Unfortunately, “Eternal Security of the Believer” is the name of a erroneous doctrine also known as “Once-Saved-Always-Saved.” This doctrine states that regardless of how the believer lives, he will remain in a “saved” condition forever. This teaching definitely does not agree with the “sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness” (1 Tim 6:3).
In a frightening way, this doctrine literally hands a free license to live in sin without feeling any guilt or remorse at all. It makes it so easy to say, “If I’m going to Heaven no matter what I do, I might as well enjoy sin down here. Why not enjoy the best of both worlds?”
Now many sincere and precious people who adamantly adhere this erroneous teaching may never even think about using that license to sin; but that does not make this teaching correct.
Here is one of the key Scriptures used by those who advocate this doctrine:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;John 10:27-29
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 are definitely the “sound words of Jesus,” and it does sound like He is promising eternal security to the believer: “…they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand…” But there is a part of this text that quickly unravels that doctrinal error:
“My sheep hear My voice, and…they follow Me…”
Although not literally written as an “if–” statement, the text does allow for a conditional promise. The security Jesus offers is provided for sheep who have these two qualities:
- They hear His voice
- They follow Him
Those who hear and follow are sheep for whom Jesus says: “…and I know them…”
Compare John 10 with this passage:
Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.Matthew 7:21-23 (Luke 6:46; 13:26, 27)
Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?”
And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
There is no “eternal security” found in those verses – even for those who were used to perform miracles in Jesus’ Name. What is the difference? Jesus does not “know them.” He knows “about” them, but He does not have any intimate connection with them because they are practicing “lawlessness.”
Similarly, Jesus speaks about branches that “abide” in the Vine (Jesus) and those that don’t:
If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.John 15:6
Notice He is talking about “branches.” He is not talking about branches that are part of another vine somewhere. He is referring to branches that were in Him, at one time, but they did not continue in Him. These branches are believers, not unbelievers. If a believer – a branch in Christ – does not remain “in Christ,” the consequences are obvious: that branch withers and will be thrown into a fire and burned.
Obviously, then, Scripture does not support that “Once-Saved-Always-Saved” doctrine!
Yet – these verses in John 10 do hold a wonderful promise for those who are sheep in Jesus’ flock. The key for this promise to be applied is that the sheep must maintain these two qualities:
- He has ears to hear Jesus’ voice.
- He chooses to follow Him.
If both conditions are met, then this sheep is definitely, beyond any doubt, absolutely, most assuredly, and 100% eternally secure! He will never perish and nobody can snatch him out of Jesus’ or the Father’s hands! Hallelujah!
This brings to my mind a very wonderful promise with reference to a shepherd and his sheep spoken in a prophecy of Amos. It is interesting to note that Amos was a shepherd himself before Gos called him to be a prophet (Amos 1:1). So he knows what he is talking about. Listen to what Amos says:
Thus says the Lord:Amos 3:12
“As a shepherd takes from the mouth of a lion
Two legs or a piece of an ear…
So shall the children of Israel be taken out…”
Do you see what I see? I see the same two conditions that Jesus mentioned in John chapter ten! Consider this wonderful promise:
Here is a poor born-again child of God, one of Jesus’ precious sheep. Somehow the devil, like a lion, has completely swallowed this poor sheep. It seems like that would be the end of the story, but…
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, comes to the rescue! He wrestles that lion down, grabs ahold of its jaws, and opens that lion’s mouth so wide that He can see straight down into its stomach. He peers inside that miserable creature’s throat. Will He at least find a “piece of an ear” (a desire to hear His voice and to lovingly listen to His Word)? Or will He be able to see at least two of its four spindly legs (a willing heart to want to follow and obey Him)?
If so, then He will declare that He still knows us as His own dear sheep! And the rescue begins!
“That’s Mine!” roars our Shepherd, “and I want him back!”
With a single swift movement, He reaches down that Lion’s throat and pulls out every piece of that helpless sheep. He looks lovingly into the sheep’s eyes and declares, “You’re Mine!” Then He joyfully carries him back to the flock on His shoulders! Hallelujah!
That’s our Good Shepherd! That’s our amazing Savior! And that’s the real eternal security we have in Him! Amen!