Sermon #1365[1]                                          Miscellaneous Notes


          Title:            THREE SEARCHING QUESTIONS

          Text:            1 Corinthians 13:13

          Readings:     Lindsay Campbell & Bob Poncer

          Subject:       Self-examination

          Date:            Tuesday Evening – September 14, 1999

          Tape #         V-45a



1 Corinthians 13:13  "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."


It is delightful to soar with Newton in that sweet song of assurance:


"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me;

I once was lost, but now am found,

'Twas blind, but now I see!"


But every sober minded person realizes that multitudes have sung those lines with joy upon the earth, only to wake up in hell at last.  They made lies their refuge. They made a covenant with death. They assured themselves that salvation was theirs. They went to hell singing…


“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,

O what a foretaste of glory divine!”


Realizing that fact, and knowing something of the sin and deceitfulness of my own heart, I have often been compelled to sing with Newton the bass notes of another hymn which we wrote:


"'Tis a point I long to know,

Oft it causes anxious thought;

Do I love the Lord, or no,

Am I His, or am I not?"


I know that the vast majority of religious people in this world are lost. Many profess faith in Christ; but few possess faith (Matt. 7:13-14, 21-23; 22:14; Luke 13:23-24). Most have been deceived with human religion. They walk in that broad way which leads to destruction.


I am equally certain that many who profess and practice the same things I profess and practice are yet unconverted. They are conservative and orthodox; but they have missed Christ. They embrace the true doctrine of Christ, but not Christ himself. Their religious devotion is but a form of godliness, without the power of life. Mere orthodoxy is not Christianity!


I have seen many whom I esteemed stronger, wiser, more zealous, more devoted, and more useful than myself forsake Christ and his gospel altogether. They had assurance; but it was a false assurance. They had peace; but it was a false peace. Mere religious devotion and outward righteousness is not Christianity!


How then can anyone have real assurance that he is savingly united with Christ? It is needful for all who profess faith in Christ to examine themselves by the Word of God, honestly and sincerely asking God to show them whether they are in the way of life and eternal bliss or in the way of death and eternal destruction (Ps. 139:23-24; 2 Cor. 13:5).


Psalms 139:23-24  "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: (24) And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."


2 Corinthians 13:5  "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"


We must prove ourselves by Holy Scripture and make our calling and election sure. I cannot give you a certain formula by which assurance may be gained. But I know this:


Proposition: There are three graces created in the heart of every true believer by God the Holy Spirit. If you and I possess these three graces, if they are really and truly created in us by the power and grace of God, we are born of God. If these three graces do not live in our hearts, we are yet under the wrath of God.


The apostle Paul said, "And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love) (1 Cor. 13:13). Here are three questions by which you and I must examine ourselves before God. May God give us grace to do so, lest we miss Christ and perish.




A. True faith is the gift of God.


It is not merely a logical or emotional decision, though it is both logical and emotional. It is much more. Saving faith is created in the heart by the power of God the Holy Spirit. It is the gift of almighty grace. We "believe according to the working of his mighty power” (Eph. 1: 19). We are united to Christ "through faith of the operation of God” (Col. 2:12). God alone can create faith in the heart of a sinner. God alone gives men faith. And he does it through the preaching of, the gospel, by which Christ is revealed in the heart (Rom. 10: 17; James 1: 18; 1 Per. 1:23-25).


B.  True saving faith is concerned with but one thing; the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Do you believe on the Son of God? That is the one issue which is of eternal importance. "What think ye of Christ?" Nothing else really matters.


True faith is taking God at his Word. It is believing what God says about his Son. It is submitting to the revelation of God in the Scriptures. It is trusting, believing, receiving Christ as He is revealed in Holy Scripture. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God ... He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:1, 13).


C. But saving faith is much more than mental assent to the truth of divine revelation.


"Of all the poison which at this day is diffused in the minds of men, corrupting them from the mystery of the gospel, there is no part that is more pernicious than this one perverse imagination, that to believe in Christ is nothing at all but to believe the doctrine of the gospel!" (John Owen).


D. Saving faith is a work of the heart (Rom. 10:9-10).


Romans 10:5-13  "For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. (6) But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) (7) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) (8) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; (9) That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (10) For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (11) For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. (12) For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."


True faith is the wilful, deliberate, voluntary confidence of my heart in the power and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is trusting the merits of his blood and righteousness as my only grounds of acceptance before God.


E.  True faith involves the bowing and submission of my heart to Him as my Lord (Luke 14:25-33).


Luke 14:25-33  "And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, (26) If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (27) And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. (28) For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (29) Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, (30) Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. (31) Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? (32) Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. (33) So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple."



F.  And true faith, the faith of God's elect is persevering faith (Heb. 3:6,14).


Hebrews 3:6  "But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end."


Hebrews 3:14  "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;"


That is to say, if a person truly believes on Christ he will continue to believe on Christ. Faith is not an event in the believer's life. It is the believer's continual way of life. "The just shall live by faith" (Gal. 3:11). The true believer never ceases to five by faith in Christ. God's elect begin in faith, five in faith, and die in faith (Heb. 11: 13). True faith never quits. It is not the man who begins the race who wins the prize, but the one who finishes the race.




Where there is true faith in the heart there is also the confident hope of the gospel. Paul says that a man is saved who cannot be moved away from the hope of the gospel (Col. 1:23).


Colossians 1:21-23  "And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled (22) In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: (23) If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister."


Faith unites us to Christ. Faith brings us all the blessings of grace and salvation in Christ. But hope anchors my soul in the stormy sea of life. Hope inspires my courage in the midst of trouble. And hope causes me to persevere, looking beyond the things of time to eternity (Lam. 3:21-26; Rom. 8:24-25; 2 Cor. 4:16-18).


Lamentations 3:21-26  "This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. (22) It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. (23) They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. (24) The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (25) The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. (26) It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD."


Romans 8:24-25  "For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? (25) But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it."


2 Corinthians 4:16-18  "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. (17) For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; (18) While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal."


A.  For what do I hope?


I hope to be accepted before God. I hope to be fully pardoned of all sin and completely acquitted of all charges before God's holy throne. I hope to inherit all the glory and bliss of Emmanuel's land. I hope to be found in Christ at last, not having my own righteousness which is after the law, but the righteousness of God which is by the faith of Christ


B.  What is the basis, or foundation, of my hope?


For me that is an easy question to answer. All my hope before God for all things rest entirely and alone upon the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, my all-sufficient Substitute! I have absolutely no confidence in the flesh, in anything I have experienced, in anything I have felt, or in anything I have done. My soul's hope is Christ alone!


"My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

But wholly lean on Jesus' name.


"His oath, His covenant, and His blood

Support me in the whelming flood:

When all around my soul gives way,

He then is all my hope and stay."


But there is another question which I must answer. There is one other thing which I must have if I am truly born of God. And this is the most telling of the three. This question searches deeper and tells more than either of the other two.




Is my heart ruled, governed, and motivated by the love of Christ? Do I have within me the kind of love that Christ produces in his people! Love is absolutely essential to true godliness.


Paul tells us that if we have all other things, and have not love, they shall profit us nothing. The absence of love is fatal. As you read 1 Corinthians 13, do not think to yourself, “Love is a very great virtue, most commendable and useful, it would be a great thing if I could obtain it.” Oh, no! We must have it!


The Holy Spirit tells us that this love is something which characterizes all who are born of God. We must have it, or else we are not born of God.


If I do not have this love, no matter what else I may have, no matter what else I may do, if I do not have the love of Christ in my heart, I am a lost man; and the same is true of you.


C. H. Spurgeon said, “This love is the common, everyday livery of the people of God. It is not the prerogative of a few. It is the possession of all. It is put before you not only as a thing greatly desirable, but absolutely needful; for if you excelled in every spiritual gift, yet if you had not this, all the rest would profit you nothing whatsoever. You must attain it, or you cannot enter into eternal life.”


This love is not a condition to be met in order to get salvation; but it is the sure result of God’s saving grace in Christ.


Christian love is greater than all other spiritual gifts and graces. Without love, all other gifts and graces are meaningless and useless (1 Cor.. 13:1-3).


1 Corinthians 13:1-3  "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. (2) And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (3) And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."


This one thing, love, is the fulfilling of the law of God (Matt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:8-10). And love is the one sure mark and evidence of a saving union with the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).


Where this love is absent grace is absent. No man is born of God who does not have the love of Christ implanted in his heart as a ruling principle of life (1 John 2:9-1 11; 3:14, 23; 4:7, 8, 16, 20; 5:1).


1 John 2:9-11  "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. (10) He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. (11) But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."


1 John 3:14  "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."


1 John 3:23  "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment."


1 John 4:7-8  "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. (8) He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."


1 John 4:16  "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."


1 John 4:20  "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?"


1 John 5:1  "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him."


The love of Christ, or the absence of it, is a thing easily identifiable. This is not some profound, mysterious point of theology. It is not some sweet-sounding, but useless, emotion. The love of Christ is a gift of divine grace that is clearly demonstrated in the lives of God’s elect (1 Cor. 13:4-7).


1 Corinthians 13:4-7  "Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, (5) Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; (6) Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; (7) Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."


This love causes a person to be kind, patient. content, gentle, even tempered, humble, self-denying, generous, honest, truthful. forbearing, and forgiving toward others, both in the church and out of it.


Love is preferable to all other gifts and greater than all other graces, because love is the only thing that will last forever (1 Cor. 13:8-13).


1 Corinthians 13:8-13  "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. (9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. (10) But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (11) When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (12) For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (13) And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."


All other gifts will come to an end. All other graces will cease. But love will go on in heaven. Faith will be no more, when we see him whom we have believed. Hope will be no more, when we have that for which we have hoped. But love will continue and come to perfection when we enter heaven. Love is the only thing we have in this world which we can carry into the world to come. Heaven is a world of love, perfect, unceasing, glorious, Christ-like love. No one will enter that city of peace and world of love except those who have the love of Christ in their hearts.


In the light of these three searching questions, let everyone honestly and earnestly examine his own self before God: Do I have the faith of God’s elect! Do I have the hope of the gospel! Do I have the love of Christ in my heart! “Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

[1] Madisonville, KY 9/16/99, Lexington, KY 9/15/99