So many Christians struggle with assurance. Even though they have trusted Jesus, even though they have turned away from sinfully following their own desires and walking their own path, even though they have submitted their life and their eternity to God, they feel that somehow there is still something about them or their lifestyle which God doesn’t approve of to the extent that it will disqualify them from entering heaven. They believe that although they trust in Jesus and follow him to the best of their ability, they are aware of their shortcomings and think that their faith is not sufficient, not enough, that somehow they fall into the category of person to whom Jesus says, “I never knew you”. I know this to be true because it was my own belief and experience for many years when I was younger, and it is also something which I have encountered frequently over the years as I have pastored people. Assurance of faith (or more particularly, LACK of assurance) is a real issue for many Christians.

An observation about assurance: Assurance is like faith. Just as it is the object of our faith and not its quantity which affects salvation, your level of assurance doesn’t affect it either. Whether or not you have assurance or not does not affect your position before God in any way. A Christian with assurance is not a better Christian. A Christian with a lack of assurance, is no less a Christian than one who is overflowing with it.

But … what assurance does do is bring confidence about who we are in Christ. That confidence can feed our courage. And a courageous faith will impact our lives tremendously, we will be more confident in our witness, in our worship, in our prayers and in all sorts of other ways.

This passage is a really reassuring one if you struggle a bit with assurance. Paul talks of the past, the present and the future, and speaks of our salvation in all three senses in this section.

The Past

Paul makes a few statements about what has already happened to the believer, and what Christ has already accomplished in the past for us.

  • The first comes from v1. “since we have been justified by faith” Justification is a “done deal”. Some translations emphasise the implication of something in the past by rendering it as “HAVING BEEN justified by faith”. We have already been justified, it’s not something we look forward to, we are justified NOW.
  • The second comes from v2. We have obtained access by faith into his grace. This happened when we were justified by faith.
  • The third comes from v5. God’s love has been poured into our hearts (has been).
  • The fourth is also from v5. The Holy Spirit HAS been given to us.

Aside about the Holy Spirit

There is an understanding of the ministry of the Holy Spirit which suggests that AFTER a profession of faith in Christ, there is a second experience of God during which the gift of the Holy Spirit is given. In fact some people call it ‘second blessing’. This isn’t a message about the Holy Spirit or the spiritual gifts, or even the role of the Holy Spirit, but this verse is just one which suggests that the Holy Spirit is given at the point of God’s love coming into our hearts. This ties in with what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:3 … “I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.”

One of the things which stole my assurance from me when I was younger was that as far as I could tell, I didn’t exhibit any of the Spiritual Gifts (certainly not the more sensational ones like tongues and prophecy or interpretation of tongues). The belief that some Christians are ‘more spiritual’ than others simply because they speak in tongues or prophesy is not helpful either to individual people or even to the church. EVERY Christian stands before God alone. There is no need for comparison in the family of God (viz. 1 Corinthians 12:14-18 “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose”).

Ok, that said, let’s get back to Paul’s reassurance to us that Christ has already accomplished all that is necessary for us. What Christ did for us is a done deal, note that what Christ did was in the PAST.

  • v6. While we WERE still weak … Christ DIED for the ungodly (note the phrase describes the past). Note also it was ‘at the right time’ parallel with ‘my time is not yet come’ (Jn. 2:4, 7:6, 8).
  • v8. While we WERE still sinners, Christ DIED for us (again this phrase describes something that happened in the past).
  • v10 while we WERE enemies, we WERE reconciled to God by the death of His son.

So, we were weak, we were sinners and we were enemies of God.

Yet Christ came (in the past), and He dealt with all of those issues. We no longer have to live as weak sinners and enemies of God, that life is behind us. In the past.

The Present

Because of that past act, we have reassurance in the present …

v1. We have peace with God. Now. We are no longer at odds with Him, we are at peace with Him, When we are at peace with God, it opens the door to be at peace with each other and at peace with ourselves. Peace is one of the greatest needs in our world today.

World peace. Peace between nations brings stability and hope and confidence. Conversely, war doesn’t. It brings the opposite. We only have to open our eyes to see what affect the war in Ukraine is having on people. If you’ve watched the Media at all over the last month you will see how preoccupied people are with it, and how frightened people are because of it. There is little to no hope or confidence or stability being presented. I have yet to see a person of faith stand tall and declare that God is able to sustain us whatever the future holds if only we will let him.

Peace with our neighbour. Assurance of peace with God brings confidence (I’ve already said that), when we are confident in ourselves, we know where our worth is, we feel less need to ‘compete’ with people or measure ourselves against them (as a source of inner confidence), this means that living at peace with them is much more achievable.

Internal peace. This is what assurance directly affects. A lack of assurance internally with often (always?) mean that there is little to no internal peace. As we really start to grasp and understand and accept that we have peace with God, NOW, our assurance increases and our sense of inner peace increases too.

Illustration: Goodbye Mr Chips (the more Martin Clunes version). Chips, the main character of the story and the Latin teacher teaching Gibbon (the decline and fall of the Roman Empire), said Gibbon says that people who are calm and occupied in peaceful countries never make war.

Essentially, satisfied people are prone to be peaceful, dissatisfied ones are vulnerable to conflict.

People who are internally peaceful are also much easier to live with, because a sense of inner peace will mean we are not vulnerable to comparison, jealousy, envy and all the things which create friction with others. We are internally content and at peace, so external peace is more likely. Living at peace with our neighbour makes makes peaceful communities more achievable, peaceful communities make for peaceful nations, and peaceful nations are much less likely to make war.

  • v2. We rejoice in hope. This is present action/attitude with an eye to the future — more of that later.
  • v3. We rejoice in our sufferings. we have a new attitude towards hardship.

“rejoice in suffering” This opens up some thoughts about what is suffering? If God is good, why suffering?What is it for? Is suffering different for the Christian than it is for the non-Christian?

If suffering itself is common to all, certainly our attitude towards it and response to it should be VERY different to those who have no faith. In fact it should be one of the marks which distinguishes us from unbelievers, and people notice. when we aren’t any different to those around us, they notice that too – and sometimes it is their rationale for rejecting the message of the gospel.

(**Note:** of all peoples on earth throughout history, with the possible exception of the Jews, Christians have suffered most. Currently today 27th March 2022, 320 MILLION Christians live under the threat of arrest torture and martyrdom simply because they are Christian). Not rejoice IN, not because of! See link / parallels with James 1:12,13

So, suffering is the experience of Christians, throughout the centuries and all over the world. Even today, and one of the greatest challenges we have is to come to terms with, and even explain the problem of suffering.

The Bible is full of references and information about suffering, and I can only really do a broad brush stroke about it today, I just want to make a few comments …

  1. Jesus promised us we would suffer. So for example, John 15:18-21 tells us why: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
  2. Even in the midst of our suffering, Jesus will be with us. He says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

    This is Romans 8:35-39 stuff:
    Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
    “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  3. We may never know WHY we are suffering. Job is an entire book describing the awful suffering of one man. WE know why he suffers, the book describes it. But the book never gives us the impression that Job is ever told the reason. He just has to endure the suffering. Sometimes we might know, for example Peter says that we might suffer for doing good (1 Peter 2:20). Sometimes we might get a hindsight glimpse, so Joseph looks back at his suffering and says to his brothers, *“you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”* (Genesis 50:20). Whether we know WHY or not is irrelevant to our faith. What IS relevant is our response to it.

Job’s response was one of trust in God, of confession and repentance. After God confronts him, his response to God is this …

Then Job answered the LORD and said:
“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”

(Job 42:1-6)

One thing we can know in suffering is found in a trite verse trotted out to comfort people going through the mill, so if you are suffering at the moment please know I am not doing that I am in no way trying to belittle or minimise your suffering). It is this:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
It may be trite, but it is true nevertheless.

Lastly, here, we know that suffering is something which grows and strengthens and develops our faith.

“we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4).

We have reason to rejoice then, even in suffering.

The third thing we rejoice in is God himself. Romans 5v11 says we rejoice in God – through Jesus.

Our exhortation to rejoice in God is found elsewhere in Scripture, so for example, Paul can write, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). Rejoicing is not just a suggestion; it is a command, and it is commanded always. We can always choose to praise the Lord.

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). If we are always filled with the Spirit, and the Spirit causes us to rejoice, then it follows that we will rejoice always.

We can rejoice always because of God’s salvation. No one and nothing can take our salvation away (see Romans 8:37–39). Those who believe in Christ are God’s children, and nothing can change that.

One day we will be rejoicing in heaven Revelation 19:1 for example says,

“After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God

So rejoicing is something we not only do now, but something we can look forward to as well.

Our rejoicing should be in what the Lord has done, continues to do, and will do in the future, regardless of our current circumstances or feelings.

The Future

I’ve just talked a bit about the future as I’ve talked about rejoicing.

In this passage, Paul makes a number of comments about the future.
For a start, he talks about hope …
v2 – “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God”
v3,4 – our suffering ultimately gives us hope!

Secondly he says we SHALL be saved by Jesus (v9,10).

I looked at hope last week, so I’m not going to regurgitate anything. Last week we looked at the hope Abraham had, this week we look at reasons for our hope, and why it is a hope which is secure for us.

Firstly, the hope we have has been forged in the crucible of suffering. If of no other reason, we can rejoice in our suffering, because that very suffering will drive hope deeper into our hearts. A superficial faith is stripped off when suffering comes (and people fall away), a real faith is driven deeper in. If you’ve had a tough time and you’re still hanging on – even if it is only just and by the tips of your fingers, you can take hope. Your faith IS real and something to rejoice in!

Secondly, the hope we have has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. In other words, our hope doesn’t come from or rely on anything internal. It is rooted and grounded in God himself, by the Holy Spirit. We can have a certain hope, we can choose that certain hope because of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Thirdly, our hope comes through Jesus and our faith in him “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

Have you noticed, none of these things are internal. Not one of them depends on us. Our future is secure, so our hope is also secure and steadfast.

Conclusion

I started by talking about assurance, and I hope and pray that this morning has helped you to realise that your salvation is not dependent on anything YOU believe or do. In other words, assurance of faith should rest on choice, not feeling.