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 He will not let us go.
I remember a man in our church in North Carolina told me one time, that he was SO glad that when he lay down his head at night, he didn’t have to worry whether 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. The verses we read here in John 10 this morning are among the strongest in the New Testament regarding the eternal security of the genuine believer in Christ. Jesus said:
“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 eternal security of His sheep:
I. “I give ETERNAL life to them” (:28)
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 the Greek Bible word for “eternal” (aionion) 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”? You won’t, right? It “has NO END”! That is what “eternal life” is. If you can lose it, it’s not “eternal life.” You would have to call it something else: maybe call it “temporary life,” but it wouldn’t be “eternal life.” Eternal life lasts forever. If it doesn’t last forever, it is not eternal life. It’s as simple as that.
Jesus said here “I give ETERNAL life to them.” So when He gives eternal life to you, the moment you are saved, you have a life from God that WILL NOT 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. I love that verse Darla (Wilcox) shared from John 5:24, that Jesus said he who believes in Him “HAS eternal life.” Not that he WILL have it; but that he HAS it, NOW! And as we just saw, “eternal life” means it will never end. So when you truly commit your life to Jesus, you have “eternal life” that begins right now, and it will NEVER end. If it ended, for any reason, it would not be “eternal life.” “Eternal life,” by definition, is life that will never end. For any reason. Period.
I remember several years ago (during the last kind of recession we had) they announced that Sears would be closing numerous stores, and they were going into bankruptcy. The first thing many people asked was: “What about their warranties?” Because for years Sears had advertised that their Kenmore parts had a “lifetime warranty.” But if Sears goes out of business, then that “lifetime warranty” wouldn’t really be a “lifetime warranty” at all! A blanket promise like that is only as good as the one who is giving it.
Here’s the thing: 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. For any reason. It is a guarantee. 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, than when we first begun.”
This song says it so well: when does eternal life end? NEVER. After 10,000 years in heaven, we will still have as much time as we ever had at the first, because it NEVER ends. The first reason 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 it 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.” (:28)
Here is a second promise of eternal security for the Christian: as we saw a moment ago, Jesus said He GIVES us eternal life. This is important. Eternal life is a GIFT. Jesus 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 we all “deserve” eternal death, separated from God forever. NONE of us could possibly 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. Most people don’t really understand that; most people 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 to realize that you can never deserve it; you have to receive it as a GIFT from God.
Charles Spurgeon, the famous English preacher who lived the 1800’s, once began a sermon on a big grandstand at the Epsom racecourse by 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.” Spurgeon said for us to be saved, we have to “come down” to God’s price — that we can’t earn it or deserve it; if we’re going to get salvation, we have to receive it totally free, as a GIFT.
So if you’re a Christian today, ask yourself: “How many good works did I have to do, in order to be saved?” NONE, right? You weren’t saved by your good works. You are only saved by God’s grace. So now turn that around: if you didn’t EARN your salvation by your GOOD works, what makes you think you could LOSE it by your bad works? You can’t! You didn’t GET it by good works in the first place, and you can’t LOSE it by a bad work now! Jesus says “I GIVE them eternal life.” Salvation is a GIFT. And you can’t “un-earn” a gift. So again: a genuine Christian, saved by the gift of God in Christ, will always be secure in their salvation.
III. “And they will NEVER perish” (:28)
“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”. Grammatically it is a double negative, like “NOT NOT!” Now in English you aren’t supposed to use a double negative. It’s not considered to be good English. But in Greek they DO use double negatives when they want to emphasize something. And here God uses it to emphasize something that will NOT happen: it’s a way of saying “by no means!” One Greek scholar said that “ou me” means: “Not a fact … not even a possibility”!
There are several other places in scripture where “ou me” is used to emphasize that something will NEVER happen:
— In Matthew 5:20 Jesus said: “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.
— In Matthew 24:35 Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will NEVER — ou me — “never/not even a possibility” that His word would ever pass away!
— Then in Hebrews 13:6, God says, “I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you,” He uses “ou me” here again. He’s saying, “there is not even a possibility that I will ever 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 is “not even a possibility” that you can get into heaven unless you’re more righteous than the scribes & Pharisees; there is “not even a possibility” that Jesus’ words will ever pass away; and there is “not even a possibility” that God will ever leave you or forsake you.
And Jesus uses the same words here, to emphasize that there is “not a possibility” that His true sheep will ever perish. He says, “they will NEVER perish” — “ou me” — the “double negative;” “it WILL NOT happen”! — there is NOT EVEN A POSSIBILITY — that one of Jesus’ true sheep will ever perish! Our salvation is secure.
IV. “And NO ONE will snatch them out of My hand” (:28)
When you are one of Jesus’ sheep, He says you are “in His hand.” Being in His hand, WHO does He say will be able to snatch you out? “No one,” Jesus says. There are a lot of things 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.” There were 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 President Lincoln.
And maybe someone or some group has discouraged YOU in your Christian walk. Maybe you are totally discouraged right now, and you are just about ready to throw in the towel. But even if people can totally overwhelm you with anxiety or discouragement, JESUS SAID THEY CANNOT PLUCK YOU OUT OF HIS HAND!
— Or maybe there’s 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 in England once — a woman there just totally trounced him in a debate. And maybe someone will better you in a debate, or in a conversation, or a confrontation. But you know what? They may be able to argue circles 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 of Satan’s temptations. He says, don’t get in the position where Satan tempts you, and defeats you, and then 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 even, 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 God Himself has promised to hold you? Romans 8 asks that very question. It says in :35, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? (In other words, who can take us out of His hand?) “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” He says, NO! “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. THAT is eternal security!
V. “My FATHER …” (:29)
And finally Jesus said 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; the Father is GREATER than all; and it is the Father who HOLDS us in His hand. Here is a “triple promise” that our salvation depends upon God, and not merely our own efforts:
- The Father GAVE these sheep to Jesus;
- He is GREATER than all; and
- He HOLDS them in His hand, and NO ONE can get them out!
The Bible repeatedly teaches us that our eternal security is based on GOD’S power and faithfulness, not merely 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, “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 that person’s heart, saying “this one belongs to ME. Everyone else keep 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. When you give your life to Him, He promises to take you to heaven, and if He doesn’t do it, He would forfeit the “earnest money” of His own Holy Spirit! Of course He will never do that, but that just shows how strong His promise is. He has given the “earnest money” of His Holy Spirt as the guarantee of your salvation. You are eternally secure, 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 our soul, which we entrusted to Him with our salvation.
— Then in the next chapter, II Timothy 2:13, Paul “Though 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. How faithful can we promise to be? Peter thought he would never deny Jesus — but when push came to shove, he did! Can we know that we will do any better? No — if our salvation depended on our faithfulness, we wouldn’t have any hope. But here in II Timothy it says, even though WE are “faithless; “HE remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” We may indeed be faithless one day in our Christian walk — just like Peter and Thomas and the other disciples were unfaithful at different times in their walk with God. But despite our faithlessness, God says HE will always be 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, not on us. The fact that GOD is holding US, is the guarantee of our eternal salvation.
Last year at Thanksgiving time, Cheryl took this picture of me holding our grandson Bennett. If you look closely at the picture, you will see I am holding him, but he also has a little fist full of my Bucee’s tee shirt (I guess he doesn’t quite trust me!) He was holding on with all his might to that tee shirt, and he was trying not to let go. And that’s good that he was doing that. But his security, that he would not fall, did NOT depend on how tightly he was holding on to ME, but on how strongly I was holding on to HIM!
And that’s a great picture of how it is with GOD and US too! Psalm 63:8 says, “My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.” In other words: we are to hold on to God with all that we have; that’s our part: “my soul clings to You.” Cling to God; hold on to Him even in the worst, hardest times of your life. But at the same time, we need to realize that just like Bennett with me here; our eternal security does not depend on how tightly WE hold on to GOD, but on how tightly GOD holds on to US!
As II Timothy says, though we are faithless, HE remains faithful. 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; people do it all the time.
Can you sin and lose your sense of closeness to God? Yes you can and you will.
But you cannot sin and lose your salvation. You were saved by the grace and by the power and by the faithfulness of God, and you will be KEPT saved by the same grace and power and faithfulness of God, who will hold you fast!
The question for you this morning is: DO YOU HAVE THAT SECURITY?
We need to make something very clear before we close. Jesus’ great promise here of eternal security is not just for everyone who has ever supposedly “made a decision” for God. This is a tragic error that many, many people make. They think, “Well, I supposedly ‘made a decision’ when I was 6, and I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I haven’t really lived for the Lord ever since, but you know, ‘once saved always saved.’”
Folks, 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.” Hear what Jesus is saying there. He says those who are really His sheep hear His voice. Those who are really His sheep, FOLLOW Him. Don’t be deceived: If you have never truly given your life to Jesus as your Savior, and you are showing it, by NOT hearing His voice, and NOT following Him — then you can have NO confidence you are really His sheep, and all these great promises Jesus gives us in these verses do NOT apply to you. But they CAN, if you will truly give your life to Him today.
But if you know you ARE are one of Jesus’ sheep, because you have sincerely given your life to Him; and you are hearing His voice in His word, and though you are not perfect, you are making a genuine attempt to follow Him — then you can have every confidence that you are really His sheep, and your salvation has the five-fold guarantee from God that Jesus gives 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!
— Maybe as a Christian person, you have been under attack by the devil, tempting you to doubt your salvation. If you have truly, from your heart, given your life the Lord, then you need to claim this 5-fold promise from Jesus we’ve seen in these verses.
— Maybe you know someone who needs this assurance, and you need to share some of this with them.
— Or maybe you’d say, I’m pretty certain I do NOT have this … Perhaps you made “some decision” before, but you didn’t know what you were doing, or never meant it. And your life has shown you aren’t really following Him as His sheep. Or maybe you have just never truly given your life to Him — but today you can: admit your sin to God, and ask Him to save you right now because of Jesus’ death on the cross.