Eternal life question


I have been discussing salvation with a non catholic friend and he keeps throwing up eternal verses dealing with assurance of salvation. How and what can I say in response to the Scriptural verse below where he obviously believes he has eternal life based on the context below? Thank you.

John 10:29, And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.


I think if man finds himself no longer in the palm of God’s hands it is because he jumped out at a time of temptation of his own free will. That is different from someone coming and ripping them out of the hands of Our Lord.

I like to quote what St. Paul said about salvation:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, ***work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; ***

Additionally, it’s either Peter or Paul that warn against not falling back into sin once you’ve been rescued and on the right path. Something about a pig returning to the mud.

FWIW…I have/had a friend who is not Catholic that quoted me the save verse. I find that non-Catholics tend to overemphasize one verse as their proof text and ignore all the other verses that contradict or seem to indicated against their interpretation. Catholics look at the whole of scripture when interpreting the Biblle, not to mention the
Magisterium’s authority.


No one can affect your salvation in any way - you make the choice, God grants it. The verse doesn’t say when eternal life is granted. If it is after we are dead, then yes, we “shall never perish.” But I don’t believe in “once saved, always saved” as many Protestants do. It appears your friend has this belief. There are tons of resources refuting this belief - many here on :slight_smile:


That’s a good point, Bonnie. That had not occurred to me.


The quote of St Paul is misunderstood by many. As you stated, it says ‘work out your own salvation’… It does not say work ‘on’ your salvation. Big difference. You can’t work out something you don’t have. So, people that have assurance of salvation still need to work ‘out’ that salvation. Not work ‘on’ it.

Also, people who believe in the assurance of salvation don’t believe they will never sin again. You aren’t all of a sudden made sinless.


Some do. Tho I’m sure the numbers are small. I used to know someone who really believed he had never sinned since his conversion. I really wanted to ask his wife about that! :wink:


I would suggest to your friend that there are many other verses that speak also of losing your salvation and as Catholics we know we have to take the whole Bible and not just take the verses we like.

The book of Hebrews, which was written to Jewish Christians, those who had come to believe in Christ, has many verses, such as Hebrews 2: 1 - 3, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 4:11, Hebrews 6:4 that speak of the possibility of one losing their salvation and were written to encourage the believer to hold on to their faith lest they fall away.

I would also explain to your friend that the verse says no one will take any out of God’s hand but that doesn’t mean that people don’t choose to walk away from God.

One more thing, there are many protestants that do not believe in once saved, always saved, such as: Mennonites, Amish, Methodist, Churches of Christ, and others.

I would ask him how he knows what he believes as a protestant is right verses other protestants that do not share his belief. How does he know he is right and others are not, which then leads to the need for the authority of a Church where the fullness of truth is found. That would then lead to 1 Timothy 3:15, the Church being the pillar and foundation of truth and in John 16:13 Jesus promised he would lead us into all truth, not some.

Those are just a couple of suggestions. I have been in similar situations and people become very defensive when they are faced with the thought that they might not be saved as they thought.

I heard some of what I have stated from Father Mitch Pacwa and Marcus Grodi. Both are great with this question.

God bless.


The texts alleged to support the Calvinist doctrine are weak and the verses that speak of falling from grace are many. Show him verses that demonstrate this.

For the verse from John, there are plenty of ways that it can be explained in harmony with Catholic teaching and do not necessitate a belief in “eternal security.” One question is what the flock refers to. Is it the flock of the elect (as in the prayer Hanc Igitir Oblationem from the mass)? In this case, yes, those whom God has chosen to infallibly lead to salvation will be saved. No bones about that. But Catholics believe differently from Calvinists concerning the nature of election, so whereas Calvinists believe that all who ever come to grace are elect (and conversely that all who fall away never had any grace, only the illusion of grace), Catholics believe that a man can really receive the grace of justification, yet through his own fault fall away and be damned. In sum, you do not share his assumptions that would cause him to believe that whoever falls from His hand was never in His hand to begin with.

Another interpretation could be that this refers to all who have come to grace and can be called Christians. In this case, when it says that “no man shall pluck them out of my hand,” this could reasonably said while allowing for the possibility that a man in the hand freely leaves the hand. After all, leaving the hand by your own initiative could not appropriately be described by the word “pluck.” This seems to fit well with the eucharistic aspect of John 6: “Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day” (Jn 6:54-55). Compare also with the image of the vine in chapter 15: “If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth” (Jn. 15:6).


I can think of another verse that maybe relevant. Some would addice this verse, “Now this is the will of the Father who sent me: that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again in the last day,” (Jn. 6:39). However, at the Last Supper, Christ says, “Those whom thou gavest me have I kept; and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition, that the scripture may be fulfilled” (Jn. 17:12). This might suggest that those whom the Father gave to Him do not refer to the elect, since the elect from a Calvinist perspective cannot ever be lost.


The linguistic distinction you mention is meaningless since the NT was not written in English. The Greek word translated “work out” means to accomplish, to bring about, or to effect. We get “work out” from the Latin translation, “efficere” (“out” + “work”), which is where we get the English word “effect” and it means exactly the same thing.

Furthermore, you can certainly have something yet lose it. It is not enough to establish that someone has salvation if the task is to proved that will never in the future be lost and go to hell.


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