Christ, the Door
Below is an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:-
1. Entrance into the Sheepfold: lawful and unlawful: verses 1, 2.
2. The Shepherd admitted by the porter: verse 3.
3. The Shepherd leading His sheep out of the fold: verses 3, 4.
4. The attitude of the sheep toward strangers: verse 5.
5. Christ"s proverb not understood: verse 6.
6. The true Shepherd and the false shepherds contrasted: verses 7-9.
7. Antichrist and Christ contrasted: verse 10.
As a personal aid to the study of this passage the writer drew up a list of questions, of which the following are samples: To whom is our Lord speaking? What was the immediate occasion of His address? Why does He make reference to a "sheepfold?" What is meant by "climbing up some other way" into it? What is signified by "the door"? What "sheepfold" is here in view?-note it is one into which thieves and robbers could climb; it was one entered by the shepherd; it was one out of which the shepherd led his sheep. Who does "the porter" bring before us? Such questions enable us to focalize our thoughts and approach this section with some degree of definiteness.
Our passage begins with "Verily, verily, I say unto you." The antecedent of the you is found in "the Pharisees" of the previous chapter. The occasion of this word from Christ was the excommunication of the beggar by the Pharisees ( John 9:34). The mention of "the sheepfold" at once views these Pharisees in a pastoral relationship. The reference to "thieves and robbers" climbing up some other way denounced the Pharisees as False shepherds, and rebuked them for their unlawful conduct. In the course of this "parable" or "proverb," the Lord contrasts Himself from the Pharisees as the true Shepherd. These things are clear on the surface, and the confusion of some of the commentators can only be attributed to their failure to attend to these simple details.
There are two chief reasons why many have experienced difficulty in apprehending the Lord"s teaching in this passage: failure to consider the circumstances under which it was delivered, and failure to distinguish between the three "doors" here spoken of-there is the "door into the sheepfold" (verse 1); the "door of the sheep" (verse 7); and the "door" of salvation (verse 9). In the previous chapter we find our Lord had given sight to one born blind. This aroused the jealousy of the Pharisees, so that when the beggar faithfully confessed it was Jesus who had opened his eyes, they cast him out of the synagogue. When Christ heard of this He at once sought him out, and revealed Himself as the Son of God. This drew forth the confession, "Lord, I believe." Thus did he evidence himself to be one of "the sheep," responding to the Shepherd"s voice. Following this, our Lord announced, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind" ( John 9:39). Some of the Pharisees heard Him, and asked, "Are we blind also?" To which the Savior replied, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth." It was the self-confidence and self-complacency of these Pharisees which proved them to be blind, and therefore in their sins. Unto them, under these circumstances, did Christ deliver this memorable and searching proverb of the shepherd and his sheep.
It will probably be of some help to the reader if we describe briefly the character of the "sheepfold" which obtains in Eastern lands. In Palestine, which in the pastoral sections was infested with wild beasts, there was in each village a large sheepfold, which was the common property of the native farmers. This sheepfold was protected by a wall some ten or twelve feet high. When night fell, a number of different shepherds would lead their flocks up to the door of the fold, through which they passed, leaving them in the care of the porter, while they went home or sought lodging. At the door, the porter lay on guard through the night, ready to protect the sheep against thieves and robbers, or against wild animals which might scale the walls. In the morning the different shepherds returned. The porter would allow each one to enter through the door, calling by name the sheep which belonged to his flock. The sheep would respond to his voice, and he would lead them out to pasture. In the lesson before us this is what the Lord uses as a figure or proverb.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep" ( John 10:1, 2). The "sheepfold" here is not Heaven, for thieves and robbers do not climb up into it. Nor is it "The Church" as some have strangely supposed, for the Shepherd does not lead His sheep out of that, as He does from this fold (see verse 3). No, the "sheepfold" is manifestly Judaism-in which some of God"s elect were then to be found-and the contrast pointed in these opening verses between the true Shepherd and the false ones, between Christ and the Pharisees. The "door" here must not be confused with "the Door" of verse 9. Here in verse 1it is simply contrasted from the "climbing up some other way." It signifies, then, the lawful "way" of entrance for the Shepherd, to those of His sheep then to be found in Judaism.
"But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep." The simple meaning of this Isaiah, that Christ presented Himself to Israel in a lawful manner, that Isaiah, in strict accord with the Holy Scriptures. "He submitted Himself to all the conditions established by Him who built the house. Christ answered to all that was written of the Messiah, and took the path of God"s will in presenting Himself to the people" (Mr. Darby). He had been born of a virgin, of the covenant people, of the Judaic stock, in the royal city-Bethlehem. He had conformed to everything which God required of an Israelite. He had been "born under the law" ( Galatians 4:4). He was circumcised the eighth day ( Luke 2:21), and subsequently, at the purification of His mother, He was presented to God in the Temple ( Luke 2:22).
"To him the porter openeth" ( John 10:3). The word "porter" signifies door-keeper. The only other time the word occurs in John"s Gospel is in John 18:16, 17, and how strikingly these two references illustrate, once more, the law of contrast! "But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door (the porter), and brought in Peter. Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man"s disciples? He saith, I am not." In John 10 the "porter" refers, ultimately, to the Holy Spirit, while the door-keeper in John 18 is a woman that evidently had no sympathy with Christ. In John 10 the porter opens the door to give the Shepherd access to the sheep, whereas in John 18 the door is opened that a sheep might gain access to the Shepherd. In John 10 the sheep run to the Shepherd, but in John 18 the sheep is seen in the midst of wolves. In John 10 the sheep follow the Shepherd: in John 18 one of the sheep denies the Shepherd!
"To him the porter openeth." The "porter" was the one who vouched for the shepherd and presented him to the sheep. As to the identity of the "porter" in this proverb there can be no doubt. The direct reference was to John the Baptist who "prepared the way of the Lord." He it was who formally introduced the Shepherd to Israel: "that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing" ( John 1:31), was his own confession. But, in the wider application, the "porter" here represented the Holy Spirit, who officially vouched for the credentials of the Messiah, and who now presents the Savior to each of God"s elect.
"To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice;, and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out" ( John 10:3). Three things mark the genuine shepherd: first, he entered the fold by "the door," and climbed not over the walls, as thieves and robbers did. Second, he entered the door by "the porter" opening to him. Third, he proved himself, by "the sheep" recognizing and responding to his voice. Mark, then, how fully and perfectly these three requirements were met by Christ in His relation to Israel, thus evidencing Him to be the true Shepherd.
As we have seen, the "door" was the legitimate and appointed entrance into the fold, and this figure meant that the Messiah came by the road which Old Testament prophecy had marked out beforehand. The "porter" presented the shepherd to the sheep. Not only had the prophets borne witness to Christ, but, in addition, when He appeared, a forerunner heralded Him, introducing Him to the people. Besides this, when the true Shepherd of Israel was manifested, the sheep recognized His voice. The true sheep were known to Him, for He called them by name. The call was to follow Him, and to follow Him was to take their place with the despised and rejected One outside of Judaism. How beautifully this links up with what was before us in John 9 it is not difficult to perceive.
In John 9 Christ had shown how that He had entered the door into the sheepfold, for He had come working the works of God ( John 9:4), and had thus shown Himself to be in the confidence of the Owner of the fold, and therefore the approved Shepherd of the flock. The Pharisees, on the contrary, were resisting Him and attacking the sheep; therefore they must needs be "thieves and robbers." The blind beggar was a sample of the flock, for refusing to listen to the voice of strangers, Hebrews, nevertheless, knew the voice of the Shepherd, and drawn to Him, he found salvation, security, and sustenance.
All of this, strikingly illustrated in John 9, receives interpretation and amplification in chapter 10, where we have a blessed commentary on the condition of the excommunicated one. The Pharisees imagined they had cut him off from the place of safety and blessing, but the Lord had shown him that it was only then he had really entered the true place of blessing. Had he remained inside Judaism he would have been the constant object of the assaults of the "thieves and robbers"; but now he was in the care of the true Shepherd, the good Shepherd, who instead of killing him, would die for him! It is beautiful to compare John 10:3 with 9:34. The Pharisees" "casting out" of the poor beggar was, in reality, the Shepherd leading him out from the barren wilderness of Judaism to the green pastures of Christianity. Thus are we given to see the Lord Himself behind the human instru-ments-a marvellous example is this of how God ofttimes employs even His enemies to accomplish a good turn for His people.
"To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out." Mark carefully the qualification here: it is not He calleth the sheep by name, but "he calleth his own sheep by name." His "own sheep" were those who had been given to Him by the Father from all eternity; and when He calls, all of these "sheep" must come to Him, for it is written, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me" ( John 6:37). These "sheep," then, were the elect of God among Israel. Not to the Nation at large was Christ"s real ministry; rather did He come unto "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." That these "lost sheep" were not coextensive with the whole Nation is clear from the twenty-sixth verse of this chapter, for there we find the Shepherd saying to unbelieving Israelites, "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep." The sheep, then, whom Christ "called" during the days of His earthly ministry were the elect of God, whom He led out of Judaism. This was strikingly foreshadowed of old. Moses, while estranged from Israel, kept the flock of his father in other pastures, near "the mount of God" ( Exodus 3:1).
"And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice" ( John 10:4). Christ began His ministry inside the fold of Judaism, for it was there His Jewish sheep were to be found, though mixed with others: from these they needed to be separated when the true Shepherd appeared. Therefore does His voice sound, calling the lost sheep of the House of Israel unto Himself. As they responded, they were put forth outside the fold, to follow Him.
"And the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." Link this up with the third clause in the previous verse. "He calleth his own sheep by name . . . and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." A number of blessed illustrations of this are found scattered throughout the Gospels. "And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a Prayer of Manasseh, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him" ( Matthew 9:9). Here was a lone sheep of Christ. The Shepherd called him; he recognized His voice, and promptly followed Him.
"And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for today I must abide at thy house" ( Luke 19:5). Here was one of the sheep, called by name. The response was prompt, for we are told, "And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully" (verse 6).
"The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philippians, and saith unto him, Follow me" ( John 1:43). This shows us the Shepherd seeking His sheep before He called him.
John 11supplies us with a still more striking example of the drawing power of the Shepherd"s voice as He calleth His own sheep. There we read of Lazarus, in the grave; but when Christ calls His sheep by name-"Lazarus, come forth"-the sheep at once responded.
As a touching example of the sheep knowing His voice we refer the reader to John 20. Mary Magdalene visited the Savior"s sepulcher in the early morning hour. She finds the stone rolled away, and the body of the Lord gone. Disconsolate, she stands there weeping. Suddenly she sees the Lord Jesus standing by her, and "knew not that it was Jesus." He speaks to her, but she supposed Him to be the gardener. A moment later she identified Him, and says, "Rabboni." What had happened in the interval? What enabled her to identify Him? Just one word from Him"Mary"! The moment He called His sheep by name she "knew his voice"!
It has been thus with God"s elect all down the ages. It is so today. There is a general "call" which goes forth to all who hear the Gospel, for "many are called," though few are chosen ( Matthew 20:16). But to each of Christ"s "sheep" there comes a particular, a special call. This call is inward and invincible, and therefore effectual. Proof of this is found in Romans 8:30 and many other scriptures: there we read, "Whom he called, them he also justified." But all are not justified, therefore all are not "called." Who then are "the called"? The previous clause of Romans 8:30 tells us-"Whom he did predestinate, them he also called." And who were the ones "predestinated"? They were those whom God did "foreknow" ( John 8:29). And who were they? The previous verse makes answer-they who were "the called according to his purpose." Called not because of anything in them, foreseen or actual, but solely by His own sovereign will or purpose.
This effectual call from God is heard by each of the "sheep" because they are given "ears to hear": "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them" ( Proverbs 20:12). This effectual call comes to none but the sheep; the "goats" hear it not-"But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep" ( John 10:26).
There Isaiah, no doubt, a secondary application of these verses to the under-shepherds of Christ today, and considered thus they supply us with several important principles which enable us to identify them with certainty. First, a true under-shepherd of Christ is one who gains access to the sheep in the Divinely-appointed way: unlike the Pharisees, he does not intrude himself into this sacred office, but is called to it by God. Second, he Isaiah, in the real meaning of the word, a shepherd of the sheep: he has their welfare at heart, and ever concerns himself with their interests. Third, to such an one "the porter openeth": the Holy Spirit sets before him an "open door" for ministry and service. Fourth, the sheep hear his voice: the elect of God recognize him as a Divinely appointed pastor. Fifth, he calleth his own sheep by name: that portion of the flock over which God has made him overseer, are known to him individually: with a true pastor"s heart he seeks them out in the home and acquaints himself with them personally. Sixth, he "leadeth them out" into the green pastures of God"s Word where they may find food and rest. Seventh, "he goeth before them": he sets before them a godly example, asking them to do nothing which he is not doing himself; he seeks to be "an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity" ( 1 Timothy 4:12). May the Lord in His grace increase the number of such faithful undershepherds. Let the reader, especially the preacher, consult the following passages: Acts 20:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Peter 5:2-4.
"And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers" ( John 10:5). This is very important, for it describes a mark found on all of Christ"s sheep. A strange shepherd they will not heed. This can hardly mean that they will never respond to the call of the false shepherds, but that the redeemed of Christ will not absolutely, unreservedly, completely give themselves over to a false teacher. Instead, speaking characteristically, they will flee from such. It is not possible to deceive the elect ( Matthew 24:24). Let a man of the world hear two preachers, one giving out the truth and the other error, and he can discern no difference between them. But it is far otherwise with a child of God. He may be but a babe in Christ, unskilled in theological controversies, but instinctively he will detect vital heresy as soon as he hears it. And why is this? Because he is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and has received an "unction" from the Holy One ( 1 John 2:20). How thankful we should be for this. How gracious of the Lord to have given us this capacity to separate the precious from the vile!
"This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them" ( John 10:6). This points a contrast, bringing out as it does the very reverse of what was before us in the previous one. There we learn of the spirit of discernment possessed by all of Christ"s sheep; here we see illustrated the solemn fact that those who are not His sheep are quite unable to understand the truth even when it is plainly presented to them. Blind indeed were these Pharisees, and therefore totally incapacitated to perceive our Lord"s meaning. Equally blind are all the unsaved today. Well educated they may be, and theologically trained, but unless they are born again the Word of God is a sealed book to them.
"Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep" ( John 10:7). The "door of the sheep" is to be distinguished from the "door of the sheepfold" in verse 1. The latter was the Divinely-appointed way by which Christ had entered Judaism, in contrast from the false pastors of Israel whose conduct evidenced plainly that they had thrust themselves into office. The "door of the sheep" was Christ Himself, by which the elect of Israel passed out of Judaism. The Lord had not come to restore Judaism, but to lead out His own unto Himself. A striking illustration of this is to be found in Exodus 33. At the time viewed there Judaism was in a state of unbelief and rebellion against God. Accordingly, Moses, the shepherd of Israel, "took the tabernacle, and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp, and called it the Tabernacle of the congregation. And it came to pass, that every one which sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp" (verse 7). Those who really sought the Lord had to leave "the camp," and go forth unto the shepherd on the outside. It is beautiful to note the sequel: "And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses" (verse 9). God was with His shepherd on the outside of the camp! So here in John 10, Christ, the antitype of Moses ( Deuteronomy 18:18), tabernacles outside Judaism, and those whose hearts sought the Lord went forth unto Him. And history has repeated itself. God is no longer with the great organized systems of Christendom, and those of His people whose hearts cleave to Him must go forth "outside the camp" if they would commune with Him! The "door" here then speaks of exit, not entrance.
"All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them" ( John 10:8). It is abundantly clear that here we have another instance in John"s Gospel where the word "all" cannot be taken absolutely. The Lord had been speaking of shepherds, the shepherds of Israel; but not all of them had been "thieves and robbers." Moses, Joshua, David, the prophets, Nehemiah, and others who might be mentioned, certainly could not be included within this classification. The "all" here, as is usually the case in Scripture, must be restricted. But restricted to whom? Surely to the scribes and Pharisees, who were here being addressed by the Lord. Bishop Ryle has a helpful note on this verse: "Let it be noted," he says, "that these strong epithets show plainly that there are times when it is right to rebuke sharply. Flattering everybody, and complimenting all teachers who are zealous and earnest, without reference to their soundness in the faith, is not according to Scripture. Nothing seems so offensive to Christ as a false teacher of religion, a false prophet, or a false shepherd. Nothing ought to be so much dreaded in the Church, and if needful, be so plainly rebuked, opposed, and exposed. The strong language of our Reformers, when writing against Romish teachers, is often blamed more than it ought to be."
It is a notable fact that the severest denunciations which are to be found in the Scriptures are reserved for false teachers. Listen to these awful words of Christ: "Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!... ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel! . . . ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" ( Matthew 23:14, 24, 33). Song of Solomon, too, His forerunner: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" ( Matthew 3:7). Song of Solomon, too, the apostle Paul: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 11:13). So Peter: "These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with the tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever" ( 2 Peter 2:17). So Jude: "clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever" (verses 12, 13). Unspeakably solemn are these; would that their alarm might be sounded forth today, as a warning to those who are so careless whose ministry they sit under.
But why should our Lord term the Pharisees "thieves and robbers"? Wherein lay the propriety of such appellations? We believe that light is thrown on this question by such a scripture as Luke 11:52: "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." With this should be compared the parallel passage in Matthew 23:13. The Pharisees were thieves inasmuch as they seized positions which they had no right to occupy, exerted an authority which did not justly belong to them, and unlawfully demanded a submission and subjection to which they could establish no valid claim.
What, may be asked, is the distinction between "thieves" and "robbers"? The word for "thief" is "kleptes" and is always so rendered. It has reference to one who uses stealth. The word for "robbers" is "lestes," and is wrongly translated "thief" in Matthew 21:13; Luke 10:30, 36, etc. It has reference to one who uses violence. The distinction between these two words is closely preserved all through the New Testament with the one exception of verse 10, where it seems as though the Lord uses the word "kleptes" to combine the two different thoughts, for there the "thief" is said not only to "steal," but also to "kill and destroy."
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" ( John 10:9). Notice carefully the broader terms which Christ uses here. No longer does He say, as in verse 7, "I am the door of the sheep," but "I am the door," and this He follows at once with, "If any man enter in, he shall be saved." Why this change of language? Because up to this point the Lord had been referring solely to elect Israelites, which He was leading out of Judaism. But now His heart reaches forth to the elect among the Gentiles, for not only was He "a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers," but He also came "that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy" ( Romans 15:8, 9). The "door" in verse 1was God"s appointed way for the shepherd into Judaism. The "door" in verse 7 was the Way out of Judaism, by Christ leading God"s elect in separation unto Himself. Here in verse 9 the "door" has to do with salvation, for elect Jew and Gentile alike.
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." This is the "door" into the presence of God. By nature we are separated, yea, "alienated" from God. Sin as a barrier comes in between and bars us out of His holy presence. This is one of the first things a convicted soul is made conscious of. I am defiled and condemned, how can I draw near to God? I am made to realize my guilty distance from Him who is Light, how then can I be reconciled to Him? Then, from God"s Word, I learn heaven"s answer to these solemn questions. The Lord Jesus has bridged that awful gulf which separated me from God. He bridged it by taking my place and being made a curse in my stead. And as the exercised soul bows to God"s sentence of condemnation, and receives by faith the marvelous provision which His grace has made, I, with all other believers, learn, "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" ( Ephesians 2:13).
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." This is one of the precious words of Christ which is well worthy of prolonged meditation. A "door" speaks of easy ingress and is contrasted from the high walls in which it is set. There are no difficult walls which have to be scaled before the anxious sinner can obtain access to God. No, Christ is the "door" into His presence. A "door" may also be contrasted from a long, dreary, circuitous passage-just one step, and those on the outside are now within. The soul that believes God"s testimony to the truth of salvation by Christ alone, at once enters God"s presence. But mark the definite article: "I am the door." There was only one door into the ark in which Noah and his family found shelter from the flood. There was only one door into the Tabernacle, which was Jehovah"s dwelling-place. So there is only one "door" into the presence of the Father-"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved" ( Acts 4:12). And again, "I am the way," said Christ. "No man cometh unto the Father but by me" ( John 14:6). Have you entered by this "door," dear reader? Remember that a door is not to be looked at and admired, but to be used! Nor do you need to knock: the Door is open, and open for "any man" who will enter. Soon, though, the Door will be shut (see Luke 13:25), for the present Day of salvation ( 2 Corinthians 6:2) will be followed by the great Day of wrath ( Revelation 6:17). Enter then while there is time.
Such are some of the simplest thoughts suggested by the figure of "the door." What follows is an extract from an unknown writer who signed himself "J.B. Jr":-"The door suggests the thought of the dwelling-place to which it is the means of entrance. Within we find the possession or portion of those who can by right enter by the door. Thus it is as a place set apart for its possessors from all that which is outside. In this way we may say it is a sanctuary. These things are rightly connected with a door, it being the only right way of entrance."
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." Notice Christ did not say, "I am the door: if any man enter in, he shall be saved," but, "by me if any man enter in." Man cannot enter of himself, for being by nature "dead in trespasses and sins" he is perfectly helpless. It is only by Divine aid, by the impartation to us of supernatural power, that any can enter in and be saved. Without Christ we can do nothing ( John 15:5). Writing to the Philippians the apostle said, "For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" ( John 1:29). Not only is it a fact that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him ( John 6:44), but it is also true that none can come to the Father except Christ empowers. This is very clear from the sixteenth verse of our chapter: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring." The "sheep" enter through the Door into God"s presence because Christ "brings" them. Beautifully is this portrayed in Luke 15:5, 6: "And when he hath found it (the lost sheep), he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me."
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." To go "in and out" is a figurative way to express perfect freedom. This was something vastly different from the experiences of even saved Israelites under the law of Moses. One of the chief designs of the ceremonial law was to hedge Israelites around with ordinances which kept them separate from all other nations. But this was made an end of by Christ, for through His death the "middle wall of partition" was broken down. Thus were His sheep perfectly free to "go in and out." It is indeed striking to discover in Nehemiah 3that of the ten gates referred to there, of the sheep gate only are no "locks and bars" mentioned. This chapter concerns the remnant after their captivity, and clearly fore-shadows in a wonderful way the truth here taught by Christ. "The fulness of this freedom is intercourse with other saints, and in deliverance from the yoke of the (ceremonial) laws ( Acts 15:10), was only by degrees apprehended. That lesson, taught Peter on the housetop at Joppa ( Acts 10), was the first real step in the realization of that freedom" (Mr. C. E. Stuart).
"And find pasture." This tells of the gracious provision made for the nourishment of the sheep. Our minds at once turn to that matchless Psalm which records the joyous testimony of the saints: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green, pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." The "pastures," then, speak not only of food, but of rest as well. This too is a part of that wondrous portion which is ours in Christ. A beautiful type of this is found in Numbers 10:33: "And they departed from the mount of the Lord three days" journey: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them in the three days" journey, to search out a resting place for them." All through the Old Testament the "ark of the covenant" is a lovely figure of the Savior Himself, and here it is seen seeking out a resting place-the pastures-for Israel of old.
"I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." Seven things are enumerated in this precious verse. First, "I am the door": Christ the only Way to God. Second "By me if any man enter": Christ the Imparter of power to enter. Third, "If any man enter": Christ the Savior for Jew and Gentile alike. Fourth, "If any man enter in": Christ appropriated by a single act of faith. Fifth, "he shall be saved": Christ the Deliverer from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. Sixth, "he shall go in and out": Christ the Emancipator from all bondage. Seventh, "and find pasture"": Christ the Sustainer of His people.
Finally, it is blessed to see how the contents of this precious verse present Christ to us as the Fulfiller of the prophetic prayer of Moses: "And Moses spake unto the Lord, saying, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep which have no shepherd" ( Numbers 27:15-17).
"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy" ( John 10:10). It will be observed that Christ here uses the singular number. In verse 8 He had spoken of "thieves and robbers" when referring to all who had come before Him; but here in verse 10 He has some particular individual in view-"the thief." It should also be noted that in speaking of this particular "thief" our Lord combines in one the two distinct characters of thieves and robbers. As intimated in our comments on verse 8 the distinctive thought associated with the former is that of stealth; that of the latter, is violence. Here "the thief" cometh to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. Who then is the Lord referring to? Surely it is to the last false shepherd of Israel, the "idol shepherd," the antichrist, of whom it is written, "For lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces. Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened" ( Zechariah 11:16).
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" ( John 10:10). Why say this after having already declared that "By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved"? Mark this follows His reference to "the thief." Here then our Lord seems to be looking forward to the Day of His second advent, as it relates to Israel. This indeed will be the time when abundant life will be theirs. As we read in Romans 11:15, "If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" In striking accord with this it should be noted that the Lord"s title "I am the door" (verse 9) is the third of His "I am" titles in this Gospel-the number which speaks of resurrection. Immediately following we find Christ saying here I am the good Shepherd" (verse 11). This is the fourth of His "I am" titles-the number of the earth.
As preparation for the next chapter let the interested student ponder carefully the following points:-
1. Study the typical "shepherds" of the Old Testament.
2. Precisely what is the meaning of "for" in verse 11?
3. Did the Shepherd give His life for any besides "the sheep"?
4. What other adjectives besides "good" are applied to Christ as the "Shepherd"?
5. Who is referred to by "a hireling" (verse 12)?
6. Who are the "other sheep" of verse 16?
7. Look up proofs in the Gospels of the first part of verse 18.
Christ, the Good Shepherd
The following is submitted as an Analysis of the passage which is to be before us:—
1. The good Shepherd dies for His sheep: verse 11.
2. The character and conduct of hirelings: verses 12, 13.
3. The intimacy between the Shepherd and the sheep: verse 14.
4. The intimacy between the Father and the Son.' verse 15.
5. Gentile sheep saved by the Shepherd: verse 16.
6. The relation of the Shepherd to the Father: verses 17, 18.
7. The division among the Jews: verses 19-21.
The passage before us completes our Lord's discourse with the Pharisees, following their excommunication of the beggar to whom He had given sight. In this discourse, Christ does two things: first, He graphically depicts their unfaithfulness; second, He contrasts His own fidelity and goodness. They, as the religious leaders of the people, are depicted as "strangers" (verse 5), as "thieves and robbers" (verse 8), as "hirelings". (verses 12, 13). He stands revealed as "the door" (verses 9, 11), and as "the good Shepherd" (verse 11).
The Pharisees were the shepherds of Israel. In casting out of the synagogue this poor sheep, the man that was born blind, for doing what was right, and for refusing to do what was wrong, they had shown what manner of spirit they were of. And this was but a sample of their accustomed oppression and violence. In them, then, did the prophecy of Ezekiel receive a fulfillment, that prophecy in which He had testified of those shepherds of His people who resembled thieves and robbers. Ezekiel 34 (which like all prophecy has a double fulfillment) supplies a sad commentary upon the selfish and cruel conduct of the scribes and Pharisees. The whole chapter should be read: we quote but a fragment—"And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of Prayer of Manasseh, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them" (verses 1-4).
The same prophecy of Ezekiel goes on to present the true Shepherd of Israel, the Good Shepherd: "For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day... I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick... And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd... Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord God. And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God" (verses 11, 12, 15, 16, 23, 30, 31).
Ezekiel is not the only prophet of the Old Testament who presents the Savior under the figure of a "shepherd." Frequently do the Old Testament Scriptures so picture Him. In His dying prediction, Jacob declared, "From thence (the mighty God of Jacob) is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel" ( Genesis 49:24). The Psalmist declared, "The Lord is my Shepherd" ( Psalm 23:1). Through Isaiah it was revealed, "The Lord God will come with strong hand. and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" ( Psalm 40:10, 11). In Zechariah occurs that remarkable word "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones" ( Psalm 13:7).
In addition to the prophecies, the Old Testament is particularly rich in the types which foreshadow Christ in the character of a "shepherd." So far as we have been able to trace, there are five individual shepherds who pointed to Christ, and each of them supplies some distinctive line in the typical picture. First, Abel, for in Genesis 4:2 we are told that "Abel was a keeper of sheep." The distinctive aspect of typical truth which he exemplifies is the death of the Shepherd—slain by wicked hands, by his brother according to the flesh. The second is Jacob, and a prominent thing in connection with him as a shepherd is his care for the sheep—see Genesis 30:31; Genesis 31:38-40; and note particularly Genesis 33:13, 14. The third is Joseph: the very first thing recorded in Scripture about this favorite son of Jacob is that he fed the flock ( Genesis 37:2). The fourth is Moses. Three things are told us about him: he watered, protected and guided the sheep: "Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. And the shepherds came and drove them away: but Moses stood up and helpeth them, and watered their flock... Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb" ( Exodus 2:16, 17; 3:1). The fifth is David, and he is presented as jeopardizing his life for the sheep—"And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear" ( 1 Samuel 17:34-36). There is one other individual "shepherd" referred to in the Old Testament and that is "the idol shepherd" ( Zechariah 11:16, 17), and he is the Antichrist—how significant that he is the sixth! The only other individual "shepherd" mentioned in Scripture is the Lord Jesus, and He is the seventh! Seven is the number of perfection, and we do not reach perfection till we come to Christ, the Good Shepherd!
"I am the good shepherd." The word for "good" is a very comprehensive one, and perhaps it is impossible to embrace in a brief definition all that it included within its scope. The Greek word is "kalos" and is translated "good" seventy-six times: it is also rendered "fair," "meet," "worthy," etc. In order to discover the prime elements of the word we must have recourse to the law of first mention. Whenever we are studying any word or expression in Scripture, it is very important to pay special attention to the initial mention of it. The first time this word "good" occurs in the New Testament is in Matthew 3:10, where we read, "Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." The word "tree" is there used metaphorically. It is the unregenerate who are in view. No unbeliever is able to bring forth "good fruit." The "good fruit," then, is what is produced in and through a Christian. What kind of "fruit" is it which a Christian bears? It is Divine fruit, spiritual fruit: it is the product of the new nature. It is Divine as contrasted from what is human; spiritual as contrasted from what is fleshly. Thus in the light of this first occurrence of the word "good" we learn that when Christ said, "I am the good shepherd" He signified, "I am the Divine and spiritual Shepherd." All other shepherds were human; He was the Son of God. The "shepherds" from whom He is here contrasting Himself were the Pharisees, and they were carnal; but He was spiritual.
It will also repay us to note carefully the first occurrence of this word "good" in John's Gospel. It is found in John 2:10. When the Lord Jesus had miraculously turned the water into wine, the servants bore it to the governor of the feast, and when he had tasted it, he exclaimed, "Every man at the beginning cloth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now." Here the meaning of the word "good" signifies choice, or excellent, yea, that which is pre-eminently excellent, for the "good wine" is here contrasted from the inferior. This usage of "kalos" helps us still further in ascertaining the force of this adjective in John 10:11. When Christ said, "I am the good shepherd," He intimated that He was the pre-eminently excellent Shepherd, infinitely elevated above all who had gone before Him.
"I am the good shepherd." This was clearly an affirmation of His absolute Deity. He was here addressing Israelites, and Israel's "Shepherd" was none other than Jehovah ( Psalm 23:1; 80:1). When then the Savior said, "I am the good shepherd." He thus definitely identified Himself with the Jehovah of the Old Testament.
"I am the good shepherd." This, like every other of our Lord's titles, views Him in a distinctive relationship. He was, says Dr. John Gill, "a Shepherd of His Father's appointing, calling, and sending, to whom the care of all His sheep, or chosen ones, was committed; who was set up as a Shepherd over them by Him, and was entrusted with them; and who being called, undertook to feed them." In the Greek it is more emphatic than in the English: literally it reads, "I am the shepherd, the good."
"The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (verse 11). The word for "giveth' is usually translated "layeth down." "For the sheep" signifies, on their behalf. The good Shepherd gave His life freely and voluntarily, in the room and stead of His people, as a ransom for them, that they might be delivered from death and have eternal life. The Ethiopic Version reads, "The good Shepherd gives His life for the redemption of the sheep."
"The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." This is one of the many scriptures which clearly and definitely defines both the nature and extent of the Atonement. The Savior "gave his life" not as a martyr for the truth, not as a moral example of self-sacrifice, but for a people. He died that they might live. By nature His people are dead in trespasses and sins, and had not the Divinely-appointed and Divinely-provided Substitute died for them, there had been no spiritual and eternal life for them. Equally explicit is this verse concerning those for whom Christ laid down His life. It was not laid down for fallen angels, but for sinful men; and not for men in general, but for His own people in particular; for "the sheep," and not for "the goats." Such was the announcement of God through the prophets, "For the transgression of my people was he stricken" ( Isaiah 53:8). As said the angel to Mary, "Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins" ( Matthew 1:21); and as said the angel to the shepherds, "Behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people" ( Luke 2:10). The same restriction to be observed in the words of Christ at the Supper: "This is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins" ( Matthew 26:28). (Cf. also Acts 20:28; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 2:17, etc.)
"But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep" ( John 10:12). It seems evident that our Lord is here pointing once more to the Pharisees, the unfaithful shepherds of Israel. The hireling shepherd is not the owner of the sheep—note "whose own the sheep are not"; he has neither a proprietorship over them nor affection for them. The "hireling" is paid to guard and watch them, and all such mind their own things, and not the things of the Lord. And yet in view of Luke 10:7—"The laborer is worthy of his hire"—and other Scriptures, we must be careful not to interpret the use of this figure here out of harmony with its context. "It is not the bare receiving of hire which demonstrates a man to be a hireling (the Lord hath ordained that they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel); but the loving of hire; the loving the hire more than the work; the working for the sake of the hire. He is a hireling who would not work, were it not for the hire" (John Wesley). The "hireling" in a word is a professing servant of God who fills a position simply for the temporal advantages which it affords. A hireling is a mercenary: has no other impulse than the lust of lucre.
"But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep." We do not think that the "wolf" here has reference, directly, to Satan, for the false shepherds do not flee at his approach; rather does it seem to us that "the wolf" points to any enemy of the "sheep," who approaches to attack them. Note in passing the care of Christ here in the selection of His words: "the wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep," not devoureth, for no "sheep" of Christ can ever perish.
"The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep" ( John 10:13). At first glance this saying of Christ's seems very trite, yet a little reflection will show that it enunciates a profound principle—a man does what he does because he is what he is. There is ever a rigid consistency between character and conduct. The drunkard drinks because he is a drunkard. But he is a drunkard before he drinks to excess. The liar lies because he is a liar; but he is a liar before he tells a lie. The thief steals because he is a thief. When the testing time comes each man reveals what he is by what he does. Conduct conforms to character as the stream does to the fountain. "The hireling fleeth because he is an hireling": this is a philosophical explanation of the fugitive's deed. It was the flight which demonstrated the man.
The same principle holds good on the other side. The Christian acts christianly because he is a Christian; but a man must be a Christian before he can live a Christian life. Christian profession is no adequate test, nor is an orthodox creed. The demons have a creed, and it causes them to tremble, but it will not deliver them from Hell; It is by our fruit that we are known: it is deeds which make manifest the heart.
"The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling." Character is revealed by our conduct in the crises of life. When is it that the hireling fleeth? It is when he seeth "the wolf coming." Ah! it is the wolf that discovers the hireling! You might never have known what he was had not the wolf come. Very suggestive is this figure. It has passed into our common speech, as when poverty and starvation is represented by "the wolf is at the door." It suggests a crisis of trial or fierce testing. St. Paul made use of this simile when addressing the Ephesian elders: "For I know this, that after my departing shall greivous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock" ( Acts 20:29). This is all very searching. How do you act when you see "the wolf' coming! Are you terror stricken? Or, does approaching danger, temptation, or trial, cast you back the more upon the Lord?
"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" ( John 10:14). There seem to be three lines of thought suggested by this figure of the "shepherd" as applied to the Lord Jesus. First, it refers to His mediatorial office. The shepherd is not the owner of the flock, but the one to whom the care of the sheep is entrusted. So Christ as Mediator is the One appointed by the Father to act as shepherd, the One to whom He has committed the salvation of His elect—note how in the types, Joseph, Moses, and David tended not their own flock, but those of their fathers. Second, the figure speaks of fellowship, the Savior's presence with His own. The shepherd never leaves his flock. There is only one exception to this, and that is when he commits them into the care of the "porter" of the sheepfold; and that is at night-fall. How suggestive is this! During the night of Christ's absence, the Holy Spirit has charge of God's elect! Finally; the shepherd-character speaks of Christ's care, faithfulness, solicitude for His own.
In two other passages in the New Testament is Christ presented as "the shepherd," and in each with a different descriptive adjective. In Hebrews 13:20 we read, "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.'' Again in 1Peter verse 4, we are told, "When the chief shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away." There is a striking order to be observed in the three "shepherd" titles of our Lord. Here in John 10, the reference is plainly to the Cross, so that He is the "good" Shepherd in death, laying down His life for the sheep. In Hebrews 13the reference is to the empty sepulcher, so that He is the "great" Shepherd in resurrection. While in 1Peter 5:4 the reference is to His glorious return, so that He will be manifested as the "chief' Shepherd.
"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep." Why does the Lord refer to His people under the figure of "sheep"? The figure is very suggestive and full. We shall not attempt to be exhaustive but merely suggestive. Under the Mosaic economy a sheep was one of the few clean animals: as such it suitably represents God's people, each of which has been cleansed from all sin. A sheep is a harmless animal: even children will approach them without fear. So God's people are exhorted to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" ( Matthew 10:16). Sheep are helpless: nature has endowed them neither with weapons of attack nor defense. Equally helpless is the believer in himself: "without me, says Christ, ye can do nothing. Sheep are gentle: what so tame and tractable as a lamb! This is ever a grace which ought to distinguish the followers of Christ: "gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits" ( James 3:17). The sheep are entirely dependent upon the shepherd This is noticeably the case in the Orient. Not only must the sheep look to the shepherd for protection against wild animals, but he must lead them to the pastures. May we be cast back more and more upon God. Sheep are preeminently characterized by a proneness to wander. Even when placed in a field with a fence all around it, yet if there be a gap anywhere, they will quickly get out and stray. Alas, that this is so true of us. Urgently do we all need to heed that admonition, "Watch and pray lest ye enter into temptation." A sheep is a useful animal. Each year it supplies a crop of wool. In this too it prefigures the Christian. The daily attitude of the believer should be, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?"
"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep." Very blessed is this. The Lord Jesus knows each one of those whom the Father has given to Him with a special knowledge of approbation, affection, and intimacy. Though unknown to the world "the world knoweth us not" ( 1 John 3:l)—we are known to Him. And Christ only knoweth all His sheep. Ofttimes we are deceived. Some whom we regard as "sheep" are really "goats"; and others whom we look upon as outside the flock of Christ, belong thereto notwithstanding. Whoever would have concluded that Lot was a "righteous man" had not the New Testament told us so! And who would have imagined that Judas was a devil when Christ sent him forth as one of the twelve! "And know my sheep": fearfully solemn is the contrast presented by Matthew 7:23—"I never knew you"!
"And am known of mine" ( John 10:14). Christ is known experientially; known personally. Each born-again person can say with Job, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee" ( Job 42:6). The believer knows Christ not merely as the outstanding Figure in history, but as the Savior of his soul. He has a heart knowledge of Him. He knows Him as the Rest-giver, as the Friend who sticketh closer than a brother, as the good Shepherd who ever ministereth to His own.
"As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father" ( John 10:15). The word "knoweth" here, as frequently in Scripture, signifies a knowledge of approbation: it is almost the equivalent of loveth. The first part of this verse should be linked on to the last clause of the previous one, where Christ says, I "know my sheep, and am known of mine." The two clauses thus make a complete sentence, and a remarkable one it is. The mutual knowledge of Christ and His sheep, is like unto that which exists between the Father and the Son: it is a knowledge, an affection, so profound, so spiritual, so heavenly, so intimate, so blessed, that no other analogy was possible to do it justice: as the Father knoweth the Song of Solomon, and as the Son knoweth the Father, so Christ knows His sheep, and so the sheep know Him.
"And I lay down my life for the sheep" ( John 10:15). The precise significance of the preposition is unequivocally defined for us in Romans 5:6-8, where the same Greek term ("huper") occurs: "For when we were yet without strength in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The word "for" here means not merely on the behalf of, but in the stead of: "the Greek expression for "dying for any one," never has any signification other than that of rescuing the life of another at the expense of one's own" (Parkhurst's Lexicon).
"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold" ( John 10:16). It is clear that the Lord is here contemplating His elect among the Gentiles. Not only for the elect Jews would He "lay down his life," but for "the children of God that were scattered abroad" ( John 11:52) as well. But note Christ does not here say, "other sheep I shall have," but "other sheep I have." They were His even then; His, because given to Him by the Father from all eternity. A parallel passage is found in Acts 18. The apostle Paul had just arrived in Corinth, and the Lord spoke to him in a vision by night, and said unto him, "Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee, for I have much people in this city" (verses 9, 10). How positive, definite, and unequivocal these statements are! How they show that everything is to be traced back to the eternal counsels of the Godhead!
"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they, shall hear my voice" ( John 10:16). Equally positive is this. This is no uncertainty, no contingency. There is no they are willing to listen." How miserably man perverts the truth of God, yea, how wickedly he denies it! It is not difficult to understand what is the cause of it; it is lack of faith to believe what the Scriptures so plainly teach. These "other sheep" Christ must bring because necessity was laid upon Him. He had covenanted with the Father to redeem them. And they would be brought, they would hear His voice, for there can be no failure with Him. The work which the Father gave His Son to do shall be perfectly performed and successfully accomplished. Neither man's stubbornness nor the Devil's malice can hinder Him. Not a single one of that favored company given to Christ by the Father shall perish. Each of these shall hear His voice, because they were predestinated so to do, and it is written, "As many as were ordained to eternal life believed" ( Acts 13:48). "They shall hear my voice" was both a promise and a prophecy.
"And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice." Upon this verse the Puritan Trapp has some most suggestive thoughts in his excellent commentary—a commentary which, so far as we are aware, has been out of print for over two hundred years. "Other sheep—the elect Gentiles, whose conversion to Christ was, among other types, not obscurely foretold in Leviticus 19:23-25—‘And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised; three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of. But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the Lord withal. And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the Lord your God'. The first three years in Canaan, the Israelites were to cast away the fruits of the trees as uncircumcised. So our Savior planted the Gospel in that land for the first ‘three years' of His public ministry: but the uncircumcision was cast away; that Isaiah, to the uncircumcised Gentiles, the Gospel was not preached. The fruit of the fourth year was consecrated to God: that Isaiah, Christ in the fourth year from His baptism, laid down His life for His sheep, rose again, ascended, and sent His Holy Spirit; whereby His apostles, and others were consecrated as the firstfruits of the Promised Land. But in the fifth year, the fruit of the Gospel planted by Christ began to be common, for the Gospel was no longer shut up within the narrow bounds of Judaism, but began to be preached to all nations for the obedience of faith!" 1]
"And there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" ( John 10:16). Everywhere else in the New Testament the Greek word for "fold" is translated "flock," as it should be here, and as it is in the R. V. In the first part of this verse the Greek uses an entirely different word which is correctly rendered "fold"—"Other sheep I have which are not of this fold." "This fold" referred to Judaism, and the elect Gentiles were outside of it, as we read in Ephesians 2:11, 12, "Ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." But now the Lord tells us, "there shall be one flock, and one Shepherd.' This has been already accomplished, though not yet is it fully manifested—"For he is our peace, who hath made both (believing Jews and believing Gentiles) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition" ( Ephesians 2:14). The "one flock" comprehends, we believe, the whole family of God, made up of believers before the nation of Israel came into existence, of believing Israelites, of believing Gentiles, and of those who shall be saved. The "one flock" will have been gathered from various "folds."
"Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again" ( John 10:17). Christ is here speaking as the Mediator, as the Word who had become flesh. As one of the Godhead, the Father had loved Him from all eternity. Beautifully is this brought out in Proverbs 8:30: "Then I was by him, as one brought up with him, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him"—the previous verses make it plain that it is the Son who is in view, personified as "Wisdom." But the Father also loved Christ in His incarnate form. At His baptism, the commencement of His mediatorial work, He declared, "This is my beloved Song of Solomon, in whom I am well pleased." Here the Son declares, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again", for the laying down of His life was the supreme example of His devotion to the Father as the next verse clearly shows—it was in obedience to the Father that He gave up His spirit.
"No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself" ( John 10:18). When Christ died, He did so of His own voluntary will. This is a point of vital importance. We must never give a place to the dishonoring thought that the Lord Jesus was powerless to prevent His sufferings, that when He endured such indignities and cruel treatment at the hands of His enemies, it was because He was unable to avoid them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The treachery of Judas, the arrest in the Garden, the arraignment before Caiaphas, the insults from the soldiers, the trial before Pilate, the submission to the unjust sentence, the journey to Calvary, the being nailed to the cruel tree—all of these were voluntarily endured. Without His own consent none could have harmed a hair of His head. A beautiful type of this is furnished in Genesis 22:13, where we read that the ram, which was placed on the altar as a substitute for Isaac, was "caught in a thicket by his horns." The "horns" speak of strength and power (see Habakkuk 3:4, etc.). Typically they tell us that the Savior did not succumb to death through weakness, but that He gave up His life in the full vigor of His strength. It was not the nails, but the strength of His love to the Father and to His elect, which held Him to the Cross.
The pre-eminence of Christ was fully manifested at the Cross. In birth He was unique, in His life unique, and so in His death. Not yet have we read aright the inspired accounts of His death, if we suppose that on the Cross the Savior was a helpless victim of His enemies. At every point He demonstrated that no man took His life from Him, but rather that He laid it down of Himself. See the very ones sent to arrest Him in the Garden, there prostrate on the ground before Him ( John 18:6): how easily could He have walked away unmolested had it so pleased Him! Hear Him before Pilate, as He reminds that Roman officer, "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" ( John 19:11). Behold Him on the Cross itself, so superior to His sufferings that He makes intercession for the transgressors, saves the dying robber, and provides a home for His widowed mother. Listen to Him as He cries with a loud voice ( Matthew 27:46, 50)—no exhausted Sufferer was this! Mark how triumphantly He "gave up the ghost" ( John 19:30). Verily "no man" took His life from Him. So evident was it that He triumphed in the hour of death itself, the Roman soldier was made to exclaim, "Truly this was the Son of God" ( Matthew 27:54).
"I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" ( John 10:18). Here our Lord ascribes His resurrection to His own power. He had done the same before, when, after cleansing the temple, the Pharisees had demanded from Him a sign: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" ( John 2:19) was His response. In Romans 6:4 we are told that Christ was "raised from the dead by the glory of the Father." In Romans 8:11 we read, "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." These passages are not contradictory, but complementary; they supplement one another; each contributing a separate ray of light on the glorious event of which they speak. Putting them together we learn that the resurrection of the Savior was an act in which each of the three Persons of the Trinity concurred and co-operated.
"This commandment have I received of my Father." This is parallel with what we read of in Philippians 2:8, "And being found in fashion as a Prayer of Manasseh, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." It was to this our Lord referred in John 6:38, "For I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
"There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings" ( John 10:19). This had been foretold of old: "He shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem" ( Isaiah 8:14). Similarly, Simeon announced in the temple, when the Savior was presented to God, "Behold, this child is set (appointed) for the fall and rising again of many in Israel" ( Luke 2:34). So had the Savior Himself declared. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" ( Matthew 10:34). From the Divine side this is a profound mystery to us. It had been an easy matter for God to have subdued the enmity in men's hearts and brought them all as worshippers to the feet of Christ. But instead of this, He permitted His Son to be despised and rejected by the great majority, and He permitted this because He Himself eternally decreed it (see Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 2:8, etc).
"And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?" ( John 10:20). Terrible indeed was the condition of these men. The Son of God called a demoniac, Truth incarnate deemed insane! "Tigers rage," says a Puritan, "at the fragrancy of sweet spices: so did these monsters at the Savior's sweet sayings.'' How humbling to remember that the same corrupt heart indwells each of us! O what grace we daily need to keep down the iniquity which is to be found in every Christian. Not until we reach the glory shall we fully learn how deeply indebted we are to God's wondrous grace.
"Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?" ( John 10:21). Notice it was the "many" who deemed Christ a madman. But there were some—"others"—even among the Pharisees who had, even then, a measure of light, and recognized that the Savior neither spake nor acted like a demoniac. This minority group was made up, no doubt, by such men as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. It is significant that they were impressed more with His "words" than they were with His miraculous works.
As a preparation for our exposition of the remainder of John 10, let the interested reader study the following points:—
1. What is the force of "it was winter" (verse 22) in the light of what follows?
2. Mark the contrasts between John 10:23 and Acts 3:11,5:12.
3. What verses in John 8 are parallel with John 10:26?
4. Enumerate the seven proofs of the believer's security found in verses 27-29.
5. Trace out the seven things said about "the sheep" in John 10.
6. Trace out the seven things said about the "shepherd."
7. What is the meaning of "sanctified" in verse 36?
1] Let the reader carefully Revelation -read this paragraph.
Christ, One with the Father
It is by no means a simple task either to analyze or to summarize the second half of John 10. The twenty-second verse clearly begins a new section of the chapter, but it is equally clear that what follows is closely related to that which has gone before. The Lord is no longer talking to "the Pharisees," but to "the Jews." Nevertheless, it is in His shepherd character, as related to His own, that He is here viewed. Yet while there is this in common between the first and second halves of John 10, there is a notable difference between them. In the former, Christ is seen in His mediatorship; in the latter, it is His essential glories which are the more prominent.
In the first part of John 10 it is Christ in "the form of a servant" which is before us. He gains entrance to the sheepfold by "the porter opening to him" (verse 3). He is the "door" into God's presence (verse 9), the Way unto the Father. There, He is seen as the One who was to "give his life for the sheep" (verse 11). There, we behold Him in the place of obedience, in subjection to the "commandment" of the father (verse 18). But mark the contrast in the second half of John 10. Here, He presents Himself as the One endowed with the sovereign right to "give eternal life" to His own (verse 28); as One possessed of almighty power, so that none can pluck them out of His hand (verse 28); as one with the Father (verse 30); as "the Son of God" (verse 36). It seems evident then that the central design of the passage before us is to display the essential glories of the person of the God-man. It is not so much the Godhood of Christ which is here in view, as it is the Deity of the One who humbled Himself to become man.
What is recorded in the latter half of John 10 provided a most pertinent, though tragic, conclusion to the first section of the Gospel. It was winter-time (verse 22); the season of ingathering was now over; the "sun of righteousness" had completed His official circuit, and the genial warmth of summer had now given place to the season of chilling frosts. The Jews were celebrating "the feast of the dedication," which commemorated the purification of the temple. But for the true Temple, the One to whom the temple had pointed—God tabernacling in their midst—they had no heart. The Lord Jesus is presented as walking in the temple, but it is to be carefully noted that He was "in Solomon's porch" (verse 23). which means that He was on the outside of the sacred enclosure, Israel's "house" was left unto them desolate (cf. Matthew 23:38)!While here in the porch, "the Jews" (the religious leaders) came to Christ with the demand that He tell them openly if He were "the Christ" (verse 24), saying, "How long dost thou make us to doubt?" This was the language of unbelief, and uttered at that late date, showed the hopelessness of their condition. Following this interview of the Jews with Christ, and their unsuccessful attempt to apprehend Him, the Lord retires beyond Jordan, "unto the place where John at first baptized" (verse 40). Thus did Israel's Messiah return to the place where He had formally dedicated Himself to His mission. Further details will come before us in the course of the exposition. Below is an attempt to analyze our passage:—
1. During the feast of dedication Jesus walks in Solomon's porch: verses 22, 23.
2. The Jews demand an open proclamation of His Messiah-ship: verse 24.
3. The Lord explains why a granting of their request was useless: verses 25, 26.
4. The eternal security of His sheep: verses 27-30.
5. The Jews attempt to stone Him because of His avowal of Deity: verses 31-33.
6. Christ's defense of His Deity: verses 34-38.
7. Christ leaves Jerusalem and goes beyond Jordan, where many believe on Him: 39, 42.
"And it was at Jerusalem the feast of dedication, and it was winter" ( John 10:22). The feast of dedication was observed at Jerusalem in memorial of the purification of the Temple after it had been polluted by the idolatries of Antiochus Epiphanes. Proof of this is to be found in the fact that we are here told the time was "winter." Therefore the "feast" here mentioned could not be in remembrance of the dedication of Solomon's temple, for this temple had been dedicated at harvest-time ( 1 Kings 8:2); nor was it to celebrate the building of Nehemiah's temple, for that had been dedicated in the spring-time ( Ezra 6:15, 16). The "feast" here referred to must be that which had been instituted by Judas Maccabaeus, on his having purified the temple after the pollution of it by Antiochus, about 165 B. C. This "feast" was celebrated every year for eight successive days in the month of December ( 1 Maccabees 4:52, 59), and is mentioned by Josephus (Antiq 12:7, etc.). Thus the words, "and it was winter" enable us to identify this feast.
"And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter." Here, as always in Scripture, there is a deeper meaning than the mere historical. The mention of "winter" at this point is most significant and solemn. This tenth chapter of John closes the first main section of the fourth Gospel. From this point onwards the Lord Jesus discourses no more before the religious leaders. His public ministry was almost over. The Jews knew not their "day of visitation," and henceforth the things which "belonged to their peace" were hidden from their eyes ( Luke 19:42). So far as they were concerned the words of Jeremiah applied with direct and solemn force: "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved" ( John 8:20). For them there was nothing but an interminable "winter." Significant and suitable then is this notice of the season of coldness and barrenness as an introduction to what follows.
What we have just pointed out in connection with the moral force of this reference to "winter" encourages us to look for a deeper significance in this mention here of "the feast of the dedication." Nowhere else in Scripture is this particular feast referred to. This makes it the more difficult to ascertain its significance here. That there is some definite reason for the Holy Spirit noticing it, and that there is a pertinent and profound meaning to it when contemplated in its connections, we are fully assured. What, then, is it?
As already pointed out, the last half of John 10 closes the first great section of John's Gospel, a section which has to do with the public ministry of Christ. The second section of this Gospel records His private ministry, concluding with His death and resurrection. The distinctive character of these two sections correspond exactly with the two chief purposes of our Lord's incarnation, which were to present Himself to Israel as their promised Messiah, and to offer Himself as a sacrifice for sin. What, then, remained? Only the still more important work which was to be accomplished by His death and resurrection. He had presented Himself to Israel; now, shortly, He would offer Himself as a sacrifice to God. It is to this "the dedication" here points.
It is in this Gospel, alone of the four, that the Lord Jesus is hailed as "the lamb of God," and if the reader will turn back to Exodus 12he will find that the "lamb" was to be separated from the flock some days before it was to be killed (see verses 3, 5, 6). In keeping with this, note how in this passage (and nowhere else) the Lord Jesus speaks of Himself as the One whom the Father had "sanctified" (verse 36), and mark how at the end of the chapter He is seen leaving Jerusalem and going away "beyond Jordan" (verse 40)! That the Holy Spirit has here prefaced this final conversation between the Savior and the Jews by mentioning "the feast of the dedication" is in beautiful and striking accord with the fact that from this point onwards Christ was now dedicated to the Cross, as hitherto He had been engaged in manifesting Himself to Israel.
The interpretation suggested above is confirmed and established by two other passages in the New Testament. The Greek word rendered "dedication" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, but it is found twice in its verbal form. In Hebrews 9:18 we read, "Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood" ( Hebrews 9:18). In Hebrews 10:19, 20 we are told, "Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated [dedicated] for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." In each of these instances "dedication" is connected with blood-shedding! And it was to this, the shedding of His precious blood, that the Lord Jesus was now (after His rejection by the Nation) dedicated! An additional item still further confirming our exposition is found in the fact that the historical reference in John 10:22 was to the dedication of the temple, and in John 2:19 the Savior refers to Himself as "this temple"—"destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The antitypical dedication of the temple was the Savior offering Himself to God! Most fitting then was it that the Holy Spirit should here mention the typical dedication of the temple immediately after the Lord had thrice referred to His "laying down" His life (see verses 15, 17, 18)!
"And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch" ( John 10:23). Josephus informs us (Antiq. John 8:3) that Song of Solomon, when he built the temple, filled up a part of the valley adjacent to mount Zion, and built a portico over it toward the East. This was a magnificent structure, supported by a wall four hundred cubits high, made out of stones of vast bulk. It continued to the time of Agrippa, which was several years after the death of Christ. Twice more is mention made of "Solomon's porch" in the New Testament, and what is found in these passages points a sharp contrast from the one now before us. In Acts 3:11 we are told that, following the healing of the lame beggar by Peter and John, "all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering." But here in John 10:23, following our Lord's healing of the blind beggar, there is no hint of any wonderment among the people! Again in Acts 5:12 we read, "And they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch." This is in evident contrast, designed contrast, from what is before us in our present passage. Here, immediately after the reference to our Lord walking in Solomon's porch, we read, "then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt?" They were manifestly out of accord with Him. They were opposed to Him, and like beasts of prey sought only His life. Thus we see once more the importance and value of comparing scripture with scripture. By thus linking together these three passages which make mention of "Solomon's porch" we discern the more clearly how that the design of our passage is to present the God-man as "despised and rejected of men."
"Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly" ( John 10:24). The appropriateness of this incident at the close of John 10, and the force of this request of the Jews—obviously a disingenuous one—should now be apparent to the reader. Coming as it does right at the close of the first main section of this Gospel, a section which is concerned with the public ministry of Christ before Israel, this demand of the religious leaders makes it plain how useless it was for the Messiah to make any further advances toward the Nation at large, and how justly He might now abandon them to that darkness which they preferred to the light;, By now, it was,unmistakably plain that the religious leaders received him not, and this request of theirs for Him to tell them "plainly" or "openly" if He were the Messiah, was obviously made with no other purpose than to gain evidence that they might apprehend Him as a rebel against the Roman government. But, if such was their evil design, did they not already have the needed evidence to formulate the desired charge against Him? The answer Isaiah, No, not evidence sufficiently explicit.
"How long dost thou make us to doubt? if thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." It is a significant thing that the Lord Jesus had not declared, plainly and openly in public, that He was the Messiah. He had avowed His Messiahship to His disciples ( John 1:41, 49, etc.); to the Samaritans ( John 4:42), and to the blind beggar ( John 9:37); but He had not done so before the multitudes or to the religious leaders. This designed omission accomplished a double purpose: it made it impossible for the authorities to lawfully seize Him before God's appointed time, and it enforced the responsibility of the Nation at large. That the Lord Jesus was the One that the prophets announced should come, had been abundantly attested by His person, His life, and His works; yet the absence of any formal announcement in public served as an admirable test of the people. His miraculous works—ever termed "signs" in John's Gospel—were more than sufficient to prove Him to be the Messiah unto those who were open-minded; but yet they were not such as to make it possible for the prejudiced to refuse their assent. This is ever God's way of dealing with moral agents. There are innumerable tokens for the existence of a Divine Creator, sufficient to render all men "without excuse"; yet are these tokens of such a nature as not to have banished atheism from the earth. There are a thousand evidences that the Holy Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, yet are there multitudes who believe them not. There is a great host of unimpeachable witnesses who testify daily to the Saviourhood of the Lord Jesus, yet the great majority of men continue in their sins.
Before we pass from this verse a word should be said upon the turpitude of these Jews. "How. long dost thou make us to doubt?" was inexcusable wickedness. They were seeking to transfer to Him the onus of their unbelief. They argued that He was responsible for their unreasonable and God-dishonoring doubting. This is ever the way with the unregenerate. When God arraigned Adam, the guilty culprit answered, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat" ( Genesis 3:12). So it is today. Instead of tracing the cause of unbelief to his own evil heart, the sinner blames God for the insufficiency of convincing evidence.
"Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me" ( John 10:25). The Lord had told them that He was "the Son of Prayer of Manasseh," and that as such the Father had "given him authority to execute judgment" ( John 5:27). He had told them that He was the One of whom Moses wrote ( John 5:46). He had told them that He was the "living bread" which had come down from heaven ( John 6:51). He had told them that Abraham had rejoiced to see His day ( John 8:56). All of these were statements which intimated plainly that He was the promised One of the Old Testament Scriptures.
In addition to what He had taught concerning His own person, His "works" bore conclusive witness to His Messianic office. His "works" were an essential part of His credentials, as is clear from Luke 7:19-23: "And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?... Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is Hebrews, whosoever shall not be offended in me." These were the precise verifications as to what was to take place when the Messiah appeared—compare Isaiah 35:5, 6.
"But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you" ( John 10:26). Unspeakably solemn was this word. They were reprobates, and now that their characters were fully manifested the Lord did not hesitate to tell them so. The force of this awful statement is definite and clear, though men in their unbelief have done their best to befog it. Almost all the commentators have expounded this verse as though its clauses had been reversed. They simply make Christ to say here to these Jews that they were unbelievers. But the truth is that the Lord said far more than that. The commentators understand "the sheep" to be nothing more than a synonym for born-again and justified persons, whereas in fact it is equivalent to God's elect, as the sixteenth verse of this chapter clearly shows. The Lord did not say "Because ye are not of my sheep ye believe not," but, "Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep." Man always turns the things of God upside down. When he comes to something in the Word which is peculiarly distasteful, instead of meekly submitting to it and receiving it in simple faith because God says it, he resorts to every imaginable device to make it mean something else. Here Christ is not only charging these Jews with unbelief, but He also explains why faith had not been granted to them—they were not "of his sheep": they were not among the favored number of God's elect. If further proof be required for the correctness of this interpretation, it is furnished below. A man does not have to believe to become one of Christ's "sheep": he "believes" because he is one of His sheep.
"But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you." To what is our Lord referring? When had He previously avowed that these Jews were not of God's elect? When had He formerly classed them among the reprobates? The answer is to be found in chapter eight of this same Gospel. There we find this same company—"the Jews" (see verse 48)—antagonizing Him, and to them He says, "Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word" (verse 43). This is strictly parallel with "ye believe not" in John 10:26. Then, in John 8, He explains why they could not "hear his word"—it was because they were "of their father the devil" (verse 44). Again, in the forty-seventh verse of the same chapter He said to the Jews, "He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God." Strictly parallel is this with John 10:26. They "heard not" because they were not of God: they "believed not" because they were not of His sheep. In each instance He gives as the reason why they received Him not the solemn fact that they belonged not to God's elect: they were numbered among the reprobates.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" ( John 10:27). Here the Lord contrasts the elect from the non-elect. God's elect hear the voice of the Son: they hear the voice of the Shepherd because they belong to His sheep: they "hear" because a sovereign God imparts to them the capacity to hear, for "The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them" ( Proverbs 20:12). Each of the sheep "hear" when the irresistible call comes to them, just as Lazarus in the grave heard when Christ called him.
"And I know them, and they follow me" ( John 10:27). Each of the sheep are known to Christ by a special knowledge, a knowledge of approbation. They are valued by Him because entrusted to Him by the Father. As the Father's love gift, He prizes them highly. The vast crowd of the nonelect He "never knew" ( Matthew 7:23) with a knowledge of approbation; but each of the elect are known affectionately, personally, eternally. "And they follow me." They "follow" the example He has left them; they follow in holy obedience to His commandments; they follow from love, attracted by His excellent person; they follow on to know Him better.
"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand" ( John 10:28). The connection between this and what has gone before should not be lost sight of. Christ had been speaking about His approaching death, His laying down His life for the sheep (verse 15, etc.). Would this, then, imperil the sheep? No, the very reverse. He would lay down His life in order that it might be imparted to them. This "life," Divine and eternal, would be given to them, not sold or bartered. Eternal life is neither earned as a wage, merited as a prize, nor won as a crown. It is a free gift, sovereignly bestowed. But, says the carping objector, All this may be true, but there are certain conditions which must be fulfilled if this valuable gift is to be retained, and if these conditions are not complied with the gift will be forfeited, and the one who receives it will be lost. To meet this legalistic skepticism, the Lord added, "and they shall never perish." Not only is the life given "eternal," but the ones on whom this precious gift is bestowed shall never perish: backslide they may, "perish" they shall not, and cannot, while the Shepherd lives! Hypocrites and false professors make shipwreck of the faith (not their faith, for they never had any), but no real saint of God did or will. There are numerous cases recorded in Scripture where individuals backslided, but never one of a real saint apostatizing. A believer may fall, but he shall not be utterly cast down ( Psalm 37:24). Quite impossible is it for a sheep to become a goat, for a man who has been born again to be unborn.
"Neither shall any man (any one) pluck them out of my hand." Here the Lord anticipates another objection, for the fertile mind of unbelief has rarely evidenced more ingenuity than it has at this point, in opposing the blessed truth of the eternal security of God's children. When the objector has been forced to acknowledge that this passage teaches that the life given to the sheep is "eternal," and that those who receive it shall "never perish," he will next make shift by replying, True, no believer will destroy himself, but what of his many enemies, what of Satan, ever going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour? Suppose a believer falls into the toils of the Devil, what then? This, assures our Lord, is equally impossible. The believer is in the hand of Christ, and none is able to pluck from thence one of His own. Tease and annoy him the Devil may, but seize the believer he cannot. Blessed, comforting, Revelation -assuring truth is this! Weak and helpless in himself, nevertheless, the sheep is secure in the hand of the Shepherd.
"My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all: and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's band" ( John 10:29). Here the Lord anticipates one more objection. He knew full well that there would be some carping quibblers who would be foolish enough to say, True, the Devil is unable to pluck us from the hand of Christ, but we are still "free agents," and therefore could jump out if we chose to do so. Christ now bars out this miserable perversion. He shows us how that it is impossible for a sheep to perish even if it desired to—as though one ever did! The "hand of Christ" (verse 28) is beneath us, and the "hand" of the Father is above us. Thus are we secured between the clasped hands of Omnipotence!
No stronger passage in all the Word of God can be found guaranteeing the absolute security of every child of God. Note the seven strands in the rope which binds them to God. First, they are Christ's sheep, and it is the duty of the shepherd to care for each of his flock! To suggest that any of Christ's sheep may be lost is to blaspheme the Shepherd Himself. Second, it is said "They follow" Christ, and no exceptions are made; the Lord does not say they ought to, but declares they do. If then the sheep "follow" Christ they must reach Heaven, for that is where the Shepherd is gone! Third, to the sheep is imparted "eternal life": to speak of eternal life ending is a contradiction in terms. Fourth, this eternal life is "given" to them: they did nothing to merit it, consequently they can do nothing to demerit it. Fifth, the Lord Himself declares that His sheep "shall never perish," consequently the man who declares that it is possible for a child of God to go to Hell makes God a liar. Sixth, from the Shepherd's "hand" none is able to pluck them, hence the Devil is unable to encompass the destruction of a single one of them. Seventh, above them is the Father's "hand," hence it is impossible for them to jump out of the hand of Christ even if they tried to. It has been well said that if one soul who trusted in Christ should be missing in Heaven, there would be one vacant seat there, one crown unused, one harp unstrung; and this would grieve all Heaven and proclaim a disappointed God. But such a thing is utterly impossible.
"I and my Father are one" ( John 10:30). The R.V. correctly renders this verse, "I and the Father are one." The difference between these two translations is an important one. Wherever the Lord Jesus says, my rather, He is speaking as the Mediator, but whenever He refers to "the Father," He speaks from the standpoint of His absolute Deity. Thus, "my Father is greater than I" ( John 14:28) contemplates Him in the position of inferiority. "I and the Father are one" affirms Their unity of nature or essence, one in every Divine perfection.
"I and the Father are one." There are those who would limit this oneness between the Father and Son to unity of will and design—the Unitarian interpretation of the passage. Dr. John Brown has refuted the error of this so ably and simply that we transcribe from his exposition: "Harmony of will and design, is not the thing spoken of here; but harmony or union of power and operation. Our Lord first says of Himself, ‘I give unto my sheep eternal life, and none shall pluck them out of my hand.' He then says the same thing of the Father—‘None is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.' He plainly, then, ascribes the same thing to Himself that He does to the Father, not the same will, but the same work—the same work of power, therefore the same Power. He mentions the reason why none can pluck them out of the Father's hands,—because He is the Almighty, and no created Power is able to resist Him. The thing spoken of is power,—Power irresistible. And in order to prove that none can pluck them out of HIS hand, He adds, ‘I and the Father are one.' One in what? unquestionably in the work of power whereby He protects His sheep and does not suffer them to be plucked out of His hand. What the Father Isaiah, that the Son is. What the work of the Father Isaiah, that the work of the Son is. As the Father is almighty, so is the Son likewise. As nothing can resist the Father, so nothing can resist the Son. Whatsoever the Father hath, the Son hath likewise. The Father is in the Song of Solomon, and the Son in the Father. These two are one—in nature, perfection and glory."
"I and the Father are one." It is most blessed to observe the connection between this declaration and what had preceded it. All the diligent care and tender devotion of the Shepherd for the sheep but expresses the mind and heart of the Owner toward the flock. The Shepherd and the Owner are one, one in their relation and attitude toward the flock; one both in power and in Their loving care for the sheep. Immutably secure then is the believer. It was the laying hold of these precious truths which caused our fathers to sing,
How firm a foundation
Ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith,
In His excellent Word.
What more can He say,
Than to you He hath said,
To you who to Jesus
For refuge have fled.
"Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him" ( John 10:31). This is quite sufficient to settle the meaning of the previous verse. These Jews had no difficulty in perceiving the force of what our Lord had just said to them. They instantly recognized that He had claimed absolute equality with the Father, and to their ears this was blasphemy. Instead of saying anything to correct their error, if error it was, Christ went on to say that which must have confirmed it.
"Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him." Fearful wickedness was this! Who could imagine that any heart would have been so base, or any hand so cruel, as to have armed themselves with instruments of death, against such a Person, while speaking such words! Yet we behold these Jews doing just this thing, and that within the sacred precincts of the Temple! A frightful exhibition of human depravity was this. Christ had done these Jews no wrong. They hated Him without a cause. They hated Him because of His holiness; and this, because of their sinfulness. Why did Cain hate Abel? "Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous" ( 1 John 3:12). Why did the Jews hate Christ?—"But me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil" ( John 7:7). And in that measure in which believers are like Christ, in the same proportion will they be hated by unbelievers: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you" ( John 15:18).
"Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?" ( John 10:32). The word "works" is to be understood here in its widest sense. The Lord appeals to the whole course of His public ministry—His perfect life, His gracious deeds in ministering to the needs of others, His wondrous words, wherein He spake as never man had spoken. When He terms these works as "from the Father" He means not only that they met with the Father's full approval, but that they had been done by His authority and command—"I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do" ( John 17:4).
"The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a Prayer of Manasseh, makest thyself God" ( John 10:33). It was most appropriate for this to be recorded in John's Gospel, the great design of which is to present the Deity of the Savior. The carnal mind is "enmity against God," and never was this more fully evidenced than when God incarnate appeared in the midst of men. During His infancy, an organized effort was made to slay Him ( Matthew 2). In one of the Messianic Psalm there is more than a hint that during the years Christ spent in seclusion at Nazareth, repeated attempts were made upon His life—"I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up" ( Psalm 88:15. The very first word spoken by Him in the Nazareth synagogue after His public ministry began, was followed by an attempt to murder Him ( Luke 4:29). And from that point onwards to the Cross, His steps were dogged by implacable foes who thirsted for His blood. Wonderful beyond comprehension was that grace of God which suffered His Son to sojourn in such a world of rebels. Divine was that infinite forbearance which led Christ to endure "the contradiction of sinners against himself." Deep, fervent, and perpetual should be our praise for that love which saved us at such a cost!
"Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me and I in him" ( John 10:34-38). Upon these verses we cannot do better than quote from the excellent remarks of Dr. John Brown:
"Our Lord's reply consists of two parts. In the first, He shows that the charge of blasphemy, which they founded on His calling Himself the Son of God, was a rash one, even though nothing more could have been said of Him, than that He had been ‘sanctified and sent by the Father'; and secondly, that His miracles were of such a kind, as that they rendered whatever He declared of Himself, as to His intimate connection with the Father, however extraordinary, worthy of credit.
"Our Lord's argument in the first part of this answer is founded on a passage in the Psalm 82:6; ‘I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most high.' These words are plainly addressed to the Jewish magistrates, commissioned by Jehovah to act as His vicegerents in administering justice to His people: who judged for God—in the room of God; whose sentences, when they agreed with the law, were God's sentences; whose judgment, was God's judgment, and rebels against whom, were rebels against God.
"The meaning and force of our Lord's argument is obvious. If, in a book which you admit to be of Divine authority, and all whose expressions are perfectly faultless, men which have received a Divine communication to administer justice to the people of God are called ‘gods' and sons of the Highest; is it not absurd to bring against One who has a higher commission than they (One who had been sanctified and sent by the Father), and who presented far more evidence of His commission, a charge of blasphemy, because He calls Himself ‘the Son of God'? You dare not charge blasphemy on the Psalmist;—why do you charge it on Me?... He reasoned with the Jews on their own principles. Were the Messiah nothing more than you expect Him to be, to charge One who claims Messiahship with blasphemy, because He calls Himself the Son of God, is plainly gross inconsistency. Your magistrates are called God's sons, and may not your Messiah claim the same title?
"The second part of our Lord's reply is contained in the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth verses. It is equivalent to—I have declared that I and the Father are one—one in power and operation. I do not call on you to believe this merely because of My testimony, but I do call on you to believe on My testimony supported by the miracles I have performed, works which nothing but a Divine power could accomplish. These works are the voice of God, and its utterance is distinct: it speaks plainly, it utters no dark saying. You cannot refuse to receive the doctrine that I and the Father are one, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him, without contradicting His testimony and calling Him a liar."
Let us notice one or two details in these verses before we turn to the conclusion of our chapter. The word "gods" in the eighty-second Psalm, quoted here by Christ, has occasioned difficulty to some. The magistrates of Israel were so called because of their authority and power, and as representing the Divine majesty in government. Mark how in verse 35 the Savior said, "The scripture cannot be broken." What a high honor did He here place upon the written Word! In making use of this verse from the Psalmist against His enemies, the whole point of His argument lay in a single word—"gods"—and the fact that it occurred in the book Divinely inspired. The Scriptures were the final court of appeal, and here the Lord insists on their absolute authority and verbal inerrancy.
Observe here Christ's use of the word "sanctified" in verse 36 refutes many modem heretics. There are those who teach that to be sanctified is to have the carnal nature eradicated. They insist that sanctification is moral purification. But how thoroughly untenable is such a definition in the light of what the Master says here. He declares that He was "sanctified." Certainly that cannot mean that He was cleansed from sin, for He was the Holy One. Here, as everywhere in Scripture, the term sanctified can only mean set apart. Observe the order: Christ was first sanctified and then sent into the world. The reference is to the Father's eternal appointment of the Son to be the Mediator.
"Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand" ( John 10:39). This signifies that these Jews sought to apprehend the Lord Jesus so that they might bring Him before the Sanhedrin, but they were unable to carry out their evil designs. Soon He would deliver Himself into their hands, but until the appointed hour arrived they might as well attempt to harness the wind as lay hands on the Almighty.
"And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things which John spake of this man were true. And many believed on him there" ( John 10:40-42). We have already pointed out the significance of this move of Christ. In leaving Jerusalem—to which He did not return until the appointed "hour" for His death had arrived—and in going beyond Jordan to where His forerunner had been, the Lord gave plain intimation that His public ministry was now over. The Nation at large must be left to suffer the due reward of their iniquities. In what follows we have a beautiful illustration of this present dispensation: "Outside the camp" Christ now was, but in this place, as the despised and rejected One, many resorted to Him. God would not allow His beloved Son to be universally unappreciated, even though organized Judaism had turned its back upon Him. Here beyond Jordan He works no public miracle (as He does not today), but many believed on Him because of what John had spoken. So it is now. It is the Word which is the means God uses in bringing sinners to believe on the Savior. Happy for these men that they knew the day of their visitation, and improved the brief visit of Christ. Let the interested student study the following questions on the first part of John 11:—
1. Why did not the sisters name the sick one? verse 3.
2. What is the force of the "therefore"? verse 6.
3. Why did not Christ hasten to Bethany at once? verse 6.
4. Why "into Judea" rather than "to Bethany"? verse 7.
5. Why did Christ refer to the "twelve hours in the day"? verse 9.
6. What is meant by the second half of verse 9?
7. What is meant by "walking in the night'? verse 10.
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Pink, A.W. "Commentary on John 10". "A.W. Pink's Commentary on John and Hebrews". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany