Having referenced the importance of keeping God’s commandments in this context, John reminds us once more of the foremost of the commands of God; namely, that we believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of everything. Apart from living faith in the Son of God, no person has eternal life dwelling in him. This is the only way by which justification can be obtained. By this act of believing, we pass from a state of condemnation into a state of acceptance with God.
This is the first command we must keep as we come to this God Who is light, and in Whom is no darkness at all. But John attaches to it the same principle he has already begun to hammer, that of loving one another. This again is a specific command of God, found in the Old Testament law, and forcefully taught by Christ during the days of His flesh. This will follow naturally out of a saving faith in Christ. Every person that knows Christ knows Him not just as Saviour, but also as Lord. Having submitted to Christ’s divine authority, he strives to keep that new commandment, that we love one another even as Jesus loved us.
This is the fifth and final message in my series on the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. This sermon is an epilogue, or conclusion, the main issue having been covered in the fourth sermon. This message deals with two important issues raised by the subject, namely, whether this is a sin which men may still commit, and what is the relationship between this sin and the sin of apostasy described in Hebrews 6 and 10, and I John 5:16.
In this way we may learn that we are of the truth, and may gain that quiet, confident assurance which is a chief gift of the Spirit of God. A man can gain false assurance from any number of methods, but only genuine holiness, marked by a heartfelt, self-sacrificing love for the brethren, gives a man the true confidence that he is a child of God. We must, then, be constantly searching for these marks in ourselves and, as we discover them in some degree, seek to cultivate them and foster growth.
Notwithstanding these evidences being present, there are times when the believer’s heart will still condemn him. He still wrestles with indwelling sin, still marks failures in himself each and every day. At times this ceaseless battle, with its daily defeats and seemingly too few victories, will tend to despondency, particularly if he forgets to return constantly to the cross and cleanse his conscience with the blood of Christ. The comforting reality is that even when we may tend to give up on ourselves and our hearts condemn us as being lost, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. He knows that, though we may have fallen for the moment into despair, that our hearts are genuine, that we do seek His honor and glory, that we do strive to live as His children. God will not forget that we are in the number of His children, even if we do forget it for a time.
But the true believer who is walking with Christ need not abide in a state of spiritual depression. If we train our hearts to be steadfastly looking to Christ for the forgiveness of sin, and fresh discoveries of pardoning grace, then we will be in less danger of being condemned by our own hearts. Confidence in Christ and His saving work is the first ground of assurance, though certainly it must be combined with a consistent path of obedience and love to the brethren. These things are not irreconcilable, but are two sides of the same coin. When they are joined together, they give us confidence towards God, and a heart full of joy that is not shaken by the adverse tides of life. Moreover, this strong faith gives us the ability to pray to our Lord with great confidence, knowing that we receive the things that we ask, because our hearts are conformed to His will. This conformity can only be known by our doing those things which are pleasing in His sight. When we are persevering in this path, then we can pray in all things, even as did our Saviour, “Thy will be done.”
John drives the point home by providing the most basic example of Christian love. Our Lord Jesus, we have noted, gave everything that He had, including His own life’s blood, that we might be saved. It may be that we will never be required to surrender our lives for His sake. Yet, our Lord accepts even such small offerings as a cup of cold water given in His Name to a disciple. John points the finger at those who have some earthly means, and asks how they can claim the love of God dwells in them if they shut up their bowels of compassion from a needy brother. Would it not be better to buy a week’s worth of groceries for a brother whose pantry is empty and who has no income, than to spend that money on a concert or a new book? We should be willing to give up even the things that we have set our hearts upon, lawful in and of themselves, if that thing would prevent us from helping our brethren in need. If we cannot do this thing, which is the very smallest, then what right have we to claim that the love of God dwells in us?
Our love, John warns, must be in deed and in truth. In this he speaks alongside James, who rebuked the hypocrisy of those who would give a word of encouragement to the needy, but give not a penny’s worth of their goods to alleviate their suffering. We must be willing to spend and be spent in the service of God’s people, if we would love in deed and in truth, and supply the evidence that we are truly born from above.
How sweet must the following considerations be to a distressed believer.1. There most certainly exists an almighty, all-wise, and infinitely gracious God.2. He has given me in times past and is giving me at present, if I had but eyes to see it, many and signal intimations of His love to me, both in a way of providence and grace.3. This love of His is immutable; He never repents of it or withdraws it.4. Whatever comes to pass in time is the result of His will from everlasting. Consequently,5. My afflictions were a part of His original plan, and are all ordered in number, weight, and measure.6. The very hairs of my head are every one counted by Him, nor can a single hair fall to the ground but in consequence of His determination. Hence,7. My distresses are not the result of chance, accident, or a fortuitous combination of circumstances. But,8. The Providential accomplishment of God’s purpose.9. They are designed to answer some wise and gracious end. Nor,10. Shall my affliction continue a moment longer than God sees meet.11. He who brought me to it has promised to support me under it, and carry me through it.12. All shall most assuredly work together for His glory and my good. Therefore,13. The cup which my Heavenly Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it? Yes, I will, in the strength He imparts, even rejoice in tribulation, and, using the means of possible redress which He hath, or may hereafter put into my hands, I will commit myself and the event to Him whose purpose cannot be overthrown, whose plan cannot be disconcerted, and who, whether I am resigned or not, will still go on to work all things after the counsel of His own will.
Governor, if I had foreseen the use these people desired to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox, no, sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in this right hand.