Assurance of Salvation
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. —1 John 5:13
There are two classes who ought not to have assurance. First: Those who are in the church but who are not converted, having never been born of the Spirit. Second: Those not willing to do God’s will; who are not ready to take the place that God has mapped out for them, but want to fill some other place.
Have All God’s People Assurance?
Someone will ask: “Have all God’s people assurance?” No; I think a good many of God’s dear people have no assurance; but it is the privilege of every child of God to have beyond a doubt a knowledge of his own salvation. No man is fit for God’s service who is filled with doubts. If a man is not sure of his own salvation, how can he help anyone else into the kingdom of God? If I seem in danger of drowning and do not know whether I shall ever reach the shore, I cannot assist another. I must first get on the solid rock myself; and then I can lend my brother a helping hand. If being myself blind I were to tell another blind man how to get sight, he might reply: “First get healed yourself, and then you can tell me.” I recently met with a young man who was a Christian, but he had not attained to victory over sin. He was in terrible darkness. Such an one is not fit to work for God, because he has besetting sins; and he has not the victory over his doubts, because he has not the victory over his sins.
None will have time or heart to work for God, who are not assured as to their own salvation. They have as much as they can attend to; and being themselves burdened with doubts, they cannot help others to carry their burdens. There is no rest, joy, or peace—no liberty, nor power—where doubts and uncertainty exist.
Now it seems as if there are three wiles of Satan against which we ought to be on our guard. In the first place, he moves all his kingdom to keep us away from Christ; then he devotes himself to get us into “Doubting Castle”; but if we have, in spite of him, a clear ringing witness for the Son of God, he will do all he can to blacken our characters and belie our testimony.
Some seem to think that it is presumption not to have doubts; but doubt is very dishonoring to God.
If any one were to say that they had known a person for thirty years and yet doubted him, it would not be very creditable; and when we have known God for ten, twenty or thirty years, does it not reflect on His veracity to doubt Him?
Could Paul and the early Christians and martyrs have gone through what they did if they had been filled with doubts, and had not known whether they were going to heaven or to perdition after they had been burned at the stake? They must have had assurance.
What John Tells Us
Now let us come to the Word. John tells us in his Gospel what Christ did for us on Earth. In his epistle, He tells us what He is doing for us in heaven as our Advocate. In his [John’s] Gospel, there are only two chapters in which the word “believe” does not occur. With these two exceptions, every chapter in John is “Believe! Believe!! BELIEVE!!!” He tells us in 20:31: “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name.” That is the purpose for which he wrote the Gospel—“that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing we might have life through His name” (John 20:31).
Turn to 1 John 5:13. There he tells us why he wrote this epistle. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.” Notice to whom he writes it: “You that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” There are only five short chapters in this first epistle, and the word “know” occurs over forty times. It is “Know! Know!! KNOW!!!” The key to it is Know! And all through the epistle there rings out the refrain “That we might know that we have eternal life.”
Five Things Worth Knowing
In the third chapter of John’s first epistle there are five things worth knowing.
In the fifth verse we read the first: “And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin.” Not what I have done, but what He has done. Has He failed in His mission? Is He not able to do what He came for? Did ever any heaven-sent man fail yet? And could God’s own Son fail? He was MANIFESTED TO TAKE AWAY OUR SINS.
Again, in the nineteenth verse, the second thing worth knowing: “And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.” WE KNOW that we are of THE TRUTH. And if the truth make us free, we shall be free indeed. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
The third thing worth knowing is in the fourteenth verse: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” The natural man does not like godly people, nor does he care to be in their company. “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” He has no spiritual life.
The fourth thing worth knowing we find in verse twenty-four: “And he that keepth His commandments dwelleth in Him, and He in him. And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He hath given us.” We can tell what kind of Spirit we have if we possess the Spirit of Christ—a Christ-like spirit—not the same in degree, but the same in kind. If I am meek, gentle, and forgiving; if I have a spirit filled with peace and joy; if I am long-suffering and gentle, like the Son of God—that is a test; and in that way we are to tell whether we have eternal life or not.
The fifth thing worth knowing, and the best of all, is: “Beloved, now.” Notice the word “now.” It does not say when you come to die. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (v. 2).
Will The Christian Sin?
But some will say: “Well, I believe all that; but then I have sinned since I became a Christian.” Is there a man or a woman on the face of the Earth who has not sinned since becoming a Christian? Not one! There never has been, and never will be, a soul on this Earth who has not sinned, or who will not sin, at some time of their Christian experience. But God has made provision for believers’ sins. We are not to make provision for them; but God has. Bear that in mind.
The Past Sins Of Christians Are All Forgiven
As soon as they are confessed, they are never to be mentioned. That is a question which is not to be opened up again. If our sins have been put away, that is the end of them. They are not to be remembered, and God will not mention them any more. This is very plain. Suppose I have a son who, while I am from home, does wrong. When I go home he throws his arms around my neck, and says: “Papa, I did what you told me not to do. I am very sorry. Do forgive me.” I say: “Yes, my son,” and kiss him. He wipes away his tears, and goes off rejoicing.
But the next day he says: “Papa, I wish you would forgive me for the wrong I did yesterday.” I should say: “Why, my son, that thing is settled; and I don’t want it mentioned again.” “But I wish you would forgive me; it would help me to hear you say, ‘I forgive you.’” Would that be honoring me? Would it not grieve me to have my boy doubt me? But to gratify him I say again, “I forgive you, my son.”
And if, the next day, he were again to bring up that old sin, and ask forgiveness, would not that grieve me to the heart? And so, my dear reader, if God has forgiven us, never let us mention the past. Let us forget those things which are behind, and reach forth unto those which are before, and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let the sins of the past go; for “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
How To Tell If You Are A Child Of God
Again in 2 Corinthians 13:5: “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” Now examine yourselves. Try your religion. Put it to the test. Can you forgive an enemy? That is a good way to know if you are a child of God. Can you forgive an injury, or take an affront, as Christ did? Can you be censured for doing well, and not murmur? Can you be misjudged and misrepresented, and yet keep a Christ-like spirit?
Another good test is to read Galatians 5, and notice the fruits of the Spirit, and see if you have them. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law.” If I have the fruits of the Spirit I must have the Spirit. I could not have the fruits without the Spirit any more than there could be an orange without the tree. And Christ says: “Ye shall know them by their fruits;” “For the tree is known by his fruits.” Make the tree good, and the fruit will be good. The only way to get the fruit is to have the Spirit. That is the way to examine ourselves whether we are the children of God.
Then there is another very striking passage. In Romans 8:9, Paul says: “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” That ought to settle the question, even though one may have gone through all the external forms that are considered necessary by some to constitute a member of a church. Read Paul’s life, and put yours alongside of it. If your life resembles his, it is a proof that you are born again—that you are a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Growing In Grace
But although you may be born again it will require time to become a full-grown Christian. Justification is instantaneous; but sanctification is a lifework. We are to grow in wisdom. Peter says: “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18); and in the first chapter of his second epistle “Add to your faith virtue; add to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So that we are to add grace to grace. A tree may be perfect in its first year of growth; but it does not attain its maturity. So with the Christian; he may be a true child of God, but not a matured Christian. The eighth of Romans is very important, and we should be very familiar with it. In the fourteenth verse the apostle says: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Just as the soldier is led by his captain, the pupil by his teacher, or the traveler by his guide; so the Holy Spirit will be the guide of every true child of God.
Paul’s Teaching On Assurance
Then let me call your attention to another fact. All Paul’s teaching in nearly every epistle rings out the doctrine of assurance. He says in 2 Corinthians 5:1: “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” He had a title to the mansions above, and he says—I know it. He was not living in uncertainty. He said: “I have a desire to depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23); and if he had been uncertain he would not have said that. Then in Colossians 3:4, he says: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” I am told that Dr. Watts’ tombstone bears this same passage of Scripture. There is no doubt there.
Then turn to Colossians 1:12: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which HATH made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light; who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.”
Three haths:“HATH made us meet”; “HATH delivered us”; and “HATH translated us.” It does not say that He is going to make us meet; that He is going to deliver; that He is going to translate.
Then again in verse 14: “In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” We are either forgiven or we are not, we should not give ourselves any rest until we get into the kingdom of God; nor until we can each look up and say, “I know that if my earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, I have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Assurance May Be A Certainty
There is assurance for you. “I KNOW.” Do you think that the God who has justified me will condemn me? That is quite an absurdity. God is going to save us, so that neither men, angels, nor devils can bring any charge against us or Him. He will have the work complete.
Job lived in a darker day than we do; but we read in Job 19:25: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth.”
The same confidence breathes through Paul’s last words to Timothy: “For the which cause I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” It is not a matter of doubt, but of knowledge. “I know.” “I am persuaded.” The word “hope” is not used in the Scripture to express doubt. It is used in regard to the second coming of Christ, or to the resurrection of the body. We do not say that we “hope” we are Christians. I do not say that I “hope” I am an American, or that I “hope” I am a married man. These are settled things. I may say that I “hope” to go back to my home, or I hope to attend such a meeting. I do not say that I “hope” to come to this country, for I am here. And so, if we are born of God we know it; and He will not leave us in darkness if we search the Scriptures.
Christ taught this doctrine to His seventy disciples when they returned elated with their success, saying: “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name.” The Lord seemed to check them, and said that He would give them something to rejoice in. “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
It is the privilege of every one of us to know, beyond a doubt, that our salvation is sure.
Then we can work for others. But if we are doubtful of our own salvation, we are not fit for the service of God.
Another passage is John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment” (the Revised Version has it so); “but is passed from death unto life.”
Some people say that you never can tell till you are before the great white throne of judgment whether you are saved or not. Why, my dear friend, if your life is hid with Christ in God, you are not coming into judgment for your sins. We may come into judgment for reward. This is clearly taught where the lord reckoned with the servant to whom five talents had been given, and who brought other five talents, saying, “Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents; behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.” His lord said unto him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:20, 21). We shall be judged for our stewardship. That is one thing, but salvation—eternal life—is another.
Will God demand payment twice of the debt which Christ has paid for us? If Christ bore my sins in His own body on the tree, am I to answer for them as well?
Isaiah tells us that, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.” In Romans 4:25, we read: He “was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” Let us believe, and get the benefit of His finished work.
Looking for a Life
Now, a great many people want some token outside of God’s Word. That habit always brings doubt. If I made a promise to meet a man at a certain hour and place tomorrow, and he were to ask me for my watch as a token of my sincerity, it would be a slur on my truthfulness. We must not question what God has said: He has made statement after statement, and multiplied figure upon figure. Christ says: “I am the door; by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved.” “I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.” “I am the light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” “I am the truth”; receive Me, and you will have the truth; for I am the embodiment of truth. Do you want to know the way? “I am the way”; follow Me, and I will lead you into the kingdom. Are you hungering after righteousness? “I am the Bread of life”; if you eat of Me you shall never hunger. “I am the Water of life”; if you drink of this water it shall be within you “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” “I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die” (John 11:25, 26).
Let me remind you where our doubts come from. A good many of God’s dear people never get beyond knowing themselves servants. He calls us “friends.” If you go into a house you will soon see the difference between the servant and the son. The son walks at perfect liberty all over the house; he is at home. But the servant takes a subordinate place. What we want is to get beyond servants. We ought to realize our standing with God as sons and daughters. He will not “un-child” His children. God has not only adopted us, but we are His by birth; we have been born into His kingdom. My little boy was as much mine when he was a day old as now that he is fourteen. He was my son; although it did not appear what he would be when he attained manhood. He is mine; although he may have to undergo probation under tutors and governors. The children of God are not perfect; but we are perfectly His children.
Another origin of doubts is looking at ourselves. If you want to be wretched and miserable, filled with doubts from morning till night, look at yourself. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee” (Isaiah 26:3). Many of God’s dear children are robbed of joy because they keep looking at themselves.
Three Ways to Look
Someone has said: “There are three ways to look. If you want to be wretched, look within; if you wish to be distracted, look around; but if you would have peace, look up.” Peter looked away from Christ, and he immediately began to sink. The Master said to him: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). He had God’s eternal word, which was sure footing, and better than either marble, granite or iron; but the moment he took his eyes off Christ down he went. Those who look around cannot see how unstable and dishonoring is their walk. We want to look straight at the “Author and Finisher of our faith.”
“What Is Faith?”
Bishop Ryle has strikingly said: “Faith is the root, and assurance the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root, and not the flower.
“Faith is that poor, trembling woman who came behind Jesus in the press, and touched the hem of His garment (Mark 5:27). Assurance is Stephen standing calmly in the midst of his murderers, and saying, ‘I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:56).
“Faith is the penitent thief, crying, ‘Lord, remember me’ (Luke 23:42). Assurance is Job sitting in the dust, covered with sores, and saying, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’; ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him’ (Job 19:25; 13:15).
“Faith is Peter’s drowning cry, as he began to sink, ‘Lord, save me!’ (Matthew 24:30). Assurance is that same Peter declaring before the council, in after-times, ‘This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:11, 12).
“Faith is the anxious, trembling voice, ‘Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief!’ (Mark 9:24). Assurance is the confident challenge, ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemneth?’ (Romans 8:33, 34).
“Faith is Saul praying in the house of Judas at Damascus, sorrowful, blind and alone (Acts 9:11). Assurance is Paul, the aged prisoner, looking calmly into the grave, and saying, ‘I know whom I have believed.’ ‘There is a crown laid up for me’ (2 Timothy 1:12; 4:8).
“Faith is LIFE. How great the blessing! Who can tell the gulf between life and death? And yet life may be weak, sickly, unhealthy, painful, trying, anxious, worn, burdensome, joyless, smileless, to the very end.
“Assurance is more than life.It is health, strength, power, vigor, activity, energy, manliness, beauty.”
Another writer says: “I have seen shrubs and trees grow out of the rocks, and overhang fearful precipices, roaring cataracts, and deep running waters; but they maintained their position, and threw out their foliage and branches as much as if they had been in the midst of a dense forest.” It was their hold on the rock that made them secure; and the influences of nature that sustained their life. So believers are oftentimes exposed to the most horrible dangers in their journey to heaven; but, so long as they are “rooted and grounded” in the Rock of Ages, they are perfectly secure. Their hold of Him is their guarantee; and the blessings of His grace give them life and sustain them in life. And as the tree must die, or the rock fall, before a dissolution can be effected between them, so either the believer must lose his spiritual life, or the Rock must crumble, ere their union can be dissolved.