Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dr. Spurlin Answers

Dr. Spurlin, I have a friend who says that when he was young he was saved in the church that he attended at the time. However, he no longer will attend church and shows little or no concern about spiritual issues. How can I be sure that he was ever saved?

ANSWER: You can't. There is no way that you and I can see what is in the heart and mind of any other person. We have a hard enough time correctly knowing and dealing with our own. Jesus taught that we can tell a false prophet by his fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). James taught that to say that you have faith and do not have works proves that your faith is dead (Jam. 2:17). If we take that principle and apply it to those who claim to be Christians, we may have some idea of whether a person is saved or not, though we cannot know with 100% assurance.

On the other hand, your friend also cannot be at peace with his salvation "experience" because he is not living in obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ. The Apostle John wrote concerning this in 1 John. In 1:6, John states that "if we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." John had already taught that in God "there is no darkness at all." Your friend is walking in darkness. That is he is not living in obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ. Therefore, he is not in fellowship with the Father and he cannot truly be at peace in his mind.

In chapter 2:3, John teaches that the way that we have assurance that we are saved is found in our desire and attempt to keep His commandments. We will not do it perfectly in this life (1:8-9), but we should progress day-by-day in spiritual maturity.

The point is each of us as individuals can have assurance of our personal salvation. However, apart from someone having outward fruit "proving" their salvation we cannot know for certain that he/she is a true Christian. The best we can do is pray for that one.

I have one little correction to what I've said. I have found if I ask someone to tell me what it takes to be a Christian, I find what they believe about salvation. They get the point and then answer: "Yes, I have done that," or "No, I have not."

Thanks for asking!
- Dr. Steve Spurlin