Vol.XX No.VII Pg.2
September 1983

Assurance, 1 Jn. 3:14-24

Robert F. Turner

John wrote, "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren" (1 Jn. 3: 14). Here is assurance, but it is objectively determined. As following verses show, assurance is on the basis of the fruit demonstrated in our life. We must love "in deed and truth" (v.18-19) for "hereby shall we know...and shall assure our heart..."

The same objective determination is seen in v.22: "whatsoever we ask we receive of him, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight." (All textual emphasis in article, mine. rt) This text and John's whole epistle negate subjective feelings as assurance, and stress obedience to God's word.

John's message leans so heavily in that direction he offers aid to those who may quake in fear they will not serve and be as loving as they ought. He postulates, "If our heart condemn us..." (v.20). This is the opposite of the cocky, self-assured man. Deep respect for God has a humbling effect that makes us tremble in recognition of our unworthiness. The true saint is aware of his inadequacy. He "knows not how to pray as he ought," groaning within himself as he realizes his hidden sins are "naked and open" before God's eyes. His heart aches. But John says, "God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." If that repeats God knows our sins it only deepens our despair. But clearly this is encouragement. Without backing off one bit from the context of the need for "doing," I believe John meant God knows if we are trying. God knows the true intent of our heart. Compare this to Rom. 7 where Paul is wretched in the awareness of his sin, while delighting in the law of God inwardly (7:18-f). He does not say good intentions negated his sin; wrongdoing is sin regardless of intentions. He recognized his need for the crucified Christ (forgiveness), but found solace in the assurance God gives to those who "walk after the spirit" (Cf. Rom. 1:9; 2:29; 7:25 — our spirit).

1 Jn. 3:24a reads, "He that keepeth his commandments abideth in him, and he in him." God's abiding is objectively determined. Verse 24b continues, "And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he gave us." To consider this the Holy Spirit, subjectively determined, defies the context. Believing it is the Holy Spirit "because we obey" removes it as a separate assurance factor. 1 Jn. 4: 1-6 continues context, testing spirit by what it produces. We conclude John says sinful man, seeking to obey God has a heart- seeing, merciful Judge.