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by John Ritchie (1853-1930)

John RitchieThe Scriptures bearing on Assurance may, for the sake of simplicity and clearness, be divided into sections, viz.:— The Position, Possessions, and Prospects of Believers; or, in other words, the assurance of what we are, of what we have, of what we know, and of what we shall be. Concerning all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the following facts are true, as recorded in the Word of God.

We Are—

Saved (1 Cor. 1:18).
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Forgiven (1 John 2:12).
I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.

Washed, Sanctified, Justified (1 Cor. 6:11).
And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

Sons (1 John 3:1).
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God...

Complete (Col. 2:10).
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.

We Have—

Redemption (Eph. 1:7).
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.

Peace (Rom. 5:1).
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Eternal Life (John 3:15).
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

The Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12).
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

The Word (John 17:14).
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.

A High Priest (Heb. 8:1)
Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

An Advocate (1 John 2:1).
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

We Know—

We are of God (1 John 5:19).
And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

Have passed from death (1 John 3:14).
We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren...

We are of the truth (1 John 3:19).
And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

We are in Him (1 John 2:5).
But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.

He abideth in us (1 John 3:24).
And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

We have eternal life (1 John 5:13).
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 on the name of the Son of God.

We have a Home (2 Cor. 5:1).
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

We Shall Be—

Raised (1 Thess. 4:16).
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.

Changed (1 Cor. 15:52).
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Caught up (1 Thess. 4:17).
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Be like Him; See Him (1 John 3:2).
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Be with Him (1 Thess. 4:17).
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Satisfied (Psa. 17:15).
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.

The Gospel Proclaims Assurance.

"For our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance" (I Thess. 1:5).

To have the assurance of salvation, and to rejoice therein, is the normal state of every believer in Christ. To lack this assurance is the result of unbelief of God's testimony (1 John 5:10) or of traditional teaching (Gal. 3:1;4:9), or of backsliding (2 Peter 1:9).

How Assurance Is Obtained.

The assurance of Salvation is not obtained by certain inward evidences. It is not the result of attaining to a certain degree of sanctity, or Christian attainment. It is not dependent on the experiences of God's people. The finished work of Christ is the ground of the believer's salvation; the testimony of God's Word gives the assurance of it. Both are outside of himself, and in no wise dependent on him. The perfectness of Christ's work and the immutability of God's Word are the two great pillars on which salvation and its assurance rests. God says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life " (John 3:36). "All that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:39). To believe God because He speaks, is faith; to doubt Him is unbelief. To ask evidences or signs, either external or internal, is equivalent to saying, "I cannot take God's bare Word for it, and believe that I am saved, because He says it." Unbelief asks signs; faith trusts God without them. Unbelief wants to, "understand" all about it, to reason it out, in order to "believe." Faith accepts God's testimony. "Through faith we understand" (Heb. 11:3). Unbelief wants to "see" in order to believe (see John 20:25). Faith "believes" to see (Psa. 27:13).

Old Testament Pictures of Assurance.

Such was the faith of Noah, he believed God about a coming flood while as yet he saw no cloud on the horizon. He had the "assurance" of the deluge one hundred and twenty years before it came. He knew it, and preached it, because he believed God. "Abraham believed God" when He promised to give him a son. "Evidences" were against it, but "he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief" (Rom. 4:20), although its magnitude might well have made him stagger— "but was strong in faith ... being fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able also to perform" (Rom. 4:20-21). He had the "assurance" of receiving a son, long before Isaac was born, through faith. The Israelites were safe under the shelter of the blood on the lintel and doorposts; they had the assurance of their safety in the Word— "I will pass over you" (Exod. 12:13).

Their security depended on the faithfulness of God, but their assurance of that depended on their confidence in His Word. If they believed that Word simply as He gave it, then they could say — "We are safe; God has said it." If they consulted their frames and feelings, instead of taking God at His Word, their assurance might go and come. In like manner, many now, instead of receiving God's testimony and resting on it for the assurance of their salvation, look within themselves, seeking for evidences of assurance there. Of course they are disappointed. There can be no assurance of anything, apart from faith in God. But here comes the difficulty. How can I know if I have faith, and if it be of the right kind? The same kind of faith which accepts God's testimony that there was a flood in Noah's days, and implicitly believes it, without further proof, is just the kind of faith that believes God, when He says He has given me eternal life (1 John 5:11). In each case it is taking God at His Word, without further evidence, than that He says it. This is how people get the assurance of salvation.

People want to "feel," to "realise," to "enjoy," before they believe, but this cannot be. God must be believed; His Word must be honoured. "He that hath received His testimony hath set to his seal that God is true" (John 3:33).

To have the "knowledge of salvation" (Luke 1:77) and "much assurance" (1 Thess. 1:5) was the common property of the Saints of early times.

How Assurance Is Lost.

To encourage doubt and fear was no part of the teaching of the Lord or His Apostles. "Doubting Castle" had its foundations laid in the dark days, when God's Book was deposed from the place of authority, and when man's traditions and human creeds were put in its place. Legality, ritualism, sacramentalism, and purgatory itself were all brought in after, and found easy access among those who had been taught, that no assurance of salvation or of Heaven could be gained in this life. Blessed be God, assurance is within reach of all who believe the Gospel of God. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31) are words leaving no room for doubt. "He that hath the Son hath life" (1 John 5:12) is sufficient for a simple soul who can believe God. Such will at once assert their claim to that possession, and joyfully confess, "We know that we have passed from death unto life" (1 John 3:14). And if they be charged with "presumption" for so doing, they may call in the witnesses of earlier times who, rejoiced in the same blessedness. Of these, the following may be named:—

Job had assurance (Job 19:25), so had David (Psa. 103:12); Isaiah possessed it (Isa. 6:7), so did Paul (2 Cor. 5:1); John (1 John 3:22); Timothy (2 Tim. 1:9); Peter (1 Peter 5:1), all the believers at Ephesus (Eph. 1:7); Colosse (Col. 1:12-14), and other Churches. It was the normal condition of believers to know that they were saved and possessors of eternal life. If any lack this now, it must be the result of backsliding (2 Peter 1:9), or of bad teaching (Gal. 3:1).

There are preachers, some of them of high rank, in the professing Church, who openly avow their belief that no assurance of salvation is possible in this life; others admit that a favoured few — either those unquestionably elect, or of a high degree in Christian virtue — may attain to it, but that the ordinary rank and file of believers must "hope" and "wait" till the revelations of the great day. All this, tested in the clear light of God's open Bible, is simply nonsense, and the wonder is, that any should be misled and deceived by it. O that men would go to the Book of God, and read it there for themselves, in words so plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein. While the wise and the great are blinded and stumble, the simple believer sings—

"The gospel of the grace of God,
  Unchangeably the same,
'Forgiveness' speaks through Jesus' blood,
  'Salvation' in His name.

"'Eternal life' for ever sure,
  To all who do believe;
'Eternal glory" kept secure,
  For those who Christ receive.

"Nor height, nor dept, nor earth, nor hell,
  Shall ever them remove,
Who in the heart of Jesus dwell,
  Who know and trust His love."

From Foundation Truths of the Gospel by John Ritchie. 2nd ed. Kilmarnock: Office of "The Believer's Magazine," [1904].

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