Author: Ron Graham
The Anchor of Assurance
—In a storm of doubt
The fourth of five lessons on the theme “Anchors in the Storm”. In this lesson, we consider assurance as an anchor when we are buffeted by storms of doubt.
Paul struggled to build up the Christians "that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself..." (Colossians 2:2).
Satan will set the winds of doubt upon us, and we need full assurance in Christ, based on a true knowledge of Christ, to hold us firm against them. In this lesson we look at four ways in which we need full assurance.
1 Sanctified Completely
Christ is able to “save to the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25). He can fully purify, make us holy and acceptable to God. Assurance of “entire sanctification”, is an anchor keeping our souls from drifting.
God intends "that we should be holy (sanctified) and blameless before him" (Ephesians 1:4). God does nothing by half measures. He has not only sanctified us, he has done a complete and thorough job of it —just as he intended.
"God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us to adoption to himself as sons, through Jesus Christ, according to the kind intention of His will..." (Ephesians 1:4-5).
God assures entire sanctification
We can be fully assured of our entire sanctification, because it was granted us by God and is maintained in us by God. Our holiness is through Christ. We simply co-operate with Christ.
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." (1Thessalonians 5:23-24, NASB).
When Paul’s benediction says, "May the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely, Paul is not suggesting that God has yet to do this. Paul is rather confirming and encouraging the Thessalonians in their entire sanctification, which God preserves. Paul commits their entire sanctification to God, so that they may not be cast adrift from it.
John promises that "if we walk in the light as God himself is in the light, we [and God] have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin" (1John 1:6-7).
Speaking of the results of baptism into Christ’s death, Paul says, "Consider yourselves to be dead indeed to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). There is no such thing as being “half dead to sin”. So be fully assured of your entire sanctification when you obey the gospel.
2 Useful in Ministry
Not only do we need assurance that we are holy and acceptable to God, but we also want to be sure that we are useful to God. Peter gives us this encouragement:
¶ "As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, do it as one speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves, do it as one serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever; Amen." (1Peter 4:10-11).
- Firstly, Peter says that "each one has received a special gift" (1Peter 4:10).
- Secondly, Peter says that these gifts are given by "the manifold grace of God" (1Peter 4:10).
- Thirdly, Peter says that we use a gift "by the strength which God supplies" (1Peter 4:11).
- Fourthly, Peter says that through our using a gift "God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1Peter 4:11).
Here are the verses again, with those points marked. Think hard about these points so as to appreciate that God has in place a system which cannot fail:
¶ "As (1) each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of (2) the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, do it as one speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves, do it as one serving (3) by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things (4) God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever; Amen." (1Peter 4:10-11).
Notice that the exercise of our gifts is altogether dependent on God, and the credit goes to God. Therefore we can certainly be “good stewards”, fully assured of our usefulness to God, each in our particular stewardship and ministry.
Not filthy rags
Unfortunately, many preachers are falsely saying that God needs nothing from us and no service of ours to him is any more than “filthy rags” They get this by misapplying Isaiah’s statement, "All our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).
The first chapter of Isaiah clarifies God’s reason for rejecting as filthy rags the righteousness of his people in Judah and Jerusalem. They were "alas a sinful nation" and a rebellious people (Isaiah 1:4-5). They are likened to Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:10-11).
"How the faithful city has become a harlot, she who was full of justice! Righteousness once lodged in her, but now murderers. Your silver has become dross" (Isaiah 1:21-22).
Yet this rebellious people offered to God multiplied sacrifices and prayers (Isaiah 1:11-15). The Lord repudiated the nation’s hypocrytical righteousness as dross and as filthy rags. Isaiah is speaking on their behalf.
We, however, are entirely sanctified. We are endeavouring, in God’s strength, to be good stewards of our gifts, granted us by God out of his manifold grace. We work to glorify him. It is atrocious to typify that righteousness as filthy rags.
3 Ready for the Future
Thirdly, we need a full assurance that we are quite ready to meet God. Not many of us doubt that a day of judgment is coming, but it's not uncommon to have doubts about whether one is ready for that day.
"And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:27-28, ESV).
A young woman, expecting her boyfriend to arrive by plane early in the morning, will not be still in bed at that time. She will be up and dressed, already at the airport, eagerly waiting to greet and welcome the love of her life.
Likewise, we conduct ourselves as those "knowing the time, that it is already the hour to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed." (Romans 13:11).
Are we “awake”? Yes, of course. We have already discussed our entire sanctification. Surely the assurance of that translates into an assurance of readiness. You can hardly be sure of the one without being sure of the other.
4 Enduring to the End
James 1:12, 2Timothy 4:7-8
It is good to be assured of our present sanctification, usefulness, and readiness. But we also need to be confident that this blessedness will endure every trial through the days and years ahead.
Certainly endurance is entirely possible. James says, ¶ "Blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial" (James 1:12). We are not meant to respond to that with doubts about whether we can remain steadfast.
¶ "Blessed is the one who remains steadfast under trial, for that one, having stood the test, will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (James 1:12).
Our Endurance Assured
That blessedness is undoubtedly God’s will, God’s promise, and God’s gift to every Christian. We are able to say, like Paul, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" (Philippians 4:13).
Paul prefaced that by saying, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are mature, have this attitude" (Philippians 3:14-15).
Children often have doubts and fears, but with loving nurture they grow out of them. Let us not be children in our faith, but strong and mature men and women of faith, who have full assurance as we press toward our goal, our crown.
Later Paul could look back on his life, and see that indeed he had endured. He does not speak of this in arrogance, as though he had done what few Christians can do. He believed that such endurance is granted to all who love Christ.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." (2Timothy 4:7-8, ESV).
Useful in ministry
Ready for the future
Enduring to the end
Taught at Over 50's Retreat Kurrajong NSW, May 2013