1 John 5:13
I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (CSB).
Our current study is about the struggles that a real follower of the Lord Jesus can face. First, we established this fact and discussed the struggle with fear. In our previous two posts, we began to answer the question, “What should you do if you are not sure that you are saved?” Time only permitted us to give two answers. The first was to examine yourself to see if you are really a follower of Christ. We saw that the God requires a true repentance toward him and a true belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. The second was to realize that true believers might struggle about their assurance. So we presented three proofs that true believers do struggle about assurance, and then four selected causes that contribute to this struggle. The fourth cause was “cracks” in the pillars or bases of assurance. What they are, and what we must tend to is the subject of this and the next posts.
Learn the Biblical teaching about assurance. There are three bases or pillars on which your assurance (not your salvation!) rests. Suppose you asked me to prove that I am married to Sharon Ann Frampton. I could find a copy of the signed marriage license, or I could produce her to testify that I am married to her, or I could just smile and say, “I said vows of marital love to her and I heard her say vows of marital love to me.” That is what these three pillars or supports of assurance are like.
First is the support of the promises of God. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him (1 John 5:1 ESV). God’s promises call us to rest on his truthfulness (Titus 1:2) and his faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23). Being convinced by the Spirit, we trust in the Lord. Jesus said, “Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37 CSB; cf. John 3:16; 5:24). John is saying in 1 John 5:1 that we can know that we have been born of God because we believe that Jesus is the Christ.
- In the inner person of every believer God the Holy Spirit has planted a deep conviction about God and his truth. There is something that happens inside the heart that provides a certain amount of certainty that there is a God and that his word is final authority. I think that this is what the Reformers meant when they talked about the assurance of true faith.
- Though I doubt that any true believer can lose that certainty, it is obvious that most or perhaps all believers struggle with doubts and questions at some time, not so much about God’s promises, but about whether or not they trust the Lord. Since we are not perfect in understanding and our minds sometimes drift, sin can take advantage of our limitations and weaknesses to produce doubts about God and his word. At that point, we must ask for the Spirit’s help, pick up his sword (the word of God), and put those doubts to death.
Many new believers struggle when someone asks them, “How do you know that the Bible is God’s Word?” And when they cannot convince the skeptic, they begin to question their own faith. The apostle is advising us, “Take a look at the marriage license! Go back to whom you believe in—Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Exercise a fresh faith in him.”
As we grow in faith and understanding, we come to know a number of truths that contribute to our assurance. Let’s think of a few.
- God’s power preserves his people. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6 NLT; cf. 1 Peter 1:5; Jude 1:24).
- Christ’s blood has purchased our eternal salvation. The Lord Jesus entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12 CSB).
- We are in the risen and ascended Christ. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-7 ESV).
- We are sealed by the Spirit to the day of redemption. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30 NIV).
In this way, the truths that we nickname “the doctrines of grace” contribute to a full assurance. As we spiritually comprehend all that we have by the free grace of the gospel, we rejoice! Joy in the Lord leads us through struggles into peace and confident expectation.
Grace and peace, David