Do you know that you know that you know that you’re going to heaven?
Gosh, if only I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard pastors say that phrase in a sermon.
I understand the heart of such a phrase. Pastors want people to have confidence and assurance in their salvation.
However, the phrase also drives me a little crazy because it’s theologically inaccurate.
When a pastor asks a congregation “Do you know that you know that you know that you are saved?”, people sit in the audience wondering for themselves, “Do I know? Do I really know?”
I know people think this because I’ve thought this.
My guess is that for most people, they would like to think that they know, but if they’re being truthful with themselves, they really just hope that they’re saved.
This might sound a bit cynical, but consider what Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome.
For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. Romans 8:24-25 (emphasis mine)
I have faith that Jesus came to earth roughly 2000 years ago. I believe this because of what is written in the Bible about Jesus, but also from what is documented about Jesus outside of the Bible. Atheist scholars believe that Jesus was at least a person who existed and walked the earth, so it is relatively easy to have faith that Jesus actually lived.
I have faith that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, again, based on what I read from the Bible.
I have faith that Jesus was crucified, taken down from the cross, and laid in a tomb.
I have faith that 3 days later, He was resurrected by the miraculous power of God and that shortly after He ascended back to heaven to prepare a place for me and others.
I have faith.
Do I know all of these things to completely true?
“Wait, what?! But Matt—you’re a pastor! How can you say that you don’t KNOW these things to be true?!”
Simply stated—because I wasn’t around 2000 years ago to see all those events take place!
In a court case, a lawyer would never put someone on the stand who was a “friend of the witness”. A lawyer will likely only call actual witnesses—probably eye-witnesses.
I don’t have an eye-witness account of Jesus 2000 years ago. I wasn’t there—how could I? I read accounts from other eye-witnesses, but I wasn’t one of them.
If you go back and re-read my statements above, however, what you will see that I do have is faith.
The very definition of faith is “belief that is not based on proof”.
C.S. Lewis said it this way: “You can’t know, you can only believe – or not.”
Nobody can prove that Jesus walked the earth 2000 years ago. Nobody can prove that He rose from the grave. Nobody can prove it because nobody alive today was alive back then.
Anyone who chooses to follow Jesus or believe in Him has faith. They believe not because they were alive in Jesus’ day, but because they have enough confidence or assurance in Jesus that He was and is who He claimed to be.
While I believe that pastors have the best intentions when they ask the question “Do you know that you know?”, I think such a question can potentially damage the theology of Christians.
If a Christian believes that they have to KNOW they have salvation, this implies that the FAITH they do have is not sufficient. This philosophy contradicts what the Bible says about faith.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. Hebrews 11:1-2
The word confidence is defined as “full trust or belief”. Having confidence does not mean that you KNOW something, it means that you trust in something or believe in something.
The word assurance is defined as “a positive declaration intended to give confidence”.
Neither confidence nor assurance are based on knowledge. Both terms are based on faith.
Our ancestors were commended for their faith. They weren’t commended for what they saw or personally witnessed—they were commended for their FAITH.
They had such great faith that they took action steps that backed up their faith, but those action steps were based on their faith in God rather than what they KNEW about God.
Having faith is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. It’s something commended by God Himself.
Don’t let anyone—even a pastor—make you believe that faith isn’t good enough. It is.
In the future if someone asks if you “know that you know that you know that you’re going to heaven”, choose to trust that your faith is sufficient.
If you’re someone who has ever asked someone else if they “know that they know that they know”, maybe rephrase your question to be more theologically sound:
Do you know that you know that you know that you have faith that you’re going to heaven?
The answer to that question—for me—is a resounding yes.