It seems there is a comforting passage for believers—that none can snatch them out from God's hand (ie. they get to enjoy eternal security). Let's examine whether this is true or not.
One of the favourite passages of many believers is found in John 10: 28-29 where Jesus says no one will be able to snatch believers out from the hand of God. The comforting thought, it seems, is that the eternal destiny of believers is secure because God is holding on to them so tightly that they can never fall away. Safe and secure always in the grip of God’s hand, you might say.
27 My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give them eternal life, 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.
Let’s examine the above passage more closely. People forget that this comforting promise found in verses 28 and 29 is preceded by verse 27 where Jesus sets out a condition: sheep (believers) must be obedient to the shepherd (Jesus) ie. know Him, listen to His voice and follow Him.
Thus the promise that God will hold on to believers’ hands (without letting them go) does not apply to backsliders, those who willfully choose to live in sin or depart from the faith (commit apostasy).
To make a claim of eternal security for all believers is too far fetched. The verse John 10:27 tells us God is faithful in keeping believers eternally secure only if they keep their side of the bargain ie. continue to be obedient and follow Him.
Being fixated on the promise of eternal security in John 10:28-29 without considering the preceding verse, John 10:27, is commiting a grave error of interpretation.
A similar error in interpretation is found in another passage, John 6:37-40:
37 Everything that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I certainly will 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 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of everything that He has given Me I will lose nothing, but will raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”
The presumption about eternal security is found in John 6:39 where Jesus says that He will raise all those whom His Father has given to Him on the last day when He (Christ) returns.
But before we quickly jump to such a conclusion, we should also consider John 6:37—the one who comes to Me I will not cast out. (This means those who choose to depart from the faith are excluded from the blessing of being raised in future). We should also consider John 6:40 where Jesus says He will raise up on the last day those who believe in Him.
Thus, only those who would come to God and believe in Him will get to enjoy the privilege of being saved (raised up in glory on the last day).
Notice that there are at least three different types of responses by people:
- Those who believe and know that Christ is the Holy One of God ie. genuine believers (John 6:69).
- Those men, like Nicodemus, who has great interest in the kingdom but are held back by their will. They seem so close to the kingdom, yet are so far from it (John 3: 5-10).
- Those who have been called once upon a time but later betray or renounce God, like Judas (John 6:64; John 6:71).
Judas was chosen by God to be one of the 12 disciples. Will he be raised on the last day according to John 6:39? By no means! He sold his soul for money and he will go to the place of eternal torment, showing the fallacy of the principle that God's choosing is all that matters. The human will plays a most important part in determining our eternal destiny apart from the fact that it is God who initially chooses man. God predestines believers to be saved but He alone does not predetermine the outcome. Man is a free moral agent. ** He can decide to go to heaven or hell, even after having being chosen by God.
Also people like to welcome the promise of eternal life is found in John 3:16 but tend to forget the warning found in John 3:36. Anyway, it isn't strange that believers love promises but like to downplay warnings.
God is sovereign in that He not only chose men that they might be saved but He also gave them a free will to accept or reject His offer of forgiveness. **
In the three instances above—John chapter 10, John chapter 6 and John chapter 3 —we realise that, once we have already decided that eternal security is the truth, it is so easy to pick one verse or two verses to support this erroneous doctrine (eisegesis) without considering the relevant passage from which these isolated verses are plucked out. It is so easy to jump to wrong conclusions without studying the verse or verses in its proper context. Indeed, great is the need to see how isolated verses fit into the bigger scheme of things in a particular passage.
Just as a few swallows do not make a summer, a few isolated verses do not make a doctrine.
The purposes of this post are manifold:
- 1. For proper interpretation of scriptures, we must study the verses in the context of the relevant passage.
- 2. The practice of using isolated verses to support our preconceived ideas or premises (eisegesis) is dangerous.
- 3. Eternal security, upheld by many illustrious personalities with a string of theological degrees under their belt, is a heresy. Apart from being erroneous, it is also dangerous as it breeds complacency.
- 4. You are invited to study the three passages for yourself, like a Berean, to determine whether my assertions above is true or not. I welcome you to do so and correct me if I am wrong. The passages are found in John 10:27-29; John 6:37-40; John 3:16 and John 3:36
5. From the three passages, the conclusions are as follows: 1. God only promises to tenaciously hold on to the hand of obedient followers who listen to His commands. 2. Jesus will only raise up on the last day (when He returns) those who come to Him and believe in Him. 3. Those who profess to be believers but do not obey God will be condemned.
FREE WILL **
The ability to choose is God’s precious and gracious gift to us. Even after we have become believers, we can choose between pleasing self or obeying God. We can choose between good and evil. Thus, all believers are free moral agents.
Freedom of choice is something that remains with us even after we have become believers. God does not turn us into robots or automatons.
To reiterate, though our ‘spirit man’ has been made new at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17), our will remains neutral. Whether they are men or angels, all of God’s creation can choose to obey Him or rebel against Him. This freedom of choice comes with a catch. Those who rebel against His authority will be held accountable. They will have to face judgment eventually (Jude 1:5-7).
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire (Jude 1:5-7).
CAN GENUINE BELIEVERS GIVE UP ON THEIR FAITH?
Some compare the Christian life to a walk in the park—everything is by faith. You just have to believe in what Jesus has done for you and, voila, everything God promises is yours. Anything more than that smacks of self-effort, pride and legalism.