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Excursus: Does "eternal life" imply "once saved always saved"What was this meant to teach us about "salvation"?

Many Christians claim that Jesus' promise to give "eternal life" to His sheep is an indication that by "sheep" Jesus means "the 'saved'" and that once you are saved"saved" you will never depart from Him and will invariably end up in heaven when you die. But is that what Jesus was talking about? No. (1) Jesus was not talking about the "elect" but rather, those who were counted as "sheep" at that time. This group both grew and shrunk over time, while the group of "elect" does not. (2) "Eternal life" does not mean "necessarily never-ending life"; it refers to a quality of life experienced by those in relationship with God by the Spirit.


 

Excursus: Does "eternal life" imply "once saved always saved"?

Many Christians claim that Jesus' promise to give "eternal life" to His sheep is an indication that once you are saved you will never depart from Him and will invariably end up in heaven when you die. But is that what Jesus was talking about? No. (1) Jesus was not talking about the "elect" but rather, those who were counted as "sheep" at that time. This group both grew and shrunk over time, while the group of "elect" does not. (2) "Eternal life" does not mean "necessarily never-ending life"; it refers to a quality of life experienced by those in relationship with God by the Spirit.

What was this meant to teach us about "salvation"?

Many Christians claim that Jesus' promise to give "eternal life" to His sheep is an indication that by "sheep" Jesus means "the 'saved'" and that once you are "saved" you will never depart from Him and will invariably end up in heaven when you die. But is that what Jesus was talking about? No. (1) Jesus was not talking about the "elect" but rather, those who were counted as "sheep" at that time. This group both grew and shrunk over time, while the group of "elect" does not. (2) "Eternal life" does not mean "necessarily never-ending life"; it refers to a quality of life experienced by those in relationship with God by the Spirit.

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The way that John crafted his narrative, the literary context ofBefore we start building theology on this statement indicates, we need to make sure we've understood it in its original context first, and that our extrapolations are faithful to that original intent.

Who were Jesus' "sheep"?

In Jesus' original context, He was talking with people who had not yet embraced Him about those who had already (at that time) embraced Him. Modern Christians often assume Jesus was not referring to us when He said this, or to the "elect", but ratherthat is eisogesis, to those who were following Him atnot exegesis.

John's placement of Jesus' statement in his narrative indicates that timehe intended this discussion to be understood in the context of the story of the blind man (which precedes it.) Thus, suchthe blind man is given to us (among other reasons) as an example of one of Jesus' sheep. Note: This does not suggest that the blind man from(for example) had always been one of His sheep, or that he always would be one of Jesus' sheep -- just that a disciple such as this was "presently" (at the previous chaptertime of Jesus' statement) one of His sheep.

What was Jesus trying to convey to His audience?

Jesus was essentially saying to the unbelieving Jews (Remember,including the chapter divisionsjealous religious leaders): "I told you who I am, but you didn't believe Me because you're not My sheep. My sheep and I know each other and I give them life and they are artificialsafe with Me." (Again, don't assume that Jesus is claiming that they had always been His sheep or always would be.)

What was John trying to convey to his audience?

John uses this dialogue (in light of the literary context) to present Jesus isas essentially saying to the jealous religious leaders (and other Jews): "You don't like that guys like this are following Me instead of you? Too bad! They are following Me because the sovereign God who you claim to serve has decreed it, and there's nothing you can do about it," and then He really rubs salt in the wound by telling them He's going to give them eternal life -- the very reward the religious leaders promised to people!

What was this meant to teach us about "election"?

Jesus was addressing specific people in a specific situation. He was not trying to give modern Western-minded Americans a proof text about the theological category of "election". If anything, all this text tells us on that topic is that those who don't recognize Jesus for who He is are not part of His group (yet) and if you see a person following Christ, and you don't like it, well... too bad!


Excursus: Does "eternal life" imply "once saved always saved"?

Many Christians claim that Jesus' promise to give "eternal life" to His sheep is an indication that once you are saved you will never depart from Him and will invariably end up in heaven when you die. But is that what Jesus was talking about? No. (1) Jesus was not talking about the "elect" but rather, those who were counted as "sheep" at that time. This group both grew and shrunk over time, while the group of "elect" does not. (2) "Eternal life" does not mean "necessarily never-ending life"; it refers to a quality of life experienced by those in relationship with God by the Spirit.

"Eternal life" is a spiritual quality of life, which God gives to every believer through Jesus his Son (cf. John 3:16; 17:2-3). It is not to be thought of as life prolonged to infinity, but as a sharing of living fellowship with the Father, in which "the category of time recedes before that of moral quality" (Law, Tests, 189.) In the words of Maurice (27-28; cf. 159-60), if eternal life is "that which was manifested in Christ, in His words and acts, it is a life of gentleness, justice, truth"; and you "cannot measure these by the clocks." In Johannine terms, "eternal life" is a synonym for "salvation." -Smalley, Word Biblical Commentary: 1, 2, 3 John, p. 10

The way that John crafted his narrative, the literary context of this statement indicates that Jesus was not referring to us when He said this, but rather, to those who were following Him at that time, such as the blind man from the previous chapter. (Remember, the chapter divisions are artificial.)

Jesus is essentially saying to the jealous religious leaders: "You don't like that guys like this are following Me instead of you? Too bad! They are following Me because the sovereign God who you claim to serve has decreed it, and there's nothing you can do about it," and then He really rubs salt in the wound by telling them He's going to give them eternal life -- the very reward the religious leaders promised to people!

Jesus was addressing specific people in a specific situation. He was not trying to give modern Western-minded Americans a proof text about the theological category of "election". If anything, all this text tells us on that topic is that if you see a person following Christ, and you don't like it, well... too bad!

Before we start building theology on this statement, we need to make sure we've understood it in its original context first, and that our extrapolations are faithful to that original intent.

Who were Jesus' "sheep"?

In Jesus' original context, He was talking with people who had not yet embraced Him about those who had already (at that time) embraced Him. Modern Christians often assume Jesus was referring to us, or to the "elect", but that is eisogesis, not exegesis.

John's placement of Jesus' statement in his narrative indicates that he intended this discussion to be understood in the context of the story of the blind man (which precedes it.) Thus, the blind man is given to us (among other reasons) as an example of one of Jesus' sheep. Note: This does not suggest that the blind man (for example) had always been one of His sheep, or that he always would be one of Jesus' sheep -- just that a disciple such as this was "presently" (at the time of Jesus' statement) one of His sheep.

What was Jesus trying to convey to His audience?

Jesus was essentially saying to the unbelieving Jews (including the jealous religious leaders): "I told you who I am, but you didn't believe Me because you're not My sheep. My sheep and I know each other and I give them life and they are safe with Me." (Again, don't assume that Jesus is claiming that they had always been His sheep or always would be.)

What was John trying to convey to his audience?

John uses this dialogue (in light of the literary context) to present Jesus as essentially saying to the jealous religious leaders (and other Jews): "You don't like that guys like this are following Me instead of you? Too bad! They are following Me because the sovereign God who you claim to serve has decreed it, and there's nothing you can do about it," and then He really rubs salt in the wound by telling them He's going to give them eternal life -- the very reward the religious leaders promised to people!

What was this meant to teach us about "election"?

Jesus was addressing specific people in a specific situation. He was not trying to give modern Western-minded Americans a proof text about the theological category of "election". If anything, all this text tells us on that topic is that those who don't recognize Jesus for who He is are not part of His group (yet) and if you see a person following Christ, and you don't like it, well... too bad!


Excursus: Does "eternal life" imply "once saved always saved"?

Many Christians claim that Jesus' promise to give "eternal life" to His sheep is an indication that once you are saved you will never depart from Him and will invariably end up in heaven when you die. But is that what Jesus was talking about? No. (1) Jesus was not talking about the "elect" but rather, those who were counted as "sheep" at that time. This group both grew and shrunk over time, while the group of "elect" does not. (2) "Eternal life" does not mean "necessarily never-ending life"; it refers to a quality of life experienced by those in relationship with God by the Spirit.

"Eternal life" is a spiritual quality of life, which God gives to every believer through Jesus his Son (cf. John 3:16; 17:2-3). It is not to be thought of as life prolonged to infinity, but as a sharing of living fellowship with the Father, in which "the category of time recedes before that of moral quality" (Law, Tests, 189.) In the words of Maurice (27-28; cf. 159-60), if eternal life is "that which was manifested in Christ, in His words and acts, it is a life of gentleness, justice, truth"; and you "cannot measure these by the clocks." In Johannine terms, "eternal life" is a synonym for "salvation." -Smalley, Word Biblical Commentary: 1, 2, 3 John, p. 10

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The way that John crafted his narrative, the literary context of this statement indicates that Jesus was not referring to us when He said this, but rather, to those who were following Him at that time, such as the blind man from the previous chapter. (Remember, the chapter divisions are artificial.)

Jesus is essentially saying to the jealous religious leaders: "You don't like that guys like this are following Me instead of you? Too bad! They are following Me because the sovereign God who you claim to serve has decreed it, and there's nothing you can do about it," and then He really rubs salt in the wound by telling them He's going to give them eternal life -- the very reward the religious leaders promised to people!

Jesus was addressing specific people in a specific situation. He was not trying to give modern Western-minded Americans a proof text about the theological category of "election". If anything, all this text tells us on that topic is that if you see a person following Christ, and you don't like it, well... too bad!