Does John 5:24 Teach eternal Security of True Believers?
In John 5:24, Jesus said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Does this passage teach the doctrine of eternal security? First, consider the context. Jesus is speaking to an unconverted Jewish audience who has just witnessed an undeniable miracle at the Pool of Bethesda. Their problem was multifaceted: first, their view of self was severely unbiblical. These men were full of religious pride and wanted nothing of a salvation that exposed their religion as arrogant rebellion against God and His righteousness. They were not poor in spirit recognizing their spiritually bankrupt condition. Secondly, they failed to understand the nature of Old Testament prophecy. Isaiah 53 had been in the Old Testament cannon for over 400 years, and they should have been familiar with that text. The Messiah was going to suffer and die as the sin bearer of all men. Thirdly, and connected to the first two problems was their view of the Messiah. He was standing before them, performing undeniable signs which authenticated His person and work, yet they wanted to kill Him. His way was prepared by the prophet John as the Old Testament predicted, yet they refused to receive His message. This is the scene set for Christ’s statement in John 5:24.
Secondly, notice the content of Christ’s statement. Consider the statement of truth. Christ emphasizes the reliability of His statement by saying truly, truly. Christ is say that His statement is emphatically true and should not be doubted. Secondly, He says, “I say unto you,” emphasizing the source of the statement is Christ and is as good as His perfect character and absolute sovereign authority. Thirdly, notice the condition of the statement Christ is about to make. A man must “hear His word” and “believe in Him that sent Him.” What does this mean, in light of the context of this passage? To hear the word meant there was information, the people had to know, and information that demanded a genuine response of the heart based upon what was heard. Jesus was speaking about the statements He had just made about His relationship to the Father. He was the second person of the Godhead physically standing in their midst. He was clear about this truth, and they need to hear and receive it. Secondly, there was a call to believe on Him who sent Christ. Jesus claimed that the things He did to authenticate His person were done by the power and authority of the Father, and that these signs were undeniable acts by the Father to demonstrate His person. Christ said you must hear what I and the Father are saying about my identity, and you must receive them with a humble dependence upon that revelation. If these men were to receive the things they had heard, it would have taken a definitive repentance toward God, turning from their self-deception in order to embrace whole heartedly the person and soon to be work of Christ as revealed in John’s gospel. We call this conversion, or a turning of the heart to God in repentance, and a whole hearted trust in the revealed person and work of Christ. Christ is saying that this is the only condition that makes the statement apply to a man. Only converted men meet the condition of the statement.
To put it our present context, Christ is saying that a man who humbly embraces the revealed truths in the word of God about Himself meet the conditions of this passage. This is the response that Paul and Peter called for in the book of Acts when they called men to repent, believe the gospel, or to repent toward God and place their faith in Christ. Today, a man must hear the message of the Gospel, or it is impossible to receive it and depend upon it. He must see himself as spiritually bankrupt and under the judicial wrath of God. He must hear of the finished work of Christ who died as his sin bearing substitute totally satisfying the judicial wrath of the Father and providing both righteousness that God can impute to his account and a means of complete and final forgiveness for his sins past, present, and future. He must hear of the resurrection of Christ that demonstrated finally the person of Christ and conquered the grave. And he must be called to act in repentant faith in Christ alone, counting his righteousness as dung for the excellency of Christ as Paul described in Philippians 3.
So that leads us to our final thought. If the condition is met, what is true of the person who has met the condition? Jesus says it two ways. Negatively, this man will not come into condemnation. This means that for the man who has met the condition, He will never bear the judicial wrath of the Father. God’s wrath was totally satisfied as it was poured out in Christ, and God has forgiven him of all his sins past, present, and future at the point of his conversion. Galatians 3:13 states it beautifully, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us:” Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” And Romans 5:9 says we are “saved from wrath through Christ.” The believer is delivered from condemnation, and that statement is true the very moment he is converted. Positively, Christ says that he believer is passed from death to life. Obviously Christ is not speaking of a physical death, because he is referring to the unbeliever as dead while he is yet alive. He is speaking of a change of positions. The unbeliever is spiritual dead and awaiting wrath, while the believer is made alive in Christ at the point of conversion and walking as a new creature according to 2 Corinthians 5:17. Ephesians 1:1 states this concept well: “You he made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins, and you were by nature children of wrath. He then says that God who is “rich in mercy has made you alive with Christ.” This passages show that not only is the believer told he will never face the judicial wrath of God, but he is passed from a position of spiritual death to spiritual life.
So does this passage teach that the genuine believer is eternally secure? I believe it is clear, conversion not only brings a new nature, new life, and forgiveness of sins, but it brings a position that is eternally secure in Christ.