The Doctrine of Eternal Security Part 8

by Dennis Rokser

The eternal security of the genuine believer in Christ is part and parcel with the Gospel of grace. For if a person could lose his salvation, he would have to do something to keep it. And if he has to do something to keep it (live a holy life, not sin, confess all known sin, etc.), he then is ultimately relying on his own works to get to heaven – not on Jesus Christ and His finished work alone. Therefore, in this on-going study we have previously examined…

  2. and in our last article, we began studying…


  1. Every believer in Christ is eternally secure because of the PROPITIATORY SACRIFICE of Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 10:10-14, 1 John 2:2)
  2. Every believer in Christ is eternally secure because of the guaranteed PROMISES of Jesus Christ.

For the purposes of this article, we will confine our study to Jesus Christ's salvation promises as recorded in the book of John. The great value of this examination is underscored by the purpose for John's written gospel account.

And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:30-31)

The first iron-clad promise we will observe is probably the most obvious, famous, and well known of all.

  1. John 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. (John 3:16)

These words fall directly on the heels of Jesus' explanation to religious-but-lost Nicodemus regarding the subject of being "born again" (John 3:1ff). Our Lord has clearly stated the necessity of the spiritual birth (3:1-3), along with the nature/source of a new birth which comes from God the Holy Spirit. In light of Christ's confrontative and urgent words, Nicodemus raises the question, "How can these things be?" (3:9). His inquiry turns the key that opens the door for our Lord to clearly state the means of the new birth which is through CHRIST alone (vs. 9-13); through His CROSS alone (vs. 14); and thus, through FAITH IN CHRIST ALONE (vs. 15-18). To communicate and clarify the one human condition of the new birth, the word "believe" is found seven times in this passage (vs. 12 [2x], 15, 16, 18 [3x]).

While scores of people know John 3:16, few seem to understand it. This confusion surfaces when they are asked… "Do you know John 3:16?" They reply "Oh, my yes." You then ask… "So do you know for sure then that you have eternal life?" and they answer with the agnostic… "How can anyone know that for sure?" Dear friends, this is the point of John 3:16. God "loved" and "gave." We simply "believe" and "have." How this must have blown away lost Nicodemus who had a religion of "do" instead of "done," or "faith plus works" instead of "faith in Christ plus nothing." The possession and assurance of eternal life is based solely on the person and the work of Christ coupled with the unfailing promises of God’s Word (see 1 John 5:9-13).

To emphasize further God’s purpose in sending Jesus Christ to earth, verse 17 reads…

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17)

Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ who came not to condemn us, but to save us. This verse links being "born again" with salvation. In fact, the word "saved" is an aorist passive subjunctive verb, the identical grammatical construction as "born again" in vs. 3. Salvation, like the new birth, is a work of God for man, not a work of man for God. The cross-work of Christ paid the penalty of our sin 100%. "It is finished" (John 19:30) was the Savior’s cry upon the cross. Salvation is not an 80% God, 20% man proposition. Christ’s work accomplished it all. Now it is simply a matter of whether helpless, hopeless and hellbound sinners will rely on Jesus Christ and His finished work alone to save them. If they will, they are guaranteed to have (right now) eternal life. However, a failure to trust Christ alone means they remain condemned.

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18)

Dear readers, which half of verse 18 describes you? The whole issue of salvation revolves around whether you have trusted in Christ alone or not. If your faith is resting in Jesus Christ period, verse 16 guarantees that you "have" (present tense) "eternal life." And for how long does "eternal" life last? Of course forever. So how could you possibly lose "eternal" life? IMPOSSIBLE! If you could lose eternal life in 5 years due to a particular sin; or in 10 years because of a pattern of sinning; or in 15 years due to your unfaithfulness, was eternal life then "eternal?" And if this were possible (and it's not), think through the biblical ramifications.

Dear believer, the Scriptures have great news for you. If "eternal life" lasts forever, YOU CAN NEVER LOSE YOUR SALVATION!

To reinforce this truth, John 3:36 enunciates,

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (John 3:36)

Again, the sole human condition to possess eternal life is to simply believe or rely on Jesus Christ alone. The Greek verb translated "hath" (echei) is in the present tense (right now, not sometime in the future) and indicative mood (a guaranteed fact). Eternal life is not something God gives you after you are dead if you have been good and faithful enough. Eternal life is a gift from God and is the guaranteed present possession of every believer in Christ.

In striking contrast, "he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." Unfortunately, some modern versions of the Bible have translated "believe not" (apeitheo) by the words "does not obey." Greek scholars Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker ("A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature") state regarding "apeitheo,"

"Since, in view of the early Christians, the supreme disobedience was a refusal to believe their gospel, apeitheo may be restricted in some passages to the meaning 'disbelieve, be an unbeliever'. This sense… seems most probable in [John 3:36, et al]."1

A thoughtful comparison to a parallel verse in John 3:18 where unbelief in Christ results in condemnation would certainly support this meaning. The issue again is one of faith or unbelief. But please notice the middle of verse 36.

"and he that believeth not the Son SHALL NOT SEE LIFE…"

The Greek verb translated "shall… see" means "to see, perceive, or experience." Do you realize what this is saying? Let me illustrate. If you came to trust the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life in 1973 but somehow you were able to lose, forfeit, or give it back in the year 2000, you would have "seen" or "experienced" eternal life for 27 years. However, according to John 3:36, "he that believeth not the Son SHALL NOT SEE LIFE; but the wrath of God ABIDETH (present tense – keeps on abiding) ON HIM." Either you have eternal life (which can not be lost) or YOU HAVE NEVER HAD IT! There is no such reality as possessing eternal life for 27 years and then losing it. So what, dear friends, does ETERNAL life mean? That's right – it means an ETERNAL relationship with God and Jesus Christ.

And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)


  1. John 4:13-14

Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.

There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.

Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.

The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:6-14)

Here Jesus Christ is conversing with an immoral Samaritan woman (4:17-18) at a well in Sychar about the only "water" that would quench the real need of her soul. Our Lord's offer of eternal salvation to her reveals a striking contrast.

Whosoever drinketh (present tense, demanding on-going action) of this water (in the well) shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh (aorist tense) of the water that I shall give him shall never ("ou me") thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Let me highlight these two striking contrasts. First of all, instead of eternal life requiring on-going actions ("drinketh" – present tense),2 it necessitates a simple act of faith in Christ ("drinketh" – aorist tense). Secondly, instead of thirsting "again," the believer in Christ "shall never thirst" for eternal life. The Greek particles "ou" and "me" are here combined to emphasize a very strong negation.3 They are emphasizing that under no circumstances and under no conditions will the believer in Christ ever thirst again. Dear readers, do you realize what this means? If a believer could somehow lose his salvation, he would then "thirst again." But Jesus Christ guarantees in this promise that he "shall never (ou me) thirst." This is ETERNAL SECURITY!

In addition to this, there are three Greek words in the text that are not translated in the King James Version that underpin this wonderful truth of eternal security even more. Following the phrase "shall never thirst" are the Greek words "eis ton aiona" which literally means "into the age or forever."4 Can you think of any stronger way to emphasize the guarantee of eternal life than by literally saying, "whosoever drinks of the water I shall give him shall never thirst again forever?"

What a wonderful guarantee of eternal salvation to a sinful woman who through faith alone in Christ alone could receive eternal life while deserving the very opposite. And she received it! (John 4:26-42) What amazing grace!

Dear friend, have you ever drank of the water of eternal life that Jesus Christ offers you? If God, by His grace, could save a religious Pharisee like Nicodemus or an immoral sinner like the Samaritan woman, He can save a wretch like you. By way of a personal paraphrase, John 3:16 is saying to you, "For God so loved you, that He gave His only Son to die on the cross for you, that if you would put your trust in Jesus Christ alone, you would not perish in Hell, but you would have right now eternal life." As a Mafia godfather would say, "This is an offer you dare not refuse!" ¢


  1. BAGD, s.v. "apeitheo" p. 82.
  2. This striking contrast between the present tense and the aorist tense can also be found in Acts 16:30 "do" (present) and Acts 16:31 "believe" (aorist).
  3. Refer to the Greek section of this edition on page 16 to see a listing of verses with the "ou me" construction in the New Testament.
  4. "Eis ton aiona" will be explained and its usage demonstrated in the next article in this series.