“Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us, for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.” (I John 3:18-20
People often say things like “trust your heart”, or “follow your heart.” But although that may sound good, it is not the best policy. The truth is, our own hearts often mislead us.
The Lord commands us here in I John 3:18 not to love others with word or tongue only, but in deed and truth. Then He says in :19 that if we DO this, then “We will know by this (these deeds of genuine love) that we are of the truth and will assure our hearts before Him (:20) in whatever our heart condemns us; FOR GOD IS GREATER THAN OUR HEART and knows all things.”
So there is an objective truth with God that is “greater than our heart.” There may be times when “our heart” doesn’t “feel” like we are God’s — so a Christian may have doubts about his salvation, even when he really doess belong to the Lord. God’s prescription for that person is to do the deeds of the Christian life: including demonstrating practical love for his brothers & sisters. He says this fruit should comfort you and give you assurance that you really are His.
So we find several important lessons in this passage:
— Genuinely Christian people may have doubts about their standing with God. It is NOT true that if you have any doubts at all, that you are not saved. John specifically says here that there are times when the real Christian’s heart will condemn him — but God knows better!
— We also see here that WORKS have an important role in giving the Christian the assurance of salvation. Scripture makes it clear that we are not SAVED by our works (Eph. 2:8-9), but it is also evident from these verses that we may be ASSURED of our salvation by works (“you will know them by their fruits”, Matt. 7:20).
— And finally, we see that the way we “feel” is not a sure indicator of our salvation. Our hearts may “feel” one thing (“our heart condemns us”) but “God is greater than our heart” and knows our true standing with Him. Thankfully our feelings are not the ultimate measure of our salvation — God’s love and grace in Christ Jesus are!