By Larry Ray Hafley
Fanny J. Crosby penned the words to the comforting hymn, “Blessed Assurance.” Blessed assurance is blessed confidence. It is tied to that “blessed hope,” “which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Tit. 2:13; Heb. 6:19). The faithful child of God rests, reposes and resides in blessed assurance (1 Jn. 5:13).
Unfortunately, Baptist preachers and others have tried to taunt and tantalize Christians, saying, “You don’t know from one minute to the next whether you’re saved or lost, but,” they say, “I know I am saved forever and cannot be lost.” Thus, the Baptists’ blessed assurance is welded directly to the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy, or “once saved, always saved.” Their alleged assurance is placed in a system of unconditional salvation. That is one way to secure blessed assurance. It is not the way of truth, however. Salvation is conditional (Jas. 1:12; Rev. 2:10), so our assurance is not in unconditional forgiveness.
Nazarenes and others have contended for “a second work of grace.” Simply stated, they believe the Holy Spirit performs an operation, an amputation, and cuts out the “old sinful nature.” Thus, some have denied that they sin at all (see 1 Jn. 1:8,10). This is another means of claiming blessed assurance. It is not, though, the Bible method. We do sin, so our assurance is not based on sinless perfection as some charge.
Other sectarian spirits have said that all sins, past, present and future, already are forgiven. The truth is that provision for the forgiveness of the sins of all men has been made (1 Jn. 2:1,2). But that is not the issue. The question is, “When is the provision applied and appropriated?” If the erring child of God has his sins already forgiven, why are not the sins of the alien also already forgiven? Christ is the propitiation for one as well as for the other (1 Jn. 2:1,2). If he automatically and unconditionally forgives the child of God who sins, then he must also- have forgiven the sins of alien sinners. The climax of that argument is universal salvation. The collapse of ‘that argument is seen in the- rec6gnition of ‘ the difference between the universal provisions of grace And the conditional application of those provisions.
Still others have argued that sins of the fleshly, carnal nature — the outer man, as they designate him, do, not affect the soul. There are various twists to this theory. The body sins, they aver, but the soul does not. The body, the outer man, is a child of the devil, they avow, while the soul, the inner man, is a child of God. If all of the above is true, please explain:
(1) Why did Paul say to cleanse flesh and spirit (2 Cor. 7:1)?
(2) Why does Ezekiel 18:20 talk of the “soul that sinneth”?
(3) How we can present our bodies “holy, acceptable unto God” (Rom. 12:1)?
(4) How we may glorify God in our body (1 Cor. 6:19,20)?
(5) Why did Paul say we are to “receive the things done in the body” (2 Cor. 5:10)?
(6) How “fleshly lusts” could “war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11)?
(7) Why are “both soul and body” to be destroyed in hell (Matt. 10:28)?
(8) Why did Paul say that saints have “crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24)?
If the body sins, but the soul does not, or is not affected, how does one explain the passages above? But we are not through. Notice further:
(9) John says the Christian is to purify himself (1 Jn. 3:3), But the body cannot be purified and the soul does not need to be according to the doctrine noted above. So, how could one purify himself?
(10) How could the soul of an erring brother be 66sdved,from death” (Jas. 5:19,20)?
(11) Why did Paul pray that “your whole spirit and soul and body be preserv9d blameless” (1 Thess. 5:23)?
Catholics and others have taught that some sins are mortal and some are venial. Some sins condemn and some do not. Again, that is another step to the land of blessed assurance, but it is not in the path of truth. The Bible does not provide a list of “safe” sins, ones that will not be held against us, so our assurance is not in a distinction of sins,
How, then, does the faithful child of God have “blessed assurance”?
(1) In the Assured Word. One may cling to the truth and never be disappointed. Paul told Timothy, “But continue thou in the things thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them” (2 Tim. 3:14). The Hebrew writer wrote of “the full assurance of hope.” “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end: That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:10-12). Hence, when one diligently continues in the things he has learned from the word of God, he will, “through faith and patience inherit the promises.” In this context, there can be no doubt. This is “blessed assurance.”
(2) In The Assured Faithfulness of God. Paul knew he could trust in God’s power, ability and willingness to deliver on his promises (2 Tim. 1:12). Peter said, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Pet. 4:19). “In well doing,” one may work safely, knowing in whom he has believed. A man may fail to reward his benefactor. An employer may not pay an employee, but God is trustworthy. Therefore, the faithful child of God has the blessed assurance of God’s unchanging hand of grace, mercy and love. He is not unrighteous; he will not forget.
(3) In the Assured Sacrifice. The “offering of the body of Jesus Christ” is the basis, the foundation, of our “blessed assurance” (Heb. 10). The initial redemption of the alien sinner is accomplished through the offering or the sacrifice of the blood of Christ (Heb. 10; 1 Pet. 1:18,19; Eph. 1:7). It is the ground of all hope and assurance. When the sinner obeys the terms of pardon, when he responds to the conditions of faith, repentance, confession and baptism, he is cleansed by the blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9; 6:3,4,17,18; 10:9,10; Heb. 5:8,9; Acts 2:38).
Likewise, the child of God can appeal to the blood of the cross (1 Jn. 1:7; 2:1,2). As the alien sinner must comply with the conditions set forth in order to be forgiven, so the child of God, when he sins, must meet the terms of pardon (1 Jn. 1:9). He is not, as some would argue, forgiven while he sins. See the quote which follows.
“‘Through the priestly advocacy of Christ in Heaven there is absolute safety and security for the Father’s child even while he is sinning. . . .’
“. . . The New Testament writers do not contend that ‘there is absolute safety and security for the Father’s child even while he is sinning.’ Quite to the contrary, they warn against the peril of presuming to continue in grace while consenting to deliberate sinning. . . .” (Shank, Life In The Son, p. 133).
One who is “overtaken in a fault,” is not forgiven “even while he is sinning,” since he must be “restore(d)” (Gal. 6: 1). If he were forgiven by the blood of Christ as he sinned, how could Paul speak of his need to be restored? Further, one may “err from the truth” (Jas. 5:19). He is not automatically forgiven even as he errs or sins, for James shows he needs to be converted after he has erred from the truth.
Blessed assurance is inseparably linked to the blood of Christ. It cannot be moved, “seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). The child of God, therefore, can trust in it as he penitently and prayerfully turns from “the error of his way.”
Through the years, denominational preachers have argued that obedience to commands dims and demeans the grace of God. It is a false charge. The Corinthians, for example, heard, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8), yet they had “believed through grace” (Acts 18:27). The Ephesians were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:5). Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), still Paul said they were saved by grace (Eph. 2:5). Hence, conditions do not diminish or tarnish the grace of God. Accordingly, when an erring child of God is told to repent, confess and pray (Acts 8:22; 1 Jn. 1:9), the grace of God is not being belittled. Rather, it is being exalted. “For we have no, pan high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15,16).
One may present endless difficult scenarios and situations with respect to a person’s salvation. It is possible to “what if. . . ” and “what about. . . ” ourselves to distraction and confusion. I do not have all the answers. I do not even know all the questions. But, while there are a lot of questions I cannot answer, there are a lot of answers I cannot question.
Let us be content and rest in confidence and blessed assurance in the veracity of the word of God, in the integrity of the faithfulness of God and in the constant and continuous availability of the grace of God. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, we may know assuredly and believe confidently that an entrance shall be administered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:5-11; 3:17,18).
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 6, pp. 176-177
March 17, 1988