I don’t want to open a debate about judging whether or not someone else is saved – I fully understand that only God can know where any individual stands. However, pastorally, I know it is important that we don’t invest our energies in assuring someone of their salvation if they are not saved. This happens all too often!
Several verses come to mind. Have they believed in the Lord Jesus? (Acts 16:31) Have they confessed Jesus as Lord? (Rom.10:9) Have they confessed their sins? (1John 1:9) Have they repented? (Acts 2:38) There are others that could be added, and issues that could be raised. But I want to bring our attention to a verse that seldom, if ever, gets mentioned in this kind of situation. Yet it seems to be a verse of inestimable value as we seek to care spiritually for those around us.
In the closing remarks of 1st Corinthians, Paul states that “if anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come!” (16:22) Wow, what a statement! It is easy to focus on the uncomfortable term “accursed” and thereby miss the first half of the statement. It is about whether they love the Lord or not. Pastorally, this is remarkably helpful.
I remember a young lady we knew some years ago. She had “prayed the prayer,” confessed, believed, knew all the right answers. But something was missing. We noted that there was no sense of delight in the Lord, no hint of any love for Him. While some insisted that she was the strongest Christian in the group, we remained concerned for her salvation. Sadly the spiritual story is not positive in the years since then, which only seems to confirm our concerns.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is highly practical. He wrote to address issues in the church that he had been asked about or that he had heard about. But this letter is no pragmatic set of theology-lite suggestions. As with all the epistles, it is a thoroughly theological application of the gospel to the specific situations of the recipients. What is telling to me is to trace the theological emphasis on the themes of love and grace throughout the letter. The grace of God is unashamedly emphasized at the beginning of the letter, at the end, and frequently throughout. In the concluding statements he seeks to review key themes, and stir emotional response in the listeners.
In respect to those last four verses, I like how Thiselton states it (p1531 in the NIGTC):
“Thus Paul’s handwritten afterword to his beloved Corinthians is the love command in a covenantal setting which gives blessings for those who follow and curses for those who do not. Paul has repreached the kerygma of the cross and the content of the gospel through the array of pastoral, ethical, and theological issues that bubble away at Corinth: “Come on, he concludes; are you ‘in’ or ‘out’?”
Our task is not to judge the salvation of others, but it is to care for souls, and it seems that the thermometer offered by 1Cor.16:22 can be most helpful!