Bound to Love and Truth

Reading through Proverbs 3 today I was struck by a passage that I (sorry to say) usually overlook. When I hear someone refer to Proverbs 3, my mind is usually drawn to verses 5 & 6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

I’ve taught this passage so many times. There are songs to help you memorize it. The verse is underlined, highlighted, emboldened, so much so that it dwarfs the rest of the chapter.

And it shouldn’t.

I was particularly struck in today’s reading by the immediately preceding verses 3 & 4:

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”

The word for “steadfast love” in this text is none other than הסד, pronounced “chesed,” which refers to the faithful covenant love of God for His people. Likewise, “faithfulness” is from the Hebrew, אמת, pronounced “emet,” which can also be translated as “truth,” and is expressive of God’s covenant keeping.

Just sitting and reading this passage, “do not let steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you” makes us think that this is something we need to do. Without digging deeper into this passage, we might glance at it and think, Well, I better try to be more loving and faithful in order to find favor and good success in the eyes of God and man.

But that’s not the case.

The author of Proverbs here is calling us to mindfulness. He’s not talking about our steadfast love and faithfulness, but God’s. It is God who is steadfast in His covenanted love for His people, and faithful and sure to keep all His promises. The point of this passage is not to try harder, but to remember the covenant keeping nature of our great God.

God has promised to save, and has saved mightily in Jesus Christ. When we were dead in our sins and trespasses, God, in His love and mercy, did send His Son who would take our guilt, our shame, bearing our sins upon His cross, so that we might, by His grace receive forgiveness and the promise of everlasting life. We receive all this, not through our own effort, but through faith in Jesus Christ, resting in and receiving Him as He is revealed in God’s Word. This is the blessing of God’s covenanted love and faithfulness.

So when we are called to bind steadfast love and faithfulness around our necks and to write it upon our hearts, it’s not our own, but God’s love and faithfulness.

The promise given here, that we would find favor and success, are also magnified in the Hebrew. “Favor” here is the Hebrew word הן, pronounced “hen,” which is usually translated as “grace,” or “gift.” And “success” here is from שכל, sekel, which is elsewhere translated as “discernment, understanding.”

We are to set this truth of who God is and what He has done so close to us, that they reshape us, they reform us, they help us to see everything through the lens of God’s love and truth.

What a promise for God’s people! If we would keep before us the love and faithfulness of God, bind them around our necks, write them on our hearts, so that we would continually be reminded of all that God has done, and is doing for us in Christ Jesus, how we would grow in the grace and knowledge of God.

SDG

The Christian’s Assurance

Every Sunday morning I’m blessed to be able to gather with the elders of the congregation to pray for the upcoming service, but we also spend this time visiting and sharing what the Lord has shown us through the week. Not too long ago, we engaged in a wonderful conversation about sharing the Christian faith and encouraging those who struggle with their assurance of salvation. If I’m ever late to the start of a worship service, this is why.

This question of assurance has been running through my mind lately, so I thought that for today’s post, I’d share with you one of my favorite chapters from the Westminster Confession, and then give a brief summary, all to encourage those who read this 1) to put their faith in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, and 2) to rest in His sufficient grace as the source of assurance and peace.


Chapter XVIIIOf Assurance of Grace and Salvation

1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation (Job 8:13–14, Micah 3:11, Deut. 29:19, John 8:41) (which hope of theirs shall perish): (Matt. 7:22–23) yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, (1 John 2:3, 1 John 3:14,18–19,21,24, 1 John 5:13) and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed. (Rom. 5:2,5)

2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope; (Heb. 6:11, 19) but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation, (Heb. 6:17–18) the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made, (2 Pet. 1:4–5, 10–11, 1 John 2:3. 1 John 3:14, 2 Cor. 1:12) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God, (Rom. 8:15–16) which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption. (Eph. 1:13–14, Eph. 4:30, 2 Cor. 1:21–22)

3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it: (1 John 5:13, Isa. 50:10, Mark 9:24, Ps. 88, Ps. 77:1–12) yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto. (1 Cor. 2:12, 1 John 4:13, Heb. 6:11–12, Eph. 3:17) And therefore it is the duty of every one to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure, (2 Pet. 1:10) that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, (Rom. 5:1–2, 5, Rom. 14:17, Rom. 15:13, Eph. 1:3–4, Ps. 4:6–7, Ps. 119:32) the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to looseness. (1 John 2:1–2, Rom. 6:1–2, Tit. 2:11–12, 14, 2 Cor. 7:1, Rom. 8:1, 12, 1 John 3:2–3, Ps. 130:4, 1 John 1:6–7)

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of His countenance, and suffering even such as fear Him to walk in darkness and to have no light: (Song 5:2, 3, 6, Ps. 51:8, 12, 14, Eph. 4:30, 31, Ps. 77:1–10, Matt. 26:69–72, Ps. 31:22, Ps. 88, Isa. 50:10) yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived; (1 John 3:9, Luke 22:32, Job 13:15, Ps. 73:15, Ps. 51:8, 12, Isa. 50:10) and be the which, in the mean time, they are supported from utter despair. (Micah 7:7–9, Jer. 32:40, Isa. 54:7–10, Ps. 22:1, Ps. 88)

The Westminster Confession of Faith. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996. Print.


A Summary:

While there is a false assurance with which those who are lost may deceive themselves (I’m ok, you’re ok), there is a genuine assurance of salvation that belongs to those who believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, and walk in good conscience before Him.

This assurance is not based on wishful thinking, but is rooted in the promises of God in Scripture and the inward witness and working of the Holy Spirit.

The Christian’s assurance is not an essential element of faith, some may wait a lifetime for it, others may go through great trials to gain assurance. Still, this assurance is given to the believer, not through ecstatic experiences, but through the proper use of the ordinary means of grace (the ministry of Word and sacrament, and prayer). It is the responsibility, then, of every believer to makes use of these means of grace to make his calling and election sure.

Finally, and this is one of the most helpful paragraphs of the confession, our sense of assurance may at times be shaken for a variety of reasons. We may grow negligent in our use of the ordinary means of grace, or we may fall into some particular sin or overwhelmed by temptation. Other times God may make himself seem distant from us to teach us to long for Him.

Through all of this, the Christian is “utterly destitute,” but the “seed of God,” the promise of the Gospel, the truth that He will not lose one that He has redeemed, this hope remains and is the foundation and fullness of our assurance.

Christian, remember today that your salvation does not depend upon the strength of your faith in Christ or your awareness of the assurance of salvation. Rest in the fact that your salvation is by faith in the One who is strong to save, the One whose promises are sure. Know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He has paid the price to atone for your sins, and that He is faithful to complete the work He has begun in you. Trust the promises of His Word, know you are forgiven, and be at peace!

SDG