“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” ~ 1 John 3:19-20
Explanation of the Text: This particular text can be a bit difficult to comprehend. However, John’s teaching here builds off of Jeremiah 17:9 where we learn that the heart is deceitful. While there are moments in which our heart will convict us about our sin and do so truthfully. However, I have learned that in the Christian life, there is a great deception in place that we often overlook: self-deception. Usually this self-deception works to make us think we are better than we really are. However, John addresses the opposite here by noting that there are times when our heart will falsely condemn us as well. This is a great tool of Satan to use in a believer’s life, convincing a person of extreme guilt and thus drive that person away from God. As a result, John gives believers two assurances of salvation.
First, John notes that ‘by this we shall know that we are of the truth.’ ‘This’ refers back to practical aspect of love found in verses 17-18. The outward expression of love seen through our lives provides conviction and confidence to us about our relationship with God.
Secondly though, is the greatness of God. Ian Hamilton notes, “How are we to reassure our hearts when they condemn us? By resting in the knowledge that the God who knows everything and who’s greater than our heart, knows that we love our fellow believers in deed and in truth” (1). Even in our own doubts and uncertainties, God knows all and thus our confidence can be in His knowledge.
Examination & Application of the Text: The words of John provide comfort to a troubled soul. In those moments that we may doubt whether or not we are a child of God, John assures us that we can know. This does not mean a person should never spend time in self-examination. We must always spend time examining ourselves, decrying the sin in our lives and confessing it to God (see 1 John 3:2). “The more earnest the wish to serve the Saviour, the more sensitive the conscience will be to the kind of self-examination John has been conducting” (2).
End result, examine yourselves continually in the mirror of God’s Word, but have confidence in your salvation by the knowledge of God.
Questions to Consider:
- What gives you assurance of your salvation?
- What specific aspects of your life give you confidence in your salvation?
- How faithful is your trust in God for your salvation?
(1) Ian Hamilton, Let’s Study the Letters of John (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 2008), 99.
(2) R.E.O. White, Open Letter to Evangelicals: A Devotional and Homiletic Commentary on the First Epistle of John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964), 49.