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The Door of the Sheepfold
Let us consider the all-inclusiveness, and the all-exclusive-ness of Christ, as introductory to our theme. First of all Christ said: "I am THE door." Then, He also said, "He that climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber."
1. The all-inclusiveness of Christ excludes all things else.
One door and only one, but that's enough for thee;
Enter in, and be thou saved, salvation's full and free.
Think not to say within thyself, there are many doors. Not so. There is none other name given under heaven and among men "whereby we MUST be saved."
Legion is the number of those who would be saved by works. Let such as these grant that God is true when He says, "And if by grace, then it is no more by works otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more of grace: otherwise work is no more work." If these words mean anything, they mean that works and grace cannot exist together. Where the one is, the other is not. In other words, if a sinner is saved by works, he is not saved by grace. We have it in the tenth of John, "If any man climb up any other way, the same is a thief and a robber."
Christ is the door. He said so Himself, and there is no other. This means that there is no other hope save Christ. In other words, all the religions of the earth have no door, by which men may enter in to life; neither have they any name by which men may be saved.
When one of the disciples said, "Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way"; the Lord quickly replied: "I am the way, the truth and the life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me."
2. The method by which Christ opened the door that sinners may enter in. He states it fully in verse eleven, when He says, "The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep." It is not Christ of Galilee but Christ of Calvary who saves.
It is not the ethics of Christ, nor His wonderful word, but it is the death of Christ. The living lamb did not save the children of Israel from the avenging angel, neither did the slain lamb. It was the blood of the slain lamb sprinkled on the door posts, and the upper door posts; so it is with us. The Christ must not only die, but we must receive Him by faith. We remember the words of our Lord how He said: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." Remember, however, that He also said: "That whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
3. The all-exclusiveness of Christ. If Christ, and Christ alone is reckoned unto us in salvation, then everything else is by necessity excluded. The opening verse of our study says, therefore, "He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber."
It is needless to argue that sinners who are doing their best, ought to have some recognition and some accounting in salvation. The difficulty lies in the fact that their best is far too short, to afford them a raiment sufficient to clothe them in righteousness, or to effectually cover their sinfulness. We grant that the words are severe, nevertheless, they are meaningful. Thieves and robbers are not reckoned as the best of society. Indeed they are classed among the ignoble and the criminal classes. Yet, that is exactly where Christ classes those who spurn redemption through the blood.
Men and women who seek to go in some other way, make the door which God hath prepared unnecessary. In other words, they spurn God's way, and seek their own.
We remember in our youth how our father was awakened one night by a robber who had pried the window of his bedroom, and was seeking to enter in. My father cried out: "You fool, the front door is not locked, why don't you come in properly?" The would-be thief, thus accosted, ran for his life. And why, may we ask, do sinners seek some other way a way far more arduous and difficult, and a way which is utterly impossible, when Christ the Door stands ajar?
God has said: "By Me if any man shall enter in, He shall be saved." Let us then enter by the door.
I. THE SHEPHERD OF THE SHEEP (John 10:2 )
The expression of our text carries depths of meaning.
1. Christ is the Good Shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd of verse ten, because He gives His life for the sheep. "Having loved His own * * He loved them unto the end." He went to the depths in their behalf. He died for them. He went like a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep dumb before its shearers, He opened not His mouth.
The Good Shepherd could not have saved His sheep, without dying for them. No wonder that the ransomed from every kindred, nation, tongue and tribe, give acclamation to the Christ of Calvary. "These are they * * have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, therefore, are they before the throne of God."
Had He not died, we never had lived.
2. Christ is the Great Shepherd. We have ail read that lovely verse "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree," but did we notice as we read it the verse which follows: "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." Thus it is, that the Good Shepherd who died for us, and by whose stripes we are healed, has now become the Great Shepherd who lives for us.
This is the way that it is written in the book of Hebrews: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do His will." Thus it is that Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, who gave us life, through His blood; is now risen indeed, and is reaching down to give us strength to live for Him, in a life well pleasing in His sight.
As the Great Shepherd, the Psalmist speaks of Him when He says: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
3. Christ is the Chief Shepherd. We now come to a verse in the epistle of Peter, where we are taught to feed the flock of God, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; not with a spirit of lordship, but as ensamples to the flock: "And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away." Thus the Good Shepherd of the cross, who became the Great Shepherd at the empty tomb, is named the Chief Shepherd, as He comes in the glory cloud.
II. THE SHEEP FOLLOWING THE SHEPHERD (John 10:3-5 )
Christ Himself is the door, and yet, He entereth in by the door; so He is both Door and the Shepherd. He entereth in by the door because His sheep follow Him, and He never leads them through any other door than the Calvary door. When Christ died upon the cross, He carried His own blood into the Holy of Holies. It is to Christ that the porter of the door openeth, and "the sheep hear His voice: and He calleth His own sheep by name and leadeth them out."
1. First of all, He leads the sheep in by the door. Some of His so-called preachers may give themselves over to another message, than the message of the cross. They may say that the story of salvation, through the blood, is antiquated, and is a relic of barbarian idealism. It still remains true that the blood which they would relegate to the scrap pile of an ancient theology, heaven celebrates as the center of their song. The Lord Himself leadeth His sheep into that door. We came in by that door, and were saved, and we would lead others in by the same entrance.
2. Secondly, He leads the sheep out. And why take them out, when He has taken them in? It is because outside the door there are multiplied thousands who are waiting to find the way of life. We go out to bring them in. Some one came out to take us by the hand, and shall not we, having entered in ourselves, go out to find still others.
One of the last things our Lord ever did before He went to glory was to say, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
3. Thirdly, He goeth before the sheep. Is it not wonderful that the Lord never asks us to go where He does not go. He goes before us. He is the file leader of the sheep. He does not drive; He calls, and we follow. He is the Pioneer, blazing out the trail to the uttermost part of the earth.
The words "He goeth before us" however, mean more than this. They also mean that He is with us giving us powers plenipotentiary, even His own authority and power, as we go. Did He not say, "Go * * and I will be with you." Thank God for such a Shepherd.
III. THE SHEEP FOLLOW NOT STRANGERS (John 10:5 )
The word is very positive, and very dogmatic "A stranger will they not follow."
1. Sheep follow their shepherd because they know his voice. This is true, as all shepherds will verify. We have stood outside the city walls of Jerusalem, and have watched, intently, as the sheep from many a sheepfold mixed together, while their shepherds chatted and talked. After the while, we saw the several shepherds about to take their separate ways. Was there a mix up? a difficulty in getting the sheep to follow their own leader. There was nothing of it. Hark! the call sounded; the voice of the shepherd is heard, and immediately the sheep followed their own shepherd.
2. Sheep will not follow a strange voice. They cannot be fooled. If they are grazing by the hillside, no coaxing or pleading will move them, until their own shepherd speaks the word. His voice they know; his voice they obey; his voice they follow.
A strange voice they know not; a strange voice they will not obey, will not follow. To the contrary they will flee from the voice of strangers.
Such is the characteristic of sheep. Now let us ask further if Christ spoke truly, when He used the sheep of the field, as a parable of His sheep?
3. Are only those who follow the shepherd His sheep? We mean, are those who do not follow Him, not His sheep? Christ says as much. What then, of the multiplied thousands of church members who know not the voice of Christ, and who when they hear it, never obey? What of the thousands who are following strangers? Reason it out for yourselves. Are all professors, possessors? Are all church members, members of the body of Christ? Are all who come as the people come, and sit as the people sit, and pray and sing as the people sing and pray, are they all HIS SHEEP?
Is it true that, "By their fruits we shall know them?" We aver in line with the word of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all are not Israel who are in Israel, and all are not His sheep, who are among His sheep. There are many who have crept in, unawares, whose damnation lingereth not.
The chief Shepherd shall soon sound, with trumpet voice, His upward call; and then, only they who hear His voice shall live. The day of the separation of the true and the false comes on apace.
IV. TWO GREAT CONTRASTS (John 10:10-14 )
1. There is a contrast between the thief and the true shepherd.
(1) "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy."
The thief comes to enrich himself by the slaughter of the sheep. He comes to disrupt the sheepfold. He stands for Satan and Satan's hordes. Satan goeth about to seek whom he may destroy. His works are all for the undoing of mankind. He comes to take away peace from the earth. He stands for all that separates from God, and life, and light. He is the author of death and despair.
(2) Christ comes that the sheep may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift. He comes to lift up, to build, to comfort. He is not only life, but life more abundantly; He is not only light, but light effulgent, and full of glory; He is not only peace, but a peace that cannot pass away.
Christ comes to take away the curse all that sin does, He undoes. He takes away the thorns, and gives, instead thereof the fir trees, and myrtle trees. He takes away the desert-wastes, and causes them to bloom and to blossom like the rose. Instead of sickness, He gives health; instead of poverty, wealth.
2. There is a contrast between the hireling and the Shepherd.
(1) The hireling does not own the sheep, and not owning them, he does not care for them. The result is plain, "He that is an hireling * * seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep." He fleeth because he cares not for the sheep; He cares for himself.
Such are all false shepherds, all who serve for money, and for self. Such shepherds are always saying, "we will fill ourselves with strong drink, and tomorrow shall be as today, and much more abundant." Such shepherds feed themselves and not the sheep. They are looking every one to his own way. Thus the sheep are scattered upon every green hill.
(2) Christ is the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. Having loved His own, He loveth them unto the end. We can almost see Him, our beloved Saviour and Lord, as He approached His cross. In the garden he had prayed in great agony, then He unwaveringly, pressed on His way to die for His sheep.
V. THE FATHER'S NEW LOVE (John 10:17 )
1. God is love. There are some people who would make God a tyrant, foreign to love. The Bible, however, says, "God is love." The love of God is set forth thus: "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
This great love verse manifests the love of God toward sinners, enemies. It also expresses God's love for His Son, because the verse says, "His only begotten Son." That means the love of God toward the world, is just as high and deep, just as wide and long, as is His love toward His Son. Had the Son been of little worth, God had possessed but little love. God's love to the world is, therefore, enhanced by the greatness of His love to the One whom He gave, to make possible the salvation of the world.
2. God had a NEW LOVE for the Son, as the Son went forth to die for the salvation of men. Christ said, "THEREFORE doth my Father love Me, because I lay down my life for the sheep." Mark you that God's love was strong, because Christ went of His own free will to die. He was sent of God the Father, to be sure. However, He did not come to die under force. He came as a lamb to the slaughter.
Christ said, in verse seventeen, "I lay down my life." In verse eighteen, He said, "No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of myself."
To us, all of this speaks unfathomable depths of meaning. Christ did not die, as some would insinuate, because He found Himself helpless before the onslaught of his enemies, who surged about Him as maddening wolves.
Christ did not die because the devil and his consorts were stronger than He. Christ died because He wanted to die. It was His choice to die. It was for the purpose of dying, that He came forth from the Father, and came into the world.
3. God loves the willing martyrs, one and all, who gladly shed their blood for Him. Many there are, who are so filled with the love of Christ, that they love not their lives unto the death. If Christ said, "THEREFORE doth my Father love Me," may we not find in the heart of God a new and a deeper love toward us, if we follow in the footsteps of the death route with Christ, and for His sake.
VI. THE FATHER LOVED HIM, BUT THE JEWS HATED HIM (John 10:19-25 )
Some said, "He hath a devil, and is mad; * * others said: These are not the words of * * devil." Let us place ourselves:
1. Do we join with those who cried out, "He hath a devil"? Perhaps the Christ rejecter of the twentieth century would hardly go that far, yet, there are many who still decry everything Christ said about His dying. They reject that He gave His life for His sheep. They denounce that He died purposely, and willingly. They also urge that the blood of Christ has no efficacy to save. Some add; "He died because the people of His day were not ready to accept His ethical teachings."
Others, among the unregenerate, may admit that Christ died for sinners, and for them; yet they are unwilling to accept His Saviourhood. They neither believe in Him, neither do they accept His love.
2. Do we join with the others, who said, His words are not the words of * * devil." Yes, many will go that far. They will grant His claims and His words; they will even acknowledge His Saviourhood. This is more than the first class, of our text did. They were willing to acclaim that His spirit of readiness to die for His sheep was impossible to devils; yet, we fear that most of them never did really align themselves wholly with Christ.
So it is today. Many intellectually, believe in Christ. They even hold for Him unbounded admiration. However, they love the praise of men, more than the praise of God. Even Satan seems willing for men to go that far; so long as they do not hear His voice, and follow Him. O, ye, who flatter and admire the lovely Lord, why will you not gladly repent, and believe, and be baptized, and follow Him in the way?
3. Christ showed up His rejecters. In John 10:25 , Christ said, "I told you, and ye believed not." In John 10:26 , He added, "Ye believed not, because ye are not of my sheep," Who, then, truly believe? Those who are His sheep? He plainly gives reply: "My sheep hear my voice, * * and they follow Me." We take it, therefore, that any man who says, "I believe," and yet does not follow Him, is not one of His sheep. The belief, the faith that saves, is the faith that leaves all and follows Him whithersoever He goeth, and wheresoever He commandeth.
VII. THE SECURITY OF GOD'S SHEEP (John 10:28-29 )
1. Why do we use the word SHEEP instead of believer in our theme above? You tell us that it is customary to speak of the security of the believer. That is true. The emphasis, however, in this twenty-eighth verse is His, and not ours. Christ says, "SHEEP." You say, is not a believer a sheep; and is not a sheep a believer? Certainly so, with this I agree. However, there are too many people who are counting goats as believers.
God has placed great dignity in the words "believe" and "believer." He has gone so far as to say, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish. That is in John 3:16 . Here He says: "My sheep shall not perish." It is all the same. Christ said: "He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation." These words mean, they shall not perish. Remember, however, that to Christ a believer, is a sheep who hears His voice and follows Him. A believer is a sheep who knows not the voice of a stranger, and does not follow him.
Let us forever strike out from our list of believers and from our conception of the meaning of that word, every individual who merely gives an intellectual assent to Christ. Not all who believe in a creed are willing to pay the price of their creed by leaving all and following the One who is the very center and heart of their creed.
2. What does God do for His Sheep?
(1) He gives His sheep eternal life. That life is eternal, never-ending.
(2) He says His sheep shall never perish. The word never means never. There is no condition whatsoever that may arise, there is no possibility that one of His sheep shall ever perish.
(3) He tells us, "Neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand." He means what He says, and He says that His hand provides absolute safety for His sheep. No man can unclasp it.
(4) He says "No man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand." If anybody asks for a security that is safer, more certain than the security of His sheep, it cannot be given. We are just as sure of eternal life, and of all that it means, as if we already possessed it.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on John 10". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany