“He Will Hold Me Fast” (John 10:27-29 sermon)

We have SO many blessings to count this Thanksgiving season, don’t we? But surely one of THE greatest blessings we have to give thanks for as God’s people, is the SECURITY of our salvation in Jesus Christ — that “HE will hold us fast” and will not let us go. 

One of our men told me just a few days ago, that he was SO glad that he didn’t have to worry, when he lay down his head at night, if he was still saved, and right with God. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the gift of knowing for sure that we are saved. These verses in John 10 that many of us read this week, and that we read again a few moments ago, are among the strongest in the New Testament regarding the eternal security of the genuine believer in Christ: 

“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.”

These verses contain at least FIVE strong statements from Jesus regarding the security of the salvation of His genuine sheep:

I. “ETERNAL life”

:28 ”My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give ETERNAL life to them ..”.

The first promise of security we have here is found in the fact that Jesus says He gives His sheep “ETERNAL life.”  If something is “eternal”, how long will it last?  It lasts forever, right? “Eternal life,” by definition, is life that lasts forever.  The best Greek Bible dictionary available says of this Greek Bible word “eternal,” that it means “a future period that HAS NO END.” So “eternal life,” then, is life that “has no end.” So when might you lose life that “has no end”? If it “has no end,” that means it is NOT going to end. That is what “eternal life” is. So if you can lose it, it is not “eternal life.” You would have to call it something else: maybe “temporary life,” but it would not be “eternal life.” Eternal life lasts forever. If it doesn’t last forever, it is not eternal life. 

But Jesus said here “I give ETERNAL life to them.” So when you are saved, you get “eternal life” — which means that it will never end. 

And no, it is not that if you do good enough through life, that in the end Jesus will then give you eternal life. He didn’t say “I WILL give My sheep eternal life; He said “I GIVE them.” It is present tense. He gives His sheep, who hear His voice and follow Him, Eternal Life RIGHT NOW. And as we have seen, “eternal life” means it will never end. So when you truly commit your life to Jesus, you have “eternal life” that begins right here on earth, right now, and it will never end. For any reason. Period. 

I saw where a lot of people are concerned because Sears stores are doing so poorly. They are closing stores, going into bankruptcy, and so on. So people are asking: “What about the warranties?” Because for years Sears has advertised that their Kenmore parts had a “lifetime warranty.” But if Sears goes out of business, then that “lifetime warranty” may not really be a “lifetime warranty” at all! A blanket promise like that is only as good as the one who is giving it. 

But let me tell you something: GOD IS NOT GOING OUT OF BUSINESS!

And when He says “I give you eternal life,” it really is “ETERNAL life.” It will NEVER end. It is just like the old song says:

“When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun; we’ve NO LESS DAYS to sing God’s praise, then when we first begun.” 

This song says it so well: when does eternal life end? NEVER. After 10,000 years in heaven, we still have as much time as we ever had at first, because it NEVER ends. The first reason we see here why Christians can be secure in our salvation, is because Jesus didn’t say He was giving us “temporary life;” He said He was giving us “eternal life,” which means life that will NEVER end. You don’t have to worry about losing it, today, tomorrow, or the next time you really mess up. You can never lose it. Jesus said He was giving us “ETERNAL life.”  

II.  “I GIVE eternal life to them.”

Here is a second promise of eternal security for the Christian: as we saw a moment ago, Jesus said He GIVES us eternal life. Eternal life is a GIFT. He GIVES it to us. This is just what Romans 6:23 says: “For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Bible says that eternal life is not something that any of us “earn.” We have all sinned, as Romans 3:23 says, and “the wages of sin is death,” so what we all “deserve” is eternal death, separated from God forever. NONE of us earn or deserve eternal life.

And that’s just what Ephesians 2:8-9 says, isn’t it? “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the GIFT of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

The Bible says, NONE of us are saved because of how good we are. We are only saved by God’s grace. Now most people don’t really understand that; they are “trying” to be good enough to earn a place in heaven, by going to church, and doing good deeds. But the Bible says “by the works of the Law shall NO FLESH be justified in His sight.” NONE of us can earn salvation. The only way you can ever be saved is first to realize that you can never deserve it, and just receive it as a GIFT from God. 

Charles Spurgeon, the famous English preacher who lived the 1800’s, once started a sermon on a big grandstand at the Epsom racecourse saying, I want to sell you something this evening. He said, now usually the person with something to sell endeavors to get you UP to the price he is asking. But Spurgeon said, tonight, my job is to bring you DOWN to it. He was preaching from Isaiah 55:1, which says that salvation is “without money and without price.” He said for us to be saved, we have to “come down” to God’s price — we can’t earn it or deserve it; if we’re going to get salvation, we must receive it as a GIFT. 

So think about it: if we did not “earn” our salvation by our good works in the first place, how can we “un-earn” it by our bad works? See, the only way you can think you are going to lose your salvation by your works is if you thought you gained it by your works in the first place, and we didn’t. Salvation is a GIFT. And you can’t “un-earn” a gift. Jesus says, “I GIVE eternal life to them.” So that should make us secure in our salvation.

III. “NEVER perish”

“and they will NEVER perish”

“Perish” here refers to eternal destruction apart from God forever. It’s the word Jesus uses in John 3:16, where He says if you believe in Him you will not “perish.”  The Bible word “never” here is really two Greek Bible words: “ou me”. It is a double negative, like “NOT NOT!”  Now in English you aren’t supposed to use a double negative. (“There isn’t no other way” etc.) It is not considered to be good English. But in Greek they DO use a double negative, when they want really emphasize that something will NOT happen: It’s a way of saying “by no means!” One Greek authority said this particular combination of “ou me” means: “Not a fact … not even a possibility”! 

There are several places in scripture where this combination “ou me” is used to emphasize that something will NEVER happen: 

— In Matthew 5:20 Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will NEVER — ou me — no possibility — you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

— Matthew 24:25 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My word will NEVER — ou me — “never/not even a possibility” that His word will pass away!

— In Hebrews 13:6 where God says, “I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you,” He uses  “ou me.” He’s saying, “there is not even a possibility that I am ever going to leave you or forsake you”!  Like Psalm 27:10 says, Father and mother may forsake you, but GOD never will. “Ou me” —  there is not even a possibility that He will leave you. 

So there “not a possibility” that you can get into heaven unless you’re more righteous than the scribes & Pharisees; there is “not a possibility” that Jesus’ words will ever pass away; and there is “not a possibility” that God will ever leave you or forsake you. 

And in the same way Jesus says here, that there is “not a possibility” that His true sheep will ever perish. He says, “they will NEVER perish” — “ou me” — the “double negative;” “that ain’t not gonna happen”! — there is NOT EVEN A POSSIBILITY — that one of Jesus’ sheep will ever perish! Their salvation is secure.

IV.  “NO ONE will snatch them”

:28 ”and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”

So when you are one of Jesus’ sheep, He says you are “in His hand.” Being in His hand, just WHO does He say will be able to snatch you out?

“No one,” Jesus says. There are a lot of people that come against us as Christians, but He says NONE of them can take you out of His hand. 

— People can be so discouraging, can’t they? When Abraham Lincoln was president, public newspapers called him “the Baboon President” and “a low-bred obscene clown.” And there times he got so discouraged; one visitor to the White House saw in Lincoln’s face lines of hurt and worry that were so deep, that he wrote later, “His long, sad, gloomy face haunted me for days afterwards.” All that criticism just wore on him. 

People can be so discouraging. And maybe someone or some group has discouraged YOU in your Christian walk. It may be a fact that you are totally discouraged in your Christian life, and you are just about ready to throw in the towel. But let me give you another fact: there may be people who can totally overwhelm you with anxiety and discouragement, BUT JESUS SAID THEY CANNOT PLUCK YOU OUT OF HIS HAND!  

— Or maybe there is someone who is able to counter all your arguments for the faith, intellectually. That happens to just about everyone, sometime. It even happened to C.S. Lewis one time in England — a woman there just totally trounced him in a debate. And maybe someone will better you in a debate, or in a conversation, or whatever. But you know what? They may be able to argue around you, but they cannot take your soul! Jesus says NO ONE — not even the sharpest debater — can pluck you out of His hand!

— Or what about the Devil himself? Charles Spurgeon has a great book for young preachers, called Lectures To My Students, and in it he warns young men in the ministry to beware Satan’s temptations. He says, don’t get in the position where Satan tempts you, and defeats you, and glories against Jesus Christ Himself, and says: “These are Your champions? I can make your best servants abuse You!”  I think all of us would say, I don’t ever want that to happen to me — but what if it did? Satan may tempt you; he may defeat you; he may embarrass you and humiliate you. He may, with God’s permission, strike your body from head to foot like he did Job. But there is one thing he CANNOT do: HE CANNOT PLUCK YOU OUT OF GOD’S HAND!  

Who can take you from God’s hand, when He has promised to hold you? Romans 8 asks this very question. It says in :35, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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.”  

NO ONE can separate you from His love, Jesus said. NOTHING can pluck you out of His hand.

V.  “My FATHER”

Jesus said here in :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.” Jesus says His FATHER is the key to our eternal security.  He said the Father GAVE His sheep to Jesus, who is GREATER than all; and who HOLDS us in His hand. Here is a “triple promise” that our salvation depends upon God, and not merely our own efforts: 1) The Father GAVE these sheep to Jesus; 2) HE is greater than all; and 3) He HOLDS them in His hand, and there is no one who can get them out!

The Bible repeatedly teaches us that our eternal security is based on GOD’S power and faithfulness, not merely on ours:

— Ephesians 1:13 says “After listening to the message of the truth, the gospel of your salvation — having also believed, you were SEALED in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance.” There is such significant language there. The Bible says when we hear the gospel and believe it, the Holy Spirit comes in and “SEALS” us, as belonging to Him. A seal is a mark of ownership. When Jesus was buried, the Bible says the Roman soldiers put a “seal” on His tomb; it was their way of saying, “Hey, this tomb belongs to Rome; do NOT mess with it!” In the same way, the Bible says here, when a person is saved, God puts His “seal,” His “mark of ownership” on the person’s heart, saying “this one belongs to ME. Everyone else out!” 

And it goes on to say in :14 that the Holy Spirit is a “pledge” of our inheritance in heaven. The word “pledge” there is like our term “earnest money.” When you decide to buy a home, you put down “earnest money” as a way of saying, I am really going to buy this, and if I don’t follow through, I will forfeit the earnest money I put down. So God says here, when you get saved, He gives His Holy Spirit as His “earnest money” that you will actually be His on the Day of Redemption. He has promised to take you to heaven, and if He doesn’t, He would forfeit His own Holy Spirit!  Of course He is NOT going to do that, but that is how strong that promise is. He has given the “earnest money” of His Holy Spirt as the guarantee of your salvation. You are eternally secure, kept by the promise of God! 

— Paul wrote in II Timothy 1:12, “For I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” He says GOD is guarding and keeping our salvation until the day we come to Him. We might not be able to keep ourselves, but HE keeps us, which gives us security in our salvation.  

— Then Paul said in the next chapter, II Timothy 2:13 “If we are faithless, HE remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” That’s one of my very favorite verses. Our hope of heaven is not based on our own fickle faithlessness — if it was, NONE of us could ever be confident that we were going to heaven. But instead it says, even when WE are “faithless; “HE remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” We may indeed be faithless in our Christian walk — just like Peter and Thomas and the others were at different times in their walk with the Lord. But despite our faithlessness, GOD is always faithful. He will not go back on His promises, even if we go back on ours. So again, we see our security is based on HIM, and not us.  That GOD is holding US, is the guarantee of our eternal salvation. 

Some years ago, when our son Michael was a little toddler, our family went to see a Major League Baseball game in Arlington, Texas. “The Ballpark in Arlington,” as it is known, was a very new stadium then, but it was also very steep — especially in the seats that our family was going to on about the third deck. We were all walking down to our seats, and the view from there was dizzying. I was carrying Michael, and I’ll never forget, as I had him on my hip, holding him in my arm, he was clinging to me so tight, like his life depended upon it.

You may notice that a lot of kids do that. I was carrying our little grand daughter Lorna the other day, and I had firm grip on her, but I noticed she had a hold on my shirt; it was just all wadded up in her hand, and she was just hanging on.  You’ve seen that: when you can see their little hand just holding on to your shirt, like their life depends upon it.

But here’s the thing — and you know this is true: the security of Michael that day in the ballpark, and Lorna, and all the children we hold, is not dependent upon how strong THEIR grip is upon us — their security is based on how strongly WE have a hold on THEM!

And Jesus teaches us here that the same thing is true of us and God, and our eternal salvation. Our eternal security is not based on how strongly we hold on to God, but on how strongly HE holds on to US!  As II Timothy says, though we are faithless, HE will always be faithful:

Can you sin and lose your peace? Yes you can.

Can you sin and lose your joy? You sure can.

Can you sin and lose a lot of blessings here on earth? Absolutely you can. 

Can you sin and lose your sense of closeness to God? Yes you can.

But you cannot sin and lose your salvation. You were saved by the power and faithfulness of God, and you will be kept secure by that same power and faithfulness of God.

CONCLUSION:

The question is: DO YOU HAVE THIS SECURITY? Do you have this greatest blessing? 

Here is something we need to make very clear here before we close. Jesus’ great promise here of eternal security is not just for everyone who has ever supposedly “made a decision.” This is the tragic error that so many people make. They say things like, “Well, I supposedly ‘made a decision’ when I was 6, and I didn’t know what I was doing, and I haven’t really lived for the Lord ever since, but you know, ‘once saved always saved.’” NO; that is a lie from the devil!  YES Jesus says He gives eternal life to His “sheep,” but He also said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and THEY FOLLOW ME.” You need to hear what Jesus is saying there: if you are NOT hearing His voice and you are NOT following Him, then you can have NO confidence at all that you are really His sheep, and the promises of these verses do NOT apply to you. Do not be deceived.

But if you are one of Jesus’ sheep, you will be hearing His voice in His word, through His Holy Spirit, and you will be following Him — maybe not as perfectly as you ought to, but you will be following Him. And if you are, then you can have every confidence that you are really His sheep, and your salvation has the five-fold guarantee that Jesus shows us in these verses:

And When you feel your faith will fail, Christ will hold you fast.
When the tempter would prevail, HE will hold you fast … He will hold you fast; He will hold you fast.

For your Savior loves you so … and HE will hold you fast!  

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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