The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: 1 John 3:19-24, to download or stream the audio sermon, or click here: 1 John 3:19-24. for the video version. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.

1 John 3:19-24, The Assurance of Doubt:

  • So we’re back in 1 John, and this morning we’ll deal with another negative theme which leads to the positive. See, in most of our study we’ve looked at the assurances of salvation from a positive perspective, dealing with the negative.
  • But when we studied the assurance of deliverance & anti-Christ’s, we started with the negative. This morning we’ll do the same as we deal with doubt. But specifically the doubt of our salvation. Now I believe there’s a reason the theme of doubt only comes now.
  • Hopefully you’ll agree when I say, through our walk with the Lord, we experience seasons upon seasons of assurance where we absolutely do not doubt our salvation. And then, we get up one day, and suddenly we’re overcome by such doubt, that we start to wonder if we were ever truly saved.
  • But really, it is a pattern we keep falling into. And here’s the reason, we become so content with our spiritual comfort that we begin to neglect our devotion and entertain sin more often. And we only notice this once we have gone too far, once we have forgotten our first love. There is where we begin to condemn ourselves.
  • Self-condemnation can be due to a number of factors. It can be a matter of character; some people are just more thoughtful and down than others. It may be a question of health; how a person feels affects how he thinks. It may be due to specific sin. It may be due to circumstances.
  • But whatever the cause, the problem is a real one. How is a believer to deal with such doubt? This morning, 1 John 3:19-24 gives us the truths that can comfort us when doubt starts to entice us. The truths that help us overcome Satan’s lies. And there’s 5:

1. His Grace is Greater:

  • Text – 1 John 3:19-20
  • Explanation – We often ask: “Am I really saved?” The verdict we often pass on ourselves is, “I don’t know!” See, we may believe that we’ve passed from death to life, but to ourselves this has become almost doubtful. When conscience summons us to the court within, it declares us guilty.
  • I believe what happens is, the evidence of our union with Christ is obscured by the consciousness of inconsistencies which cause us to question whether we are saved or have been self-deceived.” Now in the greater context of chapter 3, John uses verse 18 as a “hinge verse” to connect the common subject between these passages.
  • Illustration – The subject is love. So here’s how we can understand the context of this morning’s theme as we move on, ‘When we love “with truth and action” (v. 18), this reassures our hearts before God that we are of the truth (v. 19).’ In other words, assurance will spring forth in the heart, when we demonstrate genuine and authentic love for others.
  • Loving others as God in Christ has loved us, strengthens our hearts and gives us the assurance of our salvation. That’s how we come to “know we belong to the truth” (v. 19).
  • Application – Now verse 20 can be a tricky and difficult to interpret. However, its basic meaning is clear. Even though Christ has appeased all our sins by His perfect atoning work, we may still experience a condemning heart or guilty conscience, which is something God does not want us to have. So when my conscience sends me on a guilt trip, I look in faith to the God who is greater than my wavering heart and who assures me of my total and complete forgiveness through the perfect work of Jesus.
  • We know that the Bible teaches that it is possible to be saved and yet have doubts and become discouraged. In such instances, we would be wise to take the threefold test we have already seen in 1 John:
  • •           Belief: Do I really believe rightly about Jesus?
  • •           Obedience: Am I really obeying God as I ought?
  • •           Love: Is my love for others what it should be?
  • Conclusion – Sometimes I doubt; sometimes I disobey; sometimes hate comes, seemingly out of nowhere, and these things bother me. That is bad, right? No, it is actually good. Those who do not know Christ ask none of these questions! Such issues do not bother those with hard hearts. But they should bother the Christian.
  • When your heart hurts and your conscience condemns you, look to God. Look to Christ and the gospel because He “is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.” Now, exactly how does God apply the healing balm of His Word in such situations? I believe He does so in several ways.
  • Bridge – When we do not love in action and truth (v. 18), God—who is (1) greater than our hearts and (2) knows all things—deals with us. Sometimes our heart rightly condemns us, blames us, and judges us for not loving others in a real, true, and genuine sense. Indeed, He knows our hearts better than we know them ourselves. He will inspire us, encourage us, and challenge us to love others just like He has loved us.
  • The issue is, we condemn ourselves rather quickly, forgetting that no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus. Remembering who we are in Christ will provide us assurance that His grace is greater than our personal condemnations.

2. We Have Confidence in Prayer:

  • Text – 1 John 3:21-22
  • Explanation – When we trust the judgment of God, our confidence shifts from being based on our experience and our feelings to being based on God’s Word and what He says about us. He tells me there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  • This confidence before God provides motivation and assurance as I approach the Lord in prayer. John says, “we have confidence before God and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight” (vv. 21–22).
  • Illustration – My request made in prayer flows from a heart and life that, first, delights in keeping His commands and, second, does what pleases Him. Charles Spurgeon put it this way:
  • “If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God; and whatsoever we ask, we receive of him.” Friends, when we have a clear conscience, we can come to God with confidence, and that confidence is what assures us that His listening.
  • Application – Doubt ceases when believers are walking in prayer. It is the assurance that we are in God’s presence, and therefore whatever we ask in prayer, we’ll receive from Him. We, with clear consciences, and confident access, can be assured that God will hear and answer our prayers for our good and for His glory.
  • Now there is also a fine line where this text can be taken out of context. This verse is not a “genie in a bottle” to be rubbed and receive what one wishes! The one who can claim this verse, is the one who is obeying His word. John adds later in 5:14 “And this is the confidence (boldness) which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.
  • Conclusion – What qualifies asking and receiving is that we ask what is in accordance with God’s will. Then we don’t receive based on our merits earned, we receive because our asking in His will reflects our walking in His will.
  • Bridge – A condition for answered prayer is that we pray according to His will and also do according to His will.

3. Obedience is Assuring:

  • Text – 1 John 3:22b
  • Explanation – Now we can almost say that the man of obedience is the man who God will hear, because his obedient heart leads him to pray humbly, and with submission, because he know that is his highest desire that the Lord’s will that should be done.
  • In the words of 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, you do it all to the glory of God.” It says that you’re not consumed with your own agenda, or your own will, or your own ambition.
  • Application – That has all died in the reality of salvation. You’re consumed with what He wants you to do and what is pleasing in His sight. In 1 Thessalonians 4:1, Paul says, “we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that, as you received from us [instruction] as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you may excel still more.”
  • Conclusion – Listen to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 
  • Yet, whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
  • Bridge – Friends, doing what God commands and pleasing Him is what produces confidence when we pray, it is what gives us the assurance of our gift of salvation in Him.

4. Our Trust is in Jesus:

  • Text – 1 John 3:23
  • Explanation – As you go through the list of things you think make you a Christian, you may wonder at each one as you doubt. But not until you come to the question, ‘do I believe in Jesus?’ ‘Of course’ you answer, ‘of course I believe that He died for me and saved me from my sins.’ Now listen, you are absolutely correct to believe this. God’s command is “that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.”
  • The key word is ‘believe.’ It means, “to trust or rely on.” Next, Jesus’ “name” conveys His person and work and all that He is and accomplishes. That Jesus is the “Son” emphasizes His eternal deity and unique relationship to the Father. “Jesus” is His human name, equivalent to the Hebrew name Joshua. Which means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation.” And “Christ” means “Anointed One,” the Messiah of God.
  • Application – Now let’s put it all together. To believe in the name of God’s Son Jesus Christ is to place your trust, your faith, in Him and only Him and all that He is—the divine Son, the incarnate Deity, the sinless human, the perfect atonement for our sin, the Messianic Savior. You trust all of Him, not some, or part, or even most. You trust the biblical Christ or you trust in no Christ at all.
  • John goes on to say that we also “love one another as He commanded us.” Look at John 13:34-35, Jesus said to His disciple before His betrayal; “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
  • Conclusion – Warren Wiersbe summarizes these verses like this, “Faith toward God and love toward man sum up a Christian’s obligations. Christianity is ‘faith which works by love’ (Gal 5:6)”. John
  • Bridge – Faith & love is the foundations of our assurance because these are the evidence of God’s work; they are the testimony of his Spirit. Now finally,

5. The Spirit’s Presence:

  • Text – 1 John 3:24
  • Explanation – We share common life with God by the Spirit whom He has given us. If we have ever been filled with the Spirit, led by the Spirit, if we have ever been directed by the Spirit, instructed by the Spirit, taught of the Spirit, graced by the Spirit, gifted by the Spirit, filled with the fruit of the Spirit then we can have the evidence of the Spirit’s presence. 
  • Application – Listen, when your dead soul was made alive and your blind eyes were made to see and your sinful heart came to a point of repentance, and you, without any faith in Jesus Christ, all of a sudden were drawn to Christ. No man calls Jesus Lord but by the Holy Spirit.
  • Conclusion – Having called Jesus Lord, you have then experienced the Holy Spirit’s work. You’ve given testimony to the gospel and the Spirit has empowered that testimony. The Word of God has come alive to you because the Spirit has become your Teacher
  • You have prayed and the Spirit has energized those prayers and prayers have been answered. You have evidence of the work of the Spirit in your life. This is how you know. You see the hand of the Spirit providentially orchestrating things in your life to bring you to the right place at the right time to accomplish exactly the right thing in the perfection of God’s purposes.
  • Bridge – So if we would set our hearts at rest, when they accuse and condemn us, we must look for evidence of the Spirit’s working, and particularly whether he is enabling us to believe in Christ, to obey God’s commands and to love our brothers; for the condition of Christ dwelling in us.