“FALSE ASSURANCES, #1”
Galatians 4.15, 11
1. My sermon this morning will deal with the subject of assurance of salvation. Specifically, I will preach on one aspect of false assurance of salvation. But before I address the subject of false assurance of salvation I want to review both the doctrine of assurance of salvation and the doctrine of eternal security.
2. Eternal security has to do with that doctrine taught in God’s Word that establishes with absolute certainty that someone who has genuine faith in Christ, who has passed from death unto life, who is in fact in Christ, will safely arrive into the presence of God when he passes from this life to the eternal state. Eternal security is commonly expressed as “once saved always saved.”
3. Listen to what the New Hampshire Confession of Faith says about this matter. Written in 1833, and embraced by almost every kind of Baptist in North America, with the exception of those few who deny the eternal security of the believer, I read the statement dealing with the perseverance of saints.
Of the Perseverance of Saints
We believe that such only are real believers as endure unto the end; [John 8:31; 1 John 2:27-28; 3:9; 5:18] that their persevering attachment to Christ is the grand mark which distinguishes them from superficial professors; [1 John 2:19; John 13:18; Matt. 13:20-21; John 6:66-69; Job 17:9] that a special Providence watches over their welfare; [Rom. 8:28; Matt. 6:30-33; Jer. 32:40; Psa. 121:3; 91:11-12] and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. [Phil. 1:6; 2:12-13; Jude 24-25; Heb. 1:14; 2 Kings 6:16; Heb. 13:5; 1 John 4:4]
4. So much for 19th century Baptist thought on the subject. One of the most revered systematic theologies used by Baptists in the 20th century was written by Henry Thiessen. I read Thiessen’s introduction to chapter XXXIII, Perseverance:
If properly understood, this is a very comforting doctrine; but it must not be abused or misinterpreted. The Scriptures teach that all who are by faith united to Christ, who have been justified by God’s grace and regenerated by His Spirit, will never totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but certainly persevere therein to the end. This does not mean that every one who professes to be saved is eternally saved. Nor even does it mean that every one who manifests certain gifts in Christian service is necessarily eternally saved. The doctrine of eternal security is applicable only to those who have had a vital experience of salvation. Concerning such it affirms that they shall “never totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace.” This is not equivalent to saying that they shall never backslide, never fall into sin, and never fail to show forth the praises of Him Who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. It merely means that they will never totally fall away from the state of grace into which they have been brought, nor fail to return from their backsliding in the end.
5. So you see, though I have not directed your attention to any specific passages in Scripture, I have cited two credible sources that succinctly set forth the doctrine of the perseverance of saints. It is a doctrine which I believe is taught in the Bible. It is a doctrine which I have preached on numerous times. It is, I can safely say, a fact that is corroborated throughout the entirety of Scripture.
6. But I am not preaching on the subject of the perseverance of saints this morning. I deal with this matter of eternal security only in passing, so that I might distinguish it from a doctrine that is closely related in the minds of most Christians; the doctrine of the assurance of salvation.
7. One of the real problems that creates confusion among Christians is their failure to distinguish between these two, distinct, doctrines in the Bible. If eternal security, the perseverance of saints, is that objective doctrine found in the Bible about the final salvation of those who really do know Christ, then assurance of salvation is that subjective feeling that a person has about his own relationship with Christ.
8. To put it another way, the perseverance of saints has to do with what the Bible says about the final destiny of those who really are Christians. Assurance of salvation has to do with how an individual Christian presently feels about his relationship with Christ.
9. To restate yet again, perseverance of the saints is an established Bible fact. But assurance has to do with the confidence a person has that he really is a Christian. When properly understood, it is possible for someone to know with absolute certainty that “once saved always saved” without feeling assured that he is actually saved himself.
10. As well, though it is generally not recognized by most people, assurance of salvation is completely distinct from salvation. A person can be saved and have no assurance of his standing in Christ. Just as certainly, there are people who have the most profound confidence that they are Christians, strong assurance of salvation, without actually being Christians at all.
11. Listen to a portion of what the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689 says about assurance of salvation:
Chapter 18: Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation
True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways
shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as by negligence in preserving of
it,(13) by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and
grieveth the Spirit;(14) by some sudden or vehement temptation,(15) by
God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such
as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light,(16) yet are they
never destitute of the seed of God(17) and life of faith,(18) that love of
Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart and conscience of duty
out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may in due
time be revived,(19) and by the which, in the meantime, they are preserved
from utter despair.(20)
Ps 116:11; 77:7-8; 31:22.
12. Why am I citing the Second London Baptist Confession, Henry Thiessen’s Systematic Theology, and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession? Do we look to those documents to tell us what we should believe? Not at all. I have referred to those documents to show you what is generally accepted as an accurate representation of Bible doctrine. Our only rule of faith and practice is God’s Word. Therefore, do not be alarmed by these references I have cited.
13. To summarize, there is the doctrine of the perseverance of saints, eternal security, once saved always saved. This is an objective reality that reflects clear Scriptural teaching about the ultimate destiny of the truly saved individual. Then there is assurance of salvation, my own subjective feeling about my relationship with Jesus Christ, a different matter entirely.
14. To be sure, if you are truly saved you are eternally secure. But what if you are truly saved and yet you have no assurance of salvation? Worse still, what if you are not truly saved and yet you have an unshakable assurance of salvation? Is such a thing possible?
15. That question will be addressed in my sermon. But before my sermon, brother Isenberger comes to lead us as we stand and sing.
1. How can you tell who is and who is not a Christian? How can you tell whether or not you are a Christian, much less anyone else? These are pretty important questions.
2. If you cannot tell whether someone else is a Christian or not how are you to know who to marry, since Christians are supposed to marry only Christians? How is a pastor supposed to know who to baptize, since only Christians are qualified candidates for what we Baptists insist is believer’s baptism?
3. Of course, it is one thing to ascertain the spiritual condition of another person with some degree of reliability, but what if you are wrong about yourself? After all, there are numerous examples in the Bible of people who were wrong about their own spiritual state.
4. Here is the scenario: You come to church and sit under gospel preaching. You get convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit of God and are persuaded that you are doomed unless you flee to Jesus Christ for salvation from your sins.
5. But how do you know that you really did come to Christ? Keeping in mind that your heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, Jeremiah 17.9, and that the devil himself tricks people into believing lies, John 8.44, it is possible to be sincere about being a Christian, but to be sincerely wrong.
6. In this day of very shallow thinking, many people presume that when a sinner gets saved he really gets saved, that no one who professes to be a Christian can possibly still be lost, and that a person simply must have assurance of his salvation. So, pastors, personal workers, soul winners, and Sunday School teachers do everything they can to give assurance of salvation to everyone they can. The tragedy, of course, is that what passes for assurance of salvation these days is so often proud presumption.
7. Let me read the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia definition of assurance: “Assurance is the soul’s apprehension of its complete emancipation from the power of evil and from consequent judgment, through the atoning grace of Christ. It is the exact opposite of self confidence, being a joyous appropriation and experience of the fullness of Christ — a glad sense of security, freedom and eternal life in Him.”
8. What a wonderful grasp of assurance is reflected in that statement. Sadly, so much so-called assurance these days is based upon considerations that are entirely unscriptural. Let me speak to one, that I will call exuberance. I could have labeled it intensity, focus, or with some other word. Jonathan Edwards called it “religious affections.” I will call it exuberance.
1A. Do You Realize That EXUBERANT CHRISTIANITY IS NOT WRONG?
Believe it or not, there are a considerable number of professing Christians, and many of whom may very well be Christians, who have a very negative view of what I call exuberance. They are suspicious of excitement, and tend to view expressions of joy in a somewhat negative light. I suppose they are of the opinion that when someone is exuberant about his Christianity he runs the risk of losing control of himself, or of lacking proper demeanor, or of being just plain silly. To a person of that frame of mind, who has that disposition against exuberance, I would like to mention four general considerations to establish that an exuberant Christianity is not wrong.
1B. First, two passages that reveal our Lord Jesus Christ’s position on this issue:
1C. Remember the conversation the Lord Jesus Christ once had? I read Matthew 22.36-38:
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
Would there not be some measure of exuberance associated with obedience to that command?
2C. Then there is Christ’s command in His sermon on the mount in Matthew 5.12: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Again, He seems to be advocating an activity that would be impossible to disassociate from exuberance. Would you not agree?
2B. Next, just a small sampling of what others have to say, as well as display, about exuberance:
1C. First, we consider the remark of David, in Psalm 68.3: “But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.”
2C. Next, consider the behavior of David, in Second Samuel 6.16: “And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.”
3C. Third, there is the apostle Paul, writing in Philippians 4.4, saying, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” To rejoice is to outwardly display your joy.
4C. Fourth, John the Baptist, responding to a question from his disciples, said these words in John 3.29: “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.”
5C. Finally, the women who discovered the empty tomb are said to have had both fear and great joy, according to Matthew 28.8. And then they ran to tell the others. Exuberance.
3B. Third, just two of many passages that give us insight about the exuberance of God’s people:
1C. Psalm 150 shows us what God wanted from His people in the past:
1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.
2C. And Psalm 89.15-16 provides a glimpse of what it will be like in the eternal state:
15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.
16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.
4B. Finally, do not forget the angelic host:
1C. Would you say that Job 38.7 reveals to us that the angels were exuberant when God created the physical universe? That verse reads, “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”
2C. Listen to what our Lord tells about His angels in heaven, in Luke 15.10: “I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”
3C. And what does God want from His angels, according to Psalm 148.1-2?
1 Praise ye the LORD. Praise ye the LORD from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
2 Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
4C. It is fairly well established to a reasonable person that exuberance in worship and service to God is not a bad thing. Advocated by the Lord Jesus Christ, exemplified by John the Baptist, by the apostle Paul, and even by the angels, anticipated in prophecies about the Lord Jesus Christ’s first coming, and in the eternal state, real Christianity is not dry, lifeless, dull and monotone. It is energetic, enthusiastic, with an eagerness and an engagement of the whole personality.
2A. However, EXUBERANT CHRISTIANITY IS NOT NECESSARILY SPIRITUAL OR GRACIOUS
Say you have a person who loves to give testimonies, who openly rejoices, who seems to live an excited and committed life in service to Christ. What does that tell you about the spirituality of that individual, or if he has tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious?
To answer that question, I direct your attention to three separate scenarios found in the Bible:
1B. First, I would like for you to reflect on the history of the Israelites from their Exodus to the foot of Mount Sinai.
1C. Remember the night of the Passover, when God sent the death angel to slay the first born? Remember when the children of Israel left Egypt and borrowed the jewels of silver and of gold, and borrowed the Egyptian’s garments?
2C. Remember how the Shekinah glory of God shielded them from Pharaoh’s army until they could cross the Red Sea dry shod? Remember how the waters of the Red Sea overwhelmed the chariots of Pharaoh and destroyed those who pursued the children of Israel?
3C. Remember how God provided manna from heaven, that they only needed to gather off the ground every morning? Remember how God provided water from a rock for them to drink? Remember how God gave them victory over the Amalekites? Oh, how the people rejoiced and celebrated at each great victory.
4C. But “. . . when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods,” and they suddenly turned from exuberance to idolatry, Exodus 32.1.
2B. Next, remember the sequence of events that led to our Lord’s crucifixion.
1C. First, the Savior went to Bethany, where he raised Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, from the dead. “Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him,” John 11.45.
2C. A couple of days later, “. . . when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord,” John 12.12-13.
3C. There was such an outpouring of exuberance that “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him,” John 12.19.
4C. But it was only a few days later that “the chief priests . . . and officers . . . cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.” Following their lead only a few minutes later, when Pilate said “unto the Jews, Behold your King! . . . they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him.”
5C. Exuberant toward Him at the beginning of the week, they demanded His brutal execution by crucifixion only a few days later.
3B. Finally, consider the case of the Galatians.
1C. While it is quite clear that the two examples we have just considered are examples of lost people exhibiting exuberance, there is no indication that Paul concludes that the Galatian Christians were lost. He only finds that his assurance of their salvation is challenged.
2C. Evidence of their exuberance as Christians is found in Galatians 4.15, where Paul writes, “I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.” There can be no doubt that anyone whose level of commitment was so great that they would have made such a sacrifice to alleviate Paul’s ailment exhibited what I have been referring to as, for lack of a better word, exuberance.
3C. But notice what Paul writes in Galatians 4.11: “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.” In other words, their recent behavior that he had become aware of created great doubt and suspicion about their relationship with Christ. Were they really saved? Paul does not know as confidently as he once did. He is now filled with doubt.
1. What have we learned today? We haven’t learned very much, I am afraid. What we have learned has more to do with nuance than with some large doctrine.
2. But we have learned two things that might prove helpful: First, exuberance is not a bad thing. Being an energetic and excited Christian, one who is deeply committed and unabashedly public with his praise and testimony, is not a bad thing.
3. Some people have a deep distrust of exuberance, but exuberance is displayed by the angels, by the psalmist, by Paul and John the Baptist, and exuberance was encouraged by the Savior. So, those who shy away from exuberance are not in the right.
4. But by the same token, exuberance in and of itself is no sign of spirituality or of the grace of God. As wonderful as exuberance is it can be faked. And as wonderful as it is it can be completely sincere even by those who are not very spiritual and by those who are not even converted.
5. So, what can be said about exuberance? It is no indication of anything. It is not a definitive test of the genuineness of anyone’s Christianity. Thus, you should not fool yourself into thinking that you are either necessarily saved or necessarily spiritual just because you get excited about the things of God.
6. If you never get excited about the things of God, His worship and His praise, His service and His glory, then something is wrong with you. But exuberance can be attributed to things other than spirituality and the grace of God, so be careful.
Henry C. Thiessen, Introductory Lessons In Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), page 385.
 See Assurance in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (AGES SOFTWAREÔ, INC. · Rio, WI USA · Version 8.0 © 2000)
 John 19.6