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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. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 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. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
We really have two distinct sections in this portion. The first five verses constitute a complete parable in themselves, and then in verses 6-16 we have added instruction and a fuller opening up of the truth of the Shepherd character of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is emphatically the Good Shepherd. It is a rather significant thing that the word good here is one that really means “beautiful.” “I am the beautiful Shepherd.” Of course, it refers to beauty of character-the shepherd who is absolutely unselfish and devoted to the will of the Father. He presented Himself to Israel as their Shepherd and this was in accordance with many Old Testament messianic Scripture passages.
In Genesis 49:0, when by divine inspiration Jacob is speaking of Joseph, he concludes with these words, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: the archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel)” (vv. 22-24), that is, the Shepherd is from the mighty God of Jacob. He brings this in here because the experiences that the true Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, was destined to pass through were so nearly akin to those that Joseph had to endure, rejected and spurned as he was, by his own brethren.
Then we have the Messiah spoken of as Jehovah’s Shepherd in Psalms 23:0, that beautiful gem which we love so much. Somebody has said that it is more loved and less believed than any other portion of Holy Scripture. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” We love to repeat the words, but how many believe them? How often we get panicky when the purse is empty and we are out of employment! There is one thing to do, and that is turn to Him and leave all with Him. “The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want” (v. 1).
Then in Psalms 80:1, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.” The Shepherd of Israel was God Himself, who was watching over His people and who some day was to come into the world in human form in order to guide them into blessing. Isaiah portrays Him in this way. In Isaiah 40:10-11, “Behold, 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.” This was the prophecy of the coming to this scene of the Lord’s Anointed, Israel’s Messiah.
Then in Jeremiah 31:0-that great chapter that tells of God’s everlasting interest in His people Israel-in verses 10-11 we read, “Hear the word of the LORD,
0 ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he.” It was given to Ezekiel to confirm this, when in 34:12-15 he says: “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. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord GOD.”
We might turn to many other passages that depict the Lord as a shepherd- passages that were destined to have their fulfillment in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. So when He stood in the midst of Israel and declared Himself to be the Good Shepherd, they should have understood at once, for they were familiar with the Old Testament. These passages had been in their hearts and minds down through the centuries. They were looking for the coming of Jehovah’s Shepherd, and now Jesus appeared and said, “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11; John 10:14John 10:14). We noticed sometime ago, when speaking on the “I Ams” of Christ, that that expression is really a definite, divine title. Jesus takes that incommunicable name of God and says, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
He puts Himself in contrast with false shepherds who had appeared from time to time: “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” (vv. 1-2).
1 think these words are generally misapplied or given a wrong application. I do not mean that they are made to teach something that is false, but they are used contrary to what is taught in this particular verse. How often you hear people say, “If anyone tries to get into heaven in some other way than through Christ, he is a thief and a robber.” But that is not what the Lord is speaking about here, at all. It is perfectly true that if you try to enter heaven by some other way than trusting the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be like a thief trying to break into a place to which you have no title, “For there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
But that is not what the Savior is speaking of here. He is not talking about getting into heaven. Heaven is not the sheepfold. Judaism was the sheepfold. In the half-century before the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ there were many who came pretending to be Messiahs, but they did not come in by the door- that is, according to Scripture. They tried to climb up some other way, and He berated them as thieves and robbers.
Then in contrast, He speaks of Himself: “But He that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” He came in exact accord with the prophetic Word. His life was in exact accord with the predictions of Old Testament Scriptures. “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). John the Baptist was the porter, who had been sent of God to announce the coming of the Messiah. He told of One whose shoe-latchet he was not worthy to unloose. To him Jesus came for baptism. John said, “O Master, I am not worthy to baptize You. I need rather to be baptized by You. You are the Sinless One, and I am baptizing sinners. This is a baptism of repentance, and You have nothing of which to repent.” Jesus said, “John, suffer it to be so now.” And in His baptism He pledged Himself to fulfill every righteous demand of the throne of God, to meet the need of sinners. As He came forth from the waters, a voice from the heavens declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
He had entered in by the door into the sheepfold. The porter had opened the way. And the Spirit of God, descending like a dove, abode upon Him, anointing Him as Messiah. That is what the word Messiah implies, “the Anointed One.” He was anointed that day by the Spirit of God as the true Shepherd of the sheep.
So He entered in by the door, and there were those within the sheepfold who received Him. These were those who were really God’s children. They had opened their hearts already to His truth, and when Jesus came they said, “Why, this is the Savior for whom we have been looking!” “The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name.” He did not intend to leave them forever in the fold of Judaism, but He was to lead them into the liberty of grace and blessing of Christianity. He entered into the Jewish sheepfold to lead His church outside of Judaism into the liberty of grace. “When he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (v. 4). This is the supreme test. Somebody says, “Well, I think I am a Christian, but I do not see why Christ had to come into the world and die to save sinners. I do not understand.” That proclaims a very sad fact. It says that you do not really know the Shepherds voice. You have never taken your place before God as a repentant sinner and received Christ in simple faith. Those who do are born again, they receive eternal life and with that new life is linked a new nature which causes them to delight in obedience to His voice. They know Him. They know the Shepherd’s voice. They will not follow a stranger.
And so we are told, “This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them” (v. 6). They could not follow; their eyes were blinded; they did not apprehend the meaning of this beautiful little picture that He presented to them, so He went on to open up things more fully. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (vv. 7-9).
Now He seems to change the figure here. Before He said, “I am the Shepherd, and I entered in by the door.” Now He says, “I am the door.” Is it contradictory? Not at all. You may have heard a little incident told by Dr. Piazzi Smith. On one occasion he saw a shepherd leading his flock up the hill. He led them into the fold and made them comfortable. Then Dr. Smith said, “Do you leave the sheep in this fold all night?” “Yes.” “But aren’t there wild beasts around?” “Yes.” “Won’t they try to get the sheep?” “Yes.” “Well, you have no door here. How can you keep the wild beasts out?” But the Arab shepherd lay down on his side, and as he settled himself in that entry way, he looked up and smiled and said, “I am the door.” You see, no wild beast could enter without awakening him, and no sheep would go out over his body.
So Jesus said, “I am the Door. I am the One through whom My sheep enter into blessing, and I am their guard and their guide.” Then He says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Oh, that is what David meant when he said, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalms 23:2). The shepherd takes care of the sheep, guides them to proper pastures, where they are refreshed and fed. So our blessed Lord makes Himself responsible for those who put their trust in Him.
Now in contrast to Himself, there were false teachers and prophets who were only concerned about their own welfare. There have been such all down through the centuries and the Lord spoke of them in very strong language. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He came to give eternal life to all who put their trust in Him. And if we are walking in fellowship with God we have that abundant life. A great many Christians have life, but they do not seem to have abundant life. I was in a home lately where there were two children. One was sickly and pale, while the other was so lively that he was a constant annoyance to the little sickly one. As I looked at them I thought, “Well, they are like Christians.” There are a lot of Christians who have life. They have trusted Jesus as Savior, but they do not seem to count much for God-no testimony, no witness. And then there are others who are spiritually exuberant, bearing a great witness for the One who has redeemed them, radiant as they live in fellowship with the Lord.
First, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (v. 11). Then He declares, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (v. 14). You see two sides of truth here. As the Good Shepherd He went to Calvary’s cross and there laid down His life. There “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: … and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Oh, that wonderful Shepherd!
O Thou great all-gracious Shepherd,
Shedding for us Thy life’s blood,
Unto shame and death delivered,
All to bring us nigh to God.
Because, you see, there was no other way. In Gethsemane He prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39). That is, “If it is possible to save sinners by any other means than by My drinking of the cup of judgment, then make it manifest.” But there was no other way, and so the Good Shepherd went out to die.
But He who died lives again. He lives in glory, and He is the Good Shepherd still. He is called elsewhere the Great Shepherd and the Chief Shepherd. “Our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, … make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever” (Hebrews 13:21). But this Great Shepherd is the Good Shepherd still, and He knows His sheep. He says, “I am known of Mine.” Does not that comfort your heart, dear child of God? If I am speaking to somebody who is lying on a sickbed-perhaps some of you have not been able to leave your bed for years, and the temptation would be to feel so utterly forsaken, lonely, tired, and weary of it all-O dear, sick one, remember Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep.” He knows your struggles, disappointments, and the cup you have to drink. He drank a more bitter one Himself.
If in thy path some thorns are found,
Oh, think who bore them on His brow!
If grief thy sorrowing heart hath found,
It reached a holier than thou.
In His deep sympathy He enters into all your trials and shares all your griefs. And then-is it not blessed?-He says, “I…know my sheep, and am known of mine.” And we say again with David, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep” (v. 15). And, of course, He was speaking primarily of the sheep of the Jewish fold. But in the next verse we read, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (v. 16). The word/?/^ here should really be “flock.” You see, Judaism was a fold, a circumference without a center, but Christianity is a flock, where we have a center without a circumference. We have no wall about us, but we are gathered about Him, our Good Shepherd. Our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed our Good Shepherd, and “unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” (Genesis 49:10).
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. 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. 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. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.
There are two outstanding themes in these verses, and perhaps it may be well to say that verses 17-18 really belong to the previous paragraph, which sets forth our Savior as the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. Our Lord stresses the fact that it was not man that forced Him to do that. In other words, He did not have to die. His humanity was different from ours in this, that we begin to die as soon as we are born. The seeds of death, as it were, are in the body of every child of Adam. We are all under that Adamic curse, “Dying, thou shalt die.” These bodies of ours are mortal, that is, subject to death. It was otherwise with the body of our Lord Jesus. We are told that, “Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:15). That is why we die, because we have all inherited the virus of Adam’s sin. But our Lord Jesus Christ was the Sinless One, and, therefore, while He came into the world with a body that could die, it was not necessary that it should die. He had in His own power the ability to die or to live on for endless years. But He died out of love for our guilty souls and out of love for the Father, because He came to do the Father’s will.
In Psalms 118:0 we hear Him saying, through the psalmist, “God is the LORD, which hath shown us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar” (v. 27). He Himself was the One whom all the sacrifices of the law typified; therefore, this verse refers to Him. The altar of old had four brazen horns, and we might never have known what they were used for had it not been for these words. But we learn from this psalm that when they brought a beast, such as an ox or a lamb, for sacrifice they bound it to the horns of the altar, and its blood was spilled about the altar, for “without shedding of blood [there] is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).
So our Lord Jesus Christ was bound with cords to the horns of the altar. What were the cords? We read in Hosea 11:4 that God has drawn us with the cords of love: “I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.” The cords of love have drawn our poor hearts to Christ and bound us to Him, and it was the cords of love that bound Him to the cross.’
Twas love that sought Gethsemane,
Or Judas ne’er had found Him;’
Twas love that held Him to the tree,
Or iron ne’er had bound Him.
And there was not only one cord; there were cords. There was the cord of love to the Father, and the cord of love to us. We hear Him saying, “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence” (John 14:31). And He went out to the garden of sorrow and on to the cross of atonement. Love to the Father took Him there, thus to lay down His life for us. But it is also written that “Christ… loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it” (Ephesians 5:24-26). The apostle could say, “The Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). So it was love for us, for our needy souls, that took Him there and led Him to die as a sacrifice for sin.
So He says, “Therefore doth My Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again” (John 10:17), though it is also perfectly true that sinful men laid hold of Him and nailed Him to the cross. The apostle Peter said to the Jews of his day, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23). And speaking of the Gentiles and their rulers, the apostle Paul says, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). Man is held responsible for the rejection of Christ, but man was perfectly powerless to take His life. He laid it down of Himself. He says in verse 18, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down.” That is, He had commandment from the Father to lay it down, and He came to do the Father’s will, and that will involved His becoming the great sin offering.
Then observe, just as He had authority to lay down His life, so He had authority to take it again. “This commandment have I received of my Father” (v. 18). The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is attributed to each person of the Holy Trinity. We read that He was “raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4). We read of the “Spirit… that raised up Christ from the dead” (8:11). The Holy Spirit then had His part in the resurrection. But Jesus also said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). “He spake of the temple of His body” (v. 21). So the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were all concerned in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ even as all were concerned in His death. It was the Father who gave the Son that He might die as our Redeemer. It was in the power of the Eternal Spirit that Christ offered Himself without spot unto God. And it was in His own love and grace that He laid down His life as the Good Shepherd, and rose again that we might know redemption from the guilt and power of sin.
You remember we quoted several passages from the Old Testament in which we saw that the Shepherd of Israel was the coming One, God Himself, who was to be manifested here on earth. So when Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (10:11), He was declaring that He was the One who would fulfill all these Scripture passages.
But the people were not ready to receive Him. Many declared that He had a demon. Others said, “These [words] are not the words of him that hath a [demon]” (v. 21a). They seemed to be so carefully chosen, and so reverent and holy. They did not sound to some of His hearers like the words of one speaking under the power of an evil spirit. Then they asked very sensibly, “Can a [demon] open the eyes of the blind?” (v. 21b). They remembered that wonderful miracle that had been done among them. It seemed that, after all, Jesus might be the expected Messiah.
And now in verse 22 we are told that “it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication.” This was celebrated annually since the days of the return under the leadership of Zerubbabel, of David’s lineage, and of Joshua, the high priest, and the scribe Ezra and the governor Nehemiah. It was winter, and Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch, or court. “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt?” (v. 24).
He had told them many times, but again they put the question. Jesus answered and said, “I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of me” (v. 25). Why did they not consider the signs, the evidences? They seemed to be blind to these things. And He gave the reason for this. “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you” (v. 26). They refused to believe His message. His sheep are those who have turned to God in repentance and have accepted the message that He brought. He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
And now I have come to a rather crucial passage, about which there has been probably more controversy than concerning anything else in the gospel of John. One is often asked: Do you think that this passage teaches that if a man is once saved, he is saved forever? That it is impossible to fall from grace?-that a man will continue to be a Christian, no matter what sins he commits, if he has once professed faith in Christ? We need to be very careful here. It is good to follow the exact words of Jesus, and then we will not go astray.
First, He says, “My sheep hear my voice” (v. 27a). John 5:24 tells us, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life.” “Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:3). So He says, “My sheep hear my voice.” We cannot say that people are numbered among His sheep simply because they make a profession. There are people even in evangelical churches who are not numbered among the sheep of Christ, because actually they have never heard His voice. They are formalists, members of the church outwardly, but not of the church which is His body. Such people make a religious profession, maybe under emotion, and flock into the church. For a time they seem to go on very well, and then by-and-by the newness wears off and their enthusiasm disappears. The hankering for the world wells up in their souls and then they begin to drift. We say, “Poor souls, they are backsliders.” But, as one has well said, “They were never frontsliders.” They had turned from their sins, reforming themselves, but they had never heard the voice of the Son of God in their inmost souls. Their hearts were like that house that was swept and garnished, but left empty after the evil spirit had departed.
Such as these are those who bring reproach upon the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were never real believers at all. No matter what people profess, if they do not hear the voice of the Son of God, they are not actually His sheep. I wish we may get that clear. Of all His sheep He says, “I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27b). Now, will you put in contrast to that a passage in Matthew’s gospel: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven” (7:21). “He that doeth the will”-stop there for a moment. Are we saved by doing? No, we are saved by faith. What does He mean when He says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven”? We are not saved by doing, but we manifest the reality of our faith by doing the will of God. You remember that passage again in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” But he immediately adds, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (v. 10).
Be very clear about that. Our works have nothing to do with procuring eternal life, but no man has eternal life who is not manifesting good works.
I would not work my soul to save;
That work my Lord has done;
But I would work like any slave
From love to God’s dear Son.
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matthew 7:21-22). He is referring to the day of judgment, the day of manifestation. We might put that in modern language, “Have we not preached in Your name?” Perhaps through their preaching men have been delivered from the awful power of Satan, for I believe that many an unsaved preacher has been used of God to save men, even though his own life was all wrong. God uses His word by whomsoever proclaimed. “And in thy name have cast out demons.” “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (v. 23).
He will never say to anyone in that day of judgment, “I used to know you, but I do not know you anymore.” He says, “I never knew you.” But of His own He says, “I know them.”
Now if you will keep that in mind, I do not think you will have any question about the eternal security of the believer. He never knew those who, though they seemed to be workers in His own vineyard, had never heard His voice.
So then, first, His sheep know His voice. Second, He says, “I know them.” Notice the third thing, “and they follow me.” There is no use to profess to be a sheep of Christ’s unless you follow Him. Christ means so much to those who are truly born again that their souls delight to follow Him. Do you follow Him? Is His will precious to you? We do not become sheep by following Jesus. It is the very opposite. We follow Him because we belong to His flock. Having been saved, we manifest that by following Him. There are a great many people who bear the Christian name who are not really born of God. This accounts for so many who at one time seemed to be Christians, but because there was no reality, they never knew the Lord. They never found any satisfaction in following Him, and so they fell away.
Speaking of His own sheep, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). What kind of life? Eternal life. My brother, my sister, you who have questioned the eternal security of the believer, how long is “eternal?” “I give unto them eternal life.” Do you not see? It is not probationary life. It is not temporal life. It is eternal life.
A lady came to me in San Francisco, where I had been preaching on John 5:24, and she said, “I agree with everything you said tonight except that doctrine-once saved, always saved. I have never found that in the Bible.” I said, “Don’t you believe the words of the Lord Jesus? Let me show you what He said.” She replied, “I know where you are going to turn: John 10:28-29.” “Well,” I said, “you do know. But let me read the verses: ‘And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.’”
I inquired, “Do you believe that?” She said, “Not in your way.” I said, “What is my way?” “Well,” she said, “you believe that if a person is once saved he can never be lost.” I read it again, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” I said, “Do you believe that?” “Not in your way.” “But I am not telling you my way. I have not explained it at all. Do you not believe what the Son of God has said?” “Not the way you do.” “Well, let me read it again.” And I read it through once more, except for one change. I put “ten years” in place of “eternal life.” I inquired, “What does that mean?” She answered, “Well, it would mean that if a person once got saved he would be saved for ten years.” “Exactly! Now let us stretch it a bit. ‘I give unto them life for forty years.’ What does it mean now?” She admitted it would imply that one thus saved would be secure for forty years. “Suppose it read, ‘I give unto them life as long as they are faithful’.” “That is what I believe,” she replied. “But that is not what it says. It says, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my Father’s hand.’ How long does that mean?” She said, “As long as they remain His sheep.” And she went out. She did not want light, so turned her back upon it.
If one would only take God’s Word at its face value. “I give unto them eternal life.” It could not be eternal if it could ever come to an end, and He said, “They shall never perish.” “No man can pluck them out of my hand.” There could not be a stronger statement. His sheep are safe in the hands of the Father and the Son. There is no power in earth or hell that can pluck us out, and there is no power in heaven that would want to do so. You say, “Well, but you know I can take myself out.” But you would perish then, wouldn’t you? The marvelous thing is that when He saves a person He puts such a love for Himself in the heart that none would wish to be separated from Him.
I remember a dear friend of mine, a minister of the gospel, a kindly, gracious man, who was reasoning with me about this. He said finally, “My brother, if I believed as you do, I could go out and sin all I want to, and it would not make any difference.” I said, “My dear brother, do you want to sin?” “Oh, no!” he replied. “I do not want to sin.” That’s it. The Christian does not want to sin. Nothing makes him more miserable than failure or falling into sin. His only joy is found in walking in fellowship with God.
What does Jesus mean when He says, “My Father…is greater than all” (v. 29)? He was coequal with the Father from all eternity. But as Man here on earth, He could say, “My Father … is greater than all.” He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. He voluntarily took the subject place in the days of His flesh.
But having said, “My Father…is greater than all,” He immediately adds, “I and my Father are one” (v. 30). What a proof of His true Deity we have right there! “I and my Father.” Why, you would have thought He would have said, “My Father and I.” It would be the natural thing-would it not?-for the subservient One. But there is no subservience here. God the Son, and God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit are coequal. So He says, “I and my Father are one.”
Isn’t it marvelous grace! The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are united in sending this gospel to the world and inviting sinners everywhere to put their trust in the work that Jesus did. And when you trust Him you have eternal life, and you will be as secure as God Himself can make you, even as we read elsewhere, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). What a gospel to proclaim to poor, dying men! If there is one who reads these words who has never trusted the Savior, won’t you come to Him today?
Years ago, there was a poor old man who lived in a miserable hovel and subsisted on what he could beg. Finally he was taken to a hospital, very ill, and when the nurse moved his clothes she found a worn paper that he had put away in an inner pocket. When she examined it she saw that it was an order on the Treasury of the United States to give him a pension because of his faithfulness in serving as a scout in the army during the war between the States. The poor old man said, “Oh, don’t take that away from me! President Lincoln gave me that, and I value it above all else.” And yet, he had never cashed in on it! He had never availed himself of his privileges.
Are you treating God’s salvation like that? You have the right to come to Jesus and receive eternal life and forgiveness of sins. “Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7; Hebrews 3:15Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7Hebrews 4:7).
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God. 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. Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, 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 that John spake of this man were true. And many believed on him there.
The real object, as we have seen before in the writing of this gospel, is that men might believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that believing they might have life through His name. So we have had one incident after another, all intended to make clear the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ and His eternal relationship to the Father as the only begotten Son, who was ever one with the Father and the Spirit, both as to eternity of being and as to power and authority, wisdom, love, and grace.
We closed our previous chapter with the declaration of our Savior, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). Now whatever men today may understand that to mean, there can be no question that those to whom Jesus spoke understood that He was affirming definite equality with God. That was why they took up stones again to stone Him. In their eyes He was a blasphemer.
May I put it this way to you: if the Lord Jesus Christ is not God-God manifested in the flesh-then they were correct. If He is not truly God, He must have been a blasphemer, because He used language that no one but God should use. He accepted worship that should be received by no one but God. The law said, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10), and the Lord Jesus allowed His disciples to worship Him. Therefore, He took to Himself that which rightly belongs to God. Now He was either God manifest in the flesh or else a gross deceiver.
Some take another view of it and say He was a paranoiac who imagined He was divine while just a human being like others. But there was nothing about the behavior and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to indicate one of unbalanced mind. His life was too pure, His words too wonderful, to allow us to accept that view for a moment, and we certainly cannot think of such a holy person as a deceiver. Good men do not say that which is untrue, normally. He claimed over and over again to be the Son of the Father-”I and my Father are one.”
It was because of this declaration that His enemies, in accordance with the law of Moses, which commanded that the blasphemer was to be stoned to death, took up stones to stone Him. He calmly said to them: “Many good works have I shown you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?” (John 10:32). His works had manifested the truth of what He said of Himself. They had always been for the interest and good of mankind. What had He done that they should stone Him?
“The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy” (v. 33a). What was the blasphemy? “Because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (v. 33b). They said, “You are a man and declare yourself to be God, therefore, you are a blasphemer.” Well, the truth is that He was Man in all perfection, but He was also God-as truly Man as though He had never been God and as truly God as though He had never become Man.
But now the Lord may seem to us to beg the question when He says, “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?” (vv. 34-36).
What is the Lord referring to here? In Psalms 82:6, in addressing the judges of the people who stood in the place of God to act for Him, we read these words, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” It says, in the first verse of that psalm, “God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods.” What does He mean by this? God is the Judge over all, but He appointed in Israel men who were to represent Him. The people were to bring their questions and grievances to them and they were to judge in accordance with the Word. “I have said, Ye are gods.” That is, they were there to act for God. Today all judges do not act for God. But the thought is that these were to be righteous judges, and as such they were designated “gods.” This was in their Bibles, and they never thought of that expression as blasphemy.
Now why not inquire more definitely as to what the Lord Jesus meant when He said, “I and my Father are one?” It was necessary to do this in order to understand it aright, and so the Lord Jesus practically says, “Why not consider the works that I do? Why not study your own Bibles and see if the claims that I make are not borne out by the works that I perform and by the Scriptures?” But they were not willing to do this. They jumped at conclusions, as people so often do. We have our preconceived notions and are not willing to subject our thoughts to the declarations of the Word of God. We stress our own views and ideas and reject those of the Lord.
Thus they were ready to call Him a blasphemer, whose one object in life was the glory of the Father. But now observe, this passage not only sets forth the Deity of the Lord Jesus and his equality with the Father, but it emphasizes the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. We can be very grateful indeed to the Jews for having preserved for us the Bible. All the Old Testament was preserved by them, handed down through the centuries in manuscript form, translated into the Greek tongue later, and that by Jewish scribes, so that all the Old Testament Scriptures have come to us through the people of Israel. We will never be able to pay our debt to the Jews for that.
The Old Testament we have today is the Old Testament that Jesus had. He had it in both Greek and Hebrew, and He read it in both of these versions, for He quoted from them both in His ministry here on earth, sometimes from the Hebrew and, at other times, from the Greek text. There were flaws in that translation, but whenever He could He used that translation, because it was in the hands of the common people.
Notice what He says, “The scripture cannot be broken.” What rest that gives to heart and mind in these days when there are so many voices regarding the question of the inspiration of our Bible! They tell us that many of the books of the Old Testament have been discredited. The Lord Jesus says the Scripture cannot be broken and when He used that term scripture, He was using it as the Jews of His day used it. They applied it to the books of their Old Testament, which were the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms. The whole volume was called Scripture. Jesus says, “The scripture cannot be broken.” In other words, He authenticated the whole of the Old Testament.
This comes out very clearly as you go through the four Gospels, and see how Jesus puts His imprimatur on every part of the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms. If confused by evolutionary theories of creation and inclined to believe that men are only specialized brutes who have come up through the ages from a beast ancestry, we find that Jesus says, “From the beginning (of the creation) God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6, parentheses in original). Thus our Lord put His seal upon the doctrine of the special creation of man. He made them at the beginning, male and female. He also put His authorization upon the marriage relationship. “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and [shall] cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh” (vv. 7-8). This is the divine institution of marriage. So we have the Lord Jesus Christ Himself authenticating both special creation and the marriage relationship.
Then there are so many other things in the Old Testament to which modern teachers object. Is it true that there was once a great flood and that one family alone was saved out of that deluge? You turn to your New Testament and read, “For as [it was] in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matthew 24:38-39). I have no question about the universality of the flood in the face of words like these. Jesus knew, because He was God manifest in the flesh.
And so with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Again the Lord says, “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed” (Luke 17:28-30).
Scholars raise questions as to who wrote the first books of our Bible, Genesis to Deuteronomy, and they are willing to admit almost anybody but Moses as their authors, and yet the Lord Jesus Christ says, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). And He is speaking of the Law, the Law was composed of those five books, and He says that Moses wrote them.
Was there ever such a man as Abraham? Was he but the imaginary character of a Hebrew myth? Or did he actually exist? Was he the father of the faithful, as Moses said? Jesus answers: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (8:56). What did He mean? He was referring to that promise God gave to Abraham, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4Genesis 26:4). “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3). In the same way Jesus authenticates the story of Jonah and the repentance of Nineveh.
I confess I cannot understand how any man can profess to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, recognize His true Deity, and yet spurn any portion of His testimony, for we have the blessed Lord Himself declaring that the Scripture cannot be broken.
And then notice verse 36: “Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest?” The Father sanctified the Son and sent Him into the world. What does that tell us? It tells us that our Lord Jesus Christ did not become the Son when He was born of the Virgin Mary here on earth. It tells us He was the Son of the Father in the ineffable glory before He came down here at all. He was one of the Holy Trinity and the Father sanctified the Son and sent Him into the world.
What does that word sanctify mean? It really means “to set apart.” And so the Father set the Son apart and sent Him into the world that He might become the propitiation for our sin. This is the glorious truth here fully unfolded. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). He did not become the Son after He came to earth, but the Father sent the Son. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (v. 10). No wonder the apostle adds, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (v. 11). The supreme example of the love of God is this: “God sent His Son into the world. He turned His back on heaven’s glory to be born a child here on earth, to grow up to manhood, living a holy, spotless life, and at last to go to Calvary’s cross to offer Himself for our redemption.” Is it blasphemy to believe this? On the contrary, it is an insult to God to deny it.
Jesus says, “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?” He told them to consider His works. Do not these accredit Him? “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not.”
So we throw that challenge out today. If you have any doubt as to whether He was the eternal Son of God, read the record. See what He did when He was here. Can you explain His works in any other way? If you can, then you must reject Him. But if His works accredit Him, then be reasonable and accept Him.
If people would only read the Bible thoughtfully and face its testimony honestly, oh, how many would be delivered from the snare of unbelief]
So Jesus says, “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” (vv. 37-38). But, alas, though He was so tender and faithful, those who listened to Him were not willing to make the test.
“Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand” (v. 39). The hour had not come that He was to die, and they could not put Him to death, so He went away beyond Jordan where John had baptized Him. “And there He abode. And many resorted unto him, and said, John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true” (vv. 40-41).
“And many believed on him there” (v. 42). To believe on Him is to put your trust in Him. I wonder if all who read this have really believed on Him. Have you put your trust in Him? Oh, read the record for yourselves. Face the testimony honestly. If the Spirit of God reveals to you that Jesus is indeed the Son of the living God, then receive Him as your Savior and confess Him openly before men.
O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 10". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent