Sunday, February 17, 2008

As Wise as Sheep

Sheep are not wise. It is no great compliment to be called a sheep. Nevertheless, in Chapter 10 of John's Gospel, Christ proclaimed the parable of the Shepherd and the sheepfold, in which he compared us to sheep, and Himself to the Shepherd.

John 9:35-10:29
35Jesus heard that they had cast him [the man who was born blind, whom Jesus miraculously healed] out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
36He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
37And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
38And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.
39And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth. 1Verily, 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. 2But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
6This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. 7Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10The 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.
11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12But 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. 13The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
14I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And 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. 17Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18No 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.
19There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. 20And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?
21Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?
22And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. 23And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. 24Then 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.
25Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. 26But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

There are many things that can be gleaned from the passage. One is the fact that Jesus is divine. If we were going to emphasize that, we'd continue down the passage, for Jesus is shortly afterward explicitly accused of blasphemy.

In this post, though, we are going to focus on the soteriological aspects of the passage. The sheep are the elect, those who will be saved from judgment on judgment day. We know this because Christ says "I give unto them eternal life."

1. Once a Sheep, Always a Sheep

This would seem to be an obvious fact from the nature of things. Sheep do not change their species. Sheep do not become goats, they do not become wolves, they do not become dogs. A wolf may slip in disguised as a sheep or a goat may get caught up in a sheep stampede. But a sheep is a sheep, and a non-sheep is not a sheep. There is no more saddening condemnation to hear than to hear: "ye are not of my sheep" from the mouth of God. On the other hand, to know that one is a sheep is the most encouraging thing we can know. We know that the sheep will never stop being a sheep, because Christ says: "they shall never perish."

2. Once a Sheep of Christ's, Always a Sheep of Christ's

Again, this would seem to be an obvious fact. Christ is God. He cannot be robbed by thieves. No one is stronger than God to be able wrestle sheep away from him. Furthermore, sheep are not self-determiners of their ownership. No one asks a sheep for his permission to own the sheep. A sheep cannot decide to become someone else's sheep. A sheep can wander off from the flock, but the Shepherd will bring him back. Furthermore, Christ explains this in the passage above: "neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." (and likewise, "My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all.")

3. The Sheep Come Because they are Sheep

Some people have suggested that people become sheep because they come. This is absurd. Sheep are sheep before they come. A lost sheep is a sheep. A sheep cannot hear his master's voice, unless he is a sheep. This also leads us to the second suggestion we sometimes hear: that a sheep become's Christ's by hearing his voice.

But that is not how ownership of sheep works. Furthermore, that's not how the matter is described in the passage. Instead, the passage states: "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." You see, there is a reason why the sheep follow the shepherd and not a stranger, it is because they know his voice. They follow the shepherd because they are his sheep, not the other way around.

4. The Sheep are Called Particularly

It is often overlooked that the sheep are not called en masse. One sees people discussing the passage as though the Shepherd is standing out in a huge field of sheep yelling, "Here Sheep!" That fits with the mistaken view above that sheep become sheep (or Christ's sheep) by coming. That's not the picture here. The picture here is Christ calling his sheep particularly, individually, by name: "he calleth his own sheep by name," "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep."

5. The Sheep will be Saved

There is no doubt, no uncertainty about sheep of Christ's that are still outside the fold. Christ declares the certainty of their salvation. This conflicts both with an open theistic view of God, and with a universalistic intent theory of the atonement. Christ aim is to save the sheep ("My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all") and he will save the sheep ("other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice").

6. The Sheep are Given to the Shepherd and the Shepherd for the Sheep

The Shepherd's duty is to save the sheep. Christ states: "Them also I must bring." Likewise, He states "My Father, which gave them to me." They are his sheep, with Him leading the way: "when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him." And furthermore, "I lay down my life for the sheep." We can also see the same thing negatively put here: "But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not."

7. The Sheep are the Blind that Now See, the Others Think they See, but do not

Recall how this passage begins. The man born blind is healed, so that he sees and believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. The Pharisees do not see, and mockingly ask whether they are blind. Jesus tells them in essence that if they realized they were blind, they would be given sight, but since they think they see, they remain dead in sins.

8. What do the Sheep do right?

- the sheep hear his voice
- the sheep follow him: for they know his voice
- a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
- the sheep did not hear them.
- they shall hear my voice;
- My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me

9. Why don't others do the same?

"But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep."

10. Conclusion

That's the simple truth of monergistic salvation. The sheep do hear and follow, but they do so because they are the sheep. The others do not, because they are not Christ's sheep. Christ is our Good Shepherd, who was prophesied by Jacob:

Genesis 49:24 "...from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:"

David also prophesied of Jesus in Psalm 23:

Psalm 23:1 (A Psalm of David.) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

(Its worth noting as an aside against the Ebionites that this is Jesus being referred to as Jehovah.)

Asaph likewise prophesied of Jesus in Psalm 80:

Psalm 80:1 (To the chief Musician upon Shoshannimeduth, A Psalm of Asaph.) Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

Isaiah, that great prophet of God, likewise prophesied:

Isaiah 40:10-11
10Behold, 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. 11He 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.

(again, Jesus is identified with Jehovah)

The weeping prophet, Jeremiah prophesied the same thing:

Jeremiah 31:10 Hear the word of the LORD, O 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.

Ezekiel also:

Ezekiel 34:12 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.

It is this Shepherd whom John and the other evangelists preach to you, and which confirmed by the other Scriptures:

Hebrews 13:20 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,

1 Peter 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

Let us give thanks unto the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the Sheep through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

-Turretinfan

2 comments:

Godith said...

Nice article on sheep. Isn't it great what God uses to teach us--lowly animals? Though I like systematic theology, give me God's Word as written to touch my heart and enter into my mind as nothing else.
--Godith

Turretinfan said...

Godith, Thanks!

Lucian,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, it was your sending me that link in which you make some broad assertions regarding the chapter that spurred me to complete the post above.

-Turretinfan