"I didn't know Steve was a Christian." "Suzan rededicated her heart to the Lord? She sure hasn't been living like it." "When this life is over, some people are going to realize that they were saved by the skin of their teeth."
These are things I've heard, both in the past and present. Apparently, you can tell who is saved and who is not. And apparently some people are more saved than others based upon how you see them live.
Now, true, in theory you should be able to tell if a person is saved or not. However, what about the truly moral person who is not saved? I've seen many an unsaved person live a moral life, much better than most Christians. Should we consider them to be saved based upon what they do? That's a rather problematic view. And the implication seems to be that the "moral Christian" who "has a handle" on his life is more saved and more securely so than the Christian who visibly struggles daily with the old Adam. Once again, if we base this upon what is visible, wouldn't the very opposite be true? The "moral Christian" would indeed be less saved because he has less to be saved from. After all, he needs Christ to work less in his life because he's got a handle on his sin. The Christian who daily struggles with the old Adam would thereby be saved more because he must rely on Christ more to work in his life because he does not have a handle on his sin. Once again, this problematic.
The further implication is that the Christian who visibly struggles with the old Adam is saved by the skin of his teeth and should consider just how lucky he is that God has found him worthy of being able to "make it" into heaven. If he were more saved he would struggle less, sin visibly less and be more like those wonderful "moral Christians" who visibly have it all figured out. To make matters worse, those (hopefully) "well-intentioned" "moral Christians" never cease to remind the struggling Christian (or even more often behind their backs) that they need to be more like them. Bigger, faster, stronger... heaping on more and more Law. (misuse of the third use anyone?) The problem there is that the Law does not give the power for a person to change. Only the Gospel does.
So, ignoring what is visible, are some Christians more saved than others? Are some of us saved merely by the skin of our teeth?
Romans 3:23: We are all sinners. ("all" means "all" and that's all that "all" will ever mean)
Psalm 51:5: We were sinners before we were born.
Romans 6:23a: What we have all earned, our wage, is death. Both physically and spiritually. If you've got no sin in your life you wouldn't die.
Romans 3:10-18: This is you. This is me.
Romans 10:17: God gives us faith
Ephesians 2:8-9: God saves us by His grace through the faith He has given us
Romans 6:23b: Salvation is God's gift to us.
Two answer both of our questions in a word.... "No." Why do we have these questions? I think it's a confusion of Justification and Sanctification. Justification: God's act of saving us. Sanctification: God's act of changing us. (Philippians 2:13) Justification is not visible, however, many times Sanctification is, which is why I believe these questions stem from that. It should be noted, however, that even Sanctification is God's work in us as well.
We are sinful, deserving of hell, and it is God who saves us. Salvation isn't graded. It's pass or fail. You are either saved, or you are not. That is the only distinction. There is only kind of Christian: Simul Justus Et Peccator. At once justified and sinner. (Romans 7, and yes, Paul wrote that as a Christian) Though we are saved, we unfortunately still sin. Thanks be to God that He gives us Faith, that He extends Grace, that He saves. We aren't saved by the skin of our teeth. We're are saved by the Grace of the risen Savior.
Soli Deo Gloria