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Is your Pastor saved? Created 12 August 2015

My children love to play hide and seek with me. When they were younger any place would do as long as I had no line of sight from where I was counting - eyes closed, of course. But as they grew older they came to realise that I would find them in the ‘usual places’; under the bed, behind the curtains, ... So, over time, hiding in the ‘usual places’ started making less sense. Nowadays they hide in places where I would not expect them - where it made no sense at all to hide. A place that is counter-intuitive perhaps, like directly behind me, or under the chair I am sitting on. The older one has figured out that moving places - thus being a ‘moving target - is the best possible strategy because she may appear to be in ‘no place at all’ - hiding in alternative locations.

So, even children can figure out how to - shall I say - deceive and how to obscure truth or reality. The best way is to hide in a place that is counter-intuitive or no one place but many.

Is your Pastor saved?

The question above is not mischievous, I don’t believe. Is your pastor indeed saved? Inasmuch as he (or she) may ask that of you, so you should be able to ask that of them. Because for the vast majority of believers in Christ, their salvation is pinned against the answer.

Pastor Pleasant-person (or Reverend Academic, or Father Compassionate), are you really saved?” Unfortunately history has shown us that the answer may not be what is expected.

image of church official

How do you know?

You see, the vast majority of believers, unfortunately, have very little idea of what ‘being saved’ really means. And the reason for that is that their Pastors, Priests and/or other Ministers of faith - the very people who teach them - have little idea themselves.

You think this impossible, or at least improbable - right? An arrogant statement made by a judgemental guy running a Christian website. And, not educated in a theological college, Bible school or university at that.

But allow me to show you something. Scripture. Consider that being a Pharisee in the days of Jesus was akin to such a one who had the highest possible education in the ways of God, interpreting Scripture, doctrine, spiritual authority and, of course, salvation. So, in today’s language, the Pharisees were something like Theology graduates at university - some with masters and others with doctor’s degrees. If not that, they were considered to be really ‘in the know’; something like New York Times Best seller authors, popular preachers and ‘officials high up in the church’; “people who really know the things of God- Of course!

To one of these - one of the very few who recognised that he may not hold the real truth about the Kingdom of God - Jesus made this statement, "You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things?” Jesus was saying, ‘You are one those who regularly and continuously teaches others and yet you have no idea about the most fundamental matters concerning the very faith you proclaim?’. The fact that Jesus was entirely serious about Nicodemus’ ignorance is shown by His clear and unambiguous teaching about spiritual rebirth: Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit”. So,being born again means your spirit (not your soul) gets born again.

image of Bible being read The point I am making here is that those who were expected to know the answer knew nothing at all. And, these very same people - despite their experience in ministry and despite their academic qualifications and despite them being recognised by all as godly teachers - were themselves totally ignorant about the most fundamental issues concerning God.

Can you see that whoever staked their salvation on the understanding of a Pharisee at the time of Jesus would likely not have entered the Kingdom of God?

You might think that this to have been an isolated incident? No.

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he is at pains to correct grave error taught by some (believers in Christ) who were instructing and guiding others. Speaking about the spiritual suicide of becoming circumcised in 5:12 he goes on to say, “I wish that the ones who are upsetting you would castrate themselves!”. Here’s the reason why Paul was so angry; despite their confession of faith, the fact that they intended well, went to church, prayed, gave money, worked in the 'church', etc., the erroneous teaching the church of Galatia was receiving had a bearing on the members' very salvation: You people who are trying to be made righteous by the Law have been estranged from Christ. You have fallen away from grace! (5:4)

Here you had sincere believers - all attending church faithfully - being led to believe that the thing they were doing would save them whereas, in fact, as it turns out, it is the very thing that gets them to “fall from grace”. To these believers Paul says “Christ will profit you nothing”, meaning, ‘it is as good (if not worse) as if you never knew Him’.

Shall you judge another?

At this junction you may be troubled by the idea of judging another's salvation, or even judging another altogether. Scripture does warn against that and explicitly instructs us not to do so - right? Well, not so right. The passage below from Matthew 7 makes it clear that with whatever judgement we judge others, we will be judged. Yet, when we look at Paul's encouragement to the Church in Corinth, it is pretty clear he wants them to be doing some judging:

image of Matthew 7:1-2 Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? 4 If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? 6 But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers! (1 Corinthians 6:1-6)

There seem to be circumstances in which Christians are encouraged to pass judgement on matters. Where it seems clear that we should not judge another is where we feel encouraged to wish some kind of a sanction or punishment on another for the ill they have committed. Doing that is judging another in the wrong way, and Scripture says clearly we should not do that (refer Matthew 7:1-2 above).

But where it comes to judging over disputes between believers, the Holy Spirit through Paul is at pains to sugest that 'non-Christians' should not have to judge on these matters. So, Christians ought not to take one another to court (refer 1 Corinthians 6:1-6 above). Yet, in that statement lies hidden the very fact that Christians should judge who indeed are Christians and who are not? In this one passage Paul refers to the ones not qualified to judge amongst Christians as "the unrighteous", "those who are least esteemed by the church" and "unbelievers". Clearly, Paul is suggesting that a definate distinction be made between believers and unbelievers. To do that the true Christian must judge the salvation of another person - there is no other way.

Have a look at another passage where Paul makes it clear that he paid no attention whatsoever to the assumed authority (read knowledge, qualification, experience, following, praise, popularity, approval, esteem, appointed role) of some who were in fact teaching the Word of God - the Bible as we know it today:

Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. (Galatians 2:1-5) (Judging: read a related article here)

Can you see that the true Christian takes particular care over who teaches him/her and to whose spiritual authority he/she subjects him/herself? Scripture encourages us to look out for false teachers and false prophets and "wolves in sheep's clothing", and to act accordingly. Then, if Scripture wants us to pick the wolf in sheep's clothing and not obey them, how else can that be done except than to judge the doctrine and indeed the salvation of another person? A wolf in sheep's clothing does not refer to 'a sheep that simply got the message wrong'. It refers to that which is not sheep; that which is not part of the family of God - despite its appearance and despite its teaching, and despite its approval amongst others. Those who are not saved.

I say again; if you or I are unable to spot a false teacher, then how can we spot a true teacher?

What Time has taught us

Consider that in history others asked this same question: Is my Pastor (or Pope) saved? Or, at least, 'Is the salvation which my Pastor (or Pope) is preaching really the salvation of the Bible?' And the question was both good and very timely (overdue in fact):

To what extent is this true today? Has the Reformation corrected all that needed to be corrected? And, to what extent has the fact that there was a Reformation put Reformers in some kind of comfort zone about their own erroneous teaching?

This brings me to Bible teachers and sin. Let me be clear, in this article I am not talking about examples of priests, pastors and other ministers of faith who have shown themselves to have perpetrated haenious crimes; rape, murder and the like. Of these there are unfortunately many. I am not referring to these. Whilst I do not approve of these terrible acts it is not for me to pass judgement on the person.

But I am dealing with those well-meaning men (and women) who probably intend only good (like Nicodemus), but who themselves have never received a born again spirit and so can never testify to what New Testament salvation really means. Those who, like Nicodemus and the teachers of the Galatian church and perhaps the superiors of Martin Luther, and others, thought they knew what needed to be taught, based on what they were taught, but instead nothing at all.

Like the 6-year old who hides under the chair which Daddy is sitting on, those who need salvation may be found in the most unexpected places of all - the pulpit.

What can you do about it?

  1. Make sure that you read the Bible for yourself and sincerely ask the Holy Spirit to teach you.
  2. Clearly understand what New Testament salvation means.
  3. Study your church's doctrine concerning New Testament salvation. Do make sure that you cut through the theological jargon. Do make sure you are not guided by the number of text references but look at the appropriateness of these references.
  4. Make sure you yourself are indeed re-birthed by the Holy Spirit.
  5. Out of concern for them, ask your Pastor, Priest or other Minister of faith the most important question they will ever need to answer: How do you know you are born again?

For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24)

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Time spent reading the Bible and meditating on it is likely better time spent than reading any other thing, including this website.

If you do read what is written here, please consult the Bible and test what is written. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not from God.

Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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