Author: Ron Graham
Does John 10:28 Allow Sin?
—Eternal life and sinful life
Jesus said that he gives eternal life to his sheep and they shall never perish, nor will anyone snatch them from his hand (John 10:28). Is this promise a guarantee of eternal life regardless of conduct?
¶“27My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them from my hand. 29My Father gave me my sheep. He is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch my sheep from the Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30).
In view of that promise, some people have reasoned that it makes no difference if we sin. They appear to see this verse as guaranteeing eternal life without any conditions of conduct.
Even mere common sense should make one suspicious of people who claim to be saved by God yet believe it's okay to offend God. People who love God will surely keep his commandments. "This is God’s love, that we keep his commandments which are not burdensome." So people "must not grieve the Spirit of God" by failing to keep those commandments (1John 5:3, Ephesians 4:30).
Now let me bring proof to the question by examining three propositions:
1 No Promise of God is a Licence to Sin
"Do not let sin reign in your mortal bodies... [or use them as] instruments of unrighteousness" (Romans 6:12-13). "Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!" (Romans 6:15-16).
"Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts, If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:24-25).
"Christ, who suffered for us, left us an example, and so you should follow his steps. He committed no sin..." (1Peter 2:21-22). "You used to be in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. So walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).
The verse before the promise in John 10:28 says, "My sheep hear my voice and follow me" (John 10:27). Does Jesus call us to walk in paths of sin? Of course not! David says, "He leads me in the paths of righteousness" (Psalm 23:3).
John says, "The one who says, 'I have come to know Jesus', yet does not keep his commandments, is a liar. The truth is not in that person" (1John 2:4).
2 No Promise of God Removes Freewill
The promise does not say, ‘My sheep cannot leave my hand’. Instead, it says, "No one shall snatch them from my hand" (John 10:28). It's one thing to stop an abduction. It's another thing to stop a departure. If we want to remain with Christ, his hand will hold us against any foe who tries to snatch us from him. But if we want to depart from him, his hand will not force us to stay.
The usual reply to this is a quote from John 6 as follows: "This is my Father’s will, that he sent me, and I should lose nothing of all he has given me, but raise it up at the last day." (John 6:39-40).
This is often read as though God is going to enforce his will regardless of the will of others. That is true of Satan’s will. He wants everyone to perish, but God frustrates Satan’s will.
Yet what about your will? Is Jesus saying that God snatches your freewill out of your hands? No. John 10:28 and John 6:39 assure us that God’s will is sovereign. If your will is to do God’s will, then your security is absolute. But if your will is to do Satan’s will, your security is declared forfeit.
"If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but an expectation of certain judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the enemies" (Hebrews 10:26-27).
God works in us "to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12-13). However God does not do this perforce. Your will and work must be genuinely yours, not imposed on you by God without your consent. If you wish to sin, then sin you will —and suffer the consequences.
3 No Promise1 of God is Unconditional
The promises1 of God are qualified with an “IF”. This doesn't mean they are “iffy” or unreliable. We can be totally sure that all God’s promises will be fulfilled.
However God’s promises don't say that God will act regardless of what you think and do. Rather, God will do what he promises if you do what he commands. That is the nature of God’s promises. They are conditional. If you don't do what God commands, you will be denied what he promised.
1Note:— Conditional Promises. I am referring here to promises regarding salvation. There may be some promises in the Bible that are unconditional, such as the rainbow promise (Genesis 9:12-17). That promise will hold true no matter what man thinks or does. However, regarding salvation, God always says that he will do what he promises IF we do what he commands. On the other hand, God promises punishment, if we don't do what he commands.
As Paul says, "...You are saved if you hold fast the word I preached to you —unless of course you believed in vain (1Corinthians 15:1-2). Faith can save, or faith can be in vain. If you believe and obey then you do not believe in vain. If you believe but will not obey, you have broken the nexus between promise and command, and so your faith is vain.
As Peter says, "... If you do these things you will never stumble and in this way an entrance will be granted you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus" (2Peter 1:5-11).
We have seen that the promise in John 10:28 does not cancel its conditions stated elsewhere in scripture. Nor does it cancel freewill. The promise is not a licence to sin. The promise holds true for those who hear and obey the Shepherd’s voice.