This week’s question is frequently asked. I’ve heard fascinating and sometimes loud discussions from laity and clergy alike. When asked, I usually cop out and say “That’s above my pay grade.” I may add “I’m just in sales, that’s a management decision.”
That said, I have an opinion based on observing the world and specifically Christians and pseudo-Christians. I believe that if one is truly saved, then he or she cannot lose their salvation. However, it is equally true that there are some who think they’re saved but who aren’t.
Specifically, an example comes to mind. A well-known Episcopal bishop named John Spong wrote a book called “Unbelievable” in which he lists “Twelve Theses.” In each of his theses, Spong denies all the basics of the Christian faith. Virgin birth? Impossible. Resurrection from the dead. Impossible. Jesus is not the Son of God. Jesus’ miracles? Impossible in today’s post-Newtonian world. Traditional views of heaven and hell? Absolutely not since these are manipulative attempts at behavior control. And he goes on and on. Spong sold tens of thousands of books and was a celebrity guest on numerous talk shows and the subject of hundreds of newspaper and magazine stories and interviews.
I can’t help but believe that Bishop Spong has committed the one sin that grieves the Holy Spirit – that of denying Jesus Christ and allowing sin to control our lives. (Ephesians 4:30). But wasn’t he a bishop? Surely he knows more than I know. I remind the reader of Jesus’ dire warning of being misled by wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Then in Matthew 7:21-27, Jesus himself warns us that “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven. “ He concludes the passage saying “…and then I will declare to them I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
While none of us is qualified — or should — try to judge the status of one’s salvation – Jesus is clear. Most theologians interpret these words to mean that we might have gone to Vacation Bible School and gone to church and even served as an usher or on the Altar Guild… or even been a bishop or minister in a church. But none of that guarantees salvation. We are not saved by our works. And being a member of a church doesn’t guarantee salvation.
So what should we look for? An intimate experience and knowledge of God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:1-14, Paul writes in detail of our spiritual blessings in Christ. In verses 13 and 14, he tells us the words that promise our salvation — “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
So do I have the definitive answer to the editor’s question? No. That’s above my pay grade. However, I believe it’s possible that a person can think they’re saved but will find out they’re really not. After all, that’s what Jesus tells us. But, also remember Jesus’ words in John 3:17-18 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
There are churches in this area who will introduce you to Jesus this Sunday. Seek one out. Submit. Confess. Repent. Serve.