"BLESSED ASSURANCE"

Second Corinthians 13.5

EXPOSITION:

1. Assurance, according to one dictionary of theological terms, is defined as follows: "The doctrine that teaches the possibility of Christiansí knowing that they truly are children of God. The apostle John teaches that assurance comes both as a result of living an obedient Christian life (1 Jn 2:3-6) and through the abiding presence and inner testimony of the Holy Spirit (1 Jn 4:13)." [1]

2. If this definition of assurance reflects real assurance of salvation then two questions immediately come to mind: First, what happens when an obedient Christian life is not being lived and/or the Holy Spirit withholds His inner testimony, perhaps because He is grieved or quenched? Would you not expect this type of assurance to wane, to diminish, perhaps to disappear entirely for a period of time?

3. Who would argue with this? Who would deny that an assurance such as this, that is related to the believerís obedience and to the Spiritís testimony, is an assurance that ebbs and flows, since no Christian is entirely consistent in his behavior or in his sensitivity to the Holy Spiritís workings in his heart and mind?

4. This leads, naturally, to my second question: What must be surmised by an assurance that does not ebb and flow, that does not wax and wane, that does not ever vary with a personís own variations of obedience and sensitivity to the Holy Spiritís dealings with his heart and mind? Is it possible to be too sure?

5. I have for many years had some serious difficulties and disagreements with contemporary Christian thought and practice, much of it centered around this subject of assurance of salvation. I came to the place where I seriously questioned the intelligence, the spirituality, the wisdom, and the faithfulness to Godís Word of those who promote a view of assurance that seems to deny that there is ever a reason to not have assurance of salvation. I mean, what Christian hasnít doubted his salvation at one time or another?

6. Assurance of salvation is a wonderful and marvelous blessing to the Christian. But there is no blanket guarantee in Godís Word that assurance of salvation is a bedrock certainty to everyone who is a child of God, no matter his obedience to God and his level of spirituality.

7. The problem with assurance of salvation, as the doctrine is taught in most Churches these days, is that people end up thinking there is something wrong with them when their assurance wavers, and that what God wants them to have is an unshakable confidence that they are saved, regardless of whether their lifestyle supports their conviction or not.

8. Let me tell you something, folks. Assurance of salvation is a wonderful and marvelous thing. But if you have an assurance of salvation that never varies, never wavers, never doubts even when you are stumbling and committing sin, then there is something wrong. No one is supposed to have that kind of assurance.

9. As a matter of fact, in our text for today the apostle Paul commands a reexamination and a reappraisal by Church members who did not doubt their salvation. Thatís right. It is entirely possible to have complete confidence that you stand in good stead with God, complete assurance that all is well with your soul, complete certainty that you are a child of God and joint-heir with the Son, and be sincerely and sadly mistaken.

10. Turn to Second Corinthians 13.5, please. When you find todayís text, please stand for the reading of Godís Word: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"

11. The Corinthians had some real problems, serious problems, yet they had no doubt about their own relationship with God. They were all, each and every one of them, positive they were saved.

12. Yet one of them had been a fornicator who Paul all but declared to be lost, First Corinthians 5.5, and others were so shaky on the doctrine of the resurrection that Paul brought up the possibility that they had believed in vain, First Corinthians 15.2, meaning a faith which was imperfect, a faith which did not save.

13. To these people who were so very sure of their salvation, possessed of such confident assurance, Paul commands a second look. And a second look should be taken by everyone from time to time, even you who have absolutely no doubt you are saved. Because, you see, it is possible to be sincere and to be sincerely wrong.

14. There are three things I want you to consider in this text that is written to Church members, and that directs those Church members to do something despite their strong assurance of salvation.

1A. First, CONSIDER THE COMMANDS TO OBEY

We can be quite sure that the Corinthians felt no personal sense of urgency regarding their own salvation. Oh, they came to know from Paulís first letter that they had been very wrong about many things. We see their congregational repentance mentioned in Second Corinthians chapter 7. But Paul was concerned more than they realized. He knew that more than just the young fornicator was lost among them. The problem was that they felt so sure that they were saved. So Paul issued two commands that went to the heart of the matter, what a personís assurance of salvation should result from.

1B. First, Paul Commands "Examine yourselves"

1C. Folks, this word "examine" means to test and evaluate by objective means. Paul is talking about doing something carefully, cautiously, in order to evaluate.

2C. By the way, if you are examining something and your examination always results in the same outcome then your examination may be faulty. If the quality control inspector on an assembly line never rejects a part that is made, since we know every part fabricated in an assembly line canít be perfect, then the inspector is doing something wrong.

3C. Weíre not talking about someoneís opinion here, either. Weíre talking about serious scrutiny according to some standard, by another person. Thatís right, another person. Some people think they alone should scrutinize their own relationship with God, but thatís just plain foolish.

4C. Consider: Proverbs 14.12 and 16.25 are identical, both saying, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." Proverbs 20.6 says, "Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness." Proverbs 21.2 says, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes."

5C. Do you honestly think, given these insights from Proverbs, that Paul would have told the Corinthians, who had already been self-deceived about so much already, to each give themselves a spiritual once over? Not on your life.

6C. When he wrote, "Examine yourselves," he was not referring to each person examining himself, but members of the Church examining members of the Church!

2B. But Thereís A Second Command To Accompany The First Command "Prove your own selves"

1C. Again the reflexive pronoun is used with the command to the congregation to do something to each other. What, precisely, are they to do to each other? They are to "prove" themselves.

2C. This is an even stronger word than "examine." To illustrate, this word "prove" is entirely fitting to describe the process of a mining engineer or an assayer analyzing a sample of ore to determine how much gold or silver or other precious metal is in the sample.

3C. So the command to "prove your own selves" is a command to "find out whatís really there," "to subject the specimen to the acid test."

4C. So these two commands, the later even more than the former, require a serious and diligent evaluation to determine the truth, to determine the reality behind the appearance. Sadly, such evaluations are almost never conducted in Churchís these days.

2A. Next, CONSIDER THE QUESTION TO ADDRESS

"whether ye be in the faith"

1B. Let Us Be Cautious To Remember Just Who It Is We Are Reading About.

1C. These are Paulís commands to members of the Corinthian Church, members in good standing, members who have assurance of their salvation.

2C. Folks, these people had no doubts concerning their Christianity, yet Paul issued the directive by inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God.

3C. They all knew they were saved, yet the Holy Spirit knew better that some of them were not saved.

2B. What Can We Reasonably Conclude From Paulís Commands Before Going On?

Several things:

1C. First, we can reasonably conclude that some of you who sincerely think you are saved are really saved.

2C. Second, we can reasonably conclude that some of you who sincerely think you are saved are really not saved.

3C. Third, we can reasonably conclude that it is possible to carefully examine and prove whether or not you are or are not in the faith, with some degree of certainty, or else Paul would not have demanded that the Corinthians engage in this exercise.

4C. To put this all in very plain English, Paul is telling the Corinthians, "I want you to find out who is saved and who is not saved by examining yourselves and by proving yourselves." And this was written, remember, to people who gave every appearance of having assurance of their salvation.

3A. Finally, THERE ARE THE CRITERIA TO CONSIDER

1B. When Paul told the Corinthians to examine each other and to prove each other he was not suggesting spiritual anarchy or some crazy free for all. He was directing them to trade for their false assurance a proper assurance.

2B. You see, they were powerfully persuaded that they were saved. But their persuasion was not the result of a careful examination, they did not prove each other with anything like the acid test Paul called for. They just each held to their own opinions about themselves.

3B. But donít you see? Thatís not good enough. If I am going to fight to the death for some worthy cause, I have a right to now that the man in the fox hole with me really is a soldier who is on my side, who can shoot his own rifle fairly efficiently, and who is not going to run out on me when he gets the first chance. And you have that right, too.

4B. So, Church members are wrong who are persuaded that they are okay if they feel like they are okay. You need to actually be okay, not feel okay.

CONCLUSION:

1. Church is the ultimate democracy. And people vote in this democracy each and every time they come to a Church service, come to evangelism, and choose in whatever other way they want to participate.

2. So, do not ever think that in a Church, this Church or any Church, anyone has any right to try and make you do something you donít want to do. My friend, no one can make you do anything against your will. And although some pastors may try to make you do things against your will, I do not favor that at all.

3. You see, lost people are in conflict with God and their wills are opposed to His will. Believers, on the other hand, have new hearts and seek to obey God and submit to His will.

4. What Paul calls for in our text is not making anyone do anything they donít want to do, but directing Church members to pursue a course of action that will result in them having a different kind of assurance of salvation than they previously had, which was an assurance that was a strong persuasion not based upon facts.

5. But after being examined and proven to be in the faith they would have an assurance that was Scriptural, God-honoring, Spirit-witnessed, and based upon objective facts instead of baseless opinions and emotions.

6. My friend, Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God, suffered and bled and died for the remission of your sins. He was buried, and three days and three nights later He rose from the dead. Thatís the Gospel, the good news that a Savior fulfilled the centuries old promises to provide for your salvation from sins.

7. What God wants, and what Jesus came and suffered the cruel agony of the cross for, is your salvation through faith in Christ. If you will come to Him He will save you from your sins and give you life eternal.

8. Once a sinner comes to Christ and is born again, the Holy Spirit indwells him and begins to do a work in his life to conform him to the image of Christ and to produce in his personality the fruit of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.

9. Now, after a person comes to Christ and becomes a new creature in Christ, what should convince him that he is a Christian? What should persuade you that you truly are born again, that you really do have faith in Christ, and are not one of those referred to by Paul who have believed in vain?

10. After all, who wants to be a Judas or a Simon Magus who everyone thought for too long was saved, but who were not converted?

11. Your persuasion that you are converted, what convinces you that you really are a Christian, should not be whims and fancies, should not be mere opinions, but should be persuasions that arise from Scriptural indications that you are converted.

12. Are you persuaded that you are a Christian? What persuades you that you are a Christian? Will that which persuades you that you are a Christian also persuade others that you are a Christian?

13. Thatís what Paul called for and thatís what we do here at Calvary Road Baptist Church. We examine you. We prove you to see if you are in the faith. No one is examined or proven against his will. Ever. But no one becomes a member of this Church who is not examined, who is not proven.

14. Have you ever been examined to see if you are in the faith? Have you ever been proven, not to your own satisfaction, but to the satisfaction of others?

15. Until you have been examined as Paul directed the Corinthians to be examined, until you have been proven in the way he called for them to be proved, you may be very sure you are a Christian, but you will not until then have the kind of assurance Paul sought for the Corinthians.

16. Please stand as we are dismissed in prayer. Assurance of salvation is a wonderful blessing. And if you have the right kind of assurance then it can be a blessed assurance, indeed.

[1] Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 17.

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