1 John 1:7
Frances Jane Crosby (Fanny Crosby) was born blind.
Despite her disability (though she would credit it), she had grown up with a strong faith and an ability to write.
She used her skills to write over 8000 hymns—we have at least 22 in our hymnal, some written under pseudonyms.
She had a multi-denominational background, growing up with a Puritan background, but attending Methodist, Baptist, Reformed, and Holiness churches throughout her life.
This is interesting considering our topic for today, and one of her most famous songs, “Blessed Assurance,” since all of those denominations have different teaching on the topic.
Various denominational teachings on assurance.
One high official in a particular denomination 500 years ago said, “The greatest of all Protestant heresies is assurance” – so in his tradition, there is no assurance at all.
On the complete opposite extreme, you have a portion of the OSAS crowd that says that once you’ve been saved, there’s nothing you can do to lose that salvation – they teach absolute (and unjustified) assurance.
One individual in a Calvinist tradition told me personally that the song “Blessed Assurance” is like fudge: “I know it’s not good for me, but heaven help me, I love it!” They teach that the Lord brings assurance to the elect, but they don’t know who the elect are.
Another tradition says that if you’re good enough, you can be assured of your salvation. The problem is we are never good enough!
So what does the Bible say about assurance?
We often focus on how OSAS is wrong, and rightfully so.
But today we will also consider what assurances we do have.
We know that salvation has a definite point when it begins.
We obey the gospel through faith, repentance, confession, and baptism.
That baptism is the moment in which all of our past sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).
The problem comes when we consider someone who has fallen away.
At what point are they lost again?
Our concern stems from our concern for our brothers and sisters, but we also ought to consider ourselves—are we okay?
In the Scripture, there is no definite point when this occurs.
This ambiguity leads many to come up with all sorts of different ideas concerning this topic.
The first one is the one we often criticize because it’s so prevalent in this area, and it’s so dangerous.
There are several different thoughts within this OSAS camp, so I have divided them up a & b.
This one shows one that has died in a saved state.
Here we see that God prevents someone from being lost ever again.
One view is that it doesn’t matter how we act, we will go to heaven no matter what.
That suggests that someone could die an atheist having become a Christian decades before, and go to heaven (1 John 1:6).
Another view is that God prevents us from committing sins worthy of damnation.
But that begs the question, why does God let slip smaller sins if all sin condemns us?
As a corollary to that, if one has committed such sins, it is evidence this person was never saved to begin with.
So the Christian turned atheist was never really a Christian.
This makes God into a liar, for any one of us might fall away in the future, yet His Son says, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).
Do you believe now? Have you been baptized as the Bible tells us? Then you’ve been saved; you are saved.
There is no provisional statement there, nor even a hint of one, that says, “You’re saved unless you fall away in the future.”
It’s two people talking, and one says, “If a person falls away, he wasn’t saved in the first place.”
The other man responds, “If a man falls off a horse, he wasn’t on the horse in the first place.”
We see the ridiculousness of the position.
False view #2 – Yo-yo.
I don’t know of anyone or group (with one possible exception) who honestly holds to this position, but it is a favorite straw man that the OSAS crowd likes to use.
A straw man argument is a mischaracterization or a simplification of the other’s position so one may more easily knock it down as a straw man.
Sadly, it’s also how some in the Lord’s church view their salvation, and I think that’s because we often harp on OSAS so much, rarely focusing on the assurances we do have.
Ironically, Fanny Crosby was closest to the one denomination among whom some teach this yo-yo idea when she wrote “Blessed Assurance.”
After all, vss. 2 and 3 both begin with “Perfect submission,” hinting that we can only have “perfect delight,” or the rest described when we have submitted perfectly.
I’m certainly not against submitting to our Lord and submitting perfectly, but this doctrine teaches that our salvation is based solely on our performance.
The problem is there are so many sins that it’s very nearly impossible to keep yourself completely and totally from them all.
That’s not an excuse, but it is a reality, especially for new or baby Christians.
So you’re on a constant roller coaster, and that sense of urgency is not something I read in Scripture.
Our next point will consider the truth of the matter which will refute this idea.
SN: This doesn’t mean we need to throw out “Blessed Assurance,” but it does mean we may have to interpret it differently than the writer originally intended. But this is true with many of our songs.
Walking in the Light (1 John 1:7).
Fellowship – κοινωνια – communion, participation.
Blood cleanses us—present tense, and the context suggests we ought to understand it is present progressive, meaning it’s a continual action that’s happening at this moment!
At conversion, all of our past sins were washed away, but it says nothing definitive of our future sins.
So we have this passage, if we walk in the light as He is in the light, His blood will continually cleanse us from all sin—if.
That begs the question, what does it mean to “walk in the light.”
It would be helpful to see what else we are to walk in.
Walk as Christ walked (1 John 2:6) – how? By keeping His word (2:3-5), primarily by loving your brother (2:9-11).
Walk in truth, that is His commandments, particularly to love one another (2 John 4-6; 3 John 3-4).
Walk in the day (John 11:9-10; 12:35-36).
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
Walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).
Do not walk according to the flesh (Rom. 8:1, 4).
Walk properly (Rom. 13:13; 1 Thess. 4:12).
Walk in love (Rom. 14:15; Eph. 5:2).
Do no walk (behave) carnally, like mere men (1 Cor. 3:3).
Walk by faith (not by sight) (2 Cor. 5:7).
Walk in the flesh, not according to the flesh (2 Cor. 10:2-3).
Walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).
Walk in good works (Eph. 2:10).
Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called—the gospel (Eph. 4:1; cf. 2 Thess. 2:14).
Walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8).
Walk circumspectly (Eph. 5:15).
Walk worthy of the Lord / of God (Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12).
Walk in Christ (Col. 2:6).
Walk in wisdom (Col. 4:5).
Walk according to what we received (1 Thess. 4:1).
This is an extensive list, but ultimately, it shows how we ought to behave, how we ought to act.
We have our ultimate example in Christ, but make sure we walk in the light, in the truth of His word.
It all boils down to following His commandments, especially to love one another.
What if I fail? (1 John 1:8).
This verse here plainly says we are going to fail.
And it ought to comfort us, knowing that walking in the light does not mean we are completely free of sin.
If it did, we wouldn’t need them to be continually cleansed, would we?
Once He has forgiven a sin we have committed, it is gone, wiped from His ledger.
So vs. 7 is talking about sins currently committed.
This informs us that, as long as we are walking in the light, should we slip up here or there, it is not the end of our salvation.
This is why, as long as we are walking in the light now, should we commit a sin right before we die, we are not eternally lost.
Say I die in a car crash on my way home this afternoon. I see it coming but can’t stop it, and the last word I say is profane—unlikely, but you get my point. That one thing isn’t going to define my eternity.
Souls in danger?
So at what point do I need to be concerned?
When you have sin you have not repented of.
Still, we ought to think about this properly.
We have a tendency to try to do the bare minimum.
That is the exact wrong attitude to have.
We shouldn’t worry about our souls being in danger.
And we won’t if we are continually striving for the prize.
We shouldn’t be looking to barely scrape by, but to fully embrace our Lord and to obey Him.
Nevertheless, there are still those who wonder what they could get away with.
You could commit the same sin every day, truly repent of it, and be fine eternally—that wouldn’t be ideal, but it is possible.
The problem is in true repentance you are not likely to do that.
True repentance requires “godly sorrow,” and after you commit the same sin over and over again, chances are your godly sorrow wanes with it (2 Cor. 7:10).
So a lack of repentance is indicated by an intentional and/or habitual sin (James 1:14-15).
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Say you go into a sin, and you think, “Eh, it’s okay, I’ll repent later.”
Well, that’s not exactly how repentance works, is it?
It’s clear there is no godly sorrow, and therefore no repentance for your actions.
And it’s not just habitual sin. You could murder someone tonight, never murder someone again, but still be lost.
Why? Because it was intentional and you never repented of it.
That’s what it means to “confess our sins” – it means several things, but one of them is to acknowledge what we’ve done (1 John 1:9).
But if we don’t repent, don’t acknowledge our sin, we are lost.
So, if you’re worried that you haven’t repented of a particular sin, then chances are you have nothing to worry about—like blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. If you’re worried about it, you haven’t done it.
Most impenitent people don’t give sin a second thought.
The great thing is, we are here to help (James 5:16).
So what Blessed Assurance do we have?
That our sins will be washed away if we repent and confess/acknowledge our sin.
That doesn’t mean we are in a continual yo-yo cycle of being lost and saved, lost and saved.
It means we must beware, keep vigilant, examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Pet. 5:8).
Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Do we need to submit perfectly? Yes, we ought to.
But our salvation is not dependent on our performance, but on the Lord.
This doesn’t negate our role of repentance and confession.
These things are not part of our performance.
They merely exemplify our reliance on Him.
This is my story, this is my song.
Let us praise our Savior, all the day long.
But before we can have His assurance, we must obey His commands on salvation.