Tests of Assurance from 1 John Part 3
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/08/2003
"Tests of Assurance from 1 John"
The Assurance of Salvation
2 Peter 1:5-11
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Now tonight we're going on in our study of this matter of assurance of salvation. We have approached the text of 2 Peter
chapter 1 with an almost marathon style. We have been running for a long time and haven't yet landed at verse 5. But we are
trying to introduce the theme of 2 Peter 1:5 through 11. The theme here is the matter of the certainty of salvation. The larger
subject that Peter is dealing with here is our precious faith which he began to talk about in verse 1. But starting in verse 5 he
is concerning himself with this matter of the certainty of salvation.
And just to touch base with the idea, we note down in verses 9, 10 and 11 that he speaks to this very issue saying in verse
9, "For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins, 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 will never stumble, for in this way the entrance in to the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be
abundantly supplied to you."
Peter is concerned that people not forget that they have been forgiven. He is concerned that they be sure about God's calling
and choosing them. And that they experience the abundant supply that is theirs through entrance into the Kingdom by way of
Christ. It is a matter then of assurance that is on his mind.
And in approaching this I felt it was necessary to deal with the subject on a much broader base and so for a number of
weeks we have been endeavoring to discuss the doctrine of the assurance of salvation. And we simply ask the question: how
can we as believers enjoy the assurance of salvation? How can I be sure my faith is saving faith? How can I be sure my life
is new life in Christ? Obviously this is a vital matter for our joy and for our peace as Christians.
Now before we look in to this particular text, I have been drawing your attention to 1 John because John deals with the
same issue. And wanting to be as complete as I can in discussing the subject here, I've digressed over to 1 John and I'm
going to do it again tonight. Let's go back to 1 John.
A number of the New Testament writers, of course, are very very concerned about this matter of true salvation, as was our
Lord Jesus Himself. And John dedicates actually the entire first epistle to this subject. In chapter 1, for example, let me put
you in touch with verse 4. John says, "These things we write so that our joy may be made complete." He is saying the
purpose of the writing of this epistle is that together we might rejoice. Certainly inherent in that joy is the confidence of true
At the end of this epistle, chapter 5 and verse 13, he sums it up with this very important and somewhat thematic statement,
"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know that you have
eternal life." Now there is the theme of this epistle. He started out by saying I write in order that you might have full joy. He
ends up by saying that full joy is a part of confidence when you know you have eternal life. So John writes this epistle then to
give us instruction that we might know that our salvation is genuine.
Now the epistle as such is made up of a series of tests. You often hear people say that the epistle of 1 John is basic, almost
primitive, simple, a good place for new Christians to start, and it is. But it is also a very very deep profound and frequently
difficult epistle to interpret clearly. One thing, however, that is apparent throughout the epistle is that there are clearly given
tests for a person to take to verify a valid salvation. I suppose we could say fairly that if someone was questioning their
spiritual condition and weren't sure whether they really possessed eternal life, this would be the place to send them.
Now we've already considered six of those tests and I put them in the form of questions. Are you enjoying fellowship with
Christ and God? That test appears in chapter 1 verses 2 and 3 and also in chapter 5 verses 1 through 5. Secondly John
brings another test. Are you sensitive to sin in your life? That is also in chapter 1 verse 5 through chapter 2 verse 1. Are you
sensitive to sin in your life? Three, are you obedient to God? Is it a pattern of your life to obey? That is in chapter 2 verses 3
and 4 and 5. Then the fourth query and test that we noted, do you reject the world? To put it another way to use the very
terminology John uses, do you love the world? Do you love the system of the world? That's chapter 2 verses 15 through 17.
The fifth test that we have examined, do you love Christ and eagerly wait for His return? Do you love Christ and eagerly
wait for His return? That chapter 3 verses 1 through 3, every one who has this hope purifies himself. And then last time we
considered number six in our little list, do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? Do you see a decreasing pattern of
sin in your life? Chapter 3 verses 5 through 10.
So we have gone through quite a number of tests in moving through this wonderful epistle. Now I want to give you some
more tonight I trust in a rather rapid fire succession. Number seven on your list, do you love other Christians? Do you love
other Christians? And this will move us back to the section that we omitted, one of the key sections, and that's back in
chapter 2 verses 9 through 11. Let's go back to chapter 2 and note verses 9, 10 and 11. Verse 9, "The one who says he is
in the light," that is the one who says he is a believer, who says he possesses eternal life, who says he knows God, who says
he's saved, who says he's converted, "and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now."
Go back to verse 6 just to help you to understand that. The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the
same manner as He walked. Now that says that if you're going to claim to be in Christ, your life is going to show some of the
patterns of Christ. And certainly loving your brother would be one very very basic pattern. To be in the light, to be cleansed,
to walk with God, to be saved, to be in fellowship with Christ is to experience and express love. So it is not the people who
claim to be Christians but it is the people who love the brothers.
Follow it in to verse 10. "The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the
one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness and doesn't know where he's going because the
darkness has blinded his eyes." In other words, if you claim to be a Christian but do not love your brothers and sisters in
Christ, your claim is a sham.
To illustrate it a little bit further, let me have you turn to the epistle we're studying in the morning, 1 Thessalonians chapter 4
and listen to how Paul very clearly delineates this matter of love. Verse 9, he says to the Thessalonian believers, "Now as to
the love of the brethren," same idea as John, "as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you."
Why? Why? "For you yourselves are taught by God to do...what?...to love one another." What Paul is saying there is that it
is inherent or implicit in salvation and the granting of the new nature and the Holy Spirit that you will be taught by God to
love one another. Whoever loves God loves whom God begets, John says in 1 John 5:1. If you love God you'll love His
children. That's just basic. And then in verse 10 of 1 Thessalonians 4 he adds, "For indeed you do practice it toward all the
brethren who are in all Macedonia but we urge you, brethren, to...what?...excel still more." You haven't loved as fully as you
ought to love, but you have loved. And you don't need to be taught to love, it's instinctive, it's implicit, it's inherent, it's an
element within the new nature.
To show you further that clearly in Scripture, look at Romans 5. In Romans 5 we have here a catalog of the things that are
ours in justification by faith. Verse 1 says that since we have been justified by faith there are a number of things which we
have received. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. That's a settled peace forever with God.
Furthermore, we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand. Salvation brings us peace with
God and standing in grace. We are literally engulfed by grace which continues to be greater than our sin and to cleanse us.
Then he says we also rejoice in hope, the hope of the glory of God. Some day to be glorified in His presence. Not only this,
we rejoice in our tribulations. Why? Tribulation brings perseverance, perseverance proven character, proven character hope
and hope does not disappoint. And then he adds because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the
Holy Spirit who is given to us.
It is characteristic of a believer to have peace with God, to stand in grace, to rejoice in hope and to experience love for
God. And not only love for God, but the love of God poured in us is expressed not only to God but to all who are God's,
other believers. Jesus went so far as to say this in John 13:34, "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples if you
have...what?...love for one another," John 13:34 and 35. So it is basic to our Christian life that we have a capacity and a
capability to love each other. Now we don't need to beg that issue because you're familiar with what the Scripture teaches
about it, but suffice it to say for the moment that loving one another means serving one another in humility. It is not primarily
an emotion, it is not primarily a feeling, it is primarily a sense of dutiful responsibility, sacrificial service, humble sensitive
So you have to ask yourself the question to be faithful to John here, if you characteristically love other believers. If you claim
to be a Christian and you have no love for them or no sacrificial love for them, no dutiful humble caring love for them, then
John says you may say you're in the light but the truth is you're in the darkness. Love is the test of divine life. Love in your life
means you have crossed over, you have crossed over in to divine life.
Let's go to chapter 3 verse 14 and we'll see it right here. He uses the very Greek term "crossed over," verse 14, "We know
that we have crossed over from death in to life," how do I know that? How do I know I'm a Christian? How do I know I've
crossed over in to life? Verse 14, "Because we love the brethren." There is a simple test, beloved. Do you care about other
believers or are you utterly cold, uncaring, and indifferent? Or do you have a desire to reach out and meet their needs?
That's the test. Verse 14 further says, "He who does not love abides in death, he hasn't crossed over in to new life." Verse
15, "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has no eternal life abiding in him." People
who are characterized by continual hatred which could be translated not so much in a vitriolic vengeful angry hostility as in an
utter self-consuming, self-centered, selfish approach to life, do not know God. People who continually focus on themselves
and could care less what happens to anybody else no matter what they claim are the children of the devil, characterized by
murder, characterized by hatred and they abide in spiritual death. Verse 16 he says it again, "We know love by this that He
laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
Somebody is going to say, "Okay, you're talking about this love, what do you mean?" Well we know it by this, it's sacrifice.
Love is defined as sacrificing for others. Do you get joy when you give to the Lord's work? Do you get joy when you come
across a person in need and you're able to give them money, a commodity, time, prayer, care to meet that need? Does your
heart rejoice when you are able to be with Christian people, to talk with them, to share with them, to discuss the things of
God with them, to study the Word, to pray, to just be together? Do you have a desire to take the supply and the resources
God has given you and apply them to someone else in the family of God? That's evidence of love. That's evidence of love.
Are you willing to lay down your life, your goods, all you are and possess to meet someone else's need? It doesn't mean that
all of us are able at this moment in time to say.."Well if the hour ever came when someone was going to run a sword through
my heart if I didn't make a loving sacrifice, I don't know whether I'd be able to stand the test." If you're a true Christian
when the hour came, believe me, God would give you the grace to stand it, right? You don't have the grace to endure what
you're not enduring, but when it comes you would. The question is, in the circumstance I'm in now with the opportunity I
have now, do I express love sacrificially?
Verse 17, here he gets very particular, "Whoever has the world's goods," and here's how he defines love, it's not just giving
your life, that's nice to lay down our lives for the brethren, but let's take a very simple one, you have the world's goods, that
is commodities, clothing, housing, food, sustenance, and behold your brother in need and you close your heart against him,
John asks a simple question, how does the love of God abide in you? How could you possibly be a Christian? You see,
Christians have received the love of God shed abroad in their hearts. They don't have to be taught to love one another,
they've been taught by God to do that as a part of the sanctifying influence of justification. And in that condition they love.
And one who has the resources to meet a need but closes his compassion to the one in need may claim to be a Christian but
John raises the question...how does the love of God abide in him? So he says in verse 18, "Little children, let us not love
with word or with tongue but in deed and truth." Verse 19, "We shall know by this," by what? By love, "That we are of the
truth and shall do...what?...assure our hearts." What a statement.
You want assurance? You want assurance as you stand before Him, as you stand before God, assurance that you are a
Christian, a true believer, that your faith is the real thing? That assurance will come by your love. You will know you are of
the truth and assure your hearts. By the way, the word patho is the word assure, it means to pacify, to tranquilize, to soothe,
to persuade. And so you can assure your heart as you stand before God that you're a true Christian under the scrutiny of
divine knowledge, you can be sure if you see love in your life. It isn't perfect love but it is the love of God at work in you
Verse 20, "In whatever our heart condemns us for God is greater than our heart and knows all things." What does that
mean? Listen to this, your heart may put you on a guilt trip, your heart may do its greatest effort to make you doubt. You
see, the fallen flesh can do that. It may play games with your mind. Satan may work in you to condemn you before God but
in whatever your heart condemns you, if you see love in your life your heart can be assured. God is greater than our heart
and knows all things. Even if our heart condemns us, God knows the truth. That's good news, isn't it?
I just would add the footnote here that you may doubt your salvation but God doesn't. If it's real He knows. And even
though your heart condemns you, God doesn't. God knows you're a true believer. You may be going through doubt. You
may be struggling with your assurance. And what the word of John is in this text is go back to the love of your life and
examine if you do not love other Christians and it doesn't show itself or transform itself in to deeds of kindness and sacrifice.
And if that's characteristic of your life, be tranquilized, be soothed, be pacified, for no matter what your heart may do to
condemn you, if you can touch those expressions of love in your life, you can be sure of your salvation. And no matter how
much condemnation rises out of your own heart, God who is greater than your heart doesn't condemn you. A condemning
conscience can rob a Christian of assurance because a condemning conscience, see, looks only at failure. But God is greater
than our conscience. He looks at Christ. And how can I know? By looking at my life to see if love is there.
You remember Peter? He kind of dealt with this when he faced Jesus after he denied Him three times. And what did Jesus
ask him three times? "Peter, do you...what?...do you love Me? If you love Me then show it by feeding My lambs, then love
My lambs, love My sheep, love My people." Finally in some desperation Peter says, "Lord, You know I love You." And
when you can know your love for God in Christ, when you can see expressions of your love for other believers no matter
how your heart condemns you because of sin, no matter how your conscience condemns you, God is greater than your heart
and doesn't condemn you. Your heart and your conscience, as I said, looks only at the failure. God looks at the work of
Christ. So, ask yourself the question...do I love other Christians?
Number eight in John's list of tests, do you experience answered prayer? Do you experience answered prayer? Chapter 3,
while we're there, look at verse 22. "And whatever we ask we receive from Him because we keep His commandments and
do the things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ
and love one another just as He commanded us."
Now what he's saying here in verse 22 is that you can know you're a believer when you begin to receive what you ask.
Because the only way that you can receive what you ask is if you do...what?...keep His commandments. And verse 24 says,
"The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him." So let's start from the end. If you abide in Him and He abides in
you, you keep His commandments. If you keep His commandments, He'll answer your prayers. If He answers your prayers,
guess what? You belong to Him. That's what John is saying. We can...we can have confidence before God. The end of
verse 21, "Even though our heart condemns us we can have confidence before God and whatever we ask we receive from
Him because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight and that is evidence that He abides
in us and we in Him."
Go over to chapter 5 verse 14 and John says, "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything
according to His will He hears us, and if we know that He hears us and whatever we ask we know that we have the request
which we have asked from Him." If you belong to Him, He'll answer your prayers. Answered prayer is a sign you are His
Could I say it this way? God is more anxious to answer the prayer of His children than they are to ask. There's a certain
disappointment, I think, in God's heart because He would do so much more than we ever ask Him to do. Ever had that
thought? There must be a certain disappointment in the sense that He would do so much more than we ever ask Him to do.
But when you pray, that is evidence that you know God if in response He answers your prayer.
There are many people who pray to God. You hear people say that, that little expression, "Well I pray to God so-and-so
and so-and-so." They don't even know the God they're praying to, nor do they know what prayer is. But for those of us
who pray and our prayers are answered, we can know we have eternal life. Now one of the good reasons to have an active
and aggressive and faithful prayer life is so that you can enjoy the assurance that answered prayer brings, right? There are
some people who probably don't enjoy their salvation assurance simply because they have such a skimpy experience of
answered prayer because they have such an ineffective prayer life. I can only tell you, these things have accumulated in my
life, that I have had God answer my prayers in large quantity through the years, continually which is evidence that He hears
me, which is evidence that I abide in Him and He in me. Answered prayer.
Have you had your prayers answered? Then you have eternal life. Is that a pattern for you in life? Have you prayed for
someone and seen them come to Christ? Have you prayed for someone who had a great trouble and a great need in their
life and God used some means to turn that in to blessing and joy? Have you sought God about a lack in your life and have
Him fill it? Have you prayed for forgiveness in a clear conscience and received it? Have you asked God for enabling grace
to present the truth on some occasion to an individual or a group and He gave you the grace to do it? Have you sought
power in proclaiming the gospel and experienced it? Have you asked that God w
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