One of the outstanding features of the book of 1 John is the prominence of the word, “KNOW.” In the world of faith and religions, KNOW is a uniquely Christian word. It is a word that conveys certainty, and where there is certainty, doubt must flee.
KNOW is directly tied to TRUTH, to FAITH and to HOPE.
TRUTH: When the Bible declares something, then we KNOW a TRUTH. The doctrines of what we believe are based on the TRUTH that we KNOW from the Word. Our TRUTH is not based on one man’s opinions or on dreams or myths or rituals or traditions. Rather, our TRUTH is based on the written Word of the living God. We trust in and have confidence in our TRUTH because that is what the Bible declares. We KNOW what the Bible reveals.
FAITH: When the Bible declares something that we KNOW, even though we cannot see that something, we believe that by FAITH. We KNOW because we have FAITH. We can claim what the Bible declares by FAITH.
HOPE: What the Bible declares to be TRUE becomes for us a HOPE. I KNOW that one day I will be resurrected with a glorious body and that is my HOPE. What I KNOW becomes a source of joy and purpose and perseverance and passion and power because of HOPE, which is the conviction that what I KNOW about the future will certainly come to pass.
When we know that something is true, then we are convinced (2 Timothy 1:12; 3:14-15). We know what the Bible declares to be true. The Lord has spoken; we must obey.
This verse (3:19) seems to be pointing back to what John said in 3:14-18 about how we visibly display our love for the brethren. To paraphrase: “If we love our fellow believers in deed and truth, then our hearts will be assured before the Lord.”
Thus our assurance is not something that is given to us through the insistence of another, but is something that comes from within as a manifestation of an inward new reality. The disciple of Jesus will not be assured because someone tells them they should be assured. Rather, the disciple will be assured when the Holy Spirit gives them the assurance of their salvation, which is the true fruit of salvation and is manifested in obedience.
USE 1: This can reveal an error in our evangelism. There is a tendency in some evangelism (particularly in “revivalist evangelism” which emphasizes the sinner’s “decision” and then assures the sinner based on that decision) to give assurance to those who have no biblical basis for assurance. INSIGHT: This giving of false assurance stems from religious influences. Religion says, “Do something religious or spiritual and then insist that, because you did the religious thing really sincerely, then it was certainly effective.” An example is, “Pray this prayer and pray it sincerely (perform the religious ritual), and you are certainly saved and need never doubt again. Since you did the religious thing, you certainly receive the promised result.” This is pure ‘religion.’ Religion demands the performance of religious duties or rituals that are not in the Bible and then insists that the performance of the ritual obligates God to give the desired and expected result. “Pray this prayer (a ritual that is nowhere in the Bible) and you can be assured that you are saved.” This is man-made religion and will give zero genuine assurance.
A Holy Spirit-given assurance cannot be taken away by any man or demon, but an imposed or insisted “assurance” will be received skeptically and will be dispelled easily and quickly. The truth is that my heart is assured when I do the things that the Bible says a follower of Jesus does. I will know that I am truly saved when I do and experience the things that give assurance. Assurance is a direct result of obedience.
Assurance is not MANUFACTURED but is MANIFESTED.
USE 2: Thus the moment of salvation is unimportant, but the manifestation of salvation is critically important. Having a ‘moment’ with no manifestation will not only give no assurance but will produce nightmares of doubt within the person and almost certainly reveals that there is no re-birth. The nightmares come because the person has done what they were told to do; they “prayed the prayer,” and thus fulfilled their religious duty, and they now believe that they need do no more to be saved and fully expect to feel complete assurance because they did their religious duty. In Catholicism, this is ‘ex opere operato,’ which means “by the duty/work performed.” This is the belief or doctrine that the performance of the religious duty certainly conveys and earns the promised blessing. A consideration of the evangelistic practice of getting someone to “pray the prayer” will reveal distinct similarities with this Catholic idea.
Another error of revivalist evangelism is the focus on and the insistence on identifying a moment of decision (salvation) and then assuring the one who made a “decision” that their decision has saving power.
But John says we are assured when we love the brethren in deed and in truth (3:19 as pointing to 3:14-18) and when we keep His commandments (3:22).
Finally, our heart can lead us to doubt, but our deeds will reveal our true state and will give us assurance. (Not like Cain’s deeds, which were evil, 3:12.)
In summary, genuine, unshakable assurance is obtained through obedience and by doing what the Bible calls believers to do.
SDG rmb 4/26/2018