What does it mean to be genuinely saved? If someone believes in Christ’s death and confesses his or her sin in true remorse but eventually ended up in sin, does that mean (s)he was never saved?
Emmanuel Oset: The answer is Yes and No. Yes and No because on the one hand, what we see about salvation is that it is a definitive action done not by us, not by anything that we merit or deserve but done by Christ, and salvation produces results, it produces fruits.
One of the metaphors that the Bible uses to describe salvation is ‘ New life’, ‘Regeneration’, so there’s something new, there’s a rebirth that happens where we become Christians, but also, the Bible also uses the metaphor of growth in describing our becoming Christians or becoming saved. So growth means that sometimes, the things that we have been experiencing prior to becoming Christians are still working in us even as we become Christians, and so growth in Grace means that we are becoming. Someone has said for instance that being a Christian is not that we are sinless but that we actually sin less and so, what that means is that as we grow and as we see Christ more and more, we become more and more like him.
“Being a Christian is not that we are sinless but that we actually sin less”
The things that held us down actually become less at work in our lives and my answer was also a ’Yes’ because I don’t know you or each person personally. I don’t know the exact situation you are in so this is a pastoral question and it’s the kind of question that we can answer better as you talk more and more about such things as ‘How did you become a Christian?’ or ‘What was told to you as a marker of being a Christian?’ and all those kinds of things. However, I would say those two realities of whether the person is saved or isn’t are true as well. One of the questions John presents to us in the book of First John to actually recognizing that we’re Christians is: 1. Are you seeing a growth in holiness? Are you seeing a hatred for worldliness in your personal life? 2. Are you also seeing a love for other people in the community of faith?
You see, part of the problems is that we have bought into this very individualistic kind of Christianity that says ‘Jesus has saved me’ so because he has saved me ‘I’m on my own’ and ‘I’m traveling to heaven’ but what we see and as we say many times in City Church is that even though Christ saves us individually, he grows us as a community and so one of the pieces of evidence that Christ is actually at work in your life is how much you are loving His people; ‘How much you are growing and belonging to his people?’ So, those are some of the things that I would say, ‘don’t just look at yourself and ask ‘Am I still doing this Christian thing?’ but ask about your growth in holiness and love for other people. Is the love of God propelling me outward away from myself and actually loving Christ?
“Is the love of God propelling me outward away from myself and actually loving Christ?”
Femi Osunnuyi: Let me just add to what Emmanuel has said with this analogy, because it can seem as though we are then saying that you can’t have an assurance of salvation and let me tell you something, “Assurance of salvation is the one thing Christianity gives you that no other religion will” So yes, you can know that you are saved. The Bible says that on the day of judgment we should have boldness but at the same time, Emmanuel is saying that you actually have to test, now, it’s God that fully 100 percent know who is saved but you can know, and you can have the assurance but also confirm it. Let me give you an example, my wife and I are married, ‘do I know that my wife loves me?’, the answer is ‘Yes, I’m assured my wife loves me’, ‘Do I need her to tell me that she still loves me even after 10 years of marriage?’ The answer is also ‘Yes’.
She could say, but I told you that I loved you when we got married so why do you want to hear it again, and truly, she told me she loved me then, in fact the act of getting married to me is actually the definitive sign that she loves me so I’m assured of her love but I need to have it deeper and deeper, in the same sense, the Bible says keep yourself in the love of God. God has demonstrated his love for us in that he sent his son to die for us, if I want to know definitively whether my wife loves me even though she shouted on me or whatever, I remember that she married me and she hasn’t left me right? and since I don’t have money, that’s different because if I have money, I could have said, ‘she loves me because she loves my money’, but I don’t have in that kind of way, so I can always look to the definitive act of the fact that she married me, she’s with me, but sometimes I need to know it more existentially, more experientially, and so it’s nice that she says it all the time.
“Yes, we must show fruits of salvation and yet we can grow in those fruits”
So the Bible says in Romans 5:8 , ‘God has demonstrated his love towards us that he sent his son to die for us and be a propitiation for our sin’, you can look to ‘two thousand years ago’ and what Jesus Christ did, to know whether God loves you but he then says ‘Keep yourselves in the love of God’, you see, ‘Coming to church, being a part of collective worship, doing your devotion, going through experiences of God and all of those different things’ are the ways we are trying to know more and be assured of that love of God that we already know in the cross.
That’s why in Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul was saying that ‘I want you to know this love that surpasses knowledge’. Although God has already explained it in the cross but Paul is saying you can also deepen it. In the same way you may have pledged your love for God in repentance and faith, but the greatest commandment is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength‘, in other words, you by yourself have to keep demonstrating on the one hand. Now, we know God is faithful and if God has declared is love for us, that’s it but for us sometimes, our love is fickle. When we are not sure if we are truly demonstrating our love, we must not forget what the Bible says, ‘By their fruit you will know them’ but even when you are showing the fruits, you can grow in that fruit, so you see it’s not an ‘either or’ situation, there is the definitive ‘yes’, but there is the deepening of it. When it comes to our love for God, we have to continue to prove it, but you can have assurance and it’s not just in how you feel, or just what you do, is that you truly accept what Christ has done for you and say ‘Yes, I know he died for my sins’, and now you want to live for him.
Answered by Emmanuel Oset, leader at City Church and Femi Osunnuyi, lead pastor of City Church.