There are three attitudes that men have about assurance in Christ, and those attitudes have great influences on how we respond to God's will. We will summarize those attitudes by the words: impossible, probable, and possible.
Impossibility of Apostasy
First notice the attitude of impossibility of apostasy. Some believe that if you have been saved you cannot live in such a way as to be lost, and if you are lost, you were never saved. In the parable Jesus told of the vine and the branches (John 15), he clearly taught that branches that did not bear fruit would be "cast into the fire." Two questions: (1) What does "fire" represent? (2) Was the branch ever in the vine? To say that a person who falls away was never saved is to say that the branch that is cast off was never in the vine! What does that do to the illustration of Jesus? Many other passages clearly show that a saved person can be lost. Paul told the Corinthians, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). The writer of Hebrews told brethren to beware "lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God" (Neb. 3:12). If it were impossible to fall away, these warnings would be unnecessary.
Probability of Apostasy
The second attitude is the probability of apostasy. It is insecurity which lives in fear that something is being done, or left undone, that will cause the person's eternal damnation. This individual feels that he is fighting a losing battle. Why run, if you know you are going to lose? Why fight if you know you are going to be defeated? Many of my brethren live their lives in fear, which accounts for lack of commitment to the Lord. Some of us seem to be afraid that if we teach assurance, brethren will be emboldened to practice sin. The fact is that if we do not have assurance, we are drawn to the pleasures of sin. John said, "And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure" (1 Jn. 3:3). The person who feels that this life is the best he will ever have is drawn to the pleasures of the flesh. Those who desire and expect to go to heaven purify them-selves.
Does this mean that anyone who lives in fear will be lost? Not necessarily! God told the Israelites to kill the lamb and to "take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses . . . And when I see the blood, I will pass over you . . ." (Exod. 12:7,13). Suppose they obeyed the Lord, but stayed up all night worrying about whether God was going to pass over! If they did what God told them, he would surely have passed over, but how much better, having faith to obey, to also have the trust to rest with assurance?
Possibility of Apostasy
The third attitude is that it is possible to be lost, but assurance is available. The apostle Paul personified this attitude. He said,"Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:26,27). Notice that he was not running "with uncertainty"; so he had assurance. But he realized that he could become "disqualified" if he did not continue to discipline himself. How can we live with that kind of assurance?
How to Have Assurance
First, we must "walk in the light. ""But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 Jn. 1:7). We should be careful not to read into this passage what it does not say, but we should accept what it does say. Notice that it does not say: "the blood of Jesus cleanses us unconditionally, or automatically." Neither does it say that"if you walk in the light you do not sin." In fact, it says the opposite! Nor does it say, "if the blood of Christ has cleansed us we are walking in the light." Yes, we must be cleansed before we can have fellowship with God, but this verse does not say that. Does this mean that we can do what God's word says and commit sin at the same time? No, it does not teach that either! But our manner of life can be "walking in the light," and yet on occasions we may go contrary to that manner of life. John said that if we "keep on walking" in the light, the blood of Jesus "keeps on cleansing" us from our sins because we "keep on confessing" our sins. He is talking about our manner of life, our habitual practice.
The second thing involved in having assurance is the confession of sins. The Bible reveals two kinds of confession specific and generic. When Simon the sorcerer offered the apostles money to buy the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter told him to "repent of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven" (Acts 8:22). Simon acknowledged his sin and asked Peter to pray for him. When we are aware of sins we should confess them before those who know about them and pray for forgiveness. We may also confess that we are sinners. The publican prayed, "God, be merciful to me a sinner" (Lk. 18:13). Jesus said that he "went down to his house justified." I may not be aware of every sin that I commit, but I am aware that I am a sinner! When I confess the sins of which I am aware and that I am a sinner, that is all that is possible for me to do!
When a Christian's manner of life is "walking in the truth," and he confesses the sins of which he is aware and that he is a sinner, he should live with assurance. This is the basis of the martyr spirit. Men and women who gave up their lives for their faith, did so because they had assurance of victory! We need to believe, as well as sing, "Blessed assurance Jesus is mine! Oh what a foretaste of glory divine . . ." Because of God's grace, assurance is available, but it is conditional.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 24, p. 10