Shelby G. Floyd
Dear family, and brothers and sisters in Christ, I feel your love and your strength this morning. It means a lot and we thank God for the wonderful life that Sarah lived. She said even recently, “I’m not afraid to die!” I noticed that we put the little plaque up here and that was one of the last things she bought: “I do not know what tomorrow holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow.”
I wanted to speak to you today about the song that we just sang: “It is well with my soul.” All of us face our last appointment on earth. The Bible says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28, NKJV). I would to God that all of us as we face that day could say “It is well with my soul.” But I could also turn that into a question: “Is it well with my soul?” We all need to ask, is it well with my soul?
There are several different ideas about “the assurance of salvation!” Some people say, “once you are saved you always are saved, no matter what you do, you will be saved and go to heaven. But then on the other hand a lot of people do not know from one day to the next, if they were to die if they would go to heaven. Now it seems to me both of those views are extreme. I would not want to live not knowing and not having any assurance from one day to the next, if the Lord would take me that I could go to heaven! Most of us want some confidence and some assurance that heaven would be our eternal home were we to die.
Now I want us to home in on one verse that was read from our text in first John five and verse 13. Open your Bibles to that verse or read it on the screen. John the apostle is writing this verse and he lived probably longer than any of the apostles, probably to the end of the 1st century. And he says,
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).
He affirms that you can know that you have eternal life! How can we know John? I am writing these things to you so you can know that you have eternal life. Therefore all we must do is to read what John wrote and find out if we are doing and living and serving God in the way that he wrote. Then we can say, “I know I have eternal life.” Are you ready then?
WHAT DID JOHN WRITE THAT WE MAY KNOW?
What were some of the things that John wrote in his first little letter towards the end of the Bible? We will give you just a few of them. In chapter 2 and verse one he says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
When John said that he wrote these things that his readers might not sin, does not mean that we will not ever sin. He means that sin will not be the dominant part of our life. We are all going to sin and make mistakes if we live and thank God that Jesus Christ made allowance for that through his precious blood that he shed on the cross. But he says I write these things for you that you might not sin, so our goal as a Christian is that we should learn to avoid as many sins as we possibly can. And we can find out and know what they are by reading what John wrote and what the rest of the inspired writers wrote. So he wrote some things so that we might not sin. The way to overcome sin is to be able to identify it. John’s writing will help us to do that!
John wrote additional things that we might know our spiritual state and that we have eternal life: “I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). It is wonderful that John is writing that our sins have been forgiven on account of His name! First he tells us I am writing so you will not sin and then he says also I am writing to you because your sins have been forgiven. That demonstrates that we will never live a sinless life and will daily need forgiveness based on the grace of God.
In the third place, John writes, “I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21 NKJV). John affirms that we can we know the truth! There is a big difference between truth and error. Therefore if we were read what John wrote we can learn the difference between truth and falsehood. We also can say I have read and understand what John has written and therefore can know the truth!
We have one more statement that John has written that we might know that we have eternal life: “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you” (1 John 2:26). Satan is the Great Deceiver. As long as we live the Devil will try to deceive us into believing what is false. But God wants us to have a healthy skepticism and to search out the truth. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free!
THE BIBLICAL USE OF THE WORD “KNOW”
As I said to you, there are three different ideas about our assurance of salvation. Some people say that mankind cannot know in this life that he would go to heaven when death comes. Others teach that mankind can instantaneously know that he would go to heaven by his feelings. And then the position that I believe which is biblical: mankind can know (reasonable assurance) by knowledge from studying God’s word if he would go to heaven when he dies. We live in two different realms at the same time—we live in the physical realm and the material world and there we walk by our feelings and by sight. But on the other hand, we can walk in the spiritual world and there we must walk by knowledge and by faith. The Bible says that we walk by faith and that faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). So we live in those two different realms and our lesson today then is to try to find out what is the security of our soul.
Now the Biblical use of this word “know” in reference to knowing that we have “eternal life” is to know something in the sense that there can be blessed assurance. We can know something to the degree that gives us blessed assurance that heaven will be our home when we die. Let us notice a few verses in Peter’s great sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. Peter cries out during that sermon and said, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly (emp. sgf) that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The ESV translates “know for certain!”
2 Corinthians 5:6-8
I give you another verse that teaches that we have the security of the soul when death overtakes the Christian:
“So we are always confident, knowing (emp. sgf) that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
Today we are all at home “in the body,” but absent from the Lord. We would rather be “at home with the Lord!” We would rather be away from the body and be at home with the Lord. “Home” is a beautiful word, and we love our earthly home, and we are going to love our home in heaven because it is our eternal home.
1 John 5:13
Now we sum up what we have said by repeating our text: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13 emp. sgf).
THE NEW TESTAMENT SPEAKS OF “FULL ASSURANCE!”
Now the New Testament uses different phraseology to express the same idea when you can say “it is well with my soul.” Here are several examples using different phraseology from what we mean by “blessed assurance.” The Christians from a Jewish background were suffering greatly and were ready to abandon the faith. But the writer to the Hebrews urges them to draw near to the Lord and seek “full assurance of faith.”
“…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22).
One’s conscience is cleared when forgiven of sin. And sin is forgiven when we are baptized into Christ in water purified by the blood of Christ (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 22:16; Acts 2:38-39). Having our bodies washed with pure water is a reference to water baptism, for that is how we get into Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). Jesus said, “Going into all the world preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. He that believes not shall be condemned. Saul of Tarsus, the great enemy of the church after it began was accosted by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. He asked who are you Lord? Jesus said, I am Jesus of Nazareth, and you are persecuting me. Saul asked, what do you want me to do Lord? Go in the city and it will be told what you must do! They led him who was blind into the city where he was constantly praying. Christ sent a preacher by the name of Ananias who told him everything about Jesus Christ and what he needed to do. Then he said to Saul, why are you tarring, arise and be baptized and wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord. If he was saved on the road to Damascus he didn’t have any sins to wash away. Then it would be silly to ask him to be baptized to wash away his sins if his sins had already been forgiven. After Saul obeyed he had “full assurance of faith.” Saul then became a Christian and he wrote a large part of the New Testament by inspiration.
THE SPIRIT OF GOD BEARS WITNESS WITH OUR SPIRIT
And here the apostle John is able again to help us with what he wrote near the end of the first century:
“Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:24).
If we keep God’s commandments Christ abides in us and we abide in Christ. We know this by the Spirit He has given us! The scriptures plainly teach that the Spirit of God dwells in us as it is declared here in 1 John 3:24 and elsewhere.
This is made very plain in Paul’s letter to the Romans. This scripture coincides, supports, and gives assurance to what we have just discovered in 1 John 5:13. It is revealed in the eighth chapter of the book of Romans:
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:14-17 NKJV).
Paul is writing to Christians who are already in Christ by the faith of the gospel and water baptism (Romans 6:3-4). Paul is writing this letter to them because he wanted to go visit them, but he wasn’t sure that he would ever be able to visit Rome. Therefore to give them confidence he declares “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Now we can lead someone in different ways. You could take a little child that is two or three years old by the hand and forcibly lead him. At that age they want to do what they want. But when that child gets to be 18 or 20 years old you cannot physically lead them by your hand.
In the same way, those who are of age must be led by the Spirit of God metaphorically or symbolically. The Spirit of God does not force anybody to go the straight and narrow way. Paul says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” The key word here is “led.” Let us define that word as it is used in Romans 8:14 and demonstrate how the Spirit of God leads us to be sons of God. “Led” translates the verb agontai from ago, and metaphorically it means “to move and impel by the forces and influences affecting the mind.” So how does the Holy Spirit lead us by forces and influences that affect our mind? The Bible is the product of the Holy Spirit, and it is full of instruction concerning all the issues of life and death. The Spirit of God leads us by forces and influences affecting the mind to receive the Spirit of adoption that we are in fact children of God whereby we cry out, “Abba, Father!” It is then that, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17).
HOW DOES THE SPIRIT BEARS WITNESS WITH OUR SPIRIT?
The apostle Paul will now reveal unto us how the Spirit of God leads us to become the children of God and to know that “It is well with my soul.” To the Corinthians Paul wrote these words:
But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:9-14 NKJV).
What is said in verse nine is usually explained as being “the things” that await us in heaven. It certainly includes the glories in heaven that await us, but it refers to things we are to do here on the earth a lot more! Paul goes on to describe what these things are that God has prepared for those who love God. Therefore in the next verse Paul tells us, “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). And then Paul argues an ad hominem: “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” (Verse 10). I do not know what is in your heart and mind and you do not know what is in my heart and mind. But if I reveal what is in my heart and mind through the words of human language, then you can know what is in my mind!
Then Paul concludes that the apostles know what is in the mind of God because the Spirit of God has revealed His divine revelation to the apostles, not in “words” of man’s wisdom, but “comparing spiritual things with spiritual words.” The apostles know “the things” freely given to them by God. These Spirit concepts are revealed in the New Testament and are there for us to receive and live by them. But not everyone will receive them. The “natural man” will not receive them, but the “spiritual man” will. And then we can have “blessed assurance” that were we to die, heaven would be our eternal home.
THERE ARE THREE SALVATIONS
The First Salvation
Did you know that there are three salvations in biblical salvation? The first salvation is for those whose past sins have never been forgiven—the alien who has never entered the kingdom of God. As a child we start learning even when we’re young that some things are right and wrong. I remember one time my mom told me to do something when I was just a little squirt, and I thought you are not going tell me what to do! So I started running around the house to get away from her, but she was smarter than I was. Suddenly she changed direction and I ran right into her arms. I learned a good lesson in that you better pay attention to your parents as you grow up because they have your best interests at heart. Salvation number one is when we become old enough to be accountable for our actions. A little child is not accountable, they must learn all this and when they become a young adult then they become responsible for their actions whether it’s good or bad. And we must learn that there are consequences, when we do good we receive compliments and praise; when we do bad we are rebuked and sometimes punished. Therefore the first salvation is to be saved from all our past sins when we become an adult and are responsible. And gospel salvation is very simple for the Bible teaches you to “believe unto Christ,” “repent unto Christ,” “confess unto Christ,” but then the Bible changes the preposition, and we are “baptized into Christ!” Once we have been “baptized into Christ,” the preposition changes again, and we are then “in Christ.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
The Second Salvation
The second salvation is what John was talking about when we started this lesson. To know that it is well with our soul, we will need to be saved from our daily sins that we all commit. No one is perfect. Paul declares to the Philippian Christians that we must work out our own salvation: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). This is our present salvation every day that must be done with fear and trembling.
Now the question is how do we work out our present salvation every day so that we may have assurance of eternal life when we die? The apostle John is here and ready again to reveal how this is done. It is not hard to understand that we all make mistakes every day; we say, and do things that are wrong; and we mistreat people sometimes and we have an ugly spirit and attitude. And then we realize that is wrong and I need forgiveness. How can that take place?
In all things religious and spiritual, the Bible gives us the solution. The apostle John begins his first letter:
“This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10 NKJV).
Therefore we have every day present salvation when we walk in the light, depend on the blood of Christ to cleanse us from all sin, confess our sins, and depend on God to cleanse us from all unrighteousness! This is how w work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We summarize our lesson today with two more passages from John’s first letter: “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 John 3:21). That is what we all seek confidence and assurance that heaven is our eternal home. And especially we seek confidence that it will be well with our souls at the day of judgment. John’s writing gives us assurance here also: “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).
The Third Salvation
There is just one more salvation and that involves this old earthly body. The body gets old, weak, frail, and we can hardly go forward because of the weight of age. Does that old body have any future? Oh yes and yes! The same God that takes away our past and present sins, will also raise up the body of our humiliation a glorious body at the last day!
THIS IS THE VICTORY!
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a [a]mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58 NKJV).
“We do not know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow!” Everyone who is subject to heavens invitation, please come forward and confess Jesus Christ, and obey the gospel in water baptism for the forgiveness of past sins, while together we stand and sing*
Copyright © 2022 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this message March 13, 2022, at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142
Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142