Recently my wife had an experience that all of us have had at one time or another. She's an outstanding cook, and one evening decided to apply her talent in the preparation of a particular meal for supper. As the time came for her to put the ingredients together she confidently pulled each one from the cupboard or refrigerator. Finally the time came for her to add the ingredient that she must have in order to fix this particular dish. Before long her confidence turned into doubt. She knew where she kept this particular ingredient and was equally certain that she had it. But no matter how hard she looked she couldn't find it. Eventually she admitted to herself that she didn't have this necessary item, and began searching for something else to fix instead. This experience of hers made me think about a study I've been wanting to write for some time. Can I know I'm saved, but be wrong?
It's very common for us to know something is true, but be wrong. It's late in the evening and there's something you need from the store. "I know the store is open until 10 p.m." you tell your wife. "It's a 5-minute drive. I'll be back soon." You leave home at 9:30, confident that before long you'll be home again with the needed item in hand. However, your confidence turns to doubt as you pull into the parking lot and see the darkened windows. You walk up to the door and realize you were wrong about that which you knew: the store closed at 9 p.m., not 10. You're on your way to a city that's well-known to you. "I know this road will get me there" you say to yourself. You confidently drive along, expecting to shortly see the landmarks of your destination. But the drive gets longer and longer. Confidence turns to confusion. Eventually you pull out your map, find the road you're on and realize you were wrong about that which you knew: this road doesn't lead to your intended destination. There are many other examples I could use, but they all make the same point: we are frequently wrong about that which we know to be true.
But why are we wrong? We are wrong when our knowledge of something is based on invalid information. What we know is only as good as how we know it. Imagine I was in our kitchen when my wife asked me if we had the ingredient she needed to fix her intended meal. I answer, "Yes, sweetheart, we have it." Does she now truly know that she has this necessary item? No, she doesn't. I may have misunderstood her and looked for the wrong thing. I may not have looked at all and based my knowledge upon an earlier search through the cupboard when I saw the item sitting on the shelf. Each of the above examples demonstrate reliance on invalid information and the false knowledge that results from it. But when did they realize their information was invalid? When it was too late! My wife had already made the commitment to a chicken dinner when she took it out of the freezer an hour or two earlier. If she'd realized she didn't have this ingredient she would have chosen something else. But, by the time she learned this fact it was too late. The husband in the second example learned too late that his knowledge about the closing time of the store was invalid. He made a wasted trip as a result. The driver in the third example also made a wasted trip because he based his knowledge of the route to his destination on invalid information. By checking for the ingredients before she started, confirming the store hours before he left, and consulting a map before he began driving is the only way these three could truly be confident that their knowledge was valid. But none of the three realized their knowledge was false! They began their tasks with the confident assurance that comes from knowing something. This is a very important point we must keep in mind: confident assurance is an invalid source of information! Confident assurance must come after knowledge has been verified. We cannot verify knowledge by confident assurance.
But is any of this valid in the spiritual realm? To answer this question we must first ask and answer a few basic questions:
1. Is it possible for one to know he’s saved? It's pointless to begin a search for the knowledge of salvation if one cannot know he’s saved.
2. If you can know you're saved, how do you know that fact? This is simply a confirmation of the validity of your knowledge. We've already seen how people frequently base their knowledge of something on invalid information. If you're going to know you're truly saved you must know your information is true. But, that may not be as straightforward as it sounds. What if my wife used me as her source of information? What if the husband used the hours of another store in the same chain as his source of information? What if the driver used a 10-year old map to decide which way to go? This demonstrates another important point we must keep in mind: The source you're using to verify your knowledge must be valid. You may think you've verified your knowledge, but if the source you're using is invalid then you really haven't. As a result you may proceed with confident assurance, thinking to yourself that you've verified your knowledge and really know what you're doing, when in fact you don't know at all.
Before we go any farther there's an important issue I wish to address. This is a real problem that influences much of what we do in our everyday lives. The issue is bias. Merriam-Webster defines bias as "an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment". It uses prejudice as a synonym for bias, and defines prejudice as a "preconceived judgment or opinion" or "an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge". Before we begin I ask you to lay aside any bias or prejudice you may have regarding this topic. Prejudice by definition is an opinion formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge has been gathered. Because of prejudice people are frequently unwilling to examine evidence. Please lay aside your preconceived ideas about this topic. If your preconceived ideas are confirmed, you’ll have great confidence in their validity. However, if your preconceived ideas are wrong and you allow them to keep you from examining the evidence, you may live the rest of your life believing a lie. Now, on with the study!