Eternal Security in 1 John 5:11-13
(11) and this is the testimony God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. (12) Whoever has the Son has life, whoever does not have the Son does not have life. (13) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
John the apostle has a pattern in his writing. At the end of his writing he explicitly tells us the main idea. He does this in the gospel of John and he does this in the letter of 1 John. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” The purpose of this book of the Bible is so that Christians can know, with certainty, that they have eternal life. If someone is truly saved they can know that they have eternal life because of Jesus. A true Christian cannot lose their salvation.
God gave us eternal life. Eternal life is not something we take, it is something that God gives. That is consistent with the rest of scripture. The apostle Paul confirms what John is saying when he makes it clear that we are saved by grace alone(Eph.2:8-9). Grace means gift. A gift is given. Salvation is a gift given by a loving God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Eternal life and heaven is something that is a gift given by God.
The reformation inspired by the great Martin Luther was built on this fundamental. It was a reaction against some who were teaching that salvation is not by grace. The latin phrase that came out of that movement was “sola gratia”…only grace. We are saved by grace alone. There is something else that gift giving grace leads to. You are saved by God’s grace alone, and you are kept by God’s grace alone. If you are not saved by works, you are also not kept by works. We are saved and kept by grace. There are some important reasons for this. If salvation were dependent on your works, no one could ever be saved. This is because our works are never enough to overcome our sin. Our works don’t measure up to God’s infinite standard of perfection.
The same is true after salvation. The standard of God’s infinite perfection doesn’t change. We might think that because I am saved I am doing more and better works, the works of faith. That’s great, and we should. But, we should never think that those works are what keep me in the good graces of the Lord. Those works can be a sign, but they are not what keeps us eternally secure. Eternal life is a gift of God’s grace. God gave us eternal life.
There is a simple sentence here. The action is done by God – He gave. The recipient of the action is “us”—Christians. And the action verb is what God has done – gave eternal life. What is interesting is the tense of the verb. It is in the past tense.
This is amazing. Eternal life is something that has already been given by God to Christians. It is in the past tense. John is writing to a group of believers in the present and the verb is in the past tense. Eternal life is something god GAVE them. It is already something that they possess.
Eternal life is a present reality. Most of the time when we focus on eternal life we think about something in the future. We think of eternal life as that day in the future when we get to experience the glorious reality of God’s heaven forever and ever. Oh, what a glorious truth. Oh, how I long for that day. It is not inappropriate to think of eternal life in that way. That is what scripture is talking about when it talks about eternal life. But, what people often fail to capture is that there is another dimension of eternal life. It is not just a future event, it is also a present reality.
At the moment of salvation, when a person comes to Christ in repentance and faith, that is when eternal life begins. It begins at the moment Jesus comes in. I have eternal life right now. We’ve got this heaven business all mixed up. What makes heaven heaven is the presence of God. What makes everlasting life so wonderful is the presence of God. What salvation does is puts us in the presence of God. Eternal life begins now. It has both a present expression and that future day that we all look forward to. It is both. And 1 John 5 is telling us that God has already given us eternal life. A Christian already possesses eternal life. That means nothing less than the absolute security of our eternity. This is not because we have worked for it. This eternal security is because God gave it!(past tense!)
The Holy Spirit clearly speaks to us in scripture that eternal life is present at the moment of salvation. That is when eternal life begins. That is not where it ends. Eternal life begins at salvation but it has no ending. It lasts forever. There is something else powerfully significant. Eternal life is eternal. Some translations will say it is “everlasting”. This is repeated throughout the NT.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.”
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
The definition of eternal/everlasting is pretty simple. It is something that has no end. It lasts forever. It is eternal. When someone is truly saved by God’s grace through faith, they are at that moment given eternal life. They are given by God something that lasts forever. They are given something that has no end. IF IT COULD END THEN IT WOULD NOT BE ETERNAL! If you could lose what God has given you then it would not be eternal life, it would be temporary life. If you could lose your salvation then the phrase ‘eternal life is meaningless’. It is not meaningless. Those who are truly saved are given something that they can never lose. They are given something amazing by God. It is a gift of His free grace because of the finished work of Christ on the cross. That gift is eternal life. Eternal life is something that can never be lost, otherwise it wouldn’t be eternal. Words have meaning and eternal means you cannot lose it – ever!
That is eternal security.