In the Bible it is written: “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” (He 6:9)
There are some things … be they qualities, dispositions, attitudes … that accompany salvation. These things do not cause salvation, they accompany salvation. If we claim to have obtained salvation and are truly lacking in any of these things we are walking in presumption and are self-deceived. If we cannot find salvation’s fruit within, we ought to either seek salvation in earnest or ask God to show us the necessary fruit in our lives. There are no other sane options here. What are these things that are found in every child of God?
Love for Christ
The primary and overriding virtue that accompanies eternal salvation is a love for Jesus Christ. “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.” (1Co 16:22) This text is effectively an eternal curse upon any soul that does not sincerely love the Lord Jesus Christ. No saint has an eternal curse upon them, so every saint of God — every child of God — loves Jesus Christ. This love is generally accompanied by a sentimental feeling of affection and admiration for Christ, but this may not always be the case and it is certainly not the focus. The consistent love believers experience for Christ is a matter of the will, a persistent determination to honor and obey Him: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” (1Jn 5:3a)
Love for Others
Loving Jesus Christ implies that one will also love others. “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen.” (1Jo 4:20) A man is lying if he says he loves God and yet hates his neighbor. Therefore if he loves God he cannot hate his neighbor: he must love his neighbor or he cannot love God. There is no believer who does not love God, so every believer loves his neighbor. This does not necessarily mean that he likes his neighbor or thinks his neighbor is a wonderful person, but it means that he will seek the well-being of others, pursue their good as a general manner of life.
Obedience to God’s Laws
Loving God and others is generally representative of a life of obedience to God; believers in Christ love Him and keep His words. “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings.” (Jn 14:23-24a) There is a direct correlation between loving Jesus Christ and obeying Him. All who are born of God will love Him, and all who love Him will obey Him. Therefore, all those who are born of God obey Him.
Those participating in the new covenant in God have been given a new heart and a new spirit by God, and God is writing His laws, the Old Testament laws, the Torah, into their minds and hearts and causing them to walk in His statutes: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (He 8:10, see also Eze 11:19-20)
This kind of transformation, to live a life of holiness in obedience to Torah, is at the heart of the Gospel message; so those who claim to believe in Christ and yet do not obey His Laws (Torah) are not walking with Christ and will eventually be rejected by Him: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”(Mt 7:22-23, also see Keep My Commandments)
While obedience to God is intrinsic to the gospel, we know that we are all sinful (1Jn 1:8); keeping the commandments perfectly is impossible. How good does one have to be in order to have assurance and be consistent with the Word? No one is perfect, and examining one’s soul can be a daunting task. This can be a little tricky.
Lest one become discouraged in this, finding sin within themselves that drags the humble soul to despair, one does well to observe that holiness is on a spectrum, sinfulness has degrees, and love has depth. The more tender the conscience, the more acute the spiritual senses, the more sin is discerned. The closer we get to God the more sinful we find ourselves to be. (Is 6:5, Job 42:6)
One cannot say a Christian does not sin at all, or even that a Christian cannot sin very badly at times. After coming to faith, Abraham continued in his pattern of telling a half-truth about Sarah being his sister, thereby endangered the messianic line by giving Sarah away to be another man’s wife. (Ge 20:2) It takes time to rid ourselves of sinful patterns we have been layering into ourselves since birth; these are generally rooted in sub-conscious wounds and fears which are often beyond the control of our conscious will. It is a lifelong journey to overcome these things. What is understood is that the Christian cannot commit himself to sin as a manner of life, being hardened and determined to continue in it for a season, knowing that it is sin. The tender conscience is repentant, and willingness to obey in those things where one is able to obey is intrinsic to the renewed heart.
This is equivalent to saying, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1Jn 3:9) No believer can live a life committed to disobedience to God. While a Christian certainly sins, a Christian cannot live a life of willful, deliberate, conscious, determined sin. Every born again person follows Jesus Christ, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27) Following Jesus Christ, obeying Him, and submitting to His lordship is a quality that accompanies salvation.
Growth in Holiness
A general willingness to obey God results in a pattern of growth in virtue and godliness. All of God’s children will develop in holiness: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb 12:14) Our growth in sanctification is assured because it is the work of God: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ep 2:10) We can be “confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Php 1:6)
This growth occurs in those that belong to Jesus Christ, whom He has chosen and sanctified, because they have an innate tendency to put Him first above all things, and to count themselves crucified with Him. “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Ga 5:24) This means that no born-again person will sacrifice obedience to God and submission to His will for their own personal comfort and interests as a manner of life.
Another way of saying this is that believers are led by God’s Spirit: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Ro 8:14) God’s ways and values are being expressed in and through believers as we walk with God, and God is constantly guiding our steps and ordering his lives, working through our wills, not leading us externally apart from them. (Ps 37:23, Php 2:13). In other words, the believer should not expect to be constantly hearing the voice of God as an external source, outside of their own will, and being given external, supernatural direction and revelation by “the spirit.”
Another characteristic common to all believers is a disposition to forgive others when sinned against. Our Lord said, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mt 6:14-15) There is no such thing as a saint who does not have their sins forgiven — all of their sins forgiven. This implies that the saint has forgiven others their trespasses … all people of all of their trespasses. When others sin against you, if you are a believer, you will not purpose in your heart to avenge yourself; rather, you will forgive. Though you may struggle with bitterness and anger and resentment, at the very least, you will not live, as a manner of life, in open retaliation against those who offend you. Those who live by the, “I don’t get mad, I get even” philosophy are not among the children of God; saints of God are forgiving. (please see Forgive)
Another characteristic common to all believers is a disposition to acknowledge their utter dependency on God for their own ability to please Him. (2Co 3:5) Our Lord said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3) To be poor is to lack basic necessities, having insufficient means to live and thrive as we are designed to live. To be poor in spirit is to feel this lack of sufficiency acutely in our spiritual life, unable to live a godly life on our own. This is essentially how little children perceive themselves in the world: as insufficient and in need of guidance, protection and provision. (Mt 18:3) The kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, to those with childlike faith (Mt 19:14); in other words, the poor in spirit comprise God’s kingdom: no others partake of it (or the concept is meaningless). So, there is no such thing as a saint who thinks they can be good enough to please God without God’s aid or is spiritually self-sufficient apart from God. This is intrinsic to humility, the essential virtue of the spiritual life.
Things That Accompany
These are all things that accompany salvation: loving God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, loving and forgiving others, obeying Torah, and growing in childlike humility and holiness. While we all sin, and no one can rightly claim perfection, these qualities will all consistently appear as general patterns of life in the redeemed. If a soul is saved, this is the work of God, and He will see to it that these things always manifest in some degree. No saved soul is completely void of any of them.
God calls us to be fruit inspectors, not of any other soul, but of our own; He commands us to examine ourselves, to test whether we are in the faith, to prove our own selves. (2Co 13:5) Give diligence to make your calling and election sure; ensure that any feeling of security you may have in God is not mere presumption. (2Pe 1:10) The lives of the redeemed will align with God’s description of eternal life.