In this blog I will discuss the first two objections to assurance being of the essence of saving faith as stated in Part 1. Those two objections are that when a person believes in Christ, he has objective assurance, even if he is not sure he is eternally secure, and that 1 John 5:13 proves that point.
First, I do not think that description of objective assurance is correct. If I’m not sure, then I don’t have assurance. To say that objectively I’m sure even if I don’t know I’m sure is doublespeak. I’m only sure of something when I’m sure it is true.
Historically speaking, the objective aspect of assurance is the promises in the Bible to the believer. Those promises are not subjective in nature. Our works are subjective. How can we know if our works hit some unstated level needed for assurance? How can we know if our feelings authentically show us that we are born again?
The Westminster Confession taught that the objective aspects of assurance were vital, but not enough in themselves to grant assurance.
Look at John 11:25-27. Jesus asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” She says that she does, and she does not refer to anything subjective. She only refers to the objective truth that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of Christ” (cf. John 20:31). The Lord does not rebuke her for failing to consider her feelings or her works. She was sure because she knew that the Messiah guaranteed her eternal destiny.
Second, I do not think that 1 John 5:13 is saying that the readers believed in Jesus and yet lacked assurance of everlasting life.
John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13). The italicized portion is found in most Greek manuscripts but is omitted in a few early ones. Both the external and internal evidence favor its inclusion.
The NKJV translators supply the words continue to before believe. I am convinced that they are correct based on context in doing so. But if so, they should also supply the words continue to before know that you have eternal life.
We know from earlier verses in 1 John 2 that the readers clearly knew that they had eternal life when John wrote. “You have known Him who was from the beginning” (1 John 2:13, 14). “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you” (1 John 2:25-26). “You do not need that anyone teach you” (1 John 2:27b).
The words these things in 1 John 5:13 refer to John’s words in 1 John 5:9-12. Putting those words together with 1 John 2:25-27, we can clearly see John’s point. The readers were currently assured that they had everlasting life. However, they were being faced with false teachers who were trying to get them to take their eyes off Christ and thus to deceive them and strip them of assurance. They did not need these people, or anyone, to teach them the fundamental truths of God’s word. The readers were mature (1 John 2:12-14). John wrote these things so that the readers would continue to know that they had everlasting life and (or, that is) that they would continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
These first two objections to assurance being of the essence of saving faith do not hold up to scrutiny. In part 3, we will consider the second set of objections.