You Are or You Aren’t, Part 2
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!” Jeremiah 8:20(NKJV)
There are no degrees or levels of being saved or lost—dead or alive. Either you are or you aren’t. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).The Bible does recognize that from an experiential, ethical standpoint, there are degrees or gradations of sin according to knowledge (Luke 12:47–48; Matt. 10:15; John 19:11), intent (Num. 15:30–31), amount, kind, and effect. All sinful behavior, however, is the _expression of universal human depravity. We sin because we are sinners. This is why we read in James 2:10 that “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking it all.”
Within the broader salvation process, the Bible does recognize degrees of sanctification as well as the good works and rewards it can produce. It is the tragic lack of true good works and rewards in the sanctification process that is in view regarding those saved “but only as through fire” in 1 Corinthians 3:15. Here the “fire” of God’s judgment at the return of Christ will reveal the quality of a believer’s works, and some will have little to show for their salvation.
Additionally, the idea of the righteous being saved “with difficulty” in 1 Peter 4:18 (NAS) refers to the difficulty of salvation in light of the God-ordained suffering and persecution that believers endure all the time. In spite of this difficulty, however, Peter also recognizes that God’s power is sufficient to guarantee a believer’s perseverance in salvation (1 Peter 1:4-5). Bottom line: we shall prevail!
Close to being saved?
We also recognize that on the way to salvation, there is often a gradual process as people gain greater understanding of the gospel. Jesus recognizes this process in the wise scribe of Mark 12. We don’t know this scribe’s end, but Jesus tells him that he is “not far from the kingdom of God” ( 12:34).
Although we may recognize degrees of understanding as the gospel takes root in a person’s life—even saying things like “this person is really close to being saved”—until God has brought about this transformation through repentance and faith in Christ, people remain as lost as they can be.
Yes, a person may experience more or less of the full reality of salvation in degrees of sanctification. Yes, a person may experience more or less of the consequences of sin in being lost. But the clear, objective states of being saved or lost are definite and absolute. There is no middle ground with God!