XXXVIII. ASSURANCE OF FAITH
`Looking unto the promise of God, Abraham wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that, what He had promised, He was able also to perform.' -- Rom. 4:20,21
`My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth. Hereby shall we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our heart before Him.' -- 1 John 3:18,19
`And hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He gave us.' -- 1 John 3:24
Every child of God has need of the assurance of faith: the full certitude of faith that the Lord has received him and made him His child. The Holy Scripture always speaks to Christians as those that know that they are redeemed, that they are now children of God, and that they have received eternal life. (Deut. 26:27,28; Isa. 44:5; Gal. 4:7; 1 John 5:12) How, pray, can a child love or serve his father, while he is uncertain whether his father will really acknowledge him as a child? We have already spoken on this point in a previous chapter; but oftentimes by ignorance or distrust a Christian again comes into darkness: for this reason we will now deal with it once again of set purpose.
Scripture names three things by which we have our certitude: first, faith in the word; after that, works; and then, in and with both of these, the Holy Spirit.
First, faith in the word. Abraham is to us the great exemplar of faith, and also of the assurance of faith. And what then says the Scripture about the certitude that he had? He was fully assured that what God had promised He was able also to perform. His expectation was only from God, and what God had promised. He relied upon God to do what He had said: the promise of God was for him his only but sufficient assurance of faith. (John 3:33, 5:24; Acts. 27:25; Rom. 4:21,22; 1 John 5:10,11)
There are many young Christians who think that faith in the word is not sufficient to give full certitude: they would fain have something more. They imagine that assurance, a sure inward feeling or conviction, is what is given above or outside of faith This is wrong. As I have need of nothing more than the word of a trustworthy man to give me complete certitude, so must the word of God be my certitude. People err because they seek something in themselves and in their feeling. No: the whole of salvation comes from God: the soul must not be occupied with itself or its work, but with God: he that forgets himself to hear what God says, and to rely upon His promise as something worthy of credit, has in this fact the fullest assurance of faith. (Num. 23:19; Ps. 89:35) He does not doubt the promises, but is strong in faith, giving God the glory, and being fully assured that what was promised God is also able to perform.
Then the Scripture names also works: by unfeigned love we shall assure our hearts. (1 John 3:18,19) Here carefully observe this: assurance by faith in the promise, without works, comes first. The godless man who receives grace knows this only from the word. But then, later on, assurance is to follow from works. `By works was faith made perfect.' (John 15:10,14: Gal. 5:6; Jas. 2:22; 1 John 3:14) The tree is planted in faith; without fruits. But when the time of fruit arrives, and no fruit appears, then I may doubt. The more clearly I at the outset hold the assurance of faith, without works, on the word alone, the more certainly shall works follow.
And both -- assurance by faith and by works -- come by the Spirit. Not by the word alone, and not by works as something that I myself do, but by the word as the instrument of the Spirit, and by works as the fruit of the Spirit, has a child of God the heavenly certification that he is the Lord's. (John 4:13; Rom. 8:13,14; 1 John 3:24)
O let us believe in Jesus as our life, and abide in Him, and assurance of faith shall never be lacking to us.
O my Father, teach me to find my assurance of faith in a life with Thee, in cordial reliance upon Thy promises, and in cordial obedience to Thy commands. Let Thy Holy Spirit also witness with my spirit that I am a child of God. Amen.
1. The importance of the assurance of faith lies in the fact, that I cannot possibly love or serve as a child a God of whom I do not know whether He loves and acknowledges me as His child.
2. The whole Bible is one great proof for the assurance of faith. Just because it thus speaks of itself, it is not always named. Abraham and Moses knew well that God had received them: otherwise they could not serve or trust Him. Israel knew that God had redeemed them: for this reason they had to serve God. How much more must this be the case in the greater redemption of the New Testament? All the Epistles are written to men of whom it is presupposed that they know and confess that they are redeemed, holy children of God.
3. Faith and obedience are inseparable, as root and fruit. First, there must be the root, and the root must have time without fruits; then later on come surely the fruits: first assurance without fruits by living faith in the word; then, further assurance from fruits. It is in a life with Jesus that assurance of faith is exalted firmly above all doubt.
4. Assurance of faith is much helped by confession. What I express becomes from me more evident; I am bound and confirmed by it.
5. It is at the feet of Jesus, looking up into His friendly countenance, listening to His loving promises, it is in intercourse with Jesus Himself in prayer, that all doubtfulness of mind falls away. Go thither for the full assurance of faith.