Summary: Assurance of salvation comes from understanding the plan of salvation, recognizing God’s unchanging love, obedience to God, love toward others, self-examination, the promises of Scripture and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit.
Sermon Series on First John, “Collecting Evidence of Faith” >“Assurance” I John 5:13-21 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
•Confident Condition, verse 13
•Confident Prayer, verse 14-15
•Confident Confrontation, verses 16-17
•Confident Conduct, verses 18-21
Confident condition, verse 13…
In an age of uncertainty, we have something we can be absolutely sure about. God’s word doesn’t leave us guessing about our spiritual standing. Assurance of salvation is trusting God’s affirmation that we are indeed His children, safe and secure for all eternity; that we are protected and will persevere by His power and promise.
Assurance comes from understanding the plan of salvation, recognizing God’s unchanging love, obedience to God, love toward others, self-examination, the promises of Scripture and the internal witness of the Holy Spirit. God imparts to us a clear awareness of our reconciled, redeemed relationship.
Verse 13 is John’s purpose statement. He writes so that we may “know” we’re eternally secure. The word “know” (from the Greek) means to know with certainty. Our confidence extends to both Heaven and Earth; we have no fear of the future judgment and no fear of the present trials we face.
Confident prayer, verses 14-15…
Assurance of salvation affects how we pray; when we’re sure of our condition we don’t hesitate to talk to God. Our status as God’s children grants us boldness in prayer.
We’re free to ask for whatever we want, and the closer we get to God, the more in tune we become to His will. Prayer isn’t a blank check; God isn’t our servant. John qualifies our prayer requests, stating a condition, a caveat that our prayers will be effective “if we ask anything according to His will.” When we pray, it’s not to change God’s mind. It’s “Thy will be done”, not “Thy will be different.” When God’s answer is “no,” He has a better plan. If God doesn’t want something for me, I shouldn’t want it either. I’ve prayed, “Lord, help me to want what You want me to want, so that when I pray, I’m asking for things that reflect Your will.” When I pray, I admit I don’t know what’s really best for me or my situation. So I tell God what I think is best, admitting I could be wrong. In prayer we seek God’s purpose, understanding that His answers are wiser than our prayers.
Does prayer change things, or does it simply change us? Phil Yancey suggests, “We pray for assurance that we are not alone.” As such, prayer is a time of friendship with God. Prayer is, in its most basic form, “keeping company with God.” In prayer we place ourselves with open hands in a position of attentiveness, both speaking and quietly seeking. Prayer becomes more than a “shopping list”; it is a realignment whereby we shift from our earth-bound perspective and consider a bigger point-of-view. We don’t have to convince God to care about our needs; He already cares more than we do.
Confident confrontation, verses 16-17…
Assurance of salvation affects how we respond to anything contrary to God’s will. When we pray “Thy Kingdom come” we’re engaged in spiritual warfare. Sometimes we confront sin head on. When we learn of a believer caught in sin, is it a matter of gossip or a cause for prayer? Intercessory prayer is offered for the maturity of the church. We sustain, nurture, and occasionally confront one another.
John cautions us that some matters are settled, and while we’re free to bring them up in prayer, we’re not going to change God. This “sin that leads to death” may be self-destructive behavior. If someone’s unhealthy lifestyle choices results in natural consequences, praying for God to overrule and reverse the laws of nature may not be sensible. Scripture occasionally speaks of God taking a disobedient believer home (I Cor 11:30). At the same time, it’s hard to know when to stop praying for someone. I don’t want to give up on anyone.
Confident conduct, verses 18-21…
Assurance of salvation affects our lifestyle. Followers of Christ don’t make a chronic practice of sinning or adopt a lifestyle of living apart from God. And John gives the reason why in verse 18: “for God’s Son holds them securely” (NLT). It is God’s hold of us--not our hold of God--that keeps us secure. It’s the Object of our faith, not the strength of our faith that causes us to persevere. William Barclay noted, “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” We are “born of God” according to John. The original language indicates this is not a one-time religious experience but an ongoing, abiding life of faith. Conversion is the beginning of a transformed, new life. If a professing Christian’s life is no different from an unbeliever’s, perhaps that person is not truly converted, and they’re trusting in false assurance.