Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SCRIPTURAL ASSURANCE OF SALVATION?”

First John 5.13

 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   I have read most of the books written by the most famous “soul winners” of the 20th century.  I have listened to most of the tapes produced by the most famous “soul winners” of the 20th century.

2.   I am sad to say that there are a number of grievous, unwarranted, and unscriptural assumptions implicit in the approach to “soul winning” that I have seen employed by all the famous 20th century soul winners I have been exposed to.

3.   First, the most common approach to “soul winning” in the 20th century assumed the Holy Spirit would always convict a sinner of his sins at the time the “soul winner” was witnessing to him.  That is an assumption that is not supported by scripture or personal experience.  Sinners are sometimes convicted of their sins by the Holy Spirit when they are witnessed to, but sometimes they are not convicted by the Holy Spirit while they are being witnessed to.  Sometimes the Spirit of God convicts later, rather than at the time the “soul winner” is presenting the plan of salvation.

4.   Next, the most common approach to “soul winning” in the 20th century assumed that the terminology used by the “soul winner” was clearly understood by the sinner.  That is an unwarranted assumption.  Sinners frequently have no accurate concept of the Jesus Christ of the Bible, of the God of the Bible, of the scriptural notion of sin, or of their own depravity.  How important is understanding?  Without understanding there is no conversion.[1]

5.   Here is a third assumption.  The 20th century approach to “soul winning” assumes that the convicting work of the Holy Spirit will be completed at the time the “soul winner” finishes his presentation of the gospel.  To be sure, that was the case when Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost.  But it was his audience’s response to his preaching that revealed they had been prepared by the Holy Spirit to respond to the gospel, not the fact that Peter just happened to have finished his sermon that lasted who knows how long.

6.   Here is a fourth, terrible assumption.  The 20th century approach to “soul winning” assumed that the Holy Spirit would be prepared to regenerate the spiritually dead sinner at the precise moment the “soul winner” was coaxing the sinner to pray the sinner’s prayer, and that when that fellow mouthed the words of the sinner’s prayer he was presumed to be born again.

7.      Understand, no real effort was made by advocates of the typical 20th century approach to soul winning to ascertain the spiritual condition of the person who had only moments before prayed the sinner’s prayer.  It was just assumed that anyone who prayed such a prayer had to be born again, and that any doubt on the part of the “soul winner” that the sinner who followed in mouthing the words of the sinner’s prayer was simply showing a lack of faith.

8.   But it is the next step in the typical 20th century approach to “soul winning” that I want to speak to you about this morning.  It is what the typical 20th century “soul winner” was trained to do after he had led a sinner in the sinner’s prayer; giving assurance of salvation.

9.   Whether it be a personal evangelism class given in Bible college, a “soul winning” book written by a famous 20th century “soul winner,” a set of “soul winning” tapes telling the eager Christian how to “win souls,” or a “soul winning” seminar conducted by a famous “soul winner,” I cannot recall the absence of this next step in the “soul winning” curriculum typically taught to sincere Christians who wanted to bring the lost to  Christ.

10. What is the next to the last final step?  What was every “soul winner” trained to do before he finished interacting with the “new Christian” by trying to obtain a commitment to come to the next scheduled church service?  Giving the “new Christian” assurance of salvation.

11. It is this aspect of the most common approach to “soul winning” in the 20th century that I want to deal with this morning, using the most common verse employed to give a “new Christian” assurance of his salvation, First John 5.13. 

12. Turn to that verse, and stand for the reading of God’s Word:  “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.”

13. It is clear from our text that the apostle John was seeking to give his readers assurance of their salvation.  What is not clear is why we are now so far removed from the apostle’s approach to giving his readers assurance of their salvation. 

14. To witness to a sinner, assuming that he understands what you are telling him, that he understands the words and truths you are sharing with him, assuming the Spirit of God is dealing with him, and assuming that feeling bad when he is finished means he is ready to get saved, and that he will get saved when he sincerely says the words you tell him to say, is bad enough. 

15. But then, on top of all that dangerous presumption, to then presume to give that poor soul assurance of his salvation!  Is it any wonder that so many of those who do attend church across America attend so irregularly, serve the Lord so sporadically if they serve in any way at all, and live unconsecrated and prayerless lives?

16. We have a bunch of people in every church who think they are Christians because someone gave them assurance of their salvation.  The only problem is that their assurance is not a scriptural assurance and they are not really born again.

17. Whatever happened to scriptural assurance of salvation?  Perhaps a right understanding of a few things will help to answer that question.

 

1A.    First, ASSURANCE OF SALVATION IS A TOPIC FOR CHRISTIANS ONLY

1B.      There can be no doubt that John’s goal was to bring his readers to a settled assurance of their salvation.  But who were his readers?  The first part of our text settles that question once and for all:  “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.”

2B.    But who are those who “believe on the name of the Son of God”?  According to John’s epistle, they are people who walk in the light, who agree with God’s appraisal of their sins, who readily admit to their own sinfulness, who are obedient, who love other Christians, who live consecrated lives, who confess Christ openly, and who overcome the world’s wicked influences.  This, in part, is how one knows that he really has believed on the name of the Son of God.

3B.    The problem with those who employed the typical “soul winning” philosophy common to the 20th century was that they sought to give assurance of salvation to everyone who bowed his head, closed his eyes, and mouthed the words he was told to repeat in order to become a Christian.  But what if he closed his eyes, bowed his head, and mouthed the words he was told to repeat in all sincerity, but did not get saved?  Tragically, he was still given assurance that he was a new Christian.

4B.    Oh, beloved, I remember my training very well.  As soon as the new Christian finished mouthing the words he was told to repeat, he was to be taken to First John 5.13, so he could be assured of his salvation.  The problem is that this was done without any discernment whatsoever to determine whether the new Christian was in fact a new Christian, or was still a lost sinner who had mouthed words given to him by a “soul winner.”

5B.    My friend, assurance of salvation is a topic that should only be discussed with those who are born again.  It was not until near the end of his epistle, in which he rehearsed again and again the behavior and beliefs of a person who had believed on the name of the Son of God, that John shows what proper conclusion should be drawn by the Christian.

6B.      Therefore, imagine the harm that is done when a “soul winner” takes some spiritually blind lost person, who has just mouthed words he was told to repeat, to First John 5.13, and there misapplies the verse to give that poor lost soul a false assurance of salvation.

7B.      Now you have a person who is dead in trespasses and sins, but he has been convinced that feeling a bit bad about sins and saying certain words with his eyes closed has made him a Christian.  He has been further convinced that it would be wrong for him to ever doubt that he is a Christian.

8B.    Oh, what terrible harm is done in the name of Christ by “soul winners” who think they have an holy obligation to give “new Christians” assurance of their salvation.  Assurance of salvation is a subject properly reserved for those who give real evidence of being genuinely converted.

 

2A.    Next, ASSURANCE OF SALVATION IS NOT A NECESSARY PART OF SALVATION

The middle phrase of our verse reads, “that ye may know that ye have eternal life”

1B.    Let me begin by clarifying in your minds the distinction between what is typically called eternal security and what I am dealing with in this sermon, which is the assurance of salvation.

1C.    Eternal security is more accurately referred to as the perseverance of the saints.  Eternal security is an objective fact.  It is the reality that the child of God will continue in his Christian life and will not finally fall away from the faith.  Those who seem for a time to be Christians, but who finally fall away from the faith, are by their falling away exposed as unbelievers.

2C.    Assurance of salvation, on the other hand, is subjective.  Assurance can be likened to a feeling, or a confidence, that is gained by the child of God through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit of God.

3C.    Thus, while all who are truly born again are eternally secure in Christ whether they are aware of that comforting fact or not, assurance of salvation is the decided conclusion that some Christians have concerning their relationship with Christ, a comfort to the soul that the relationship with Christ is real.

2B.    The great tragedies that have befallen us in these last days related to the assurance of salvation are two:

1C.    First, there is the great tragedy that a great many people, both saved and lost, have been given a false assurance that provides them with a false comfort that is detrimental to their spiritual well being.

2C.    Let me explain what I mean:  Assurance is supposed to be something that only the believer has, and that the believer has only when his walk with the Lord is spiritual and vibrant.  But false assurance has been given to many people based upon false conclusions, that convinces the unsaved person he is saved, and that contributes to a lack of spiritual growth and development by those who really are saved.

3C.    Next, and closely related to what I have just said, people think that assurance is so certainly guaranteed to everyone who professes to be a Christian that there is no real awareness that salvation and assurance of salvation are not the same thing.

3B.    The obvious reality that salvation and assurance of salvation are not the same thing, and cannot be the same thing, can be seen in this phrase:  “that ye may know that ye have eternal life.”  Think about it.  John is writing to believers.  But he is writing to believers to persuade them that they can be assured of their salvation.  That fact in itself proves that assurance properly comes after salvation and that assurance is not the same thing as salvation.

4B.    So you see, anyone who is convinced that assurance of salvation is the possession of every Christian, and that assurance of salvation must always be the immediate follow on after every profession of faith, thereby shows that he does not understand the precious doctrine of assurance.

5B.         Assurance is wonderful.  Every Christian can have assurance of his salvation.  But our text is proof positive that not all Christians do have assurance of their salvation.  As to the question of who is to give assurance to those who do not have it, perhaps assurance should be given by someone who knows for sure who is and who is not really saved.  Of course, that would be the Holy Spirit.

 

3A.    Finally, ASSURANCE OF SALVATION IS RELATED TO THE PRESENT NOT THE PAST

Our text verse concludes, “and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”

1B.      Notice that the apostle is not hearkening back to some event in the distant past, but is dealing with the Christian’s present, with an eye to the future.  You see, the difference between real assurance of salvation and what passes for assurance these days is the time frame involved.

2B.      Counterfeit assurance of salvation, the kind that is typical of most evangelicals and too many Baptists, sounds something like this:  “I know I am saved because I got saved twenty two years ago and was baptized.  My pastor showed me First John 5.13 to give me assurance.”

3B.      And here is how the conversation that gave that fellow a false assurance went:

1C.    The “soul winner” leads the sinner in a sinner’s prayer.  As soon as his eyes open and his head is raised the “soul winner” asks, “Did you pray that prayer?”  The sinner nods his head.  Then the “soul winner” asks, did you mean it?  Again, he nods his head.

2C.    Then the “soul winner” shows him First John 5.13 and reads it to him:  “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.”

3C.    “Did you believe on the name of the Son of God?”  The suggestion is so strong that the sinner will nod his head, affirming that he believed on the name of the Son of God, whether he did or didn’t.  The “soul winner” will then persuade him that for that reason he knows that he has eternal life.

4C.    Once that conversation has ended, whether or not that fellow ever shows up in church or not, or if he comes once or twice and gets baptized and then never goes to church again, it will be the one thing that fellow will cling to for the rest of his life to comfort himself that he is going to heaven.

4B.    But listen to just a couple of the passages from God’s Word that deal with assurance, and take note of the time frame involved:

1C.    Romans 8.14:  “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”  Notice the time frame.  It is the present.

2C.    Romans 8.16:  “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”  Again, the present time frame.

3C.    Let me give you one more, First John 2.3:  “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”

4C.    You can study your Bible yourself, but what you will find in each case is that scriptural assurance of salvation is always related to what is happening at the present time, not what happened in the past, even in the case of someone who really is born again.

5B.    Is that not the thrust of our text this morning?  Throughout John’s first epistle he calls attention to present activity in the Christian’s life to draw the conclusion, in First John 5.13, that assurance of salvation is warranted.

6B.      Thus, assurance of salvation is not something in the past that comforts your soul that you are presently saved so you will continue to believe.  It is present comfort that results from present activity so that you will presently continue to believe.

 

CONCLUSION:

1.   So, what happened to scriptural assurance of salvation?  Of course, I cannot be absolutely sure what happened, but I will hazard a guess.

2.   I am thinking that somewhere along the line some fellow who was unsaved, but who wanted to give himself and others like him a counterfeit assurance of salvation to comfort his troubled soul.

3.   You see, not being born again and without showing any really spiritual behavior in his present life, he had to base his assurance upon some event in the past.  There was nothing happening in the present to comfort him.

4.   Do you have assurance of your salvation?  Is it assurance resulting from present events and comforts to your soul, or do you base your assurance of salvation upon supposed events that occurred long ago?



[1] Matthew 13.19

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