The issue of assurance is one that is of concern for many Christians. It is generally agreed that biblical assurance has three aspects: (1) assurance that comes from God’s promises such as when eternal life and forgiveness of sins is promised to all who trust in Christ; (2) assurance that is deduced from a changed lifestyle, especially shown in obedience to God’s commandments; and (3) assurance that is the impression stamped on a believer’s heart by the indwelling Holy Spirit, being usually a strong sense of the love of Christ or of divine peace or of overflowing joy.
A question that can be asked in response to those three aspects is this: which aspect of assurance is essential for a believer to have? The question does not ask what kind of assurance is most comfortable or enjoyable; instead it asks what aspect is essential for genuine Christianity. The answer is the assurance that is deduced from a changed lifestyle. Without it, the first aspect drawn from divine promises is merely assumption and the third aspect of strong inner experiences is imagination at best. Experiences can be worked up and conclusions drawn about spiritual reality that are not valid from the Bible’s teaching.
John here is writing about persons who claim to be genuine disciples, advanced in spiritual experience. He informs his readers that a failure to keep God’s commandments invalidates all profession of conversion and discipleship. Therefore we can see why wholehearted obedience is essential for genuine assurance. We will think more about this tomorrow.