Torrey - Man -17- Believer's Assurance of Salvation

17. THE BELIEVER'S ASSURANCE OF SALVATION AND ETERNAL LIFE

I. HOW THE BELIEVER IN CHRIST MAY KNOW THAT HE HAS ETERNAL LIFE. 1 John 5:13 RV — "These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God."

First Proposition:John wrote his first epistle to those who believe in the Son of God, for the express purpose that they may know they have eternal life.

Anyone who believes in the Son of God may know that he has eternal life.

To deny the possibility of the believer's knowing that he has eternal life, is to say that the 1 John was written in vain, and it is to insult the Holy Spirit who is its real author. Acts 13:39 — "And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."

Second Proposition: The believer may know that he is justified from all things, for the word of God says so. John 1:12 RV — "But as many as received him to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name."

Third Proposition: The believer may know that he is a child of God, for the word of God asserts that he is. 1 John 5:13 RV — "These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God."

Fourth Proposition: We may know that we have eternal life through what is written, through the testimony of God Himself in the Bible, especially in 1 John.

The testimony of Scripture is the testimony of God. This is widely questioned today, even by professing Christians. It is nonetheless true.

QUESTION: What do the Scriptures say about the believer's having salvation and eternal life?

ANSWER: John 3:36 — "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." John 5:24 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." John 6:47 — "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." Acts 10:43 — "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 13:38-39 — "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." John 1:12 — "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."

If we have faith in Christ, we have God's own written testimony that we have eternal life, that our sins are forgiven, that we are children of God.

The word "know" (a translation of two different Greek words) is found twenty-seven times in 1 John. 1 John 5:10-12 RV — "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his son.

And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life."

Anyone who doesn't believe God's testimony (that He has given us eternal life and that this life is in His Son and that he that has the Son has life), makes God a liar. It is sometimes said, "It is presumption for anyone to say he knows he is saved, or to say he knows he has eternal life." Is it presumption to believe God? Is it not rather presumption not to believe God, to "make God a liar"? When Jesus said to the one who was a sinner, "Thy sins are forgiven" ( Luke 7:48), was it presumption for her to go out and say "I know my sins are all forgiven"? Is it any more presumption for a believer today to say, "My sins are all forgiven, I have eternal life," when God says in His permanent, written testimony to "every one that believeth," "you are justified from all things" ( Acts 13:39 RV), "you have eternal life" ( John 3:36; 1 John 5:13)? It is the blood of Christ that makes us safe, and it is the word of God that makes us sure ( Exodus 12:13). 1 John 3:14 RV — "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death."

Fifth Proposition: We know that we have passed out of death into life from the testimony of the life itself.

A man who is physically alive knows it from the consciousness of the life itself that is coursing through his veins. Men may try to convince him that he is dead, but he knows he is alive. The same is true spiritually. The life of love is the life of God, eternal life ( 1 John 4:7,16). Selfishness is death.

He therefore that really loves his brethren, knows that he has passed "out of death into life." He knows it by the testimony of the life itself.

It is important to notice, however, what God's tests of love are. They are given in the following verses: "Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth" ( 1 John 5:16-18). Laying down our life for those we love is the supreme test. This may be done by actually dying in their stead when there is call for that, as there often is. It may also be done by putting our life at their disposal and using it for them. There is always call for this.

The everyday test of love is, giving what you have of this world's good to meet the known need of others. The one who knows a brother who has need while he himself has that which will meet this need and does not give it, cannot say he has love for the brethren and cannot know that he has passed out of death into life by the evidence of the life itself. Romans 8:16 RV — "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God."

Sixth Proposition: We know that we are the children of God because the Spirit Himself bears witness together with our spirit that we are.

QUESTION: What is the testimony of the Spirit?

ANSWER: Galatians 4:6 — "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." When we have accepted Christ and come out from under the bondage of the law into sonship, and thus become sons, God sends the Spirit of His Son into our hearts as a personal presence, and this Spirit of the Son in our hearts cries, "Abba, Father." He thus bears witness along with our spirit to our sonship. This comes after faith, resting on the bare word of God. Many are looking for the testimony of the Spirit before they will accept the testimony of God's written word. This is the inversion of God's order. (See also Ephesians 1:13-14.)

We have, then, a threefold ground of assurance: the testimony of God in the written word, the testimony of the life itself, and the testimony of the Spirit. The testimony of the word alone is sufficient, and we must accept the testimony of the bare word to start with. Then we get also the testimony of the life and, to crown all, the testimony of the Spirit. With this threefold ground of assurance, is it presumption to say, "I know I am a child of God, I know I have eternal life"?

II. HOW TO OBTAIN ASSURANCE. 1 John 5:13 RV — "These things have I written unto you; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God."

First Proposition: In order to have well-grounded assurance of eternal life we must "believe on the name of the Son of God.' There are doubtless many who say they know they have eternal life who do not really believe on the name of the Son of God. This is not true assurance. It has no sure foundation in the word of Him who cannot lie. If we wish to get assurance of salvation, we must first get saved. The reason why many don't have assurance that they are saved is they are not saved.

They ought not to have assurance. What they need first is salvation. Many workers in dealing with others make the great mistake of trying to press them to the point of saying the), know they are saved before it is clear that they are.

We obtain assurance of eternal life through what is "written;" therefore in order to obtain assurance we should study the word. The assurance that rests upon our states of feeling will come and go as those states vary. But the assurance that rests upon the unchanging word of God will be intelligent and steadfast. Ignorance of the word of God is one of the greatest sources of the lack of assurance. 1 John 5:10-12 — "He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."

Second Proposition: We obtain assurance by believing God's testimony.

Merely studying the word will not bring assurance. We must believe it as well as study it. 1 John 3:14-19 — "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue: but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him."

Third Proposition: In order to have assurance we should live out a life of love — love not merely in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (Compare to John 8:12.) Romans 8:14-16 RV — "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God."

Fourth Proposition: In order to obtain the witness of the Spirit together with that of our spirit we should give ourselves up to be led by the Spirit. Romans 8:16 is clearly dependent upon verse 14, and it is only those who know verse 14 as a personal experience who can expect to know verse 16 as a personal experience. It is also clearly implied by the connection with verse 17, that it is in suffering together with Christ that we especially enjoy the assurance of sonship by the Spirit's testimony and the assurance that we shall be glorified together with Him.