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?
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion. If you would like to receive daily posts from Considering the Bible, click on the “Follow” link below