Why We Can’t Judge Whether or not Someone Possesses Eternal Life

By Jack Weaver and our fellow Administrator, John.

We at ExP are sometimes accused of condemning to hell people that don’t agree with our Biblical view of the gospel.  We would like to state, unequivocally, that we cannot, and therefore do not, judge whether someone is or is not a believer.

We cannot condemn anyone, nor do we wish to see anyone condemned.  The Bible is very clear on why anyone would be condemned, or not condemned:

John 3:18:  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

When we hear someone introduce works into the salvation equation, it would be negligent for us to ASSUME they were saved.  If someone is not currently clear on God’s plan of salvation, it is at least possible that they were never clear on God’s plan of salvation.

What if someone currently claims to be an atheist?  Can we know that such a person has never believed in Jesus as his Savior?  No.  According to scripture, someone who is believer can fall away:

Luke 8:13:  They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

The Bible teaches that anyone who has ever believed in Jesus as Savior is eternally secure.  So, even a professing atheist COULD be a heaven-bound believer, if he ever trusted in Jesus as his Savior.   Having said that, would it be wise to assume that a professing atheist is a believer?  We don’t think so.  We think it would be best to tell such a person the gospel message.

What if someone is a professing Christian, is an active churchgoer, prays regularly, reads his Bible, tries to live a clean lifestyle, and does good works, but contradicts his profession of faith in Christ with statements that indicate that he thinks works are necessary in order for someone to get to heaven? His contradictory statements could include that one must “repent of sins” or “commit one’s life to Christ” in order to be saved, or that one must have a change in behavior and/or good works if he really is saved.  He might even think that he could lose or forfeit his salvation.  In such cases, would it be wise to assume he has ever trusted in Christ alone as Savior?  Just like with the atheist, we think it would be be best to tell such a person the gospel message.

In the case of the professing atheist, his confession is “I don’t believe in God.”  In the case of the professing Lordship “salvationist”, his confession will most likely be “I believe salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone”, but then he will contradict that statement by adding works to the equation.  So, in reality, neither the atheist nor the Lordship “salvationist” is testifying to believing the gospel NOW.

We should approach each person with the assumption that he may not have heard or believed the gospel, unless he can clearly articulate why he is going to heaven, and it is based solely on the finished work of Jesus Christ.  This is not because we want to be judgmental or condemning, but because God wants all men to be saved, and so should we.

43 responses to “Why We Can’t Judge Whether or not Someone Possesses Eternal Life

  1. John, the “retired preacher” moniker referred to the late Jack Weaver, the founder of this site.

    Jack had a heart for the gospel and spent his life preaching, teaching, and witnessing. He passed away in January, 2015.

  2. Why retire? You are 100% on point preach if God called you to preach

  3. Thanks John, I did read it, I think it’s very good. Seems these loadshippers forget that nowhere are we told to look for ‘evidence’ one is saved. I commented on David Cloud who speaks of that evidence. One of his articles suggests others are using ‘easy prayerism’ which he says ‘fails to deal with repentance’ (citing Acts 17). He then describes repentance again, stating “Repentance means a change of mind that results in a change of life. It means to turn to God from sin. Bible examples of repentance show a clear change in people’s behavior.”

    I’m always baffled that they ignore clear evidence to the contrary in the churches in the epistles. And I wish people would prove all things by His Word, not just blindly accepting and quoting these men.

  4. Thanks John. I brought up Demas and said that even though he went back in the world, he was a fellow laborer, and since the Holy Spirit certainly knew if He was his and name Him, I can know also. The Word is good enough for me. Will check that, thank you.

  5. Holly, the errant presumption that someone who “walks away from the faith” was never “truly saved” is just another form of fruit inspection.

    I agree with you that if we think someone may not be clear on the gospel, that we should share it with them.

    Lordship “Salvationists” spend a lot of energy looking for evidence that people are (or are not) saved, but they deny Biblical proof of people who were saved (soil 2 believers, Demas, people who believed but did not confess Christ, etc.).

    Linked below is an article we did on this subject a while back:


  6. Thank you so much for clarifying Phil, I agree with you. In fact these things were written so we could KNOW AND it says so that we (believers) may believe on the name of the Son of God . We can see what God’s record was and go by that vs. our feelings of assurance, or security, etc. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word. I wrote a little on this today.

    The original woman I was dealing with was saying two things basically.

    1. That we should be able to know after a period of time if someone has seemingly ‘walked away from the faith’ that they were never saved. (I disagreed and told her I’d be unwilling to say that, but inclined to share the gospel with them).

    2. Those that never believed the free gift was eternal life (I capitalized never to be sure), I asked her what it was they were saved from? She feels that whether or not they believed in eternal life, that they are still ‘saved’.

    Saved from what? If the solution isn’t eternal that what is it? Christ died for part of our sins?

    I never could get an answer, very sad.

  7. I agree Phil
    Gal 1 confirms that we can start out in Grace and go astray from the Truth of the Gospel . Peter did that when he got up from the table and Paul got in his face for it.
    Believer people get involved in cults like JW’s starting out in Grace but get snapped up by the cults. the cults prey on new believers or those who are willfully ignorant of Gods Word by not studying it for themselves.

    so yes souls can be saved and get mixed up in all kinds spiritual strongholds even denying the Lord Jesus and still be saved .
    If Grace can not be abused then it is not Grace

  8. Phil, I agree. We do not have to continue in faith in order to remain saved.

  9. Let me see if I can clarify. If a person has believed the gospel of his salvation as a gift, but some time later became confused by thinking that he had to, for example, repent of his sins, or confess his sins, or be baptized, or some other thing added to his one time simply receiving eternal life by faith, then I believe he would still be saved because he didn’t include any other requirements at the time he believed and received his salvation other than Christ’s finished work. In other words, anything subsequent to simply accepting Christ as his Savior, like later becoming confused by additional requirements like works, would not nullify his eternal salvation. I believe we are saved at a saving moment of time and not by our continuing in saving faith. I hope I am being clear on this.

  10. John,

    I agree — since water baptism and confession both were works of the Mosaic law, and most certainly we know that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Gal 2:16)

  11. Phil, here are some of my thoughts on what you said. The Bible tells us in 1 Cor 4:4-5

    For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

    So I agree we should not judge whether somehow someone has come to believe at one time, or whether they are saved. However, if they NEVER have believed the gift was eternal life, what did they receive? If they NEVER believed it was free, then they are working for it correct? I emphasize never because some believed at one time but then fell into doubt.

    On the other hand, do we want to vacillate and in any way unknowingly compromise the truth by making our own allowances? I don’t know if someone initially believed the gospel, the simple gospel, and later had their minds corrupted, but either way, I go over the gospel with them, what belongs, and what does not, for if they are unsure, they may not have believed, and I don’t want to be responsible for them being lost by just figuring they’re ‘close enough’ if you know what I mean. For me, best I stick with what His Word says.

    I am not by any means suggesting in the slightest that we go overboard ourselves and corrupt the simplicity that is in Christ, but if they think water baptism or confessing sins to keep their salvation is part of the gospel, we must set them straight with the Word of God in love, as Paul did at Galatia.

    Peter and Barnabas were not perfect, however, they still were to be blamed for they were not walking uprightly about the truth of the gospel. Thank the Lord for men who stand for consistency and clarity on the gospel.

    If we have added works, the Bible says that we have nullified grace. It’s no longer grace, but a debt. I want to be so careful not to add or take away from the finished work, nor suggest even slightly it’s o.k. if someone else does. We want to help them back to the truth, or lead them to a truth they may have never known.

    I don’t know when someone has truly just believed and been convoluted, however we do see a warning to not allow it in our midst. It keeps saved people in bondage and ineffective as laborers in the harvest and it keeps lost people lost. Because a changed gospel cannot save. Another gospel cannot save. At least that is how I understand it from His Word.

    But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. 2 Cor 11:3-4

    In Christ, Holly

  12. Phil, I agree that if someone is trusting in water baptism or continual confession to become/remain saved, it is possible that they first trusted in Christ alone, but then became confused by false doctrine.

    However, someone must, at some point in his life, trust in Christ alone as Savior to have eternal life.

    If a person has always thought that water baptism or continual confession (or any other works) are required to have or keep eternal life, than they have never trusted in Christ alone.

  13. I don’t think we should judge whether someone has come to saving faith because of consistencies at the time of ones trusting Christ as Savior.

    Some people, not meaning to, will come to trust in Christ’s saving work for their complete eternal salvation, yet some things concerning their salvation are inconsistent with all that the finished work of Christ has given them. In some cases they may think that they have to receive water baptism, or that every time they sin they have to confess it to keep their salvation. People are not perfect and their understanding is not always consistent. If a person has trusted Christ as his Savior and has believed Christ did it all and paid it all to secure eternal life for him, then I don’t believe that some inconsistencies in his salvation beliefs, like those i mentioned above, disqualify him from being truly saved. The person will over time discover that things like baptism and keeping his sins confessed are not also required for salvation or to stay saved. I think the new believer, without realizing it, can easily not have it all together in his mind and misunderstand certain Bible passages, yet receive by faith the free gift of eternal life through Christ’s finished work.

  14. Curtis, I agree with you about the “Free Grace” monicker. That is one of the reasons why I wrote the post about Grace Ecumenism.

  15. unfortunately “Free Grace” is becoming a biblical term that is getting muddy and being defined by man as among others a cross-less gospel.
    the language is being reloaded to another definition.
    myself I do my best not to get tangled up in titles of Grace but simply attempt to point souls to Jesus and his finished work.

    when a Preacher takes a pulpit like SBC he is binding himself to that pulpit and the doctrine laid down by the ruling elder board. To go against the formal doctrinal statement he is asking to be removed from pulpit.

  16. Sure are a whole lot of pastors who think they are able to know the ‘false converts’ by their works. They make a living accusing people daily, and so people think this is not ‘ear tickling’, so it must somehow be true. And they share their videos and sing their praises (proving to their cronies that they are a ‘true convert’)

    One ex-FB friend recently likened me to John 8:44 and suggested that many of us in this ‘free grace camp’ are unregenerated.

    So sad they don’t see the majority of their time is spent accusing others. They don’t really want to know what the Word says, they spend all their day striving about the law, and really are self-condemned; reminds me of this verse.

    But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. Titus 3:9-11

  17. John, that is very good insight. The wolves keeping the sheep from their flocks, whatever they may be. I am thoroughly dismayed at the amount of teachers who compromise the truth. It is not their truth to compromise, don’t they tremble or respect His Word at all? (Is 66:2)

    I wonder how they excuse their associations, they play fast and loose with doctrine and they introduce these wolves under the guise of just quoting the ‘good part’ the wolf said, and never a warning, “this guy is a wolf”.

    One recently I spoke to, asking him why he would quote Augustine or Saint Anselm, and basically he didn’t see anything wrong with quoting it in a ‘casual setting’, (something to that effect).

    What about the new disciple that has no idea what he is being introduced to is tainted? And they run after the teachings of the wolf their teacher they trust has quoted? Because after all, they want to learn and draw near to God.

    It is frustrating, and many times I have been told by pastors, that I am not to speak, one told me in a Facebook setting that I was to ‘keep my mouth shut’. I did tell him since I did not accept his authority, I’d have to decline. Another after a long discussion about Rick Warren’s false teachings didn’t go his way, told me he refused to talk to me any longer until I went and got my husband…. 🙂 I told him I was a widow, and the Lord was basically in that position now, so to feel free to talk to him and get back with me 🙂

    I’m not always patient, learning though…. He said he is going to make a “case study regarding over-zealous facebook females”. He is a SBC teaching pastor…

  18. Holly, I think of hirelings as the careless teachers or preachers who don’t protect their flocks from the wolves. I guess it’s hard to tell when the teachers or preachers are also wolves. In the second case, the wolves probably try to protect their flocks (or wolf packs) from the sheep. That is why I we would find ourselves so unwelcome in many “churches.”

  19. I see more and more teachers who were thought of as being sound, compromising by their associates. We were trying to decide tonight if hirelings were also the wolves or just these careless teachers or preachers who allow error to creep in, and in doing so allow the wolves to get at the sheep.

  20. Holly, I know what you mean. It’s like they think we’re all on the same team, even though some of their teammates are teaching a false gospel.

  21. That’s a good definition of churches John. I believe you could maybe add for one more group type, believers who are in the middle of two and three. They never believed in works or got bewitched, but they don’t quite clearly see the problem with those who have, they are peacekeepers (not peacemakers) who don’t want to be involved. I don’t know if I explained it well enough, but I continue to be amazed by those even in ministry who preach a clear gospel but call hyper-Calvinist teachers their brethren.

  22. Mary, there are likely some who have trusted Christ among the Pentecostal and Charismatics, just as there are among Lordship Salvationists. I think the members of any church that teaches a false (or fuzzy) gospel fit into a few broad categories, as follows:

    1. Unbelievers
    2. Believers who have become bewitched by a false gospel
    3. Believers who are clear on the gospel, but haven’t had the courage or wisdom to separate

    I think that Charismatics and Lordship “salvationists” actually share a lot in common – neither are willing to base their assurance of salvation on God’s word. In the case of Charismatics, they look for manifestations of the Holy Spirit (tongues, etc.) to make them “feel saved”. In the case of Lordship “salvationists”, they look for changed behavior and works to make them “feel saved.”

  23. Just wondering if someone would shed some light for me, if I am correct in assessing that the Pentecostal and charsmatic movmt is false because they have an arminian theology, which says u can lose yr salvation. So does that mean most of them are not saved and some r in spite of their movement. As I don’t believe tongues are for today. Was listening to John Macarthurs review of his strange fire conference and he said there is a revival with Reformed Theology, not surprising. That if we were not Reformed we were irrelvant I guess that makes me irrelevant.
    He has upset the conservative charasmatics that the whole movement is demonic filled with mysticism, liberalism, psychology and so on. They r accusing him of broad brushing all charsmatics into one lot when they are not. Aren’t all the pentecostals false in their theology, doctrine and eschatology. Trying to research the pentecostal movement again as i am surrounded by them. They hardly ever admit to losing their salvation, but in the same breathe they say, if u apostasise or recant or become an atheist, that you were never saved. I think calvanism has crept in and they are always looking for evidence of their salvation.

  24. Martin not sure when the last time you read the Gospel of John, if it has been awhile i would read it again. and remember it states over 90 times Belief gives a person eternal life that can not be lost.

    John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

  25. Martin,

    Thanks for your comment.

    We are happy you have come to the point of understanding God’s Grace. No need to be “fighting” because once you understand Grace you can relax in God’s PROMISE of Eternal Life in Jesus Christ alone:

    1 John 2:25
    “And this is the promise that he (God) hath promised us, even eternal life.”
    John 10:28
    “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

    Those whose faith is in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation are sealed for all eternity by His Holy Spirit — never to change.

    Ephesians 1:13
    “In whom (Jesus) ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,”

    We look forward to your further comments.

    In Jesus Christ eternally, Jack

  26. yawol, welcome and thanks for your comments.

    You said: “..and the realization that the work of Jesus Christ is done.”

    My comment: Trusting Christ’s finished work on one’s behalf is what faith is all about. I have prayed that you will grow in the knowledge of grace. I would recommend focusing on Christ and not on yourself or anything else when you struggle with doubts.

  27. So very difficult, problably the most difficult thing in the world: faith. I have been struggling with faith in Jesus Christ my whole life. First starting out in fear, then into legalism, then into good works for incentive, then for egoic and self esteem needs, then universalism, then christian -buddhist syncretism ,then indifference, then anger, then atheism and a mental breakdown and the realization that the work of Jesus Christ is done. Still so many strongholds on me but I am fighting for the most free gift in the universe, to accept forgiveness and Jesus unconditional love for me.

    Martin Lochner , Cape Town.

  28. Max,

    So good to hear from you and your excellent comment.

    My dear old/young friend, you haven’t wavered from the Gospel Truth!!!

    For our friends at ExPreacherMan, Max was a tremendous help to us when he attended Florida Bible College and I was pastor of Palmetto Bible Church in Perrine FL, many moons ago.

    We pray you are doing well, will come back and share your Biblical wisdom with us again soon.

    In Jesus Christ eternally, Jack

  29. Max, welcome and thanks for your comment.

    I agree!

  30. Always assume someone needs the gospel… always give the gospel… then it is up to the individual. If nothing else, it reinforces the doctrine. For some, they are confused because someone convinced them, “You gotta do your part”. BUT, God in His GRACE, honored that moment in time when they placed their faith in Jesus as the satisfactory payment for their sin. They were born into the family of God and even though the destroyer has them confused, they are Heaven Bound… because of His Grace.

  31. Matt for Grace and Truth

    John, good additional point regarding believers also being COMPETENT to share the gospel message.

  32. Matt, good point. Believers who are clear on the gospel message are much more confident, and competent, to talk about it with others.

  33. Matt for Grace and Truth

    Another vital benefit in presenting the gospel message every service is that it equips the congregation to also confidently share the good news outside of church.

  34. southwestbiblestudies

    I think along that reasoning, if that person believes in saved by grace through faith, why do they profess otherwise. And when I bring up the topic with them, they get upset. I’m referring to preachers. So your article makes sense. It seems people want to believe in works so they can think they are more righteous.

  35. Thanks Bob,

    We appreciate your comment — the ultimate answer is an understanding of and believing the Gospel:
    Romans 1:16
    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for IT is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

    So we preach the Gospel, instant in season and out…

    I am happy that you are associated with the REAL Florida Bible College of Tampa with Yankee Arnold. Give him our thanks for standing strong for salvation by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ alone!!

    In Jesus Christ eternally, Jack

  36. I have remarked recently that we might be pretty sure, based on someone’s CLEAR statement, that they are saved, yet we cannot really know for sure that anyone is lost – regardless of their present message – because we do not know all that they heard and believed in the past. So we share the gospel, clearly and simply, and rejoice when folks believe in the Savior.

  37. Sam,

    That is sad — but typical of too many LS churches and Pastors. They double-speak.

    That Statement of faith is simply a works message without even any disguise.

    Thanks for standing for the Truth of God’s Grace!!

    In Jesus Christ eternally, Jack

  38. I have to comment on your statement of the lordship Salvationist his confession will most likely be “I believe salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone”, but then he will contradict that statement by adding works to the equation. I just had this exact discussion with an influential member of the church I had left.He said he believes this and so does anyone that had been there a while.So I mentioned some things that were said that contradict that and he said I should bring them up.Well I said I have had two meetings with the pastor already and didn’t want to be a thorn in his side any longer.I had also told the pastor well over a year ago that the website in the what we believe under regeneration was wrong in my opinion. This is exactly what it states under regeneration

    We believe that all men are sinners by nature and by choice and are, therefore, under condemnation. We believe that those who repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ as Saviour are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. John 3:3; John 1:12; Romans 5:1-5.
    I feel this make salvation a two step process and not by faith alone.Anyway theirs a lot more to say than this about that conversation but I will end it here.

  39. Damon,

    Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, we firmly believe that the wonderful Gospel of God’s Grace should be clearly stated and explained at EVERY church service.. and the folks to be invited to put their faith in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior.. right where they are. No need for standing, walking the aisle, no “come to the altar”, no weeping/wailing, etc are…. Just believe in Jesus.

    In Jesus Christ eternally, Jack

  40. Damon, thanks for your comment.

    I just finished listening to a wonderful sermon from Northland Bible Baptist Church that includes a wonderful, clear presentation of the gospel. See link below:


  41. I agree with the article. On Northland Bible Baptist and Quentin Rd podcasts -they give the gospel message every week. This is important especially today when people wander from church to church and may have never heard the Truth laid out in simple terms.

  42. Good article, I totally agree.
    Wouldn’t Satan just love a gospel preacher to assume everyone is saved?

    I usually ask, “Have you trusted Christ, or would you like to?”