We are living in a day when confidence is lacking, when scepticism and agnosticism are becoming more and more prevalent and when doubt and uncertainty are made the badges of culture and wisdom. Everywhere men are demanding proof. Hypotheses and speculations fail to satisfy: the heart cannot rest content until it is able to say ‘I know’. The demand of the human mind is for definite knowledge and positive assurance. In His grace, God has condescended to meet this need.
One thing which distinguishes Christianity from all human systems is that it deals with absolute certainties. Christians are people who know. And well it is that they do. The issues concerning life and death are so stupendous, and the stakes involved in the salvation of the soul so immense, that we cannot afford to be uncertain. None but a fool would attempt to cross a frozen river until he was sure that the ice was strong enough to bear him. Dare we then face the river of death with nothing but a vague and uncertain hope to rest upon? Personal assurance is the crying need of the hour. There can be no peace and joy until this is attained. A parent who is in suspense concerning the safety of his child is in agony of soul. A criminal who lies in the condemned cell hoping for a reprieve is in mental torment until his pardon arrives. And a professed Christian who knows not whether he shall ultimately land in heaven or hell, is wretched and miserable.
But we say again, real Christians are people who know. They can say “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19: 25). They know that they “have passed from death to life” (1 John 3: 14). They “do know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8: 28). They know that if their earthly tabernacle house is destroyed that they “have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Cor. 5: 1). They know that one day they shall see the Lord face to face and be made like Him, for they “shall see him as he is” (1 John 3: 2). In the meantime they can say “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep for that day the deposit I have entrusted to him” (2 Tim. 1: 12). If it is asked, ‘How do they know?’, the answer is, they have proven for themselves the trustworthiness of God’s Word which tells them these things.
The force of this argument will only appeal to those who have an experimental acquaintance with it. In addition to all the other proofs that we have for the divine inspiration of the Scriptures, the believer has a source of evidence to which no unbeliever has access. In his own experience the Christian finds a personal confirmation of the teachings of God’s Word. The statement that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and incurable” (Jer. 17: 9) will seem pessimistic and even unjust to the man judged morally upright by the standards of the world. But the believer has found that “the entrance of thy words giveth light” (Ps. 119: 130), and in the illuminating power of God’s Spirit, he has discovered there is a sink of iniquity within himself. To natural wisdom, which is fond of philosophizing about the freedom of the human will, the declaration of Christ that “No one can come to me except the Father who has sent me draw him” (John 6: 44) seems insulting. However, to the one who has been taught something of the captivating power of sin by the Holy Spirit, such a declaration has been verified in his own experience. To any who have done their best, and sought to develop an honest and amiable character, to say “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Is. 64: 6) seems unduly harsh and severe. However, to the man who has received an “unction from the holy [one]” (1 John 2: 20), even his very best works appear to him sordid and sinful (as indeed they are). There had been a time when the statement that “in me, that is, in my flesh, good does not dwell” (Rom. 7: 18), would have appeared absurd to the Christian, but he now acknowledges it to be his own condition.
The promises of God can be tested: their trustworthiness is capable of verification. In the Gospel, Christ promises to give rest to all those who labour and burdened, and who come to Him (see Matt. 11: 28). He declares that He came “to seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19: 10). He affirms that “whosoever drinks of the water which I shall give him shall never thirst for ever” (John 4: 14). In short, the Gospel presents the Lord Jesus Christ as a Saviour. Furthermore, His claim to save can be put to the proof—and it has been, and that by a multitude of individuals that no man can number. Many of these are living on earth today. Every individual who has read in the Scriptures the invitations that are addressed to sinners, and has personally appropriated them to himself, can say that he now lives by faith, “the [faith] of the Son of God, who has loved me and given himself for me” (Gal. 2: 20). Should these pages be read by a sceptic who, despite his present unbelief, has a sincere and earnest desire to know the truth, he, too may put God’s Word to the test and share the experience described above.
The Bible testifies that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3: 23) and our own conscience confirms it. The Bible declares it is “not on the principle of works which [have been done] in righteousness which we had done, but according to his own mercy” (Tit. 3: 5) that God saves us. The Christian has proved that he was unable to do anything to win God’s esteem, but, having cried the prayer of the tax-gatherer (see Luke 18: 14), has gone down to his house justified. The Bible teaches that “if any one [be] in Christ, [there is] a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5: 17) and the believer has found that the things he once hated he now loves, and that the things he hitherto counted gain he now regards as loss (see Phil. 3: 7). The Bible witnesses to the fact that we “are kept guarded by [the] power of God through faith” (1 Pet. 1: 5) and the believer has proven that though the world, the flesh, and the devil are arrayed against him, the grace of God is sufficient for all his need. Ask the Christian, then, why he believes that the Bible is the Word of God, and he will tell you, ‘Because it has done for me what it professes to do, and because I have tested its promises for myself and found its teachings verified in my own experiences’. To the unconverted the Bible is practically a sealed Book. This is exactly what the Bible declares: “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him; and he cannot know [them] because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2: 14). However, to the man of God it is completely different for “he that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself” (1 John 5: 10). As the Lord Jesus declared, “If any one desire to practise his will, he shall know concerning the doctrine” (John 7: 17). While the infidel stumbles in darkness, the believer discovers the truth of what God has said with the clearness of a sunbeam: “Because [it is] the God who spoke that out of darkness light should shine who has shone in our hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in [the] face of [Jesus] Christ” (2 Cor. 4: 6). Christians are indeed the people who know.