Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, 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. I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. (10:25–31)
But Jesus already had told them plainly who He was (cf. 5:17ff.; 8:12, 24, 58); in fact, He had spent the last three years doing so. Not only that, the works that He did in the Father’s name also demonstrated that He was the Messiah; the Son of God; God in human flesh (cf. vv. 32, 38; 3:2; 5:36; 7:31; 11:47; 14:11; Acts 2:22). The Lord’s twice-repeated declaration, you do not believe, indicates that the problem was not due to any ambiguity in the revelation of the truth, but rather to their spiritual blindness. They lacked understanding, not because they lacked information, but because they lacked repentance and faith. Their unbelief was not due to insufficient exposure to the truth, but to their hatred of the truth and love of sin and lies (John 3:19–21). Anyone who willingly seeks the truth will find it (7:17), but Jesus refused to commit Himself to those who willfully rejected the truth. Had He again given them the plain answer they were demanding, they would not have believed Him anyway (cf. 8:43; Matt. 26:63–65; Luke 22:66–67).
From the perspective of human responsibility, the hostile Jews did not believe because they had deliberately rejected the truth. But from the standpoint of divine sovereignty, they did not believe because they were not of the Lord’s sheep, which were given Him by the Father (v. 29; 6:37; 17:2, 6, 9). A full understanding of exactly how those two realities, human responsibility and divine sovereignty, work together lies beyond human comprehension; but there is no difficulty with them in the infinite mind of God. Significantly, the Bible does not attempt to harmonize them, nor does it apologize for the logical tension between them. For example, speaking of Judas Iscariot’s treachery, Jesus said in Luke 22:22, “The Son of Man is going [to be betrayed] as it has been determined.” In other words, Judas’s betrayal of Christ was in accord with God’s eternal purpose. But then Jesus added, “Woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!” That Judas’s betrayal was part of God’s plan did not relieve him of the responsibility for his crime. In Acts 2:23 Peter said that Jesus was “delivered over [to the cross] by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” Yet he also charged Israel with responsibility for having “nailed [Jesus] to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” God’s sovereignty never excuses human sin. (For a more complete discussion of the interplay of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, see the exposition of 6:35–40 in chapter 20 of this volume.)
Repeating what He said in His discourse on the Good Shepherd (see the exposition of vv. 3–5 in the previous chapter of this volume), Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” The elect will heed Christ’s call to salvation and continue in faith and obedience to eternal glory (cf. Rom. 8:29–30).
The Lord continued by articulating the wonderful truth that those who are His sheep need never fear being lost. “I give eternal life to them,” Jesus declared, “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.” Nowhere in Scripture is there a stronger affirmation of the absolute eternal security of all true Christians. Jesus plainly taught that the security of the believer in salvation does not depend on human effort, but is grounded in the gracious, sovereign election, promise, and power of God.
Christ’s words reveal seven realities that bind every true Christian forever to God. First, believers are His sheep, and it is the duty of the Good Shepherd to protect His flock. “This is the will of Him who sent Me,” Jesus said, “that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day” (6:39). To insist that a true Christian can somehow be lost is to deny the truth of that statement. It is also to defame the character of the Lord Jesus Christ—making Him out to be an incompetent shepherd, unable to hold on to those entrusted to Him by the Father.
Second, Christ’s sheep hear only His voice and follow only Him. Since they will not listen to or follow a stranger (10:5), they could not possibly wander away from Him and be eternally lost.
Third, Christ’s sheep have eternal life. To speak of eternal life ending is a contradiction in terms.
Fourth, Christ gives eternal life to His sheep. Since they did nothing to earn it, they can do nothing to lose it.
Fifth, Christ promised that His sheep will never perish. Were even one to do so, it would make Him a liar.
Sixth, no one—not false shepherds (the thieves and robbers of v. 1), or false prophets (symbolized by the wolf of v. 12), nor even the Devil himself—is powerful enough to snatch Christ’s sheep out of His hand.
Finally, Christ’s sheep are held not only in His hand, but also in the hand of the Father, who is greater than all; and thus no one is able to snatch them out of His hand either. Infinitely secure, the believer’s “life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
The Father and the Son jointly guarantee the eternal security of believers because, as Jesus declared, “I and the Father are one” (the Greek word one is neuter, not masculine; it speaks of “one substance,” not “one person”). Thus their unity of purpose and action in safeguarding believers is undergirded by their unity of nature and essence. The whole matter of security is summarized in our Lord’s own words in John 6:39–40:
This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
Incensed by what they accurately and unmistakably perceived as another blasphemous claim to deity by Jesus, the Jews, self-righteously exploding in a fit of passion, picked up stones again to stone Him—the fourth time in John’s gospel that they had attempted to kill Him (5:16–18; 7:1; 8:59). Though the Romans had withheld the right of capital punishment from the Jews (18:31), this angry lynch mob was ready to take matters into its own hands.
30. I and my Father are one. He intended to meet the jeers of the wicked; for they might allege that the power of God did not at all belong to him, so that he could promise to his disciples that it would assuredly protect them. He therefore testifies that his affairs are so closely united to those of the Father, that the Father’s assistance will never be withheld from himself and his sheep. The ancients made a wrong use of this passage to prove that Christ is (ὁμοούσιος) of the same essence with the Father. For Christ does not argue about the unity of substance, but about the agreement which he has with the Father, so that whatever is done by Christ will be confirmed by the power of his Father.
30 This verse has received a great deal of attention from exegetes and theologians. In context it seems to refer primarily to the fact that the Father and Son are one in purpose and action. When it comes to preserving the life of the believing flock, they are one in their desire and ability to safeguard every believer. But the verse must mean more than that. It is highly unlikely that the Jews would pick up stones to attack Jesus if all he were saying was that what he was doing was in perfect accord with the will of God. Others could easily make that claim.
It is often noted that the text uses the neuter hen (“one [thing]”), rather than the masculine heis (“one [person]”). The latter reading would lead to the unorthodox position that Jesus and his Father are one person. Rather, the neuter hen means they “belong to the same category” (Lindars, 30). The christological controversies that took place several centuries later would draw heavily on this cryptic statement. It has often been noted that the word “one” refutes the claim of Arianism, which denied unity of essence between Father and Son, and that the plural verb “are” refutes the view of Sabellianism, which denied the diversity of persons.
10:29–30. Sheep signatures, we now know, include belief in the Shepherd, listening to the Shepherd, following the Shepherd, receiving eternal life from the Shepherd, and now protection by the Shepherd’s Father. This is not just the promise of a Galilean prophet whose miracles substantiated his claim to greatness. Throughout the entire narrative of John, Jesus repeatedly referred to the Father’s power. Even if the unbelieving Jews doubted his ability and authority, they could never doubt the omnipotence of the Father.
But that is precisely the point of unbelief. Since they did not believe that this itinerant prophet, this carpenter from Nazareth, had any relationship with God, they did not see him as their shepherd. But his response was clear: I and the Father are one. Numerous verses in the Bible establish the deity of Jesus Christ, but few are as precise and pointed as this one.
Modern theologians argue that Jesus died a martyr’s death because the people of his day misunderstood him. They argue that Jesus never claimed to be God and could have escaped death by denying this confusion. But the confusion is theirs. Jesus intended everyone who heard him speak to understand precisely that he made himself equal with God in every way—and that is why they killed him.
Nor can we miss the hint of election at the beginning of verse 29 when we read, My Father, who has given them to me. There can be no greater security, no safer shelter, no more sure salvation, and no more clear signature than this relationship to the God of the Bible through his Son the Good Shepherd. No wonder Paul could write, “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3).
Lightner summarizes for us: “What security! The eternal presence of the Father and the Son guarantees the eternal security of the believer. The life which Christ gives is ‘eternal.’ Those possessing it shall ‘never perish.’ No one shall pluck the sheep from the Shepherd’s hand. The irrevocable word of the Shepherd is, ‘No one shall be able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand’ ” (Lightner, p. 235).
30. In verse 28 Jesus has spoken about his own love for the sheep; in verse 29 about his Father’s love. No one shall snatch them out of the Son’s hand nor out of the Father’s hand, for they are more precious than all others. Hence, with respect to this protecting care, Son (verse 28) and Father (verse 29) are one. Therefore Jesus says, I and the Father, we are one.
However, inasmuch as in other passages it is clearly taught that the oneness is a matter not only of outward operation but also (and basically) of inner essence (see especially 5:18 but also 1:14, 18; 3:16), it is clear that also here nothing less than this can have been meant. Certainly if Son and Father are one essentially, then when Jesus states, “I and the Father, we are one,” he cannot merely mean, “We are one in providing protective care for the sheep.” The economic trinity rests forever upon the essential trinity (see on 1:14 and 1:18).
Note how carefully both the diversity of the persons and the unity of the essence is expressed here. Jesus says, “I and the Father.” Hence, he clearly speaks about two persons. And this plurality is shown also by the verb (one word in Greek) “we-are” (ἐσμεν). These two persons never become one person. Hence, Jesus does not say, “We are one person” (εἶς), but he says, “We are one substance (ἕν). Though two persons, the two are one substance or essence. It has been well said that ἕν frees us from the Charybdis of Arianism (which denies the unity of essence), and ἐσμεν from the Scylla of Sabellianism (which denies the diversity of the persons). Thus in this passage Jesus affirms his complete equality with the Father.
10:29–30. For My Father, who has given them to Me, see comment on 6:37. No one is able to snatch (harpazo, the same word in v. 12) the sheep out of the Son’s (v. 28) or the Father’s hand. This united security points to a unity between the Father and the Son: I and the Father are one (v. 30). The word “one” is neuter, not masculine, confirming that the Father and Son are one in nature and purpose, not one in identity. In other words, Jesus is fully divine, but He is a divine Person distinct from God the Father.
10:30. When Jesus said, I and the Father are One, He was not affirming that He and the Father are the same Person. The Son and the Father are two Persons in the Trinity. This is confirmed here by the fact that the word “One” is neuter. Instead, He was saying They have the closest possible unity of purpose. Jesus’ will is identical to the Father’s regarding the salvation of His sheep. And yet absolute identity of wills involves identity of nature. Jesus and the Father are One in will (and also in nature for both are God; cf. 20:28; Phil. 2:6; Col. 2:9).
10:30 Now the Lord Jesus added a further claim to equality with God: “I and My Father are one.” Here the thought probably is that Christ and the Father are one in power. Jesus had just been speaking about the power that protects Christ’s sheep. Therefore, He added the explanation that His power is the same as the power of God the Father. Of course the same is true of all the other attributes of Deity. The Lord Jesus Christ is God in the fullest sense and is equal with the Father in every way.
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