There is a verse in 1 John 5 which is written for those who doubt whether they have been forgiven and saved by God. It is directed to those who have trusted in Christ, but do not feel that anything has come of it. It is also written to those who have previously been sure of their salvation, but have lost that certainty to some degree, and may even feel it has been a delusion. The verse reads:
‘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…’ (1 John 5.13).
At first sight the verse seems barely logical. It is for those who believe, so that they may know they have life, and believe. But it is clear what the inspired writer means, namely that those who believe may find certainty and then they will be able to exercise their faith more fully.
For many people real conversion occurs some while before they realise it. They genuinely trust and repent, their minds are illuminated, they understand the Gospel, they yield themselves up to God, and yet they say, ‘Has anything happened to me? Has the Lord saved me?’ The text helps them, as we shall see, to appreciate what God has done in their lives.
Then there are those who, when they come to Christ, experience great wonder and discovery. Their prayers are answered, their nature changes, they understand the Scriptures in a new way, and assurance fills their heart. For a time they seem to be protected from doubts in line with Isaiah’s statement—that the Lord bears the lambs in his arms. But soon they are called to stand on their own feet, by faith, and that protective arm of the Lord is lifted a little. The devil begins to assail them with doubts, and their assurance receives a heavy blow.
Very many years ago when I was a boy, my school had a highly successful cross-country team. We considered it world-beating. For several successive years they won a coveted national competition for schools under their renowned coach. Then they took up a challenge from a school located elsewhere in the country, never having raced there before, and off they went with a contingent of supporters. Their illustrious coach, however, had not carried out due diligence, and knew nothing about their opponents, or their cross-country course. We assumed that our team would win easily, as always, but the first third of the course turned out to be exceptionally steep and they were not trained for that. After that testing ascent came an equally steep descent, and our team slipped repeatedly speed-running down. Our world-beaters returned defeated and humiliated because they had not known what to expect. No one had known the lie of the land.
This is exactly what can happen at the beginning of the Christian life. You get a protected period, and then things happen that you did not expect, and you may be flooded with doubts and temptations. There are temptations back to old sins, and also to doubt the Word, and you are shocked and winded by them.
to be continued …