I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6–8, NIV)
We see the Apostle Paul looking three ways – downward, backward, forward.
- Downward to the grave:
- I am like an animal brought to the place of sacrifice, and bound with cords to the very horns of the altar. The drink-offering, which generally accompanies the oblation, is already being poured out. The last ceremonies have been gone through. Every preparation has been made. It only remains to receive the death-blow, and then all is over.
- The time of my departure is at hand – I am like a ship about to unmoor and put to sea. All on board is ready. I only wait to have the moorings cast off that fasten me to the shore, and I shall then set sail, and begin my voyage.He stands upon the brink, and says “I see it all, and am not afraid.”
- “I have fought a good fight.” – There he speaks as a soldier. I have fought that good fight with the world, the flesh, and the devil, from which so many shrink and draw back.
- “I have finished my course.” – There he speaks as one who has run for a prize. I have not turned aside because of difficulties, nor been discouraged by the length of the way. I am at last in sight of the goal.
- “I have kept the faith.” – There he speaks as a steward. I have held fast that glorious Gospel which was committed to my trust. I have not mingled it with man’s traditions, nor spoiled its simplicity by adding my own inventions, nor allowed others to adulterate it without withstanding them to the face.
- “As a soldier, a runner, a steward, he seems to say, “I am not ashamed.”
- Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing
- He speaks without hesitation
- His crown is a sure thing
- He speaks as if he saw it all with his own eyes
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realised. (Hebrews 6:11, NIV)
An assured hope is a true and Scriptural thing
- It is a positive gift of the Holy Ghost, bestowed without reference to men’s bodily frames or constitutions, and a gift which every believer in Christ ought to aim at and seek after.
- The Church of Rome (wrongly) denounces assurance in the most unmeasured terms.
- There are also some true believers who (wrongly) reject assurance, or shrink from it as a doctrine fraught with danger. They consider it borders on presumption.
“True assurance is built upon a Scripture basis: presumption hath no Scripture to show for its warrant; it is like a will without seal and witnesses, which is null and void in law. Presumption wants both the witness of the Word and the seal of the Spirit. Assurance always keeps the heart in a lowly posture; but presumption is bred of pride. Feathers fly up, but gold descends; he who hath this golden assurance, his heart descends in humility.” – (Watson’s Body of Divinity, 1650)
I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; (Job 19:25–26, NIV)
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3, NIV)
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Isaiah 32:17, NIV)
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (1 John 3:14, NIV)
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12, NIV)
“To be assured of our salvation is no arrogant stoutness; it is our faith. It is no pride; it is devotion. It is no presumption; it is God’s promise.” (Augustine)
- It cannot be wrong to feel confidently in a matter where God speaks unconditionally – to believe decidedly when God promises decidedly – to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when we rest on the word and oath of Him that never changes.
- A Christian believes the Lord Jesus means what He says, and takes Him at his Word. Assurance after all is no more than a full-grown faith.
“If the ground of our assurance rested in and on ourselves, it might justly be called presumption; but the Lord and the power of His might being grounded thereof, they either know not what is the might of His power, or else too lightly esteem it, who account assured confidence thereon presumption.” – Gouge’s Whole Armour of God.
“Never did a believer in Jesus Christ die or drown in his voyage to heaven. They will all be found safe and sound with the Lamb on Mount Zion. Christ loseth none of them; yea, nothing of them. (John vi. 39.) Not a bone of a believer is to be seen in the field of battle. They are all more than conquerors through Him that loved them.” (Romans 8:37. 37.) – Robert Traill.
A believer may never arrive at this assured hope, which Paul expresses, and yet be saved
- To believe and have a glimmering hope of acceptance is one thing; to have joy and peace in our believing, and abound in hope, is quite another. All God’s children have faith; not all have assurance.
- A man must feel his sins and lost estate – must come to Jesus for pardon and salvation – must rest his hope on Him, and on Him alone.
As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11, NIV)
- It seems a Christian may be troubled with fear upon fear, and doubt upon doubt. He may have many an inward question, and many an anxiety – many a struggle, and many a misgiving – clouds and darkness – storm and tempest to the very end. He reaches his desired haven weather-beaten and tempest-tossed, scarcely realising his own safety, till he opens his eyes in glory.
- Faith is the root, and assurance is the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root and not the flower. Faith is Peter’s drowning cry, as he began to sink: “Lord save, me!” (Matthew 14:30.) Assurance is that same Peter declaring before the Council in after times, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.” (Acts 4:11)
- Faith is the anxious, trembling voice, “Lord, I believe: help Thou my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24.) Assurance is the confident challenge, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Who is he that condemns?” (Romans 8:33-34.)
- He that has faith does well. They are safe. They are washed. They are justified. They are beyond the power of hell. Satan, with all his malice, shall never pluck them out of Christ’s hand. But he that has assurance does far better – sees more, feels more, knows more, enjoys more.
“All saints shall enjoy heaven when they leave this earth; some saints enjoy heaven while they are here on earth” (Joseph Caryl, 1653)
Why an assured hope is exceedingly to be desired
- Assurance is to be desired because of the present comfort and peace it affords.
- Assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage.
- Assurance makes him patient in tribulation, calm under bereavements, unmoved in sorrow, not afraid of evil tidings, in every condition content, for it gives him a fixedness of heart. It sweetens his bitter cups; it lessens the burden of his crosses; it smooths the rough places over which he travels; it lightens the valley of the shadow of death.
- General “hopes” and “trusts” are all very well to live upon while the sun shines and the body is strong; but when we come to die, we shall want to be able to say, “I know” and “I feel” The river of death is a cold stream, and we have to cross it alone. No earthly friend can help us. The last enemy, the king of terrors, is a strong foe. When our souls are departing, there is no cordial like the strong wine of assurance.
“It was a saying of Bishop Latimer to Ridley, ‘When I live in a settled and steadfast assurance about the state of my soul, methinks than I am as bold as a lion. I can laugh at all trouble: no affliction daunts me. But when I am eclipsed in my comforts, I am of so fearful a spirit that I could run into a very mouse-hole.’” (Quoted by Christopher Love, 1653)
- Assurance tends to make a Christian an active working Christian.
- None, generally speaking, do so much for Christ on earth as those who enjoy the fullest confidence of a free entrance into heaven, and trust not in their own works, but in the finished work of Christ.
- He looks at the everlasting covenant sealed with blood, at the finished work, and never-broken word of his Lord and Saviour, and therefore counts his salvation a settled thing.
“Assurance would make us active and lively in God’s service: it would excite prayer, quicken obedience. Faith would make us walk, but assurance would make us run – we should think we could never do enough for God. Assurance would be as wings to the bird, as weights to the clock, to set all the wheels of obedience a-running.” – Thomas Watson.