How do you know that your spouse loves you? In this world, everything depends on definitions. What is love? Baby, don't hurt me. Is love a feeling? An emotion? Of course there are components of love that are romantic that are truly based on feelings and emotions that sway like trees in the blustery winds of spring. We see all around us the result of people committing the fallacy of equating love and romance. Romantic feelings come and go, so that does mean love does, as well?
Of course not. So how do you know your spouse loves you? Because they have entered in to a covenant of marriage with you. He or she will love you when the romance is hot and when it's cool, even when it's lukewarm. Your spouse is committed to love you for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do you part. Your assurance is rooted the covenant made between you both.
How do you know God loves you? Or rather, what is your assurance of faith? How do you know you're saved?
The Confession begins by saying, Although temporary believers and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God and in a state of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish; yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.
We must admit that there are people who may exhibit the outward show of faith without actually possessing saving faith. These are hypocrites, not true believers.
Jesus identifies these hypocrites when he says, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'" (Matthew 7:22-23).
There will in fact be those who proclaim the name of Christ who use his holy name for selfish ambition. Who will be rejected at the final judgment? It will be those who did not do the Father's will. And what is the Father's will? "For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:40).
So who can be saved? They are those who truly believe and love the Lord and seek ongoing obedience. This is what James means when he says that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Those who truly possess saving faith will seek to obey the Lord, not out of a sense of dread, but from a sense of joy and love, or a desire to be holy as he is holy. This is not salvation by works. It's salvation with evidence.
The Confession continues, This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope, but an infallible assurance of faith, founded on the blood and righteousness of Christ revealed in the Gospel; and also upon the inward evidence of those graces of the Spirit unto which promises are made, and on the testimony of the Spirit of adoption, witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God; and, as a fruit thereof, keeping the heart both humble and holy.
If your spouse has cheated on you nine times, how strong is your assurance that it will never happen a tenth? I would wager your assurance is quite low. Your trust in someone is based on their record of faithfulness. Christ faithfully kept the Mosaic law. Christ faithfully sought the Father's will in purchasing redemption. Christ faithfully went to the cross instead of calling upon legions of angels to comfort him. Christ faithfully rose from the grave as evidence of his divinely appointed kingship and authority over the gates of hades. There is none so faithful as Jesus Christ, Lord of heaven and earth. This is what the Confessions means by saying our assurance is grounded on the blood and righteousness of Christ.
Not only do we have evidence upon which we can look back in history, but we have the inward assurance of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul writes, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him" (Romans 8:16-17).
How does the Spirit bear witness? Is it a whisper in our ears? Is it an encrypted email from heaven?
Ask yourself, what is the Spirit producing in me? If witnesses give evidence, what evidence is there that I am producing the fruit of the Spirit? Keep in mind that evidence is partial. Think of a forensics unit. They gather bits and pieces to put together a picture of a crime. So do not seek perfection in this life. Perfection comes in the new city. Are there bits and pieces, however much or meager, of evidence that point to the reality of salvation?
So what about when my assurance waivers? What about dark nights of the soul? What about besetting sin in my life? The Confession has more to say, to which we will return next week.