Obedience Builds Assurance

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know that we are in him. I John 2:3-5

These verses reveal to us a test that can give us assurance that we are saved. This test is not given so that we may judge others. Neither is it given so that we can become puffed up with spiritual pride, but so that we may have confidence in our fellowship with Christ.

I am convinced that one of Satan’s favorite weapons against the children of God is doubt. Doubt debilitates, discourages and defeats more Christians than any other tactic the enemy might use.

God has given us a way to show ourselves that we truly do know the Lord and that way is obedience to His commandments. This is not to say that we will be perfect in following these commands, but the more our knowledge of Christ increases, the more our obedience will increase as well.

There are different stages of our knowledge of Christ:

  1. Knowing about Him, Mark 5:27
  2. Meeting Him personally, (salvation) Mark 5:33
  3. Learning His doctrine, Mark 5:34
  4. Allowing His doctrine to remain in us, John 15:7,11
  5. Allowing His love to continue in and through us to others, John 15:12

Progression through these levels is an indication of growth in both faith and love. This frees us from having to wear ourselves out in attempts to convince others and ourselves that we are saved. Instead, we can focus on developing our relationship with Christ (first phase of koinonia) and allowing love for others to be the fruit of that relationship. Thus we will be able to love others in the way that Christ loves us. This is far beyond our own capacity to love.

This further defines the light of Chapter 1 as obedience to the commandments of Christ. Again, this is in the sphere of fellowship with Christ. If we are not obeying His commandments, we are not allowing His truth to remain in us and are therefore immature believers.

When we obey His Word, however, we find that we make room for the love of God to be perfected in us. Here is the crux of this text: MY OBEDIENCE TO THE COMMANDMENTS OF CHRIST DIRECTLY AFFECTS MY ABILITY TO LOVE OTHERS. My ability to love others with the love of God gives me assurance that I am indeed walking in the light with Him.

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22 responses to “Obedience Builds Assurance

  1. very good verse there!

  2. I do not believe that verse has anything to do with assurance of posessing eternal life. Rather it concerns knowledge of Christ and fellowship with Him. That is a quite different matter.

    It is a mistake to connect ‘in him’ here with the Pauline expression ‘in Christ.’ ‘In Christ’ is not a Johannine term and is not relevant to the context here.

    ‘In him’ is a term of fellowship not salvation.

    If obediance plays any part in having assurance of eternal life, faith in Christ is insufficent as a grounds of assurance.

    The Scriptures are clear that He that believes has eternal life. If so, works cannot play a part in providing assurance.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

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  4. Matthew, I would agree with you that “in Him” is referring to fellowship. I made reference to the connection of knowledge and fellowship in this post.

    However, a literal translation of “know that we know Him”, is “know that we have known Him”.

    As I pointed out though, there are several stages of knowing Christ. As one of these is salvation (which I think we can agree precedes fellowship), I believe it to include salvation which is the basis for fellowship.

    A person who is new or immature in their faith is likely to struggle at times with the issue of whether or not they are truly fellowshipping with Christ. If this struggle continues, it can cause them to question whether or not they are saved. Take a look at I John 5:13 and you will see that John wrote these things that we can know that we have “eternal life” (salvation).

    As always, your thoughts and the spirit in which you present them are welcome.

    God bless.

  5. Thanks, Gordon.

    I think the problem of assurance for a believer is likely to get worse if they are directed to look at their obediance for assurance.

    Have you read Zane Hodges section on 1 John in the Bible Knowledge Commentary?

    It is vital not to get confused about the ‘these things’ in 1 John 5:13.

    13 ¶ These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

    The ‘these thinga’ should be interpreted within the immediate context.

    Those things covers not the whole epistle, but rather what John has said in the preceding verses.

    10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

    11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Joh. 3.36

    12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

    It is faith in Christ that enables one to have assurance. This is the consistent tenor of Johnannine theology.

    To imply that the teaching about obediance and the Christian walk in the earlier part of the epistle is involved in the ground of assurance of 1 John 5:13 is quite unwarranted.

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

  6. Matthew, if a believer is directed to look at their obedience alone for assurance, it can indeed cause problems.

    The verse in question, however, clearly states that obedience is an indicator of knowledge of Christ.

    I do not believe that we can isolate certain portions of this epistle from itself. As I have studied and taught this epistle for some time now, it seems to be written as a spiral that continually deepens in the areas of fellowship, truth, obedience, love and faith. I would respectfully disagree with Bro. Hodges that I John 5:13 can only be taken in its immediate context.

    God bless.

  7. Gordon,
    Great article. I agree with you. All Scripture must be interpreted in light of all of Scripture. In this case all the epistle, as well.
    I heard a man named Guy Doud make the statement, which has stuck with me, “We can love Jesus no more, than the person we love the least.” I heard that of Focus on The Family.
    I thought that went well with what you were saying. The commandments have to do with loving others, don’t they.

  8. I agree Matthew that the scriptures are clear that he that believes has eternal life ;but I disagree with works cannot play a part in providing assurance! The Bible clearly states that if you believe in ME and have FAITH and abide by my commandments, then the HOLY SPIRIT will dwell in you and you will grow more like GOD and his wonderfull GRACE. By being obedient and fellowshiping with other believers then this gives us the assurance that we will have eternal life! Then our works does play an important part of our SALVATION! The BIBLE [GODS WORD] offers us a plan for SALVATION but we must put in the ingredients to make his plan complete ! Have a blessed week . RON.

  9. Thanks, Bro. T.A.. That is a great quote.

    Bro. Ron, I appreciate your thoughts. One thing I would point out is that salvation is entirely by faith and not of works. Eph.2:8-9

    I do believe that saving faith will transform our lives making us able to do works that are pleasing unto God. This is why Paul said in Phil. 2 that we are to “work out” our own salvation (as opposed to “work for”).

    Good to hear from all of you.

  10. Gordon, knowing Christ is a very different thing to believing in Him for eternal life.

    It is possible for a believer not to know Christ. When we commit any sin, we show our lack of knowledge of Him.

    If there is any need for a believer to look for assurance inw orks, faith is not a sufficent ground for assurance.

    Assurance is a very simple thing. It is being certain of a fact.

    You cannot be more or less sure of something.

    If I can be sure that I have eternal life because I believe, then it is nonsensical to say that my conduct will make me even more sure.

    If you give a wider scope to ‘these things’ in 1 John 5:13 you must logically hold that it is impossible to know that one is saved through faith alone.

    “I do believe that saving faith will transform our lives making us able to do works that are pleasing unto God. This is why Paul said in Phil. 2 that we are to “work out” our own salvation (as opposed to “work for”).”

    I do not understand why you think this. Saving faith is simply trusting Jesus to give one eternal life. I trust my supervisor to keep his appointments, but that does not necessarillu affect my conduct towards him and anybody else.

    The fact is that we are commanded to work out our salvation. If saving faith inevitably resulted in transformation of one’s lifestyle, this command would be superflous.

    RBJ, where does it say this:

    “The Bible clearly states that if you believe in ME and have FAITH and abide by my commandments, then the HOLY SPIRIT will dwell in you and you will grow more like GOD and his wonderfull GRACE.”

    I certaionly do not believe that.

    If we believe in Christ we receive eternal life. But if we do not yield ourselves to the leading of the Holy Spirit, we will certaily not grow in grace and we are in danger of falling into sin.

    “By being obedient and fellowshiping with other believers then this gives us the assurance that we will have eternal life!”

    So presumably, you must hold that it is not possible for somebody who has just become a Christian to know that she is saved. She needs to demonstrate a life of obediance before she can have assurance?

    Or do you think it is possible to have assurance apart from works?

    Every Blessing in Christ

    Matthew

  11. As I read 1 John, I cannot help but think that fellowship and eternal life go hand-in-hand. Geniune fellowship with Jesus and his people is proof that you have eternal life.

    Fellowship is a very strong word in 1 John. It refers to a partnership or a relationship with Jesus. If you don’t have fellowship with Jesus, then you don’t have eternal life.

    So I think that this passage is about both-fellowship and eternal life, because they are two ways of saying the same thing. If you are saved(i.e. have eternal life, or fellowship with Jesus), you will obey Jesus.

    I don’t think that he means sinless perfection or anything, just a marked difference.

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  13. Matthew the way I should have wrote is what GODS word and the teachings of JESUS to his deciples in the new testament teaches us that if you believe in ME and have FAITH and abide by my commandments then the HOLY SPIRIT will dwell in you and you will grow more like GOD AND HIS WONDERFUL GRACE ! Bro. Gordon I understand that our SALVATION COMES BY OUR FAITH but if we do not have some guidlines to conduct our lives then we do not come to understand GODS WONDERFUL GRACE AND HIS BLESSINGS ! If we let our lives come to that point then we as a believer does not know CHRIST as thier personal SAVIOR. Phil 2 is saying to me to work out my salvation and that is where GOD gave us guidelines for us to make our choice to follow HIM OR PERISH IN OUR OWN SINFUL WAYS ! BLESSINGS TO ALL ! RON.

  14. Matthew, I will try to reply briefly to your statements.

    Gordon, knowing Christ is a very different thing to believing in Him for eternal life.

    I would agree with you on this point, but I do believe the two are related.

    It is possible for a believer not to know Christ. When we commit any sin, we show our lack of knowledge of Him.

    How can someone believe in whom they do not know? I understand that a new believer will not have full knowledge of Christ, but there must be some knowledge upon which to base faith.

    If there is any need for a believer to look for assurance inw orks, faith is not a sufficent ground for assurance.

    Perhaps I could have made my point clearer in this area. I probably should have brought out the fact that this epistle was written to affirm the reality of Christ against the heresy of Gnosticism (I know you are aware of this). John is giving the believers something that affirms the reality of the focus of their faith, thereby giving them assurance that their salvation is real, not imaginary.

    If you give a wider scope to ‘these things’ in 1 John 5:13 you must logically hold that it is impossible to know that one is saved through faith alone.

    This is not necessarily true, again, it is God giving us visible means that support and vindicate our faith.

    I think we will probably be in agreement though on the fact that walking in the light of Christ will clarify and strngthen our faith.

    “I do believe that saving faith will transform our lives making us able to do works that are pleasing unto God. This is why Paul said in Phil. 2 that we are to “work out” our own salvation (as opposed to “work for”).”

    I do not understand why you think this. Saving faith is simply trusting Jesus to give one eternal life. I trust my supervisor to keep his appointments, but that does not necessarillu affect my conduct towards him and anybody else.

    I think this for the simple reason that the Bible teaches it. Salvation is a transformational experience. The NT is full of scripture that teaches this. Are there believers who do not live this way? Of course there are. Does everyone follow the instruction to “work out” their salvation? No.

    My point in that statement is this: an unbeliever is incapable of following the commands of Christ. When someone is saved, they receive the ability to perform as a child of God, John 1:12.

    As you rightly pointed out, our confidence in man does not alter our conduct toward others. I believe faith in Jesus Christ to be different than mere confidence in man.

    Brother, I really don’t think we are that far apart in our positions, here. I believe if you will compare this post to my previous posts on I John, you will see that I am teaching that the primary emphasis is fellowship rather than relationship. But the fact remains that one cannot have fellowship with Christ until they are saved.

    God bless.

  15. Daniel, it is good to see you back in blogland. 🙂

    One distinction that I have been trying to draw in this series is that between relationship and fellowship.

    Salvation is based upon relationship (Father/son) and is entirely God’s responsibility. Maintaining fellowship, however, is upon the shoulders of the believer.

    As I hope to bring out in future posts, eternal life is based upon the relationship while fellowship enhances the beauty of the relationship.

    God bless.

  16. Bro. Ron, its always good to see your input here.

    God definitely gives us guidelines for living. I believe the verse in Philippians is a command that comes after salvation. Salvation has already delivered us from the threat of perishing in sins. But after we are delivered then we have the responsibility build upon that relationship in our walk with God.

    I have certainly seen you doing that and it has blessed me to see God at work in your life.

  17. This is an excellent post and some great discussion!

    I appreciate Matthew’s position and I am persuaded the differences here are primarily semantic. It is certainly true that our hope is certain only because of God’s great gift and not because of anything we might say or do. It is also true that our faith in His gift is made strong through obedience. A man who is disobedient can even go so far as to forget “that he was purged from his old sins”. Could we then say that obedience builds confidence and strengthens our faith in the assurance, or certainty, of God’s great gift? 😉

  18. Here is my favorite verse on obedience:

    Because this is the covenant which I will covenant with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord, giving My Laws into their mind, and I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” (Hebrews 8:10)

    I love it because it teaches us that, for the believer, obedience is to what God has given to us internally and not to external precepts. This makes sense because most of life is the struggle to be who God made us to be at a heart level.

  19. Now, see? If you all just came on over to the camp I’m in, you wouldn’t have to worry about “am I saved”, “am I not saved” or “am I obeying properly.”

    In the camp I’m in, if you have faith in Jesus as Lord and savior, you just get baptized. Then even a newbie has a clear-cup way of knowing exactly when they were added to the Book of Life.

    So..ya’ comin’? 😉

    (Seriously though, this was a good bit of reading.)

  20. um…make that “clear-cut

    heh-heh

  21. KC, I agree that the differences in this discussion are primarily semantical.

    Bob, that is an excellent point.

    Danny, that’s a whole ‘nother discussion you are trying to start there, my friend. 🙂

  22. Karina
    your blog is very interessant. keep it going.
    ———————————–
    Assurance deces credit consommatin

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