Assurance in Love

Posted: July 18, 2010 in 1 John

1 John 4:12-19, “Assurance in Love”

Doubt can be a terrible thing… Beyond mere embarrassment, doubt can be truly terrifying when it comes to issues of eternal salvation & our relationship with Christ. That’s apparently the place the church to which John wrote was finding itself. False teachers had crept into the church, implanting doubt in the minds of the people, and making it difficult for the people to know who were really born-again believers, and who were not.

This has been a constant theme of 1 John: how to have assurance that we truly are saved – how to know that we know Jesus. Ch 1:7, If we walk in the light as He is in the light… Ch 2:3, if we keep His commandments… Ch 2:10, if we love our brother… Ch 2:23, if we acknowledge the Son… Ch 2:24, if we abide in the gospel… Ch 3:7, if we practice righteousness… Ch 3:18: if we love in deed & in truth… Ch 4:2, if we confess Jesus has come in the flesh… (And that’s only a partial listing!)

If John has already given so many assurances, why give 3 more? Because there’s no more hopeful thing for a believer to know than that his/her salvation is secure in the hands of Jesus Christ! … Keep in mind, there will be days that doubts WILL come. (And there are some people who sit in church that are false converts – for whom doubts SHOULD come.) But for those who truly DO know Jesus as Lord – for those who truly are born-again, it’s a wonderful gift from God to have assurances that we belong to Him. When doubts assail us, we can look at objective measures of faith & know that we know Jesus, and that our eternity rests with Him.

1 John 4:12-19 (NKJV)
12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

A. If it seems like John is picking up in the middle of a thought here, you’re right. (Paragraph breaks are not inspired – various translations have wildly different ideas of where the paragraphs lie in the text.) On one hand, John is finishing out one idea, but he’s also transitioning on to something new. Vss. 7-11 had a main theme of loving one another, and John finishes out that thought here by showing one of the results of loving one another. However that ‘result’ is a whole new topic in itself. When we love one another as God loves us, then we show the work of God in the life of a believer. IOW, we see God’s Spirit through God’s love in God’s Church, which gives evidence of God’s salvation in each of our lives.

B. Why would we need to see God’s work? Because God Himself is unseen…God the Father is invisible (Jn 4:24, God is spirit…. 1 Tim 1:17, God immortal, invisible…). This is part of the whole wonder of Jesus’ physical incarnation (His coming to earth), in that Jesus showed to us the fullness of God as Jesus walked & talked among us. John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. [] (Col 1:15) This was one of the things that the disciples were so blown away by – Philip had asked Jesus to show them the Father & Jesus replied that He was in the Father & the Father was in Him (John 14:8-11). To see Jesus Christ is to SEE God Himself.

a. If no one has ever seen God, then what about all the OT appearances of God? (Adam, Abraham, Moses, etc.) Each appearance is one of 2 possibilities: (1) They saw a partial revealing of the glory of God (per Moses on Mt. Sinai)… (2) They saw the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. (Adam, Abraham) Jesus (as God the Son) has always existed – and He has always been the declaration, the Word, and the image of God.

C. Brings up an obvious question: If Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and Jesus has already ascended to Heaven to sit at God’s right hand, how is the world supposed to see God today? … Through the Church! As our neighbors see the love of God “perfected in us,” (brought to completion in us) then they will “see” God abiding among us. They cannot physically see Jesus in the flesh; but they CAN see the love of Jesus & the work of Jesus through the Church. This is part of the very essence of what Jesus left us to do – to be witnesses of Himself to the world.

a. Stop a moment & think about this for a minute. That the world would see God through us (as the Church) is an unfathomable privilege… And an unappreciated responsibility… To say “You’re the only Jesus someone might see” isn’t a trite cliché; it’s a very real possibility. May we take advantage of every opportunity we have to show forth the love of Christ!!

D. BTW, note the “if.” “If we love one another…” This is something we SHOULD do. As believers in Christ Jesus, this is something that is expected of us – this is something that should naturally follow someone who is born-again. However, it’s not something that always happens. When the Church loves one another as the Church is supposed to love one another (to the extent that Jesus Himself loves us), then the world is supposed to see that we are the disciples of Jesus & will see God working through us. (John 13:35) When that doesn’t happen, the problem isn’t with the world – it’s certainly not with God; it’s with us.

E. So how do we know that God is abiding in us? Obviously, this is pretty important! It’s not only the point at which the love of God is displayed to the world, it’s also the way we know that we’re saved. Outside of abiding in Jesus Christ, there IS no salvation (apart from Him, we can do nothing… Those who do not abide in Him are cast into the fire… Jn 15:5-6). Obviously, part of the reason John wrote this letter to the Church in the 1st place was to answer that very question – and he’s done so several different ways. Here, he gives 3 different assurances of knowing that God abides in us. See vs 13…

13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.

A. Assurance of abiding #1: we have the Holy Spirit… Goes back to the idea John introduced in Ch 3:24. [] Scholars have pointed out this could mean two different things: (1) God has given us “out of” His Spirit – meaning that the gifts and empowerment we receive from the Holy Spirit is evidence of our salvation. (2) God has given us the Spirit Himself – we partake of His very presence. The fact that the Spirit indwells a believer at all is evidence of our salvation. This is more likely John’s intent. Jesus had spoken of the same thing: John 14:16-17 (16) And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— (17) the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. [] The world experiences the conviction of the Holy Spirit (sin, righteousness, and judgment – Jn 16:8), but the world can never receive the Holy Spirit within their lives. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is given only to believers – and thus is marvelous assurance of our faith in Christ Jesus.

a. “Sounds great – but it sounds subjective. How do I know if I’ve been indwelt by the Holy Spirit?” Obviously, that’s all wrapped up in what John is referring to in how we can be assured we abide in God. But specifically on the indwelling of the Spirit, we can look at two things: faith & fruit.

i. Faith: We’ve got to believe the word of God to be the very word of God. The Bible tells us plainly that those who are born-again have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit Himself…believe it for what it says.

ii. Fruit: As you walk with Christ, do you see the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in your life? Do you see love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23)? Are these things continually developing in your life? This is the fruit of the Spirit. When a Christian is growing in love, it’s not something that the Christian is doing; it’s something the Spirit is doing in the life of a Christian.

B. Keep in mind that EVERY believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes when we think of the Holy Spirit, we tend to limit Him to just the giving of the charismatic gifts – and think that only those who practice the gifts have the Spirit. [] There are many different roles/ministries of the Holy Spirit…He is our Teacher (1 Jn 2:27) – He is our Comforter/Helper (Jn 15:26) – He is the one who empowers us for service & witness (Acts 1:8) – He acts in our sanctification (1 Cor 6:11), and obviously much more. Specifically to the text here, we cannot even BE Christians if it were not for the work of the Holy Spirit. When we are born-again, we are born of the Holy Spirit (Jn 3:6) – when we trust in Christ, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise who is our guarantee of salvation & eternal life (Eph 1:13-14) – and of course, He dwells within us (Jn 14:17). If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit – if you do not have the Holy Spirit, you cannot call yourself a Christian.

a. Every born-again Christian HAS the Spirit; not every born-again Christian continually walks in the filling & power of the Spirit… (Eph 5:18)

C. Notice that abiding is mutual. “We abide in Him, and He in us…” We’re going to see this idea repeated with all the assurances John gives in this section. I love it! It speaks of the marvelous communion we have with God. When a person is in Christ, Christ dwells in him & vice-versa. Our relationship with God is not going to be one-sided. If as a born-again Christian, you’re seeking after the Lord, confessing sin, spending time in prayer, etc., you’re not going to find yourself alone in your relationship. God is always with you – you abide in Him & He abides in you.

14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.

A. Question: who’s “we”? Obviously John is primarily speaking for himself & other apostles (they literally saw Jesus with their eyes & we believe their apostolic testimony) – but his immediate context is speaking of the Church overall. Someone who is a born-again believer can know they are born again because they have partaken of the Holy Spirit (i.e. “we”). That’s the case with every believer, far beyond only the 12 apostles have been given the Spirit. What then is the result of being born-again? We (all of us) can testify of Jesus Christ.

B. We “testify” of Jesus because we have “seen” Jesus. … Perhaps not through physical eyes of the flesh, but we have seen Him in faith. (Blessed are they who do not see, and yet believe…) The person who has been born-again knows that they are born-again because they experienced it themselves. (Josh McD: “I was there.”) There is a moment every born-again believer puts their faith & trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. They’ve personally experienced His calling, His empowerment, and His grace. It is that moment (and every moment after) of which we can testify.

a. If you haven’t personally experienced it, you need to! A person isn’t saved because Jesus is generically “the” Lord; an individual is saved when they receive Jesus Christ as HIS/HER Lord.

C. What does the testimony include?

a. “the Father has sent the Son”: the incarnation. John has already covered this back in Ch 4:2-3… Acknowledging that Jesus was sent of God & walked among us as God in the flesh is an essential part of the testimony of a Christian. Jesus was not merely a good teacher, or a prophet on a mission – He was sent by God Almighty as God in the flesh to walk among us.

b. Jesus is the “Savior of the world”: the purpose. This is WHY God sent His only begotten Son into the world – that Jesus would be the Savior of the world. As John mentioned in vs. 10 that Jesus would be “the propitiation for our sins.” We who were in the world needed saving – we needed deliverance; God sent the Deliverer! Jesus is the Savior of the world, made available to the world – salvation can be found in no other name.

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

A. Assurance of abiding #2: our confession. We must confess “that Jesus is the Son of God.” … Earlier in Ch 4:2, John made it clear that a proper confession of Jesus is to confess that Jesus actually came in real physical flesh – meaning that He was fully human, and actually was incarnate as He walked the face of the earth. Here, the emphasis isn’t on His humanity; it’s on His Deity. To say that “Jesus is the Son of God” is to say that Jesus IS God. A son is like his father – he is of the same physical matter as his parent – he is of the same essence. In a far higher way, it’s likewise with Jesus. Jesus the Son is not “less than” God the Father; Jesus is simply different than God the Father because Jesus is God the Son. But Jesus is not “less than” God; Jesus IS God. The early church fathers used the word “homoousios” (ὁμοούσιος) to describe it (and get away from the heresies that Jesus is not fully true God, c.f. the Nicene creed). Homo = same; + ousia = essence. Whatever is the essence of God the Father, Jesus is made up of the same ‘stuff.’

a. Not “Jesus is A son of God,” but rather “Jesus is THE Son of God.” The Greek is very specific on this point – the definite article is used to make the “the” distinct. Jesus is the one & only Son of God – we as born-again believers have received the spirit of adoption, and we can call God our Abba Father as sons (Rom 8:15), but Jesus alone is THE Son of God. Jesus alone is begotten of the Father. (With no competition from Satan, Michael, or any other created being. Jesus is wholly different because He is the Creator; not the created!)

B. Confession isn’t merely lip-service; John’s whole idea of confession is something we truly believe. Paul puts it another way: Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. [] Confession & belief/faith go hand-in-hand…Biblically, they cannot be separated. The very word speaks of a common agreement (ὁμολογέω = same words/speech). Just because someone can recite a creed does not mean they have faith (just a good memory!). To truly confess Jesus as Lord is to truly believe Jesus is YOUR Lord. … The result of this confession? Marvelous assurance! The Bible couldn’t get any plainer on the subject: “you will be saved.” Amen! Let there be no doubt. You can know that you know you are saved today when you confess with your mouth & your lips that Jesus is Lord – the Son of God who died for your sins, and rose from the dead.

C. Don’t miss the fact that this same assurance is available to any human being on the planet. Anyone can have this assurance that God abides in him & he in God – “whoever confesses” Jesus as Lord (the Son of God) can be saved.

a. We’ve got to tell people about this! If Jesus died on the cross to be the Savior of the entire world (vs 14), and if whoever confesses Him as the Son of God can be saved (vs 15), then we have a job to do. God has given the invitation. God has already made the provision. 2/3 of the world’s population (a generous estimate) are dying & going to Hell when it doesn’t need to be that way. That’s over 4 billion people on the planet who could be saved if they only repented & put their faith in Christ. What are we doing to tell them?

16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

A. Assurance of abiding #3: our love. As we abide in the love of God, we have a grand assurance that we are indeed abiding IN God. When we know by personal experience the selfless agape love of God shown to us in Jesus Christ – when we believe by faith that God has poured out His love to us at the cross – when we experience & show forth that same agape love towards one another, we have yet more assurance of our eternal salvation & our relationship with God Almighty.

B. Why? Because “God is love.” [Review] This makes logical sense. If God is love, and the Holy Spirit abides in us, and we’ve personally confessed Jesus as the Son of God, then we’ll naturally know & show forth the love of God. How could we not? If the God of love is our Lord – if the God of love dwells within us, how would the love of God NOT pour out of our lives?

C. Did you notice how doctrine & action go hand-in-hand? For much of 1 John, the apostle has exhorted the Church to good works, saying we can know that we know we are saved by the good things that come out in our lives as a result of the work of Christ in our lives. … Elsewhere, John tells us we can know that we know we are saved when we have the right belief about who Jesus is: that He is both 100% God & 100% man who was sent by God to be the propitiation for the entire world… … Even here, John goes back to the same ideas: we have assurance through our confession (doctrine) & we have assurance through our love (action/practice). Often we have a tendency to lift up one aspect above the other. For one group, it’s all about doctrine… For another group, it’s all about good works… In truth, it’s about Jesus – and BOTH doctrine & works are a result of HIS work in our lives. When either aspect is missing (essential doctrine, or good works), it’s time to re-examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith…

D. How exactly does the love of God give us any assurance of our salvation? Because of what love does & where it originates. See vs 17…

17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world.

A. Keep in mind that John hasn’t been writing of just any-old-love; he’s been writing of the divine agape love of God. … We’re not looking for an emotion; we’re looking for a work of God “perfected among us.” It is love that begins with God, displayed in Jesus Christ, and brought to completion as God brings the Church to eternal salvation.

B. What does perfect love do? #1: It gives us “boldness in the day of judgment.” The love of God gives us comfort regarding the judgment of God. The born-again Christian doesn’t necessarily want to die (due to family here), but he/she doesn’t fear what comes after death itself. It’s appointed to a man once to die, then the judgment (Hb 9:27). A true Christian can have boldness regarding that Divine appointment! When we see Jesus face-to-face, it won’t be as a criminal awaiting our sentencing & punishment; it’ll be as a servant & friend seeing his loving Master & co-heir in God! The perfected love of God grants us this holy boldness…

C. What exactly does John mean by the last phrase here? Scholars differ a bit. Most likely, he’s saying that just as Jesus was manifesting the love of God to the world (and thus rejected by the world), we who belong to Jesus do the same thing. We serve God by glorifying Him – loving the world by witnessing of Christ, and likely rejected in the same way. Nevertheless, as faithful servants made perfect by the perfect love of God, we can await seeing our Lord with boldness.

18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

A. Perfect love #2: “casts out fear.” Fear and love are diametrically opposed – they don’t exist together at the same time. The imagery here is wonderful…not only is fear non-existent in love, but when love arrives on the scene, any fear we have is tossed out the window. There is no room for fear within perfect love; perfect love casts it aside. Why? God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Tim 1:7); He’s given us His love! We have the grand & ultimate demonstration of love on our behalf in the cross – thus we not only have all boldness to go before God in judgment, but we have zero fear to do so.

B. Question: if “perfect love casts out fear” & we have assurance of our salvation by the perfect love of God in our lives – why then does the Bible consistently tell us to fear the Lord? Does John disagree with the rest of the Bible? No…John is simply talking about a different kind of fear. To properly fear the Lord is to respect & revere Him; to fear the day of judgment is to have terror & “torment” in thinking about it. Take heights: some people have an unhealthy fear of elevators; other people have a healthy fear of jumping out of airplanes. One is due out of torment & terror; the other is out of a healthy respect of the laws of gravity. 🙂 People who shake their fist at God all their lives will likely go into eternity in absolute terror & torment because they’ve rebelled against God & never known Him. However, people who place their faith & trust in Jesus Christ as Savior & Lord will always maintain a reverent respect for the God of the Universe – yet we have no reason to flee in terror because we know the grandness of God’s love & have personally experienced His mercy & grace.

19 We love Him because He first loved us.

A. Perfect love #3: starts with God. True agape love (whether talking about for God for for our neighbors) never starts with us; it always starts with God. HE’s the One who loved us – He’s the one who reached out to us in Christ – He’s the one that gave us of His Holy Spirit. Agape love is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), any time it is demonstrated in our life ultimately is the result of God’s own work within us.

B. Bible translations vary here. NASB, ESV, NIV, “We love because He first loved us.” NKJV, KJV, “We love Him because He first loved us.” MSS vary… Either rendering is still absolutely true. We do love because He loved us. But there’s no doubt that we love GOD only because God 1st loved us. We did not reach out to God; He reached out to us – Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners (Rom 5:8). Before the foundation of the world, God knew us & chose us in Christ (Eph 1:3), and then gave us the grand invitation to respond to Him & choose Him in return. God is always the initiator; we’re always the responder…

What an incredible love we’ve been shown in Christ & what incredible assurance we have of the results of His love. We can know that we know we are saved when we know & show the love of our Savior.

A. We have assurance when have the Holy Spirit

B. We have assurance when we confess Christ

C. We have assurance when we abide in love – and it’s the perfect love of God.

The obvious question for application is simply this: do you have this kind of assurance? Do you know that you know you are saved, and that your eternity rests firmly in the hand of the God who loves you? … You can have this assurance today!


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