John 10:28-30, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.”
This morning, different subjects receive examination and treatment, but quite often the treatment or examination is incomplete. For example, how many sermons or discussions have been preached on the total depravity of man but had all the focus on the inability of man? Indeed, the inability of man to do that which is righteous and pleasing in God’s sight is a great area of the subject of the total depravity of man, but to be total or complete, man’s utter unwillingness must be set on display along with his inability. It is not just a matter of “he would have if he could have.” It is a matter of “he wouldn’t if he could and couldn’t if he would.” Both the will and the ability are corrupted completely and totally. In like manner, whenever we talk about the mercy and grace of Almighty God, we should take great care not to focus on one aspect to the neglect of the other.
The passage from whence our study verses spring is a discussion that Christ has with some non-elect goats. (Verse 26) Even though Christ has the vantage point that I do not (knowing who is and who is not), He still lays out rich points of a doctrinal nature that incited them to seek to stone him to death. (Verse 31) During Christ’s rich discourse about His love and care for the sheep, He unequivocally states in our verses that His sheep are secure, safe, preserved, etc. forever and always. John 10:28 is one of the plainest, easy to remember verses on eternal security in all of Holy Writ. Christ intentionally lays it out plainly so that none would misunderstand his intent.
In verses 28 and 29, we see what seems like similar language, but the comparison of the two similar phrases actually offers up a complete thought to the wonderful concept of the preservation of the sheep. Let us begin in verse 30 and back our way into verse 28. I freely admit that I do not have much to offer up in the way of deep insights into verse 30. Thoughts of the Godhead, Christ’s Godman makeup, etc. can make my thoughts spin and head ache rather quickly. However, the thought in verse 30 does show the unity of the Godhead in that what the Father desires, Christ desires. What the Father wills, so Christ wills. What the Father is able to do in almighty power, so also Christ is able to do in almighty power. While the Scriptures do teach a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead (I John 5:7) with different officeworks to each, the Scriptures also teach the unity of the Godhead with that one God being manifest in the Person of Jesus Christ. (Colossians 2:9)
What we would like to glean from this thought in verse 30 this morning is the thought that Christ was perfectly aligned in purpose, will, power, and desire with His Father in all things. They were one (unified) in work and purpose. Earlier, Christ said He came down not to do His will but His Father’s will. (John 6:38) Some have asked the question, “Well, then what was Christ’s will?” The answer plainly and simply is that His will was smartly aligned in complete unison with the Father’s. The point of Christ’s statement is not to infer a division but rather Christ showing the mindset (that we should have) to please the Father in all things. So, Christ is one with the Father in thought, mind, will, and purpose. Let us now examine the two phrases in verses 28-29 that seem similar.
Looking at verse 28, we see that the sheep are in Christ’s hand, and looking at verse 29, we see that the sheep are in the Father’s hand. From the thoughts we have already investigated from verse 30, being in Christ’s hand and being in the Father’s hand is a unified and secure position. But, beyond the differentiation of Christ and the Father, are these two statements the same? Is Christ just reiterating the point of our place in the hand of God?
The statement of us being in the Father’s hand in verse 29 shows the ability of God to put us there and keep us there. Christ says “no man is able to pluck them” when referencing our position in God’s hand. In other words, God (shown in the Person of the Father) has the ability to keep us in that position. This statement denotes God’s ability by His power. When considering the awesome power and ability of God, we see that God verily can do this great work of keeping and preserving His children. Paul was persuaded that nothing was able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39) Therefore, when looking at eternal security as Christ presents it here, we see that God’s ability to do this great work is on full display.
Yet, even God is able to do certain things that He is unwilling to do. Could God do many things that His longsuffering does not permit? Verily Peter speaks of God’s longsuffering being salvation. (II Peter 3:17) While God could move His hand upon this earth at this very moment and burn it all up, He is unwilling to do so at this moment, which Peter attributes the express purpose and reason as salvation. Therefore, while the knowledge of God’s ability to keep and preserve His people in the palm of His hand is a glorious thought to consider, it is only one facet of the thought to consider.
Backing into verse 28, Christ speaks of the willingness of God to do this very thing. Even though God is able to keep us from being plucked, Christ also shows His unwillingness for us to be plucked. Verse 28 shows that no man “shall” pluck us out of His hand. Verse 29 says that no man can, but verse 28 says no man shall. God is not just able to save us and keep us, but praise be unto Him that He is willing to do so as well! Earlier we mentioned the inability and unwillingness of man to do things just and upright by nature. Due to his corruption and depravity, there is no ability and no desire. However, the glorious contrast to this is that God is not only able to save the most rotten sinners by His grace and mercy, but He is willing to do so as well.
Knowing then that God is both able and willing to keep His people, we should first take great comfort and solace in this wonderful doctrine. The best manifestation of the comfort and solace that we should feel is the sincerest and most resplendent thanksgiving unto His worthy name. Yet, the second thought we should glean from this glorious thought is that He has given us the ability to please Him (do those things which we could not do before) and the will to seek after righteousness (from the implanting and imputing of the righteousness of Christ within). While our will and ability never extends to the point of keeping ourselves within His hand, we should strive to keep ourselves unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
By keeping ourselves unspotted from the world, we display the ability He has given us to do these things (Philippians 4:13), and if we do them heartily, we show forth a willingness to serve Him out of love and thanksgiving. (Colossians 3:23) By acting in a willing manner, rather than out of necessity, we seek to display in our lives what God has done both for us and to us. People’s actions show forth what they believe about the One they worship. If they act unable or unwilling to do what should be done, they show forth (in action) what they believe their God to also possess in attributes. Since we have been made partakers of the Divine nature (II Peter 1:4), may we show forth ability to do that which is right coupled with a willing desire to do so. In so doing, our actions display that we believe in a God that was not only able to do something but perfectly willing to do that same thing as well.