Can the Holy Spirit help you to know that someone is unsaved despite the fact that the person has given a testimony of salvation and even verbally expressed dependence on Jesus alone? And what about vice versa?



Hello Amber,

Thank you for your question. It’s dealing with discernment.

Objectively, we must start with what a person understands regarding salvation, move to whether they agree with it, and finish with whether there has been a faith response. Together, these elements constitute the entire soul. Does the person comprehend that sin is the problem, there is a judgment, and Jesus is the Savior? Have they come to grips with the fact that they are a sinner in need of a Savior? And have they trusted in Jesus to do what He promised? Collectively, this involves the mind, affections, and will. I address all this in detail in the book, Assurance of Salvation.

Subjectively, there are occasions when we may have a check in our spirit about a matter. However, we must be careful. We are not the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit can give us discernment. Importantly, this discernment must come from the Spirit and not be derived from observing someone’s outward appearance. God looks on the heart. Is an individual merely repeating what they know others say, and so are saying the right things without the reality in their heart? Or, have they truly understood, agreed, and applied faith? In fact, we can even ask something along those lines. “Are you saying this because you’ve heard that this is the correct answer, or are you saying this because this is real in your heart?” If they claim salvation, then perhaps discipleship regarding walking in the Spirit would prove beneficial in grounding the person and aid the process of growing in grace.

On the other side of it, an individual may be in a context where the gospel has not been articulated clearly by those around them, but regardless, the individual has come to grips with sin, judgment, and the need for Jesus, and is looking unto Jesus. This is salvation. They may not express everything correctly, but this is only because of their unclear background. In such a case, the Holy Spirit may give discernment that the person is indeed a believer and one who needs to be grounded in clear gospel truth and its articulation.

We want to approach people in a way that leads to faith, not doubt. The big deal is what has someone done with Jesus.

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