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Emphatic Elements in the Greek: John 10 and the Doctrine of Eternal Security

Before reading this blog post, please be sure to read the introductory post.

“At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; 23 it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon. 24 The Jews therefore gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will You keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these bear witness of Me. 26 “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep. 27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish (καὶ οὐ μὴ ἀπόλωνται εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα – kai ou mē apolōntai eis ton aiōna); and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 “I and the Father are one” (John 10:22-30).

SALVATION: Its Eternality

This is one of the most important passages in the whole of Scripture in relation to our salvation in Christ and just what that means with regard to its eternality or its contingency.  As this drama unfolds, we see Jesus attending the “Feast of Dedication” in Jerusalem, which was at winter, indicating this was the “Feast of Lights” referred to by Josephus in Antiquities 12.7.7.  This “Festival” was the celebration of the forces of Judah Maccabee defeating the Syrian forces of Antiochus Epiphanes and cleansing the Temple on December 25, 164, and this is the celebration of Hanukkah today by Jews.

Thus, Jesus was indeed recognizing this important holiday and honoring its importance for Jewish heritage by even being there.  However, for the Jewish leaders, the “Festival of Lights” was a perfunctory celebration in comparison to their deep concern about Jesus and the influence He was exerting among the populous.  Therefore, the “Jews” are becoming increasingly impatient with Him and wanting Him to unequivocally declare to them, in no uncertain terms, whether or not He is the promised Messiah.  Jesus responds with the following: “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these bear witness of Me.  But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.”

Why the Jewish Leaders Did Not Believe

As we move from the historical and contemporary setting in which this encounter with the “Jews” took place, we enter into what might be termed as a rather intense, theological setting that emerges from Jesus’ conversation with these “Jews,” and the first thing to notice from verses 25-26 above is that Jesus is telling the Jewish leaders that the reason they do not believe in Him as the promised Messiah is because they are not part of His “sheep.”

What does this mean?

How does Jesus know whether they are part of His “sheep” or not?  Is He saying that those who are His “sheep” are the ones who believe?

Indeed, that is without question part of what He is saying because it is obvious that those who truly do believe in and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior are His “sheep.”  But Jesus is making this statement to these “Jews” in order to establish a very clear delineation between those who believe in Him and those who do not, and why those who believe in Him do believe, as the following verse explains: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”  What is interesting in this verse is that each Greek verb is a present tense verb (e.g. “hear,” “know,” and “follow”), and in the Greek, it is the kind of action that is important and significant, versus the time of action in English and most other languages.  Thus, in the present tense in Greek, the kind of action that is indicated is what is called linear or continuous action.

Continuous, ongoing salvation

In addition, as with all of the Greek tenses, the present tense has some varying emphases of linear or continuous action, but each varying emphasis has at its core the idea of an ongoing action of some type.  In this particular verse, as you look at it in the context of the passage as a whole, it would appear, therefore, that this is what is called a “progressive present,” which simply emphasizes the fundamental meaning of the present tense, which is an  ongoing and continuous action from the moment of inception of the action, whenever that may have occurred.  Thus, Jesus is unequivocally stating that those who are His “sheep” are “continuously hearing His voice, and He continuously knows them, and they continuously follow Him.”  The word for “know” in Greek used here is γινώσκω (ginōskō), and it means, among other things, “to understand and comprehend someone in a personal and intimate way, even to the extent of sexual relations between a man and a woman (e.g., Luke 1:34). Thus, Jesus is in a continuous and ongoing“personal and intimate relationship” with His “sheep.”  This truth, in and of itself, is absolutely wonderful, but it doesn’t stop there, as we will see in verse 28.

(stay tuned for the next post in this series…)


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