Divine sovereignty and human responsibility are not mutually exclusive. This is one lesson we learn from John 10. As Jesus has said, there is a flock of sheep that has been given to Him and that He will most certainly save (vv. 28–29). There is no doubt that these sheep—sinners chosen by God in eternity past for salvation—will hear and heed His voice, following Him into life eternal (vv. 3–5, 14–17). But note that they will and they must follow Christ. God’s choice of some for redemption is not opposed to their need to believe in Jesus. Instead, God’s sovereignty encompasses both His gracious election and our response. The elect must and will come to saving faith, and by exercising saving faith, we demonstrate that we are elect. As John Calvin comments, “God effectually calls all whom he has elected, so that the sheep of Christ are proved by their faith.”
We must exercise faith in order to be saved, but even this faith is the gift of God, and God sustains this faith forever such that we can never be snatched out of His hand (vv. 28–29; Eph. 2:8–10). And because God does this work of salvation and preservation of His saints, that means that it is the united work of each of the three persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:1–2).
John 10 also emphasizes the unity of the Father and the Son in bringing about our salvation, culminating in Jesus’ statement, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). This verse tells us that the Father and the Son are perfectly united in their mission of salvation. The Father has given a flock to the Son and the Son lays down His life for this flock alone. If the Son atoned for the sins of all people, He would not be one with the Father, for the Father has not given all people to the Son (vv. 11, 15, 29). It cannot be that the Son dies intending to save all people but that the Father intends only to save the elect. The unity of mission and of essence between the Father and the Son necessitates the doctrine of limited atonement or particular redemption.
John 10:30, however, points us also to the unity of the divine essence between Father and Son. No one can snatch us out of the hand of the Father or the hand of the Son because both possess the same omnipotence. Ultimately, as it pertains to the divine essence, the “hand” of the Father and of the Son is the same hand and is a metaphor for divine power, since God, properly speaking, is spirit (4:24) and does not have hands as we do. Augustine of Hippo comments, “The power of Father and Son is one; for their Godhead is one.”