May 142010

The 19th-century evangelist R. A. Torrey had a truly remarkable knack for explaining the Bible with striking clarity. Here is one of my favorite stories from his ministry, his account of creatively explaining to a worried young man exactly how and why he could have assurance of his salvation. It’s been known to encourage other people, too.

Preaching one night in Minneapolis in my own church on the text “Quench not the Spirit,” the power of God came in a wonderful way upon the audience. When I stepped down from the pulpit, I found in one of the front pews four persons kneeling in great distress of soul, two brothers and two young ladies whom they had brought with them to the meeting. These brothers came from an utterly godless family and were regarded as hard young men, but the Spirit of God had taken hold of them that night in mighty power. Three other workers spoke to three of the four who were kneeling in prayer and brought them out into the light, and I undertook to talk to the older of the men. He was in great agony of soul and listened attentively as I pointed him to the passages of the Word of God that showed how Jesus Christ had borne all his sin in His own body on the Cross, and how if he would believe in Christ, he would have pardon at once. He claimed to accept Christ but he found no peace, and left the building in great distress.

He was present again the next night, and again I talked with him. He claimed to have accepted Christ, but did not believe that his sins were pardoned. I took him to John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life,” and had him read it over and over again. I said to him, “Hector, who does God here say hath everlasting life?”

He said, “He that believeth on the Son.”

I said, “Do you believe on the Son?”

He said, “I do.”

I said, “What does God say?”

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.”

“What have you?”

“Oh, Mr. Torrey,” he cried, “won’t you pray for me?”

I said, “Yes, I will pray for you,” and again I went over it, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” I said, “Who has everlasting life?”

“He that believeth on the Son.”

“How many that believe on the Son have everlasting life?”

“Every one.”

“Have you believed on the Son?”

“I have.”

“What does God say about those who believe on the Son?”

“They have everlasting life.”

“Are you sure that they that believe on the Son have everlasting life?”

“I am.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“God says so.”

“What does God say?”

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.”

“Do you believe on the Son?”

“I do.”

“What does God say you have?”

“Oh!” he cried, “Mr. Torrey, will you pray for me?”

I went over it and over it again but he could not seem to grasp it. At last he arose and started slowly down the aisle to leave the building. Before he started, he said, “Mr. Torrey, will you pray for me?”

I said, “ I will.”

I let him get part way down the aisle and then I called after him, “Hector, do you believe that I will pray for you?”

“Why, I know you will,” he replied.

“How do you know that I will?”

“Because you said so.”

“Is not God’s Word as good as mine?” I asked.

The truth flashed in upon his soul in a moment. He saw that while he had been ready to believe me, he had not been ready to believe God. He took God at His Word and knew he had everlasting life because God said so, and went home rejoicing in perfect assurance that he had everlasting life and that his sins were all forgiven.

(Source: Anecdotes and Illustrations, 1907)

“I [Jesus] tell you the truth,
whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me
has eternal life

and will not be condemned;
he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24).

I write these things to you
who believe in the name of the Son of God
so that you may know
that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)