Calvary Road Baptist Church

“FINDING HIS SHEEP”

John 10.27-28

 

God has been longsuffering in His dealings with men for thousands of years. Over the course of those millennia, God has seen fit to communicate to us, frequently using imagery and symbols to help us to understand His truth. To help you grasp the Savior’s dealings with sinners to bring them to repentance and faith in Him, I want you to follow me through the Bible as God gradually reveals something to mankind.

We begin with Genesis 4.2, where we find a brief record of Adam and Eve’s second son, Abel, and take note of the way he is contrasted with his older brother Cain, who would slay him: “And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Here we find the very first reference in God’s Word to sheep, in favorable connection with Abel, who was victim of the first homicide at the hand of his brother, Cain. The First Mention Principle in interpreting God’s Word shows us that Abel, a keeper of sheep and a type of Christ, lends significance to sheep.[1] If sheep have significance in the Bible, then a consideration of sheep through the progressive revelation of God’s Word should prove to be very informative. Most of you already know this to be the case.

In Exodus 12.5, we see that when the Passover was instituted in preparation for the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, a male lamb of the first year without spot or blemish was to be sacrificed, from the sheep or from the goats. In Exodus 22.1, we find that the theft of a sheep required the restitution of four sheep as payment. Thus, sheep are associated with Abel, the first man to offer a sacrifice, are then shown to be a fit sacrifice, and are also shown to be valuable, requiring that four sheep be paid for every sheep that is stolen.

Moving ahead four centuries, approximately one thousand years before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we find further developments of thought associated with sheep. Psalm 44.11 reads, “Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen.” God’s people are now likened to sheep. In verse 22 of the same psalm we read, “we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” The imagery of people being similar in some ways to sheep begins to come into sharper focus. In Psalm 78.52, the metaphor is repeated: “But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.” Listen, also, to Psalm 79.13: “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.” Psalm 95.7 reads, “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” Psalm 100.3: “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”

I would like you to turn to Psalm 119.176. Notice the first portion of the verse: “I have gone astray like a lost sheep.” The psalmist likens himself to a straying sheep. I believe we now have a good backdrop against which three passages in the prophets can be more clearly appreciated.

First, turn to Isaiah 53.6-7 and read with me:

 

6      All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7      He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

 

We see, in this passage, that everyone can be compared to sheep who have gone astray. We also see that our prophesied Substitute, Who we recognize to be our Lord Jesus Christ, “is brought as a lamb to the slaughter” in our place. Jeremiah 50.5: “My people hath been lost sheep.” The last passage we will turn to in the Old Testament is 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.”

Over the course of more than two thousand years, God created in the minds of those who read and believe the Bible an imagery in which people, God’s people, are likened to sheep, sheep that wander and go astray, sheep that Jehovah promises to some day be among and seek out, and deliver. So you see, when the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled Jehovah’s promise “in the day that he is among his sheep” by coming on the scene, and He was introduced by John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world,” those familiar with the Hebrew scriptures took notice.[2]

Notice, also, what the Lord Jesus Christ’s attitude and comments reveal to us about comparisons to sheep. In Matthew 9.36, no doubt reflecting the Savior’s sentiments, we read, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Consider, also, His comments related to the ninety-nine sheep and the one lost sheep, in Matthew 18.11-13:

 

11     For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

12     How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?

13     And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.

 

The passage we just read clearly shows the spiritual and eternal implications of people being compared to sheep. Matthew 25.31-33 and 46 show us in Jesus’ own words what these serious implications happen to be:

 

31     When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32     And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33     And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34     Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

 

46     And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

 

To summarize: There are places in scripture where all sinners are likened to straying sheep, with the imagery of sheep applying to everyone. However, there are other contexts in which sheep are contrasted with goats, signifying the one group’s eternal destiny being life eternal and the other group’s eternal destiny being everlasting punishment. In those passages, only those who are Christians or who will become Christians are referred to as sheep.

Just such a portion of scripture is John chapter ten. It is too large a passage for us to read today, though it would be a blessing to you to read the entire chapter when you are at home. However, there are several verses, which are especially significant in light of the development in the Bible of this imagery of certain people being likened to sheep. In John 10.11, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” The Good Shepherd gave His life on Calvary’s cross for His sheep. In John 10.26, He said, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.” Some of those assembled in Jesus’ audience were obviously not His sheep. Those who are not His sheep do not believe. However, it is interesting to note that some who are His sheep do not yet believe, sheep being a term applied not only to those who are Christians, but also to those who will become Christians.

How are we to distinguish Christ’s sheep from those who are labeled by our Lord as goats? Jesus tells us Himself, in John 10.27-28: “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.”

Lest you think this entire passage is only about His dealings with the Apostles, with no application to you and me, listen to John 10.16, where Jesus said, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice.” With this likeness of people to sheep being firmly established, let me bring three matters to your attention this morning:

 

First, JESUS WARNS YOU

 

Does it need to be explained to you that the reason the minister of the gospel warns you to turn from your sins is because Jesus loves you? You surely do not believe that through all the disappointment, discouragement, betrayals, and spiritual opposition that are faced in the gospel ministry that the love the preacher has for you will be sufficient, do you?

My friend, no preacher’s love for you is sufficient to sustain him in the ministry, with all its obstacles, with all its disappointments, with all its disillusionments, with all its discouragements. However, there is the love Christ has for you, Second Corinthians 5.14, where the Apostle Paul writes, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” The Apostle declared that it was Jesus Christ’s love for the Corinthians that worked through his life and ministry to declare unto them the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to warn them to turn from their sins. They were dead in trespasses and sins, their situation was obviously hopeless, and only turning to Christ could save them.

Therefore, you see, the reason the Son of God gave His life on Calvary’s cross was to express His love for you. Was it Augustine who wrote that the cross was the pulpit from which Christ declared His love for sinners? The reason He bore your sins was His love for you. The reason He sent the Holy Spirit to convict you of your sins was His love for you. And the reason He calls men into the gospel ministry, fits them for service over the course of years, and compels them to preach Hellfire and damnation sermons to warn you off of your wicked ways is because He loves you.

If He did not love you, He would not warn you. If He did not love you, he would not send His men to warn you. Will you heed His warning?

 

Next, JESUS WOOS YOU

 

Do you know what it is to woo someone? To woo someone is to persuade, to coax, to influence, and to seek. If a man is wooing a woman to marry him, courtship may be involved, or perhaps some type of urging is resorted to in an effort to persuade the woman to marry him.[3]

Does the Lord Jesus Christ not make use of His ministers to woo you to yield to His advances, to surrender to His will, to succumb to His glory, to bow to His majesty, to embrace His power to save you from your sins, to receive His life-giving forgiveness?

Does He not rehearse to you through Christian music and the psalms the joy unspeakable and full of glory of the Christian life, the liberty from guilt and bondage to sin of the cleansed soul? Does He not dispatch His messengers to rehearse to you repeatedly the old, old story, those wonderful words of life?

You know as well as I do that wooing someone involves so much more than reciting bare facts. Most of you already know the bare facts. Because of Adam’s first sin, you were born into sin, leaving you dead in trespasses and sins and completely guilty before God. Add to that your own willful sinning, and you certainly deserve the eternal torment of the damned that die without Christ’s forgiveness. However, for reasons known only to Him and the Father, Jesus loves you. He really and truly loves you so much that He died on the cross of Calvary as a divine substitute, suffering the punishment of God on your behalf, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. Why did He do what He did on Calvary’s cross? He wants you, and He wants you now. He would hug you in His bosom if only you would let Him. The Devil, on the other hand, will either try to convince you that you are too wicked for Jesus to really and truly love, or he will try to convince you that delay in responding to Christ’s love is in order for some reason. Both are lies. Jesus loves you too much to let you die in your sins without extending His hand to save you, and He loves you too much to delay His offer to save you. You can take Jesus by faith, and you should take Him by faith now. That is the goal of all His persuasions, and that is the end of all my persuasions: “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”[4]

 

Third, JESUS SAVES

 

If you respond to Jesus’ warnings, and if you will react to Jesus’ wooings, He will save you. How do I know Jesus will save you? He said He would. Remember that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and He said, “Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11.28. By the way, you will respond. Since you are one of Christ’s sheep, you will hear His voice through scripture and preaching, and you will follow Him. Remember what we just read? “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life.”

Look at this entire matter in another way. I read from John chapter six:

 

39     And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.

40     And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

 

44     No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

 

If you are Christ’s sheep, you have been given to Christ by God the Father, and He will not lose you, but will raise you up again at the last day, verse 39. It is the will of the Father that every one who believes on Jesus will have everlasting life, and Jesus will raise him up at the last day, verse 40. Verse 44 shows us that the Father not only sent Jesus, but He also draws sinners to Jesus. How can you know the Father has drawn you? If you come to Jesus, the Father drew you; else, you would not have come.

Thus, we see that Jesus saves, He saves from sins, and Hebrews 7.25 declares that He saves to the uttermost those who come to God by Him.

 

There are assembled in this auditorium this morning both sheep and goats. I have no idea who among those of us in this room who are not presently Christians are goats and who are sheep. The most obvious characteristic of goats is that they will not hear Christ’s voice and follow Him, and He will not give unto them eternal life. Sheep, on the other hand, are those who do hear Christ’s voice in scripture and in preaching and do, eventually, follow Him. To sheep, He will give eternal life, and they shall never perish.

If I may make an observation about God’s decision to characterize those who follow Jesus as sheep and those who do not as goats, it would be this: Sheep follow a shepherd, while goats must be driven by a goatherd. Can you be led, or must you be driven?

As prone to wander as sheep are by nature, they will follow their shepherd. The question you need to ask yourself, then, which will tell you a great deal about your eternal destiny, is whether or not you hear Christ and follow Him. A sinner is a sheep even before he comes to Christ if he is numbered among those who will eventually come to Christ. What does such a person do? Even before he comes to Christ, he decides to follow Christ. Having decided to follow Christ, he will eventually come to Christ and be saved.

Are you among those who have decided to follow Jesus? You may not be saved yet. You may even be discouraged about something or other. However, if you decide to follow Jesus, if you listen for the sound of His voice in the preaching of the gospel and in God’s Word, you will eventually come to Christ and He will give you eternal life, and you will never perish.

My ministry, and the ministry of this church, is to employ the means given to us by the Savior to find His sheep. My sincere desire is that you are among those who will be found through the preaching of the gospel.



[1] J. Edwin Hartill, Principles of Biblical Hermeneutics, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1947), pages 70-72.

[2] John 1.29

[3] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 2103.

[4] 2 Corinthians 5.11



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org