went to talk with my pastor about the matter. His opinion was that I must not have been saved since I wasn't sure. Although he was sincere and meant well, I was indeed already saved. The Holy Spirit came into my life when I was 14 years old. According to Romans 8:9, only born again believers have the Holy Spirit, "...Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." People are naturally afraid of the unknown. Thus, if you are having doubts about your salvation, the answer is in studying the Word of God, specifically the doctrine of the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
We Are Saved Solely by BELIEVING the Gospel
Religion wants to fit us with glasses, but the Lord wants to open our eyes! Thank God for the truth of His precious Word, which is a lamp unto our feet (Psalm 119:105). America's churches influence the world, so if Satan can corrupt our churches here at home, then he can corrupt the world, because the United States sends out more missionaries than any other nation. Sadly, there is MUCH heresy and false teachings circulating on the radio, television and in our churches nowadays concerning what a person must do to be saved. What exactly is the Gospel?
There is no need to guess what the “Gospel” is because the Bible plainly tells us . . .
1st Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
There you have it, the GOSPEL is three things:
(1) Jesus DIED on the cross for our sins.
(2) Jesus was BURIED.
(3) Jesus bodily RESURRECTED from the dead three days later.
I once heard a visiting missionary errantly say in church, that there are two things that a person must absolutely believe to be saved: 1) That Jesus is the supreme Lord of the universe; 2) That Jesus raised up from the dead. That was it. That's his shallow plan of salvation. He didn't mention the cross. He didn't mention the fact that all men are sinners under the condemnation of God's holy law, deserving of Hell. And he added the unscriptural requirement to surrender to Christ's supreme Lordship to be saved. So few people have a clear understanding of how salvation works. Let me make it very simple. YOU ARE A SINNER! And unless you accept Christ's payment on the cross for your sins, you will spend eternity burning in the fires of Hell. Please read: 3,000 Souls Saved In One Day! (Acts 2:41 says 3,000 people were simply simply by BELIEVING the Gospel!).
Unless you trust JESUS CHRIST ALONE for your salvation, you CANNOT be saved. I don't think Chip Ingram is saved. I also don't think Billy Graham is saved. The biggest lies are always sandwiched between truths to conceal them. I don't think David Cloud is saved. These well-meaning men all require HUMAN EFFORT, that is, forsaking sinful behavior, to be saved, which is a false Gospel. If we have to repent of all our sins to be saved, then we're all going straight to Hell. Repentance unto salvation is “a change of mind,” not a change of behavior. I recently heard Evangelist Tom Ferrell preach that a person is not saved unless they've been changed, and if they've changed they have declared “Jesus as Lord.” That's a subtle way of teaching Lordship Salvation.
A changed life is the FRUIT of the indwelling Holy Spirit, not a requirement to get saved. But you ask, couldn't a person still be saved even though they are confused about salvation? No, because they have a wrong mindset and are not completely trusting the redemptive work of Christ. If you don't believe what I say, consider how closely Seventh-day Adventism comes to the Gospel, yet they are light-years away. If you believe wrong then you trust wrong, and unless you are totally resting in the precious blood of Jesus that washes our sins away (1st Peter 1:18-19), then you haven't been born-again by the Holy Spirit of God.
It's the Blood that Saves!
Very few believers ever grow in their knowledge of the Word of God to the point where they CLEARLY understand the fundamental doctrines of the Bible. This is an indictment against America's pastors who have veered away from the basics of the Word of God. It is the pastor's duty to feed his people the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Many ministers are afraid to touch on certain subjects, or become too relax concerning fundamental pillars of the faith, such as the blood of Jesus.
The word "atonement" is an Old Testament word, which means "to cover." Most believers don't know that. We read in Hebrews 10:4, "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." You see, the Old Testament Highpriest went once a year into the Holy of Holies with the blood of a young male lamb, without any spot or blemish. This pictured the coming Savior, the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world... "The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." What a Savior!
The blood of bulls and goats only temporarily covered the sins of the people in the Old Testament; BUT it was Jesus' blood that TOOK OUR SINS AWAY! Jesus' blood doesn't atone for our sins; but rather, His blood washes our sins away forever. 1st Peter 1:18-19 states, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
It's not our prayer that saves us, or something self-righteous we say or do; rather, it's the blood of Jesus that TAKES AWAY our sins in response to our faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:26, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
Jesus Died for Our Righteousness Too!
Jesus not only had to die for our sins, but for our self-righteousness as well. You see, even man's best efforts are still filth in God's sight. Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Your very best means NOTHING to a holy God! You will split Hell wide open if you try to earn or merit to Heaven!!! Jesus Christ paid a debt He did not owe, because we owed a debt of sin we could not pay! Jesus (who knew no sin), because as sin, so that we sinners who knew no righteousness, could be made the righteousness of God in Him. 2nd Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
So if you understand that Christ died even for our goodness, which is filth to God, then you will clearly understand that the teachings of Calvinism (aka, Lordship Salvation) and repenting from sins (i.e., forsaking sinful behavior) to be saved, are damnable heresies. We are saved by HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS (Matthew 6:33), that is, God's imputed righteousness, which is through faith in Christ. Philippians 3:9, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”
Salvation is of God!
Many believer's doubts are rooted in a misunderstanding of God's exclusive role in salvation. Salvation is of God! We complicate things by wondering if WE did everything just right. I used to wonder in anguish... "Did I have enough faith?," and "Was I sincere enough?" I was focusing on my prayer, my faith, my words, and my sincerity; but what I needed to learn is that I am to rest in God's salvation. The honest truth is that God doesn't ask anything from you other than your faith. Our part is to simply believe on Jesus, the Christ, and then it's all up to God the Father from there.
Man has NO part in God's salvation. A man asked me, "Isn't calling upon the Lord a 'work'." Yes, but it's not a self-righteous work... "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent" (John 6:29). We are clearly WARNED in Ephesians 2:8 and 9 not to be so foolish as to think we can merit salvation, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." But you ask... "Didn't the Apostle Paul say to 'work out your own salvation' in Philippians 2:12"? Yes, but carefully notice that Paul said YOUR salvation; not GOD'S salvation.
We are clearly directed in Matthew 6:33 to seek HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, not our own self-righteousness. We have NO righteousness of our own, which is why Jesus came to die in our place... "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Oh! How foolish is mankind to think that he can please God in his own self-righteousness... "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Salvation is of God; thus, we can't earn it, maintain it, keep it, or lose it. Thank God!
Salvation is Not an Experience!
Many people doubt their salvation because they are trying to remember an experience from years ago. With most people, facts do become hazy over time. I would be frightened if my salvation were dependant upon some distant vague memory. I don't base my salvation in a religious experience that happened years ago. I KNOW I am saved NOW, PRESENTLY, because I have a genuine faith in my heart in the Lord. If I go to Hell, it will be Jesus' fault because I'm trusting Him 100%. I am not relying upon a prayer I prayed. No, I'm relying upon the precious blood of Jesus my Savior. I'm not relying upon an experience, or something that happened at an alter in a church years ago. No, I'm relying upon the precious blood of Jesus my Savior.
No amount of doubt or lack of emotion can keep the soul out of Heaven who solely trusts upon the precious blood of Jesus. Colossians 1:14, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Isaiah 45:22, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." We are saved because we look to Jesus, depending wholly upon His blood sacrifice to take our sins away.
Salvation is a supernatural act of God in response to our faith. Christianity began as a new birth in Jesus Christ. When it went to Greece it became a philosophy. When it went to Rome it became an organization. When it spread throughout Europe it became a culture. And when it came to America it became a business. Sadly, most people today have churchianity without Christianity. They are make-believers instead of true believers.
Ye must be born again!
How Much Faith Does a Person Need to Be Saved?
How much faith do you need to be saved? The answer is so simple... JUST ENOUGH! If you have just enough faith to trust upon the name of Jesus for salvation, that's all the faith you need to go to Heaven... "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." The word "call" means "to rely upon." Hence, we are saved when we solely rely upon Jesus to forgive our sins and save us from Hell. Did you know that you can be saved in spite of great doubt?
What if I were to ask you to stand upon a shaky looking chair to change a light bulb? Even if you were 99% doubtful that the chair wouldn't hold you up, it would be no less than 100% faith if you stood upon the chair. Here is Biblical evidence of what I say in Mark 9:24, "And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." It doesn't matter how much doubt you may have, just as long as you obey the Gospel by placing your faith in Jesus Christ to forgive your sins.
The Condemnation of God's Law
We don't hear enough preaching these days concerning the Law of God, which condemns all mankind as GUILTY, and deserving of Hellfire. Do you know why Jesus DIDN'T come to condemn anyone (John 3:17)? It's because the Law already did that! Romans 3:19 states, "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." I don't have to condemn anyone, because the Word of God already condemns everyone! That is why the lost world hates the Bible, because It is God's Word, and because It condemns sin (John 3:20).
Many churches have turned apostate in these last days, perverting the gospel (Galatians 1:7). As a result, fewer people are being saved. People are being led to trust Jesus, believe on Jesus, commit their life to Jesus; BUT, they are not coming to Jesus as lost sinners under the condemnation of God's Law. There can be NO salvation without the Law. Some of the doubts people experience today are legitimate, because they are NOT saved. Please read, The Sin Question / Son Question to learn more on this subject.
The Incorruptible Word of God!
I highly recommend that you use only the inspired King James Bible. All modern bible versions are corrupt. Corrupt bibles can only produce corrupt fruit. I had a man recently write me, sincerely believing that Jesus was not God because of the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible. He quoted me Philippians 2:6 from the NIV. It is a dangerous thing to tamper with the Word of God. Did you know that The Satanic Bible is published by the same parent company who owns the NIV? It's true! Thank God for the inspired, inerrant, preserved, and trustworthy King James Bible.
The Simplicity of Salvation
God's salvation is so free and simple that mankind cannot fathom it..."But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2nd Corinthians 11:3). Men complicate things! People either add or subtract from the simple Gospel message. Why is it so hard to accept the notion that a loving God in Heaven would want to redeem mankind? Romans 3:4 proclaims, "Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar..." The Bible says what It says, and we must accept It at face value.
There are so many false prophets nowadays, who preach a perverted gospel of damnation. Why can't people just rest in the wonderful words of Romans 4:5, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." There is absolutely nothing we can do to merit salvation, or even help to save ourselves. If there were, then Jesus wouldn't have had to die upon the cross for our sins, but He did.
There's a natural tendency for people to feel some type of personal obligation in salvation. It's difficult for some people to grasp the idea that God would freely forgive them and allow them into Heaven. I received a letter from a woman this week who believed she was going to Hell because she got a big tattoo on her body. I thank God for the opportunity to share the truth of God's Word with such people... "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" (Acts 26:18).
Please read The Simplicity of Salvation. Ye need not fear going to Hell. Salvation is of God. If you came to Jesus as a Hell-deserving sinner, and placed your trust in His shed blood to take away your sins, then you are saved certain. If you'd like to read much more, please read my book Salvation.
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." -2nd Timothy 1:7
"Unto Him That Worketh Not"
The Simple Gospel