How important is your personal assurance of salvation? As you search the Scriptures you will find that you cannot live a life of gratitude to God without it (Col 2:6, 7), you cannot worship aright without it (Ps 116:12, 13, 17), you will not be eager to obey and put off sinning without it (Col 3:5-11).
Because of these reasons – Scripture makes Christian assurance a duty – 2 Peter 1:(9) 10. Where true faith exists, it will long for assurance just as much as you long to know where you stand with your best friend.
Scripture is not stingy in extending solid promises of assurance to those who are truly born again. See 1 John 5:11, 12. This is certainly then an important question – how may we know for sure that we “have the Son?”
In many quarters of Christianity one might hear in answer to this question, “Just trust your decision that you made and do not doubt it.” But the more you search the Scriptures, the more you’ll find that this advice is bereft of biblical support.
Evidence for assurance of salvation in Scripture is far more three dimensional and comprehensive. God has given us a THREE-F0LD WITNESS TO ASSURANCE in order that we may know for certain that we possess salvation. This three-fold witness makes a complete testimony of the true believer’s salvation – it is the biblical foundation for assurance of salvation.
The three we will be discovering together are: 1.) The witness of saving faith in the Gospel. 2.) The witness of a changed life. 3.) The witness of the Holy Spirit in the heart (of the believer).
1.) The Witness of Saving Faith in the Gospel (vv. 1-4).
(vv. 1-2) In this section, the Apostle expands upon the believer’s assurance and hope. (This section resumes the theme of assurance and hope set forth in 5:1-11. Paul wants the glory of our salvation to fill our minds and hearts – filling our consciousness that we are accepted in Christ to the glory of God.) “The spirit of life in Christ” is an entirely new operating principle. The believer has been set free from the old principle of sin and death.
(v. 3) The law couldn’t nullify sin’s power – the law was impotent to deliver us, Christ alone accomplished our liberation (2 Cor 5:21). The law is reveals God’s righteousness, and according to Romans 3:20, the law is the revealer of human sin.
In our nature, Jesus blotted out sin’s guilt, he condemned it, He overthrew its power, He brought us nigh to God. This could only be done in human flesh! He took on the battle in the same human nature that had sinned – the same flesh that had become the seat and agent of sin. In our human nature, He conquered sin and death. His work on the cross is the means by which sin’s dominating power and penalty have been broken. In the crucifixion, the Son of God was judged and condemned in our place so that the claims of sin on a believer become invalid. That means at the cross, the judgment and condemnation of sin has resulted in power to the believer to live free of sin’s dominion.
(v. 4) As those set free from the tyranny of sin and death (and free from the sentence and punishment of being wrong with God), we begin our new life of overcoming. The law is fulfilled in us (yes by Christ’s obedience in our place) but also in a normative fashion in our walk – by the Holy Spirit’s directing, enabling power. (The grace of God in Christ translates the righteous requirement of the law into action – the Spirit loves God’s will.) We ought to examine ourselves in light of these verses. Does your life bear testimony to the fact that your entire hope is grounded upon Christ’s finished work for you?
QUESTIONS: Do you love the way God saved you (i.e. by the Gospel of Jesus Christ)? Do you take great delight in God’s way of salvation? Do you see God’s holiness, kindness, love, and wisdom in His plan to send His only begotten Son for sinners? Do you find now that the Law of God is written on your heart so that you desire to fulfill it and please God? Has the Gospel reconciled you to God so that you are no longer His enemy and so that you no longer walk according to the flesh and the world? Can you attest that the only possible solution to your dilemma of guilt, enslavement to sin, and love of the world was for Christ to die in your place? Is it your testimony that before faith in Christ, you were helpless and hostile to God?
2.) The Witness of a Changed Life (vv. 5-13).
(vv. 5-6) There are two different kinds of persons described here, one, a natural man, the second, a regenerated man. The two are described in terms of their settled mindsets. One is under the influence of the flesh, and the other is under the influence of Christ and His Spirit.
For Paul there is a strict correspondence between what a person’s interests are and who he is in his essential being. The man whose thoughts are according to the flesh operates in such a way that his affections, interests, thought life and will are one unified complex. His natural reason advises him to choose what he thinks is best for himself, not what the Word of God commands. (Jesus said that a tree is known by its fruit – Matt 7:16-20ff.)
(vv. 7-8) “Inner man” does not just describe the thought life, it is a man’s interests, affections, direction. Therefore to “live after the flesh” is to be governed by that fleshly complex of reason, will and feeling. And what is Paul’s conclusion? For those who are in the flesh (unregenerate), it is morally and psychologically impossible for them to do anything well-pleasing in God’s sight. This is the doctrine of man’s total depravity and inability. It presents a graphic picture of man’s plight – his desperate need of regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
When self is supreme, the uncontested “lord” of one’s life, that person will regard God as an enemy. The unregenerate man is hostile toward God. Enmity toward God stems from that entire internal fleshly complex which is oriented toward the lusts of the world (1 Jn 2:15-17).
(vv. 9-11) At the moment of the new birth, the Holy Spirit planted a new principle in the believer with new affections, new desires, and a new bias toward sin.
As a new creature, now we are mindful of the things of the Spirit. Now there is the powerful evidence of a changed life. “The old things have passed away.” The former pattern has been displaced by the new – the new man is governed by the rule of Christ’s Spirit.
The indwelling Spirit is the believer’s antidote to the flesh. At regeneration, the benefits and fruits of Christ’s redemptive power and mission are applied to the believer. The believer is renewed and regenerated -- but remember, this is unto a new relationship. It is because of the Spirit’s indwelling presence that the believer experiences (realizes) the fullness of Christ (note Phil 2:12-13).
(vv. 12-13) The assuring ministry of the Spirit is basic to our mortification of sin. As the Holy Spirit communicates the confidence to us that we are the Father’s adopted child, we are emboldened to fight sin. The Holy Spirit assures us that we are secure in Christ’s love –the result is a confidence that we are equipped with infinite resources to fight sin.
We are under obligation to put sin to death. We are not to allow what remains of the lower nature to set the standard for our behavior. The Holy Spirit stirs us to put to death selfish actions. We are to declare war and wage war against sin – it is conquer or be conquered, overcome or be overcome (1 Pet 4:1-6; 2:11).
The very activity of the believer putting off sin is evidence of the Spirit.
QUESTIONS: Do you find that you have a whole new principle operating in you with new affections for the Lord, His Word, and the things of God? Do you have a new bias and power against sin? Can you honestly say that because of Christ you are a “new creature?” Can you say that formerly you were opposed to God’s Law, but now through the Spirit you are able to obey it? Has your relationship to the Bible changed so that it is no longer a “closed,” often mysterious book, but now you can understand it and it is your daily food? Do your thoughts now frequently turn toward God and all that He is toward you in Christ? Does your gratitude for salvation motivate you to please God and to daily fight indwelling sin (by the power of the Holy Spirit)? Do you have a solid, well-grounded hope that Christ will receive you favorably into His eternal kingdom?
3.) The Witness of the Spirit in the Heart of the Believer (vv. 14-17).
(vv. 14-15) Walking in the way of holiness is described as the “leading of the Spirit.” This holy walk of putting to death sin and communing with God is the specific mark of the true child of God. Adoption and leading go together – the Holy Spirit does not leave us orphans. As those justified, freed from condemnation, set free from the power of sin, taken into the family of God, the Spirit desires that we be PERSUADED by Him that we belong there.
The Spirit’s leading is persuasion, not force, fear and bondage. He guides into truth and holiness (obedience). The Christian is to walk by the power of the Spirit (Gal 5:16). Since the Spirit is leading the believer, the Christian must “Walk in step with the Spirit” (Gal 5:16, 18; 2 Cor 7:1).
Sonship is the glorious goal and triumph of God’s grace. The Spirit imparts the assurance of sonship. As sons of God we have the right to cry “Abba” because we share sonship with our Lord Jesus Christ. Sonship guarantees eternal life itself (Gal 4:4-6).
(vv. 16-17) The Spirit bears witness to our spirit that we are the sons of God. This internal testimony or witness is the assured awareness of our sonship. He produces in us the posture and life of a son. He seals to our hearts that the promises of Scripture belong to us – they are ours. He instills a supernatural hope that we may build our very life and future upon – namely that we are heirs of God and fellow heirs of Christ. He assures us of our Father’s love.
QUESTIONS: Do you have peace with God so that you know your standing before God? Do you know for certain that He has forgiven you? Do you bring your hopes, fears, requests, and sins to your Heavenly Father? Does the Holy Spirit continually produce in you the consciousness that you are God’s beloved child? Has the Holy Spirit testified to your spirit that you belong to God? Do you consider it a privilege to suffer for Christ socially, and if necessary in other ways? Is God’s Spirit leading you into greater holiness and into the habit of putting your sin to death? Do you count it your greatest treasure to be an heir of God?
CONCLUSION: When the true believer comes to Romans 8, his doubts come to a full stop. (His fears, agitations, wanderings – lay down of their own accord as he enters Romans 8 because this is his identity and his experience in personally knowing God. This chapter describes the glorious reality of his life as a “new creature” (2 Cor 5:17).
The Christian says of Romans 8, “This is my spiritual experience! These are the changes God has produced in me! These are the truths He has written on my heart!”
These are the spiritual realities that fill the mind and heart of the Christian. This is his “home turf” so to speak – these are his spiritual surroundings. His hopes and affections are thrilled by the consciousness that his spiritual life is described so beautifully in this chapter.
What if you cannot say that this is your spiritual home, you do not have this three-fold witness of assurance? Ask God to show you your sin. Welcome conviction of sin. Go to the passages of Scripture that teach the Gospel of grace in Christ. Ask God to give you faith and have mercy upon you. He is willing to receive all who come to Him in Christ (Jn 6:37).