Roy Ingle, “Arminian Thoughts on John 10:25-30”

, posted by SEA

John 10:25-30 is one of the favorite passages by Calvinists who believe in eternal security. Somehow they believe that Arminians either don’t believe in this passage or that Arminians ignore what Jesus is teaching since (according to their viewpoint) it’s obvious that Jesus was teaching eternal security in this passage. In all actuality, Arminians have no problem reading John 10:25-30 and seeing that Jesus is teaching perseverance of the saints. There is no doubt that a disciple of Jesus stands secure in Christ, but the key is in Christ.

Let me give you a few examples on what Calvinist often believe about John 10:25-30.

Jesus Christ guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him. We are in good hands with Christ. No one can pluck us out of His hands. He has such a good grip on us that we couldn’t get out if we wanted to. It is a done deal. Regeneration is permanent. There is no undoing the new birth. Once we come to trust in Christ alone as the One who paid the full and complete payment for all our sins, we have ETERNAL life. We will never perish. – Bob Wilkin

While Bob Wilkin represents a move away from Reformed theology in that he embraces the no-Lordship position of other Bible teachers such as Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges, Tony Evans, and Charles Stanley – his view is held among some Calvinists. However, all Calvinists hold to the perseverance of the saints differing with reformed Arminians over apostasy and falling from grace. I will have more to say about this in a moment.

What Is At Stake?
For Arminians, what is at stake is sometimes a misleading position that can become a license to sin. For Arminians, to misuse John 10:25-30 for the sake of allowing sin in the life of the believer is what we detest. In fact, I would argue that what we dislike about the doctrine of perseverance of the saints is not the teaching itself but the ramifications of it if taken to a wrong conclusion.
To be fair, many Calvinists would insist that if the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints leads to a life of sin, then the person has completely misunderstood the teaching. Many godly Calvinist teachers such as John MacArthur or John Piper teach that perseverance of the saints is about two issues. First, it’s about being saints (set apart unto God). And secondly, it’s about saints persevering. Most Arminians would not take issue with this view.
What Is The Arminian View of Perseverance?
This depends on who the Arminian is. As I have stated in a past post about the various positions of Arminians on eternal security, Arminianism does not hold to one view. Neither does Calvinism. While historically, Arminianism has rejected the Calvinist teaching on perseverance, there still remains various views on the issue. All Arminians would agree that a disciple of Christ must persevere in order to obtain eternal salvation, but should the disciple fall away, that becomes the issue that is hotly debated.
Arminians do believe that perseverance is necessary for eternal life. The reason for this is based on two key points of Arminian theology. First, Arminians believe that while salvation is a work of God and not men (Titus 3:5-7), God has allowed for the individual’s will to be free to either accept the propitiation of Christ or reject His offer of life (John 1:9-13; 3:15-17; 5:24-25; 6:35-51; Acts 7:51; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Revelation 22:17). This is not to be confused as man cooperating with God as much as man surrendering to the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Second, Arminians believe that, since man is free to come to Christ, then logically man is also free to remain with Christ until the very end. Arminians see the many “if” passages such as Romans 11:20-22; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Galatians 5:1-4; 6:7-9; Philippians 2:12-15; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:1-3; Hebrews 2:1-4; 3:6-19; 4:1-16; 5:8-9; 6:4-20; 10:19-39; 11:13-15; James 1:21-25; 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 2:1-22; 1 John 2:3-6, 28 as teaching that we are called to remain in Christ.
It is what happens when one strays from the gospel that is the watershed issue. Some Arminians teach that it is possible to fall away from Christ and lose your salvation (John 15:1-6). Others teach that if one falls from the gospel then they were never truly saved (Matthew 7:21-23; 1 John 2:19). These Arminians point to the security promises of John 10:25-30 or Romans 8:31-39 as validation for this view.
So Just What Is The Arminian View of John 10:25-30?
  1. We Are Secure IN Christ – All Arminians would agree that we are secure only if we are in Christ. To claim to be in Christ and live in the flesh either proves that we are not saved (Matthew 7:20) or that we are in danger of apostasy (Galatians 5:1-4, 13-17; 1 John 3:6-9). Romans 6:23 establishes a strong Arminian principle in that the wages of sin is death (James 1:12-15) but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (NIV). Matthew 1:21 reminds us that Jesus saves His people from their sins. As Arminian Robert Shank points out, “Many want to be His people but not be saved from their sins.” Eternal life is found in Christ. We are to remain in Christ (John 8:51; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
  2. The Present Tense Relationship of the Believer – Since Arminianism stresses that we are secure and saved only in Christ and not in our own flesh, Arminians also stress that John 10:25-30 assumes one important factor, and that is that the believer is just that: believing. The Greek is in the present tense all through John 10:25-30. Notice the present tense words: listen (v.27), know (v.27), follow (v.27). All three are in the present active form meaning that Jesus not only says that we listen to His voice, know Him, and follow Him but that we continue to do so. None of these words are in the past tense. The reading is not “listened” or “knew” or “followed.” In fact, throughout the New Testament there is a present tense to the word “believe” and “faith” when speaking of present salvation.

Conclusion: Reformed Arminianism stresses that salvation is a free gift from God through Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:9-10) that is not obtained by any good works (Isaiah 64:6). We are righteous only in Christ (Romans 3:21-25; 5:1-11; 10:4; Philippians 3:7-11). Arminianism differs with Calvinism over the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints by dividing over whether perseverance is necessary for eternal life or naturally a part of eternal life. If election (according to Calvinism) is correct, perseverance is natural. If election (according to Calvinism) is false, perseverance is necessary.

However, what we do agree on is that the Bible does teach perseverance. John 10:25-30 cannot be used to teach “once saved, always saved” without ignoring the whole of Scripture. While I believe in the security of the believer in Christ, I take issue with those who teach the security of the believer no matter how they live and base it on a past experience simply from reading John 10:25-30. This one short portion has been greatly abused to justify those living in sin. There simply are no promises for sinning people (Hebrews 10:19-39). To live in continual sin shows we are not His (1 John 3:6-9). Whether we teach that one has lost their salvation or not is not the real issue, perseverance is. Within Calvinism, one can not truly know who the elect are until final salvation apart from perseverance (e.g., the elect will persevere) but this matches well with Reformed Arminianism since we teach that perseverance is also necessary for eternal life.

[Link to original post and comments on Roy Ingle’s blog, Arminian Today]