Where is your evidence?
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
We claim to be Christians. We hope that we are the children of God, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. We hope that we have been elected, redeemed, and called by grace. But where is the evidence? If we can rightfully lay claim to that eternal salvation which is in Christ Jesus, with full assurance and confidence, we must be able to prove that it is ours by the evidence God has given in his Word.
Of this I am sure: — No experience of grace, feeling of spirituality, or work performed by me, past or present, is evidence that I am a child of God (Matt. 7:21-23). I know that all who are born of God do experience repentance, faith, and conversion. All believers experience conviction, inner conflict with sin, love, joy, and peace. And God's children all walk in good works. But these things may all be counterfeited by Satan. If your assurance is built on these things, either you are a proud, self-righteous hypocrite, deceiving your own heart with a refuge of lies, or you have no real peace of heart, assurance of faith, and confidence before God at all.
And those graces and works, which may convince others that I am a child of God, can never convince my own heart and conscience. Even the fruit of the Spirit is no sure evidence to me that I am one of God's elect. There are some things by which we know one another, as well as men can, to be believers: good works (Matt. 5:13-16), the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), etc. But my conscience, like the law of God, demands perfection, and will not allow me to have assurance upon the ground of my sinful works and corrupt fruit.
Not Brotherly Love
Even love for my brethren is no sure evidence of a saving interest in Christ. Our love for one another convinces us of one another's salvation (1 John 3:14) and convinces others of ours (John 13:35). But my love for my brethren is not anything like the perfect love described by Paul (1 Cor. 13:4-8). And because it is not perfect, it cannot be an evidence of grace.
The only evidence I have of my saving interest in Christ is the faith in Christ which God the Holy Spirit has wrought and sustains in me (Heb. 11:1). I have no clear title to heaven but faith in Christ; and faith in Christ is enough. God says it is enough; and my conscience says it is enough (1 John 5:1, 10-13).
Assurance in the Word of God is based upon faith. The Scriptures never speak of the assurance of love, or the assurance of works, or the assurance of experience. The Scriptures only speak of "the full assurance of faith" (Heb. 10:22), and "the full assurance of hope" (Heb. 6:11). And hope is built upon faith. This faith is the gift of God the Holy Spirit, wrought in and given to God's elect in regeneration by the preaching of the gospel (Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; Col. 2:12; Rom. 10:17; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23-25).
This faith in Christ is the sure, certain, infallible evidence, proof, and assurance of eternal salvation. Faith is not the cause of grace, salvation, and eternal life. But faith is the proof and evidence of these things.
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for." — That word "substance" means "faith is the essence, certainty, and assurance of things hoped for." Faith possesses beforehand what God has promised to give. "Verily, verily", our Lord said, "He that believeth on me hath (in possession) everlasting life" (John 6:47). Faith in Christ is the fruit of life, not the cause of it. Those who have faith in the Son of God have life.
"Faith is the evidence of things not seen." — "Evidence" means "proof." Faith in Christ is the conviction God the Holy Spirit has wrought in me that I have a saving interest in Christ. By faith in Christ I read my name in the Book of Life. Faith did not write it there. God wrote it there before the world was made. But my faith in Christ is the proof that it is there.
Faith is the proof of things not seen. Faith is the proof of things past, done in eternity, but not seen by men. It is the proof of my election and interest in the covenant of grace. Faith is the proof of things done in time, though now unseen: the creation of the world, the righteousness established by Christ, the redemption accomplished by Christ, and my justification in him. And faith is the proof of future things now unseen: the resurrection of the dead, the judgment, and my eternal glory in and with Christ.
Christ is the Author and Finisher of this faith (Heb. 12), which is God’s gift (Phil. 1:29). It is more the act of Christ upon me, than my act of dependence upon him. Indeed, my dependence upon him is the result of his continual supply of grace to my soul. The life of faith, like every other form of life, is continually received.
If you now believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, I assure you upon the authority of God's Word, you have a saving interest in Christ (1 John 5:1, 5-13).