Jesus And Eternal Security
The question has been asked and will continue to be asked : Can a true Christian lose his salvation in Christ? Can a true Christian become an apostate? There are those who say, “yes”, a true Christian can lose his salvation in Christ. There are those who say “no”, a true Christian cannot lose his salvation in Christ. The answer given to these questions generally depends one’s theological position.
My answer to both questions is an emphatic “NO!”. I believe that a true Christian cannot lose his salvation in Christ. I believe a true Christian cannot apostatize from his faith in Christ. Now, in seeking to present the Biblical proof for my “No” answer, I want to turn your attention to the gospel of John and let Jesus Himself answer the question. At the end you will have to decide whether you believe what Jesus has said. Let God be true and every man a liar. We begin with Jn.3:16.
(1). Jn.3:16. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
This verse establishes for us the identity of Jesus. He is God’s only begotten or one and only Son. The Greek statement is more specific. It says, “God gave the Son, the one and only.” The context of this verse is Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisee, Nicodemus, a point that is usually and sadly ignored. Jesus described Nicodemus as “the teacher of Israel”. (vs.9). Jews believed that God, Yahweh, loved only Jews. So, Jesus’ statement must have been a most radical and shocking statement for Nicodemus. “For God so loved the world” would have meant to Nicodemus that God also loves Gentiles and has opened the door of eternal life to Gentiles. This is Jesus’ first direct indication that Gentiles will be brought into the kingdom of God through salvation in Him. Here are a couple questions for you to think about : (1). Did Jesus say God loves every single person in the world without exception? (2). Did Jesus say God loves all the nations (peoples) of the world without distinction? (3). What would Nicodemus have understood?
Now let us take note of the following. Firstly, “believe” refers to saving belief (faith) in Christ. Jesus said that the one who believes in Him does “not perish, but have eternal life.” It is important to note here that Jesus is saying that to “perish” is the opposite of receiving “eternal life”. So, whatever eternal life is, to perish is the opposite.
What is eternal life? Eternal life has a double emphasis. Firstly, Jesus said in Jn.17:3 that eternal life is to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. In this verse the truth is reaffirmed that the only true God has a Son, and that Son is the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, to know God is to enter into a personal loving relationship with God, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. This qualitative knowing of the only true God and His Son, Jesus, is eternal life or salvation. Secondly, eternal life emphasizes the quantity of the salvation life we have in God. The quantity is timeless, never-ending, everlasting. “Have eternal life” tells us that our salvation in Christ is a present possession as well as a future inheritance. Furthermore, “have eternal life” is a divine promise made to the one who believes.
I hope you did not miss the point. “Eternal life” is found seventeen times in the gospel of John. If our salvation in Christ is eternal (everlasting), never-ending, how can it be brought to an end? How can we lose it? If, as Peter said very emphatically, your salvation in Christ is “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you”, (1Pet.1:4), how can you lose it? Those who say that you can lose your salvation in Christ are saying that “eternal” does not necessarily mean eternal and that the divine promise can be broken. I want to emphasize that Jesus is saying to us in Jn.3:16 that our salvation in Him is a continuous possession throughout our earthly and heavenly existence.
Jesus added in vs.18, “He who believes in Him (that is, the only begotten Son of God,) is not judged.” The point in the negative verb is that the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life and does not come under the judgment and condemnation of God in the present nor in the future. Here again we have the eternal security of the believer. On the other hand, Jesus said that the one who does not believe in the only begotten Son of God is already judged and condemned. And he will remain in that condition unless he believes in Jesus.
The one who refuses to believe in Jesus does not have to wait for the final judgement to know what verdict God will render against him. Jesus has made it clear that the verdict will be condemnation. I want you to clearly understand that if you are not saved you are already under the condemnation of God. And if you die in this condition, you will be cast into the lake which burns with eternal fire (Matt.25:41, 46). He who does not believe is already judged and condemned. Your trial before God in the final judgment will only be a formality.
(2). Jn.5:24. Jesus said, “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.”
Note the opening double “truly, truly” or “Amen, Amen” that mark for us the solemnity of the truth Jesus was sharing. With “truly, truly”, Jesus is saying to you with emphasis, “pay attention, this is very important”. The verbs “hears … believes … has … come” are all present tenses. The Greek verb akouo means “to hear” but it is a hearing that results in obedience. Jesus said hearing precedes believing. I want you to note that believing has content. We are hearing Jesus’ words and believing Jesus. Biblical belief or faith is never a contentless blind leap into the dark.
Note the emphasis, “hears My word.” This is the point made in Rom.10:13-14. Paul wrote, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?” The second question could also be translated, “How will they believe Him whom they have not heard?”
Jn.5:24 makes it clear that to believe in Jesus you must first hear Jesus. And Paul is saying that those who believe in Jesus must first hear Jesus. But how do they hear Jesus? They hear Jesus in the voice of the preacher. When the word of God is faithfully and accurately preached, you hear the voice of Jesus. You hear Jesus’ words.
The present tense of the verbs “hears” and “believes” tells us that the Christian never stops hearing Jesus’s words, never stops believing Jesus’ words, and by implication, never stops obeying Jesus’ words. For far too many people, their hearing stops with their profession of faith in Christ. If your hearing of Jesus’ words stops with your profession of faith in Christ, then quite likely your profession of faith is false. Let me put it this way : the true Christian loves to hear the faithful preaching of God’s word because he loves to hear His Savior’s voice.
Now, as we saw in Jn.3:16, “has eternal life” means eternal life or salvation in Christ is your present possession and your future and eternal inheritance. Now note, Jesus said that the person who has eternal life “does not come into judgment”. This is a repeat of what Jesus said in Jn.3:18. The judgment here is the future judgment in which all Christ-rejecters will be judged and cast into the lake of fire. Paul said in Rom.8:1, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, not now, not ever. This is the condemnation that is pronounced in the final judgment. There is no condemnation for the Christian because the Lord Jesus took your condemnation when He died on the cross for you.
Jesus’ final statement says, “but has passed out of death into life.” You were spiritually dead but believing in Christ has removed your spiritual death and has given to you spiritual life. You were in the kingdom of death but believing in Christ resulted in you passing out of death and into the kingdom of life. The verb “has passed” is perfect tense. It means that having passed from death into life, there is no going back into the state of spiritual death or into kingdom of death. It means that you have permanently moved your living quarters. God has moved you into the living quarters of eternal life. The very clear point Jesus is making is that the true believer cannot apostatize and cannot lose his salvation because he cannot return to the state of death.
Paul made the same point in Col.1:13 that Jesus made in Jn.5:24. Paul wrote, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” “Domain of darkness” refers to those who are living in the dominion of and under the authority of darkness. That is the description of the sinner. But God did two things : (1) He rescued us from Satan’s kingdom of darkness and (2) He transferred us into the kingdom that belongs to His beloved Son, that is, the Son who is the object of His love.
(3). Jn.6:37-40, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
We must note the progression in these verses : the Father gives; the Son receives; the Son protects; the Son raises those given to Him on the last day. In vs.40 Jesus reasserted His divinity by calling God “My Father”. This point is made clear in Jn.5:17-18 which tells us that Jews said that by calling God “My Father”, Jesus “was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal to God.” The truth is, the Lord Jesus is equal to His Father. And those who deny this truth are heretics.
Now Jesus is making it clear in these verses that the Father’s saving purposes cannot be frustrated because the sovereign power of salvation is anchored in the will of God. Jesus’ confidence does not rest in people. Jesus’ confidence rests in His Father who will bring to pass His saving purposes. The firm assurance is that “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me.” They will come because the Father who gave them will draw them to Christ.
Note what Jesus said in vs.44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” Jesus would repeat in vs.65, “no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” D. A. Carson noted that Jesus’ confidence in the success of His ministry is very “frankly predestinarian”. Ramsey Michaels wrote, “Jesus responds to unbelief with an appeal to divine sovereignty and divine election.” If you are saved, it is the Father who, in eternity, gave you as a gift to Jesus. And in time, it is the Father who draws you to Jesus.
Then Jesus said, “the one who comes to Me I will not not cast out.” Take note of the double negative. This statement is a figure of speech in which something positive is affirmed in a negative way. For example, Paul said in Acts 21:39 that he was “a citizen of no insignificant city”. This means, positively, he was a citizen of a very important city. Jesus is not saying, “the one who comes to Me I will welcome.” Jesus is saying, “the one who comes to Me I will most certainly receive and preserve.” We can sum up Jesus’ teaching in the verse as follows : All that the Father gives to Jesus, as His gift to His Son, will surely come to Him; and whoever comes, by virtue of the Father’s giving and drawing, Jesus has committed Himself to receive and preserve.
The emphasis in vs.39 is futuristic. The focus is on the coming last day. What is the Father’s will for the Son? The Father’s will for the Son is that, “of all that the Father has given Me I lose nothing.” This repeats what we just saw in vs.37, that Jesus will preserve all the Father gave Him and not one will be lost. The assurance we have is that on the last day Jesus will raise us to stand with Him in glory. Once again, Jesus is making the eternal security of the believer in Him very clear.
In vs.40 Jesus repeats Himself again. What is the will of the Father? The answer is two-fold. Firstly, “everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life.” Secondly, “and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” The “I” is emphatic. I do not need to explain these statements.
(4). John chapter 10.
In this chapter, Jesus is speaking specifically about His sheep. The sheep are His elect people, those who were elected by God in Christ from eternity unto salvation. Let us note the following points. In vs.4 we are told that the sheep knows the voice of the shepherd and follows the shepherd. Recently, I saw this ancient truth demonstrated on YouTube. A group of people were making a variety of sounds, trying to attract a flock of sheep. But the sheep totally ignored them. But then the sheep heard the voice of their shepherd and immediately they came running toward the shepherd.
In vss.7 & 9 we have one of Jesus’ emphatic ego eimi (I AM) statements which points to His divinity. In vs.7 Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” Note the solemn “Truly, truly.” Then in vs.9 Jesus said, “I am the door; through Me if anyone enters, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus’ emphasis is on the words “through Me.” Jesus is making it very clear that He is the sole door of entrance into salvation. There is no other access to salvation apart from Jesus. As Peter said in Acts 4:12, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Let it be very clear that Jesus is the only Savior of sinners.
In vss.11 & 14 we have another emphatic use of ego eimi (I AM). In vs.14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, I know My own and My own know Me.” “My own” is literally “the mine” and refers to a very specific group of people. Jesus said, “I know the Mine and the Mine know Me.” The verb “know” does not simply refer to intellectual knowledge. As Jn.17:3 makes clear, the verb “know” refers to a saving relationship rooted in love.
The verb “know” is present tense. Jesus’ love for His sheep, which began in eternity, continues to this day and will continue into the eternal ages to come. Jesus’ eternal love for His sheep means they cannot lose their salvation. Jesus’ eternal love for His sheep reminds us of Jer.31:3 where the LORD said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”
In vs.11, Jesus said (and note the emphasis), “I am (ego eimi) the shepherd the good one; the shepherd the good one lays down His life for the sheep.” And in vs.15 Jesus added, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” For whom did Christ die? The answer from Jesus’ own mouth is that He died for His sheep. Here is the doctrine of limited atonement or particular redemption. I want you to note that from eternity, those for whom Jesus chose to die are called His sheep. In vs.16 Jesus said, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” Note the verb “must” which speaks of divine necessity. Jesus is saying, “it is divinely necessary that I bring them also into the fold.”
Who are the “other sheep”? The other sheep are you and I, Gentile sinners. To the Jews, Gentiles were dogs. But for Jesus, and from eternity, His chosen Gentiles for whom He would die and whom He would save are His other non-Jewish sheep. This is another very clear indication from Jesus that God has opened the door of salvation to Gentiles. The apostle Paul described this truth of the salvation of the Gentiles as the mystery God revealed to him. And that mystery is, “that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (Eph.3:6).
I want you to note the repeat of the word “for” in vss.11 & 15. Jesus said, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” The word “for” sets before us legal substitution. Jesus’ death on behalf of His sheep is also called substitutionary atonement. Jesus is our legal Substitute. Jesus’ substitutionary death was specifically on behalf of His sheep. By His death on the cross, the Lord Jesus paid for us, His sheep, the legal penalty the Law of God demanded for our sins.
The penalty is paid once for all and cannot be paid twice. Heb.7:27 says Jesus died “once for all when He offered up Himself.” Heb.10:10 says, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Jesus’ substitutionary death is another important reason that Jesus’ sheep cannot lose their salvation in Him. And the point is this : because of Jesus’ substitutionary death, God must save Jesus’ elect sheep without fail, every single one of them, and preserve them in Christ for all eternity.
Now, moving down to vs.26 Jesus made a very shocking statement to the Jewish religious leaders which they did not understand. In Jn.8:43 Jesus told the Jews that they do not understand what He is saying because they are spiritually deaf. Jesus said, “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear (akouo) My word.” They had physical hearing. But there was no spiritual hearing, understanding and obeying. “You cannot” means they lacked the ability to hear. They could not hear because they were spiritually dead.
In Jn.8:47 Jesus told them, “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” Jesus is saying these Jews do not belong to God. Why? In vs.44 Jesus said they belonged to the devil. Now in Jn.10:26 Jesus added another point, “you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.”
You do not believe because you cannot hear, understand, and obey. You do not believe because you are spiritually dead. You do not hear and believe because you are not “of God”. You do not hear and believe because you are not of “My sheep”. You are not of the elect. I did not die for you. This was a most frightening statement and it just flew over their heads.
Then Jesus said in vss.27-30, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 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. 30 I and the Father are one”.”
In vs.30 Jesus asserted His divinity very clearly. The Jews understood and reacted in vs.31 by picking up stones to stone Jesus for blasphemy. In vs.33 they said “[we are stoning You] for blasphemy; … because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
I want to share with you a literal translation of these verses. It is will be awkward but it brings out the point you need to know. You note would in vss.27 & 28 the expression “and I”, which refers to Jesus, appears twice. The expression is emphatic. Now here goes.
“The sheep of the Me the voice of Me continually hears, and I continually know them, and they continually follow Me. And I give to them eternal life, and they will not not perish into the eternal ages, and not anyone will snatch them out of the hands of Me. My Father who has given them to Me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the hands of the Father.”
Here is a repeat of the truth that those who hear Jesus’ voice in the gospel would never stop hearing His voice whenever the word of God is faithfully preached. Note also that Jesus repeated here the point He made in vs.14 about knowing His sheep. The verb “follow” speaks of discipleship to Christ. When we are saved, we become lifetime disciples of Christ. He is the Master and Lord and we are His disciples and followers. In vs.28 Jesus said very emphatically, “And I give eternal life to them.” What is eternal life? I already answered that for you. But to briefly remind you, the word “eternal” focuses on the quality and quantity of the life we received when we believed in Jesus.
Then Jesus said, and this is not brought out in your English translation of the Bible, “and they will not not perish into the eternal ages.” Note the emphatic double negative. As noted already, the word “perish” is the opposite of eternal life. Jesus said, “I will give them eternal life and they will not not perish”, that is, (1) they will never ever again be without eternal salvation in Him; (2) they will never ever be cast into the lake of eternal fire. And in order to make this whole point indisputable, Jesus added, “into the eternal ages.” Jesus’ sheep will never ever again be without eternal salvation in Him for all eternity.
The verb “snatch” in vss.28 & 29 takes us back to vs.12 and the picture of the wolf snatching the sheep. Jesus said we are in His hands and in His Father’s hands and no wolf (spiritual enemy) will be able to snatch us out these hands. The picture here is not that of a father holding a child’s hand to cross a busy road. The picture is not that of the child holding the father’s hand. The picture here is one of two-handed security. The believer is sitting in the palm of Jesus’ hand and enfolded and protected in the hands of Jesus, which, in turn, are enfolded and protected in the hands of the Father.
The point is this : every word and every statement in vss.27-30 build the impregnable truth that Christ’s sheep could never and will never lose their salvation. If you are saved, if you are Christ’s sheep, you can safely rest your souls in Jesus’ teaching in these verses.
Over the years I have seen a lot of misuse of this doctrine of the eternal preservation (security) of the saints in Christ. And I am aware that such misuse will continue until Christ returns. But such misuse is no justification to rob you of the gloriousness of this truth and the comfort it brings to the true child of God. In a time of increasing apostasy, if you are a child of God, take courage, be comforted, be steadfast and immoveable in this certain hope the Lord Jesus Christ has given to you, His sheep.
Let it be very clear that it is no other person than Jesus Himself who taught once saved, always saved. It was Jesus Himself who said that He has given to you eternal life and you will not not perish into the eternal ages. It was Jesus who said that if you believe in Him, you have (present tense) eternal life. And you will not have to face final judgment and condemnation because you have passed out of death, spiritual death, total depravity death, and you have entered into life, salvation life, eternal life. Here are the questions : did Jesus tell us the truth? Do you believe what Jesus taught us in the gospel of John?
Dear reader, if you are not saved, this is Jesus’ message of gracious hope for you. He is calling upon you to repent of your sins and believe in Him, that is, put your trust in Him to save you. And in saving you, He will immediately give you eternal salvation in Him. This salvation Jesus is offering you is a free gift. Rom.6:23 says, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” All you have to do is receive it. You do not have to work for it because you cannot work for a gift someone is giving to you. A gift must be received with gratitude.
May it please God that you would hear Christ’s voice and be comforted with eternal hope in your salvation in Christ. May it please God that you would hear Christ’s voice and repent of your sins and put your trust in Jesus to save you. The free gift of eternal salvation in Christ is waiting for you. All you have to do is receive it.
There is one more point I want to make. Hearing Jesus and believing Jesus results in you receiving eternal life. But hearing Jesus and believing Jesus also always issue in obedience to Jesus. You cannot claim to be saved if your heart does not desire to obey Jesus, does not will to obey Jesus, and does not delight in obeying Jesus. You cannot claim to be saved if your life is not pursuing obedience to Jesus. You cannot claim to be saved if your life is not characterized by obeying Jesus.
Jesus said in Matt.7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does (obeys) the will of My Father who is in heaven.” What is the will of the Father? The Father said in Matt.17:5, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” Listen to Him. Take heed to all that He says. In other words, listen to Him and obey Him. Jesus said in Matt.28:20 that His disciples must be taught to obey all that He has commanded.
Jn.3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” “Does not obey” speaks of disobedience that is rooted in unbelief. The point is this : you believe in Jesus, you have eternal life, and you live a life of obedience to Jesus. If you do not believe in Jesus, you will not live a life of obedience to Jesus. And if you claim to believe in Jesus but does not live a life of obedience to Jesus, then you are simply proving that you never truly believed in Jesus.
Is your life marked by an active pursuit of obedience to Jesus? Is your life marked by delighting obedience to Jesus? Note carefully that I did not say “perfect obedience”. I said “active pursuit” and “delighting”. Or is your life marked by a picking and choosing type of obedience? Picking and choosing obedience is disobedience. As Paul exhorted the Corinthians, examine your hearts. Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith or if you are a reprobate and do not know it as yet? It is one thing to say, “once saved, always saved.” It is another thing to understand from the Bible what it means and to prove the reality of what it means in your life.