One sunny, spring afternoon as I was walking through a busy shopping centre, a man stopped me to offer me a leaflet with Bible verses. As we spoke, I soon discovered that the man thought people could be saved and then lost. Such a false idea undermines the great message of the gospel and contradicts the teaching of the Lord Jesus. This article reminds us of the truth of eternal security.
The teaching of the Lord Jesus
In John chapter 10 verses 28-30, the Lord Jesus makes the clearest statement of the security of believers.
It was winter time in Jerusalem and the Lord Jesus was outside of the temple at Solomon’s Porch. The coldness of the season was matched with the hard attitude of the Jews that gathered around the Lord to question Him. Surrounded by hatred and opposition, the Lord Jesus responded to the questioning Jews with some of the loveliest words about His people:
The first time ‘eternal life’ is mentioned in John’s Gospel is in chapter 3, when the Lord Jesus explained the new birth to Nicodemus. At first, Nicodemus couldn’t understand, he was thinking of physical birth; the Lord Jesus said, ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the spirit is spirit’, John 3. 6. Nicodemus realized that the Lord Jesus was speaking about spiritual life from God, in contrast to ordinary human life which is marked by sin. Eternal life is received when a person is saved and can be enjoyed here on earth. It brings forgiveness. Its full scope will be appreciated in heaven.
As the Lord Jesus spoke to the crowd of Jews in John chapter 10, He said ‘I give … eternal life’. The Lord Jesus knew what the cost would be in order to give this. At Calvary, the judgement was to come down so heavily on Him; the punishment that He would bear to ‘put away sin’, Heb. 9. 26, enabled the Lord Jesus to say with power, ‘I give … eternal life’.
Destruction, loss, separation, departure, ruin, death and punishment are all summarized by the word ‘perish’. The awful consequence for the person that rejects the gospel is to be lost eternally and to suffer ongoing torment (this is clear from the words of the Lord Jesus, Luke 16. 20-26). There is a definite judgement and a final sentence for those who are not saved, Rev. 20. 13-14. This stark fact should motivate us to share the gospel with others. Perhaps it is only when we consider the dread of what it means to ‘perish’ that we who are saved can begin to appreciate the greatness of the words ‘they shall never perish’. Positive, definite and sure: ‘never perish’! We can rejoice that there is no possibility of being lost!
After the Lord Jesus said, ‘I give unto them eternal life … they shall never perish’, He didn’t stop there. He provided further assurance. The Lord went on to say, ‘Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand’. Perhaps a believer might ask, ‘What if someone or something pulled me away?’ After all, the world offers so much temptation to take us away from the Lord. The Lord Jesus answers such doubts with complete confidence – we’re safe in His hand! Paul sums up the extent of the believer’s safety, ‘Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord’, Rom. 8. 38-39. The temptations of the world, and the powers of the devil can remove blessing and enjoyment, which is why we need to keep close to God and His word; however, through it all, we are secure in the hand of the Shepherd.
Finally, the Lord Jesus provides additional assurance in relation to the Father, based on His greatness and power. No one can pluck the believer from the Father’s hand, because He is the Almighty, and no created power is able to resist Him – He is the ultimate power! The Lord’s statement, ‘I and [the] Father are one’, is very important in two ways. Firstly, the Lord declares His deity, and, secondly, describes ‘oneness’ in the work of power by which He protects His sheep; there is also ‘oneness’ between the Father and the Son in the desire and care for the sheep. The power that the Father has to preserve those who have been saved is equalled by the power of the Lord Jesus.
There are many Bible passages that teach the eternal security of the believer, but how great to think of these words of the Lord Jesus describing His love and care towards His people! Those who are saved are forever secure in Him.