Everywhere I turn I seem to find myself in a discussion about the eternal security of a believer. These are not discussions I seek out, but seem to find me. First, I find it interesting that so many people are passionately arguing for their right to lose their salvation, as if it is something to be desired. Being worried about losing your salvation doesn't sound like freedom that Jesus promised, it sounds like self-centered slavery to our flesh. If it were me, I would rather be fervently seeking the scriptures for promises of freedom that come from trusting in the Savior.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the discussion, eternal security of the believer is belief that when you are adopted into God’s family, you cannot be un-adopted. Or to put it another way, when you are born again, you cannot become unborn again. Or to put it another way, when you are found, you cannot become lost again. Or to put it another way, when you are saved by Jesus from the flames of Hell, you cannot be thrown back into the flames in which he rescued you from. Another phrase used in theology circles regarding this discussion is “perseverance of the saints.”
John 10:28 is a common verse that a lot of people use to help with this discussion. The question is what does this verse say? First, we should recognize that Jesus is the speaker, so we can start with the understanding that, whatever it says, it is true. You have to either believe it, reject it, or ignore it. Whether we like what Jesus is saying or not, doesn't change its substance.
First, Jesus starts with “I give them eternal life.” This phrase is present tense. Jesus does not say, “I will give them”, but says “I give them.” It happens at the moment of faith. “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” (Ephesians 2:8).
Second, what does Jesus give them? Eternal life. Life is only eternal if it doesn't end. To take this gift back means it ends. Logically, you cannot give a gift of eternal life and then take it back. This is by definition not eternal life. The reality is that to truly give eternal life it must be for keeps, no returns.
Third, Jesus says “They will never perish.” Jesus changes his time frame and talks about future tense. Jesus is saying that the gift of eternal life in the present produces a sure thing in the future, specifically “they will never perish.” So if you believe you can forfeit, or lose, your salvation, the “they will never perish” is false, and we know that Jesus does not lie. In a way, Jesus is like Babe Ruth calling his shot.
Lastly, Jesus ends by re-emphasizing how secure this gift is, in case we didn't believe Him the first time. Jesus tells us that the ones Jesus died for he now holds us in his hands and won’t let them go. The same hands that have holes in them from the nails demonstrating his passion to save us, are the same hands that we trust to keep us secure. Why would Jesus lay down His life to save us, and then let us just slip away.
Some people try to argue that Jesus is excluding the Christian in this verse and that the Christian can, in fact, lose the gift of eternal life if they don’t behave. This position does not add up Biblically, and it offers no sense of comfort, which is the purpose of the entire verse. There is only one person that causes me to go to Hell, and that is Phil Parsons. There is only one person that I need protection from, and that is Phil Parsons. Satan does not cause me to go to Hell, he can only tempt me. People don’t cause me to go to Hell, they are just flesh and blood. For Jesus to provide any comfort to me regarding salvation, He must ensure me that He will protect me from myself. When Jesus says “no one”, He means “no one”, specifically Phil Parsons. And for that I worship!