Vol.IX No.III Pg.7
May 1972

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Does "should not perish" in JOH.3:10 mean "ought not" implying that one "could" perish; or does it mean that the believer positively will not perish?


I have long felt that this passage was abused: both by those who taught "security" once a person had believed and also by those who over-simplified the passage to mean "ought not" perish, if he would go ahead and obey.

"Should" is past tense of "shall" as the dictionary will show. But it is also used to form the conditional mood; and this is its use here. Marshall's interlinear translation says: "may not perish but may have life".

There is no separate word in the Greek for "should " or "may". These terms are part of the translation of the tense of the verbs "perish" and "have" and both are subjunctive in mood. (This quickly gets over my head but I am using standard reference works, available to all. ) Webster says of subjunctive: " -- representing the denoted action or state not as fact but as contingent, possible, doubtful, desirable, etc.".

The contingency, however, is given in the passage under consideration. It is on the condition that one "believeth in Him" that he should not perish; and that makes his safety depend upon continued faith in Christ. The error of the "security" advocate is in the assumption that this faith can take place at a point of time in the past, and then and there secure the one then involved for a time yet to come. The assurance is to one who is "believing" -- and this faith, with its fruits of submissive obedience must continue if the assurance is to continue. Saved by faith is not salvation "at the point of faith, and without further acts of obedience" as was once the wording of debate propositions. Faith is the motivation for a life of service. (JAM.2:7-26) It can be "shipwrecked" (1TI. 1:19), "denied" (5:8 ), "cast off" (5:12), or "erred concerning" (missing our aim) (6:21). One's faith can be "overthrown" (2TI. 2:1 8), or, with Paul as our example, we can "keep the faith", and receive a croon of righteousness. (2TI.4:7-8) I am aware of the varied uses of the word here, but this only emphasizes the point I seek to make. The "believer" goes far beyond one who mentally acquiesces to the fact that Jesus is the Christ. His "faith" (which is accounted unto him for righteousness" ) embraces his total response, and can in no sense be characterized as "faith only".

JOH.3:16 teaches truth; it has its own completeness as a statement of truth. We may go elsewhere and find other truths that enlarge and enhance our appreciation of this passage, but this also says something most vital and we should learn to stop here long enough to appreciate and savor its goodness. We must not be driven from this rare treat by our fear of those unscriptural uses to which the verse has been plot. The passage, as given by the Holy Spirit, is well able to defend itself to the glory of God.