Are you assured of Godâ€™s love for you? Do you have a firm and growing assurance of Godâ€™s love for you? Are you like Abraham who was fully convinced that the Lord is able to do what He has promised to you (Rom. 4:19-22)? You may have faith in Christ, and yet not have full assurance of faith. Sometimes it is easy to see how others can be loved by God, and not yourself. Do you want to be assured and grow into a deeper confidence and joy in Godâ€™s love?
First, are you a Christian? Are you trusting in Christ alone for your salvation apart from works? Do you believe that all of your righteousness and redemption is found in Christ alone (1 Cor. 1:30), and this is received by you through faith alone in Christ alone because of grace alone? If you have Christ, then you have faith. Yet there is an important distinction that should be made between those who have true and saving faith, and those who have the full assurance of faith (Heb. 10:22-24). The Apostle John wrote his first letter to help believers to be assured. He wrote: â€œI write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal lifeâ€ (ESV 1 John 5:13). â€œâ€¦That you may know that you have eternal life.â€ Do you knowâ€¦for sure?!
One of the most precious and practical things we can learn from Holy Scripture is that God truly loves us in Christ and makes this love known to us, and even felt in us by His Spirit. God desires His children to know His love for them in Christ by His Spirit.
Beloved, our Confession of Faith can help us tremendously in growing in our faith, and thus coming to assurance of faith. In fact, believers can have an infallible assurance of faith that can lead us into deeper joy and greater obedience to Christ out of gratitude!
Let us together as a congregation consider chapter 18 of the Westminster Confession of Faith (note the scripture references that you might be interested in looking up and studying further). I will briefly follow each section with a commentary to get you thinking prayerfully.
Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18.1 Â Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation;(1) which hope of theirs shall perish;(2) yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace,(3) and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.(4) (1)Job 8:13,14; Micah 3:11; Deut. 29:19; John 8:41. (2)Matt. 7:22,23. (3)1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14,18,19,21,24; 1 John 5:13. (4)Rom. 5:2,5.
True Faith in Christ: Our confession pastorally teaches us that believers are saved only through the grace of God found in Christ alone for salvation. We must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in our union with Him we desire to serve Him sincerely. If one has true faith, then he will also have works (James 2:14-18). True believers desire for their faith to be seen in loving Christ â€œin sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before Himâ€.
Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18.2Â This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion, grounded upon a fallible hope;(1) but an infallible assurance of faith, founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,(2) the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,(3) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God:(4) which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.(5) (1)Heb. 6:11,19; (2)Heb. 6:17,18. (3)2 Pet. 1:4,5,10,11; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14; 2 Cor. 1:12. (4)Rom. 8:15,16. (5)Eph. 1:13,14; Eph. 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:21,22.
Three Important Aspects of Assurance of Faith: We can have as believers united to Jesus Christ an infallible assurance of faith because of three important things: (1) Believing Godâ€™s Promises in His Word: The truth of Godâ€™s Word, particularly the promises of God found in Holy Scripture. This is the infallible foundation for assurance of our faith. Simply put, we believe Godâ€™s promises; we believe that Godâ€™s Word is true (2 Cor. 1:20-22). (2) Believing Fruits are Produced: There is evidence in possessing some fruits inwardly in the heart and conscience, and outward fruits that show forth that we are the sons of God. These marks of grace or good fruits should flow out of a sincere, regenerated heart (â€œYou will know the tree by the fruit it bearsâ€¦â€- Matt. 7:16ff). A believer can know that they not only possess a desire to will to do good but they seek by faith with sincerity to do good in gratitude for what Christ has done (Phil. 2:12-13). (3) Testimony of the Holy Spirit: The Spirit of Sonship, or of Adoption testifies with our spirits, or our hearts that we are the children of God and we cry, â€œAbba, Fatherâ€ (Rom. 8:15). The Spirit seals us unto the Day of Redemption, or gives us the assurance that we are truly possessed and loved by God the Father in Christ Jesus. This knowledge of Godâ€™s love can lead to deep experiential joy, like being loved by a spouse, or basking in the love of a faithful Christian mother or father.
Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18.3Â This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it:(1) yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.(2) And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure;(3) that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience,(4) the proper fruits of this assurance: so far is it from inclining men to looseness.(5) (1)1 John 5:13; Isa. 1:10; Mark 9:24; Ps. 88; Ps. 77:1-12. (2)1 Cor. 2:12; 1 John 4:13; Heb. 7:11,12; Eph. 3:17,18,19. (3)2 Pet. 1:10. (4)Rom. 5:1,2,5; Rom. 14:17; Rom. 15:13; Eph. 1:3,4; Ps. 4:6,7; Ps. 119:32. (5)1 John 2:1,2; Rom. 6:1; Tit. 2:11,12,14; 2 Cor. 7:1; Rom. 8:1,12; 1 John 3:2,3; Ps. 130:4; 1 John 1:6,7.
Not All with Faith Have Assurance: All believers possess saving faith, but not all believers with saving faith possess assurance of faith (â€œIt does not so belong to the essence of faithâ€). This may take a long time, and this may be through much conflict against Satan and sin. But one can come to this assurance by using the ordinary means that Christ has kindly and generously given to His church, such as the word, sacrament, prayer, fellowship. These are means of grace that the risen-ascended Christ has given to His people so that they might mature in Him, and come to an assurance of Godâ€™s love. In fact, God has commanded His children that we are to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:3ff; 2 Cor. 13:5). This assurance of God does not make us loose in our walk before God, but makes us joyful, and prayerful, and watchful, and gives a deeper desire to please God in Christ. Maturing and growing in sanctification are not optional for the Christian life, they are required: â€œAnd by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in himâ€¦â€ (1 Jo. 2:3-5).
Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 18.4Â True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it; by falling into some special sin, which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation; by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness, and to have no light:(1) yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived;(2) and by the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair.(3) (1)Cant. 5:2,3,6; Ps. 51:8,12,14; Eph. 4:30,31; Ps. 77:1-10; Matt. 26:69-72; Ps. 31:22; Ps. 88; Isa. 1:10. (2)1 John 3:9; Luke 22:32; Job 13:15; Ps. 73:15; Ps. 51:8,12; Isa. 1:10. (3)Micah 7:7,8,9; Jer. 32:40; Isa. 54:7-10; Ps. 22:1; Ps. 88.
No Negligence: This assurance can be shaken, particularly when we are negligent and fail to watch and pray, and fall into temptation and sin against God. We should seek to please God and not to in any way grieve the precious Spirit of God who lives within us as Godâ€™s children (Eph. 4:30). God can remove His special presence and comfort for a season as a discipline to His children, that we might repent, and confess our sins, and seek prayerfully to return to a sweet communion with God our Heavenly Father.
Do you know that God loves you? Meditate upon His promises to you in Christ. Think about how he loves His own dear children. Seek in light of these promises to be faithful and grateful in your service to Him, seeking to please Him sincerely from the heart. Ask God to fill you with His Word and Spirit so that you might more fully know of the God the Fatherâ€™s great, wide, deep, high, and broad love for you in Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:17-19). Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to have more joy as God has promised to you in Christ.
Meditate upon John 15:9-11 to ponder your assurance, and to seek prayerfully to reach full assurance of faith. Our Lord Jesus says:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Our Lord Jesus desires us to know that He loves us as the Father has loved Him from all eternity. That is a great amount of love! This is the love that should motivate and fuel all of our obedience to Him.
Christ teaches us to abide in His love (cf. Jude 20-21). But how? How does one specifically abide in Christâ€™s love? Our Lord Jesus teaches us that we abide in Him by doing His commandments, and seeking to please Him by being sincerely obedient from our heart. And note that He teaches us that we might not only glorify Him, but that we would also very much enjoy Him: â€œThese things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be fullâ€ (15:11).
In other words, as Christ is loved by the Father, and lives in obedience to Him because He desired to please Him above all else. So, in Christ, we can have the joy that He had by the Spirit, and through this also to enjoy His joy in full as we live in Christ by faith. We can see here the foundation of our assurance in knowing the love of God for us in Christ, the evidence of our assurance as we keep (imperfectly, yet sincerely) Christâ€™s commandments from the heart, and come to possess a deeper and fuller *JOY* by His precious and beautiful Spirit.
In Christâ€™s love,