By Reuben Archer Torrey
HOW TO DEAL WITH THOSE WHO LACK ASSURANCE
It is not enough that a man be saved: to be of the most use to God he must know that he is saved, and no small part of our work as personal workers will be to lead into assurance of salvation, men and women who do not as yet know that they are saved. There are two classes of those who lack assurance.
I. THOSE WHO LACK ASSURANCE BECAUSE OF IGNORANCE.
1. There are many who lack assurance for the simple reason that they do not know that it is any one's privilege to know that they have eternal life. Oftentimes if you ask people if they know that they are saved, or if they know that their sins are forgiven, they reply, "Why no, no one knows that." You can say, "Yes, the Bible says that all who believe may know it." and then show them 1 John 5:13:
"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; THAT YE MAY KNOW that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God."
It is well to begin with this passage, and not to leave it until it becomes very clear that it is every believer's privilege to know that he has everlasting life. Follow this up with John 1:12:
"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name."
This verse shows that Christ gives to as many as receive Him, power to become the sons of God. A good way to use this verse is to ask the inquirer questions regarding it. "What does every one who receives Him receive power to become?" "A son of God." "Are you sure that every one who receives Jesus obtains power to become a son of God?" "Yes." "What makes you sure." "God says so here." "Have you received Jesus?" "Yes." "What then have you received power to become?" Just hold the inquirer to the point that it is not what he feels he has power to become, but what God here in His Word says he has power to become. It will usually be necessary to go through it again and again and again.
John 3:36 can be used in a similar way. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." Ask the inquirer, "Who does this verse say has everlasting life?" "He that believeth on the Son." "How many that believe on the Son have everlasting life?" "Why, every one." "Are you sure of that?" "Yes." "Why?" "Because God says so here." "What is it God says?" "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." "Does God merely say that he that believeth on the Son 'shall have' everlasting life?" "No, He says he 'hath' it." "Do you believe on the Son?" "I do." "What then does God say you have?" In a little while he will see it and say, "Everlasting life." Then have him say it over and over again, "I have everlasting life, I have everlasting life." Have him stand by it because God says so, and then have him kneel down and thank God for giving him everlasting life. Do not let the inquirer go while he continues to say, "I hope I have everlasting life." Insist upon his resting absolutely upon what God says.
One night I found a young man upon his knees in great distress at the close of an evening service. I showed him from the Bible how Jesus Christ had borne his sins, and asked him if he would accept Christ as his Savior. He said he would, and seemed to do it; but he seemed to get no light, and went out of the meeting in deep distress still. The next night he was there again, professing to accept Christ, but with no assurance that his sins were forgiven. I tried to show him from John 2:36 what God said of those who believed on the Son, but the light did not come. Finally he rose to leave the room. As he turned to leave me he said, "Will you pray for me?" I said, "Yes." He walked a few steps down the aisle and I called after him, "Do you believe I will pray for you?" He turned toward me with a look of astonishment, and said, "Yes, of course." I said, "Why do you think I will pray for you?" "Because you said so." I said, "Is not God's Word as good as mine?" He saw it at once, that while he was willing to believe my word, he was not willing to believe God's Word. He received assurance on the spot and knew that he had everlasting life.
Another verse which can be used to advantage with this class is John 5:24:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."
This verse has been used of God to bring many into assurance of salvation. 1 John 5:12 is also very plain:
"He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."
Acts 13:39 has been greatly used of God in dealing with this class. "By him all that believe are justified from all things," etc. Ask the inquirer, "What does this verse say that all who believe are?" "Justified." "Justified from what?" "From all things." "Do you believe?" "I do." What are you then?" It will probably be necessary to go over it several times before the inquirer answers, "I am justified"; but when he does, tell him to thank God for justifying him, and to confess Christ before the world. See to it that he does it.
I was dealing one night with a young woman who was in great distress of soul because she could not see that she had forgiveness of sin. I went carefully over the ground to find if she really had accepted Christ, and it appeared clear that she had. Then I had her read Acts 13:39, "By him all that believe are justified from all things." "Now," I said, "Who does God say in this verse are justified from all things?" "All that believe." "Believe on whom?" "Believe on Christ." "Do you believe on Christ?" "I do." "Have you really accepted Him as your Savior and Lord and Master?" "Yes." "Then you are sure you believe on Him?" "Yes." "And what does this verse say that all who believe are?" "Justified." "What then are you?" She would not say, "I am justified," but wept over the thought that her sins were not forgiven. I went over it again and again and again. At last the simple meaning of the words seemed to dawn upon her darkened mind. I asked her as before, "Who does God say are justified?" "All that believe." "From what are they justified?" "From all things." "Who is justified from all things?" "All that believe." "Who says so?" "God says so." "Do you believe?" "I do." "What are you then?" A joyous light spread over her countenance, and she said, "Why, I am justified from all things," and immediately she turned toward her friend standing near and said to me, "Now won't you speak to my friend about Christ?"
2. Many inquirers of this class stumble over the fact that they have not the witness of the Holy Spirit. Show them that the witness of the Word to their acceptance is sufficient from 1 John 5:10:
"He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; BECAUSE HE BELIEVETH NOT THE RECORD THAT GOD GAVE of his Son."
This verse tells us that if we believe not the witness of God, in His Word, we make Him a liar. I was once dealing with a very intelligent young man along this line. He professed that he had accepted Jesus Christ, but that he did not know that he had eternal life. I showed him God's testimony that "he that hath the Son hath life." (1 John 5:12.) "Now," I said, "You have the Son." "Yes." "And God says that he that hath the Son hath what?" "Life." Then I read the tenth verse, "He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son." "Now," I said, "God's record concerning His Son is that eternal life is in Him," (Verse 11), and that "he that hath the Son hath life," (verse 12). Now this is God's record. If you do not believe it, no matter what your feelings are, what are you doing?" In a little while the man replied, "I am making God a liar, but I never saw it before." Then and there he trusted the naked Word of God, and went out with the knowledge that his sins were forgiven, and that God had given him eternal life.
Also show those who are waiting for the witness of the Holy Spirit, that it is after we believe the testimony of the Word that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, using Ephesians 1:13 for this purpose:
"In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also AFTER THAT YE BELIEVED, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise."
The natural order in assurance is this: First, assurance of our justification, resting upon the naked Word of God (such passages as Acts 13:39); second, public confession of Christ with the mouth (Romans 10:10); and third, the witness of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13, Romans 8;16). The trouble with many is that they wish to invert this order, and have the witness of the Holy Spirit before they confess Christ with the mouth.
It is very important in using these texts to make clear what saving faith is, because many say that they believe, when they do not in the sense of these texts, and so get a false assurance, and entertain false hopes, and never get deliverance. There is a good deal of careless dealing with those who lack assurance. Workers are so anxious to have inquirers come out clearly that they urge them on to assurance when they have no right to assurance because they have not really accepted Christ. It is better for a man not to have assurance that he is saved, than for a man to have assurance that he is saved when in reality he is not. John 1:12, 2 Timothy 1:12 and Romans 10:10 make it very clear what the character of saving faith is.
II. THOSE WHO LACK ASSURANCE BECAUSE OF SIN.
Oftentimes the trouble with those who lack assurance is, that there is some sin or questionable practice in their lives which they ought to confess and give up. When this is the case, it will not do to deal with the inquirer along the lines mentioned above. Take him rather to such passages as John 8:12:
"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
When the man has read the passage you can tell him that Jesus' promise was that if we follow Him we shall have the light of life. Say to him, "You have not the light of life, so the probability is that you are not following Him. Are you following Him?" Push the inquirer along this line to find if there is not some point in which he is untrue to Christ, or to the leading of the Holy Spirit. One night in an after-meeting, I was passing around here and there asking different ones about their Christian experience. A gentleman and his wife, friends from another church, had come down to the meeting. I noticed the gentleman looked at his wife as much as to say, "Speak to her." In a little while I came around to her, and asked her how she was getting on in her Christian life. She replied that she was all in the dark. I simply quoted John 8:12 and passed on, but the arrow went home. She and her husband stayed after every one else had gone, and I had a private conversation with her. I asked her if she was rebelling against the will of God at any place. She confessed that she was, that her husband had received a great anointing of the Holy Spirit and she had not, and what was more, she was afraid her husband would go into Christian work and she did not want him to, and so she had gotten utterly in the dark. After some conversation and prayer, she surrendered wholly to the will of God, and the next morning received a wonderful baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah 55:7 is a good passage to use with those who lack assurance because of sin. Proverbs 28:13 and Psalm 32:1-5 are good passages to use with those who have some unconfessed sin that is keeping them out of the enjoyment of fellowship with God. These passages show that when sin is forsaken and confessed we receive pardon and light and assurance.
Oftentimes it is well when one lacks assurance, first, to put the question clearly to him, "Do you know of any sin which you are cherishing, or anything in your life which your conscience troubles you about?"