Sermon and Notes - 02.13.2011 - Revelation 8:2-11:19

You can download the Sermon from this past Sunday here. or visit http://deltaumc.podbean.com to view archived sermons.

You can also download my notes and outline by clicking here.

Also, the RSS feed address for our podcast is http://deltaumc.podbean.com/feed/ and this feed has been submitted to iTunes and should be available shortly there for you iTunes users.


Pastoral Care from the Pulpit /not small groups

The pulpit is a place to dispense pastoral care, in fact it is the primary place to dispense pastoral care.  There is this tendency to segregate pastoral care, and pulpit ministry into two separate areas of the pastoral call.  The standard sentiment seems to be that the pulpit is for preaching the gospel, and the visitation or counseling session is for pastoral care.

There are probably a myriad of reasons this dichotomy of preaching/pastoral care has arisen, but I believe the number one reason is that we have come to believe that the Sunday sermon is the primary evangelistic tool of the church.  Most pastors seem to buy into this; the fundamentalist pastor builds his message around saving the lost soul that ventured into a pew, the Church growth guy builds his message around some principles for a better life complete with some cute stories and a joke or two to get them to come back next week, and the missional pastor spends his pulpit time inviting people to participate in social justice or the great commission with his congregation. In all three of the aforementioned examples the sermon is used with the intent of getting the uninvolved, unchurched, or unsaved into the flock.  What is the problem with this?  The problem is that the very covenant community, which happens to be involved, churched, and saved, is never the intended audience of their pastor.  The sheep get neglected in favor of 'potential' sheep.  Now the clever pastors believe they have found a way around this, and that way is small/home/cell group ministry.  The idea is that the pastor cannot preach in such a manner that his faithful will grow, because for them to grow the depth of his sermon would be too much for the 'unchurched'.  So to address the problem the pastor recommends that his faithful sheep go to the small groups to grow and to be cared for.  Sounds great right? Wrong!

I am not anti small group by any means, but I am sick of hearing the "that's wear the real growth happens" line brought out by pastors who have neglected feeding the sheep on Sundays.  In most cases the leaders of small groups who are called to 'facilitate' discussion, and have no theological training and have not been selected by a process that evaluates their qualifications as pastors.  Yes I said their qualifications as pastors!  If we are going to make the small group the primary place where people are pastored, should not their leaders meet the biblical criterion of a pastor?  Do you see the problem?  The sheep are left to whoever is willing to volunteer their home to lead, while potential sheep not yet of the flock get lead by the pastor, the one who has a calling on his life to lead the sheep!  It's all backwards.  Pastors, we are to care for the flock, so that the flock can go healthily into the world with the Gospel to the lost, unchurched, dechurched, or whatever current cliche you drag out when referring to people without Christ.

I do believe in doing visitations as a pastor, especially to the sick.  Yet what is it that you bring to them?  The good news of Christ, who lived, suffered, died, and rose FOR THEM.  That is what pastoral care is all about, bringing the Law and Gospel into the various dark, difficult places where people are.  While visitation is for the individual, Sunday morning is a visitation so to speak for the covenant community, and that is how it should be treated.  We should enter the pulpit with care of the congregation of our Lord as our first concern!  Our goal should be to bring Law and Gospel to the sheep for their health and edification, leaving them emboldened by grace to go into the world.  I will leave the lost to the small groups... but the pulpit ministry is for the sheep.

That was a bit rantish, but think about it.


Quick follow up on Justification posts

First of all I want to thank all four guest writers for this past weeks blog content.  Though there was not much by way of comments, blog traffic was over 5 times what it usually is.  The one item that sticks out at me is that all views seemed to hold, to some degree an objective view of justification, though Connie's view did not place emphasis there.

Connie, and Dawn, both held a universal view of justification, and it appeared to me that Matt did as well.  Connie's view was hopeful that justification which occurred for all was also applied to all, or that all would reap the benefits of it.  Both Dawn and Matt, saw justification as purchased for all in Christ, but applied to those who by faith receive it.  I imagine if Dawn and Matt continued to hash this out we would see quite a difference in how faith is received, nonetheless the nature of a universal unlimited justification based on an unlimited atonement seems to drive their view of justification.  Dawn and Matt both seemed to attach this atonement firmly to Christ as second Adam for us.   Connie seemed less intent on getting into the how justification occurred objectively, and more into what action that justification produces in the world.

Ralph's reformed baptist view was the only view of the four that had atonement as limited to the elect.  Ralph's emphasis is on a monergistic work of Christ to redeem his people entirely independent of their efforts.  Ralph, Matt, and Dawn all held to what I saw to be objective justification, in other words, we are justified by the life, death, resurrection of Christ for us as a historical fact.  Connie may or may not believe that, but she affirmed that her focus was not at all on the 'how' but on the 'what this will produce'.

The greatest difference between the three classically orthodox views (Matt, Ralph, and Dawn) is how justification is applied.  Ralph has it applied on the basis of election which guarantees faith, Dawn and Matt have it based on faith which applies the already given justification.  Matt and Dawn's views would then differ on how faith is given or exercised.

Other thoughts? What did I miss?


Justification (4 of 4) Outlaw - Connie W.

This post is from Connie W he can be found on twitter @conniejoh2o and she blogs at http://conniejoh2o.wordpress.com/ 
Read this before reading on, just to see what is going on here.  Note: these posts are guest posts and may or may not reflect my views.  -Jay
Trying to Understand Justification

Near the end of the Love chapter ( 1 Corinthians 13) Verse 12 we are given, I think, a lens through which we have to view most of our attempts to be assured that we “understand” the Bible, it says, “ For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was known fully.”  If Paul could admit that he couldn’t fully grasp the enormity of God’s essence (love) then it isn’t reaching for us to assume that there is no one human answer that is perfect on the topic of justification, but that our faith and belief in Christ Jesus is not in jeopardy if we question in a prayerful way, the specifics of how justification works.

I appreciated Jay asking me to present my understanding of Justification and to also speak, if I could to the “Outlaw Preachers” understanding of Justification.  His request sent me on a quest by way of several conversations to find out just what Outlaw Preachers believe when it comes to the topic of Justification.  As all good 21th century folks do, my first stop was Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justification_(theology) to get an overview of various understandings of justification. Next I had conversations with several Outlaws across the country whom I knew came from varied traditions and understandings.

Justification is not a foreign subject to me, having received my MDiv while a candidate for ministry in the United Methodist tradition justification was a topic at many DCOM meetings and in many of my seminary classes.  I am familiar with the understanding of grace of which justifying grace is an important step.  Justifying grace is the time in one’s faith journey in which you recognize the presence of God and begin your personal  relationship with God as you accept for yourself the action that God has already taken through Jesus Christ. Then begins Sanctifying Grace, you begin to display your growth in the Spirit by becoming each day more like the image of Christ, hopefully traveling on to perfection.  It wasn’t talked about much, but there was a brief mention in Seminary about “back sliding” or leaving the way and losing your salvation or the possibility that one wasn’t justified at all having never “really” accepted God in the first place because the actions never reflected the acts of someone moving on to perfection.  It made sense to me, but I always understood that our understanding of justification is unique to the United Methodist tradition.

As I began to speak with other Outlaws about how they were taught to understand Justification, it became apparent that there was great diversity (which I completely anticipated seeing).  Outlaw Preachers come from many traditions, and no traditions, some run away from the understandings of their youth, some cling to them, and some didn’t even know that “justification” was a big deal.  See, when you are part of a group that spans the gambit of theological understanding from Episcopalian to Assemblies of God, “Recovering Conservative Evangelicals” to Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Disciples of Christ and various other traditions and complete lack of tradition diversity is a given, finding common ground is the trick.  This bunch of rapscallions seem to be linked not by any academically defined doctrine, but a simple (not simplistic) belief that the Grace of God restores  ALL. There seems to be an understanding that God’s grace and God’s love are not contingent on our becoming someone else but that by the unconditional love and grace of God we become confident in whom we already are. 

Once God’s grace and love are seen in this way, the focus becomes not on “how God did it” but “what is our response to what God already did”.  Grace and love can never be seen as simply between God and the individual, while there is no doubt that each of us in important to and beloved by God, grace is extended to all humankind, making our response not one of deep relief because we are “saved” but gratitude for inclusion into the “body of Christ” and we then become part of the grace and love of God.
In conclusion, if you ask me now about my understanding of justification,  I would be most inclined to call myself a hopeful Universalist.  While I cannot see through the dark mirror clearly enough  to tell you that I know for sure that everyone, everywhere will get “in” in the end, I can say this, the God that I see in scripture, the God that most Christian traditions proclaim, the God I have observed in my life, and all that my logically mind has learned about God all point to the belief that God has done everything within God’s power, including giving that power up to walk among us, and die as one of us, to prove to us the lengths God will take to reconcile with God’s creation and extend God’s love and grace to that creation.  I hope that God does bring everyone home for eternity, nothing would make me happier than for everyone, everywhere to be perfected in the grace and love of God.  I don’t believe this understanding varies far from where I started, the idea of prevenient grace tells us that God is always seeking us, looking for a way to be a part of our lives and I don’t believe God ever gives up.  I long for the day in which I know fully the how’s of justification, but for now, I am content to live in the grace and love of God trusting that it is indeed for all of our good and not our demise, that is indeed good news that I can share with everyone, everywhere.



Justification (3 of 4) Wesleyan - Matt L.

This post is from Matt L he can be found on twitter @mattlipan and he blogs at http://mattlipan.blogspot.com/
Read this before reading on, just to see what is going on here.  Note: these posts are guest posts and may or may not reflect my views.  -Jay
Special thanks to Jay for inviting me to guest post here on “the tenth letter…” about the idea of justification from a Wesleyan perspective. You’ll note my meager attempt to do so below. Don’t hesitate to continue the dialogue or connect with me @mattlipan.

It starts with the problem of sin, one we all have thanks to the parents of humankind, Adam and Eve (Rom. 5:12). What sin does is put you and me at odds with God. Our inability to perfectly follow God’s law has made us, as John Wesley noted in his sermon Justification by Faith, “dead to God, dead in sin…and under the sentence of death eternal” (I. 6.). And see, the thing is, there is nothing you or I can do on our own to escape the sentence of death we have earned because of our sin (Rom. 6:23). If it ended here we would all be in sad shape but fortunately for all humankind, there is more to the story.

Seeing the predicament humankind was in, God sent all the fullness of Himself and man to dwell among us in the person of Jesus. Wesley describes Him as, “a second general Parent and Representative of the whole human race” (Justification by Faith. I. 7.) and as such, it is only through Christ that you and I can be forgiven, or justified, before God. Through Christ’s willingness to bear our sins on the cross (1 Pet. 2:24-25) as the perfect and complete sacrifice for the entire world (1 Jn. 2:1-2), justification has been made possible.

Paul tells us in that we are “justified freely” by the grace of God through Jesus (Rom. 3:24) and not through anything we’ve ever done or will ever do (Eph. 2:8-9). It is a gift received through faith and by faith. Speaking on faith, Wesley says it is the “only necessary condition” of justification (Justification by Faith. IV. 5.) and that without it, one cannot be justified. He goes on to write

[We] must come as “mere sinner[s],” inwardly and outwardly, self-destroyed and self-condemned, bringing nothing to God but ungodliness only, pleading nothing of [our] own but sin and misery. Thus it is, and thus alone, when [our] "mouth is stopped," and [we] stand utterly "guilty before" God, that [we] can "look unto Jesus," as the whole and sole "Propitiation for [our] sins." Thus only can [we] be "found in him," and receive the "righteousness which is of God by faith."
(Justification by Faith. IV. 8.)

Wesley describes justification as “the forgiveness of sins” but says that this in no way implies that God “esteems us better than we really are, or believes us to be righteous when we are unrighteous” (Justification by Faith. II. 4 &5.). Here Wesley makes a distinction between justification and sanctification. The former implies what God does for us through Christ while the latter speaks to what He works in us by His Spirit (Justification by Faith. II. 1.). In this way, justification is the first step in the process of sanctification and a necessary one for anyone who would call themselves a disciple of Christ. 

Sermon and Notes - 02.06.2011 - Revelation 6:1-8:1

To hear the Sermon Preached at Delta United Methodist Church on February 6th from Revelation 6-8:1 click here.

To view the outline I preached from this weekend with the preparatory notes click here.

I hope this blesses you in someway, and as always feel free to leave your feedback.


Justification (2 of 4) Reformed - Ralph P

This post is from Ralph P he can be found on twitter @ralphprovance
Read this before reading on, just to see what is going on here.  Note: these posts are guest posts and may or may not reflect my views.  -Jay
Also out of fairness to all, I am going to delay Matt L, and Connie W's post till monday and tuesday, simply because blog traffic is low on the weekend.  So lucky Matt gets monday which happens to be the highest traffic day for this blog.
Surely shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness. (Isaiah 45:24)
He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Martin Luther said that “Justification by faith alone is the article by which the Church stands or falls on.”  John Calvin said that it is the “main hinge on which religion turns.”  Leon Morris said “Understand justification and you understand everything that matters.”

The purpose of this brief study is to explain the glorious doctrine of justification from a Reformed perspective. There have been volumes written by many brilliant men of God over the years covering every aspect of this doctrine.  It is a topic that demands a great deal of diligence in study so we may grasp an understanding.  Again, this paper will be a “surface level” overview.

John Murray defined justification as “a constitutive act whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to our account and we are accordingly accepted as righteous in God’s sight. Justification is both a declarative and constitutive act of free grace.” (Redemption Accomplished & Applied p.124)

There are three areas where the doctrine of justification from a Reformed perspective differs from other traditions, i.e. Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Pentecostal and Roman Catholic. They are in that 1. Justification is divinely monergistic; 2. Justification is a one-time event (not a process); 3. Justification is permanent.

Reformed Christians hold to the fact that there isn’t anything that we can do to cause or earn our justification. We are dead in our sins (Eph 2:1). We have a heart of stone (Eze 36:26). We are completely unable to exercise any saving faith apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Once we are “born again/regenerated” by the Holy Spirit, God grants to us the gift of faith that we may repent.  It is then that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and we are justified. This is part of the “ordo salutis,” or the order of salvation.  The ordo salutis as held by those of the Reformed tradition is as follows- 1) election, 2) predestination, 3) gospel call 4) inward call 5) regeneration, 6) conversion (faith & repentance), 7) justification, 8) sanctification, and 9) glorification. (Rom 8:29-30.)  This is in opposition to those that hold to a synergistic view of justification.  While the views vary slightly within Protestantism, the general ordo salutis is 1) outward call 2) faith/election, 3) repentance, 4) regeneration, 5) justification, 6) perseverance, 7) glorificationThey state that we are able to exercise “inherent” faith and work in conjunction with God to be born again. Never is our faith the cause of our justification in the New Testament. That would be a “work” and therefore something to boast in (Eph 2:8,9).  An examination of the Greek text shows we are justified “pistei, dia pisteos, ek pisteos, kata pistin, epi te pistei,; “by, through, upon, according to” faith. Never are we justified “dia pistin” or “because” of it. Faith is our act, coming from a new heart, but not our work.  We must never look to ourselves, anything that we do, as grounds for our justification. 

Those of the Reformed tradition hold to the belief that justification is an instantaneous event, only occurring once.  God, the just Judge (Psalm 96:13), legally declares the sinner righteous because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.  It is a legal declaration, a “forensic justification.”  It is not that the sinner is made righteous; but that he is seen as righteous because of Jesus.  Martin Luther framed the idea well with the phrase “simul iustus et peccator,” “At the same time, just and sinner.”  This is in stark contrast to the Romanist understanding.  They hold that justification is not a one time declaration of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner but a process that is conditional upon the ongoing work of man. This is why Rome is confused about the doctrines of justification and sanctification.  Rome holds that there are three main sacraments necessary for justification and ultimate salvation. The sacraments allegedly give grace to an individual and help to maintain him in a state of sanctifying grace. They are baptism, penance, and the Eucharist/mass.  In fact, according to the Roman Catholic Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, “If any one saith that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation...and that without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain from God, through faith alone, the grace of justification...let him be anathema.”  This statement by the Roman Catholic Church denies the clear teaching of Scripture.  The grounds for our justification can only be found in Christ alone. (Romans 3:24; 5:9,19; 8:1; 10:4; 1Cor 1:30; 6:11; 2Cor 5:21; Phil 3:9)

The final distinctive of the Reformed tradition, as relating to justification, is that our justification is permanent.  This means that we can never lose our salvation.  It is known as the “Perseverance of the Saints.”  It stands in contrast to every other religious tradition which says that our salvation can be lost by either a mortal sin (Catholic) or a loss of faith (Arminian.)  If our salvation is entirely of God, and not of any work of man, then how can we lose it?    As a Reformed Baptist, I hold to the creedal statement of the 1689 London Baptist Confession.  I believe that it summarizes the doctrine better than I ever could.  It states “Those whom God hath accepted in the beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, and given the precious faith of his elect unto, can neither totally nor finally fall from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved, seeing the gifts and callings of God are without repentance, whence he still begets and nourisheth in them faith, repentance, love, joy, hope, and all the graces of the Spirit unto immortality; and though many storms and floods arise and beat against them, yet they shall never be able to take them off that foundation and rock which by faith they are fastened upon; notwithstanding, through unbelief and the temptations of Satan, the sensible sight of the light and love of God may for a time be clouded and obscured from them, yet he is still the same, and they shall be sure to be kept by the power of God unto salvation, where they shall enjoy their purchased possession, they being engraven upon the palm of his hands, and their names having been written in the book of life from all eternity. (John 10:28,29; Phil 1:6; 2Tim 2:19; 1John 2:19; Psalms 89:31,32; 1Cor 11:32; Malachi 3:6)
We are kept by the power of God, if we are in Christ!


Justification (1 of 4) Confessional Lutheran - Dawn K

This post is from Dawn K who blogs at http://www.realrealityzone.com and can be found on twitter @rumor99
Read this before reading on, just to see what is going on here.  Note: these posts are guest posts and may or may not reflect my views.  -Jay

How is the Lutheran understanding of justification different from that of other Christian traditions?

Lutherans believe that we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, for the sake of Christ alone.  We are declared to be righteous in God’s sight because of the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not because of anything inside of us – not because of our human will and not even because of anything that God works in us, whether good works or faith. Christ died for all people, and because of Christ’s perfect life, death and resurrection, all people are forgiven and declared righteous in God’s sight. This is known as the doctrine of objective justification.

Unlike the Calvinists and the Wesleyans, who teach that we are only forgiven and justified when we believe in Christ, Lutherans teach that all are forgiven and justified at the cross but that this forgiveness and justification only benefits those who believe.  When God grants a person repentance and faith in Christ, they receive the benefits of the forgiveness that is already theirs through the death of Christ on the cross.  This is known as the doctrine of subjective justification.  Through the Word of God and through the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) faith in Christ is created and sustained.

The doctrines of objective and subjective justification might be illustrated in this way: Someone transfers a million dollars into your bank account.  The money is yours.  But if you refuse to believe that it is there, you do not use it and it does not benefit you in any way.  In the same way Christ’s death on the cross led to justification and life for all people.  But those who do not believe this do not benefit from it.

This is in contrast to the Calvinist view, which teaches that Christ did not die for all people but only for those who would believe in Him.  It is also in contrast to the Wesleyan view, which teaches that the death of Christ only made justification possible for all men through prevenient grace, whereby all are enabled to freely choose to believe.  And it is in contrast to the Catholic view which sees justification not as God crediting His righteousness to our account but as God infusing righteousness into us to enable us to cooperate with His grace.

Because of the reality of objective justification, Lutherans are not compelled to look inside themselves – whether to their heart or to the quality of their good works – to determine whether their faith is genuine.  Faith itself is created by the external word of Christ to the individual – that Christ died for me, that His life, death and resurrection saved me, that He baptized me into His family and that He gives me His body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of my sins.

Lutherans do not merely believe a promise that is conditioned upon our faith.  And we certainly do not believe a promise that is conditioned upon our sincere decision or good works.  We believe the promise that has already been given to us.  Christ forgave us at the cross, and that forgiveness was delivered to us (and continues to be delivered) through the Word, water, bread and wine.  We constantly look to these objective, external realities in our daily lives as Christians as we fight against the Old Adam that is within us and seek to live our lives in service to our neighbor. We look not inwardly to our faith but outwardly to Christ who was crucified for us and who even now delivers to us the benefits of His perfect life, death and resurrection.

4 takes on Justification

Over the past month I have requested four twitter friends to give me in 1000 words or less their understanding of the doctrine of Justification based on the 'tradition' or framework that they currently operate from.  My original intent was 5 positions, but I have still not gotten any responses from the Roman Catholic point of view.  Starting today I will post one of each of these view per day over the next four days.

To determine the order of the posts I simply wrote the name of each author on the back of an individual business card, shuffled them and the order they came out in is the order they will be placed.

The order will be:
#1 Dawn K - Confessional Lutheran - twitter: @rumor99 - http://.realrealityzone.com
#2 Ralph P - Reformed - twitter: @ralphprovance
#3 Matt L - Wesleyan - twitter: @mattlipan - http://mattlipan.blogspot.com/
#4 Connie W - Outlaw Preacher - twitter: @conniejoh2o - http://conniejoh2o.wordpress.com/

Disclaimer: For the sake of this little series I neither endorse, nor discredit any of the views stated.  This is all done in the spirit of an honest discourse.

I will say that each post is intelligent and well thought out, and it is clear that all the writers gave adequate time to the task. I would like to express my gratitude to all four contributers for taking the time to do this.

We should also be clear at the outset that these posts are written by individuals.  Certainly Dawn's post is not necessarily representative of ALL confessional Lutherans, nor is Connie's  representative of ALL Outlaw Preachers, nor Matt and Ralph's representative of ALL Wesleyans and Reformed respectively.  That should go without saying but sometimes people need reminded of these things.

Enjoy... and be nice.


Assurance and 1st John

Where does assurance come from?  While in a conversation with @zarotribe on twitter the topic of assurance arose, and the question lying underneath the conversation, though never explicitly stated, is "How can one know they are saved?"  @zarotribe's answer which he bases out of the entire book of 1 John is that genuine salvation is accompanied by fruit (I agree salvation is accompanied by fruit, but fruit is not the source of assurance).  I presume he would appeal to 1 John 1:7, 1 John 1:9, 1 John 2:3, 1 John 2:4-6, 1 John 2:10, 1 John 2:29, and more. However if you try to bind this book to handbook style logic without considering its purpose in fighting gnosticism this book will give NOBODY assurance who approaches it honestly.  I recall listening to Paul Washer speak a series of sermons on assurance from this book which affected me profoundly at the time, but later as I honestly looked at this passage Washer's words seemed to strip my assurance because his words were a constant call to look into myself to see if I matched up to the 1 John standard...  and if I didn't measure up, I was probably lost.

Just from the first two chapters (if you take the book at face value negating its offensive against gnosticism) you will find the criteria for salvation assurance to be astounding.

If First John is primarily a handbook on assurance, then to have assurance you must:
walk in the light (1:5-7)
confess sin (1:8-10)
keep His (Jesus') commandments (2:3)
walk in the same way he walked (2:6)
love your brother (2:9-11)
not love the world (2:15-17)
not sin (3:6)
practice righteousness (3:7)
not practice sin (3:9)
must give to brother in need (3:17)
Love God and observe His commandments (5:2)
And more...

Is there anybody willing to stand up and say this list gives them assurance?  Really?  You love God with all heart soul strength and mind?  If you do please let me know in the comments, I would be interested to hear about it.

Unfortunately I believed for a long time, and have taught youth for a number of years that this is the assurance handbook, and I have ran through this thing test by test with many youth while thinking I was doing them a favor.  (Please note I am a fan of Paul Washer, and I certainly appreciate his ministry, and the Lord has ministered his word to me through him, but there are some glaring errors with how he handles this book, and how I have handled it in the past.)  In Paul Washer's sermon series on this he affirmed that 1 John is the assurance handbook typically by going to 1 John 5:13 as the proof text.
"These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life."  
Washer and others, including myself at that time, would state that 5:13 was the purpose statement of the entire letter.  Sounds pretty cut and dried does it not?  Yet read the whole of chapter 5 leading up to vs 13, it is all about belief in the Son, and receiving the testimony about Him.  1 John 5:13 is not intended to sum the entire letter, but the section preceding it.  However, if you want to make 1 John the assurance handbook it is convenient to apply 5:13 to the rest of the letter as it's sole or primary purpose.  That is a touch dishonest though because throughout the letter John explicitly states various other purposes for it

1 John 1:4 ESV  And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
1 John 2:1-2 ESV  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  (2)  He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:12-14 ESV  I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name's sake.  (13)  I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.  (14)  I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:21 ESV  I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.
1 John 2:26 ESV  I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.
 This letter is laden with reasons for its existence, and to take any of the reasons and make it the primary message of the letter is a mistake.  What if you take 1 John 2:12-14 as the absolute reason of the epistle and neglect 5:13, what do you have?  You have universalism.  What if you take 1 John 2:1 as the absolute reason?  You are advocating sinless perfection.  What if you take 1 John 1:4 as the absoulte reason? Then it was all about John having joy.  You cannot take any of the "write this to you because..." statements to be the absolute purpose of the book.

The focus of this book was to give Christians who had been assaulted with false doctrine assurance that the doctrine they were holding to was true.  Doctrine's such as love of the brethren... confession of sin... the authority of Jesus' teaching.  The gnostics and antinomians who may have divorced faith from practice need to be exposed for what they were.  Those who would be esoteric about god needed exposed.  Therefore strong language correlating works and assurance are made, not to cause believers to question there own faith, but to make them steadfast in the doctrine they received and to question the teachings of those who were leaving their fold and potentially taking others with them (1 John 2:19).  In fact if you look past the 'test' passages you will see a number of passages that give blanket assurance apart from any actions taken by the believer, take 1 John 2:2 for example.  Gnosticism was promoting that God's will could not be known... which is why John is intense on walking in 'light' not darkness, affirming the visible reality of truth as it plays out.

Believers need to be cautious as they read this letter, and know that it is a letter that is on the offensive against the false teachings that was leading people astray, not a blanket letter on assurance of salvation.  If you make this letter entirely about assurance you will find that this letter is on the offensive against you to condemn you.  Yes, 1 John 5:1-13 is about assurance, but read some of the blanket blessings in there for those who believe, and notice how the first 4 verses are qualified by the following verses:

1 John 5:1-13 ESV  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.  (2)  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  (3)  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.  (4)  For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.  (5)  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  (6)  This is he who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.  (7)  For there are three that testify:  (8)  the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.  (9)  If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.  (10)  Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.  (11)  And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  (12)  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  (13)  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
I will leave it there for now.  Sorry if this post was a snoozer, but a misunderstanding of 1 John leads to despair, and not assurance.