How can a person be certain that he is accepted of God?
A. GOD HIMSELF WILL TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE RIGHT WITH HIM
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. (Rom 8:16).
No one is in a better position to answer this question than God, the Holy Spirit and He bears witness to whoever asks him humbly to confirm that he is accepted.
God wants his children to be certain of this important issue and through the ages He bore witness to them that they were in right standing with him as he did to the robber on the cross.
- The robber: Luk 23:42, 43And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, Truly I say to you, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise.
- Abel: Heb 11:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts. And by it he, being dead, yet speaks.
- Enoch: Heb 11:5 By faith Enoch was translated so as not to see death, and he was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
- Abraham: And He brought him outside and said, Look now toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them. And He said to him, So shall your seed be. And he believed in Jehovah. And He counted it to him for righteousness. (Gen 15:5,6).
- The multitude of believers listed in Heb 11: And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, (Heb 11:39).
If God then bore such clear testimony to believers mentioned in the Old Testament, how much more will He not now bear testimony to his born-again children, his chosen generation, his bride, that they have been accepted in the Beloved and if a person counting himself as a Christian, misses that inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, he should seek the face of the Lord in great earnestness until the matter has been resolved.
examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith, prove your own selves. Do you not know your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless you are reprobates? (2Co 13:5).
But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. (Rom 8:9).
B. INFANT BAPTISM (BAPTISM OF A BABY BY HIS PARENTS)
In some churches, parents have their children (babies) “baptized” by the sprinkling of water over them. The minister would then announce that they have now become part of the “people of God” (die volk van God). Such baptism is unscriptural and of no effect. It could even be sinful.
This custom has its roots in God’s dealings with his nation, Israel.
In studying the Bible, one must understand their position very clearly and especially the distinction between this nation and the spiritual nation of God which had always been, and still is, his only real people, his Heavenly Kingdom people, his born-again children. Abraham was one of them for he believed in God and God accounted it to him as righteousness. (He was saved by faith.)
His offspring was called Israel and God’s intention was to make himself known to the members of this nation by his dealings with them; their deliverance from Egypt, the Laws they received from him, clean and unclean animals, sacrifices, especially blood offerings of animals, the tabernacle and priesthood. His spiritual laws were encapsulated in picture format (also called shadows of what was to come). The blood offerings, for instance pointed to Christ, the Lamb of God that was to be slain for their sin. One could say that they lived within a picture Bible containing the Gospel of salvation.
What is important is that just being born physically as a member of that chosen nation did not summarily make the boy or girl a member of God’s heavenly Kingdom; that child had to be born again just like any other human being. Yes, they were privileged in that they were surrounded by Gospel teaching, but that also put a greater responsibility on them to surrender themselves to the one and only God, the Creator of all mankind.
One of the ordinances was that all the male children were to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth. This was to signify that the child was physically born from the nation of Israel and therefor part of that nation.
And a son of eight days shall be circumcised among you, every male child in your generations; he that is born in the house, or bought with silver of any stranger who is not of your seed. (Gen 17:12).
Firstly, it was an outward sign that the boy belonged to the physical (flesh and blood) nation of Israel and was not part of the surrounding heathen nations. When a baby was to be circumcised, it could be done without any doubt as to whether he was an Israelite or not. He was born of a certain Israeli father and that made him an Israelite, so he was to be circumcised. Let us note: first came the birth of the boy as an Israelite, then followed the sign of circumcision by which his father confirmed that this boy was indeed of his seed and therefor an Israelite.
The spiritual significance of this ritual was that it was God’s message to that little child, and to all his family members, that he and they had to be born-again as children of God’s Heavenly Kingdom by putting their trust in him. He would then circumcise their hearts and make them his children.
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that outwardly in flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart; in spirit and not in letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God. (Rom 2:28,29).
Most of them never came to the point of circumcision of their hearts. They were quite content to be members of the physical nation of Israel and even proud of it.
Likewise, many people are under the impression that to be a member of a Christian church is the same as being a child of God.
Churches that baptize babies err in four ways:
- They grab the circumcision sign and apply it to a person born into God’s family as a child of God, but God never ordered this to be done. Baptism of believers does not replace circumcision. They were given for entirely different purposes.
- They in span the cart before the horses. They baptize a child and declare him now to have become a child of God before he has given his life to the Lord. They have no certainty at all that he will ever do so.
- They actually give their child no option whether he wants to belong to God or not. This is unacceptable to God Who wants free will children and a free choice bride and not robots. God will not play along with this man-made plan. This is a sinful practice.
- They do a very serious injustice to the child by baptizing him as a baby; when he comes of age and realizes that he is a sinner before God and needs to repent and accept Jesus as his Saviour and Lord, the fact that his parents had wrongly baptized him and declared him then already to have become part of God’s people, is now used by the devil to convince him that he has no need to repent and be born again. So, he lives in a dim world of uncertainty year by year and dies in his sin, not having been born again and declared righteous by the Holy Spirit on account of his own faith. He relies on his parent’s faith (if any) which is like building a house on sand.
And the rain came down, and the floods came, and the wind blew and beat on that house. And it fell, and great was its fall. (Mat 7:27).
The New Covenant which God makes with all people, of all nations, bears a similarity to the Old covenant He had with Israel, yet it is also different. A boy that was born to an Israelite father was an Israelite and nothing could change that, and his father circumcised him to confirm that He was an Israelite boy and that was that.
A person that is nowadays born again of heavenly seed (The Word) is born as a child of the God Father and once that has happened, he must be baptized as a sign that he was now born into the spiritual family of God and therefor is a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven which is a spiritual kingdom.
In both covenants the order is the same: First the birth into a certain nation, then the sign. That makes sense.
C. BELIEVERS “WITHOUT” A DATE OF SPIRITUAL BIRTH
What then about him that was wrongly baptized as a baby, yet believes that Jesus died for him to be saved?
Well as long as he discards the false crutch and acknowledges himself to be a sinner as everyone else, there is ample provision to be saved, for God has no delight in the death of a sinner but therein that he repent and be saved.
Do I actually delight in the death of the wicked? says the Lord Jehovah. Is it not that he should turn from his ways and live? (Eze 18:23).
When Jesus heard, He said to them, They who are strong have no need of a physician, but the ones who have illness. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mar 2:17).
Faithful is the Word and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (1Ti 1:15).
Such a person needs to repent and be born-again like any heathen who hears the Gospel message for the first time – there is no difference.
He is to question himself whether his faith is from the heart and has led to repentance, the new-birth and a changed lifestyle (See chapter 14 par A 4).
Some would argue that they had never led ungodly lives from which they had to repent and that they had, since childhood, believed Jesus to be their Saviour – so what they are saying is that they just gradually, imperceptibly, glided or drifted into the spiritual Kingdom of God without becoming aware of it and that they cannot recall any time in the past when they were troubled by the sinful condition of their heart and pleaded with God for forgiveness and to be accepted as his child.
Can it really have happened in such a gentle way? Is not the new birth compared to a physical birth which is a traumatic experience followed by great joy afterwards and remembered forever? Is not the engagement of a girl to her bridegroom a joyous occasion on which she goes around displaying her glistening diamond ring to her friends? Does a woman wake up one morning in the bed of a man, not knowing how she got there and just accept that she is now married to him, without her explicit consent, without ever having been called upon to say, “I do”? Can a human being exchange fathers, exchange the lying, stealing, murdering devil for the Holy, honest, loving Heavenly Father without knowing it (Joh 8:44)? Can a person step from a pitch-dark room into a brightly lit banquet hall without blinking and being thrilled by the change of environment (1 Pet 2:9)? Can a corpse arise from a coffin, walk around amongst the living that knew him, eat with them and speak to them without him and them becoming acutely aware that he had come to life (Eph 2:1)?
On the other hand: can a baby recall the occasion or date of its birth? Is it not rather that the parents know him to be their child, fondle him, care for him, protect him and that he gradually, subconsciously becomes aware of the fact that these are his parents and so binds with them in a way that he would not do with any other people?
Could that be what often happens to children growing up in a godly congregation: God keeps on reaching out to them, although they are not his children, until they respond by finally, irrevocably yielding to him and getting born again into his family, his heavenly kingdom?
After all, since a true child of God so often bemoans his old sinful nature in prayer, asks for forgiveness for misbehaviour and declares his total dependence on this Loving Father, Saviour and Holy Spirit, is it really so important that he recall the day he first did so? Is not his present state more important than his historical date?
If you truly are a child of God, you do have a date of spiritual birth; God knows it and it is written in the Lambs Book of Life.
Now, if after this lengthy discussion, you are still in the darkness, why not settle the matter once and for all by praying the “sinner’s prayer” provided in chapter 14 par a3 above and thereafter have yourself baptized in a reputable congregation or home church? Then go your way rejoicing as did the Ethiopian Eunuch after his encounter with Philip and through him with the resurrected Christ. Bless you.
(My experience also is that they that are uncertain of their own salvation, and have very little concern, if any, for the salvation of others, which is understandable.)