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.
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).
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]