How do you know if someone is saved?

Catch yourself listening to people in different spiritual settings.

Do you ever unknowingly ponder the salvation of others based on what they say in conversation? I think we have an engrained filter that causes us to do this. Sometimes it’s awful because we end up attributing worth or disdain to people based on how they handle themselves in simple conversations, but perhaps with care….this tendency can be siphoned for edification, not comparison. Of course, all of this begs the question…

How do we know if someone is saved?

Do we just ask them? Consider some of these time-worn methods…

Do you think someone is saved because they said so?

Do you think someone is saved because you personally led them through the sinner’s prayer, and they said all the important elements, i.e., confessed their sin, confessed Jesus as Lord, asked God into their heart, and sealed it with Jesus’ name?

Do you think someone is saved because they’re members of a church roster, having been baptized, entered into the rolls, and confirmed?

Do you think someone is saved because you heard them pray at a prayer meeting, and were deeply impressed with their ability to articulate prayers?

Do you think someone is saved because they don’t live like they used to live?

Do you think someone is saved because they haven’t missed a corporate worship gathering in a while?

Do you think someone is saved, because they are able to articulate all the important doctrines about justification through faith?

Do you think someone is saved because they ran weeping to the altar to receive salvation during that outdoor festival you saw them at?

Do you consider someone to be saved because they sound just like John Piper, with everything they speak about lacquered in superlatives concerning God’s glorious, sovereign, eternal worth?

We size people up all the time.

I’m not tripping out over this yet. But I have a better question…

What are we evaluating each other by?

Testimony? Life change? Baptism? Properly filled out church bulletin? A subtle glow around their forehead?

Silly, I know. If I asked a young Sunday school kid the same question, the answer would probably come with startling brevity…

They love Jesus.

Oh! I agree. The implications of that three word sentence could pack a barn-house with theology.

For a rebellious sinner to actually love Jesus assumes that the first ten chapters of Romans’ soteriology have already exploded upon their darkened hearts in a flurry of divine light.

Then again, is it not more so the person who has understood God’s love towards them in Christ? In 1962, Karl Barth was asked to summarize his 14 volume magnum opus, Church Dogmatics, in a single sentence. He scratched his head methodically, then replied, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” The Good News is not primarily that we love God, but that he loved us first! (1 Jn. 4:10).

Of course, we can’t see the intangible love between God and a human subject. So we often revert to tangible evidence as our evaluation.

But WHAT should the evidence of an invisible salvation be that would satisfy us? Especially since salvation is supernatural, and any evidence we could put together on a list is, well, subjective at best?

Before you object by pointing out that it is not our business to inquire about each other’s personal salvation, think about this…How would you advise a stranger who asked you to help them grow spiritually? Would it change your advice whether they were born again or not?

About Lazo

Lazo is the pastor for preaching and vision at Reality SB where he is committed to challenging Santa Barbara's independence by calling the city to follow Jesus. You might like these blog posts, 5 Wrong Ways To Comfort Hurting Peoples, or Daisy Love and the Magic Eraser. You can follow Chris on twitter at @LazoChris.

Posted on October 24, 2011, in erratic. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. The Bible only presents one requirement for salvation and that is faith. Faith is always accompanied by repentance beforehand and confessing the Lord’s name afterwards.

    In Romans 10:9-14 Paul mentions both believing and confessing the Lord’s name, but eventually emphasizes calling on the Lord’s name. If someone calls on the Lord’s name sincerely, then he must believe. I suppose Paul leaves us with “Whoever calls upon the Lord’s name shall be saved” because it is visible and before men and is a sure sign that someone has received the Lord. If we have any doubt we can help them by asking, “Wow, you must have believed into the Lord.” This conversation will clear up any doubt and we and they can know once and for all that they have been saved.

    Then we can help them with 1 John 5:13 “I have written these things that you may know that you have eternal life, to you who believe into the name of the Son of God.” Have you believed? Then you have eternal life. We can know. Regarding our eternal salvation, we don’t have to live our life in suspense until we die and see what the Lord says then. We can know for certain that we have it and then get on to enjoying it by loving the Lord and growing in His life.

    The Bible doesn’t leave vague something this crucial to God’s purpose and our destiny.

    Sure loving God is a sign that someone is saved, but it is not the factor of His salvation. Like you point out, God’s love is. There may come days when our heart is cold toward God and it seems that our love is not there anymore. But this hasn’t shaken our salvation because our salvation is prepared and initiated by God. On days like this we can help people with Romans 8:16, “The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God.” There is a witness deep within every believer regardless of there condition that assures them that they are saved.

    If they feel like they’ve done something to loose there salvation or that God could never forgive them for what they have done, then we can help them with John 10:28, “I give to them eternal life, and they shall by no means perish forever…”

    God’s love is the source of our eternal salvation, His grace is the means of salvation, and His righteousness is the power of salvation.

    As far as your last question, how can someone grow if they are not born again?

    • Kyle, great depth in your comment. And I would agree with you, except that I’m not talking about our personal assurance of salvation; I’m talking about ways we can ascertain the condition of another person…as in a friendly counseling session. Romans 10:9:-14 wouldn’t always work for that, though it works for my personal salvation. There have been plenty of times I’ve heard someone “call upon the name of the Lord” under pressure, emotion, or deception. I am not the judge of their souls in these cases, however, this shows the possibility that one could fake salvation through confession. Belief cannot be observed through word only.

      The Bible doesn’t leave salvation vague for the confessor to be assured by God. But it sure does take some discernment on third parties!

      But I understand your point. Salvation is easy to gauge because it’s done entirely by God for us. And I think you indirectly answered the main question in your closing line, anyway. There should be some observable growth in someone who has been saved. My main hangup is that in a fleeting conversation with someone you don’t know very well, this can be hard to understand.

      Thanks for the Biblical insights, brotha.

      • I see what you are getting at. Yeah that can be hard to tell sometimes especially if you only have a short session with someone.

        In my experience a lot of times seeing how they react to the Bible or their attitude toward Christ can say a lot. So often I put out some feelers or drop some lines and see if they bite, just to gauge them or see where they are coming from. And some times there is just a sense that I don’t know, this guy might not be saved. I wouldn’t say I know for sure but just have a little hesitation to believe it. And then based on how open he is with me to talk about God’s word or salvation then I just go from there.

        • I like that. You’re seeing if their worldview still colides!
          In a lot of these situations I imagine I will be praying profusely :-)

  2. would someone be saved if they told you that you standards for christianity are to high. i was told this when i quoted that you should not covet your neighbors wife. one of our comandments from the bible. yet that person says they pray and read the bible. would you say that they are saved by the fruits they produce from their faith. god tells us that he is the vinedresser and will remove the vine that does not produce fruit because it is basicaly worthless. i believe you can study a christian person and through time you will know if they have a true relationship with god and it is not surfacy.what about a women who says she is a christian but abandins her husband and kids,what if that women starts a relationship with another man all though it is not a physical one and she stops going to church and says that church puts a bad taste in her mouth. would that husband be wrong to say that he doesn’t believe she is actualy saved. then would he have grounds for a devorce based on 1 corinthians 7: 15-16.I beleive that if a person has a true relationship with god you can tell because jesus tells us that his yoke is easy and so our burden is light, if a christian goes through a difficult time then you can tell if they are saved because you can se that their burden is light because jesus lives in them and his grace gives them peace. would you agree or disagree.

    • Dan, are these personal experiences with people? Because those can be complicated. I can’t really cast assumption on people I don’t know. And I am not really seeing the connection you made between Jesus’ burden being light, and our ability to go through a difficult time as revealing a person’s salvation. Surely, many true believers do not feel the lightness of their burden.

      But I CAN say that there seems to be a tension in Scripture. Committing sin does not cut us off from salvation. Yet dwelling in habitual sin without remorse or desire to repent should give us great cause to question our salvation.

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