I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
(Rom 8:16) The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
The Word of God teaches that it is very essential that we have assurance of our salvation. One of the duties of the Holy Spirit is to bear witness to a child of God that he is saved. If this has not been done, something is radically wrong.
There are many people today who do not know whether they are saved or not. They think that assurance is something extra that some Christians have and others do not have. Others "think" or "hope" they are saved, but are not certain. Still others "feel" they are saved at times, but then that feeling seems to leave them and they are plunged into a state of uncertainty again. There are still others who have an assurance - but it is a false assurance, a carnal security, that has lulled them to sleep and kept them from seeking Jesus Christ, who alone can give them that blessed assurance.
The purpose of this booklet is to help those who are in bondage and darkness into that marvelous liberty and light which is in Jesus Christ. It is the prayer of the writer that this message will reach those who can be blessed by it, so that it will bring "release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, [and] set at liberty them that are bruised'' (Luke 4:18) .
- Maynard A. Force
Those Who HaveFalse Assurance
Jesus said, (Matt 7:21-23) "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"
Notice first of all that this group numbers "many." "Many will say to me in that day." How sad that there are "many" that are in the class of those who have false assurance. Is it any wonder that Jesus pleaded, (Matt 7:13-14)"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
What sobering words: "many" and "few"! Many lost and few saved. Surely these words should arrest the attention of every one of us. Could it be possible that anyone reading these lines is in the class of those who have a false assurance?
Notice also that these people with false assurance were even preaching. "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name?" In other words, "Lord, Lord, did we not preach?" Not only did they preach - they preached in Jesus' name, yet they were not saved. The name of Jesus was often on their lips. They had the head knowledge to be sure, but not the heart knowledge. Any person with the gift of speech and a normal mind can stand up and talk in religious terms, but that does not prove he is saved. The apostle John warns us to try the spirits because ''many false prophets are gone out into the world'' (1 John 4:1). Remember, Jesus warns us there will be "many" such "workers of iniquity." One of the signs of the last days is that (Matt 24:11-12) "Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold."
These "false assurance" people were very active in religious work. Their very results helped to deceive them. Even the demons were subject to them. What a feeling of satisfaction must have been theirs when they by Jesus' name cast out demons. It would have been foolish of the devil not to have been obedient to the demands of these "many" if he could thus deceive them and keep them in false assurance. Satan will do anything to deceive people. Remember, he is known as the deceiver.
This group of "false assurance" people are deceived into believing that they have done "many mighty works." Their joy evidently was in their own accomplishments. They failed to see that their rejoicing should be in what Jesus had done rather than in their own works, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Eph 2:8-9)
They could well remember "many mighty works." How different this is from the attitude of God's children, who will some day say, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" (Matt. 25:37-39).
The "false assurance" group has a horrible ending. Jesus will profess to them, "I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity." Notice, He did not say, "I knew you when you worked in my name"; no, "I never knew you." Any work done for Jesus by anyone who is not His child is worthless, for "they that are in the flesh cannot please God'' (Rom. 8:8). No one with a false assurance, regardless of what he does in the name of the Lord, can please God. He is a worker of iniquity. He is living in sin. He has refused to walk the way of repentance. He has despised the way of the cross, which is the way of confession and dealing with sin. To all such the Lord has but one answer, ''Depart from me." They deceived themselves with a false assurance; they deceived others with their "mighty works"; but Christ they did not deceive. Therefore they hear the most fearful words that can ever come from our Saviour's lips, "Depart from me."
I know of no better way to sum up false assurance than by the answer Jesus gave to the question, "Then one said to Him, 'Lord, are there few who are saved?' And He said to them, 'Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity."(Luke 13:23-27).
What a blessing if those with false assurance could wake up before "the master of the house is risen up, and has shut the door." That day may be very near at hand. It behooves every one of us to check so we are certain we do not have a false assurance. Let us not forget that the devil is a deceiver and has ''many'' in this snare. Let us beware lest we take ourselves for granted and eventually be lost.
Those Who Lack Assurance
There is much confusion on the subject of lack of assurance. There are those who preach and teach that some are saved, but only lack assurance. Assurance to them seems to be something extra, something that some Christians have and others do not have. I personally believe that such preaching is one reason why our Lutheran Church is what it is today. It is upon the pillow of this teaching that many people are sleeping. Year after year passes by and still they sleep on. Let us pray that God's Word will awaken them before it is too late. Let us turn to see what God's Word has to say about those who lack assurance.
Lack of assurance is serious. Something is wrong with anyone who lacks assurance. Paul writes to the Romans, "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). If this were the only verse in the Bible to prove that a person should know he is saved, it would be sufficient. The Lord never makes a statement and then disproves it. Whenever "the Spirit himself'' cannot bear this witness, something is standing in the way. The Holy Spirit has been hindered in His work of grace and can go no further. The individual may be awakened, to be sure, but that is notsalvation. It is only the beginning. The individual may even be a seeker, but a seeker is not saved. "For many . . . shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able'' (Luke 13:24).
Dr. C. F. W. Walther, in his book Law and Gospel, writes, "There are people who regard themselves as good Christians although they are spiritually dead. They have never felt a real anguish on account of their sins; they have never been filled with terror on account of them, have never been appalled by the thought of the hell which they have deserved, have never been on their knees before God, bewailing with bitter tears their awful, damnable condition under sin. Much less have they wept sweet tears of joy and glorified God for His mercy. They read and hear the Word of God without being specially impressed by it. They go to church and receive absolution without feeling refreshed; they attend Holy Communion without any inward sensation and remain as cold as ice. Occasionally, when they become inwardly agitated because of their indifference in matters concerning their salvation and because of their lack of appreciation of God's Word, they try to quiet their heart with the reflection that the Lutheran Church teaches that the lack of spiritual feeling is of no moment. They reason that this lack cannot harm them and that they can be good Christians notwithstanding, because they consider themselves believers.
''However, they labor under a grievous self-delusion. People in that condition have nothing but the dead faith of the intellect, a specious faith, or, to express it still more drastically, a lip faith. They may say with their mouths 'I believe,' but their heart is not conscious of it. No, indeed; a person who cannot say, in accordance with Psalm 34:8, that he has tasted and seen that the Lord is good must not regard himself as being in a state of true faith. Moreover, the apostle Paul says, Rom. 8:16: "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God." Can the Holy Spirit bear this witness in us without our feeling it? The witness in court must speak loud enough for the judge to hear. The same is necessary in this case. According to God's Word any person who has never felt the testimony of the Spirit that he is the child of God is spiritually dead. He can offer no testimony in his favor and does wrong by considering himself a Christian nevertheless.''
Lack of assurance is a sign of unbelief. Faith and assurance go hand in hand. "Faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen'' (Heb. 11:1).
Notice the first three words from this quotation, "Faith is assurance." Then it is clear that if we do not have assurance it is because we do not have faith. If that be the case, we are unbelievers. This same truth is clearly brought out in I John 5:12. "He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life". (1 John 5:10-12). Notice that he that truly believes "has the witness in himself'' and "has life." Notice also that he that believes not "has made him a liar."That is a serious offense. Furthermore, it is evident from this Scripture that such an unbeliever is not a Christian, for he "has not the life." That is God's own word and that should be final.
The unbeliever is given a serious classification in God's catalog of sinners. "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."(Rev. 21:8). Notice that the unbeliever is put in the same class as "murderers and fornicators.'' They are together doomed to eternal damnation.
Quoting again from Dr. Walther, we read, "It would be awful if any of you would have to retire this evening with the thought in his heart: 'I do not know whether God is gracious to me, whether He has accepted me as His child, and whether my sins are forgiven. If God were to call me hence tonight, I would not be sure whether I should die saved.' God grant that no one of you will retire in that frame of mind; for he would lie down to rest with the wrath of God abiding on him."
Lack of assurance is bondage. It carries with it fear and unrest. Paul writing to the Romans says, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father.'' (Rom. 8:15). If then we lack assurance, we are dominated by the spirit of bondage. There is no joy to a soul who does not know whether or not he is saved, but rather a "fearful expectation of judgment." The opposite is true of a child of God. "You received the spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, Abba, FATHER." Note the wording. "You received," not something you might get, or something only a certain few have, but something you have already received. "The spirit of adoption"- what a beautiful description of the Holy Spirit! Moffatt's translation reads, "The spirit of sonship.'' That is as different from the spirit of bondage as day is from night.
Martin Luther writes, " 'You have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, father.' This crying (Abba, Father) is felt when one's conscience, without wavering and questioning, conceives a staunch boldness to be quite certain, not only that his sins have been forgiven, but also that he is a child of God, assured of his salvation, and may with a cheerful and assured heart and with all confidence call God his dear Father and cry to Him. Of these things he must be more certain than his very life, and must be ready to suffer every kind of death, and hell in addition, rather than allow this assurance to be taken from him by yielding to doubt.
"True there may come a strife in a Christian causing him an anxious feeling, leading him to think he is not a child of God, and to imagine and feel that God is anangry, stern judge, as happened to Job and many others.But in a conflict of this kind, childlike confidence, though trembling and quaking, must conquer in the end or everything is lost."
Lack of assurance is a sign of a reprobate. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, admonishes them, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?(are reprobate)" II Cor. 13:5. What a solemn statement! If this warning was fitting for the Corinthians, surely it would be in place for us also. Paul asked them to check up on themselves. "Test yourselves, whether you are in the faith." Then he asks, "Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?" He is surprised if they do not know. He does not add, "Of course, you are saved and do not know it." No, he quickly reminds them, "Unless indeed you be reprobate." Reprobates, or outcasts, do not have Holy Spirit assurance. Therefore, now is the time to "try your own selves'' and "prove your own selves'' to see whether you are in the faith.
Lack of assurance is a sign of blindness. Those who lack assurance have failed to lay hold of one of the most blessed truths in all of God's Word. Satan is still holding them in darkness, "and even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to them that perish: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn upon them'' (II Cor.4:3, 4). Notice the seriousness of the statement. "It is veiled in them that perish." Lost people are blind. They just cannot see what God's children see. It is Satan's desire to keep them in this darkness until it is too late. Therefore blind people should never be comforted to believe all is well. It were far better that they might become conscious of their terrible state. It is only when people realize they are lost that they begin to seek Christ in dead earnest. As Martin Luther puts it: "God never comforts any but the afflicted, just as he never quickens unto life any but the dead. Nor ever justifies any but sinner."
Lack of assurance is a sign of no testimony. Peter writes that we should be ''ready always to give answer to every man that asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear'' (1 Pet. 3:15). One who lacks assurance has no hope. It would be embarrassing for such a one to be asked a reason concerning the hope that is in him. Before I found peace with God, I had an inward fear of the question, "Are you saved?'' Now that same question gives me a great joy. It offers an opportunity "to give answer to every man that asks'' a reason concerning the hope that is in me. This hope is not one that is to come, but rather "the hope that is in you," something you now have.
These are only a few verses that show the seriousness of not having assurance. Yet there are those who are deceived into believing they are saved when they are still in darkness, unbelief, bondage and blindness. How itmust disturb Satan to have any of these souls wake up and earnestly seek salvation. He must do all he can to keep this truth from those in darkness, or he will lose many of his captives. We therefore see from God's Word that it is a very serious matter not to have assurance.
Those Who Have Holy Spirit Assurance
Assurance is the work of the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God." No human being can give assurance, although some have tried. I have heard people say, "I was told I was saved.'' Well and good, but if the Spirit of God did not bear witness, such assurance is worthless. It is like paper money with no gold or silver to back it up. Some sermons are preached giving people the understanding that they are all Christians. That is more than Christ himself did. When He wrote the letters to the seven churches in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, the promise in each case was given not to the entire church, but to the "overcomers" in the church. The giving of assurance must be the work of "the Spirit Himself'' for He alone knows who truly are children of God. He would never miss one. He is the Comforter and loves to comfort by witnessing to us that we are God's children.
It is a serious offense to take the place of the Holy Spirit. More of this is done than we realize. In our mechanical age we have placed the emphasis on the church machinery rather than on the Holy Spirit. We are so bent on "producing results'' and "making a show''that often we do not wait on the Holy Spirit. We usher people into our church membership who never should be members. We try to ease consciences of people whom the Holy Spirit will not release. We are in danger of giving assurance where the Holy Spirit has never borne witness.
In Old Testament times, the anointing oil for the high priest, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, was not to be imitated. "Whoever compounds any like it, or whoever puts any of it on an outsider, shall be cut off from his people."(Ex. 30:33). This anointing oil was to be poured on God's appointed priest, and not on every Tom, Dick and Harry. It was poured only upon the garments of the priest; not a drop was to be poured upon his flesh, for God never anoints ''the flesh." "Upon the flesh of man shall it not be poured . . . it shall be holy unto you'' (Ex. 30:32). God chooses those who are dressed in His robe of righteousness to be anointed with His sweet-smelling oil of gladness. God save any of us from pouring imitation oil upon strangers.
The entire First Epistle of John is written "that you may know that you have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God'' (1 John 5:13). Many understand this to mean that the Epistle is written to Christians who believed but who did not have assurance. That is not true. Rather, this Epistle is written in order that these people may be sure they have the right kind of assurance. Moffatt's translation throws light on this point. "I have written in this way to you, who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may be sure you have life eternal." A paraphrase of the verse would read something like this: "These checks and tests on assurance I have written unto you, that you may be assured you are the possessors of the genuine God-given eternal life, you who believe on the Son of God." The verses just previous to the above verse leave no doubt in our minds as to the teaching of the Epistle on assurance. These have already been discussed under another heading. Just to note again: "He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in him." In other words, if we have saving faith we have the witness in us, and we know we are children of God.
Then follows the verse, "These things have I written unto you, that you may know that you have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God''
(v.13). To say, then, that John's Epistle is written to Christians who do not have assurance is reading something into Scripture that is not there. Furthermore, the entire contents of the Epistle teach the opposite. John states, "I write unto you, fathers, because you know him . . . I have written unto you, little children, because you know the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because you know him'' (1 John 2:13,14). Let us therefore look at some of the tests or checks that John gives in his Epistle to help us make sure we are saved. We will confine ourselves to this Epistle alone and by no means try to exhaust it.
The first check of true assurance we will call the sin test.A person's attitude toward sin reveals whether he has a Holy Spirit assurance or a false assurance. Let us first look at those who have the wrong attitude toward sin and thus are building on a false assurance.
A person who hides sin is under a false assurance. "If we say we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth'' (1 John 1:6). Just think of the many people today who are deceiving themselves into believing that they are saved simply because they are members of some church. Their lives show that they are "in darkness"; they hide their sins and they love the world. God's Word is clear that "if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). A person who is walking in darkness does not see where he is going. God's Word has not been permitted to light his steps. He simply has a little head knowledge of the Lord, but his heart is as dark as can be. He is so blinded he does not even see that he is lost. That is the worst darkness into which a soul can get. It is the beginning of eternal darkness. If that is our condition, John writes, "We lie, and do not the truth," All such people are lost, and have a false assurance.
A person who says he has no sin is not saved either. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us'' (1 John 1:8). Whenever we say "we have no sin," it is a sign we are blind. The Holy Spirit has not yet been permitted to do in our hearts His first work of convicting us of sin. For "he, when he comes, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment'' (John 16:8). All who have missed the Holy Spirit conviction of sin are in the class of the self-righteous, and the truth is not in them. They are lost and blind. They are deceived. They have the wrong kind of assurance.
A person who says he has not sinned is also lost. "If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (1 John 1:10). To deny sin is an offense against God. We then pitch our word against His, and make Him a liar. Regardless of who we are or how holy we may seem to others, "If we say that we have not sinned," we are lost; "the truth is not in us." Such assurance is false.
On the other hand, there are those who have the right attitude toward sin, and enjoy a Holy Spirit-wrought assurance. All such, John maintains, are walking in the light. "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin'' (1 John 1:7). To walk in the light means we have come out from our dark hiding places. We have exposed our sins rather than hid them; there are no "closet skeletons." We are the same at our place of work as we are in church. The entire heart has been exposed. The door of confession that leads to the heart has been opened and Christ has entered. We see Him as the crucified Savior who died for us. As a result we have found others who have gone through the same experience and "we have fellowship one with another." Our guilt has been cleansed, and we are freefrom a nagging, gnawing conscience. The relief is so wonderful that words cannot explain it. We have found a peace "which passes all understanding." This is true assurance.
Those with a Holy Spirit-wrought assurance confess sin. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'' (1 John 1:9). This verse is so simple and definite that even a child can understand it, sins must be confessed or there can be no Holy Spirit wrought assurance. We are warned, "He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." (Prov.28:13). What a simple truth. It is when we "confess our sins'' that we find out God's promise is good. "He is faithful''-not that He "might be faithful'' at death, but that He "is faithful'' now. And notice, "to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." When we confess the sins which the Holy Spirit is pointing out in our lives, He cleanses us not only from these sins, but also from "all unrighteousness.'' Our attitude to these pointed out sins is also our attitude to all our sins. You really know when you get that kind of cleansing. It always feels good to wash after getting dirty from the filth and dirt of this earth. It is even more wonderful to be really cleansed by our Lord Jesus Christ.
The second check of true assurance is the Word test. A person's attitude toward the Word of God tells a lot. John writes, "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him."
(1 John 2:3-5). There can be no true assurance which is not based upon a right relationship to the Word of God. Just as a newborn child desires milk, so one who has received the life hungers for the Word. Nothing else can satisfy him. It is either the Word or death. The teachings of the Word receive the place of primary importance. They have become the final authority. The great desire of the child of God is to ''keep his word." It has become to him "sweeter also than honey and the droppings of the honeycomb"
(Ps.19:10) His entire salvation is based on it. It is the foundation upon which he stands. Upon this Word "He meditates day and night"(Ps. 1:2). He has learned to realize the truth of Jesus' statement, "You are clean because of the word which I have spoken to you'' (John 15:3).
Notice what strong language John uses to describe one who says he is a Christian but has the wrong attitude toward the Word. Such a one, he says, "is a liar, and the truth is not in him." That settles once and for all the classification of the many people today who reject or persistently neglect God's Word, for "how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation'' (Heb. 2:3). Samuel told King Saul, "Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you." (1 Sam. 15:23). It is a serious thing then not to keep God's Word. This class who insist they are saved, John calls liars. They fail in the Word test.
Then, again, notice how positive he is to one who keeps the Word of God. "Truly the love of God is perfected in him,'' and "By this we know that we are in Him." Such assurance is genuine. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. It stands the Word test.
The third test of assurance is the love test. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death." (1 John 3:14). Anyone who claims assurance and does not have love for other believers is deceiving himself. How abrupt this statement! " He who does not love his brother abides in death." One way to know then whether or not we have real assurance is if we "love the brethren.'' Jesus' command was "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you." Then He gives the universal sign of discipleship when He adds, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another'' (John 13:34, 35). If we truly have love for one another, we have assurance, and others also are assured we are disciples. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love."
(1 John 4:7,8). Again this same truth is repeated; "If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us." (1 John 4:12). Note, also, that love leads the list of the fruit of the Spirit. "The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace. . '' (Ga1.5:22,23). This verifies what Paul wrote to the Romans, "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (Rom. 5:5). To talk about assurance and not have love is foolish. " He who does not love his brother abides in death." He is as lost as can be, even though he may be religious. "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also." (1 John 4:20, 21). The Lord is very practical in this test. How easy for us to say we love God. "All right," says God, "he that does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." Anyone who hates does not have Holy Spirit-wrought assurance. He fails in this test.
The fourth test of true assurance is the Spirit's test. "And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us." (1 John 3:24). This same thought is repeated almost verbatim in the following chapter. "By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit." (1 John 4:13). After all, it is the witness of the Spirit that counts. However, we are warned to "prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). It is possible for a spirit not of God to give false assurances. Therefore, it is necessary for us to "prove the spirits.'' When the Holy Spirit bears witness, one knows it, for "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II Cor. 3:17). Another mark of the Spirit's presence is life and peace (Rom. 8:6). But His witness cannot be entirely described in words; it must be experienced. He who has the blessed assurance can testify that he has an inward joy that cannot be compared to any joy found in this world. Dr. C. F. W. Walther writes: "Furthermore, the apostle writes, Rom.14:17 : 'the kingdom of God is . . . righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.' The joy of which the apostle speaks is not worldly, or carnal joy, but spiritual joy. A person that has tasted all the other joys except the last is spiritually dead."
A mechanical or dead faith never results in having Holy Spirit-wrought assurance. Our catechism states that a dead faith "consists in taking to oneself the comfort of God's gracious promises without repentance and good works." There is much dead faith in our day. What a sin and crime to tell people with such a faith that they are saved, but lack assurance! God's Word is clear on this point. "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him" (1 John 5:10). It is a sin for any of us to tell people promiscuously "you are saved.'' How do we know? Who are we to take the place of the Holy Spirit? If an individual doubts and has not "the witness in him," is it not better we treat him accordingly, rather than give him a sleeping pill? We often take too much for granted. God forgive us. Far be it from any of us to be satisfied with anything less than what satisfies God. If a person truly believes on the Son of God, he has the witness in him. And if he does not have this witness, something is wrong. He then fails in the Spirit test.
Martin Luther writes: "If you do not feel the crying of the Spirit, resolve never to quit praying till God hears you; for you are a Cain, and your spiritual condition is not what it should be."
We have thus checked our assurance with four tests that John sets forth in his Epistle. We have endeavored to do as Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Try your own selves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves'' (II Cor. 13:5). Each one of us will have to answer for our "own selves.'' God grant, dear friends, we may be able to pass these tests by His grace. Nothing should concern us more. Our catechism asks the question, "What should be your chief concern in this life?" The answer is well worded: "My chief concern in this life should be that I might be saved.'' The answer is easily given, but let each one ask himself seriously, "Is that my chief concern?"
How To Get Assurance
The Word of God is full of examples of people who received assurance. We cannot find one case in the entire New Testament of a Christian who did not have assurance. Is it not then strange and peculiar that in our day there are many people who do not have assurance? All the New Testament Christians had a positive testimony of what Jesus had done for them. The blind man, for example, said, "One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see." (John 9:25). What a positive assurance! The personal meeting with Jesus was such a glorious experience that nothing in all of life compared to it.
Jesus stated plainly, "I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father." (John 10:14,15). Here in no uncertain words Jesus relates the true relationship between Himself and His own. He even compares our relationship to Him as that of the relationship that He had with the Father. If this is the pattern set before us by Jesus, surely we should not be satisfied with anything less.
Jesus Christ has not changed, for He "is the same yesterday and today, and for ever'' (Heb. 13:8). It is the purpose of the Word to acquaint us today with this living Savior "whom to know is life eternal." Let us then seek from the Word to know Him.
There is only one way. Remember the words of Christ when He said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). It is interesting to note here that Jesus is not only the way, but also the life. We want to know the way that leads us to the life. But this is the way of the cross, and it is not popular. Many ridicule those who take it. The one requirement to all who come to the cross is that they be sin-burdened. Self-righteous people are in no condition to be saved. They waste their time at the cross. They only find much there to criticize and ridicule. Their head is overstuffed with their own ideas about salvation until there is no room for God's great plan of salvation. Such self-righteous sinners can never receive Holy Spirit-wrought assurance; they must pass on and take to themselves false assurance. The sacred place at the cross is only for the lost. For Jesus "came to seek and to save that which was lost'' (Luke 19:10). It is those who have nothing but sin who come here. The law has utterly undone them; they realize what the Word means when it says "that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God'' (Rom. 3:19). They have nothing good to say for themselves. They cry in despair like the publican of old, "God be merciful to me a sinner."
These are the Father's gift to Jesus, for He himself once said, "All that which the Father gives me shall come unto me." Such, in their lowly position beneath the cross, confess their sins. There they find the cleansing powerof Jesus' blood, for "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'' (1 John 1:9). I praise my God for the day He took me out of the class of the self-righteous who needed no salvation and revealed to me my lost condition. What a revelation! I thought I was too good to be lost. I was a faithful attendant at church; I was a teacher in the Sunday school; I took Communion; I did not drink and carouse like many whom I knew. Surely I must be a Christian. But one day I saw clearly that in spite of all my religion and morality, I was lost.After three months of struggling to better myself, I found my way to the cross. I found that "the way'' led to "the truth." I experienced the verse, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free'' (John 8:32). I found out also that it led to ''the life."Now I praise God that He knocked the false foundation from under me, so that I sank in despair. That is what led me to the cross.
It is at the cross that the Holy Spirit can reveal Jesus to us. We never see Jesus until we fall prostrate before the cross. Then the Holy Spirit, who is the Comforter, gently lifts our head and whispers, ''Look.'' Jesus never appears more beautiful than to a prostrate sinner. A look at Him melts the hardest sinner. We begin to realize the price that He paid for our salvation. "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him'' (II Cor. 5:21). What a wonderful Savior! All of this He did because He loved us.
It is because of Jesus' dying on the cross that we can be sure. Jesus himself cried out before dying, "It is finished.'' Nothing else need be done. He tasted death for every man. "He died for all'' (II Cor. 5:15). The price of redemption was paid so that no one need go lost because of his sins. All who come to Jesus Christ, the Savior of "the whole world'' (1 John 2:2), can be saved. Our assurance is based solely on what Jesus has done for us.
It is at the cross that "the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God'' (Rom.8:16). Only as we look to Jesus does the Holy Spirit bear this witness; no other One is good enough. It is while looking to Jesus in the Word that we are given faith to believe. Bible verses we have read many times previous now unfold to us like flowers. How living and real they become. A heavenly relaxation comes over us! "The old things are passed away; behold, they are become new'' (II Cor. 5:17). Assurance is now our possession. Whereas we once "hoped" or "thought" we were saved we now know that we are saved. A miracle has taken place. The horror of being lost has left us. We are "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ'' (Rom. 8:17). "The spirit of bondage'' has been broken, for we have received "the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father'' (Rom.8:15). What a blessed day, that day at the cross, when "the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God." God then puts a new song into our hearts.
"Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood."
Maynard A Force
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