Sunday, February 24, 2013
1 John 1:4 "These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete."
For this Lord's day I want to draw our thoughts towards what the scriptures have to say about Christians persevering in the blessed assurance of eternally security. To achieve this, we will first look at the doctrine of perseverance itself, followed by a brief outline of 1 John 1:1-4 which details for us how God is the Fountain of blessed assurance.
Perseverance of the Saints consists of Eternal Security and Assurance of salvation
Older Christians talk about what is called "perseverance of saints" or what is more popularly termed: "once saved always saved". In the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, Article 5 - "God's Purpose of Grace", we see a fine definition of this doctrine of perseverance:
"All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."
To bear witness to the full testimony of scripture on this subject of whether or not a Christian can lose their salvation, we need to consider for a moment two ideas contained within the Biblical truth of Christian preseverance: namely "eternal security" and "assurance of salvation":
1. Eternal Security - As the Baptist Faith & Message states in the above article in the last statement about Christians and their eternal security: "yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." Eternal security is that part of perseverance that guarantees I will make it. Philippians 1:6 explains how the work of salvation, begun by God in believers will be completed.2 To quote Dr. Daniel Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Seminary: "By His work on the cross Jesus obtained my salvation, and, by His work in heaven Jesus maintains my salvation."
2. Assurance of Salvation - If we consider Eternal security to be the objective side of perseverance, whereby God is the one who keeps the child of God safe and secure in their salvation, then assurance can be regarded as our daily experience and awareness of that truth.3 Romans 8:16 is perhaps the most concise statement in scripture about the place of assurance in the believer's life: "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God." 4
Illustrating "eternal security" and "assurance" with a dollar bill
Lets say you and I went to a store and I offered to buy you a cup of coffee. You express your appreciation and so when we come to the counter, you see that a cup of coffee costs 75 cents. Now here is the question: what will secure my purchase of that cup of coffee and what assures me that I can purchase that cup of coffee? Only one thing can securely purchase that cup of coffee: a Federal Reserve Note, back by the Federal Government with a number "1" printed on either side. Monopoly money won't do it, nor will an I.O.U secure your coffee for your friend.
So you fumble around in your pocket, and now you realize that the dollar you thought you had is not there! Does that put into jeopardy the entire monetary system of the United States Government? No. Your assurance of having the money all has to do with your proximity to it. As the blood begins to drain from your face, suddenly your friend suggests looking in your other pocket. To your relief, you find the dollar bill is in the other pocket and suddenly, your assurance level has increased. Now did the security part of the purchase change? No. A dollar is a dollar. However my ability to have confidence in my spending of that money hinged on me being made aware of my having the dollar from my helpful friend.
Like the above little story, eternal security is that part of perseverance that is backed eternally by the work of Christ, the will of the Father, the work of the Spirit and the Word of God (and is far more secure than the Federal Government!) Assurance is that confidence I have in my perseverance that is dependant upon my proximity of fellowship to Jesus Christ. As much as assurance deals with the believer's experience of salvation day by day, it is still a divine given grace that comes from the Holy Spirit bearing witness in my spirit. How well I hear that witness will regulate how much assurance I have.
1 John 1:1-4 spells out how God is the Fountain of Christian Assurance
The book of 1 John was written by the Apostle John to a group of Christians in Asia Minor to give them the understanding of how they can know the assurance of their salvation. 1 John 5:13 tells us -"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."1 In light of our discussion today on the distinction between Eternal Security and Assurance, here is what we glean from 1 John 1:1-4 concerning four ways we can see God being the Fountain of Christian Assurance of Salvation:
1. Work of Christ - Evidence of God being the Fountain of Assurance. 1 John 1:1
2. Will of the Father - Eternal Foundation from whence comes the Fountain of Assurance. 1 John 1:2
3. Work of the Holy Spirit - Effects Fellowship between believers and God who is the fountain of Christiann assurance. 1 John 1:3
4. Word of God - Explains fully how the Triune God is the Fountain of Christian Assurance. 1 John 1:4
1. In the 105 verses of this amazing little letter, we find some seventy references that explain how you as a Christian can know that you know that you are saved. In over 25 places in 1 John you will find the statements "this we know" or "we have this confidence" functioning to reinforce how a Christian can truly be assured in their salvation. As Dr. Daniel Akin, President of South Eastern Baptist Seminary notes about John's writings in the New Testament: "John wrote his gospel to convert sinners, his letters (1,2,3 John) to confirm the saints and Revelation to Coronate the Savior as King of Kings and Lord of Lords".
2. Undoubtedly God's plan for Christians to persevere is rooted in His eternal choice of them, as stated in Ephesians 1:3-4. Without question scripture affirms that "God's gifts and calling are irrevocable". (Romans 11:29) The Apostles Peter and Paul state it is God who keeps the believer safe and secure in their salvation. (2 Timothy 1:12; 1 Peter 1:5) So Eternal security is that aspect of Perseverance that guarantees that the true Christian will indeed endure to the end.
3. In the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 we find reference to assurance under the discussion on the believers growth in Christian salvation or what is termed "sanctification":
"Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life."
I underlined key words in that statement to underscore the fact that assurance is something we experience as we persevere in fellowship with God.
4. We could mention numerous other passages (Ephesians 1:13-14; Romans 5:1-5; Galatians 5:6; 2 Timothy 1:12; James 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 John 1:5) that point to the God-given grace of the experience of assurance that every Christian should want to enjoy.