Sound like a silly question? It probably should be considered ridiculous, but isn’t that what we are saying if we believe that a genuine believer in Christ can become an unbeliever, a saved person become unsaved, and that a Christian could apostatize and end up in Hell?
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 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. – John 10:27-29 (emphasis mine)
We are all probably familiar with the separating of the sheep from the goats on judgment day, with the sheep going away into everlasting life, and the goats perishing in everlasting punishment. Hence the question: ‘Can sheep become goats?’ In essence that is what the belief that genuine believers in Christ might/could one day turn away from the faith,apostatize, and end up in everlasting punishment, is teaching. Sheep can become goats.
The argument in favor of the possibility of believers apostatizing is that although no one can snatch the believer from Jesus’ hand (or the Father’s), a person can voluntarily ‘jump out’. I remember being as adamant as anyone in actually believing that. After all, our ‘God given’ libertarian free will demands the possibility!
Well, what did Jesus say about the sheep?
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish”
One might think that the matter should be forever settled right there, because ‘eternal’ means eternal’ and ‘never perish’ means never perish. Since apostatizing means ‘perish’, and Jesus says his sheep will never perish, the matter is settled! Not so, if recent conversations with several Christians are indications otherwise. The rational? Since warnings against apostasy are given to believers, the possibility must exist. Maybe they think that ‘eternal life’ and ‘never perishing’ doesn’t begin until after we die and have persevered in our own strength. I can’t come up with a different rationale than that.
Well, what else did Jesus say that might help is clear that up?
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” – John 3:36
Again, we have the ‘present possession’ of eternal life for the one who believes the Son, exactly as we had in John 10:38. Not conclusive? What else did Jesus say?
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” – John 5:24
Lest there be any doubt at what point in time the ‘present possession’ of eternal live begins Jesus speaks in the past tense removing all possible doubt that it begins at the moment of belief:
“.. .he who hears My word and believes . . .has passed from death into life.”
Over the past week or so, I have studied every passage ever used that is used to ‘prove’ that a Christian can apostatize, that sheep can become a goat. I even tackled what are termed the most problematic, the ones in Hebrews. I’m not going to get into any of those others ‘proofs’ a Christian can lose salvation, because for simple minds like mine, Jesus had the last word on the issue!
Can sheep become goats? Never!