Well, tonight we have the great privilege of embarking upon a wonderful study of a very special text of Scripture, 2 Peter, chapter 1, verses 5 and following. So open your Bible, if you will. Tonight we’re not going to really have a sermon, but rather, this is going to be a lesson. I want to teach you some things that I hope will be helpful to you. And what we say tonight will, in a sense, be preliminary to the text. But in order that you might grasp what Peter is saying, let me begin reading in verse 5. Second Peter, chapter 1, verse 5, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 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 into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.”
Now, out of those verses I want to draw your attention to one phrase in verse 10: “Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you.” I suppose that all of us as Christians have moments somewhere along in our Christian experience when we’re not certain if we’re saved. There are those times when doubts enter our minds. Sometimes they are but fleeting moments, sometimes they last a long time, sometimes they almost seem a way of life. Sometimes they can plunge someone into despair, despondency, from which they find it impossible to lift themselves. There are many people who have publicly confessed Jesus Christ who lack the assurance of God’s love, who lack the assurance and confidence of eternal life, who are not certain they have been called, and not certain they have been chosen; they are not certain they are saved.
One of the pastoral duties that has belonged to pastors since New Testament times has been this matter of trying to help people understand the truth about their spiritual condition. Every month of my ministry at Grace Church – now we’re well into the twenty-second year – I have dealt with, in one way or another, the matter of doubt in the life of someone. Someone wondering whether if they died they would go to heaven, someone lacking the confidence that God loves them, someone feeling they may not love Christ sufficiently to indicate true salvation, someone thinking they don’t believe enough. Doubts about one’s salvation are common in the life of many Christians. And that in spite of everything God has said. Now, there is a remarkable verse that I might draw from the Old Testament – you might want to jot it down, you’ll probably want to refer to it – Isaiah 32:17. And Isaiah 32:17 says this: “The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” Let me read it again. “The work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” What Isaiah is saying is, where God grants righteousness, with it comes peace and assurance.
In fact, the New Testament writers speak of assurance in rather superlative terms. Colossians 2:2 talks about full assurance. First Thessalonians 1:5 talks about much assurance. Hebrews 6:11 says the full assurance of hope, and Hebrews 10:22 says the full assurance of faith. Full assurance, three times, much assurance, and God who grants us righteousness with it grants assurance. And though the New Testament and the Old Testament talk about assurance, and though assurance is associated with our hope in Christ, and our faith in Christ, and with righteousness, and though assurance is given to us by God, nonetheless there are many Christian people who lack it. Now before we talk about our text – and that is the solution to those who lack assurance – and before we even talk about the matters prior to the text, which are the reasons why people lack assurance, there are two other issues that I must address if we’re going to really get a grip on this subject of assurance.
The first one is this: some people have assurance, but they have no right to have it. Some people have assurance, but they have no right to have it. It is false assurance, it is false peace, it is a false security. Such false assurance is dangerous, deceitful, deadly, and damning, because it mistakes one’s true spiritual condition. The old spiritual put it simply: “Everybody talkin’ about heaven ain’t going there.” That is true. There are some people who have a feeling that all is well between them and God, and it isn’t. You can be assured that false religionists, false prophets, false teachers, would like to give people that feeling, and so would Satan and his emissaries. And if such people, who have a false assurance, who are not saved but think they are, are ever to be saved, and if false assurance is to be taken away from them, then they must be forced to examine two things: the truth about salvation, and the truth about their spiritual condition.
People often ask me why I so often speak on the matter of salvation, and why I so often speak about this matter of your spiritual condition and self-examination, and the reason is because there are people with false assurance. Jesus knew it, that’s why in Matthew 7, He said, “Many will say unto Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord,’” Matthew 7:21, “and I will say to them, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you,’” which will be a great jolt to them, since they probably have false assurance. That is why the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11, “Every time you come to the Lord’s table, examine yourself.” That is why he repeated again in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith.” Because, there are people who have assurance, but they have no right to it.
You say, “How did they get it?” Well, somebody gave them some information about salvation which was not true. And they believed that, and because they believed what they think is truth, they feel secure. There are other people who misjudge their spiritual condition. They know the truth, and they think they have really believed the truth, but they haven’t. In fact, much of our modern-day evangelism contributes to this false hope by using a technique that I would like to call syllogistic assurance. Now, I don’t want to lose you all on that term. A syllogism is simply a form of logic. It has a major premise and a minor premise that leads to a conclusion.
And modern American evangelicalism has been giving people syllogistic assurance for many, many years. It goes like this. John 1:12 might be a starting place, just to tie it in to a specific verse. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” So you say to someone, “Did you receive Him?” Yes – major premise, anyone who receives Him becomes His child. “Did you do that?” Yes, minor premise, you just did that, conclusion: you’re His child. Major premise says if you receive Christ you’ll be His child. Minor premise says you just did that. Conclusion says you’re His child.
You say, “Well, that’s logical.” It is. It is. The problem is you don’t know whether the minor premise is true. You don’t know whether they just did that. You say, “Well, they just said they did.” That’s different. You don’t know if they did that. The Puritans would say, “Tested, then trusted.” You don’t know if they did that until they’re tested. This is an appeal to a logical syllogism. If you know the facts of the gospel, and minor premise, you believe the facts of the gospel, therefore you’re a Christian. This, by the way, is a major component of contemporary evangelism – an appeal to a logical syllogism based on an untested profession, which is a faulty minor premise.
We are basing assurance on a bare inference, not confirmed by the Holy Spirit – we have no Holy Spirit confirmation – and not confirmed by any testing. The truth of assurance is the reward of tested and proven faith. The Holy Spirit gives it, not a human counselor. Some people have assurance when they shouldn’t have it, then, because somebody gave them a false gospel. They believed it, and then they believed they’re saved. Some people have a false assurance because somebody told them their faith was real, when in fact it may not have been. So we need to understand then, first of all, in this matter of assurance, that some people have it who have absolutely no right to it.
Secondly, there’s another preliminary issue that I want to share with you, and that is this: some people think no one has a right to assurance, not even a true Christian. In fact, some people think it is presumption to imagine that you are secure. It is presumption to be assured of your security in Christ. They say it will lead to indifference, it will lead to carelessness, it will lead you to sin, it will lead you to unholiness. This is the historical Arminian view, which basically says if I thought I was secure forever, then I’d go out and do anything I wanted. Have you heard that? Well that’s an old one. You can’t possibly let anybody think their salvation is secure, because they’ll abuse the privileges, because after all, they can’t lose their salvation, so why not live anyway you want.
That’s not only an Arminian view, by the way, that’s a Roman Catholic view. That’s what Roman Catholicism has always taught. Canons and decrees of the Council of Trent go like this, quoting: “No one can know with a certainty of faith which cannot be subject to error that he has obtained the grace of God. No one, moreover, so long as he is in this mortal life ought so far to presume as regards the secret mystery of divine predestination as to determine for certain that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate. For except by special revelation it cannot be known whom God hath chosen unto Himself. If anyone saith that a man who is born again and justified is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate, let him be anathema,” so says the Catholic Church. Curse those people who feel secure.
Though the Council of Trent was held in the sixteenth century, the teaching of the Church on this point has not changed. As evidence I quote the following from a recent Roman Catholic Dictionary of Theology, this is what it says: “Certainty of salvation,” heading, “A concept of Protestant theology which signifies a belief in justification so firm that this belief is inconsistent with any doubt of a man’s ultimate salvation. Such a certainty of salvation, which Catholic theology describes as absolute, was repudiated by the Council of Trent, because whereas the Christian is absolutely forbidden to doubt what God has done in Jesus Christ, or to doubt his universal salvific will, this does not exclude all possible doubt of one’s own eternal salvation,” end quote. What a silly statement. You can’t doubt anything but your own salvation.
G.C. Berkouwer, in his book, Conflict With Rome, takes some pains to show that Rome’s denial of the assurance of salvation is consistent with its conception of the nature of salvation. “It is precisely,” he says, “because the Roman Catholic Church conceives of salvation as a joint effort by man and God, and as a blessing which can only be maintained through the doing of good works, that it must say to the believer you can never be absolutely sure of your salvation. For if one’s assurance of salvation must be based on one’s performance of good works, the most he or she can attain is the kind of conjectural certainty which Rome allows.” Why? Because if my salvation depends on God and me, I might mess up.
So where you have in Roman Catholic theology man involved in salvation, or where you have in Arminian theology man involved in salvation, you have the absence of security, because man can default. But where you have in historic biblical theology where salvation is all the work of God, you have the concomitant doctrine of security, which leads to assurance. The basic question involved here is whether one is saved by grace alone or whether one’s salvation depends in part on his or her meritorious good works. If the latter is true, one can never be sure of salvation. If, however, the former is true, as the Reformers taught, then one can be sure of salvation, even though he or she may not always be in full possession of that assurance. So some would feel we can never be sure and leave it at that, and they say that helps them live a good life, because they have to keep living a good life or they might lose their salvation. Basically, they deny assurance all together.
Now, we make those two points clear. Some people have assurance who have no right to it. Some people deny that anybody can have assurance. But let us concentrate on the truth about assurance, all right? True assurance as Scripture teaches it. Not false believing, true assurance. What we want to achieve is exactly what it says in verse 10. When our series is through, we want you to be certain about His calling and choosing you. We want you, without a hint of doubt, to say, “I am among the predestinate, I am among the elect, I am chosen, I am called. I am eternally secure, and I enjoy my assurance.” But before we can solve the problem we’ve got to introduce it. So I want to ask just a basic question. Why do people lack assurance? Why do people lack assurance? Well, obviously we could answer that by saying, “Well some of them don’t have salvation, that’s why they don’t feel secure.” You’re right, but let’s go beyond that. Why do people who are Christians lack assurance? I’m going to give you several reasons, okay?
Number one – and by the way, this is not an inspired list, this is just my own thinking as I’ve been poring through these scriptures for about the last six months, getting ready for this series – why do people lack assurance? Reason number one – and there might be more, and they might be better stated, but this will help us. Number one, some might lack assurance because of being under strong preaching on God’s holy standard. Some might lack assurance because of being under strong preaching on God’s holy standard. “What do you mean by that?” Well, what I mean is demanding preaching, confrontive preaching, convicting preaching, that holds up a high standard of holiness; the kind of preaching that forces people to see their sinfulness, that forces them to acknowledge the holiness of God, that calls them to a lofty standard of Christian living, may lead some to a lack of assurance.
You say, “Well, is that bad?” No – no, not really. The pulpit is rightly the creator of anxious hearts. That is one of its duties, for it must convict those who have a false assurance, right? It must confront sin. It must call for the highest and holiest standard. And by virtue of all of those mandates, it may have the effect of destablizing some people, and making them waver about the reality of their spiritual condition, because they compare themselves with that standard, and say, “I’m so woefully short of that, maybe I’m not even a Christian.” Demanding preaching, convicting preaching, strong preaching that sets a high and holy standard for the saved, brings along a strong conviction of sin, which can produce doubt, particularly in a sinning Christian – particularly in a sinning Christian.
Now, can I tell you, having said all of that, this rarely happens today. Why? Because there’s rarely any convicting preaching. Churches across our country are filled with smug people that don’t feel particularly insecure, because nothing in their life is ever confronted. It rarely happens, because preaching is neither convicting nor strong, nor does preaching necessarily set a particularly high standard. In fact, if you were to ask the average sort of collection of preachers if they’ve ever preached messages on assurance of salvation, it might be a rare thing to find one who did. And if you found one who said, “Yes, I’ve preached on assurance,” he would probably tell you, “What I preached was a message to make everybody feel assured.” And what he probably did was give them a little more of that syllogistic assurance.
About the only time the subject comes up, it seems to me, is to argue with people who are unwilling to give syllogistic assurance. The only time I ever get into a discussion of this is when people want to argue with me, because they want to give people psychological assurance so they’ll feel so comfortable about themselves that they will never question their spiritual condition. The whole idea when you lead somebody to Christ, for many years in America, is, “Now the first responsibility you have, once they’ve prayed the prayer, is to make sure that you make them feel assured.” So you say to them, “Doesn’t it say if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ we know we have eternal life? You believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, major premise it says that, minor premise says you believe, conclusion, you’re saved. Now feel secure, feel assured, don’t worry about it.”
About the only time anybody talks about assurance it’s to make people feel assured, not to make them question whether their assurance is a false one. In fact, I suppose because of that, fewer people today struggle with assurance, because the teaching lacks a strong call to holiness, and the preachers feel it’s their duty to make everybody feel good. But on the other hand, convicting preaching can create doubt. I got a letter from someone in the church I thought I’d share with you. “Dear John, I’ve been attending Grace for several years. As a result of a growing conviction in my heart, a result of your preaching, and seeming to be powerless against the temptations which arise in my heart and constantly succumbing to them, in talks with pastors and godly men about my growing doubts has led me to believe I’m not saved. How sad it is, John, for me to not be able to enter in because of the sin which clings to me, and from which I long to be free.
“How bizarre for one who teaches in a Sunday School with heartfelt conviction, a trainer in discipleship evangelism, a seminarian, a discipler. So many times I have determined in my heart to repent, to shake loose my want to sin, to forsake all for Jesus only, to find myself doing the sin I don’t want to do, and not doing the good I want to do. After my fiancée and I broke up I memorized Ephesians as part of an all-out effort against sin, only to find myself weaker and more painfully aware of my sinfulness, more prone to sin than ever before, grabbing cheap thrills to push back the pain of lost love. Mostly in the heart, John, but that’s where it counts and that’s where you live. I sin because I’m a sinner. I’m like a soldier without my armor. I’m running across a battlefield getting shot up by fiery darts from the enemy. I couldn’t leave the church if I wanted to; I love the people, I’m enthralled by the gospel of the beautiful Messiah. I’m a pile of manure on the white marble floor of Christ, a mongrel dog that snuck in the back door of the King’s banquet to lick the crumbs off the floor, and by being close to Christians who are rich in the blessings of Christ, I get some of the overflow, and I ask you to pray for me as you think best.”
Demanding preaching creates doubt. You say, “Well, is he really a Christian?” Well, one thing jumped out at me in this letter. He said, “So many times I have determined in my heart to repent, to shake loose my want to sin, to forsake all for Jesus, only to find myself doing the sin I don’t want to do, and not doing the good I want to do.” That sounded more to me like a Christian in Romans 7 than an unbeliever. But demanding preaching can produce doubt, particularly in a sinning Christian. No question. So the pulpit, if it has the luxury of being the creator of anxiety, of anxious hearts, the pulpit must also be the creator of comfort. It must be the place of assurance. J.I. Packer said, and I believe rightly so, “The preaching of the Word is the supreme means of grace.” The preaching of the Word is the supreme means of grace. And I hope that we can be a means of grace to you in this special series on assurance.
There’s a second reason people lack assurance. Some might lack assurance because they can’t accept forgiveness. They are tyrannized by their emotions, and they feel they are too bad to be saved. Some people just can’t accept forgiveness. Now, there are some reasons for this. I’ll give them to you. These are pretty practical. Let me suggest this – there are three reasons, I’ll just give them to you separately. The reason some people feel they can’t accept forgiveness, they feel too bad to be saved, too sinful to be forgiven, is, number one, because conscience speaks against forgiveness. Did you get that? Your conscience doesn’t know anything about forgiveness. Understood? The only thing your conscience knows about is what? Guilt, conviction. Your conscience knows nothing about grace. Your conscience knows nothing about mercy. Your conscience knows nothing about forgiveness. In fact, your conscience speaks against forgiveness. It is your conscience that says to you you’re too bad to be forgiven.
There’s a second rather compelling impulse that causes some people to be unable to accept forgiveness, and that is this: holiness and the law of God speaks against forgiveness. And it speaks against sin so strongly. Listen, holiness knows nothing of forgiveness; the law of God, nothing of forgiveness. Holiness speaks against sin, and knows nothing of excusing it. Righteousness speaks against sin, and knows nothing of excusing it. The law of God speaks against sin, and knows nothing of excusing it.
There’s a third rather compelling matter. That is justice. Justice speaks against sin, and justice knows nothing of forgiveness either. They’re ganging up on you, folks. If you struggle with doubt about your salvation, and you say, “I just can’t accept forgiveness, I’m just too bad to be forgiven, I’m too wicked to be saved. I am, as that gentleman said in the letter, a pile of manure on the white marble floor of Christ, I’m too filthy, I’m too vile.” It is because conscience will deny you forgiveness. Holiness will deny you forgiveness. Righteousness will deny you forgiveness. Law will deny you forgiveness. Justice will deny you forgiveness. And as long as you hang around that group, you’ll have trouble with forgiveness.
The heart of a person with a strong, compelling conscience, the heart of a person with a strong understanding of holiness, righteousness, and the law of God, the heart of a person who understands justice may find it difficult to accept forgiveness. By the way, may I suggest to you as a footnote that people who feel that way have willingly crowned the devil king. That’s right. You have crowned the devil king, because the devil is the accuser of whom? The brethren. The devil speaks of guilt. He speaks of violation of a holy standard. He speaks of violation of the law of God. He speaks of justice, and he will tell you you’re too bad to be forgiven, you belong to me. And if you buy it, you crown him king, and you say, “Guilt rules, condemnation rules, sin rules. Christ is not king. Grace does not rule. Mercy does not rule. Forgiveness does not rule.”
Believe me, Satan wants to do this. Satan wants you to doubt your salvation. That is why you have to put on the helmet of salvation – to protect your head from the smashing, crushing blows of Satan, who wants you to doubt. One Puritan writer wrote this, “Yea further, he that lacks assurance of God’s love converses too much with Satan. As he that has the assurance of God’s love converses with Christ, the Spirit bearing witness to him that he’s a child of God, so he that lacks assurance converses with Satan, and Satan, though falsely, bears witness to his spirit that he is not a child of God. And is it not a misery to be in these conversations with Satan, to be under his hellish droppings? O what a pain it is then to lie bedridden of an unbelieving heart. The devil is always following and tempting me to suspect the love of Christ, and he does it that he may attain his mind upon me. For the devil knows well enough that the more I suspect Christ’s love, the more I shall embrace Satan’s love.
“The truth is, beloved, this lack of assurance of God’s love or interest in Christ is an inlet to many sins and miseries, for first a man doubts of his own salvation, afterwards he has continued doubting, then he rises up until a full conclusion saying, ‘Now know I that Christ does not love me. I did but doubt before, but now I know He does not love me.’ And after he has risen to this conclusion, then shortly he rises higher, and he goes further thus, ‘If Christ does not love me now, He will never love me. And if I have not an interest in Christ now, after all the preaching I have heard, and ordinances I have enjoyed, I shall never have it. And so the longer I live the more I shall aggravate my condemnation,’” end quote. If you crown Satan king, and let him crush your head with the law, and your guilt, and justice, you will doubt – you will doubt. Both strong preaching of a high and holy standard, and a refusal to accept forgiveness, cause people to doubt.
There’s a third reason why people don’t have assurance; that is this. Some lack assurance because they do not comprehend the gospel and the plan of salvation. They do not comprehend the gospel and the plan of salvation. I said to you that there are people who say nobody should have assurance, remember that? And that fits their theology. Because they say, “Salvation is a combination of God and man, so how can I have assurance. I could have assurance about God, but I have no assurance about me, so I can’t have assurance about my salvation, which demands my cooperation.” I simply remind you that if you have a faulty doctrine of the gospel, and a faulty understanding of the plan of salvation, you invite doubt. There are many people who do not understand, first of all, that salvation is an utterly divine, totally sovereign operation by God on man, which depends on God solely.
Some people do not understand grace. Some people think that when God forgave you, He only forgave you the sins you committed up until the point you’re saved, and from then on, those aren’t forgiven. There is confusion about grace. There is confusion about mercy. There is confusion about the degree and the extent of forgiveness in Christ. And as long as you’re confused about that, you have reason to doubt your salvation. People like that who are confused about the gospel have moments of assurance that are induced by a feeling of well-being. They feel okay about their spiritual condition. It’s the same kind of feeling you get when you’ve just had a good meal. It’s purely an emotional feeling. By the way, your feelings, no matter how powerful they are, how vivid they are, are not safe storehouses to guard your assurance. Your feelings cannot guard your assurance; your assurance has to be grounded in a proper understanding of the gospel and the saving work of Christ.
Listen: you will never have subjective feelings of assurance until you comprehend the objective truth of the gospel. This is a very profound thing I’m telling you. You will never have subjective feelings of assurance until you understand the objective facts of the gospel. That is so basic. Dr. Harry Ironsides, many years ago, said, “You may never be able to forget the years of wandering, the many sins of which you have been guilty and continue to commit, but that which gives peace is the knowledge that God will never recall them again. He has blotted them from the book of His remembrance, and He has done it in righteousness, for the account is completely settled, the debt is paid,” end quote. Now if you understand that, that’s security; and that security, objectively, gives rise to assurance, subjectively.
You see, you have to understand the gospel. You have to understand that God knew you were a sinner. That God sent Jesus Christ into the world to completely, totally pay the price for all your sins, past, present and future, and to remove them as far as the east is from the west, and bury them in the depths of the sea, and remember them no more; and they are eternally a non-issue. You have to understand that the salvation Jesus offered was secured by the omnipotent power of God forever, and is irreversible. As Romans 11 says, “The gifts and callings of God are without repentance.” You have to understand what has an ancient, ancient beginning. Way back in the Old Testament, Isaiah said, “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be as wool.” In other words, when God forgives you, it is complete. You are washed, totally.
In Isaiah again, chapter 43, and verse 25 – I love this – God says, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions.” Why? “For My own sake, And I will not remember your sins.” Does that sound like good news to you? What you can’t forget, God can’t remember. So when you’re running around worried about whether you’re too bad to be forgiven, God doesn’t know what you’re worrying about. In Isaiah 44:22, He says it again, “I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist.” I could see them, and then a thick cloud came, and a heavy mist, and just blocked them all off.
Chapter 53, and now we get into the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and how it was that God could do that; how could God look away from our sin, forget our sin, blot them out, wipe them out because of Christ. Look at Isaiah 53, verse 5, “He was pierced through for your transgressions” – and mine. “He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by his scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.” And in verse 8, it says He died “for the transgression of My people.” He bore our iniquities, says verse 11.
Chapter 61 of Isaiah, and verse 10, “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation” – I love this – “He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness.” Isn’t that marvelous? In the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, your sins were totally, completely, comprehensively done away with forever, to be remembered no more. If you understand the gospel, that Jesus paid the penalty for all your sins past, present and future, and of course, when He did it, it was all future, ’cause you weren’t even born yet, and He paid the penalty in full, to the degree that God wipes them out, remembers them no more, you understand why Micah says, “Who is a pardoning God like You?”
When Israel of old was about to leave Egypt, and the last awful plague was about to fall on the land and its people, the death of the firstborn, you remember that God provided a way of escape for His people. They were to slay a lamb, and then they were to take the blood of the lamb and sprinkle it on the doorpost and the lintel, or the crosspiece. And when the angel of death, the destroying angel, passed through that night, he wasn’t permitted to enter any of those blood-sprinkled houses. Why? Because God had said, “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” That’s what Passover means. Inside the house, there might have been some families rejoicing. There might have been some families shaking, worried because they’d committed sins, because they had been iniquitous, because they had cheated their Jewish neighbors even in exile, because they had committed adultery or fornication, because they had robbed, because they were hypocrites. But their security depended not on their frame of mind, not on their feelings, not on the record of their past deeds, but on the fact that God saw – what – the blood. And when He saw the blood, they were protected.
So it is today. We can’t see the blood shed so long ago for our redemption on Calvary, but God can see it. And He looks at you, He doesn’t say, “Hey, he cheated – hey, she lied – hey, they committed adultery – hey, they were hypocrites – hey, they lacked kindness – hey, they indulged in drunkenness.” The moment a sinner puts his faith or her faith in Jesus Christ, the blood is spread across them. They’re sheltered by the blood. And henceforth our security from divine judgment depends not on my perfect life or yours, but on the blessed fact that I am sheltered by the blood of Christ. Amen? And so some people lack assurance because they don’t understand the gospel. And you cannot understand assurance if you can’t understand security.
Listen to this: security is the fact, objective fact, that all who are forgiven by grace in Christ Jesus are forgiven forever. It is irrevocable, that’s security. Let me say it again. Security is the fact that all who are forgiven are forgiven forever. And you can have security and not have assurance, right? A lot of people do. I say that to people who don’t believe you can have assurance. They say, “Oh, I don’t know that my salvation is secure.” Well, fine, you have security, sorry you can’t enjoy it. You can deny it all you want, you still have it. You can live in doubt all you want, you’re still secure. Security is the objective fact that all who are forgiven by grace in Christ are forgiven forever, it is irrevocable. Assurance is the confidence, that I am one of those forgiven.
So if God has given me a salvation that is secure, I should certainly enjoy that assurance. Assurance is a conviction, then, first of all, that’s rational. I want to show this to you, and I’ll probably have to stop here – didn’t get halfway through. Romans 8 – and I want to show you this because this is a good place to wrap up. Verse 38, this is so good. You say, “Paul, do you have assurance, Paul?” “Yeah, I have assurance.”
“Well, Paul, how do you know, how do you know you’re going to heaven, Paul? How do you really know?” “Oh, I just feel it – I just – I just – just feels like I will.” “Really; and it isn’t that you just happen to be having a good day, you had a good meal? Somebody told you they loved you, the sun is shining. Where did you get that feeling?” “Well, I just feel – it just feels like I have.” No.
With Paul it was not subjective, it was objective; it was rational. Verse 38, this is so direct. “For I am” – what’s the next word – “convinced.” Oo, that’s a rational word. It’s not a feeling word. He doesn’t say, “You know, I feel that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things present or things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, I just feel it.” He doesn’t say that. He says, “I’m convinced, I am persuaded.” By what? “By reason.” By reason of what? And he says, “Did you start the book at this verse? You haven’t read chapter 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, and 8? I am convinced because I understand” – what – “the gospel,” which he started to unfold in chapter 3. He says, “I’m certain it’s so.” And I mean it’s the strongest statement on security in the whole Bible.
“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities” – demonic beings – “nor things present” – everything that currently exists – “nor things to come” – everything that might exist – “nor powers” – of any kind – “nor anything in the height, nor anything in the depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I’m convinced.” That is the ground of assurance. You must understand the gospel. It is convincing. Now, if Paul was an Arminian, he would have said, “You know, I’m not convinced that death nor life” – but he was convinced. Now, how did he get convinced? Well, if you start in chapter 3 you find out – the whole saving gospel.
And he climaxes in chapter 8; I can just give you a quick look. He comes roaring into chapter 8 after unfolding the eternal forgiveness in the mercy and the grace of Jesus Christ, and he lands in chapter 8, verse 1, and says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That’s exactly what he said in verse 38. Nothing is ever going to condemn you. There isn’t any – there isn’t any. “Well, how can you say that, Paul?” How can I say it? Verse 2, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” You have Christ, you have the Spirit, the law has no claim and its penalty has no claim. You’ll never be condemned. Wow. And then in verse 5, he starts talking about the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t stop talking about the Holy Spirit till verse 17, this one theme.
And all through here he says, “When we received the Holy Spirit, we received the indwelling Holy Spirit to seal us, to guarantee our future glory, to guarantee our present righteousness.” Verse 14: “We’re being led by the Spirit.” Verse 16: “The Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Then starting in verse 18 through verse 25, he says, “We now live in the hope of future glory.” And in verses 26 to 28, he says, “The Holy Spirit is working in us, God is working for us, and no matter what happens it works together for our” – what – “our good.” You see what he’s doing here? He’s saying salvation eliminated us, in Christ, from the penalty of sin, no condemnation.
Salvation granted us the Holy Spirit, to secure us, and lead us, and confirm we are God’s children. Salvation has given us an eternal hope for which we wait. God over us and the Spirit in us are taking everything in our lives and working them together for good. Then he gets real theological in verse 29, and he goes all the way from foreknowledge to glorification in verse 30, and says, “Everybody the Lord foreknew and chose to salvation will come to glory.” And then he comes to verse 31, and he says, “Look, if God is for us, who in the world is a higher court than that? If God’s predestined purpose to make us into the image of Jesus Christ can’t be thwarted, if God doesn’t condemn us, if Christ doesn’t condemn us, then who is going to condemn us?”
Verse 35, he says, “Who is going to separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword?” You say, “Where did he get that list?” He lived it. He lived that list. Tribulation – he had it. Distress – he had it. Persecution – he had it. Famine – he had it. Nakedness – he had it. Peril – he had it. Sword – he had it. In fact, he was being put to death all day long, but in all of these things we overwhelmingly – what – conquer. You know why this man says in verse 38, “I am convinced?” Hey, he lived it. “I’m convinced my salvation is secure. I am convinced.” Why? “Because I took it all. I got the whole deal, the tribulation, the distress, the persecution, the famine, the nakedness, the peril, the sword. And when it was all done, I was a conqueror, not a victim. I’m convinced – I’m convinced.”
There is no condemnation. The indwelling Holy Spirit moves us on the path of righteousness. We have a future hope of glory for which we wait. All things are working together in our lives for good. Everybody that He saved He will bring to full glory. And I’ve been through it all, and nothing separated me from the love of Christ; and now I’m convinced. If you’re convinced that salvation is eternal and nothing can break it, that’s the ground of your assurance, right? Security, then, is the Holy Spirit-revealed truth that salvation is forever. Assurance is the confidence that I possess that salvation. You get the difference? Security is the Holy Spirit-revealed truth that salvation in Christ is forever. I understand that. Assurance is the reality that I possess that salvation.
Paul is saying here, “I have both. I know the salvation in Christ by revelation. I’ve just written it down. I know I’m in Christ by testing, right? I’ve had it all. And nothing separated me from His love.” Well, we have to leave it at that. Rich truth, huh? Father, thank You for our time tonight; for the contemplation of the deep things of God, and yet the things so precious to our hearts. I’m thrilled because there’s so much yet to come. Father, thank You for our eternal salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.