Tests of Assurance from 1 John
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/08/2003
"Tests of Assurance from 1 John"
2 Peter 1:5-11
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We're going to be looking at this matter of assurance...the assurance of salvation. We are sort of launching our study from 2
Peter, you might want to turn to 2 Peter chapter 1, and we're going to have just a little Bible study tonight together, really not
in 2 Peter but we'll use that as a starting point anyway. In 2 Peter chapter 1 verses 10 and 11 sort of set the subject in its
place: "Therefore brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you, for as long as you
practice these things you'll never stumble, for in this way the entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ will be abundantly supplied to you." Verse 10 says, "Be diligent then to make certain about His calling and choosing
The subject here then is the assurance of salvation. And we have noted that there are basically two questions to ask.
Question number one, is salvation forever? Is salvation forever? Is it secure? Question number two, can I feel that security?
One is a fact and the other is a personal confidence. They are inseparable. And we have noted in our study that if salvation
was not eternal, if salvation was not secure, then there would be no discussion about assurance because how could you be
assured of an insecure salvation? But if salvation is forever and if it is secure, then you can experience assurance.
Let's go back to question number one for a moment...is our salvation forever? In other words, once you have come to the
knowledge of Jesus Christ, is that eternal? The answer, of course, is yes. And there are many places in the Word of God
where that is very clearly noted for us. Listen to just a few. John 5:24, "Truly truly I say to you, he who hears My word and
believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and does not come into judgment but has passed out of death into life." If you
believe you have eternal life you will never come into judgment, you have passed out of death in to life. And you will notice
there is no fine print.
In John chapter 6 and verse 27, and we're going back purposely to the very beginning of the gospel record, looking at the
gospels themselves in the New Testament to see how this teaching is foundational, John 6:27, "Do not work for the food
which perishes but for the food which endures to eternal life which the Son of Man shall give to you for on Him the Father,
even God has set His seal." In other words, we're not dealing with something that comes and goes, we're dealing with
something that comes and stays forever. It does not perish, it endures to eternal life, our salvation is forever.
In verse 35 of John 6 Jesus said, "I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me shall not hunger, he who believes in Me shall
never thirst." In verse 51, "I am the living bread that came down out of heaven, if anyone eats of this bread he shall live
forever and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh," you live forever, there again is no fine print.
Salvation is forever...very clearly.
Backing up into that chapter, verse 37, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me and the one who comes to Me I will
certainly not cast out for I have come down from heaven not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me and this is
the will of Him who sent Me that of all that He has given Me I lose none but raise it up on the last day, for this is the will of
My Father that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life and I myself will raise him up on the
last day." Now we know here then from the teaching of Jesus that salvation is eternal.
Ephesians chapter 1 takes us to the teaching of Paul and verse 11 says, "We have obtained an inheritance having been
predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." God predestined it, He works it
according to His own will and we have obtained a guaranteed inheritance, nothing can remove it.
First Peter chapter 1 verse 5, "We are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in
the last time." We have an inheritance, by the way, which is imperishable, undefiled, will not fade away, it is reserved in
heaven for us and we are protected to receive that inheritance. God's protecting hand secures our salvation forever.
In Jude 24 another verse, and I'm giving you just a few selected ones, "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior through Jesus
Christ our Lord be glory, majesty, dominion and authority before all time now and forever, amen." He is the one who is able
to keep you and make you stand in His presence. He guards us, He keeps us, He secures us, He has given us an eternal
inheritance which we will receive. There will be no loss. There is no condemnation, Romans 8:1, to them who are in Christ
Jesus. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. No one can lay any charge to God's elect, says Romans
chapter 8. And so we are secure in a permanent and eternal salvation.
Listen to the end of 1 Thessalonians 5 verse 23, "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely and may your
spirit and soul and body be preserved complete without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." You say, "Well I
would certainly want that." Verse 24, "Faithful is He who calls you, He also will bring it to pass." Bring what to pass?
Preserving you soul and body complete without blame at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now these passages just remind us that our salvation is forever. So once you are saved you are saved forever. The second
question and the one that we are concerned about is can I feel secure? And we acknowledged that it's possible to be secure
and not feel it. It's possible to have eternal salvation and not enjoy it. But the question is, can I be assured?
Now we have spent three weeks on why people who are genuinely saved feel insecure and we said that there are a number
of reasons. One, strong preaching of high standards of holiness can make people feel insecure, especially if they're sinning.
Another reason, some people can't accept forgiveness. Some don't properly comprehend the fullness of the gospel. Some
don't remember the time of their salvation so they feel insecure. Some feel the strong pull of the flesh and wonder if they have
a new nature. Some don't recognize God's hand in all their trials and so they think their trials are evidence that they're not the
children of God. Some fail to walk in the Spirit and some disobey the Word of God. Those are the primary reasons why
people lack security even though they are eternally saved.
Now tonight I want to turn to the positive side, if I might. Before we get in to the text of Peter's message, which we'll do in a
few weeks, I want us to turn to 1 John because in 1 John we have a very positive presentation. These are objective tests to
see if I'm a true Christian. And if I pass these tests, I can enjoy my eternal salvation with assurance. The Apostle John, by
the way, with this epistle is concerned about the same issue, he's concerned about true salvation, he's concerned about
assurance. And so in his first epistle he gives a number of tests that you can apply to your own life and you can know that
you are genuinely saved. Some of them, by the way, parallel what we'll learn in 2 Peter 1, but they are distinct enough and
demand our attention as a substantial background for understanding the text of Peter's letter. So let's look then at 1 John and
the tests of assurance.
I'm going to turn them in to a series of questions, all right? And I'll give you, if time permits, and we'll go very fast, eleven of
them...a series of questions that plunge us in to the rich book and lead us to the joy of assurance based on the reality that we
are saved. Or, it may convince us that we are not saved. In either case it has done its God-ordained purpose.
Question number one, and these are, I believe, what is in the heart of John as he writes...question number one to ask
yourself if you want to get in touch with the reality of your spiritual condition...have you enjoyed fellowship with Christ and
the Father? Have you enjoyed fellowship with Christ and the Father? That is an essential element in true salvation. Look with
me at chapter 1 verse 2, John here writing about the word of life, God's revelation, says, "And the life was manifested and
we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life...and there he means Christ...which was with the Father
and was manifested to us what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also that you also may have fellowship with us
and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." Now obviously he's going beyond just the
earthly acquaintance he had with Jesus because he had no such earthly acquaintance with the Father. So at the end of verse
3 when he says our fellowship is not was, is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, he is saying I am presently,
currently enjoying communion with the living Christ and the living God. That is an element in the experience of the truly
Chapter 5 verse 1 points out to us another reference that speaks to the same issue. It says in verse 1, "Whoever believes
that Jesus is the Christ is born of God and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him." Here John is saying it is
characteristic of a believer to love God and to love Christ. That again speaks of relationship. We have fellowship with
Christ. We have fellowship with God. We love God. We love Christ. Down in verse 4, "For whatever is born of God," that
is regenerated, born again, redeemed, saved, "overcomes the world and this is the victory that has overcome the world, our
faith and who is the one who overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." When you believe that
Jesus is the Son of God, you place your faith in Him, your faith in God. You overcome the world in the sense that you enter
in to a new level of communion, you no longer commune as your priority point of fellowship with the world but you
commune with the living God in a relationship of love. And I really believe that John here is pointing out to us that it is
characteristic typically of true believers to have an on-going loving fellowship with Christ and God. That is essential. That is
foundational. That is basic to salvation.
In fact, in 1 Corinthians 1:9 Paul writes, "God is faithful through whom you were called in to fellowship with His Son Jesus
Christ our Lord." And Galatians 2:20 says that Christ lives in me in a very intimate union of common life.
Now the thought here is that if you're a Christian you share life with Christ, you share life with God. You commune with
them. You have a relationship with them. But there's something very experiential about this, it's not just a fact that we have
divine life living in us, there is an experience to be had here. Let me remind you of a verse. You remember John 10:10 where
Jesus said, "I am come that you might have life and have it...what?...more abundantly," what did He mean by that? If He had
just said, "I am come that you might have life," we could say, "Well He's put His eternal life in us." In other words, there's a
new creation, a new nature, we possess the life of God in the soul of man and that is a fact. But when He added, "And that
you might have it more abundantly," He began to talk about a super abounding kind of life and I think He moved into the
dimension of experience...a rich life, a life that causes us to experience joy and peace and love and purpose. Every time you
hear somebody in the baptismal waters testify about coming to the knowledge of Jesus Christ, they don't stop short and
say..."Well, the fact is, folk, I'm saved, and I'm just here to announce the fact." Invariably they will describe to you the
feeling. They will describe to you the experience of love and joy and peace and forgiveness and purpose and direction in life.
That's the super abounding element of that eternal life. The God of all comfort, the God of all grace, the God who supplies
all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus, the God in whose fellowship we are caused to speak to
ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts, the God to whom we come and
cry "Abba Father," like a little child to one he adores, the God to whom we draw near in time of trouble to seek for mercy,
the Christ in whom we find our consolation and our comfort and in whose love we bask, the Christ whose peace we
possess and enjoy, these are the experiences of abundant life. These are the elements of fellowship. And these are the things
that so greatly enrich us.
Have you experienced them? Have you experienced communion with Christ in all of its richness? Have you experienced
fellowship with God? Have you sensed His presence? Have you experienced that which He ministers through His Spirit? Do
you have in your heart a love for Christ and a love for God that draws you to their presence? That's the question to start
with. Have you experienced their power for witnessing? Have you experienced the sweet communion of prayer on your
knees, the exhilarating joy of talking to the living God? Have you experienced the refreshing almost overwhelming sense of
grace that comes upon you when you discover some rich new truth in the Word? Have you experienced the blessedness of
fasting in the presence of God? This is fellowship. If you have experienced those things, then you have fellowship with Christ
and you have fellowship with God. And that is the fellowship of salvation. And since true salvation is secure, you can enjoy
Second question, and I have a feeling we're going to get half way through, it's all right. Second question, are you sensitive to
sin? Are you sensitive to sin? Go back to chapter 1 for a moment. This is a very important portion of Scripture. Verse 5
chapter 1 of 1 John, "This is the message we have heard from Him and announced to you that God is light and in Him there
is no darkness at all." Now the point here is that the message which the Lord has sent to us is about Himself. The message is
that God is absolutely sinless, absolutely holy, absolutely perfect, has no blemish, no sin, no ignorance, there is no literally in
the Greek a single bit of darkness in Him. Now that's the basic foundational truth to the section. And immediately we come
to verse 6, follow as I read, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not
practice the truth." In other words, if God is light all light and nothing but light, and we are walking in darkness, then that's
not fellowship with Him. Verse 7, "But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one
another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin, if we say that we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves
and the truth is not in us, if we confess our sins He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness, if we say that we have not sinned we make Him a liar and His word is not in us."
Now you have a very clear contrast here and I want you to follow it. It is a foundational truth that God is light and in Him
there is not one single bit of darkness. Yet there are some people who claim to be in fellowship with God, they claim to be in
fellowship with God but their claim doesn't hold water. In verse 6, please note, they say we have fellowship with Him. They
claim to have fellowship with God. Verse 8, they also claim to have no sin. If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving
ourselves and the truth isn't in us. There are some people who claim to have no sin. Then in verse 10, this is unbelievable,
they claim never to have sinned. If we say we have not sinned, we make God a liar and His word is not in us. So here are
some people who say yes, we know God, we fellowship with God, we walk with God but the truth is, they walk in sin and
flatly...what?...deny it. There are lots of people who are so utterly oblivious that they think they are walking in the light when
they're walking in the darkness and walking in the darkness claim to have no sin or not to have sinned at all. It is
characteristic of an unregenerate, unbelieving person to be utterly oblivious to the condition of sin within his life. That's what
John's point is. The man in verse 6 is not confessing sin because he doesn't think it's necessary. He doesn't even recognize it.
He doesn't even acknowledge it. He just walks along in the darkness thinking he's communing with God. The man in verse 8
is not confessing sin because he thinks he's reached a state where he has no sin. The man in verse 10 is not confessing sin
because he never has confessed it or acknowledged sin.
Three words describe these three viewpoints. The first word in verse 6 is darkness, the second word in verse 8 is deceit,
and the third word in verse 10 will make defamation because you make God a liar because God says you have sinned.
So here are people who claim to be Christians but are utterly insensitive to the reality of their sinning. On the one hand they
think they can go on sinning and walk in darkness all they want and not even acknowledge it and still have fellowship with
God. On the other hand, they can deny it all together and think that they can walk and have fellowship with God. They're
utterly insensitive to the reality of their condition. And the truth is, they do not know God, they do not practice the truth, they
deceive themselves. The truth is not in them. They make God a liar and His Word is not in them. There's an unbeliever...a
person who isn't sensitive to his sinful condition. That is why we always say when you preach the gospel what do you have
to preach first? Sinfulness of man.
Now on the other hand, let's go back and pick up the other verses, verse 7, "But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in
the light..." In other words, if we walk a virtuous walk, "We have fellowship with one another," that one another, by the way,
refers to God not to other believers, "and the blood of Jesus His Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin." The truly saved
walk as a pattern of life in the light. The truly saved, look at verse 9, don't deny their sin, they what? They confess it and
God is faithful and righteous to keep on forgiving it and keep on cleansing it. So we can say the true believer is always
walking in the light and always confessing the deeds of darkness that he does in the light. He has a right sense of sin. He
knows if he's going to commune with God he has to be holy, he has to walk in the light. He knows when sin occurs in his life
it must be confessed.
Then in chapter 2 verse 1 John says, "My little children, I'm writing these things to you that you may not sin but if anyone sins
we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Verse 1 of chapter 2 says you don't have to sin, there's a
new liberty here...he says I'm writing to tell you you may not sin. I don't want you to sin. You don't have to do this. But if
you do, there's forgiveness.
The true believer, one, recognizes that he must walk in purity if he's going to commune with God. He recognizes, two, that
when he sins he needs to confess it. He recognizes, three, that he doesn't have to sin. But when he does sin he knows who
to go to, the advocate Jesus Christ.
The point is this that the person who is truly saved is sensitive to the sinful realities in his life. Romans 7, Paul says I know
what's in me, there's a law working in me and it's called the law or the principle of sin and I'm very very aware of it. Does
that describe you? Are you sensitive to sin? Are you very much aware of the spiritual battle? Do you realize very very clearly
that in order to have true communion with God you have to live a holy life and walk in the light, you can't walk in the
darkness and claim fellowship with Him? Are you willing to acknowledge the sinfulness as a reality in your life and confess
it? Do you realize you don't have to sin but if you do you go to the advocate Jesus Christ? Are you sensitive to that like Paul
in Romans? Do you sometimes cry out, "O wretched man that I man, who will deliver me from the body of this death?"
because you're so weary of the burden of sin in your flesh? If that describes you then you have a salvation that is forever.
And if you have that salvation that is forever, you're secure so you might as well enjoy it and be assured.
Question number three, are you obedient to God's Word? Are you obedient to God's Word? Chapter 2 verse 3, "And by
this we know that we have come to know Him if we...what?...keep His commandments." Now that could not be clearer. By
this we know, we perceive by experience, that seems to be the force of gnosko the verb. By this we experimentally
experientially know. We know what? That we have come to know Him. What's that? Salvation. How do we know we're
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