“Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. (John 6:64-66)
Were these “disciples” that turned away from Jesus saved? No, it’s clear from the passage they were never saved. What’s even more compelling is the passage indicates Jesus knew they would not be saved when they began following Him and it’s apparent from other sections of scripture that He knew this before he even created the universe. This is an interesting subject that came up in my life recently through a conversation I had with a friend. To start, I believe in eternal salvation through faith and faith alone. Our salvation is not predicated on any works of man, and once you are truly saved then it is secure and you cannot lose your salvation. I am a firm believer in this.
…not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:9-11)
The law cannot be kept nor shall one even try. Did Paul not spend a massive amount of his ministry speaking out against the Judaizers who believed that in order to follow Christ you also had to follow the law?
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Galatians 3:10-14)
Paul even conveys during his ministry that keeping the law will “kill” you.
who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter (the law) kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6)
Jesus removed this “curse”…
Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… (Galatians 3:11-13)
With that being said, I must say that it’s perplexing to witness an individual, who by all means, considers themselves “Christian”, but does not display the “signs” of being a follower of Christ. Here’s what I mean. I’ve encountered many people, and so have my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who will proclaim to be “Christian”, but will then continue to actively live a lifestyle that is counterintuitive to how a Christian lifestyle should appear. They’ve continued down this path for an extended period of time…years. For some reason, at least in my experience, most of these individuals whom I’ve encountered when asked why they consider themselves Christian the answer seems to be… “because my parents are and I grew up in a Christian household.” I know that it’s not up to me to say whether an individual is saved or not, because only God knows what’s in our hearts, but I’ll admit it’s very difficult to navigate my internal feelings about such individuals. Are we to be led by our “feelings” though? No, we’re to be led by faith and faith alone. We cannot judge someone’s salvation because we truly don’t know if they are a Christian or not. They could very well simply be early in their walk with Christ or they can be a backslidden Christian. There is no way we can know for sure. God did not design us with this ability to “sniff out” a fake Christian. It’s the Devil that gives us the idea that we have this “power” and “authority”. This is the whole point of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares. Why does Satan plant tares among the wheat field? One of the reasons is that he wants to fool us and manipulate us in pointing a finger at others to keep us at odds with one another through dissension. However, Christ does give us the ability to recognize sound doctrine and doctrine that is perverting the truth. He gives us the ability to notice when others are not walking in His ways even after hearing the truth. In this fashion we have discernment through the Holy Spirit. He will move us in certain directions for our protection to provide a proper environment conducive for continual spiritual nourishment and growth so we can portray the love and grace of our Lord to minister to those we may “feel” might be a false follower. The supposed false follower very well might be a member of The Lambs elect, and it might be you who God chose to use to lead this person to Jesus. Which is why Christ tells us in the parable of the wheat and the tares that the only way to decipher who is and who isn’t a follower is time and Himself along with the angels. It’s not up to us to pull out a tare. Eventually over time the tare might uproot itself.
They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. (1 John 2:19)
Scripture is very clear that salvation is not works based, but scripture is also very clear that one will display “signs” that they are indeed saved.
In the morning, as He was returning to the city, He became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, He went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And He said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered. (Matthew 21:18-19)
Why did Jesus curse this fig tree? The fig tree was “advertising” fruit, but when Christ went to pick from it there was no fruit to be found. Did Christ not know there would not be any fruit available? Quite the contrary, Jesus absolutely knew the tree would be barren. This was a teaching moment created by our Lord to show the disciples who were with him at the time about the danger of counterfeit Christianity. Yes, the tree represents spiritualess Israel, and the “condemnation” or “curse” represents the coming judgement during the tribulation period of the nation of Israel, but it very much also represents the “false advertising” of bearing fruit of the Holy Spirit. This applies to some in the world who, through false worship, will not inherit the Lord’s kingdom.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. (Matthew 7:21-23)
Does the apostle James not say that “faith without good works is dead faith”? Meaning if the signs are not there and visible that you’re a Christian than there is a possibility you are not saved. When you truly give yourself to Christ you finally understand that you are committing to a life of slavery. You are proclaiming Jesus Christ to be your Master, but before you get to this point you discover that you are a wretched sinner who deserves to be eternally separated from God. You realize all the terrible things you have done in your life and you realize our Master offers a free gift of forgiveness forever so you can be born again a new woman or man in Christ Jesus. As a result of your new found faith and reliance your heart begins to change because you have a heart of repentance. You begin to grow deeper in your relationship with Him and because you begin to get to know Him more intimately He continually changes your heart. You are saved by grace.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. (Ephesians 2:8)
Paul also tells us to “test” ourselves.
Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test. (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Paul calls us to look at our actions and attitudes to see if we are behaving as God commands. The proof that a person is a Christian is not because they said a prayer, or performed a fast, got baptized, or go to church. The proof that a person is a Christian is the appearance of a transformed life. The appearance that your life is a reflection of the life of Jesus Christ, and that His life begins to show more and more through you with each passing day. The term “once saved, always saved” can be very misleading. It can imply that once you proclaim to be “saved” you can then go and sin like crazy and still consider yourself a “Christian”.
What are examples of possible counterfeit Christianity?
1. Someone who gets drunk and “parties” routinely with no feelings of conviction and believes they can then “wash it away” by going to church on Sunday.
2. A homosexual who proclaims to be a Christian, but continues to live the homosexual lifestyle without a conviction to change.
3. Someone who proclaims to be a Christian, but then commingles Christianity with false world religions without conviction to change.
4. Someone with an addiction to pornography who has no conviction to change.
Are you noticing a theme here? All of these examples have a chance to truly be saved if they have a true heart of repentance. True Christian repentance involves a heartfelt conviction of sin, a contrition over the offense to God, a turning away from the sinful way of life, and a turning towards a God-honoring way of life. So once saved, always saved? Yes, but it’s not a license to continually give in to the flesh without remorse.
What does a Christian life look like?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
How do we lead a Christian lifestyle once we are saved if we are called upon not to attempt to follow the law?
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them. (2 Romans:14-15)
Christians follow God’s laws instinctively because we first follow Christ through faith who fulfilled every portion of the law on the cross so He could offer all of us the decision to accept and cover ourselves with His veil of purity. Jesus is our propitiation, the One who has satisfied the Father on our behalf so we can be kept from wrath and condemnation and be forgiven of our sins to inherit eternal life.
And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” (Isaiah 29:13)