Have you ever heard people bemoan the fact that they did not know whether they were saved or not? I want to state that all who are truly born again have a conscious knowledge of it. It is clear from Scripture that the people who lived and pleased God in Bible times had a conscious knowledge of the fact that they were in a state of divine favor. In Hebrews 11:4 we read, "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness [or evidence] that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts." Here was a man, although without a Bible, to whom God imparted the consciousness that He was pleased with him and that his gifts were acceptable.
In the same chapter, the fifth verse speaks of Enoch. "Before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God." Please notice that he had the evidence that he pleased God before his translation. Some people claim that you cannot know that you are saved until after you are dead, but it is too late then to find out you are unsaved. We must know it now.
From Abel down through to the present day, God has invariably given His attestation to those who pleased and obeyed Him. If there were no other Scripture verses in the Bible besides the ones just given and Romans 8:16, there would be enough evidence to prove that the Bible teaches an assurance of salvation in this life for God's people. John Wesley stated,
By the testimony of the Spirit, I mean an inward impression of the soul, whereby the Spirit of God immediately and directly witnesses to my spirit that I am a child of God; that "Jesus hath loved me, and given Himself for me;" that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.
The question has been asked, "Do you feel saved after you are saved?" In other words, are we conscious of it when God forgives us? What good would a pardon do the sinner if he did not feel it or were not conscious of it? Yes, we feel saved after we are saved. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit" (Rom 8:1). Right feelings always follow the right faith.
The assurance of salvation or the witness of the Spirit is given to eliminate doubt. Uncertainty generates despair and anxiety. One of the chief sources of anxiety may be discovered in the superficial sanctity of those who are always doubting their acceptance with God. If people are right with God and are walking in the light, doubt cannot remain. But if there is a wrong to be righted in your life and you have not done it, you will have and you should have doubts. That doubt represents the voice of the Holy Spirit to you. Do not ignore it at the peril of your soul. Confess the sin, right the wrong, and doubt will take wings. When light comes in, darkness goes out. When faith comes in, doubt goes out.
It is a serious mistake for Christian workers to try to make seekers feel happy before God has given them the evidence of his pardon. If such workers succeed in persuading seekers to believe they are saved before the Holy Spirit had added His testimony, they deceive them. How careful we need to be not to interfere with the work of the Holy Spirit. How it must grieve the Spirit when professional altar workers go about with an air of self-satisfaction and pride, telling how many souls they helped to get saved. They only helped them get them "through" to a state of self-deception.
The Holy Spirit never witnesses to an untruth, for "He is the Spirit of truth." The assurance of salvation brings with it a divine revelation. The Bible does not tell us when we are born again. The Bible points us in the way to Christ, but the impartation of the knowledge or consciousness that we are saved is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is something supernatural. You cannot do it yourself. Your friends cannot do it for you. The pastor, evangelist, or personal worker cannot tell you when you are saved. If you are hungry for what I am talking about, pray on, dear heart, God will not disappoint you if you are faithful.
Editorial Note: This article was adapted from a three-part article first published at Greensboro, NC in "The People's Herald" in July-September, 1948. Although Dr. Smith died in 1960, the Fundamental Wesleyan Society, to a large extent, is a continuation of his ministry and emphasis. See the entree concerning him in the Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement, William C. Kostlevy, ed. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001), p. 235.