Calvary Road Baptist Church

“REVISITING THIS MATTER OF ASSURANCE”, Part 3

(Personal assurance of salvation)

 

Are you a Christian?

How do you know you are a Christian?

What makes you so sure that what you think you know about your spiritual condition is a reflection of what is actually true? After all, you could be wrong about what you are sure is true.

Last week we considered the tendency of so many conservative Christians to base assurance of salvation on one’s certainty about an event that took place in the past, an event that may have been memorialized by writing a date, a time, and a place down on the flyleaf of a Bible.

Completely beside the fact that there is no scriptural support whatsoever for basing a person’s assurance of salvation on such a thing as a date, a time, and a place written down, how many people in this world must testify of coming to grips with the fact that they were lost even after they thought they were saved before we will admit that information written down on the flyleaf of a Bible means nothing if it is not actually true?

As well, when will people face up to the fact that making use of a single verse from a small New Testament epistle is not a legitimate approach to giving someone who repeated a prayer the assurance of his salvation. For one thing, it is not really assurance if it can be given to someone who is still lost. For another thing, no one has the right to presume the truth of anything that is based upon the testimony of a single witness.

Consider a situation in which a supposed soul winner knocked on the door of a subject and presumably led the subject to Christ by persuading him to repeat the sinner’s prayer. On that basis does the supposed soul winner try to give the subject assurance of his salvation? Does he seek to impart assurance by playing the role of a reliable witness to the salvation of the subject?

I ask you, even if the subject was converted, would the so-called soul winner be a witness to the fact of it? Of course, not. After all, what did he witness? He observed someone say some words, and nothing more than that. He does not know if the subject actually prayed, if the subject actually had faith, or if the faith was resting in the proper object of saving faith, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no way he could know such things.

However, let us suppose the so-called soul winner had powers no one actually possesses, and he actually saw the immaterial, actually observed someone’s soul being saved from sin. In such a case, could the subject then accept the testimony of the so-called soul winner and rest in the confidence that he was now a Christian based on the say so of that remarkable soul winner? No.

The reason no subject can properly derive assurance from another person, even a remarkable soul winner who sees into other men’s souls, is because God’s Word clearly teaches that nothing is established as true except from the testimony of two legitimate corroborating witnesses. Consider several passages from God’s Word with me and you will see a binding principle emerging.

Turn to Matthew 18.15-16, where we read of Christ’s directions to His disciples when matters of sin within the congregation need to be dealt with. Notice our Lord’s requirement for corroboration:

 

15     Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16     But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

 

Now turn to Second Corinthians 13.1, where Paul begins to conclude his second letter to the Corinthians: “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” It seems as though Paul is referring to a well-established custom in this verse.

In First Timothy 5.19, Paul gives direction to Timothy for dealing with a church’s pastor who is suspected of some type of misconduct: “Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.” To paraphrase, Timothy was not to allow anyone to bring an accusation against a church pastor unless there are two or three witnesses to the offense.

Thus, when dealing with a fellow church member, when an apostle was dealing with an entire congregation, and when a church member is dealing with a spiritual leader, corroborating testimony is the requirement when seeking to convey important information that will affect another’s life and welfare.

Hebrews 10.28 clearly shows that this principle is not confined to the New Testament era only, but has been carried forth from the Mosaic economy of Old Testament times: “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses.” The importance of this principle, as well as its general neglect in modern times, deserves our attention, especially as it bears on this matter of assurance of salvation.

Notice the application of this principle in the Law of Moses. We first look to Deuteronomy 17.6, where the issue at hand is a capital offense: “At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.”

Now, look at Deuteronomy 19.15, where the matter at hand is a property ownership dispute: “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.”

So we see that the principle of corroborating testimony was well established, being required by the Law of Moses, and being practiced by apostles and urged upon Christians in the New Testament era. The Lord Jesus Christ even spoke of this practice, in John 8.17, where He said, “It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.”

So well established is the necessity of multiple testimonies to establish a matter of fact, that God even holds Himself to the principle, despite the fact that He is true and He cannot lie, Titus 1.2. Listen to the words of Jesus in John 7.17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” That, my friend, is corroboration. It is direction for obtaining a second witness to the truthfulness of what Jesus declares to be true. Now listen to First John 5.7-9:

 

7      For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

8      And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

9      If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

 

So you see, the effort to impart assurance to some poor fellow who has repeated the words of a prayer, and who may or may not have just come to Christ, is in either case unscriptural. Nothing is established on the say so of one person. So important is this matter of corroborating testimony that the Savior held Himself to that high standard, and God holds Himself to that standard in heaven and on earth. Therefore, not only does no one have any business trying to give anyone assurance of salvation on his own say so, there is no way such an effort can be based upon truth, since no one actually sees whether a prayer is actually prayed or a soul is at that moment actually saved.

Be sure, however, that assurance of salvation is a most wonderful blessing to every believer who possesses the confidence that he is in right relation with God through faith in Christ. Puritan Thomas Brooks wrote, “It is the very drift and design of the whole Scripture, to bring souls first to an acquaintance with Christ, and then to an acceptance of Christ, and then to build them up in a sweet assurance of their actual interest in Christ.”[1]

The problem, of course, is that assurance must be gotten in the right way. Assurance must be scriptural assurance, and not some contrivance invented to manipulate the unsuspecting. A hint about assurance of salvation comes from Second Peter 1.10, where we read, “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Excuse me, but this shows that assurance is the result of some effort on the Christian’s part, some considerable effort. This would suggest that assurance, and it is the personal and private kind of assurance I am referring to now, is not always immediate and is not always easy.

For the next few minutes, let me but scratch the surface of this great and serious matter of you being assured, in your own heart and mind, yet in a scriptural manner, that you are in right relation with God through faith in and communion with Jesus Christ.

 

First, SOME OF WHAT DOES NOT RESULT IN SCRIPTURAL AND PERSONAL ASSURANCE

 

I have already shown you that someone who is supposedly a soul winner cannot possibly give any subject the assurance of his salvation. Not only is he not privy to the secret work of God in a sinner’s heart to know if the man has been born again or not, but a solitary testimony is forbidden as the basis upon which any assurance is to rest, as I have shown you. By the way, that also rules out you being assured of your salvation because your pastor thinks you are saved. You will not find such as that in the Bible, either.

When it comes to one’s personal assurance of salvation, that confidence that arises in your own bosom that you are, indeed, a child of God, there are instances of people concluding that they surely must be converted to Christ, since they give such signs of spiritual strength and vitality as to convince themselves they are true Christians. May I caution you against that? Not that vigor and spiritual vitality may not be present in the life of a new Christian, but that it is not unlikely that a lost person will completely misread what he thinks is evidence of a new life in Christ by drawing such conclusions. Let me explain: Romans 5.6 is very clear in showing the spiritual incompetence of every lost man: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” That Greek word, asqenia, refers to impotency and weakness.[2] When it comes to the spiritual side of anything, lost people simply do not have it. Now, please, turn to Romans 6.19, which describes the child of God after conversion: “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh.” Understand that Paul’s use of the word “infirmity” in Romans 6.19 to describe Christians translates the same word the phrase “without strength” translates in Romans 5.6, asqenia. What does this mean? It means that as weak and spiritually incompetent as the lost man is before coming to Christ, so is the Christian equally weak and incompetent after coming to new life in Christ. Therefore, if you think you are spiritually vigorous and powerful, you are likely deceived. God does not make Christians strong and powerful when He saves them. Instead, He powerfully works through them by His indwelling Spirit. There is a difference.

A second way in which people are frequently assured of their salvation is found in the Parable of the Soils, in Matthew 13.20, where we read that “the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it.” Perhaps you have seen someone who responded to an invitation, went forward, was dealt with, and then became so happy, rejoiced so wonderfully, and received the Word with such joy. Maybe this even happened to you. You once went forward with tears and returned to your seat with great joy. Sadly, there are many who judge by such a reaction to the preaching of God’s Word that they must, therefore, be saved. In other words, they derive assurance from their joyous reception of the Word. The problem can be seen when you take both a closer look at this parable, as well as a longer look at that person’s life. Matthew 13.20 tells us, “But he that received the seed into stony places,” and we are further told in verse 21, “Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.” So you see, a truly joyous reception of the Word may occur when a person is truly saved. However, the same external display can be manifested by someone who is most certainly not saved. In other words, there is no scriptural assurance of salvation associated with anyone’s emotional reaction when they are hopefully converted. If you were really happy, it can mean that you were saved, and it can mean that you were not saved.

Two examples of how personal assurance of salvation is not arrived at according to God’s Word.

 

Now, SOME OF WHAT DOES RESULT IN SCRIPTURAL AND PERSONAL ASSURANCE

 

First, Hebrews 12.4-13 shows us that scriptural and personal assurance can arise from chastisement:

 

4      Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

5      And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

6      For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

7      If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

8      But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

9      Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

10     For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.

11     Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

12     Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

13     And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

 

The writer to the Hebrews draws a parallel between an earthly father disciplining his child and God dealing with His child. In both situations, the case is made that a responsible father makes use of chastening, what we would call spanking, to correct the behavior of a child. The entire argument of this passage is that despite the pain that is associated with chastisement, the painful correction of a Christian by God is proof that a relationship with God exists, and that it is a spiritual Father and son relationship. That, my friend, is assurance. So you see, this nonsense about some Christian committing terrible sins, without any corresponding chastisement from God, only shows God is not that person’s Father, because He does not spank the devil’s children, only His own.

Second, John 13.35 shows us that scriptural and personal assurance can arise from love for the brethren: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ is referring to spiritual brethren here, and not kinsmen according to the flesh. He is not referring to the love Jewish people have for each other, but to the love born again people have for each other. Notice how this lines up with Paul’s comments in Romans 12.10, where he instructs the believers in Rome about their conduct as Christians: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” If you prefer Christians to relatives, or if you prefer Christians to countrymen, sometimes at great cost, you have an assurance of your salvation, and that an eternal relationship is more important to you than one that will end when you pass from this world. Does it not make sense that blood bought and blood washed believers should love one another? Of course, it does.

There is a third source of assurance for the child of God, obedience to the revealed will of God. Turn to John 8.31-32: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Please note three things here: First, keep in mind that here, as well as every other passage that properly deals with assurance, looks not to the past or the future but the present. “If ye continue in my word.” Second, notice that assurance comes before greater knowledge of the truth. Third, notice that assurance also comes before the truth making you free. How very important assurance of salvation is for the child of God. However, it must be the right kind of assurance, and not the bogus junk that passes for assurance these days. Turn to Romans 8.14: “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” So many people wrongly believe the Spirit of God speaks to them and whispers, “Do this. Don’t do that.” They even use this verse to support that error. However, the context fully supports the understanding that what Paul is referring to here when he speaks of being led by the Spirit of God is obedience to the written Word, doing what the Bible says to do. And that gives people assurance that they are sons of God. Third, and this is the verse I most frequently use to press this point home, First John 2.3: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.” First John is all about assurance, but assurance that is linked to obedience. However, do those charlatans who give false assurance to unsuspecting dupes ever show the link between obedience and real assurance? No, they do not. This verse establishes very clearly that a Christian’s assurance of salvation is directly tied to his obedience. Are you doing God’s will? Assurance comes from that. Are you disobedient? Your assurance will wane and you will begin to ask yourself, “Would a Christian live like this?” So you see, some marriages can only exist in their present sad state because one or both spouses are filled with this bogus assurance of salvation. If assurance was dependent upon obedience to God’s Word, how then could a man not cherish his wife and be kind to her, regardless of her response to him? How could a woman not submit unto her man, as unto the Lord, no matter how he treats her? Here is another consideration to relate to obedience. I mentioned this morning that the reason we exist is to glorify God by fulfilling the Great Commission as Christians in this present dispensation. How, then, can a person think himself obedient who does not join together with others in his church to evangelize his community? Surely a person who does nothing with those in his church to reach those around him with the gospel must question the genuineness of his salvation, since there is no scriptural assurance that can survive such flagrant disobedience.

Fourth, Romans 8.16 shows us that scriptural and personal assurance can arise directly from the Holy Spirit of God: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” We know the Spirit of God indwells every believer, according to Romans 8.9: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Additionally, we know from Ephesians 4.30 and First Thessalonians 5.19, that Christians can both grieve the Spirit of God and quench the Spirit of God by their sinning. Why are so few Christians concerned with grieving and quenching the Holy Spirit, Who has been given to us to comfort and guide us? Since the Spirit of God is holy (He is the Holy Spirit), it stands to reason that when He is grieved or quenched by a believer’s sinning, He will not at the same time bear witness with that same Christian’s spirit that he is a child of God. Thus, sinning is supposed to deprive a Christian of the assurance of his salvation, so he will straighten up and fly right. It is only this popular bogus assurance that we see so much of today that disconnects assurance from any kind of behavior that is so displeasing to the Holy Spirit. The kind of assurance that holds up under adultery, under lying, under cheating, under fornicating, and under other serious misdeeds is simply not the kind of assurance the precious Holy Spirit is associated with. His assurance tends toward the Christian’s holiness, and does not support a Christian’s comfort in sin.

Fifth, the fruit of the Spirit is very useful in helping a child of God acquire assurance of his salvation. Galatians 5.22-25 is the most familiar passage in the New Testament that deals with the fruit of the Spirit, though it is not the only such passage:

 

22     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23     Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

24     And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

25     If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

 

The fruit of the Spirit includes such character attributes as love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Some of these traits are more inward, while others are more outward, though they are all the result of the Holy Spirit’s work in a Christian’s personality. It is very clear from verses 24 and 25 that the fruit of the Spirit give evidence of two things, that this person is Christ’s, and that this person lives in the Spirit, both very assuring, I promise.

 

Bogus assurance, the kind of assurance many lost people have, and the kind of assurance even a real Christian can have if he has been taught wrongly, is an assurance that does no one any good at all. It is the kind of assurance that is cock sure and confident when no confidence is warranted. It not only convinces the lost they are saved, but it also enables genuine Christians to sin without loss of assurance. That is not good.

The kind of assurance that I subscribe to, the kind of assurance that reflects real Bible truth, the kind of assurance that I pray you will embrace for your own life, is an assurance that is powerful and life-changing, filled with both joy and great confidence, but only when your life in Christ-centered and Spirit-filled.

Should you disobey God, should you abandon your commitment to live for Jesus and submit to the Holy Spirit’s guidance of your life through His Word, your assurance will falter. However, it is supposed to falter. You are supposed to be spiritual if you are a Christian.

Are there times when God withdraws assurance from an obedient Christian to work in his life in certain ways? Yes, on occasion that does happen. Generally, however, the loss of assurance is associated with something being wrong with your life, though you can still have assurance when God chastises you, as we saw.

Additionally, assurance should never be based upon the testimony of a single witness. “I must be a Christian because I think God is chastising me.” No you don’t. Two or three witnesses. Always two or three witnesses. So, it is a combination of chastisement at times, love for the brethren, obedience, the Spirit’s witness, and the fruit of the Spirit, among other things, that work together to give you that personal and private assurance that is so beneficial and so treasured.

“Pastor, I think I would rather have the bogus kind of assurance, because that seems to be a kind of assurance you don’t have to worry about. You get it settled and then you’re on automatic pilot for the rest of your life.” In that you are absolutely correct.

The two problems with the bogus assurance of salvation that is so often given to folks these days is that, #1, it entirely disconnects the person with assurance from any present conduct in his life, so he can sin and sin without losing his assurance of salvation. That is not a good thing. #2, the bogus kind of assurance is an assurance that can be given to lost people, and what that happens they will stay lost, and end up in Hell. That, too, is not a good thing.

To be sure, Biblical assurance of the private and personal kind definitely requires maintenance. If you are not living right, if you are not in love with Jesus and committed to yielding to the Holy Spirit, you won’t have much of the right kind of assurance. However, consider also, that if you find yourself simply unable to be blessed by the right kind of assurance, you will know you are lost and need to be really saved.



[1] Thomas Brooks, Heaven On Earth: A Treatise On Christian Assurance, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1961), page 17.

[2] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), pages 359, 362.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org