The Knowledge of Salvation

The Knowledge of Salvation

Let me quote a verse in the distorted way that man’s imagination often puts it: “These happy feelings have I given unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” Now open your Bible and compare this with God’s blessed and unchanging Word. The verse just misquoted, 1 John 5:13, reads this: “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.”

How did the firstborn sons of the thousands of Israel know for certain that they were safe the night of the Passover and Egypt’s judgment? (See Exodus 12.)

Let us visit two of their houses and hear what they have to say. In the first house they are all shivering with fear and suspense. What is the secret of all this paleness and trembling? The firstborn son informs us that the angel of death is coming through the land and that he is not quite certain how matters will stand with him at that solemn moment.

“When the destroying angel has passed our house,” he says, “and the night of judgment is over, I shall then know that I am safe; but I can’t see how I can be quite sure of it until then. They say they are sure of salvation next door, but we think it very presumptuous. All I can do is spend the long, dreary night hoping for the best.”

“Well,” we inquire, “has the God of Israel not provided a way of safety for His people?”

“True,” he replies, “and we have availed ourselves of that way of escape. The blood of the spotless and unblemished first-year lamb has been duly sprinkled with the bunch of hyssop on the lintel and two side posts, but we still are not fully assured of shelter.”

Let us now leave these doubting, troubled ones and enter the house next door.

What a striking contrast! Peace rests on every countenance. There they stand, with girded loins and with staff at hand, feeding on the roasted lamb.

We ask, “What can be the meaning of all this tranquility on such a solemn night as this?”

“Ah,” they say, “we are only waiting for Jehovah’s marching order. Then we shall bid a last farewell to the taskmaster’s cruel lash and all the drudgery of Egypt!”

“Are you forgetting that this is the night of Egypt’s judgment?”

“No; but our firstborn son is safe. The blood has been sprinkled according to the wish of our God.”

“So it has been next door,” we reply, “but they are all unhappy because they are uncertain of safety.”

“Ah,” firmly responds the firstborn, “but we have more than the sprinkled blood. We have the unerring Word of God about it. God has said, ‘When I see the blood, I will pass over you.’ God rests satisfied with the blood outside, and we rest satisfied with His Word inside.”

The sprinkled blood makes us safe.

The spoken Word makes us sure.

Could anything make us more safe than the sprinkled blood, or more sure than His spoken Word? Nothing, nothing.

Now, then, let me ask you a question. Which of those two houses was the safer?

Do you say the second, where all were so peaceful? Then you are wrong.

Both are safe alike.

Their safety depends upon what God thinks about the blood outside and not upon the state of their feelings inside.

If you would be sure of your own blessing, then listen not to the unstable testimony of inward emotions but to the infallible witness of the Word of God.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47).

A certain farmer, not having sufficient grass for his cattle, applies for a piece of pasture which he hears is for rent near his own house. For some time he gets no answer from the owner.

One day a neighbor comes in and says, “I feel quite sure you will get that field. Don’t you recollect that last Christmas he sent you a special present and that he gave you a kind nod of recognition the other day when he drove past?” And with such words the farmer’s mind is filled with hope.

Next day another neighbor meets him, and in course of conversation he says, “I’m afraid you will stand no chance whatever of getting that field. Mr. Jones has applied for it, and you know what a favorite he is with the owner.” And the poor farmer’s bright hopes are dashed to the ground and burst like soap bubbles. One day he is hopeful, the next day full of perplexing doubts.

Presently the mailman comes, and the farmer’s heart beats fast as he breaks the seal of the letter; for he sees by the handwriting that it is from the owner himself. See his countenance change from suspense to joy as he reads and rereads that letter.

“It’s a settled thing now!” he exclaims to his wife. No more doubts and fears about it. Hopes and ifs are things of the past. “The owner says the field is mine, and that’s enough for me. I care for no man’s opinion now. His word settles all!”

Many a poor soul is in a similar condition—tossed and perplexed by the opinions of men, or by the thoughts and feelings of his own treacherous heart! It is only upon receiving the Word of God as the Word of God that certainty takes the place of doubts. When God speaks there must be a certainty, whether He pronounces the damnation of the unbeliever or the salvation of the believer.

“Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). To the simplehearted believer God’s Word settles all.

“Hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19).

You ask, “But how am I sure that I have the right kind of faith?”

Well, there can be but one answer to that question. Have you confidence in the right person, that is, in the Son of God?

It is not a question of the amount of your faith, but of the trustworthiness of the person in whom you believe. One man takes hold of Christ, as it were, with a drowning man’s grip. Another but touches the hem of His garment. But the sinner who does the former is not a bit safer than the one who does the latter. They have both made the discovery that while all of self is totally untrustworthy they may safely confide in Christ, rely on His Word, and rest in the efficacy of His finished work. That is what is meant by believing on Him. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me hath everlasting life” (John 6:47).

Make sure that your confidence is not reposed in your works of amendment, your religious observances, your pious feeling when under religious influences, your moral training from childhood, and the like. You may have the strongest faith in any or all of these and perish. The feeblest faith in Christ eternally saves, while the strongest faith in anything else is but the offspring of a deceived heart.

God, in the Bible, simply introduces you to the Lord Jesus Christ and says, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” You may with all confidence trust His heart, though you cannot with impunity trust your own.

“I do really believe on Him,” said a sad-looking soul to me one day, “but yet, when asked if I am saved, I don’t like to say yes, for fear I would be telling a lie.”

This young woman was a butcher’s daughter in a small town. It happened to be market day and her father had not returned from market. So I said, “Now suppose when your father comes home you ask him how many sheep he bought today, and he answers, Ten.’ After awhile a man comes to the shop and says, ‘How many sheep did your father buy today?’ and you reply, T don’t like to say, for fear I should be telling a lie.’ “

“But,” said the mother (who was standing by at the time), “that would be making her father a liar.”

Don’t you see that this well-meaning young woman was virtually making Christ out to be a liar? She was saying, “I do believe on the Son of God, and He says I have everlasting life, but I don’t like to say I have it lest I should be telling a lie.”

“But,” says another, “how may I be sure that I really do believe? I have tried often enough to believe, and have looked within to see if I had faith; but the more I look at my faith the less I seem to have.”

Ah, friend, you are looking in the wrong direction to find that out, and your trying to believe plainly shows that you are on the wrong track.

Let me give you another illustration.

You are sitting quietly at home one evening when a man comes in and tells you that the stationmaster has been killed on the railroad. Now, it so happens that this man bringing the news has long had a reputation for being a very dishonest man and the most daring, notorious 100 liar in the neighborhood. Do you believe, or even try to believe, that man?

“Of course not!” you exclaim.

“Why not?” I reply.

“Oh, I know him too well!”

“But tell me how you know that you don’t believe him. Is it by looking within at your faith or feelings?” I ask.

“No,” you reply. “I think of the man that brings me the message.”

Presently a neighbor drops in and says, “The stationmaster has been run over by a freight train tonight and killed.” After he has left I hear you cautiously say, “Well, I partly believe it now; for to my recollection this man only once in his life deceived me, though I have known him from boyhood.”

But again I ask, “Is it by looking at your faith this time that you know you partly believe it?”

“No,” you repeat, “I am thinking of the character of my informant.”

Well, this man has scarcely left your room before a third person enters and brings you the same sad news as the first. But this time you say, “Now, John, I believe it. Since you tell me, I can believe it.”

Again I press my question (which is, remember, but the echo of your own), “How do you know that you so confidently believe your friend John?”

“Because of who and what John is,” you reply. “He never has deceived me, and I don’t think he ever will.”

In the same way I know that I believe the gospel because of the One who brings me the news. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which He hath testified of His Son. … He that believeth not God hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son” (1 John 5:9-10). “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3).

An anxious soul once said to a minister, “Oh, sir, I can’t believe!” The preacher wisely and quietly replied, “Whom is it that you can’t believe?” This broke the spell. He had been looking at faith as an indescribable something he must feel within himself in order to be sure he was all right for heaven; whereas faith ever looks outside to a living Person and His finished work, and quietly listens to the testimony of a faithful God about both.

It is the outside look that brings the inside peace. When a man turns his face toward the sun, his own shadow is behind him. You cannot look at self and a glorified Christ in heaven at the same moment.

Thus we have seen that God’s Son wins our confidence. His finished work makes us eternally safe. God’s Word about those who believe on Him makes us unalterably sure. We find in Christ and His work the way of salvation, and in the Word of God the knowledge of salvation.

The Joy of Salvation

But if saved, you may say, “How is it that I have such a fluctuating experience, so often losing all my joy and comfort, getting as wretched and downcast as I was before my conversion?”

You will find in the teaching of Scripture that while you are saved by Christ’s work and assured by God’s Word, you are maintained in comfort and joy by the Holy Ghost who indwells every saved one’s body.

Bear in mind that every saved one still has with him “the flesh,” that is, the evil nature he was born with as a natural man and which perhaps showed itself while he was still a helpless infant on his mother’s lap. The Holy Spirit in the believer resists the flesh and is grieved by every activity of it in motive, word, or deed. When the believer is walking “worthy of the Lord,” the Holy Spirit will be producing in his soul His blessed fruits: love, joy, peace, and so forth (Galatians 5:22). When the believer is walking in a carnal, worldly way the Spirit is grieved, and these fruits are wanting in greater or lesser measure.

For you who do believe on God’s Son:

Christ’s work } stand or fall together.

and your salvation

Your walk

and } stand or fall together.

your enjoyment

When Christ’s work breaks down—and, blessed be God, it never, never will—your salvation will break down with it. When your walk breaks down—and be watchful, for it may—your enjoyment will break down with it.

Thus it is said of the early disciples that they walked “in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 9:31).

And again in Acts 13:52: “The disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost.”

Your spiritual joy will be in proportion to the spiritual character of your walk after you are saved.

Now do you see your mistake? You have been mixing up enjoyment with your safety, two widely different things. When, through self-indulgence, loss of temper, worldliness, and so on, you grieved the Holy Spirit and lost your joy, you thought your safety was underminded. But:

Your safety hangs upon Christ’s work for you.

Your assurance rests upon God’s Word to you.

Your enjoyment depends upon your not grieving the Holy Spirit in you.

When, as a child of God, you do anything to grieve the Holy Spirit, your communion with the Father and the Son is suspended; and it is only when you judge yourself and confess your sins that the joy of communion is restored.

Suppose your child has been guilty of some misdemeanor. His face shows that something is wrong with him. Half an hour before this he was enjoying a walk with you around the garden, admiring what you admired, enjoying what you enjoyed. In other words, he was in communion with you; his feelings and sympathies were in common with yours. But now all this is changed, and as a disobedient child he stands in the corner, the very picture of misery. Upon penitent confession of his wrong-doing you have assured him of forgiveness; but his pride and self-will keep him sobbing there.

The joy of half an hour ago is all gone. Why? Because communion between, you and him has been interrupted.

What has become of the relationship that existed between you and your son half an hour ago? Is that also severed or interrupted? Surely not.

Your child’s relationship depends upon his birth.

His communion depends upon his behavior.

But presently he comes out of the corner with broken will and broken heart, confessing the whole thing, so that you see that he hates the disobedience as much as you do. You take him in your arms and cover him with kisses. His joy is restored because communion is restored.

Suppose while your child is in the corner there should be a cry of “fire” through your home. What would become of him then? Would he be left in the corner to perish in the burning house? Impossible! Probably he would be the very first person you would carry out. Ah, yes. The love of relationship is one thing, and the joy of communion quite another.

When David sinned so grievously in the matter of Uriah’s wife, he did not say, “Restore unto me thy salvation,” but “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalm 51:12).

When the believer sins, communion is for the time interrupted and joy is lost until he comes to the Father and confesses his sins.

Then, taking God at His Word, he knows he is forgiven; for His Word plainly declares that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Ever bear in mind these two things: There is nothing so strong as the link of relationship, nothing so tender as the link of communion.

All the combined power and counsel of earth and hell cannot sever the relationship, while an impure motive or an idle word will snap the communion.

If you are troubled, get low before God and consider your ways. And when the thief that has robbed you of your joy has been detected, drag him at once to the light, confess your sin to God, and judge yourself unsparingly for the unwatchful, careless state of soul that allowed the thief to enter.

But never, never confound your safety with your joy.

Don’t imagine, however, that the judgment of God falls more leniently on the believer’s sin than on the unbeliever’s. He does not have two ways of dealing with sin, and He could no more pass by the believer’s sin without judging it than He could pass by the sins of a rejecter of His precious Son. But there is a great difference between the two.

The believer’s sins were all known to God and all laid upon Christ when He suffered upon the cross at Calvary. There and then, once and forever, the great “criminal question” of his guilt was raised and settled, judgment falling upon the blessed Substitute, “who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).

The Christ-rejecter must bear his own sins in his own person in the lake of fire forever.

Now, when a saved one fails, the “criminal question” of sin cannot be raised against him, the Judge Himself having settled that once for all on the cross. But the communion question is raised within him as often as he grieves the Spirit.

Let us illustrate further. It is a beautiful night. The moon is full, shining in more than ordinary brightness. A man is gazing intently down a deep, still well where he sees the moon reflected, and he remarks to a bystander, “How beautifully fair and round she is tonight! How quietly and majestically she rides along!” He has just finished speaking when suddenly his friend drops a small pebble into the well. He now exclaims, “Why, the moon is all broken to pieces, and the fragments are shaken together in the greatest disorder!”

“What gross absurdity!” his companion replies. “Look up, man! The moon hasn’t changed. It is the condition of the well reflecting her that has changed.”

Your heart is the well. When there is no allowance of evil, the Spirit of God takes of the glories and preciousness of Christ and reveals them to you for your comfort and joy. But the moment a wrong motive is cherished in the heart or an idle word escapes the lips unjudged, your happy experiences are smashed to pieces. You are restless and disturbed within until in brokenness of spirit before God you confess your sin (the disturbing thing) and thus are restored once more to the calm, sweet joy of communion.

But when your heart is all unrest, has Christ’s work changed? No, no. Then your salvation has not altered.

Has God’s Word changed? Surely not. Then the certainty of your salvation is unchanged.

Then, what has changed? The action of the Holy Spirit in you has changed, and instead of taking of the glories of Christ and filling your heart with the sense of His worthiness, He is grieved at having to fill you with the sense of your sin and unworthiness.

He takes from you your comfort and joy until you judge and resist the evil thing that He judges and resists. When this is done, communion with God has again been restored.

The Lord makes us increasingly jealous over ourselves, lest we grieve “the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

However weak your faith may be, be assured of this, that the blessed One who has won your confidence will never change. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

The work He has accomplished will never change. “Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever; nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

The Word He has spoken will never change. “The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever” (1 Peter 1:24-25).

Thus the object of my trust, the foundation of my safety, the ground of my certainty, are alike eternally unalterable.

My love is ofttimes low,

My joy still ebbs and flows;

But peace with Him remains the same—

No change Jehovah knows.

I change, He changes not;

The Christ can never die;

His love, not mine, the resting-place,

His truth, not mine, the tie.

—H. Bonar

Once more the question: What class are you traveling? Turn your heart to God and answer that question to Him.

“He that hath received His testimony has set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:33). May the joyful assurance of possessing this great salvation be yours, now and till He comes.

George Cutting