NWA08 – Don Carson on 1 John and Assurance

Don Carson
Carson closed the conference with his final talk on 1 John. I was home by this time, but I was able to listen to it over the weekend. You can do the same by ordering CDs from the New Word Alive website. I will share some short notes of it here.

Because of his love for us, we should love others. If people can’t see God, they can see his love operating in us as we love one another.

In the previous talk, Don spoke of three tests—the truth test, the love test, and the obedience test. But, in fact, the three are connected—you can’t have one without the other.

If you are born of God, it’s because you recognize who Jesus is. If you recognize your sibling, you will love them, and you will want to do what Jesus says if you love him. In the New Testament, faith is not merely a subjective opinion or a synonym for religion. Biblical faith is a belief in the truth. We also trust and abandon ourselves to the risen Christ. We have to pass all three tests, not focus on one or two of them.

Transformed Christian living plays a role in Christian assurance—the “we know” words of 1 John.

We should be careful about how we lead people to assurance. The medieval Catholics said it was pride to think you were sure. Luther claimed that if you didn’t have assurance it meant that you did not really have faith adequately—so if you strengthen your faith it will become assurance. Calvin did say that the Spirit would bear witness. Also, in 1 John we see some grounds. Calvin did say that the cross is by far the strongest place we should go for assurance. The obedience test will never be sufficiently fulfilled in us as we will always feel we have failed and/or will trust in our own works. There is the confirming work of the Spirit. Genuine Christianity perseveres, and the change attests the reality. If there is no change, you should question the reality of your faith. There is matchless assurance for all Christians whose eyes are fixed on the cross and who show some evidence of change.

What do you long for and are most passionate about? Whose approval do you most seek? What gives you greatest joy? What would you most complain about losing? Carson urged us to keep away from idols, and to devote ourselves to God and following him.

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