Children who grow up in Christian homes sometimes pray the “sinner’s prayer” more than once “just to be sure.” That is, they respond to invitations to accept Christ into their heart multiple times because they are not sure if the previous times were “enough.”
The apostle John, however, wanted the recipients of his letter to “set [their]hearts at rest” to know for sure that they were saved (v. 19). He didn’t want the enemy to use anxiety about their salvation as a weapon against them. Ultimately, a believer’s assurance of salvation is a knowledge that is secure within God’s knowledge (vv. 20–21). Even though our own hearts might condemn us or make us question its reality, we can rest on the fact that “God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” God’s knowledge (unlike our own) is complete and entirely true. If He knows we’re part of His family, the matter is settled, case closed.
From our perspective, our knowledge can be confirmed as we obey (v. 22; see also vv. 9–10). If we were not saved, we’d still be dead in our sins and unable to behave righteously or please God. The fact that we can love and obey shows His new life at work within us (v. 23). Furthermore, He answers our prayers, which means they align with His will, which would be impossible if we were not “in Christ.”
We have assurance of salvation from the Holy Spirit (v. 24). This puts our hearts at rest in His presence, without fear or worry. As Paul put it: “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rom. 8:16). When Jesus promised His disciples the Holy Spirit, He intended for this to be an important part of the Spirit’s ministry to the church.
>> Today, read John 14:15–31 which gives John’s account of Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit. Compare that passage to today’s reading. What themes do they have in common?
You are in the Father, and we are in You, as You are in us. We love You, and therefore we love the Father, and You love us and reveal Yourself to us (John 14:20–21). We share in the mutual knowing and loving of the Godhead.