Blessed Assurance
Tim Temple

Introduction

A speech teacher of mine said that one of the basic formats for giving a speech was to tell them what you are going to say, say it, then tell them what you said. I am not sure all speakers go by that. I am not sure that I am able to stick to that thoroughly, but it is a good format if you are going to give a speech. Set up the speech, tell them what you plan to say, say it, and then review it.

One of the things that we find as we come to this last chapter of this letter from the Apostle John is it is almost as if he had heard that advice himself, at least the last point of it, because chapter 5 of this letter forms a kind of review of all of the things he has written about in the rest of the letter. As we look at it over the course of the next two or three Sundays, we are going to have a good review of the thrust of this letter and the things that he has wanted to share with us.

One of the things that John was very interested in was the matter of assurance. He wanted his readers to know what they believed. He wanted us to know that we are saved for one thing. As you know, John also wrote one of the first gospels, the gospel according to John, and that was a record of the life of Christ and His teachings and those kinds of things that are in those first four books of the New Testament. But right at the end of his gospel, he wrote in chapter 20, verse 31:

John 20:

31But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

He wanted us to know that we are saved. He wanted us to know that we have eternal life. As we come to the last chapter of this epistle, which was written probably fifty years after he wrote the gospel, he is wrapping up his own ministry. He is coming to the end of his own life and it comes at the close of the New Testament. At the end of his life, he was still anxious that we know what we believe, that we know we are saved and that assurance of our salvation forms that outline for chapter 5. In verses 1-12, he writes about the basis for our assurance. That is what we want to talk about today—how we can know that we are God's children, how we can know we are saved. Then in verses 6-13, he writes about the basic facts of assurance. In those verses, he goes into a theological background of why we can know we are saved. Then in verses 14-21, we have the bold results of assurance, the things that take place in our lives as God's children that also give us assurance that we are His children.

The Origin Of Our Salvation

Today we want to begin looking at this first paragraph and begin our study by talking about the basis for our assurance as we find it in verses 1-5. The first fact upon which we can base our assurance is what I am calling the origin of our salvation . Look at the first part of verse 1:

I John 5:

1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…

Let's stop right there for a minute. It needs to be said that John is not just talking about believing that there was a man by the name of Jesus Who walked on the earth 2000 years ago. It is not even talking about believing that Jesus was the Son of God. Notice the term that he uses here: “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” That is a term that John uses a couple of other places in this letter, and we are going to be seeing in this chapter a lot of things that he has used in other places in his letter. We have talked about this term the Christ before. Many people think that Jesus was His first name and Christ was His last name, but that is not it at all. His name was Jesus. Technically, in those days His name would have been Jesus bar Joseph—Jesus the Son of Joseph—but His name was Jesus; His title was The Christ—Jesus the Christ, as in William the Conquerer. That is His name and His title and what John is saying is that those who are born of God are those who believe that Jesus was and is the Christ. The term the Christ is a New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament term Messiah . His original readers would have understood that without anybody having to explain it to them. The Messiah in the Old Testament was that Savior King that God had been promising them from the very beginning of time.

When He disciplined Adam and Eve for their eating of the fruit in the Garden of Eden and their falling into sin, He promised Eve that someday a Savior would come and then He elaborated on that promise and gave more and more of the details of that promise all down through the Old Testament. The term that the Old Testament used was the Messiah , for this Savior Who would come someday and Who would rule over Israel and all of those promises about the Kingdom of God. That term in the Greek is Christos , and it carried with those Jews who lived in the era of the New Testament that same terminology, that same concept—the Savior, the King, the Lord. So John says that anyone who believes that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, was The Christ Whom all of our forefathers talked about and Who, all throughout the Old Testament, we heard about is born of God.

Paul wrote in I Corinthians that no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit. He said in another chapter of I Corinthians that no man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Spirit, and he said that if one does not have the Holy Spirit, he is not saved. Putting that all together, what it says is that if we are able to say that Jesus is The Christ, it is because we have been born of God. He says here, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” We believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, and we are born into God's family. If we are able to say that Jesus is the Christ, if we are able to say that Jesus is our Savior, that in itself is assurance of our salvation.

We are talking here about the origin of our salvation. You see, our salvation does not come from some plan that we dreamed up. Our salvation does not come because of some system, and men everywhere try to come up with a way that somehow they can satisfy God. They figure out if they do these things and if they don't do these things, and all kinds of things are on both of those lists, then God will accept them. That is a plan of salvation that they originate with themselves, but John says our salvation has as its origin God's plan to send the Christ into the world, the Christ in Whom if we believe, we have salvation. So if we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, we are sons of God. That is the origin of our salvation—not our plan, but God's plan.

John made that even more clear in that gospel that he wrote in a verse that probably everybody is familiar with—John, chapter 3, verse 16—one of the best known verses in all the Bible:

John 3:

16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

In chapter 4, verse 10, of this letter we have:

I John 4:

10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

We saw that that word propitiation means “satisfaction.” Our debt of sin against God was satisfied when Christ died for us, and we accept that. Salvation is entirely God's idea; salvation is entirely God's provision. It is entirely His doing and not ours, and that is great assurance of our salvation. What we are trusting in is what God has said, not what we have come up with. That is the first basis for our assurance that John writes about here in this chapter.

The Offspring Of Our Salvation

Coming back to the text, there is another basis for assurance right here in this same verse—two bases for our assurance in one verse. That is what I am calling the offspring of our salvation . Look at the rest of verse 1. We have just read that whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Then he continues:

I John 5:

1…and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

At first glance, that verse seems a little confusing, doesn't it? What does that mean? I think that the Revised Standard version of the Bible gives a little clearer translation. It has some problems, and there are some things in that translation that muddle some truths of the Scripture, but in this particular verse, I think it makes a lot of sense. It says, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child.”

Who is the child that John refers to here? The first part of the verse says that everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God. So this says that if we have trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we have been born into the family of God, and the result of that is that we have a natural love for other people who have been born into the family of God. If we love the Father, then we are going to love the other children. If we love the Father, if we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we are a child of God. If we say that we love God, then we are going to love His other children also.

This is another theme that John just keeps on picking up all through this letter, that a natural result of our salvation is that we love other believers. Maybe you have had the experience of flying on an airplane and sitting down beside a stranger and getting acquainted with that person. In the course of getting acquainted with him, you discover that he or she too is a believer in Jesus Christ. If you have had that experience, you have probably also experienced that warm feeling that comes. Here is a brother or sister in Christ. That is a natural thing. We don't have to work that up. In the course of everyday living, sometimes we children of God get crosswise with each other and it might put us on the spot if somebody said, “Do you love so and so, your brother Christian?” One of the natural results of our salvation is that we love other Christians. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We love the family. We love the children because we love the Father.

That is a very important realization because another question that often comes up is: Who is my brother anyway? Several places scattered throughout the New Testament, this thing about loving our brothers is mentioned. In fact, it is a term that John has used a lot in this letter. Look back to chapter 3, verse 10. He said:

I John 3:

10In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.

Then down a couple of verses in verse 14:

I John 3:

14We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

Then if you look in chapter 4, verse 20, he said:

I John 4:

20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

Then going on to verse 21:

I John 4:

21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

We hear that terminology and we say, “Well, who is my brother anyway?”, and we are hoping that there is some way we can exclude that other person who claims to be a Christian, but we don't like him. What is John talking about here? Verse 1 tells us:

I John 5:

1Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.

Whosoever is born of God is a child of God, born into God's family, so that means that that other person that you may have that conflict with, that other person that you really have a hard time liking, if he has trusted Christ as his Savior, he is a child of God just as you are. He is your brother. He is in the same family with you.

Let me expand beyond our personal relationships. I believe that this verse is a clear condemnation against all of the bickering and lack of acceptance among the various denominations of Christians. There are a lot of people who seem to think that this verse says, “Whoever is born of God is a member of a Bible church. Whoever is born of God is a Baptist. They read whatever group they are a part of into that. Listen. This says, “Whoever is born of God, whoever believes in Jesus Christ is born of God. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ is a child of God.” Regardless of what particular group he may identify with, he is a child of God. I think we are going to be very surprised when we get to Heaven to discover that there are going to be some people there who are members of denominations that we think there is something wrong with and maybe there is something wrong with them.

There is a great deal of liberalism going on in several of the denominations. The well known, mainline denominations have been for several years having a real struggle with liberalism. Right now the Methodist Church has been making the most headlines, and it is easy for us to think that everybody in that group has something wrong with them because their leaders deny the deity of Christ or they deny the virgin birth of Christ or they deny this or they deny that. What does it say? If that person has trusted Christ as Savior, he is a child of God. It says nothing about what group he may be a part of. It is easy for us to develop the attitude that the only real Christians are the ones who are a part of our little group. That is absolutely unbiblical. We need to get that straight in our minds and in this era of history in which we live when the Word of God is being put on the shelf. The Word of God in some cases is illegal to quote.

As a basis of what to do or what not to do, we who are children of God need to stand together. Sure, we have disagreements among ourselves about various issues of doctrine, and certainly there are people who are members of this church or that church who, though they are members of that church, have not really trusted Christ as their Savior. John is not talking about those people being our brothers and sisters in Christ. We who know Christ, regardless of what particular denomination we may be a part of, need to stand together to try to bring other people to Christ and not get so hung up on this thing of what denomination a person is a part of.

I was absolutely astonished a few months ago to hear someone be critical and express real surprise that another Christian had sold his home to a person who was a member of a particular denomination. They couldn't believe that they were selling their house to someone who was a part of that group. Certainly there are denominations and there are groups who have veered from the truth and the clear teaching of Scripture in various areas including the gospel, but we should never assume that someone does not know Jesus Christ simply because they are a member of some particular group, simply because they are in a denomination that has liberalism within or some other problems within. We must not assume that there is something wrong with somebody, that they don't know the Lord because of the group they are associated with. The issue is, have they trusted Christ as Savior? If they have, they are a brother or sister in Christ.

Does that mean that all we have to do is love our fellow Christians? Doesn't the Bible say that we are supposed to love everybody? Well, certainly it does. It doesn't ever say that Christian brothers are the only ones that we are to love, but that is where love begins. In the human family, where do we learn about love? We learn about it in the family. One of the purposes that God has designed for the human family is that children be trained and taught. One of the major things that God wants to teach us is how to love other people. It begins in our homes in our relationships with our family members. Then it spreads out around us to other people and to other groups. The same thing is true in the family of God. We learn to love each other and then we can spread that love to people who are outside the family.

Outcome Of Our Salvation

That is how God intends it to work, and that is exactly what John begins to talk about now in verses 2-3. Here is a third means of assurance that we have. The first assurance is that we have an origin of our salvation that is not from within us. The second assurance of our salvation is that we have a love for other members of the family of God, and if we don't dam up that love for the members of the family of God, it is a natural thing that we need to share and experience and spread to others. The third assurance of our salvation is what I am calling the outcome of our salvation . Look at verse 2:

I John 5:

2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

Let's stop there for a moment. Back in chapter 3, John said that one of the ways that we can have assurance that we love God is if we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. That was another of the places that he was talking about our brother and sisters and he said, “If you wonder whether or not you really love God, look around and see whether you love other Christians. If you find that you love other Christians, then you can be assured that you love God also. The opposite is true—if you don't love your brothers and sisters in Christ, then there is some question whether you could love God as well. Here he turns that around and says that one of the ways that we can know that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ is if we love God. How can I know that I truly have love for my fellow Christians? Sometimes there are differences of opinion among us. Sometimes we don't agree on things. I don't have the same taste and preferences and spiritual gifts as some of my Christian brothers, and neither do you. We are different from each other in a lot of ways, but does that mean that we don't love each other? The answer is in verse 2. Look at it again:

I John 5:

2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.

That last phrase is the key to this: “…when we love God, and keep his commandments.” How does that tie in with loving our brothers and sisters in Christ? If our actions toward a fellow believer are based on the commandments of God rather than on our personal feelings for that person, if we love God and keep the commandments that He gave us, particularly in this area of our relationships with other Christians, then we can know that we love those other Christians. For example, sometimes a fellow Christian will ask us to do something for him and the implication of that request is, if you love me, you will do this. Maybe it is a husband asking his wife to lie for him. Maybe it is a boyfriend asking his girlfriend to go to bed with him, and yes, even Christian girlfriends and boyfriends face that temptation. Maybe it is something else along that line—another Christian asking us to do something for them that violates the Word of God. What they are saying is, “If you really love me, you would be willing to do this.”

The Word of God gives a whole other set of instructions. John says here that if you really love that fellow Christian, contrary to the implication that if you love him, you will do this thing, it may be an indication that you really love him if you will obey God's commandments and turn down that request, say no to that brother or that sister.

Another example of the same thing: Maybe there is a fellow Christian who just isn't your type. He has different spiritual gifts and a different background and a different personality. Maybe he is dumber than you are or poorer or richer or whatever, but he is a believer with whom you just really don't have much in common. Maybe that person, for whatever reason, wants you to go to the ballgame with them or camping with them or some other thing with them. Your tendency, if you are like me, is to find some excuse not to do that, not to give that person that much of your valuable time and attention. The commandment of God is “in lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than himself, let each of you look out not only for his own interest, but also for the interest of others.” If we obey God's commandment and give that person the time and the attention they are asking for, assuming we have the time, even though it is something that we would really prefer not to do, that is the love of God flowing through us to that other Christian. We can be assured that we have the love of God and a love for our brother when we are willing to obey God's commandments in regard to that person.

Maybe it is a Christian brother or sister who has wronged you, and they come at some point after they have done that wrong and ask your forgiveness. The easy thing to do would be to say, “I have been hurt so badly I just can't forgive you. I just can't let this thing go by.” That is the tendency that we have. That is the easy thing to do, but over and over again the Scripture says to forgive those who trespass against you. Forgive as God for Christ's sake forgave you. So because of our love for God, we obey the commandment of God and we forgive that brother. As we do that, we discover an amazing thing—that we can begin to love that brother or that sister.

Sometimes God's love flowing out through us has to do an unpleasant thing. Sometimes to love a person will be to do the thing that he does not want us to do or to not do the thing that he does want us to do. If it is an unpleasant thing that is being done because of obedience to the Lord and His commandments, then that is love. Even though it makes someone angry with you or it is unpleasant for you to do that thing, if you obey God's commandment about interpersonal relationships, then you are acting in love for that person.

Verse 3 goes on to bring out an amazing truth. It says:

I John 5:

3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

One of the things that seems to turn people away from Christianity is that Satan has told us the lie that God's commandments are burdensome. Many, many people have the idea that if they become a Christian, they will have to give up too much. If they become a Christian, they will have to live under all these rules and regulations, and it is a burdensome thing. But this verse says, and many other passages repeat, that His commandments are not burdensome. In fact, they are just the opposite. Those commandments that seem so burdensome, if we would all step out by faith and obey those commandments, actually will turn out to be a blessing to us. Probably many of us have had to face some difficult area of obedience to Scripture. We hoped that somebody else would do that thing that God was calling us to do. We try to shove it off on somebody else, but when we finally go through with it, very often we find that it drives us closer to that other person and that obedience to God out of love for God actually produces love for that other person that we do that thing for. But most importantly in the long run, obedience to His commandments turn out to be not burdensome at all. In fact, just the opposite.

Overcoming By Means Of Salvation

Remember, John is talking about things that give us assurance of our salvation. We have seen that assurance of our salvation comes from the origin of our salvation, the offspring of our salvation, and we have just been talking about the outcome of our salvation, but there is one final assurance in verses 4-5, and that is the overcoming that can be ours by means of salvation. Look at verse 4:

I John 5:

4For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
5Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

When we find the strength to obey the Word of God in situations like we have just been talking about, and we see the results of obeying the Word of God and the love that that brings and the improvement to the situation and the peace that that brings, there is the danger that if we do that consistently enough, we will get the idea that our success as Christians is the result of our good efforts. I have just been able to get this Christianity thing together, and I'm a good Christian because—look at this—I obey God's commandments. We get what might be called an Elijah complex . At one point, Elijah said to God, “I am the only one who hasn't bowed the knee to Baal.” He found out that there were seven thousand other Christians who were just as faithful to God as he was. It is easy to think, if we are not careful, “I am being obedient to God, but I am about the only Christian who really does it that way.” We feel as if we are doing it right, and when we think that, we are never so wrong as when we find ourselves in that position.

Victory By Faith

John says very clearly here that although loving other Christians is obedience to the Word of God, and it does overcome the world, it is never the result of our efforts. Victory in the Christian life takes an effort. Obedience to God takes an effort, but the effort is in deciding to obey God's instructions. The effort is in deciding to take God's advice to do it God's way. John says in these verses that the victory that comes when we are able to overcome the world, when we are able to do it God's way instead of the world's way, is an assurance that God is working within us. When we have the victory over some temptation, when we have the victory over doing things the world's way and we do things God's way, the very fact that we have that victory is an assurance of our salvation. It is an assurance that God is at work within us, and what we contribute is simply the fact that we believe that He is at work within us. Notice what it says at the end of verse 4:

I John 5:

4…and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.

It is our faith, not our activities, that God will work through us, that God will be faithful to His Word. When you think about this term, the world , you can see how important this issue is. John has talked about the world, especially back in chapters 1 and 2. He is talking there about the world system that we live in, which includes the pressures that we face to do it the world's way instead of God's way—the moral pressures that we face, the outlook and the standards of the godless society that surrounds us and in which most of us work every day and live every day, the pressure to lie and to cheat and to get ahead at all cost, to take advantage of other people just because we can, the pressure of sexual looseness that surrounds us everywhere we go. All of those kinds of things are wrapped up in the world, and John says that God can overcome the world. As we are obedient to Him and if we trust Him to do it, that is how we overcome the world. We overcome the world by faith.

Think very carefully here. He is not talking about the faith that it took to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior whenever that took place. What he is talking about is the faith to believe that the Holy Spirit is present within us. It is easy to forget that, but he is talking about the faith that believes that God is at work within us and that God can work moment by moment and step by step to counter those pressures that we face in our lives.

Remember the story in Exodus, chapter 17, when Israel was just coming out of their slavery in Egypt and one of the first things that happened to them was that the Amalekites attacked them. Moses sent Joshua out to fight against the Amalekites, and he went up on a hillside and began to pray about the battle. He was looking out over the battle, and he was praying about the battle. You remember he raised his hands with the rod of God in his hand, and as long as he had his hand raised, Israel was winning the battle. But when his hands would drop, the Amalekites would begin to win the battle.

Then Aaron and Hur came and held his hands up and helped him so that they would continue to win the battle. Joshua and the Israelite soldiers were doing the fighting, but it was God Who was winning the battle. There was prayer involved on the part of Moses and there was helping him in prayer, but the victory came not because Joshua was fighting the battle, although he was; it didn't come because Moses held his hands up; it didn't come because Aaron and Hur helped him hold his hands up. The victory came because Moses and Aaron and Hur, and maybe Joshua too, believed that God would win the battle as they prayed to Him. That is how the victory came. All of these physical things were involved in it, but the victory came because of their faith. God responded to their faith and gave them victory in that battle.

Satan comes out after us like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. We need to fight against him; we need to resist him steadfast in the faith, Peter says, and we need to pray about it. We need to have other Christians praying with us and all of those things are part of it, but the victory comes because God is at work in our hearts during all of that. The victory comes because God is at work. These other things are part of that, but the essence of it is that God brings the victory. John's point in this passage is the fact that the victory comes as an assurance of the fact that God is at work within us.

I read recently about a ship captain who was describing what a storm at sea was like. He talked about the monstrous waves and how the ship would be at the top of one of those huge crests and be tossed down into a valley. He talked about the relentless rain and the ceaseless wind and all of the elements of the story and he said this: “It seemed like the wind and the rain and all of the elements of the storm were saying, ‘You cannot come. You cannot come'.” But he said, “I stand on the bridge of the ship and underneath my feet I can feel and I can faintly hear the rumble of the huge engines in the belly of the ship and as that storm is saying, ‘You cannot come,' that engine seems to be saying to me, ‘Yes, we can. Yes, we can'.”

I think that is a good description of God at work within us. That is how the battle is won. This is the way we overcome the world. The storms of temptation and pressure are all around us and it seems impossible not to give in. Sometimes we do give in, but if our confidence is in the life of God working within us, maybe way below the surface, this is the victory that overcomes the world, John says. The fact that we win these battles gives us assurance of our salvation.

Jesus talked about this same principle when He was on earth. In John, chapter 16, He was warning the disciples that a lot of persecution was going to come, and a lot of dangers lay ahead for them, In verse 33, He said:

John 16:

33These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Conclusion

Let me tell you something that you already know by experience and that I know by experience. You and I cannot overcome the world. The pressure is too great; the temptations are too clever, but our assurance comes from the fact that God is within us, and He has overcome the world. As we face those trials and testings, that tribulation that Jesus talked about in John, chapter 16, let's remember that it is our faith in the fact that He has already overcome the world that brings victory to pass in our lives.


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