The Security of the Believer- John 10:22-30
Can a Christian lose his or her salvation? This subject is critically important for one simple reason: we ALL sin. The topic is often described in different ways: “perseverance of the saints,” “security of the believer,” “eternal security.” But each phrase centers on these questions: What happens when believers sin, or backslide? Can a person’s sin or failures result in the loss of salvation?
John 10:22-30 is a key New Testament passage on the security of the believer.
The Promise of Eternal Life. In verse 28, Jesus says, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” Jesus makes the same promise two different ways: believers will not perish, and no one can take eternal life from them.
The doctrine of the believer’s security does not rest just on Christ’s words in this one passage. All three members of the Godhead are involved in salvation, and Jesus’ perfect, one-time work to atone for all sin (Heb. 10:10) is the basis for that assurance. Believers cannot save themselves or keep themselves saved; only the collaborative work of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit can do this.
The word of the Father reinforces Christ’s words and work: “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29), and the inheritance He gives us is “incorruptible” and “does not fade away” (1 Pet. 1:3-5). God assures believers that Jesus will “confirm” us “to the end” (1 Cor. 1:7-9) and that He is able to “present” us “faultless” in that final day (Jude 24). For God’s purpose to be thwarted by human weakness or fickleness would make God’s word dependent on human actions.
Regarding the Spirit’s confirmation, Ephesians 1:13 says: “Having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” Paul says the Spirit serves as a mark of permanence and security in our lives- a guarantee that the Christian’s destination will not be interrupted.
The Protection of Eternal Life. Jesus’ words in 10:28, 29 paint a picture of believers being held in His hand. This is a tremendous image of security. Romans 8:35-39 affirms the believer’s security with a long list of things that cannot separate us from the love of Christ. Our security is not in our ability to hold on to Christ’s hand but in His ability to hold us in His.
Some critics have said this doctrine is dangerous because it means that Christians can go out and live any way they want- even willfully sinning- without fear of the ramifications. But anyone who treats the security of the believer as an insurance policy so they can sin without consequence probably does not know the Lord to begin with. This is simply not the heart of a born-again follower of Christ. As Paul said, if “we have died to sin, how can we live in it any longer” (Rom. 6:2)? Or in James’ words, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). True faith results in a transformed life. Those who have truly known the forgiveness of their sins and who are in the habit of thanking God for His love will not use their forgiveness and salvation as a license to sin. True believers in Christ look for ways to please Him every day, not loopholes by which to exploit their promised salvation.
The Proof of Eternal Life. Verse 27 gave rise among Puritan theologians to the two marks of Christ’s sheep: the mark on the ear (“My sheep hear My voice”) and the mark on the foot (“they follow Me”). Just as cattle are branded today to identify their owner, so followers of Jesus are “branded” by those two traits. A true Christian is one who listens to the words of Jesus and who follows Him.
Practically speaking, that means when we read the Word of God, a spirit of agreement and affirmation will well up in our hearts. We will embrace what we read, not resist it. We will affirm its truth and look for ways to apply it in our lives. We will want to follow Him. And when we fail, we will want to repent and seek His forgiveness. No true believer will be comfortable unless he or she is following Jesus.
In Christ’s Love,