In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed…
Many sincerely seeking souls are in great trouble because they have not yet attained to an assurance of their interest in Christ Jesus; they dare not take any comfort from their faith because they suppose that it has not attained to a sufficient strength. Their mistake seems to me to be this — they look for ripe fruit upon a tree in spring, and because that season yields nothing but blossoms, they conclude the tree to be barren. They go to the head of a river — they find it a little rippling brook, and because it will not float a "Great Eastern," they conclude that it will never reach the sea, and that, in fact, it is not a true part of the river at all. They look upon themselves as being little children, and such they are; but because they cannot speak plainly on account of having been so newly born, they therefore conclude that they are not the children of God at all. They put the last things first. They make comforts essentials. There are three steps by which the hallowed elevation is reached. The first is hearing — they heard first the preaching of the Word; the second is believing; and then, thirdly, "after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise."
I. To begin then, faith cometh by HEARING. The preaching of the gospel is God's soul-saving ordinance. It hath pleased God by the "foolishness of preaching" to save them that believe. In every age God raiseth up men who faithfully proclaim His Word, and, as one departs, another arrives. Elijah ascends to glory, but his mantle falls upon Elisha. Paul dies not until Timothy is in the field. The true preacher has a claim upon men's attention. If God has sent him, men should receive him. The hearing of the gospel involves the hearer in responsibility.
II. After hearing came BELIEF. We know that believing does not always follow hearing immediately. There is a case told of Mr. Flavel having preached a sermon which was blessed to a man, I think eighty-five years afterwards, so that the seed may lay long buried in dust; yet, had not that man heard that sermon, speaking after the manner of men, he had not received the quickening Word. You may have heard the gospel long in vain, and it should be to you a source of very serious inquiry if you have done so. Faith will yet, we trust, come while you are hearing.
1. This belief, you observe, is called trusting. Kindly look at the verse: "In whom ye also trusted." The translators have borrowed that word "trusted," very properly, from the twelfth verse. Do not, because you see it in italics, think that is not properly there. It is not in the original, but being in the twelfth verse it is very rightly understood here. Believing then is trusting. If you want it summed up in the shortest word, it is just this — trusting Christ. A message comes to me upon good authority — I believe it; believing it, I necessarily trust it. My receiving of the message is so far good, but the essential act, the act essential to salvation, is the trusting — the trusting Christ. The process of faith may be thus illustrated. You knew a friend of yours to be perfectly reliable — you are in debt. He tells you that if you will trust him to pay the debt, he will give you on the spot a receipt for it. Now, you look at him, you consider his ability to pay it, you consider the probability that he means what he is saying. Having once made up your mind that he is truthful, you could not then say, "I cannot believe you." If you once know that person to be truthful, I utterly deny that you can hold any argument about your power to believe him. So, if Jesus Christ declares that He "came into the world to save sinners," and, if He tells me, as He does tell me, that "whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" — if I am already enabled by God's Spirit to believe in the perfect truthfulness of Christ, I should be lying unto my own soul if I said I had not power to believe in Him. Understand, power to believe in Christ is the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit has given that power to all men who know the perfect truthfulness of Christ.
2. Observe this, further, that faith is due to Christ. The faithful and true Witness demands of me that I should believe what He says. Not trust God's own Son, the Mighty God, the Redeemer of men! It is due to Him that thou shouldst with thy whole heart lean upon Him, and give Him all thy confidence.
3. This faith is essential to salvation. Assurance is not essential, but no man can be saved unless he trusteth in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may get to heaven with a thousand doubts and fears; you may get to heaven without some of those graces of the Spirit which are the ornaments of the believer's neck, but you cannot get there without the life-giving grace of faith.
4. Remark, again, this faith is not required in any particular degree. In order to salvation, it is not declared in Scripture that you are to believe to a certain strength, but if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed — if that be a mountain-moving faith, surely it shall be a soul-saving faith. Faith is not to be estimated by its quantity but by its quality.
5. Observe, further, that this faith is very variable, but it is not perishable. Faith may go to an ebb, as the tide does, but it will come to a flood again. When faith is at its flood, the man is not therefore the more saved; and when faith is at its ebb, the man is not therefore the less saved; for, after all, salvation does not lie in faith, but in Christ; and faith is but the connecting link between the soul and Christ. Faith may take Christ up in its arms, like Simeon, and it is true faith; but, on the other hand, faith may only venture to touch the hem of Jesus' garment, and that faith makes men whole.
III. THE HOLY SPIRIT'S SEALING.
1. This sealing is evidently distinct from faith — "after that ye believed, ye were sealed." Believing, then, is not this sealing; and assurance, although it be akin to believing, is not believing. There is a distinction between the two things. I want you to notice the distinction. In faith the mind is active. The text uses verbs which imply action: "ye trusted," "ye believed"; but when it comes to sealing it uses quite another verb: "ye were sealed." I am active in believing — I am passive when the Holy Spirit seals me. The witness of the Spirit is a something which I receive, but faith is a something which I exercise as well as receive. In faith my mind does something, in being sealed my faith receives something. If I may say so, faith writes out the document, there she labours, but the Holy Spirit stamps the seal Himself, and there is no hand wanted there except His own. He stamps His own impression to make the document valid.
2. It is clear from the context that assurance follows faith — "after that ye believed." The apostle does not say how soon. Brookes gives the case of a Mr. Frogmorton, who was one of the most valuable ministers of his day, but was thirty-seven years without any assurance of his interest with Christ; he did trust Christ, but his ministry was always a gloomy one, for he could not read his title clear to mansions in the skies. He went to the house of a dear friend, Mr. Dodd, to die, and just before he died, the light of heaven streamed in — he not only expressed his full assurance of faith, but triumphed so gloriously, that he was the wonder of all round about him. He also tells us of one Mr. Glover, who had been for years without assurance of his interest in Christ; but when he came to the fire to be burnt, just as he saw the stake, he cried, "He is come! He is come!" and instead of being heavy of heart as he had been in prison, he went to the stake with a light step. Three martyrs were once chained to the stake, two of them rejoicing; but one was observed to slip from under the chains for a moment, and prostrate himself upon the faggots and wrestle with God, and then coming back to the stake, he said, "The Lord has manifested Himself to me at the last, and now I shall burn bravely." So, indeed, he did, bearing his witness for his Lord and Master. Assurance, then, is not to be looked for before faith. You might as well look for the pinnacle before the foundation; for the cream before the milk; for the apples before you plant the tree; for the harvest before you sow the seed. Assurance follows faith.
3. Assurance is to be found where faith was found. "In whom ye also trusted" — as I get my faith out of Christ, so I must get my assurance out of Christ.
4. This assurance, like faith, is the work of the Spirit of God. "Ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." He does this in various ways. Sometimes we get the seal of the Spirit through experience. We know that God is true because we have proved Him. Sometimes this comes through the hearing of the Word — as we listen our faith is confirmed. But there is doubtless besides this, a special and supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, whereby men are assured that they are born of God.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,