One of the most controversial questions among Christians is whether or not a true believer —one who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit—can lose his or her salvation.
There are entire denominations on which the essence of their core soteriology is based on their belief of whether or not a true believer can apostatize and lose their salvation. There are those who would agree with Jesus’ statement that “no one is able to snatch” a true believer “out of the Father’s hand.” They will be quick to say that a true believer can remove themselves “out of the Father’s hand,” and for those who embrace the theological belief that a true believer can lose his or her salvation, this appears to be a reasonable statement.
However, as we look at John 10:28, we will discover some very striking language that unmistakably refutes the belief and theological emphasis that a true believer can remove himself or herself “out of the Father’s hand.” Now let me say up front, this is in no way implying that a true believer cannot commit egregious sin and experience its painful consequences – that has happened, and it will continue to happen until Jesus returns. On the other hand, Hebrews 12:4-11 addresses the reality of sin and failure in a true believer’s life and just how God deals with it:
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:4-11)
We will get into this verse in greater detail in subsequent studies, but for the present, let it be understood that for a true believer, God in no way “winks” at sin in our lives, nor does He “condone” it, but rather “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.” For someone to say that he or she “continuously has fellowship and a living and vital relationship with God,” they should not be living and going around in the overt, unabashed darkness of sin, calling good evil, and evil good, without any conviction from the Holy Spirit of their sin. Such a person is continuously lying to himself or herself, as well as others, and they are continuously NOT PRACTICING, CARRYING OUT, ACCOMPLISHING, OR EMBRACING THE TRUTH” (I John 1:6 – My Amplified Translation).
The important truth in this verse is that the sin described here is that of a complete blindness and rebellion in one’s own heart of any true relationship with God at all, and thus, no consciousness of, or turning from sin whatsoever. On the other hand, EVERY TRUE BELIEVER will at some point in his or her life succumb to some besetting sin over a long or short period of time, and this sin will be different for all of us.
For some, it may be a particular addiction of some type, including gluttony and its destructive consequences for oneself, as well as others. For others it may be an attitude of anger and bitterness, leading to all types of self-destructive and harmful actions and consequences. For others it may be various forms of compromise, which may indeed be brought on by unforgiveness, self-pity, jealousy, and resentment. For others, however, it may indeed be one of the most insidious and self-destructive sins of all, BLIND SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS, which can open us up to a hypocritical lifestyle they we are initially oblivious to, but will eventually lead us into compromising sin of the very things we so vociferously criticized others for.
In all of these areas, therefore, for the person who is truly a child of God, God will unequivocally set in motion Hebrews 12:4-11 in order that His child will “share His holiness.” And once again, we will deal with the whole aspect of sanctification in our salvation in subsequent studies, but now, we are going to look at John 10:28 and just what it has to say as to whether or not a true believer can take himself or herself “out of the Father’s hand.”