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24. Perfection and Assurance

Chapter 24

Perfection and Assurance

Preliminary Observations: Fear and Insecurity in the World

In a world harassed by fears and anxieties—and in which security is an illusion—people long for assurance. Life hangs on a thread, exposed to every danger and mishap, from burglary to bank­ruptcy, from cancer to car accidents. Every year more people die on the roads and highways of North America than American soldiers had fallen on the battlefields and jungles of Vietnam. Many more people, thou­sands upon thousands more, whether they be drivers, passengers or pedes­trians, are maimed or crippled in car accidents. The statistics of these unsung victims of the roads would be even more appalling if we include those killed and crippled worldwide.

Man’s sense of insecurity is heightened by the element of the unexpected. Accidents are called accidents because they are unex­pected. Yet the unexpected may be more horrific than a car accident.

Just to name one incident out of many, we were shocked not long ago by the news of the San Diego massacre. One fine day in San Diego, many people were enjoying their Big Macs and sundaes at a McDonald’s restaurant when a man stormed in and shot as many people as he could. The final death toll was 22 or 23, with children accounting for half that number. Armed with three automatic weapons, the killer calmly walked up and down between the tables, firing mercilessly at everyone in sight.

This savagery had no known motive other than misan­thropy, the general hatred of mankind. Some people are so full of hatred that they kill for no sane reason. It is amazing that so many murders and atrocities are committed without any clear motive.

San Diego police, too, had no clues as to the killer’s motives. They surmised that, filled with anger and hatred, and fuming over a job loss, he decided to vent his feelings by taking it out on innocent peo­ple at McDon­ald’s, gunning down adults and children who had done him no harm.

Finally a SWAT team stormed the restaurant and shot him dead. But it was too late for his victims, who ranged from a 70-year-old to an infant less than nine months old.

Imagine yourself sitting in a restaurant, when some madman storms in and shoots you dead for no known reason. As the first person in sight, you have only enough time to see him pull the trigger.

Life is unsettling when this sort of thing hap­pens; and it is not as uncommon as we wish. Time and again there would be a report of a gunman who shoots down people at random.

Sin has driven many people to an irrational hatred of mankind. No explanation for the hatred is given, and none will be of any use so far as the unfortunate victims are concerned. Some of the killers are deemed “insane” but few are truly insane. Their violent deeds are often triggered by nothing other than an intense hatred for people in general. Life gets pretty insecure when normal-looking people can explode unpredictably into a murderous rage.

Why did someone kill the babies at a Toronto hospital by lethal injection, exterminating newborns who hadn’t said a bad word to anyone? Again the motive was probably sheer hatred of fellow human beings in general.

Not long ago a man drove his car into a lake with his three children trapped inside the car. The father was facing divorce, so he had decided to kill himself and to take his children along with him. One daughter, aged 12 or 13, managed to escape through a window. As the sole survivor, she now has to begin life anew without her father and siblings, forever haunted by the memory of this dreadful event

This kind of thing happens every day. Life is too often tragic and insecure. If you think that only a madman would shoot you, then you have not accounted for every possibility. Last month a man was sleeping peacefully in his motel room when, in a case of mistaken identity, two police officers opened fire through the door and win­dows. Reacting to the noise, the man sat up on his bed and was hit by a hail of bullets. It turned out that he was not the dangerous escaped convict that they thought he was, but a carpet salesman.

Life gets pretty insecure when you never know who might shoot you. You may look like a most-wanted criminal, only to be shot dead before you can identify yourself. Police officers are only human, and they get jittery when they are con­fronting someone who might be a dangerous killer. A man was shot when he reached into his pocket for his ID card. They found out afterwards that he was unarmed.

How do we survive in the jungle that is called the world? My friend’s mother was taking a nice stroll one day when, suddenly, a car ran onto the sidewalk and killed her. The driver had lost control of his vehicle. How can you feel secure if you cannot even take a walk without looking nervously in every direction? You had better look up too, because some people have been killed by falling flower pots!

The Insurance Industry Thrives on Insecurity

Man’s sense of insecurity is the main factor that fuels the multi-billion-dollar insurance industry in North America. Now we have all kinds of insurance, from life insurance to fire insurance, from health insurance to malpractice insurance. It is not only medi­cal doctors but also pastors who buy malpractice insurance! Recently an American pastor was sued for having taken some disciplinary action against a member of his church who had committed quite a serious sin.

People dare not go anywhere or do any­thing without getting insurance. Even when you fly, you might want to get insurance to cover baggage loss or flight cancellations—on top of medical insur­ance and life insurance.

Health insurance companies rake in billions of dollars annually because the threat of a fatal or crippling disease is very real. Surgery is very costly, and even a bottle of medicine can be expen­sive. Life insurance is in great demand even though the benefits do not go to the policy­holder when he dies, but to his beneficiaries.

Beware of Free Assurance

The world longs for insurance and assurance. In fact the two words have the same meaning. Oxford Dictionary says that they are derived from the same root. That is why some companies are called life assurance companies and others are called life insurance com­panies.

Churches do not use the word “insurance” because it sounds too commercial, but many talk freely of “assurance,” which means the same thing.

Millions of people have turned to religion, which is the most successful group of insurance (assurance) providers in the world. Sadly, among these purveyors of assurance are preachers “whose god is their belly” (Phil.3.19), who cash in on man’s sense of insec­urity. People are so insecure that they fall victim to unscru­pulous predators who peddle religious assurance.

The prudent man would never trust an insur­ance policy that claims to cover you for every­thing from hay fever to death, from unemploy­ment to bankruptcy, at a very low premium. If $5 a year could buy you assurance which covers every imaginable contingency, there must be something dubious about it.

But there are churches that offer an insurance that outper­forms every insurance company because it offers you eternal assur­ance for nothing on your part, not even a hint of commit­ment—all you need to do is just believe it. This, we are told, is the essence of grace—even though it bears no resemblance to the definition of grace in the Bible. There are others who offer even more than that: They offer riches and prosperity. According to them, God will bless you with these things if you follow their teaching and contribute financially to their organization.

In some churches, people who apply for membership encounter a tiny clause about giving ten percent of their income to the church. This, we are told, is not the purchase price for assur­ance but simply an act of thanksgiving for God’s free grace. That free grace, it turns out, is less than free because ten percent of your income can be quite substantial. It is indeed good to offer a tithe to the Lord. But it is a different matter to make it a condition of church membership that the tithe must be given to a particu­lar church.

The search for assurance draws multitudes into various religions and this brings in vast amounts of money. In such a situation there will never be lacking those who cash in on man’s sense of insecurity.

Where can you find an insurance company that will keep you safe from the final judgment, hell and eternal destruction? Could any insurance company insure you from all or any of these? But religion will, and does. If the assurance which is offered is genuine and substantive, meeting the real spiritual needs of people, then a valuable service is indeed rendered by offering it. Assurance is certainly of value in the kind of world in which we live. We do not reject assurance. But we must reject false assurance as a serious form of deception that preys on people’s needs.

But how can one know whether a proffered insurance is false? We do well to be cautious if something is said to be free and unconditional.

Many preachers have seized the golden opport­unity to exploit the universal sense of insecurity, making an offer too good to refuse: They offer unconditional assurance. That is truly remarkable be­cause insurance policies are never unconditional. Yet there is no shortage of preachers and teachers who proclaim unconditional assurance, which has great appeal for multitudes of gullible people. Many people are so desperate for security that they will clutch at any straw. And when unconditional assurance is dignified with the words “God’s free grace,” it sounds most convincing, indeed, irresist­ible.

1. No Unconditional Assurance in the Old Testament

On the authority of God’s word, let it be declared that no one has the right to exploit man’s insecurity by offering something called uncondit­ional assurance. This is crass deception even if it is taught in ignorance; it is downright falsehood, having no basis in Scripture.

When we examine the word of God, we discover something remark­able. Consult a concordance under “assurance” or some sim­ilar word, and count the number of occurrences. You will be sur­prised at its rarity.

In the 39 books of the Old Testament, the word “assurance” occurs only twice in the King James Version (and only once in the RSV). That ought to make us examine carefully the Biblical basis of any teaching on assurance, not to mention “uncon­ditional assurance”.

The first occurrence is in Deuteronomy 28.66. It is important to note the conditional clause beginning with the word “if” a few verses earlier, where God warns Israel:

If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, Yahweh your God, then Yahweh will bring extraordin­ary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses. (vv.58,59)

Notice the serious consequences for failing to fulfill the conditions which God stipulates:

Verse 61: “Every sickness also, and every afflic­tion which is not recorded in the book of this law, Yahweh will bring upon you, until you are destroyed.”

Verse 63: “As Yahweh took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so Yahweh will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you; and you shall be plucked off the land which you are entering to take possession of it.”

Verse 66 is where the word “assurance” comes in:

“Your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life.”

To our astonishment, the first instance of “assur­ance” in the Bible is found in the statement, “you shall have no assurance of your life”. Equally surprising, God says He will revoke (take back) all the promises He has made to His people Israel, because of their disobedience.

Yes, God’s promises can be revoked if the conditions for receiving the promises are not fulfilled. This is affirmed in verse 68:

And Yahweh will bring you back in ships to Egypt, a journey that I promised that you should never make again; and there you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.

To be a slave is bad enough, but to be a slave that nobody wants to buy is the ultimate humi­liation. Moreover, Yahweh God will cancel the promise He has made to Israel, namely, that He will never send them back to Egypt, that is, into bondage.

So much for unconditional assurance! There is no assurance of life for those who disobey God. The Bible never teaches unconditional assur­ance and anyone who teaches it is a fraudster, for true assur­ance is given only to those who obey God from the heart.

The only other occurrence of “assurance” in the KJV Old Testament is found in Isaiah 32.17, which is rendered in NIV as: “The fruit of right­eousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever”. This verse speaks of confidence forever, which KJV renders as “assurance for ever”—that is, eternal assurance. Here eternal assurance is conditional on righteousness. It is the result or “effect” of righteousness.

It should now be clear that the teaching of unconditional assur­ance is foreign to the Old Testament. It is rejected by the two occurrences of “assurance” in the Old Testament.

If we look for a different word which has the basic meaning of assurance, we might find it in the term “assured peace” (shalom emet, שׁלום אמת) in Jeremiah 14.13-14 (KJV, NKJV, ESV). But when you turn to this passage, you will discover that “assured peace” is something that is taught by the false prophets! Here Jeremiah says to God:

Ah, Lord God, behold, the prophets say to them, “You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.” And Yahweh said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in My name; I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.”

Just when we find “assured peace” in the Bible, it turns out to be the teaching of false prophets!

We must not be gullible, but discerning. In a world in which people are desperate for security, we must refrain from clutching at every straw. Doctrines do not save us. We must cling to the living God, for it is He who saves us, or we are not saved at all. Check every doctrine in the light of God’s word. If this simple safe­guard is not something that you take seriously, then your situation is truly precarious, for the world is teeming with false prophets who preach peace and security when, in truth, there can be no peace and security for those who ignore God’s kingship.

2. Also No Unconditional Assurance in the New Testament

The same truth is seen also in the New Testament:

For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are say­ing, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5.2-3)

Here again is that familiar chant of the false prophets, “Peace and safety!” Yet despite the solemn message of this pas­sage, many Christians will still tell you, “There’s nothing to worry about. Our church will offer you the best of everything, including peace and eternal security, and all you have to do is accept.” The reality is that on the Day of the Lord, terrible destruction will come upon the multitudes of people who are unpre­pared to meet with the Lord at his coming.

As for “unconditional assurance,” let us recall for a moment the most basic facts about salvation in the New Testament. God’s grace is free; but it is certainly not unconditional. “Free” and “uncon­ditional” are not one and the same thing as some preachers confusedly imagine.

So much wrong teaching on assurance stems from a confusing of these two completely distinct matters: “free” and “unconditional”. A look into any dictionary will make this clear. We are saved “by grace, through faith” (Eph.2.8; Ro.5.2). Grace is His free gift to us in Christ, faith is the condition on which, or through which, He grants us His gift. There is no salvation without faith.

Similarly, God has freely given us His “great and precious promises” (2Pet.1.4), but none of these is available to us without faith (v.5).

A beautiful verse which, regrettably, is used liberally or rather misused by the preachers who sell “free and unconditional assur­ance,” is Isaiah 55.1:

Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

The water of life and the bread of life are freely and abundantly given (v.2). But this is very far from saying that the water and the bread, the wine and the milk (v.1), can be obtained without fulfilling any conditions. What conditions? A look at verse 1 reveals that the word “come” appears three times in that verse alone. This reminds us of Jesus’ invitation, “Come to me” (Mt.11. 28).

And what does coming involve? “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live” (v.3). The purpose of coming is to listen, so “that you may live”. The coming and the listening are the conditions for receiving life.

And what is it that we are to listen to? “Seek Yahweh while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (v.6); for “Whoever will call on the name of Yahweh will be saved” (Joel 2.32; cf. Ro.10.13; Ps.116.13).

In order that “you may live” (Isa.55.3), that is, in order that you may be saved, there are a series of conditions to be met: come, listen, seek, and call. Free indeed; unconditional, certainly not.

First Occurrence of ‘Plerophoria’ in the New Testament

In the New Testament, “assurance” is generally a translation of plērophoria,[78] a Greek word that occurs four times (Col.2.2; 1 Thess.1.5; Heb.6.11; 10.22). Let us look at this word to see whether it supports the teaching of unconditional security which is so popular today.

The word occurs first in Colossians 2.2:

…that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ him­self.

Here “assurance of understanding” tells us that assurance depends on, or is conditional upon, spiritual understanding, namely, the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ. We can indeed enjoy full assurance, provided that we have the spiritual “under­standing, resulting in a true knowledge of… Christ himself”.

What does “under­standing” mean in Script­ure? The Greek word sunesis has the basic meaning of intelligence. A person is said to be intelligent if he or she understands things quickly, but is less intell­igent if slow to understand things.

God hides spiritual things from the “wise and understanding” but reveals them to “babes” (Mt.11.25). Here “understanding” translates sunetos (“intelligent, possessing understanding”). In Matthew 11.25 it refers to the intelligent people of the world. But it is not to them that God reveals spiritual things; He gives spiritual under­standing to “babes”.

A person may be intelligent, yet dull in spir­itual things. Someone else may be unintelligent, yet spiritually perceptive. And there are people who have both intelligence and spiritual insight. But the two must not be confused.

Second Occurrence of ‘Plerophoria’

Plērophoria (assurance) occurs also in Hebrews 6.11,12: “Show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises”.

Those who “inherit the promises” are those who have “faith and patience” (i.e. endurance) and “hope”. Here God’s promises are condi­tional on a faith that endures to the end (cf. Mt.24.13; Mk.13.13).

Third Occurrence

Plērophoria (assurance) occurs next in Hebrews 10.22,23:

Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Again we see the link between assurance and hope. The link is specifically between “full assurance of faith” and “the confession of our hope without wavering”; to have assurance, we must hold fast to our hope without wavering. Of the many exhort­ations in Hebrews, one of the most prominent is the exhortation to hold fast and not let go.

“Assurance of faith” indicates that assurance is conditional on a faith rooted in a pure and unwavering heart, sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.

Faith is the foundation and basic prerequisite of assurance. That is why true faith is marked by assurance. Faith does not doubt or waver. Faith in its nature possesses certainty, confidence and assurance. Conversely, a lack of assurance reveals a lack of faith in the living God.

Fourth Occurrence

Our final reference is 1 Thessalonians 1.5: “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake”.

“Full conviction” translates plērophoria, which as we have seen, is usually translated “assurance”. In this instance, the assurance is that of the apostle Paul and his co-workers who brought the gospel to the Thessalonians. It is the assurance of those who preached “in power and in the Holy Spirit” as well as “with full conviction”. It is the assurance of people of whom the apostle could say, “You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake”. It means that these men who had “full conviction” were men who were functionally perfect.

A Conclusion

To sum up, we have looked at the four occur­rences of plērophoria (assurance) in the New Testament, and also the two occurrences of “assur­ance” in Old Testament (KJV). The unmis­takable conclusion is that Scripture has only a few refer­ences to assurance, and none to unconditional assurance. The Bible, however, has a lot to say about faith, from which true assurance stems.

Note: The word “unconditional” appears nowhere in the Bible. Neither does Scripture promulgate the idea that our relationship with God or with one another is not governed by any principles (laws), requirements, or conditions.

3. Assurance is Rooted in Perfection

In view of the fact that the idea of assurance receives little emphasis in the Scriptures, are we to conclude there is no assurance to speak of both in Scripture and in the Christian life? Certainly not. We have strong assurance. How can we have such assurance when the Scriptures rarely mention it? The answer to this is simple: Assurance is a byproduct of the fundamental elements in our new life in Christ, such as faith, hope, and love. Where these elements are present there will inevitably be firm, confident assur­ance. But where these are lacking, assurance will correspondingly be lacking.

It should now be clear as to why assurance is conditional. Its existence depends on the presence of those other spiritual elements. That is why it can be described as a “byproduct”. When the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith, encourages our hope, and causes our love to grow, our assurance increases proportionate­ly, even when we are not conscious of it.

As to be expected, it is those who lack assurance who clamor for it. These are the easy victims of false teachers who offer their own brands of “free and unconditional assurance”. But Christ alone is the Rock of all true assurance. Rooted in him by faith, there will never be any lack of stability and assurance. Security is ours, not by clinging to doctrines that turn out to be false upon inspection, but by trusting steadfastly in the living Christ who is the truth. Concern yourself with a living relationship with him, and you won’t need to concern yourself with assurance—because where faith is, there assurance is too.

The Bible has a lot to say about Christ-centered faith, hope, and love—from which assurance grows. What need then does Scripture have to expatiate upon assurance?

Faith, hope, love, and purity are the constituent elements of per­fection. Since assurance is rooted in these elements, it is there­fore rooted in perfection.

4. A Perfect Heart

As we have seen many times, the stress in Scripture is not on sinlessness but on a heart that is perfect before God. It is “heart-perfection” that Yahweh God looks for. “Perfect heart” is a familiar term to anyone who is acquainted with the Old Test­ament historical books, in which the term occurs 12 or 13 times (e.g. 1 Kings 8.61; 11.4; 15.3,14).

A perfect heart—a heart that is perfect in obedience to God—is seen in a perfect attitude. This does not mean that everything we do is perfect in every detail. Biblical perfection refers to the heart. It takes time and effort to achieve excellence, not to mention perfect­ion, in the practical outworking of things. Paul exhorts us to “work out” our salvation (Phil.2.12): what God is working in our hearts has to be lived out in our daily conduct.

You may, for example, practice at the piano daily, practicing the same piece of music over and over again, yet still make mistakes. This does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with your attitude; you may be striving for excellence with a perfect attitude, relying on God. That is Helen’s (my wife’s) attitude. In the past few days I have heard the same piano pieces a few hundred times. With a perfect heart she strives for perfection even though the actual outworking may be less than perfect. What counts is that you have tried your best, having a determination that befits your perfect attitude.

Perfection is a heart wholly committed to God, and quick to obey Him. But it doesn’t exclude the possibility of error. We may have spoken a rash word, so we apologize quickly. We didn’t mean to be rash. Nonethe­less, we did speak an unkind word that hurt some­one, and we thus sinned unwittingly.

It is essential that we are absolutely clear about this fact: Perfection in the Bible does not mean absolute perfection or the total eradication of sin, but a perfect attitude of heart towards God.

We are called to be perfect like our heavenly Father, but this does not mean that we can attain to His absolute perfection, holiness, or love in this present age. We cannot possibly attain to absolute perfection in this life. Perhaps for all eternity we will be striving to be like Him, on the level of the absolute. In the intentions of our heart, however, we can indeed make it our single-minded aspiration to be like Him. This aspiration is beautifully expressed in the words of the hymn: Oh, to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art! Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

If our hearts are clean and genuine, free of deceit or hypocrisy, wholly committed to doing God’s will, we are right now “perfect” in the Biblical sense of the word. God does not expect absolute perfection of us at the present time when we are still living in a body where sin dwells in the flesh. But in our hearts we aim to be like Him. We remain totally yielded to Him, to let Him fashion us ever more fully into His image. That is what the Bible means by a “perfect heart”.

5. Assurance and Perfection

Assurance is linked to perfection in Colossians 4.12:

Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

Full assurance is linked to being perfect, in that it flows from perfection or, to change the metaphor, is rooted in it.

Assurance is given to the perfect of heart. I challenge you to find one person who walks with God with a perfect heart, yet does not have assurance. Such a person does not exist because anyone who is led by the Spirit (Ro.8.14), and thus walks with God with a perfect heart, will inevitably have full assurance from God. It is a deep assurance that comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit, who witnesses with this person’s spirit that he or she is a child of God (Rom.8.16).

This is not a matter of theory but of exper­ience. If your heart is right before God, you will experience assurance from Him. You will no longer be terrified by the Judgment. The slavish fear of condemn­ation will make way for a holy fear of, or a reverence for, God.

6. Perfect Love

Assurance is linked to perfect love in 1 John 4.17‑18:

By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (ESV)

Three times in these two verses, “perfect” and “love” are mentioned together. Not only is “perfect love” possible, it is necessary if we are not to live in the shadows of fear, and eventually become paralyzed by it. For if we are not perfected in love, it means that our con­science is not right before God, so we can only anticipate the coming judgment with fear and apprehension. Moreover, the fear arising from a nagging conscience can so weaken us as to render us spiritually nonfunctional.

Perfect love for God and for His people, on the other hand, casts out fear. This doesn’t mean that the outward expression of our love is perfect in every aspect; actually, it is often inadequate, leaving much room for improvement. In addition to these inadequacies, there are also occasional mistakes, but when that happens we grieve over them and repent of them.

What the Bible requires is a love that is perfect in its intention, and is determined to love God and His people. This love dissipates fear just as sunlight drives darkness away. We need no longer tremble in fear of judgment. Instead, God grants us deep assurance in Christ.

7. Examples of Perfect Love

Perfect love, as we saw in an earlier chapter, is a Christ-like love that keeps on giving without seeking reward or gratitude. Let me illustrate this with two incidents which though they may seem insignificant are, nonetheless, striking examples of a perfect love that seeks nothing in return.

During my student days in London I learnt much from the life of a certain fellow student called Peter. He was not an eloquent preacher or Bible teacher but his life spoke to me time and again. On one occasion he heard that I was going to preach in Nottingham, a city north of London, at the church where Philip Doddridge, a famous hymn writer, had once been pastor in the 18th century. He insisted on driving me there. His usual mode of transportation was cycling, but he also had a vintage car dating from perhaps the forties, a veritable museum piece.

Peter lovingly insisted on driving me to Nottingham and back, to save me time and to spare me the inconvenience of changing trains. He also wanted to have a share in the preaching of the gospel, even if only by driving me there and back. He was a medical intern, and I knew that he had been on night duty, working hard through the night. In this situation most Christians would say, “I am too tired. Take the train or get somebody else to drive you there.”

Not so with Peter. When I expressed concern over the fact that he had not slept all night, he still insisted on driving me there, assuring me that he was used to this sort of thing.

After finishing his overnight shift, he rushed over and drove me to Nottingham, which is some 110 miles (close to 180 kilometers) from London “as the crow flies”. The highway had not yet been built at that time, so the drive took about three hours in each direction. I preached in the morning and again in the evening, after which he drove me back to London, arriving late at night.

By this time he was so ex­hausted that he became the only person I have ever seen sleeping while standing up! This happened when we got back to the apartment in London. Roommates and friends gathered around, asking how things had gone in Nottingham. We were standing in a circle, and as I was sharing about the events, I saw Peter standing with his eyes closed. He was swaying back and forth, and it seemed that he might fall at any moment.

This spoke to my heart. This dear brother who had not slept all night and was so exhausted as to fall asleep on his feet, out of persistent love and a desire for a share in the preaching of the gospel, drove me to Nottingham and back.

Here we see a perfect, self-giving love that is unconcerned for one’s own needs. I said to Peter, “You’re awfully tired, aren’t you?” He opened his eyes and smiled with a sweet smile of devotion to God that spoke to me more powerfully than a hundred eloquent sermons. There was not a word of complaint or self-pity.

The second incident had to do with my hay fever. I sympathize with people who suffer from hay fever because back in England I used to suffer badly from it. Whenever I wrote my three-hour exams, my nose would be dripping away, and I had to try to keep the exam paper dry. I could never figure out the reason for placing the exam period in the worst time of the year, right in hay fever season when thousands of students are suffering from itchy eyes and runny noses!

Peter took notice of my condition—red eyes and runny nose—but he also knew that giving me antihistamines could make me drowsy. He told me that a new drug had come out that does not cause drowsiness. In fact it keeps you awake. He asked if he could get some for me. I told him that if he thought it could be useful, I would be grateful if he did.

A few days later, when he gave me a bottle of antihistamine, I noticed dark circles around his eyes. I asked him whether he had been on night duty again, seeing that he looked as though he had not slept. He said that he had not been on night duty. But he admitted that he had not had any sleep. He explained that this was because he wanted to test the drug on himself first (he did not suffer from hay fever) to make sure that the drug would not cause drowsi­ness. In order to be very sure, he took a double dose. The result? He stayed awake all night!

I was deeply touched. He was willing and determined to test the drug on himself, though he knew very well that it would keep him awake all night. But this was a price, which in his love, he gladly paid; a sacrifice, which following in the Lord’s footsteps, he gladly made.

This is Christ-likeness indeed! And the glory goes to the Lord who puts such love in men’s hearts and makes us like himself, beautifying us with his own perfect beauty.

[78]πληροφορία, ας, full assurance, certainty. πλοῦτος τῆς πληροφορίας τῆς συνέσεως a wealth of assurance, such as understanding brings Col 2:2. ἐν...τλ. πολλῆ, with full conviction 1 Th 1:5. #ἡ πλ. τῆς ἐλπίδος Hb 6:11. #πλ. πίστεως 10:22. In Col 2:2; Hb 6:11; 10:22; the mng. fulness is also poss.” Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich, A Gk-Eng. Lexicon of the NT, 2nd Ed., Chicago, 1979. See also the authoritative, unabridged Liddell and Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford, 1973, πληροφορία: “fullness of assurance, certainty, 1Thess 1.5; Col.2.2; Hebr.6.11”.


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