Question: Dear pastor, I’m happy you still want to answer the questions at this website! I listened to the sermon of ‘Jesus meeting doubters’ a few times. It makes many things very clear, but I missed 2 doubts. Can you answer those too? 1. It can’t be real with me because I never experienced the assurance in the way the pastors describes it in the sermons. They say you have to have heard His voice, God has to say it to you personal. A text of the Bible has to become so special and it has to be special in such a way that you never can forget it. They mention quite often psalm 56:5 rhymed (Dutch). Do you really have to experiences something special before you can be assured? Can God not simply take away all the doubts that stand in the way? This is the first doubt what always comes when I have a little assurance. What’s the biblical way of getting assurance?
2. Can a child of God be so weak even when he or she knows that something is a sin, still do it?
Arianne (Sorry my English isn’t perfect)
Sorry it took a while to answer your questions. Hopefully the patience wasn’t tried too much.
Regarding your first question. I am always very careful to ‘insist’ on a certain way in which a soul receives assurance of his or her salvation. God encourages His children to live by faith in His promises. That can be a real battle as we don’t dare, feel not worthy, aren’t sure the promise belongs to us, or experiences an inability to believe. These are the normal battles every person who is convicted of sin will experience. Through these battles we learn very much. For one, we learn that we need the Holy Spirit for every act of faith. His work is as necessary for salvation as the coming, suffering and death of the Lord Jesus. But to insist that you ‘must have heard God’s voice before you can assured of your salvation’ is something I would never say. Stating it this way is making God the cause of our lack of assurance. Since ‘He hasn’t spoken yet’ we can’t really help not being assured. If that is true, it would contradict God’s exhortation to ‘make your calling and elections sure’ (2 Peter 1). It would also contradict Jesus’ words in John 14-16 in which He repeatedly encourages His disciples to believe in His Word ‘so that their joy may be full.’ I am convinced that is God is speaking in His Word. Each time we read the Bible, hear it proclaimed faithfully by God’s servants, the LORD is speaking to us. The problem is with us. We don’t hear or believe what He speaks. There are hundreds of promises in the Bible through which the Lord speaks to His people about the certainty, completeness and reality of their salvation. Gladly the Holy Spirit will aid His people and grant them faith to believe His Word and once a person is enabled to trust the promises, he or she will experience the joy of salvation (assurance). If you are able to listen to English well, I can link you to my Dropbox and you can download a few sermons I recently preached on assurance of faith, in connection with Lord’s Day 23. I tried to explain in those sermons what is taught in the Canons of Dort about the assurance of faith. The teaching given in that pastorally written ‘document’ is so thoroughly Biblical. (You will need to send a personal e-mail to me so I can send you the link to this dropbox; my email is[email protected])
So to sum up your first question, yes God can take away your doubts and grant you the childlike faith to trust His promises. Interestingly, I was just reading a comment about a sermon from Rev. Kersten, Jr. He clearly pointed out that it is the weak in faith who need special texts spoken to them with power. It is my own conviction also that God has very many special needs children to whom He bows down in His loving-kindness to bring them to the full assurance of their salvation. I would count myself among one of those. But normally, God calls sinners to trust His promises and the moment we truly believe these promises (and there are hundreds of them), we will experience the peace, joy, rest of assurance of faith.
A closing comment on the statement: the Lord needs to speak with power. Don’t imagine an audible voice. God’s Spirit may bring a Scripture in your mind as you are wrestling with God in prayer and such a Scripture can bring great comfort when you believe it. God also sometimes presses a Scripture on your heart when you read His Word in such times of intense struggle with your doubts and needs. But again, never must we insist on this as if this is the norm. I am still convinced that these cases are the exceptions in which God tenderly condescends like Jesus did with His disciples after the resurrection, especially as He dealt with Thomas. God is honoured when we believe Him on His Word, as it is written. Such faith is the strong faith, like the woman in Matt 15. Even though everything testified her, even though Jesus’ own actions and words placed her ‘outside’, yet she trusted undiminished in what she had heard about Him. Without a special text and without a special sign she believed and Jesus closed the scene with saying that He had never found so great faith in Israel.
2. Your second question is honest. Sadly, yes, a child of God can know that something is a sin and still do the sin to which they are attracted. I mean with ‘doing the sin’ not just falling into a sin because of an infirmity. Peter wasn’t overtaken by infirmity when he denied Jesus with curses. David wasn’t just overtaken in a moral slip when he committed adultery and tried to cover his tracks with pre-meditated murder. While their conscience must have spoken, they did continue in their sin. Sin has a pleasurable attraction to our carnal old man. And even though in the regenerate a new man is created, the old man is never converted though he is crucified. Oh what battles are fought with sin in the life of God’s children! Once they begin to reason or argue with the tempter, it will be a lost battle for his power and the power of our remaining corruption is so great that we can never win this battle unless we instantly flee to the Lord Jesus and by faith in His overcome the world
We hope that you have received some guidance from these answers, Arianne. May the Lord bless you in His grace.
Warmly, Pastor Vergunst,