How can it be that someone who is “saved” can act so contrary to the clear commandments of God? What can you say about someone who professes a faith in Jesus Christ, but who fails to learn or apply His law-word?
Jesus never said, “You will know them by their professions of faith.” What He did say was that a person’s fruits will identify him/her as one who loves the Lord (Matt. 7:16). Additionally, we are told that those who love God will keep His commandments (John 14:15, 23). In light of this, a better way to discern whether or not you are talking to a brother or sister in Christ is whether or not they endeavor to act faithfully to the directives of God.
When faithfulness is used as a benchmark, God’s standard of righteousness (His law) is the only valid criteria with which to judge. Then, we don’t have to become confused when relatives, friends, fellow-church goers, or celebrities who have professed Jesus as their savior act in defiance of the commandments of God. We don’t have to wonder how they could do such things if they were truly saved. Being saved or not-saved is not our call, and Jesus never instructed us to make that judgment. He did tell us not to be fooled when those we encounter behave contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
We must remember that salvation is a result of the finished work of Christ appropriated to the elect. If someone is a child of God and acts contrary to the covenant, we should deem them unfaithful and disobedient, admonishing them when given the opportunity, and praying that they will come to repentance. (Isn’t that the progression God used when confronting David with his sins of adultery and murder?)
With this in mind, parents should spend more time in instructing and correcting their children with God’s law as the foundation, rather than trying to always determine whether or not they are saved. Salvation is a life-long pursuit, otherwise St. Paul wouldn’t have instructed us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). It is true that those of God’s elect will never lose their salvation; but since God has not placed halos or other distinguishing marks to make it easier to detect who is truly in the family of God, we must use the measurement Jesus clearly laid out.
Being saved is not the point; being faithful is!