RPM, Volume 16, Number 18, April 27 to May 3, 2014

How to Know If You Are A Real Christian

Part I

By Jonathan Edwards

Originally titled True Grace Distinguished from the Experience of Devils by Jonathan Edwards, 1752. This modern language version is Copyright 1994 by William Carson. Permission is granted for reproduction, so long as this file is not altered, this notice is included in any reproduction, and it is not sold for profit.

Demons Have a Knowledge of God.
Knowledge of God alone is no proof of salvation.
Religious experiences are no proof of salvation.
Objection #1- People are different from demons.
Objection #2- People can have religious feelings that demons cannot.
True Spiritual experiences have a different source.
A true spiritual experience transforms the heart.
Genuine spiritual experiences have different results.
The sight of Christ's beauty- God's greatest gift!

"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-and shudder." James 2:19

How do you know if you belong to God? We see in these words what some people depend on as an evidence of their acceptance with God. Some people think that they are all right before God if they are not as bad as some evil person. Other people point to their family history or church membership to show that God approves of them. There is an evangelism programme in common use that asks people certain questions. One of the questions is, "Suppose you were to die today. Why should God let you into his heaven?" A very common response is, "I believe in God." Apparently the apostle James knew people who said the same thing: I know I am in God's favor, because I know these religious doctrines.

Of course James admits that this knowledge is good. Not only is it good, but it is also necessary. Nobody can be a Christian who doesn't believe in God; and more than that, the One True God. This is particularly true for those who had the great advantage of actually knowing the apostle, someone who could tell them of his first-hand experience with Jesus, the Son of God. Imagine the great sin of a person, who knew James, and then refused to believe in God! Certainly this would make their damnation greater. Of course, all Christians know that this belief in the One God is only the start of good things because "anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (Heb. 11:6.)

However, James is clear that although this belief a good thing, it is definitely not proof that a person is saved. What he means is this: "You say you are a Christian and you are in God's favor. You think God will let you into heaven, and the proof of it is, you believe in God. But that is no evidence at all, because the demons also believe, and they are sure to be punished in hell." The demons believe in God, you can be sure of that! They not only believe that He exists, but they believe that God is a holy God, a sin-hating God, a God of truth, who has promised judgments, and who will carry out his vengeance upon them. This is the reason the demons "shudder" or tremble- they know God more clearly than most human beings do, and they are afraid. Nevertheless, nothing in the mind of man, that devils may experience as well, is any sure sign of God's grace in our hearts.

This reasoning may be easily turned around. Suppose demons could have, or find within themselves, something of God's saving grace-proof they would go to heaven. This would prove James wrong. But how absurd! The Bible makes it clear that demons have no hope of salvation, and their believing in God does not take away their future punishment. Therefore believing in God is not proof of salvation for demons, and it is safe to say, not for people, either.

Demons Have a Knowledge of God.

This is seen even more clearly when we think about what demons are like. They are unholy: anything that they experience cannot be a holy experience. The devil is perfectly wicked. "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44) "He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning." (1 John 3:8 ) Therefore the demons are called evil spirits, unclean spirits, powers of darkness, and so on. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph 6:12)

So it is plain that anything in the minds of demons cannot be holy, or lead to true holiness by itself. The demons clearly know many things about God and religion, but they do not have a holy knowledge. The things they know in their minds may make impressions in their hearts- indeed we do see that the demons have very strong feelings about God; so strong, in fact, that they "shudder." But they are not holy feelings because they have nothing to do with the work of the Holy Spirit. If this is true of the experience of demons, it is also true of the experience of men.

Notice this, that it does not matter how genuine, sincere, and powerful these thoughts and feelings are. Demons, being spiritual creatures, know God in a way that men on earth cannot. Their knowledge of God's existence is more concrete than any man's knowledge could be. Because they are locked in battle with the forces of good, they have a sincerity of knowledge as well. On one occasion Jesus cast out some demons. "What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" (Mat 8:29) What could possibly be a more clear-cut experience than this? However, while their thoughts and feelings are genuine and powerful, they are not holy.

Also we can see that the holy objects of their thoughts doesn't make their thoughts and feelings holy. The demons know God exists! Matthew 8:29 shows they know more about Jesus than many people do! They are thoroughly that Jesus will judge them some day, because He is holy. But it is clear that genuine, sincere, and powerful thoughts and feelings about holy, spiritual things, is no proof of God's grace in the heart. Demons have these things, and look forward to eternal punishment in hell. If men have no more than what the demons have, they will suffer in the same way.

Subscribe to RPM
RPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. Click here to subscribe.
http_x_rewrite_url /magazine/article.asp?link=http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Ejon_edwards%5Ejon_edwards.HowtoKnow.1.html&at=How%20to%20Know%20If%20You%20Are%20A%20Real%20Christian thispage server_name thirdmill.org script_name /magazine/article.asp query_string link=http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Ejon_edwards%5Ejon_edwards.HowtoKnow.1.html&at=How%20to%20Know%20If%20You%20Are%20A%20Real%20Christian url /magazine/article.asp all_http HTTP_ACCEPT:text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8 HTTP_ACCEPT_ENCODING:x-gzip, gzip, deflate HTTP_HOST:thirdmill.org HTTP_USER_AGENT:CCBot/2.0 (http://commoncrawl.org/faq/) HTTP_X_REWRITE_URL:/magazine/article.asp?link=http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Ejon_edwards%5Ejon_edwards.HowtoKnow.1.html&at=How%20to%20Know%20If%20You%20Are%20A%20Real%20Christian HTTP_X_ORIGINAL_URL:/magazine/article.asp?link=http:%5E%5Ethirdmill.org%5Earticles%5Ejon_edwards%5Ejon_edwards.HowtoKnow.1.html&at=How%20to%20Know%20If%20You%20Are%20A%20Real%20Christian