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Sermon #47— 1st John Series
Title: THREE HELPS TO ASSURANCE
Text: 1 John 5:10-13
Date: Tuesday Evening—October 15, 2013
Recording# 1st John #47
Readings: Bobbie Estes and Cody Henson
John Newton wrote many of our best, most God-honoring, Christ exalting hymns. It was Newton who wrote…
“Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Are matchless, God-like, and Divine;
But the fair glories of Thy grace
More God-like and unrivaled shine!”
It was Newton ho taught us to sing…
“”How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.”
It was John Newton, the Anglican preacher, who wrote that great, great hymn…
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!
That saved a wretch like me!”
There is another hymn Newton wrote that is not so well known. It expresses the experience of many (if not all) of God’s saints in this world.
“'Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord, or no;
Am I His, or am I not?
If I love, why am I this;
Why this dull, this lifeless frame?
Hardly, sure, can they be worse,
Who have never heard His name.
Could my heart so hard remain,
Prayer a task and burden prove;
Every trifle give me pain,
If I knew a Savior's love?
When I turn my eyes within,
All is dark and vain, and wild;
Filled with unbelief and sin,
Can I deem myself a child?
If I pray, or hear, or read,
Sin is mixed with all I do;
You that love the Lord indeed,
Tell me, is it thus with you?
Yet, I mourn my stubborn will,
Find my sin a grief and thrall!
Should I grieve for what I feel,
If I did not love at all?
Could I joy His saints to meet,
Choose the ways I once abhorred,
Find at times the promise sweet,
If I did not love the Lord?
Lord, decide the doubtful case,
Thou who art Thy people's Sun,
Shine upon Thy work of grace,
If it be indeed begun.
Let me love Thee more and more,
If I love at all I pray;
If I have not loved before,
Help me to begin today.”
This evening I want to give some instructions to you who struggle with assurance. My text will be 1st John 5:10-13. The text sets before us THREE HELPS TO ASSURANCE. But before we look at the text itself, I want to say a few things about assurance.
There is such a thing as a false assurance. The five foolish virgins in our Lord’s parable slept very peacefully. They had much assurance. And in the last day many will stand before the judgment bar of God confidently assured of eternal life, to whom the Lord shall say, “Depart from me, ye that work iniquity; I never knew you.” A false assurance is nothing less than the proud, presumptuous confidence of a religious hypocrite. Let me give you just three marks of a false assurance.
1. A false assurance is based on an old experience that stays old.
2. A false assurance is based upon works of self-righteousness and religious devotion. It is self-assurance.
3. A false assurance cannot bear examination. It turns a deaf ear to the exhortations of the Gospel. It hides behind an orthodox creed, a religious profession, or an experience. It excuses sin as a weakness of nature. And it pacifies conscience with good works and acts of devotion.
With great reason, we should fear a false assurance. A refuge of lies is worse than no refuge at all. Never does Satan more securely bind a soul over for hell than when he gives him an undisturbed assurance in a Christless, heartless religion.
But the Word of God makes it plain that there is a true, confident assurance, which the children of God can and should enjoy upon this earth. Yet, not all of God’s children have assurance. All who are born of God have faith; faith is necessary to salvation; but not all have assurance. We should be careful to keep this distinction between faith and assurance before our minds. Faith is the root; assurance is the flower. Certainly, you can never have the flower without the root; but you may have the root without the flower. Let me illustrate this for you.
1. Faith is that poor, trembling woman who came behind our Lord in the crowd and touched the hem of his garment (Mark 5:25-27). 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).
2. Faith is the penitent thief, crying, “Lord, remember me (Luke 23:42). Assurance is Job sitting in the dust, covered with sores, saying, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him” (Job 19:25; 13:15).
3. Faith is Peter’s drowning cry, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). Assurance is that same Peter declaring before the council, “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).
4. Faith is the anxious, trembling voice, “Lord, I believe: help thou my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). Assurance is the bold challenge of the confident apostle, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemneth?” (Romans 8:33-34).
5. This is faith: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). This is assurance, “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” (2 Timothy 1:12).
While I say that it is possible for a man to be saved and not have an assured confidence of his salvation, it is not good. Every believer ought to desire assurance. And every Gospel preacher should seek to promote assurance among the people of God. It should be our desire that every one of God’s elect have a “full assurance of faith,” “full assurance of hope,” “full assurance of understanding.” Assurance is a blessed gift of the grace of God, which we should seek. Let me give you some good reasons to encourage you to seek assurance.
1. There is nothing which can give a man so much comfort and peace in this life as the assurance of his saving interest in Christ. If I know that the great business of life is settled, that the great debt of sin is paid, that the great plague of the heart is healed, and that the great work of salvation is accomplished, nothing can disturb my peace. Assurance gives a man a fixedness of heart. It sweetens the bitter cup. It lightens every burden. It smooths the rough places. It gives light in the valley of the shadow of death. Assurance enables Job to worship God, when he had lost all outward comforts and joys. Assurance enabled Paul and Silas to sing in prison. Assurance enabled Peter to sleep in Herod’s dungeon, when he thought that he would be slain the next day. Assurance caused the Apostles to rejoice when they suffered shame and persecution for Christ’s sake. Assurance caused the martyrs to die like men. Assurance gives a man comfort and peace in life.
2. Nothing will ever make a man so bold in the cause of Christ as an assurance of his saving union with Christ. Never did the world meet such bold men as John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Paul, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Edwards, and Whitfield. And what was the source of their boldness? — Assurance.
3. There is nothing that will enable a man to deny himself and seek the glory of Christ in this world like the assurance of salvation in Christ.
4. And there is nothing that will so strengthen a man in the hour of death as the assurance of his pardon and acceptance before God in Christ Jesus. — “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Do you see how important it is for us to have this assurance spoken of so much in the Book of God? It is not a thing to be despised, or lightly esteemed. Next to having faith in your hearts, there is nothing I can desire more for you than that you enjoy in your hearts the assurance of faith.
Proposition: God has given us, as His children, the personal experience of His grace, the promise of His Word, and the ministry of the Gospel to help us gain and preserve the assurance of faith.
Divisions: In our text this John sets before us THREE HELPS TO ASSURANCE.
Assurance is a blessed thing. I want us all to enjoy it. But it is not possible for us to enjoy the assurance of salvation, unless we have a present, personal experience of Divine grace (v. 10).
1 John 5:10 (10) He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.
John uses the language of the present tense. He speaks of personal experience. It is as though he was telling us that our assurance cannot arise from yesterday’s experience. If I am to enjoy the blessed assurance of salvation, the grace of God must be presently active in my soul. True faith is a living, continuous grace. — “He that believeth on the Son of God.” It is not he that believed, but “he that believeth.” Faith is not so much an isolated act as it is a living principle. — “The just shall live by faith.”
· We believe on Christ with our hearts.
· We rest confidently in His righteousness, death, and resurrection for the hope of eternal life.
· We trust Christ completely and continually.
· This faith in Christ is the gift, grace, and operation of God the Holy Ghost working in us. — He alone gives us faith. — He alone works faith in us.
If our faith is genuine, there is a witness in our hearts that confirms it. — “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” God has sent His Spirit into our hearts to bear witness, to assure us that we are the children of God (Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:13, 4:30).
Romans 8:16 (16) The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
Galatians 4:4-6 (4) But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, (5) To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (6) And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Ephesians 1:12-14 (12) That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (13) In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (14) Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 4:30 (30) And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
Not only does the true believer have the outward garments of religion, he has the inward witness of the Spirit. In his own heart he has a witness for Christ. He can from his own heart’s experience affirm what Christ has done for his soul.
Such is the assurance of the true believer. His heart bears witness to the truth of the Gospel. What he experiences in his heart, he cannot deny. This is the present, personal witness of the grace of God experienced in our hearts. It is not perfect; but it is sure. God Himself has given us this witness so that we might have assurance. Without this inner witness, assurance is not possible.
Every unbeliever displays constant contempt of God by his unbelief. — “He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son.” God has graciously condescended to give undeniable proofs of the Gospel. Yet, the unbeliever will not be convinced. His heart, with its enmity against God, will not submit to the truth of God. Man prefers to accuse the God of truth of lying than to submit to His incontestable revelation. Here is the sinfulness of man’s unbelief; it makes God a liar. What contempt, hatred, and malice the heart of man harbors against the God of glory! — You cannot choose to trust Christ; but you do choose not to trust Him. — Faith is not the work of your free-will. Unbelief is!
The Lord has given us a second help to assurance — We have the promise of His word (vv. 11-12).
1 John 5:11-12 (11) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (12) He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
He knows that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked. And He knows that we fear being deceived by the witness of our hearts. So, in anticipation of our need, our great and gracious heavenly Father gave us the witness of His Word to assure our hearts. Here is the ground of our assurance. — We must rely upon the promise of God.
This is the essence of God’s testimony concerning his Son. — “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” This is the sum and substance of the Gospel. This is the essence of God’s record. This is the message of God’s Book.
Eternal life is the gift of God to sinful men. Eternal life speaks not only of the length of our new life, but also of the quality of that life that is ours in Christ Jesus. Eternal life is a free-grace gift of God, sovereignly bestowed upon poor, lost sinners, dead in trespasses and in sin.
· It was given to us in the decrees of God before the world began.
· It is given to us upon the merits of Christ’s finished work.
· It is given to us in the new birth. — This is the first resurrection.
· It will be given to us in perfection in the glory of heaven.
This eternal life is in Christ. — “And this life is in his Son” (John 1:4; Colossians 3:4; 1 John 1:2).
John 1:1-4 (1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) The same was in the beginning with God. (3) All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (4) In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
Colossians 3:1-4 (1) If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. (2) Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (3) For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. (4) When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
1 John 1:1-3 (1) That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (2) (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) (3) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Here is the promise of the Gospel. — “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” — “He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life!” Every soul that is born-again, every soul that believes on Christ, every soul that has Christ living in his heart by faith has, at this very moment, eternal life.
· We have this new, eternal life itself.
· We have the right and title to eternal life.
· We have the pledge of eternal life.
Being united to Christ by a living faith, we have eternal life and the witness of life in our hearts. If you are not united to Christ you do not have eternal life. If Christ does not dwell in your heart by faith, you are dead in sin, alienated from God, and the wrath of God abides upon you.
There is a third help God has graciously given to help us that we may have and enjoy the assurance of salvation. — He has given us the ministry of the Gospel (v. 13).
1 John 5:13 (13) 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.
If we would have the assurance of our saving interest in Christ, we must grow by the ministry of the Gospel. One purpose for which our Lord Jesus gave Gospel preachers to His Church is that the people of God might grow in the knowledge of Christ (John 20:31; Colossians 2:2; Ephesians 4:8-16).
John 20:31 (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.
Colossians 2:1-3 (1) For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; (2) That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; (3) In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Ephesians 4:8-16 (8) Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (9) (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? (10) He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) (11) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (13) Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
I see these three things in our 1st John 5:13. — “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. Gospel preaching is essential for a well-grounded assurance. — “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.” — Here John is speaking of the whole scope of his instruction in this epistle, especially those things in this context. The lesson is this, — it is essential for God’s servants to expound the doctrines of the Gospel, if his hearers are to grow in assurance. If we are believers, the more we know of Christ the more we will be assured of that salvation which He has accomplished. Not only does faith come by hearing the Gospel, faith also grows and increases by the preaching of the Gospel.
2. It is possible and desirable for the people of God to have an assured faith. — “that ye may know that ye have eternal life.”
3. Those who have eternal life will go on believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. — “And that ye may believe (or keep on believing) on the name of the Son of God.” — True faith never quits!
Nothing will more inspire the saints of God than the Gospel of God; reading the Book of God, and hearing the Gospel preached. God’s people grow in the knowledge of Christ, and they grow in confidence toward him, as they are fed by the Gospel.
1 John 5:10-13 (10) He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son. (11) And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (12) He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (13) 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.
Shortly after reading John Newton’s hymn — “`Tis a Point I Long to Know,” his friend Daniel Herbert (a Baptist pastor) wrote another hymn by which he hoped to help his friend Mr. Newton and others like him struggling with assurance. It goes like this…
“What is this point you long to know,
Methinks I hear you say, “tis this —
I want to know I’m born of God,
An heir of everlasting bliss.”
Is this the point you long to know?
The point is settled in my view —
For if you want to love your God,
It proves He first loved you.
I want to know Christ died for me,
I want to feel the seal within;
I want to know Christ's precious blood,
Was shed to wash away my sin.
I want to feel more love to Christ,
I want more liberty in prayer;
But when I looked within my heart,
It almost drives me to despair.
I want a mind more firmly fixed,
On Christ, my everlasting Head;
I want to feel my soul alive,
And not so barren and so dead.
I want more faith, a stronger faith,
I want to feel its power within;
I want to feel more love to God,
I want to feel less love to sin.
I want to live above the world,
And count it all but trash and toys;
I want more tokens of God's grace,
Some foretaste of eternal joys.
I want — I know not what I want,
I want that real, that special good;
Yet all my wants are summed up here,
I want to love! I want my God!
Is this the point you long to know?
The dead can neither feel nor see;
It is the slave that's bound in chains,
That knows the worth of liberty.
So where a want like this is found,
I think I may be bold to say:
That God has fixed within thy heart,
What hell can never take away.
However small thy grace appears,
There's plenty in thy Living Head;
These wants you feel, my Christian friend,
Were never found amongst the dead.”
Oh, may God the Holy Spirit give each of you faith in Christ and the sweet assurance of faith in Christ that will enable you to sing with joyful confidence in your hearts…
“Blessed assurance! Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory Divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood!”