In Jesus’ Words
Is belief in eternal security a fallacy? Not if you listen to what Jesus had to say.
For many who come to faith in Jesus Christ, the phrase once saved, always saved plays an integral part in their discipleship. For others, eternal security is a false teaching; and still others believe claiming such assurance is nothing short of arrogance or self-righteousness.
Is belief in eternal security a false interpretation of Scripture? Are believers who hold to the security of their salvation arrogant to make such a claim?
No, they are not. Jesus Himself taught the permanency of a true believer’s salvation.
John 3:16. This well-known, widely memorized verse certainly indicates that genuine belief results in eternal life, as well as eternal security: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The last seven words declare believers will not perish but will have eternal life. The word have means “having possession of.”
When Jesus articulated John 3:16 in a discussion with His nighttime visitor, Nicodemus, did He really mean that “everlasting life” was both eternal and eternally secure? Bible scholar Dr. John MacArthur spoke to this issue in his message “Eternal Security (Rom. 5:1–11)” on his Grace to You broadcast: “Since a dying Savior succeeded in bringing us to God, a living Savior can certainly keep us there.” What kind of a Savior would Jesus be if He had the power to save us but not to keep us?
John 4:13–14. When the Lord Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at a well, He explained that people who drink physical water always need to drink again. However, anyone who drinks of the spiritual water He offers will never again thirst spiritually: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
Grammatically, the words shall never thirst are future tense and indicate that all who were yet to believe would never thirst again. Their thirst would be quenched permanently.
John 6:35–40. The day after Jesus fed 5,000 men with five barley loaves and two fish (vv. 4–14) and then walked on the Sea of Galilee (vv. 16–21), He encountered the crowd He had fed. He challenged those people not to work for food that perishes but, rather, for food that endures to eternal life (vv. 26–27).
They asked for a sign like that of the manna their forefathers ate in the wilderness when they fled Egypt. Jesus replied that the manna was a gift from God, not Moses; the spiritual bread they desperately needed also comes from God; and He was indeed the bread of life from God. Therefore, “He who comes to me,” Jesus said, “shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (v. 35).
Jesus explained that the Father not only provides spiritual bread but has given to Jesus everyone who believes:
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day (vv. 37, 39–40).
This text literally says believers are God’s gift to His Son, who receives each gift (v. 37), holds onto it securely (v. 39), and will never cast it away.
John 10:27–29. Later, Jesus spoke with unbelieving Jewish leaders during the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah). They demanded to know if He was the Messiah. His answer challenged their questions while also providing assurance regarding the eternal security of those who believed in Him:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone 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 My Father’s hand.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus came that people “may have life” (v. 10). His sheep would hear and recognize His voice, and He would know them. He also said, “I give them eternal life” (v. 28). The verb give is present tense, indicating a continual action.
He added, “They shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (v. 28). Snatch is used in the future tense, indicating this action would not happen then or at any time in the future.
Jesus, as the perfect Good Shepherd, is able not only to give eternal life, but also to guarantee it forever. It is impossible for Jesus to lose even one person who has placed his or her faith in Him.
Luke 22:31–32. Following the final Passover Jesus celebrated with His disciples—and mere hours before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane—Jesus specifically addressed the apostle Peter and the spiritual battle being waged.
Satan had demanded to “sift” not only Peter, but all of the disciples, as the word you in the phrase sift you is plural: “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat’” (v. 31). But Jesus prayed specifically for Peter: “But I have prayed for you [singular] that your faith should not fail” (v. 32).
During this time, Jesus prayed His High Priestly prayer (Jn. 17:1–26) before He and the disciples made their way through the Kidron Valley and into the Garden of Gethsemane: “Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me. Keep them from the evil one. I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me” (vv. 11, 15, 20).
Jesus clearly was praying for His disciples, as well as for all who would become believers in the future, that God would protect and keep them from Satan. Hebrews 7:25 says, “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” The words save and lives to make intercession are present tense, indicating a continuous action.
Hope, Assurance, and Peace
The texts we looked at are clear statements from Jesus Himself that He not only has the power to save us, but also the power to keep us saved forever. The fact that He continuously makes intercession for us is, in itself, a powerful statement of security.
The biblical truth of eternal security not only impacts our future, but it also impacts our daily lives, providing three cherished comforts:
Hope. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. 1:3). “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Heb. 6:19). Hope is best defined as the guaranteed, confident expectation and joyful assurance of the future anchored in truth. In a world of growing hopelessness, we have a glorious hope in the security of our salvation and the guarantee of spending eternity with God.
Assurance. “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 Jn. 5:11–12). If we have the Son, we have life. Our assurance lies in the very Word of God.
Peace. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Peace is not merely the absence of conflict; it is also the abiding confidence and calmness that results from being reconciled to God through Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ not only offers us eternal life, but He also guarantees this life—giving us hope, assurance, and peace that are only possible through Him.
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