Text: John 10:22-30
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, 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.”
There is a story about a monastery in the mountains of Greece, perched at the top of a 3,000 foot cliff. It is very beautiful, and secluded. There are no roads leading up to the summit. The only way to reach the monastery is by making a trip across a chasm in a little basket that sways back and forth the entire way. The basket is suspended by a single rope, and it is pulled by several strong men on the other side.
Years ago, a tourist mustered the courage to visit the place, and climbed into the basket with a friendly monk. The tourist put on a brave face, at the beginning, but when he got halfway across he became nervous. Looking over the edge, realizing how far the fall would be, he gripped the sides of the basket until his knuckles began turning white. He glanced at the rope above: the one thing keeping him from plummeting to the ground, and noticed it seemed kind of old and frayed. Hoping to relieve his fear, he turned to the monk beside him and said, “I sure hope this thing is secure. How often do you guys change the rope, anyways?” The monk replied, “Whenever it breaks!” (Daily Walk, March 30, 1992.)
How secure is the believer in our salvation? That is a question that Christians wrestle with from time to time.
Maybe you have found yourself wondering, “Can I know, with absolute certainty, that I am going heaven?” “What if I stumble along the way? Will Christ catch me, and keep me from falling?” “Could God ever change His mind about me at some point down the road?”
Some believe that it is impossible for a person to know where we will spend eternity until the moment we arrive at the gates of heaven. They constantly worry that when they get there, the gates will be closed, and they will be turned away.
But God doesn’t want us to live in a state of uncertainty or fear. He wants us to know exactly where we stand and where we are headed. If you have accepted Christ as your Savior (placing your trust in His death, burial and resurrection) then you are a child of God and His love for you will never fail. The Lord will never abandon His people. Even though there may be times when we are not as close to the Lord as we ought to be, He is always close to us. Our confidence is not based on our own ability, but in the Lord’s ability to keep us from falling. Because Christ secures our salvation, believers should live with confidence
In our passage, here in John chapter 10, the people were questioning whether or not it was worthwhile to place their confidence in Jesus. Was He the long awaited Messiah? Would He really be the one to bring deliverance from God? They were on the fence. Some wanted to believe, having witnessed his miracles, but others were ready to search elsewhere.
They gathered around the Lord and demanded to know: “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly!” But Jesus tells them He had already done so, and yet they were unwilling to listen. The reason they didn’t believe is that they were not of His sheep. His sheep recognize His voice and respond to His call. They place their confidence in Him, knowing that their present life and future destiny are held secure in the Savior’s hands.
Believers can live with confidence because Christ gives eternal life.
In verse 27 Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them…” The voice of Jesus is calling out to us through the gospel. When we respond, by placing our trust in Him, He awakens our soul, bringing us back from the dead and into a relationship with God.
The life we have found in Christ is eternal. By definition, eternal life is infinite; it will last forever, without end, through all of the ages to come. Even though these mortal bodies grow weary, and will one day fail, we will live on, beyond the grave. A million years from now, this present world will be a distant memory, but we be more vibrant and enthusiastic than we are today. The stars made fade away, in the sky above, but God’s light will continue to shine in us. Our lives have been joined to Christ, and we will share in His resurrection. The life that He gives has no expiration.
Maybe you have gone through your kitchen cupboards, and pulled out boxes of food and canned goods. There are usually a few items, way up on the top shelf, shoved to the back, that have been there for years. You may find a cake mix you had wanted to make, but the label says: “best used by January of 2000.” Some things are still good year later. They say that canned vegetables and soup will last a very long time as long as the can isn’t rusty or dented. Other items go bad very quickly. That loaf of bread you forgot about is now petrified and covered with mold. You need a pair of tongs to pick it up, and throw it away. All that we see, in this world, is passing away, but the soul of man is immortal. Those who know Christ as Savior will live on in His presence forever. Eternal life doesn’t expire. It isn’t something that has to be renewed every so many years. It isn’t based on our performance, or granted on a temporary basis: until we mess up, or until the Lord changes His mind, or until we reach the limits of His grace. God’s gift is the permanent possession of those who will receive it by faith.
Turn back a couple of pages to John 5:24. Jesus tells the crowds “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” The passage speaks of eternal life as something the believer already enjoys in the present. Jesus does not say, “one day you will receive it, at some point in the future.” But today, right where you are, the moment you accepted Christ as your Savior you passed out of death into life.
One author says,
“…if everlasting life can be lost, it has the wrong name. It should be called temporary life, or life until you sin. But God calls it eternal life and everlasting life. And everlasting life is just that – it is everlasting. Those who reject eternal security say that it is everlasting as long as we obey. [as long as we don’t slip up or do something to lose it] But that is not everlasting life.” (https://redeeminggod.com/sermons/miscellaneous/11-reasons-i-hold-to-eternal-security)
Of course, God wants His children to live in obedience, and the life that He has given to us allows us to bear fruit and to honor Him in all that we do. But if it were up to us to keep it, I’m afraid none of us would have it for very long. Thankfully, it doesn’t depend on my power, but on the power of the one who lives within me. The reason it is everlasting is because God is everlasting. If my life is hidden in Christ, it will never end. 1 John 5:11-12 says, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Believers can live with confidence, because Christ keeps His promises.
Look at the promise Jesus makes in verse 28. He says, “…I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish…” The word “never” is a pretty strong statement. In fact, in the Greek text, the actual phrase Jesus uses is emphatic. He repeats Himself using two similar words. It literally reads, “…they will never, by no means, perish…” This is the Lord’s pledge and promise to us. As the good shepherd, He will lead us along our journey through this life, until we reach the goal.
We can picture a flock of sheep following behind their shepherd, over hills and through meadows. With a gentle voice, he tells them that he will bring them to the good pasture. The sheep trust him. They don’t look to each other after a couple of miles and say, “I sure hope he knows where he’s going!” They take him at his word, because he’s proven himself faithful again and again. And we can trust Jesus, because He is faithful.
If we’re looking for evidence of this, all we have to do is think about the setting when Jesus made this promise. The passage tells us in verse 22 that Jesus spoke these words in Jerusalem “during the feast of dedication.” Another name for that observance is the festival of lights, or Hanukkah. It commemorates an event that took place between the Old and New Testament, when God miraculously preserved the Jewish people through incredibly difficult times. During the period of the Greek Empire, a ruler named Antiochus Epiphanes was determined to impose Greek culture in all of the nations under his authority. That meant worshipping the Greek gods, and practicing Greek religion. The Jewish people refused to go along with this agenda, so Antiochus invaded Jerusalem and desecrated the temple. Even though the Jewish people were badly outmatched, they rose up in 164 B.C. and successfully drove the forces of Antiochus out of their land. When they rededicated the temple, legend has it, there was only enough oil left to keep the menorah burning for a single day, but God miraculously kept the light burning bright continuously for eight days until more oil could be prepared. God preserved His people, through that ordeal. The nation could have easily been wiped off the map, but God remained true to His promises.
That is just one example of how God has demonstrated His faithfulness. He has proven Himself over and over through the course of history. He doesn’t forget His people. He doesn’t go back on His word. What He says, He will do. The Lord is deeply committed to us, and He will fulfill every promise that He has made.
In Philippians 1:6 the apostle Paul writes, “being confident of this; that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” What is the good work? It is His work of salvation. He has rescued us from the clutches of sin, and made us members of His family. He has taken us from a place of hopelessness and despair, and given us a future. He has washed away our guilt with the blood of Jesus, and clothed us in the righteousness of Christ. What is left to accomplish? He will come again, and carry us home to glory. We will enter His presence, and He will transform our mortal bodies into glorified, resurrected bodies. But how do we know that the Lord will bring this work to completion? We can know because God is faithful, and always keeps His promises.
A number of years ago I saw the listing for house someone had put on the market for sale. I don’t remember how many square feet, but it was huge. It would have been a beautiful mansion, and the price they were asking wasn’t too bad. There was only one catch… it was only half finished. The people who started to build the home apparently fell into financial trouble, and were unable to complete the project. The property went into foreclosure, and it was being sold as-is. The pictures showed a wonderful cathedral ceiling from in the living room, but there was no stairway leading to the upstairs. It had all kinds of floor space, but no carpet or tile; only the subfloor had been laid. You didn’t have to worry about not liking the paint color, because most of the walls hadn’t even been drywall-ed. If you wanted to pick out the fixtures in the kitchen and bathrooms, that wouldn’t be a problem, the house didn’t have any. It was a sad picture of a dream that had gone unfulfilled. I don’t know if someone bought the property and finished the project. If not, it probably fell into ruin. We don’t always finish the work we begin, but God does. If He makes a promise, He will see it through.
We can live with confidence because Christ protects His people.
In verses 28-29 Jesus speaks of His sheep and says, “…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.”
A good shepherd must be vigilant, keeping a close eye on the flock, guarding them from every possible danger. He knows that there are hungry wolves lurking in the shadows, who would like nothing more than to snatch an unsuspecting lamb and carry it away. But the good shepherd will not let that happen. The sheep may be clueless, but the shepherd is aware of every danger. If left all alone, the flock would be devoured, but the shepherd is always present ready to defend them. Christ is holding onto us in his mighty arms, and no matter what happens, he won’t let go. There is not an enemy strong enough to overpower him: no earthly powers, not Satan, not all the forces of hell. We are precious to the Lord, and so He guards our soul with a watchful eye.
Scripture warns us to be on the alert, because the devil is like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. He is able to inflict much harm on God’s people, and would like nothing more than to trip us up or break our spirit, but one thing he can never do is pry us loose from the arms of our Savior. We are reminded that Christ is infinitely greater.
Have you ever dropped something expensive, like a cell phone? You try to be so careful, but it slips right through your fingers. It never happens when you are standing over something soft: like carpet, or the grass. It’s always over the cement driveway or the sidewalk. You watch it fall, as if in slow motion, trying to grip it before it hits the ground, but it’s too late. That’s why I make sure to put my phone in a protective case, because I know how clumsy I can be. Christ will never let you go. He holds us tight, and His hands are sure. Scripture says,
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)
We’ve looked at some of the reasons we can have assurance of our salvation, but there are objections that have been raised against this doctrine of eternal security.
Some have argued, “If you tell people their salvation is secure, what is to keep them from living in sin?” We would answer that the believer is a new creation. God has given us a new heart, and is changing us from the inside out. We are learning that there is no greater joy than following Christ. The Spirit of God brings convictions when we stray. He doesn’t let up, when we stray, until we have returned to God. We may not lose our salvation, but there are other things that the believer will can lose when we are living in disobedience. We lose the joy of our salvation, the peace that comes from a pure conscience. Our testimony is damaged, and we are not very useful to God. We miss out on opportunities to serve Christ. We lose eternal rewards. Paul speaks of those who are saved, but so as through fire. The deeds we have done on this earth will be revealed in that day.
“…the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:14–15)
I would say those are compelling motives to follow Christ, rather than going back to our old sinful ways. If a person takes that attitude: “I can do whatever I want, because I prayed the sinner’s prayer, and I’m going to heaven” I would question whether or not that person really understands the gospel.
Another objection people raise is that “If Christians are secure in their salvation, what about the person who has left the church and denounced his faith?” Every once and awhile we hear about a famous pastor, or Christian leader, or someone we have known and looked up to for many years, falling away from the faith. How can we explain that? That’s always difficult, not only in understanding how it could happen, but also because it breaks our heart that the person is no longer living for the Lord. I think there are two possibilities: Either the person was never truly saved, or the person is saved, but something has happened to cause them to temporarily drift away from their faith.
As we think about the first possibility, we can think of examples in Scripture of people who appeared to be genuine disciples of Jesus, but in reality they never really knew Him as their Savior. Someone like Judas Iscariot is a case in point. He was among the closest followers of Jesus. He heard every message, and saw every miracle, but his heart was never really changed. While the other disciples had considered him one of their brothers, Jesus knew all along what the ultimate fate of Judas would be.
There are probably people today who attend church all their lives, who serve on committees, who preach sermons who look a follower of Christ, but they have never truly put their trust in Jesus to be their Savior. Maybe they are still clinging to their good works to save them, or maybe they have an inadequate view of Jesus. That’s why it’s important to be sure we have placed our confidence in Christ, and not ourselves. Jesus warns the crowds,
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:22–23 NIV)
How sad to be so close, and yet still so far away.
It’s also possible that the person who has walked away from the church is a Christian, but has temporary drifted away. Maybe a tragedy has caused them to question their faith. Or maybe they have become ensnared by some sin. But the Holy Spirit is still present, working in their heart, bringing conviction, urging them to return, until one day the Lord leads them back.
It is always difficult to know which possibility is the case, when we hear about someone who has abandoned their faith. Either way, we should pray for them, that the Lord would work in their heart and bring them back.
Why is Eternal Security a core value of Grace Gospel Church?
- Because it is difficult to have a relationship with someone when you aren’t sure how they feel about you. How can we draw close to God if we are unconvinced of His love, or are afraid of being rejected? When we know where we stand, we can approach God with confidence, thankful for his unfailing love.
- Because if we imagine that it is up to us to earn or keep our salvation, we are no longer depending on God’s grace. We are putting the emphasis on our efforts and ability rather than Christ’s work and ability. If it were possible for us to somehow lose our salvation along the way, that would mean Christ’s work wasn’t enough; the price He paid to redeem us was not sufficient; the transformation He began was left incomplete; and the promises He made were only temporary.
How should we respond to this doctrine?
Make certain you belong to Christ. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” ( 2 Corinthians 13:5) The last thing I want to do is give someone who isn’t save a false sense of security. Just because you went to church as a child does not make you a Christian. Just because you are a member of a church does not make you a Christian. Just because you have prayed the sinner’s prayer, does not make you a Christian. Do you have genuine, saving faith? More than intellectual knowledge. More than an emotional response? But a decision from the heart to turn to Jesus that He might save you from your sin? I don’t want you to walk out of these doors, feeling safe and secure, if you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior.
Live with confidence. Don’t listen to Satan’s lies when He accuses you. Don’t let others persuade you that your faith is in vain. God’s truth tells the believer that we are Christ’s forever, and His sacrifice has paid the total debt for our sin.
Follow Christ. If you truly belong to Christ, live to please Him each and every day of your life.