By J.F. Strombeck
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
This is probably one of the most reassuring passages of scripture to the believer. In it is found an unconditional statement by our Lord that those who are His are His for all eternity, because they are in His hand, under His care, and are in the Father's hand, under His care. The strength of the Father is that which guarantees this condition of safety.
There are those who are not willing to accept this simple and clear statement without modifying it. Thereby they do not only lose the assurance that might come to themselves; but they rob others of that assurance which is so greatly needed by every one of God's children.
God makes two kinds of promises to His children: conditional and unconditional. But He always makes it clear whether or not they are conditional or unconditional. When conditional, He uses the word "if" or its equivalent; but when His statement is unconditional, He leaves out the "if." This is therefore an unconditional statement.
But there are many who, claiming to accept the Bible as being God inspired, nevertheless insist that this is a conditional statement, and that "if" the sheep follow they shall never perish. By what right do they add the word "if"? As it is neither stated nor implied by the context, it is clearly a case of tampering with God's Word, and changing its meaning.
Five separate statements are made concerning "My sheep": ( 1 ) Hear My voice, ( 2 ) I know them, (3) they follow Me, (4) I give them eternal life and (5) they shall never perish. These are five distinct things said about those who are His sheep. Not one is conditional upon any other.
By adding the word "if" to the third statement, the fourth as well as the fifth must become conditional upon it. Thus not only the question of perishing, but also that of receiving eternal life would be conditional upon following the Lord. Then, to make the words "follow Me" mean the living of a life as the Lord Jesus lived His (as some assert, makes this mean that the one who lives as He lived will thereby receive eternal life and shall never perish. This is salvation by works. Thus this addition of the word "if" denies salvation by grace through faith; it is a denial of the grace of God. It is dangerous to tamper with God's Word!
As though this light handling of God's eternal truths were not enough, it is further being preached and taught that while no one can snatch one of Christ's own out of His hand and out of the Father's hand, it is possible for one to jump out of his own volition. By what scriptural authority is that statement made? Does the wording of the passage permit such a statement? Only two conditions could make it possible for a sheep to jump out of his own accord (1) that he be given the freedom to do so, or (2) that he have the power to do so against the purpose of God. Are either of these possible?
The sheep belong to Christ; they are "My sheep." They are His because He, the Good Shepherd, gave His life for them. He purchased them with His own blood. And they have been given unto Him by the Father. Ownership means lordship. That which is owned has no right of will contrary to the will of the owner. It has liberty to go, only within the limits granted by the owner. It is perfectly clear then, that the Good Shepherd does not grant to any sheep that has cost Him so much to place in His own hand for safety, the privilege of jumping out of it.
God's hand is not an open hand. It is a hand that holds. When a father or a mother holds the hand of a small child to lead him safely through some place of real danger, that father or mother will not let that little hand go, even though the child might try to pull away.
No, God does not grant the sheep the liberty to jump out of His hand. It would disgrace a human shepherd of sheep to say that he allowed his sheep to stray away from him. How much more does it not disgrace the Good Shepherd to say that He allows His sheep to go away from Him?
The only question left then is, has the sheep the power to leap out of God's hand contrary to His will and purpose? To admit this, would be to contradict Jesus' words: "My Father . . . is greater than all." The "all" necessarily includes the sheep. It also would contradict His words, "they shall never perish," for if they did jump out they must perish.
What a perversion of God's Word it is to add the little word "if" and to limit God by saying that a sheep can jump out of God's hand!
It denies salvation by grace through faith; it denies the fact of a believer's eternal life; it makes the will of man stronger than the will of God; it discounts the keeping power of God, and it robs the believer of his assurance. And yet men, who are called to be ambassadors of God, to be stewards of the manifold grace of God, often very earnestly and zealously, but mistakenly, do that very thing.
Jesus made another statement concerning Himself and His sheep. He said, "The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep" (John 10:11 ). This statement and the one, "My sheep shall never perish," are inter-dependent upon each other. They are to each other as cause and effect. The one cannot be touched without touching the other. To deny the effect--the absolute safety of the sheep--is to question the efficacy of the cause--the death of the Good Shepherd.
When Jesus says, "My sheep shall never perish," it is unconditional and final. It is to be accepted in simple faith and made the subject of rejoicing and thanksgiving.
Jn 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jn 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
Jn 6:37,39,30 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
Rom 8:3 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? [It is] God that justifieth. 34 Who [is] he that condemneth? [It is] Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
1 Cor 1:8,9 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, [that ye may be] blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God [is] faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Phil 1: 6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ:
2 Tim 4:18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve [me] unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Jesus prayed: Jn 17:11 Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are].
Peter who heard that prayer wrote: 1 Pet 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
If God fails to keep all those for whom Christ prayed, then He is not the Omnipotent God that scripture declares Him to be!