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. (John 10:27-28 ESV)
When I first converted to Christianity, I remember hearing for the first time that Christianity “is not a religion, it’s a relationship.” Additionally, we often talk about salvation as having a “personal relationship with Christ.” These are true and glorious statements! The sentiment behind them is the notion that religion is man’s way of being made right with God; it focuses on what man must do. A relationship focuses more on what Christ has done for us and how we are to rest in his finished work. To emphasize this notion of Christianity being a relationship, some of the most fearful word Jesus ever uttered are at the end of the Sermon on the Mount when he says, “Depart from me you workers of evil, I never knew you.” No one will be in heaven who doesn’t know and isn’t known by Christ.
However, this focus on Christianity being a relationship has skewed the way the church presents the gospel and practices evangelism. The way this is usually presented in churches is that we must ask Jesus into our hearts and invite him in; he is standing at the door of our hearts seeking to be in relationship with us if only we would just let him in. Not to burst any bubbles out there, but there is no Biblical warrant for “asking Jesus into your heart,” and Jesus standing at the door of your heart (Revelation 3:20) is a misunderstanding of that verse.
The error in this line of thinking is that God makes salvation possible for all people through the death of Christ on the cross, but salvation only becomes actual when we receive by faith what Jesus has done for us. Think this through for a moment. If this is true (i.e., Jesus makes salvation possible for all people), then there is no way to know for certain who will and who will not be saved because that most important decision has been left to us. Some will respond by saying, “Well, God knows the future, so he knows who will believe and who will not.” OK, how did God acquire that knowledge? Did he ‘learn’ this after creating the world? If so, then you have just done damage to the doctrine of God by saying God acquired knowledge he didn’t previously have.
This chapter in John’s gospel so clearly to me pictures Jesus as “knowing his sheep BY NAME.” This speaks of particularity. There is a particular group of people that Jesus knows and calls by name. This particular group of people are the ones that Jesus will die for and give eternal life. It is these particular people who will never perish and are secure in Jesus’ hand.
I know this is strange for many people to hear, but Jesus doesn’t die for everyone indiscriminately and then stand at the door of our heart begging to be let in. If that’s how you understand the gospel in particular and Christianity in general, then you’ve been sold a bill of goods. Jesus know those for whom he dies; he knows them BY NAME. Those for whom Jesus dies will be given eternal life and they will be secure in the hands of our great Savior! These sheep who are known by name will hear the gospel. They will believe the gospel and place their faith in Christ. They will struggle and persevere to the end. Why? Because Jesus knows them, dies for them and secures them.
Praise God for our glorious salvation and our glorious Savior!
Soli Deo Gloria!