A dear brother has been teaching me in Sunday School class and occasionally will ask my opinion on certain Bible topics.
One Sunday morning, he asked me if I believed in eternal security. I confessed that for most of my Christian life I was a die hard adherent to the “Once Saved, Always Saved” (OSAS) doctrine, but a few years ago, began to consider the conditional security teaching.
He told me I should read the Bible and referred me to John 10:28-29.
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. – John 10:28-29
I began to respond but he simply moved onto another topic, as if stating a set of verses settled the question without any doubt.
I fully understand this reaction since it is sufficient to answer any questions when dwelling in an echo chamber. When surrounded by those who think alike, and have the same doctrinal beliefs, debate is not a practiced art. Merely stating a verse number, a chapter in a Bible book, or even to reference a Bible book settles the question for many.
But lets consider what the passage is trying to teach us in relation to eternal security. The entire paragraph from John 10 is below.
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” – John 10:25-30
The set of verses above have Jesus defining who His sheep are. Verse 26 is instructive, defining the reason for unbelief.
Those who do not believe are not His sheep.
Characteristics of His sheep
Jesus then goes on to define the characteristics of His sheep
- The sheep hear his voice
- He knows His sheep
- His sheep follow Him
The sheep in this verse “hear” and “follow”. Let’s look a little to see if these word can instruct us further.
His sheep hear His voice
The word “hear” is the greek word ἀκούω akoúō, and is in the present tense. This simply means the hearing is occurring “presently”. When Jesus said this portion of Scripture, the sheep were hearing him, listening to him, learning from Him.
He knows His sheep
At first I was tempted to leave this clause out of the study, simply because it seemed to be an action performed by the Master and not the sheep, and I am trying to identify the sheep in this blog. I won’t dwell much on this clause other than to direct you to another blog I recently posted on “knowing” Inherit the Kingdom? Who Knew. Jesus uses the Greek word “ginosko” here – Consider if it implies any effort on the part of the sheep.
His sheep follow Him
The term “follow” is the greek word ἀκολουθέω akolouthéō, and is also in the present tense. Again, when Jesus gave this teaching, His sheep were presently following him, had joined Him as a disciple.
So what’s the point here Carl – This seems like a lot of work to define the obvious!
Well, when I was an adherent of OSAS, my understanding of the passage was….
My sheep heard my voice in the past, and I knew them in a contractual way , and they followed me at least for a period of time.
As an adherent of OSAS, I understood that if I made a decision for Christ 38 yrs ago, that sealed my fate. Nothing would hold me back from my future eternal life with God. Of course, the matter of obedience was addressed in the OSAS teaching, but it was simply a matter of a loss of rewards when it came to sin in my life.
But Jesus here is defining the sheep that He is giving eternal life to as active participants in the life He was sharing. No where does He refer to any past decisions or acts of faith.
OK Carl, but it is eternal life He is giving them. Once given, it is eternal!
Let’s think about that statement.
The word eternal, generally defined, is to be without beginning or ending. Giving me eternal life on Feb 20th, 1981 did not initiate eternal life! The life that is eternal is without time! What my faith on that night accomplished, was that I began to possess eternal life based on my faith in the Master. (Think about that – the difference is kinda massive!)
I heard the voice and decided to follow. I became His sheep. When was the last time you heard the voice of Jesus?
I can hear you out there telling me all that is well and good, but Jesus said that no one was going to pluck the sheep from His hand or the Fathers hand.
Pluck. What a funny word when you say it 20 times fast!
This word is a favorite of the rapture folks. “Pluck” in John 10 is the greek word ἁρπάζω harpázō, to seize (in various applications):—catch (away, up), pluck, pull, take (by force).
Another Greek dictionary defines harpázō – seize by force; snatch up, suddenly and decisively – like someone seizing bounty (spoil, a prize); to take by an open display of force (i.e. not covertly or secretly)
Many believers will recognize harpázō as the greek word defining the rapture of believers at the second coming of the Messiah.
Notice this word is used once more in this passage.
No Man is able to Pluck
At risk of repeating myself, pluck is synonymous with “seize by force”, or “an open display of force”. No man is able to take a believer out of the hands of God by force.
During the Christian era, men have found it impossible to get true believers to renounce or deny the Master. During the first 300 years of the church, Christian blood flowed freely. So much so that the term martyr simply came to mean witness.
But free will is available to all, and true love requires the exercise of each believers free will. Men can’t take believers out of the hand of Jesus, but does this passage teach that believers cannot decide to move on to other interests?
Where are you in following the Master?
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5 thoughts on “Conditional Security – John 10:28-29”
Hello, Amen, He is good!
Communication at times can be a lengthy process to convey perception; For example, my words “I will no longer will to please myself” are two-fold in that;
1. I recognise that every person (including myself) occasionally says or does things that are contrary to the will of God (sin). ref 1 John 1:8-10 & Romans 7:15-19
2. I believe that no person will express any will contrary to God’s will when they’re in His presence heaven, where there is no place for sin (will, words or actions contrary to God’s) “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” I believe that this heavenly condition spoken “God may be all in all” leaves no place for a will to be expressed or held that is contrary to God’s.
In the words of Queen Liliuokalani “All things in this world are two: in heaven there is but One.”
I agree with your comment “a believer’s ability to choose love over self, that when the Word says love one another, it is a command the believers can choose to obey.”.
However, in reading your earlier paragraph’s and the one which I quoted a portion of:
“But free will is available to all, and true love requires the exercise of each believers free will. Men can’t take believers out of the hand of Jesus, but does this passage teach that believers cannot decide to move on to other interests?”
I thought you were questioning whether the passage of John 10:28-29 teaches “that believers cannot decide to move on to other interests” and that you were suggesting that we have a “free will” to turn away from God if we so choose, because God in an expression of “true love” would not cause us to love of Him if we don’t want to.
But I may have misunderstood you ?
Kind regards and apologies if I mistakenly perceived your blog.
Dear brother, in regard to the portion you wrote: “true love requires the exercise of each believers free will”, I’ve never read this theology in the Bible, but I have found that God’s love for His elect children is so great that nothing can separate those He loves from Him (Romans 8:31-35), and by His grace, we’re saved from the penalty of the desires, words and actions of our “free will” which since the example of Adam and Eve has regularly expressed itself in disobedience to God. I look forward with joy in the knowledge that in His presence, I will no longer will to please myself, but only Him who loves me even to death.
Hey thanks for commenting on this post.
I think my intent was to describe a believers ability to choose love over self, that when the Word says love one another, it is a command the believers can choose to obey. I seem to see this expression of love, through choice, permeating the Word.
By the way, are you waiting until death to deny yourself (no longer will to please myself)?
I do hope I am not misunderstanding your thoughts. If so, please advise.
He is good – Blessings to you.