That You May Know

  • Steve Hatter
Boat anchored in the water

Have you ever struggled with assurance of your salvation? Many regenerate Christians do from time to time because Satan is continually seeking to undermine our confidence in the gospel. It has been said that the enemy’s goal is to get believers to doubt their eternal security while working on unbelievers to never question theirs.

Considering Satan’s relentless efforts, did you know that an entire book in the New Testament is dedicated to reassuring faithful believers that their salvation is secure? I take this to mean that fellow Christians over the millennia have chronically wrestled with assurance, and that God has compassion for such struggle. Therefore, He graciously inspired the Apostle John to pen the epistle, First John, as relief to the faithful reader.

First John declared the truth that gave believers assurance they were saved in Jesus Christ and therefore could be confident of eternal life and unbroken fellowship with God’s children. There are four tenets through which John communicated these assurances: Assurance through the test of Christian fellowship; assurance through the conflict of faith; assurance evidenced in God’s love; and assurance verified by the witness of the Spirit.

The Test of Fellowship (1:5–5:12)

John defined Christian fellowship in his opening text: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed, our fellowship is with the father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1:3). John declared the basis of “our fellowship” to be God alone who “is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1:5). Hindrances to legitimate fellowship were described as walking in darkness—a metaphor for living deceptively—and claiming to be without sin, while yet sinning (1:6–10). As an antidote to hindrance, John instructed on the maintenance of fellowship (2:1–17). Christ is the provider of fellowship through His finished sacrificial work: “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (2:2). On Christ’s provision, the believer can prove himself in fellowship through obedience to Christ (2:3–5), by imitating Christ (2:6), by loving his brother as Christ taught (2:7–11), and by separating from the things of this world (2:12–17).

Do you see evidence of obedience, imitation, love, and separation in keeping with these Spirit-inspired passages in your daily life? Is so, you can have assurance you are saved!

Assurance Through the Conflict of Faith (2:18–4:6)

Next, John turned to warnings of antichrist to argue assurance of one’s salvation can be found in the certainty of conflict in the Christian life. John promised conflict between truth and error regarding whether Jesus was the Christ (2:18–28): “This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son” (2:22). The conflict would also emerge between the children of God and the children of the Devil (2:29–3:12): “whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning” (3:8). “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil” (3:10). Conversely, the sign of the child of God is love and Spirit-produced righteousness (2:29–3:3).

John asserted there would also be a conflict between love and hate (3:13–24): “Do not be surprised brothers if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death into life because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death” (3:14). A true Christian will be motivated to show compassion and to love as Christ loved. Finally, John asserted that conflict would come between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error (4:1–6). Christians must “test the spirits” because “false prophets have gone out into the world” (4:1). These false prophets sought to deny that Christ had come in the flesh, yet the Christian would know by the Spirit of truth that such claims were in error and of the spirit of antichrist (4:3).

Do you feel increasingly at odds with the culture? Do you discern there are aggressive false prophets at work across the globe? I sure do! Take heart, this is a good indicator you are saved.

Assurance from the Evidence of Love (4:7–5:5)

John believed the Christian could find assurance of salvation in the evidence of God’s love (4:7–5:5). Redeeming love, he explained, “is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Moreover, “anyone who does not love God does not know God because God is love” (4:8). In light of transcendent love, the Christian is expected to love one another, to appreciate God’s love in sending His Son to die for sins, and to view the understanding of the precious Gospel as a spiritual test of one’s salvation.

Do you love being around other Christians? I sure do! I was at a wedding just yesterday that was packed with the faithful, and what a joy it was to be in that gathering! If you long to be with fellow believers, that is a sure sign your faith is authentic.

Assurance from the Spirit (5:6–12)

A final assurance was that of the witness of the Spirit. John recounted the external, historical witness that gave testimony concerning the Son of God (5:6–9). God Himself testified to Jesus being the Christ which was witnessed “by the water and the blood; and these three agree” (5:8). John also described the internal witness of the Spirit (5:10–12) wherein the believer “has the testimony in himself” (5:10) manifest in His faith in the Son of God.

Do you sense The Spirit’s conviction in your daily walk? Is He illuminating God’s truth in ways you did not experience before conversion? If so, these are things testifying to saving faith.

We will have doubt in our walk of sanctification, but God wants us to be confident of his grace gift of eternal life and the beautiful unbroken fellowship now possible with one another in faith. Perhaps a meditative study of First John is a good step going into Summer!