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1.Verily, verily, I say to you. As Christ had to do with scribes and priests, who were reckoned pastors of the Church, it was necessary that they should be divested of the honor of this title, if he wished his doctrine to be received. The small number of believers might also diminish greatly the authority of his doctrine. He therefore contends that we ought not to reckon, in the number of shepherds or of sheep, all who outwardly claim a place in the Church. But we shall never be able, by means of this mark, to distinguish the lawful shepherds from the reprobate, and the true sheep from the counterfeit, if all have the same object, and beginning, and end.
This warning has been highly useful in all ages, and in the present day it is especially necessary. No plague is more destructive to the Church, than when wolves ravage under the garb of shepherds We know also how grievous an offense it is, when bastard or degenerate Israelites pretend to be the sons of the Church, and, on this pretense, insult believers. But in the present day, there is nothing by which weak and ignorant persons are more alarmed, than when they see the sanctuary of God occupied by the greatest enemies of the Church; for it is not easy to make them understand, that it is the doctrine of Christ which the shepherds of the Church so fiercely resist. Besides, as the greater part of men are led into various errors by false doctrines, while the views and expectations of each person are directed to others, scarcely any person permits himself to be conducted into the right path.
We must therefore, above all things, guard against being deceived by pretended shepherds or counterfeit sheep, if we do not choose, of our own accord, to expose ourselves to wolves and thieves The name of “The Church” is highly honorable, and justly so; but the greater the reverence which it deserves, so much the more careful and attentive ought we to be in marking the distinction between true and false doctrine. Christ here declares openly, that we ought not to reckon as shepherds all who boast of being such, and that we ought not to reckon as sheep all who boast of outward marks. He speaks of the Jewish Church, but what he says applies equally well to our own. We ought also to consider his purpose and design, that weak consciences may not be alarmed or discouraged, when they perceive that they who rule in the Church, instead ofpastors or shepherds, are hostile or opposed to the Gospel; and that they may not turn aside from the faith, because they have few fellow-disciples, in listening to Christ, among those who are called Christians.
He who entereth not by the door. It is useless, I think, to scrutinize too closely every part of this parable. Let us rest satisfied with this general view, that, as Christ states a resemblance between the Church and a sheepfold, in which God assembles all his people, so he compares himself to a door, because there is no other entrance into the Church but by himself. Hence it follows that they alone are good shepherds who lead men straight to Christ; and that they are truly gathered into the fold of Christ, so as to belong to his flock, who devote themselves to Christ alone.
But all this relates to doctrine; for, since
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ,
he who turns aside from him to go elsewhere neither keeps the road nor enters by the door. Now, whoever shall not despise Christ or his instructor will easily rid himself of that hesitation which keeps so many in a state of perplexity, what is the Church, and who are they to whom we ought to listen as shepherds For if they who are called shepherds attempt to lead us away from Christ, we ought to flee from them, at the command of Christ, as we would flee from wolves or thieves; and we ought not to form or maintain intercourse with any society but that which is agreed in the pure faith of the Gospel. For this reason Christ exhorts his disciples to separate themselves from the unbelieving multitude of the whole nation, not to suffer themselves to be governed by wicked priests, and not to allow themselves to be imposed upon by proud and empty names.
3.To him the porter openeth. If by the word Porter (282) any one choose to understand God, I do not object; and Christ even appears expressly to contrast the judgment of God with the false opinion of men in approving of pastors, as if he had said, “There are others, indeed, whom the world generally applauds, and on whom it willingly confers honor; but God, who holds the reins of government, does not acknowledge or approve of any but those who lead the sheep by this road.”
He calleth his own sheep by name. I consider this as referring to the mutual consent of faith; because the disciple and the teacher are united together by the one Spirit of God, so that the teacher goes before, and the disciple follows. Some think that it denotes the intimate knowledge which every shepherd ought to have of each of his flock, but I do not know if this rests on solid grounds.
4.Because they know his voice. Though he speaks here of ministers, yet, instead of wishing that they should be heard, he wishes that God should be heard speaking by them; for we must attend to the distinction which he has laid down, that he alone is a faithful pastor or shepherd (283) of the Church, who conducts and governs his sheep by the direction of Christ. We must attend to the reason why it is said that the sheep follow; it is, because they know how to distinguish shepherds from wolves by the voice This is the spirit of discernment, by which the elect discriminate between the truth of God and the false inventions of men. So then, in the sheep of Christ a knowledge of the truth goes before, and next follows an earnest desire to obey, so that they not only understand what is true, but receive it with warm affection. And not only does he commend the obedience of the faith, because the sheep assemble submissively at the voice of the shepherd, but also because they do not listen to the voice of strangers, and do not disperse when any one cries to them.
(283) The word pastor signifies shepherd, but, for the sake of the reader, who may not be aware of its etymology, it has been found necessary, in some cases, to employ both of the words, especially where the figure holds so prominent a place in the discussion. — Ed.
6.This parable. This is the reason why, proudly vaunting of their wisdom, they rejected the light of Christ; for in a matter not very obscure they are exceedingly dull of apprehension.
But they did not understand what things they were which he spoke to them. In this clause the Greek manuscripts differ. Some copies might be literally rendered, they did not understand what he said Another reading, which I have followed, is more full, though it amounts to the same meaning. The third reading is, that they did not know that he who spoke of himself was the Son of God; but this is not much approved.
7.I am the door. If this explanation had not been added, the whole discourse would have been allegorical. He now explains more clearly what was the chief part of the parable when he declares that he is the door The amount of what is stated is, that the principal point of all spiritual doctrine, on which souls are fed, consists in Christ. Hence also Paul, one of the shepherds, says:
I reckon nothing to be worth knowing but Jesus Christ,
(1 Corinthians 2:2.)
And this mode of expression conveys the same meaning as if Christ had testified that to him alone we must all be gathered together. Therefore, he invokes and exhorts all who desire salvation to come to him. By these words, he means that in vain do they wander about who leave him to go to God, because there is but one open door, and all approach in any other way is prohibited.
8.All who came before me. The words
But the sheep did not hear them. He now confirms more clearly what he had already spoken more obscurely and in the figure of an allegory, that they who were led out of the way by impostors did not belong to the Church of God. This is said, first, that when we see a great multitude of persons going astray, we may not resolve to perish through their example; and, next, that we may not waver, when God permits impostors to deceive many. For it is no light consolation, and no small ground of confidence, when we know that Christ, by his faithful protection, has always guarded his sheep, amidst the various attacks and crafty devices of wolves and robbers, so that there never was one of them that deserted him. (284)
But here a question arises, When does a person begin to belong to the flock of the Son of God? (285) For we see many who stray and wander through deserts during the greater part of their life, and are at length brought into the fold of Christ. I reply, the word sheep is here used in two ways. When Christ says afterwards, that he has other sheep besides, he includes all the elect of God, who had at that time no resemblance to sheep At present, he means sheep which bore the shepherd’s mark. By nature, we are at the greatest possible distance from being sheep; but, on the contrary, are born lions, tigers, wolves, and bears, (286) until the Spirit of Christ tames us, and from wild and savage beasts forms us to be mild sheep Thus, according to the secret election of God, we are already sheep in his heart, before we are born; but we begin to be sheep in ourselves by the calling, by which he gathers us into his fold. Christ declares that they who are called into the order of believers are so firmly bound together, that they cannot stray or wander, or be carried about by any wind of new doctrine.
It will perhaps be objected, that even those who had been devoted to Christ frequently go astray, and that this is proved by frequent experience, and that it is not without good reason that Ezekiel ascribes it to the good Shepherd, that he gathers the scattered sheep, (Ezekiel 34:12.) I readily acknowledge that it frequently happens, that they who had belonged to the household of faith are, for a time, estranged; but this is not at variance with Christ’s statement, for, so far as they go astray, they cease, in some respects, to be sheep What Christ means is simply this, that all the elect of God, though they were tempted to go astray in innumerable ways, were kept in obedience to the pure faith, so that they were not exposed as a prey to Satan, or to his ministers. But this work of God is not less astonishing, when he again gathersthe sheep which had wandered for a little, than if they had all along continued to be shut up in the fold. It is always true, and without a single exception, that
they who go out from us were not of us,
but that they who were of us remain with us to the end,
(1 John 2:19.)
This passage ought to strike us with the deepest shame; first, because we are so ill accustomed to the voice of our Shepherd, that there are hardly any who do not listen to it with indifference; and, next, because we are so slow and indolent to follow him. I speak of the good, or of those who are at least passable; for the greater part of those who boast that they are Christ’s disciples kick fiercely against him. Lastly, as soon as the voice of any stranger has sounded in our ears, we are hurried to and fro; and this lightness and unsteadiness sufficiently shows how little progress we have hitherto made in the faith. But if the number of believers is smaller than might be desired, and if out of this small number a large proportion be continually dropping off, faithful teachers have this consolation to support them, that the elect of God, who are Christ’s sheep, listen to them. It is our duty, indeed, to labor diligently, and to strive by every possible method, that the whole world may be brought, if possible, into the unity of the faith; but let us, in the meantime, be well satisfied with belonging to the number.
9.If any man enter by me. The highest consolation of believers is, that when they have once embraced Christ, they learn that they are out of danger; for Christ promises to them salvation and happiness. He afterwards divides it into two parts.
He shall go in and out, and find pasture. First, they shall go safely wherever they find necessary; and, next, they shall be fed to the full. By going in and out, Scripture often denotes all the actions of the life, as we say in French, aller et venir, (to go and come,) (287) which means, to dwell These words, therefore, present to us a twofold advantage of the Gospel, that our souls shall find pasture in it, which otherwise become faint and famished, and are fed with nothing but wind; and, next, because he will faithfully protect and guard us against the attacks of wolves and robbers.
(287) A phrase in Scottish law, denoting a full right to occupy a house or any property, is, free ish (issue) and entrance, or, in other words, a right to go out and to come in, as the occupant pleases. — Ed.
10.The thief cometh not. By this saying, Christ — if we may use the expression — pulls our ear, that the ministers of Satan may not come upon us by surprise, when we are in a drowsy and careless state; for our excessive indifference exposes us, on every side, to false doctrines. For whence arises credulity so great, that they who ought to have remained fixed in Christ, fly about in a multitude of errors, but because they do not sufficiently dread or guard against so many false teachers? And not only so, but our insatiable curiosity is so delighted with the new and strange inventions of men, that, of our own accord, we rush with mad career to meet thieves and wolves. Not without reason, therefore, does Christ testify that false teachers, whatever may be the mildness and plausibility of their demeanour, always carry about a deadly poison, that we may be more careful to drive them away from us. A similar warning is given by Paul,
See that no man rob you through vain philosophy,
I am come. This is a different comparison; for Christ, having hitherto called himself the door, and declared that they who bring sheep to this door are true shepherds, now assumes the character of a shepherd, and indeed affirms that he is the only shepherd Indeed, there is no other to whom this honor and title strictly belongs; for, as to all the faithful shepherds of the Church, it is he who raises them up, endows them with the necessary qualifications, governs them by his Spirit, and works by them; and therefore they do not prevent him from being the only Governor of his Church, or from holding the distinction of being the only Shepherd For, though he employs their ministry, still he does not cease to fulfill and discharge the office of a shepherd by his own power; and they are masters and teachers in such a manner as not to interfere with his authority as a Master. In short, when the term shepherd is applied to men, it is used, as we say, in a subordinate sense; and Christ shares the honor with his ministers in such a manner, that he still continues to be the only shepherd both of themselves and of the whole flock.
That they may have life. When he says that he is come, that the sheep may have life, he means that they only who do not submit to his staff and crook (Psalms 23:4) are exposed to the ravages of wolves and thieves; and — to give them greater confidence — he declares that life is continually increased and strengthened in those who do not revolt from him. And, indeed, the greater progress that any man makes in faith, the more nearly does he approach to fullness oflife, because the Spirit, who is life, grows in him.
11.The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. From the extraordinary affection which he bears towards the sheep, he shows how truly he acts towards them as a shepherd; for he is so anxious about their salvation, that he does not even spare his own life. Hence it follows, that they who reject the guardianship of so kind and amiable a shepherd are exceedingly ungrateful, and deserve a hundred deaths, and are exposed to every kind of harm. The remark of Augustine is exceedingly just, that this passage informs us what we ought to desire, what we ought to avoid, and what we ought to endure, in the government of the Church. Nothing is more desirable than that the Church should be governed by good and diligent shepherds Christ declares that he is the good shepherd, who keeps his Church safe and sound, first, by himself, and, next, by his agents. Whenever there is good order, and fit men hold the government, then Christ shows that he is actually the shepherd But there are many wolves and thieves who, wearing the garb of shepherds, wickedly scatter the Church. Whatever name such persons may assume, Christ threatens that we must avoid them.
12.But the hireling. By hirelings we are to understand those who retain the pure doctrine, and who proclaim the truth, as Paul says, to serve a purpose rather than from pure zeal. Though such persons do not serve Christ faithfully, yet we ought to hear them; for Christ wished that the Pharisees should be heard, because they sat in Moses ’seat, (Matthew 23:2;) and, in like manner, we ought to give such honor to the Gospel, as not to shrink from its ministers, though they be not good men. And as even the slightest offenses render the Gospel distasteful to us, that we may not be hindered by such false delicacy, let us always remember what I have formerly suggested, that if the Spirit of Christ does not operate so powerfully in ministers, as to make it plainly evident that he is their shepherd, we suffer the punishment of our sins, and yet our obedience is proved.
And he who is not the shepherd. Though Christ claims for himself alone the name of a shepherd, yet he indirectly states that, in some respects, he holds it in common with the agents by whom he acts. For we know that there have been many, since the time of Christ, who did not hesitate to shed their blood for the salvation of the Church; and even the prophets, before his coming, did not spare their own life. But in his own person he holds out a perfect example, so as to lay down a rule for his ministers. For how base and shameful is our indolence, if our life is more dear to us than the salvation of the Church, which Christ preferred to his own life!
What is here said about laying down life for the sheep, may be viewed as an undoubted and principal mark of paternal affection. Christ intended, first, to demonstrate what a remarkable proof he gave of his love toward us, and, next, to excite all his ministers to imitate his example. Yet we must attend to the difference between them and him. He laid down his life as the price of satisfaction, shed his blood to cleanse our souls, offered his body as a propitiatory sacrifice, to reconcile the Father to us. Nothing of all this can exist in the ministers of the Gospel, all of whom need to be cleansed, and receive atonement and reconciliation to God by that single sacrifice. But Christ does not argue here about the efficacy or benefit of his death, so as to compare himself to others, but to prove with what zeal and affection (288) he is moved towards us, and, next, to invite others to follow his example. In short, as it belongs exclusively to Christ to procure life for us by his death, and to fulfill all that is contained in the Gospel, so it is the universal duty of all pastors or shepherds, to defend the doctrine which they proclaim, even at the expense of their life, and to seal the doctrine of the Gospel with their blood, and to show that it is not in vain that they teach that Christ has procured salvation for themselves and for others.
But here a question may be put. Ought we to reckon that man a hireling, who, for any reason whatever, shrinks from encountering the wolves? This was anciently debated as a practical question, when tyrants raged cruelly against the Church. Tertullian, and others of the same class, were, in my opinion, too rigid on this point. I prefer greatly the moderation of Augustine, who allows pastors to flee on the condition that, by their flight, they contribute more to the public safety than they would do by betraying the flock committed to their charge. And he shows that this is done, when the Church is not deprived of well-qualified ministers, and when the life of the pastor in particular is so eagerly sought, that his absence mitigates the rage of enemies. But it the flock — as well as the pastor — be in danger, (289) and if there be reason to believe that the pastor flees, not so much from a desire to promote the public advantage as from a dread of dying, Augustine contends that this is not at all lawful, because the example of his flight will do more injury than his life can do good in future. The reader may consult the Epistle to Bishop Honoratus, (Ep. 108) On this ground it was lawful for Cyprian to flee, who was so far from shuddering at death, that he nobly refused to accept the offer of saving his life by a treacherous denial of his Master. Only it must be held that a pastor ought to prefer his flock, or even a single sheep, to his own life.
Whose own the sheep are not. Christ appears here to make all shepherds besides himself to be, without exception,hirelings; for, since he alone is shepherd, none of us have a right to say that the sheep which he feeds are his own But let us remember that they who are guided by the Spirit of God reckon that to be their own which belongs to their Head; and that not in order to claim power for themselves, but to keep faithfully what has been committed to their charge. For he who is truly united to Christ will never cease to take an interest in that which He valued so highly. This is what he afterwards says:
13.The hireling fleeth. The reason is, because he careth not for the sheep, which means, that his heart is not moved by the scattering of the flock, because he thinks that it does not at all belong to him. For he who looks to the hire, and not to the flock, though he may deceive others, when the Church is in a state of tranquillity, yet when he comes into the contest, will give proof of his treachery.
14.And I know my sheep, and am known by mine. In the former clause, he again holds out his love towards us; for knowledge proceeds from love, and is accompanied by care. But it means also that he utterly disregards all who do not obey the Gospel, as he repeats in the second clause, and confirms what he had formerly said, that — on the other hand — he is known by the sheep
15.As the Father knoweth me. It is unnecessary, and is not even expedient, that we should enter into those thorny questions, How is it that the Father knows his Wisdom? For Christ simply declares that, so far as he is the bond of our union with God, he is placed between Him and us; as if he had said, that it is no more possible for him to forget us, than that he should be rejected or disregarded by the Father. At the same time, he demands the duty which we mutually owe to him, because, as he employs all the power which he has received from the Father for our protection, so he wishes that we should be obedient and devoted to him, as he is wholly devoted to his Father, and refers everything to him.
16.And I have other sheep. Though some refer this indiscriminately to all, both Jews and Gentiles, who were not yet disciples of Christ, yet I have no doubt that he had in his eye the calling of the Gentiles. For he gives the appellation fold to the assemblage of the ancient people, by which they were separated from the other nations of the world, and united into one body as the heritage of God. The Jews had been adopted by God in such a manner, that he surrounded them with certain enclosures, which consisted of rites and ceremonies, that they might not be confounded with unbelievers, though the door of thefold was the gracious covenant of eternal life confirmed in Christ. For this reason he calls those sheep which had not the same mark, but belonged to a different class, other sheep In short, the meaning is, that the pastoral office of Christ is not confined within the limits of Judea, but is far more extensive.
Augustine’s observation on this passage is undoubtedly true, that, as there are many wolves within the Church, so there are many sheep without But this is not applicable, in every respect, to the present passage, which relates to the outward aspect of the Church, because the Gentiles, who had been strangers for a time, were afterwards invited into the kingdom of God, along with the Jews. Yet I acknowledge that Augustine’s statement applies in this respect, that Christ gives the name of sheep to unbelievers, who in themselves were the farthest possible from being entitled to be called sheep And not only does he point out, by this term, what they will be, but rather refers this to the secret election of God, because we are already God’s sheep, before we are aware that He is our shepherd. In like manner, it is elsewhere said that we were enemies, when he loved us, (Romans 5:10;) and for this reason Paul also says that we were known by God, before we knew him, (Galatians 4:9.)
Them also I must bring. He means that the election of God will be secure, so that nothing of all that he wishes to be saved shall perish. (290) For the secret purpose of God, by which men were ordained to life, is at length manifested in his own time by the calling, — the effectual calling, when he regenerates by his Spirit, to be his sons, those who formerly were begotten of flesh and blood.
But it may be asked, How were the Gentiles brought to be associated with the Jews? For the Jews were not under the necessity of rejecting the covenant which God made with their fathers, in order to become Christ’s disciples; and the Gentiles, on the other hand, were not under the necessity of submitting to the yoke of the Law, that, being ingrafted in Christ, they might be associated with the Jews. Here we must attend to the distinction between the substance of the covenant and the outward appendages. For the Gentiles could not assent to the faith of Christ in any other way than by embracing that everlasting covenant on which the salvation of the world was founded. In this manner were fulfilled the predictions,
Strangers shall speak the language of Canaan,
Ten men of the Gentiles shall take hold of the cloak of one Jew, and say,
We will go with you,
Many nations shall come, and say,
Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
(Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4:2.)
Abraham was also called
a father of many nations, (Genesis 17:5; Romans 4:17,) because they shall come from the East and from the West, who shall sit down with him in the kingdom of God,
As to ceremonies, they are the middle wall of partition, which, Paul informs us, hath been thrown down, (Ephesians 2:14.) Thus, we have been associated with the Jews in the unity of the faith, as to the substance; and the ceremonies were abolished, that there might be nothing to prevent the Jews from stretching out their hand to us.
And there shall be one fold (291) and one shepherd That is, that all the children of God may be gathered and united (292) into one body; as we acknowledge that there is one holy universal Church, (293) and there must be one body with one head.
There is one God, says Paul, one faith, one baptism.
Therefore we ought to be one, as we are called into one hope,
Now though this flock appears to be divided into different folds, yet they are kept within enclosures which are common to all believers who are scattered throughout the whole world; because the same word is preached to all, they use the same sacraments, they have the same order of prayer, and every thing that belongs to the profession of faith.
And they shall hear my voice. We must observe the way in which the flock of God is gathered. It is, when all have one shepherd, and when his voice alone (294) is heard These words mean that, when the Church submits to Christ alone, and obeys his commands, and hears his voice and his doctrine, (295) then only is it in a state of good order. If Papists can show us that there is any thing of this sort among them, let them enjoy the title of The Church, of which they vaunt so much. But if Christ is silent there, if his majesty is trodden under foot, if his sacred ordinances are held up to scorn, what else is their unity but a diabolical conspiracy, which is worse and far more to be abhorred than any dispersion? Let us therefore remember that we ought always to begin with the Head. Hence also the Prophets, when they describe the restoration of the Church, always join David the king with God; as if they said, that there is no Church where Christ does not reign, and that there is no kingdom of God, but where the honor of shepherd is granted to Christ.
(291) So it runs in the French version, “
17.On this account the Father loveth me. There is, indeed, another and a higher reason why the Father loveth the Son; for it was not in vain that a voice was heard from heaven,
This is my beloved Son, in whom the good-pleasure of God dwells,
But as he was made man on our account, and as the Father delighted in him, in order that he might reconcile us to himself, we need not wonder if he declares it to be the reason whythe Father loveth him, that our salvation is dearer to him than his own life. This is a wonderful commendation of the goodness of God to us, and ought justly to arouse our whole souls into rapturous admiration, that not only does God extend to us the love which is due to the only-begotten Son, but he refers it to us as the final cause. And indeed there was no necessity that Christ should take upon him our flesh, in which he was beloved, but that it might be the pledge of the mercy of his Father in redeeming us.
That I may take it again. As the disciples might be deeply grieved on account of what they had heard about the death of Christ, and as their faith might even be greatly shaken, he comforts them by the hope of his resurrection, which would speedily take place; as if he said, that he would not die on the condition of being swallowed up by death, but in order that he might soon rise again as a conqueror. And even at the present day, we ought to contemplate the death of Christ, so as to remember, at the same time, the glory of his resurrection. Thus, we know that he is life, because, in his contest with death, he obtained a splendid victory, and achieved a noble triumph.
18.No man taketh it from me. This is another consolation, by which the disciples may take courage as to the death of Christ, that he does not die by constraint, but offers himself willingly for the salvation of his flock. Not only does he affirm that men have no power to put him to death, except so far as he permits them, but he declares that he is free from every violence of necessity. It is otherwise with us, for we are laid under a necessity of dying on account of our sins. True, Christ himself was born a mortal man; but this was a voluntary submission, and not a bondage laid upon him by another. Christ intended, therefore, to fortify his disciples, that, when they saw him shortly afterwards dragged to death, they might not be dismayed, as if he had been oppressed by enemies, but might acknowledge that it was done by the wonderful Providence of God, that he should die for the redemption of his flock. And this doctrine is of perpetual advantage, that the death of Christ is an expiation for our sins, because it was a voluntary sacrifice, according to the saying of Paul,
By the obedience of one many were made righteous,
But I lay it down of myself. These words may be explained in two ways; either that Christ divests himself of life, but still remains what he was, just as a person would lay aside a garment from his body, or, that he dies by his own choice.
This commandment have I received from my Father. He recalls our attention to the eternal purpose of the Father, in order to inform us that He had such care about our salvation, that he dedicated to us his only-begotten Son great and excellent as he is; (296) and Christ himself, who came into the world to be in all respects obedient to the Father, confirms the statement, that he has no other object in view than to promote our benefit.
19.A division therefore arose again. The advantage gained by Christ’s discourse was, that it procured him some disciples; but as his doctrine has also many adversaries, hence arises a division, so that they are split into parties, who formerly appeared to be one body of the Church. for all, with one consent, professed that they worshipped the God of Abraham and complied with the Law of Moses; but now, when Christ comes forward, they begin to differ on his account. If that profession had been sincere, Christ, who is the strongest bond of charity, and whose office it is to gather those things which are scattered, would not break up their agreement. But Christ, by the light of his Gospel, exposes the hypocrisy of many who, while they had nothing but a false and hypocritical pretense, boasted that they were the people of God.
Thus, the wickedness of many is still the reason why the Church is troubled by divisions, and why contentions are kindled. Yet those who disturb the peace, throw the blame on us, and call us Schismatics; for the principal charge which the Papists bring against us is, that our doctrine has shaken the tranquillity of the Church. Yet the truth is, that, if they would yield submissively to Christ, and give their support to the truth, all the commotions would immediately be allayed. But when they utter murmurs and complaints against Christ, and will not allow us to be at rest on any other condition than that the truth of God shall be extinguished, and that Christ shall be banished from his kingdom, they have no right to accuse us of the crime of schism; for it is on themselves, as every person sees, that this crime ought to be charged. We ought to be deeply grieved that the Church is torn by divisions arising among those who profess the same religion; but it is better that there are some who separate themselves from the wicked, to be united to Christ their Head, than that all should be of one mind in despising God. Consequently, when schisms arise, we ought to inquire who they are that revolt from God and from his pure doctrine.
20.He hath a devil. They employ the most offensive reproach which they can devise, in slandering Christ, that all may shudder at the thought of hearing him. For wicked men, that they may not be forced to yield to God, in a furious manner, and with closed eyes, break out into proud contempt of him, and excite others to the same rage, so that not a single word of Christ is heard in silence. But the doctrine of Christ has sufficient power in itself to defend it against slanders. And this is what believers mean by their reply,
21.These are not the words of a demoniac. It is as if they demanded that men should judge from the fact itself; for the truth, as we have said, is strong enough to maintain itself. And this is the only protection of our faith, that wicked men will never be able to hinder the power and wisdom of God, and his goodness also, (297) from shining in the Gospel.
22.And it was the feast of Dedication. The Greek word (
23.And Jesus was walking in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. The Evangelist gives to Solomon’s porch the designation ofthe temple; not that it was the sanctuary, but only an appendage tothe temple Nor does he mean the ancient porch which was built by Solomon, which had been altogether destroyed by the Chaldeans, but that which the Jews — perhaps immediately after their return from the Babylonish captivity — built after the pattern of the ancient porch, and gave it the same name, that it might be more highly honored; and Herod afterwards built a new temple.
24.The Jews therefore surrounded him. This was undoubtedly a cunning attack on Christ, at least on the part of those with whom the scheme originated. For the common people might, without any fraud, desire that Christ would openly declare that God had sent him to be a deliverer; but a few persons, by trick and stratagem, wished to draw this word from him amidst the crowd, that he might be killed by a mob, or that the Romans might lay hands on him.
How long dost thou keep our soul in suspense? By complaining of being kept in suspense, they pretend that they are so ardently desirous of the promised redemption, that their minds are eagerly and incessantly occupied by the expectation of Christ. And this is the true feeling of piety, to find nowhere else than in Christ alone, what will satisfy our minds, or give them true composure; as he himself says,
Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you, and your souls shall find rest,
Therefore, those who come to Christ ought to be prepared in the same manner as those men pretend to be. But they are wrong in accusing Christ, as if he had not hitherto confirmed their faith; for it was entirely their own fault that they had not a full and perfect knowledge of him. But this is always the case with unbelievers, that they choose rather to remain in doubt than to be founded on the certainty of the word of God. Thus, in our own day, we see many who voluntarily shut their eyes, and spread the clouds of their doubt, in order to darken the clear light of the Gospel. We see also many light spirits, who fly about in idle speculations, and never find, throughout their whole life, a permanent abode.
Tell us plainly. When they demand that Christ shall declare himselffreely, or openly and boldly, their meaning is, that he may no longer convey his meaning indirectly, and in a circuitous manner. Thus they charge his doctrine with obscurity, which, on the contrary, was abundantly plain and distinct, if the men who heard it had not been deaf. Now this history warns us, that we cannot avoid the artifices and slanders of wicked men, if we are called to preach the Gospel. Wherefore, we ought to be on the watch, and not to be surprised at it as a new thing, when the same thing happens to us as to our Master.
25.I have told you. Our Lord Jesus (299) does not conceal that he is the Christ, and yet he does not teach them as if they were willing to learn, but rather reproaches them with obstinate malice, because, though they had been taught by the word and works of God, they had not yet made any progress. Accordingly, that they do not know him, he imputes to their own fault, as if he said: “My doctrine is easily enough understood, but the blame lies with you, because you maliciously resist God.”
The works which I do. He speaks of his works, in order to convict them of being doubly obstinate; for, besides the doctrine, they had a striking testimony in his miracles, if they had not been ungrateful to God. He twice repeats the words, You do not believe, in order to prove that, of their own accord, they were deaf to doctrine, and blind to works; which is a proof of extreme and desperate malice. He says that he did the works in the name of his Father; because his design was, to testify the power of God in them, by which it might be openly declared that he came from God.
26.Because you are not of my sheep. He assigns a higher reason why they do not believe either in his miracles or in his doctrine. It is, because they are reprobate. We must observe Christ’s design; for, since they boasted of being the Church of God, that their unbelief may detract nothing from the authority of the Gospel, he affirms that the gift of believing is a special gift. And, indeed, before that men know God, they must first be known by him, as Paul says, (Galatians 4:9.) On the other hand, those to whom God does not look must always continue to look away from him. If any one murmur at this, arguing that the cause of unbelief dwells in God, because he alone has power to make sheep; I reply, He is free from all blame, for it is only by their voluntary malice that men reject his grace. God does all that is necessary to induce them to believe, but who shall tame wild beasts? (300) This will never be done, till the Spirit of God change them into sheep They who are wild will in vain attempt to throw on God the blame of their wildness, for it belongs to their own nature. In short, Christ means that it is not wonderful, if there are few who obey his Gospel, because all whom the Spirit of God does not subdue to the obedience of faith are wild and fierce beasts. So much the more unreasonable and absurd is it, that the authority of the Gospel should depend on the belief of men; but believers ought rather to consider, that they are the more strongly bound to God, because, while others remain in a state of blindness, they are drawn to Christ by the illumination of the Spirit. Here, too, the ministers of the Gospel have ground of consolation, if their labor be not profitable to all.
27.My sheep hear my voice. He proves by an argument drawn from contraries, that they are not sheep, because they do not obey the Gospel. For God effectually calls all whom he has elected, so that the sheep of Christ are proved by their faith. And, indeed, the reason why the name of sheep is applied to believers is, that they surrender themselves to God, to be governed by the hand of the Chief Shepherd, and, laying aside the fierceness of their nature, become mild and teachable. It is no small consolation to faithful teachers, that, though the greater part of the world do not listen to Christ, yet he has his sheep whom he knows, and by whom he is also known Let them do their utmost to bring the whole world into the fold of Christ; but when they do not succeed according to their wish, let them be satisfied with this single consideration, that they who are sheep will be gathered by their agency. The rest has been already explained.
28.And they shall never perish. It is an inestimable fruit of faith, that Christ bids us be convinced of our security when we are brought by faith into his fold. But we must also observe on what foundation this certainty rests. It is because he will be a faithful guardian of our salvation, for he testifies that our salvation is in his hand And if this were not enough, he says that they will be safely guarded by the power of his Father This is a remarkable passage, by which we are taught that the salvation of all the elect is not less certain than the power of God is invincible. Besides, Christ did not intend to throw this word foolishly into the air, but to give a promise which should remain deeply axed in their minds; and, therefore, we infer that the statement of Christ is intended to show that the elect are absolutely certain of their salvation. We are surrounded, indeed, by powerful adversaries, and so great is our weakness, that we are every moment in imminent danger of death; but as He who keeps what we have committed to him (2 Timothy 1:12) is greater or more powerful than all, we have no reason to tremble as if our life were in danger.
Hence, too, we infer how mad is the confidence of the Papists, which relies on free-will, on their own virtue, and on the merits of their works. Widely different is the manner in which Christ instructs his followers, to remember that, in this world, they may be said to be in the midst of a forest, surrounded by innumerable robbers, and are not only unarmed and exposed as a prey, but are aware that the cause of death is contained in themselves, so that, relying on the guardianship of God alone, they may walk without alarm. In short, our salvation is certain, because it is in the hand of God; for our faith is weak, and we are too prone to waver. But God, who has taken us under his protection, is sufficiently powerful to scatter, with his breath alone, all the forces of our adversaries. It is of great importance for us to turn our eye to this, that the fear of temptations may not dismay us; for Christ even intended to point out the way in which sheep are made to live at ease in the midst of wolves.
And none can wrest them out of my Father’s hand. The word and, in this passage, means therefore For, since the power of God is invincible, Christ infers that the salvation of believers is not exposed to the ungovernable passions of their enemies, because, ere they perish, God must be overcome, who has taken them under the protection of his hand.
30.I and my Father are one. He intended to meet the jeers of the wicked; for they might allege that the power of God did not at all belong to him, so that he could promise to his disciples that it would assuredly protect them. He therefore testifies that his affairs are so closely united to those of the Father, that the Father’s assistance will never be withheld from himself and his sheep The ancients made a wrong use of this passage to prove that Christ is (
31.Then the Jews again took up stones. As true religion, in maintaining the glory of God, burns with its own zeal which the Spirit of God directs, so unbelief is the mother of rage, and the devil hurries on the wicked in such a manner, that they breathe nothing but slaughter. This result shows with what intention they put the question to Christ; for the open confession, of which they pretended to be desirous, instantly drives them to madness. And yet, though they are hurried along, with such violence, to oppress Christ, there can be no doubt that they assigned some plausible reason for their judgment, as if they were acting according to the injunction of the Law, by which God commands that false prophets shall be stoned, (Deuteronomy 13:5.)
32.Many good works I have shown you. Here Christ not only says that they have no reason for their cruelty, but accuses them of ingratitude, in making so unjust a requital for God’s favors. Nor does he only state that he has done them a service by one or two works, but that in many ways he has been kind to them. Next, he upbraids them with being ungrateful, not only to himself, but rather to God, when he says that he is the minister of the Father, who openly manifested his power, that it might be known and attested to them. For when he says that the good works werefrom the Father, he means that God was the Author of them. The meaning may be thus summed up, “God intended to make known to you, by me, distinguished benefits; he has conferred them upon you by my hand. Banish me as much as you please, I have done nothing that does not deserve praise and good-will. In persecuting me, therefore, you must show your rage against the gifts of God.” But the question has greater force to pierce their consciences than if he had made a direct assertion.
33.We stone thee not for a good work. Though wicked men carry on open war with God, yet they never wish to sin without some plausible pretense. The consequence is, that when they rage against the Son of God, they are not content with this cruelty, but bring an unprovoked accusation against him, and constitute themselves advocates and defenders of the glory of God. A good conscience must therefore be to us a wall of brass, by which we boldly repel the reproaches and calumnies with which we are assailed. For whatever plausibility may adorn their malice, and whatever reproach they may bring on us for a time, if we fight for the cause of God, he will not refuse to uphold his truth. But as the wicked never want pretences for oppressing the servants of God, and as they have also hardened impudence, so that, even when vanquished, they do not cease to slander, we have need of patience and meekness, to support us to the end.
But for blasphemy. The word blasphemy, which among profane authors denotes generally every kind of reproach, Scripture refers to God, when his majesty is offended and insulted.
Because thou, being a man, makest thyself God. There are two kinds of blasphemy, either when God is deprived of the honor which belongs to him, or when anything unsuitable to his nature, or contrary to his nature, is ascribed to him. They argue therefore that Christ is a blasphemer and a sacrilegious person, because, being a mortal man, he lays claim to Divine honor. And this would be a just definition of blasphemy, if Christ were nothing more than a man. They only err in this, that they do not design to contemplate his Divinity, which was conspicuous in his miracles.
34.Is it not written in your Law? He clears himself of the crime charged against him, not by denying that he is the Son of God, but by maintaining that he had justly said so. Yet he adapts his reply to the persons, instead of giving a full explanation of the fact; for he reckoned it enough for the present to expose their malice. In what sense he called himself the Son of God he does not explain fully, but states indirectly. The argument which he employs is not drawn from equals, but from the less to the greater.
I said, You are gods. Scripture gives the name ofgods to those on whom God has conferred an honorable office. He whom God has separated, to be distinguished above all others, is far more worthy of this honorable title. Hence it follows, that they are malicious and false expounders of Scripture, who admit the first, but take offense at the second. The passage which Christ quotes is in Psalms 82:6,
I have said, You are gods,
and all of you are children of the Most High;
where God expostulates with the kings and judges of the earth, who tyrannically abuse their authority and power for their own sinful passions, for oppressing the poor, and for every evil action. He reproaches them that, unmindful of Him from whom they received so great dignity, they profane the name of God. Christ applies this to the case in hand, that they receive the name of gods, because they are God’s ministers for governing the world. For the same reason Scripture calls the angels gods, because by them the glory of God beams forth on the world. We must attend to the mode of expression:
35.To whom the word of God was addressed. For Christ means that they were authorized by an undoubted command of God. Hence we infer that empires did not spring up at random, nor by the mistakes of men, but that they were appointed by the will of God, because he wishes that political order should exist among men, and that we should be governed by usages and laws. For this reason Paul says, that all who
resist the power are rebels against God, because there is no power but what is ordained by God,
It will, perhaps, be objected, that other callings also are from God, and are approved by him, and yet that we do not, on that account, call farmers, or cowherds, or cobblers, gods I reply, this is not a general declaration, that all who have been called by God to any particular way of living are called gods; but Christ speaks of kings, whom God has raised to a more elevated station, that they may rule and govern. In short, let us know that magistrates are called gods, because God has given them authority. Under the term Law, Christ includes the whole doctrine by which God governed his ancient Church; for since the prophets were only expounders of the Law, the Psalms are justly regarded as an appendage to the Law. That the Scripture cannot be broken means, that the doctrine of Scripture is inviolable.
36.Whom the Father hath sanctified. There is a sanctification that is common to all believers. But here Christ claims for himself something far more excellent, namely, that he alone was separated from all others, that the power of the Spirit and the majesty of God might be displayed in him; as he formerly said, that him hath God the Father sealed, (John 6:27.) But this refers strictly to the person of Christ, so far as he is manifested in the flesh. Accordingly, these two things are joined, that he has been sanctified and sent into the world. But we must also understand for what reason and on what condition he was sent It was to bring salvation from God, and to prove and exhibit himself, in every possible way, to be the Son of God.
Do you say that I blaspheme? The Arians anciently tortured this passage to prove that Christ is not God by nature, but that he possesses a kind of borrowed Divinity. But this error is easily refuted, for Christ does not now argue what he is in himself, but what we ought to acknowledge him to be, from his miracles in human flesh. For we can never comprehend his eternal Divinity, unless we embrace him as a Redeemer, so far as the Father hath exhibited him to us. Besides, we ought to remember what I have formerly suggested, that Christ does not, in this passage, explain fully and distinctly what he is, as he would have done among his disciples; but that he rather dwells on refuting the slander of his enemies.
37.If I do not the works Lest the Jews might reply that it was in vain for him to boast ofsanctification, and of all that depended on it, he again draws their attention to his miracles, in which there was a sufficiently evident proof of his Divinity. This is in the shape of a concession, as if he had said, “I do not wish you to be bound to give me credit on any other condition than that you see the fact plainly before your eyes. (303) You may safely reject me, if God has not openly given testimony to me.”
The works of my Father. He gives them this name, because those works were truly Divine, and because so great power shone in them, that they could not be ascribed to a man.
38.But if I do. He shows that they are held plainly convicted of unbelieving and sacrilegious contempt, because they render no reverence or honor (304) to what are undoubtedly the works of God. This is a second concession, when he says, “Though I allow you to doubt of my doctrine, you cannot deny, at least, that the miracles which I have performed are from God. You therefore openly reject God, and not a man.”
That you may know and believe. Though he places knowledge before faith, as if faith were inferior to it, he does so, because he has to do with unbelieving and obstinate men, who never yield to God, until they are vanquished and constrained by experience; for rebels wish to know before they believe And yet our gracious God indulges us so far, that he prepares us for faith by a knowledge of his works. But the knowledge of God and of his secret wisdom comes after faith, because the obedience offaith opens to us the door of the kingdom of heaven.
That the Father is in me, and I in him. He repeats the same thing which he had said before in other words, I and my Father are one All tends to this point, that in his ministry there is nothing contrary to his Father. “The Father, he says, is in me; that is, Divine power is manifested in me.”
And I am in my Father; that is, “I do nothing but by the command of God, so that there is a mutual connection between me and my Father.” For this discourse does not relate to the unity of essence, but to the manifestation of Divine power in the person of Christ, from which it was evident that he was sent by God.
39.Therefore they sought again to seize him. This was undoubtedly that they might drive him out of the temple, and immediately stone him; for their rage was not at all abated by the words of Christ. As to what the Evangelist says, that he escaped out of their hands, this could not be accomplished in any other way than by a wonderful exertion of Divine power. This reminds us that we are not exposed to the lawless passions of wicked men, which God restrains by his bridle, whenever he thinks fit.
40.He went away beyond Jordan. Christ passed beyond Jordan, that he might not have to fight continually without any advantage. He has therefore taught us, by his example, that we ought to avail ourselves of opportunities, when they occur. As to the place of his retreat, the reader may consult the observations which I have made at Chapter 1, verse 28. (305)
(305) See page 62 of this volume.
41.And many came to him. This large assembly shows that Christ did not seek solitude, in order to cease from the discharge of his duty, but to erect a sanctuary of God in the wilderness, when Jerusalem, which was his own abode and dwelling-place, (306) had obstinately driven him out. And indeed this was a dreadful vengeance of God, that, while the temple chosen by God was a den of robbers, (Jeremiah 7:11; Matthew 21:13,) the Church of God was collected in a despised place.
John indeed did no miracle. They infer that Christ is more excellent than John, because he has distinguished himself by so many miracles, while John did not perform a single miracle Not that we ought always to judge from miracles, but that miracles, when united with doctrine, have no small weight, as has already been repeatedly mentioned. Their argument is defective; for they compare Christ with John, but they express only one part of the comparison. Besides, they take for granted, that John was an eminent prophet of God, and that he was endued with extraordinary grace of the Holy Spirit. They justly argue, therefore, that Christ ought to be preferred to John, because it was only by the fixed Providence of God that it was brought about that John, though in other respects a very great prophet, yet was not honored by performing any miracle. Hence they conclude, that this was done on Christ’s account, that he might be more highly esteemed.
But all that John said. It appears that this was not spoken by themselves, but was added by the Evangelist, in order to show that there were two reasons which induced them to believe in Christ. On the one hand, (307) they saw that the testimony which John had given to him was true; and, on the other hand, (308) the miracles of Christ procured for him greater authority.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on John 10". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany