Most believers, at one time or another, have doubted their salvation. There can be several causes of doubt, some valid and some not. If you doubt your salvation, there are some steps you can take to find reassurance, dispel the doubts, and rest in the promises of God.
First, it is good to know that whether or not you have doubts is not what determines your salvation. Some genuine believers struggle with doubt, while some unbelievers who presume to be saved never have a doubting moment (and they will have a rude awakening someday—see Matthew 7:21–23). So it is not automatic that the presence of doubt indicates a lack of salvation, or that the absence of doubt attests to salvation.
One reason people doubt their salvation is the presence of sin in their lives. Hebrews 12:1 speaks of “sin that so easily entangles.” Many true Christians struggle against “besetting,” that is, habitual sins, and this may cause them to doubt their salvation. It is important here to recognize that, despite the Christian’s being a new creation in Christ, everyone still sins. “We all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2). No one reaches a state of sinless perfection in this world. The difference for the believer is the attitude toward sin and the response to it. As Adrian Rogers said, “Before I got saved I was running to sin; now I am running from it. And if I fail, I turn right around and start running away again” (“Assurance of Salvation,” www.lwf.org/discover-jesus/assurance-of-salvation, accessed 4/7/20).
It is also important to know that the presence of sin in one’s life can be a sign that you are not saved. The Bible is clear that willful, unrepentant sin is an indicator of an untransformed heart (see 1 John 3:6, 9; Romans 6:1–2). If you are living a lifestyle that the Bible condemns as sinful, then there is a spiritual problem. Do Christians sin? Yes. Do they willfully continue in sin? No.
If you doubt your salvation because of sin in your life, then confess the sin to God and ask for His forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. Then take steps to not repeat the sin: “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Luke 3:8, NLT). The very fact that you recognize sin and struggle against it in your own life is proof that the Holy Spirit is at work. Cooperate with what He is doing.
Another reason people doubt their salvation is the absence of godly works in their lives. The Christian life involves more than turning from sin; it includes doing good. Jesus said that “every good tree bears good fruit” (Matthew 7:17), and Paul wrote, “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). There are some who inspect the “fruit” of their own lives, find it lacking, and wonder if they’re truly saved. Their mistrust that they are a “good tree” could be because 1) they have set a higher standard for themselves than God has, minimizing what God is doing through them; 2) they are foolishly measuring themselves against others and their fruit (see 2 Corinthians 10:12); 3) they are being lax in their pursuit of good works; or 4) they are not saved and therefore do not have the motivating love of Christ.
If you doubt your salvation because of a lack of good works, then confess the sin of omission to God and ask for His forgiveness for Jesus’ sake. Then it is time to “stir up the gift of God which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6, NKJV). There’s plenty of work to do for the kingdom (Luke 10:2), and the Bible gives plenty of direction about the will of God, generally, for Christians. Be careful not to set up false performance standards or compare your good deeds with others’. Ask God what He would have you do, and do that.
Some people, especially those who were saved at a very young age, doubt their salvation because they don’t remember their conversion very well, and they wonder if the decision they made as a child was genuine. Such feelings are common in adults who were saved as children. In such cases, it is good to review the promises of God and remember that Jesus invites children to come to Him (Mark 10:14). Salvation is based on the grace of God and faith in Christ, not our knowledge, wisdom, or sophistication (Ephesians 2:8–9). Jesus promised that those who are His will “never perish” (John 10:28). If doubts persist about the genuineness of your childhood conversion, make sure of your faith. Regardless of what you did as a child, do you believe now that Jesus died for your sins and rose again? Are you placing your faith in Him alone?
Another reason for the presence of doubt concerning salvation is persistent guilt over past sins. We all have regrets about past misdeeds, and we all have a spiritual enemy that the Bible calls “the accuser” (Revelation 12:10). The combination of regrets and accusations can spur much doubt. Fortunately, “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). If you doubt your salvation because of guilty feelings, then ask yourself, “Were those sins over which I feel guilty confessed to God?” If so, then know this: God has removed that sin from you “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). This promise stands forever: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Sometimes, doubting is a good thing. Doubt can, like pain, alert us to a problem that needs addressed. We are to test ourselves to be sure that we are “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Be sure that you are born again. If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, then you have eternal life, and God wants you to be confident of your salvation (Romans 8:38–39; 1 John 5:13).