Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST: ITS METAPHORS (flock)” Part 2

 

This second in a series of messages is focused on the church of Jesus Christ. In our study of the church of Jesus Christ we observe that use is made of metaphors and other figures of speech for the purpose of providing us with a greater and more thorough understanding of the nature and function of the church of Jesus Christ.

We know the church of Jesus Christ is the body of Christ.[1] We know the church of Jesus Christ is the temple of God.[2] We know the church of Jesus Christ is a priesthood.[3] Last week we began to explore the metaphor of the church of Jesus Christ as a flock. The challenge arises when it becomes apparent that the nation of Israel, specifically the kingdom of Judah (which would include those from the north tribes of Israel who had migrated to the kingdom of Judah region over the years), is described as “the LORD’s flock” by the prophet Jeremiah and the prophet Zechariah, while the metaphor “the flock” is also found in the New Testament as a label for the church of Jesus Christ. However, the two flocks are not the same. Israel is not the church and the church is not Israel, though the flock metaphor is used in both testaments. The flock in the Old Testament refers to the nation of Israel, an entity bound to God by covenant into which mostly unregenerate physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were physically born and circumcised. The church of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is comprised of saved individuals from every kindred, tongue, and tribe, both Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians who have been baptized by immersion following their conversion to Christ.

Though it is comparatively easy to correlate passages in the New Testament related to the church that are written to churches or that contain the word translated church in them, too often passages intimately related to the church of Jesus Christ are completed dismissed as instructive about the church of Jesus Christ because use is made of a metaphor that goes unrecognized by so many. Such is the case in John 10.1-21 where the Lord Jesus Christ speaks after having just restored the sight of the man born blind in John chapter 9. He speaks to false shepherds (Pharisees) who have no care for the sheep. However, it must be understood that He speaks for the benefit of His apostles who will serve as His undershepherds. Keep five things in mind as we make our way through the passage; Jesus Christ as the Door, the sheep of Israel as a flock in the sheepfold, then the Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd, His calling of His sheep out from the sheepfold, and the other sheep He has that are not of the sheepfold initially referred to.

We consider now to John 10.1-21. When you find that passage please stand for the reading of God’s Word:

 

1      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.

2      But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

3      To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

4      And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

5      And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

6      This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.

7      Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

8      All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

9      I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

10    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.

11    I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

12    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.

13    The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

14    I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

15    As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.

16    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.

17    Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.

18    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.

19    There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.

20    And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?

21    Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?

 

This passage is easily recognizable as falling into four parts: In the first five verses our Lord rehearses important facts known to anyone of that era who knows anything about sheep and shepherding. In verse 6 the apostle provides a brief explanation to his readers. In verses 7-10 the Lord Jesus Christ identifies Himself with the declaration “I am the door of the sheep.” Verses 11-18 is built upon the Lord Jesus Christ’s statements “I am the good shepherd.” Verses 19-21 concludes the passage by rehearsing the dispute among those the Savior was speaking to.

I propose to deal with each of these five unequally-sized portions of the passage separately:

 

First, OUR LORD REVIEWS THE EXPERIENCES OF THE FLOCK

 

Allow me to first provide a bit of background from Arthur W. Pink before we read verses 1-5:

 

“It will probably be of some help to the reader if we describe briefly the character of the ‘sheepfold’ which obtains in Eastern lands. In Palestine, which in the pastoral sections was infested with wild beasts, there was in each village a large sheepfold, which was the common property of the native farmers. This sheepfold was protected by a wall some ten or twelve feet high. When night fell, a number of different shepherds would lead their flocks up to the door of the fold, through which they passed, leaving them in the care of the porter, while they went home or sought lodging. At the door, the porter lay on guard through the night, ready to protect the sheep against thieves and robbers, or against wild animals which might scale the walls. In the morning the different shepherds returned. The porter would allow each one to enter through the door, calling by name the sheep which belonged to his flock. The sheep would respond to his voice, and he would lead them out to pasture.”[4]

 

Read once more John 10.1-5:

 

1      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.

2      But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

3      To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.

4      And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.

5      And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.

 

Verses 1-5 is a literary device that is unique to the New Testament, which I will explain in greater detail after we have carefully considered the passage:

 

Verse 1: “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.”

 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you,” or “Amen, amen, I say unto you,” should be recognized as signifying a very important statement or declaration made by the Lord. However, there is something else about double amen statements in John’s gospel to take note of. John writes in such a way that none of the Lord’s discourses ever begins in this gospel with a double amen statement.[5] That suggests that what we have here is very definitely a continuation of what was begun in John chapter 9. In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ is in the middle of a serious comparison of Himself to the Pharisees, showing that by contrast He is the legitimate shepherd and they are frauds. “. . . He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” Who of those familiar with the care of sheep in that culture would argue with this rehearsal of truth? There is only one way into the sheepfold and one way out of the sheepfold, and only thieves and robbers seek to gain entrance any other way than by the door of the sheepfold.

 

Verse 2: “But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.”

 

There are only two types of men who would seek to gain entrance to the sheepfold, the shepherd of the sheep being legitimately authorized to enter in, with the thief and the robber being illegitimate and seeking entrance by other means. Simple. Indisputable.

 

Verse 3: “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.”

 

Of course, the porter is the fellow charged with the responsibility of guarding the sheep at night once they have been brought into the sheepfold. It is his job to open the door to the sheepfold and to close the door to the sheepfold, as well as to allow only shepherds to come in to call his sheep to follow him out to pasturage for the day.

 

“and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.”

 

Shepherds in the East tend to their flocks differently than shepherds in Europe. The Basques of Northern Spain and shepherds throughout Europe in the British Isles use sheep dogs to drive their flocks. In the Middle East, however, shepherds are far more intimate with their flocks, giving each sheep a name and each sheep of the flock recognizing and responding to the voice of the shepherd. Thus, in this picture painted with words our Lord shows the shepherd to be the leader of the flock rather than one who merely herds the flock. Implicit in this concept of a sheepfold is the idea that more than one flock would be penned inside at night and that a sheep would respond only to his shepherd’s voice. Important to point out here is that each sheep is called individually by the shepherd, the flock was not called in or out as a group. That, I am convinced, is an important feature of this entire passage.

 

Verse 4: “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.”

 

Thus, the common pattern of shepherding is known to one and all. Even those who do not make their living as shepherds recognize from the culture they have grown up in that shepherds lead their sheep and do not drive them, that sheep follow their own shepherd and no one else, because they recognize the voice of their shepherd.

 

Verse 5: “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”

 

What is stated here needed to be said, though it was already understood by everyone who originally heard the Savior’s words. Sheep will not follow a stranger. Sheep will run away from a stranger. And this is because sheep do not recognize the voice of a stranger.

 

Next, THE APOSTLE OBSERVES THE PHARISEE’S FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND

 

Verse 6:         “This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.”

 

Please take note of the word that is translated parable. What we understand to be parables are actually found only in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the gospels, not the gospel according to John. The word used here is not the Greek word parabolh, but the word paroimianwhich is a specific kind of parable known as an allegory.[6] Allegories typically have more points of comparison between the reality that is being described and the word picture used to portray it than do parables. Thus, it should have been easier for the Pharisees to understand what the Lord Jesus Christ said in verses 1-5 than if He had uttered a parable, yet they still did not understand what things He said to them.

Go back and read John chapter 9 when you get home and you will see that the Pharisees are the thieves and robbers, the blind man is the sheep, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the legitimate shepherd of the kind referred to in John 10.1-5. The sheep hear the Savior’s voice and follows Him, while the Pharisees responded to the undeniable miracle of his newly given eyesight by casting him out of the synagogue.[7] Yet the Pharisees failed to grasp what our Lord had said. Of course, they could not understand His words, since they were not His sheep and did not recognize the sound of His voice.

 

Third, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IS THE DOOR

 

At this point the Lord Jesus Christ begins to declare to His obstinate audience the first of His two great metaphors within this metaphor by pointing out specifically where He is to be found in the allegory of verses 1-5, and He does this in verses 7-10:

 

7      Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

8      All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.

9      I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

10    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.

 

Verse 7: “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.”

 

Again grabbing His audience’s attention by saying “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” the Lord Jesus Christ utters for the third time one of His important “I am” statements:[8] “I am the door of the sheep.” These “I am” declarations hearken back to the burning bush and God’s declaration to Moses in Exodus 3.14,

 

“I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”

 

It is important for us to understand at this point what the Lord Jesus Christ means by the declaration “I am the door of the sheep.” In addition to the obvious assertion of His deity by use of the “I am” phrase, the door here referred to should not be understood to be the door to the sheepfold. After all, no one referred to here became a part of the flock of the nation of Israel by entering in through the door which is Jesus Christ. Important to remember is that the sheep to whom the Lord is presently referring are all Jewish and that they are already penned in the sheepfold of the covenant nation of Israel under the authority of the Law of Moses. That said, most of the Jews who are in the sheepfold of Israel are not sheep as evidenced by the fact that they do not hear His voice and follow Him. When the Lord Jesus Christ declares Himself to be the Door of the sheep it must be that a different sheepfold is in mind than the one He calls His sheep out from.

 

Verse 8: “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.”

 

This is obviously not a reference to prophets sent by the LORD, men such as Samuel and Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah. The Lord is here referring to unauthorized men who did not represent God while claiming to speak for Him.

 

Verse 9:  “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

 

Again, our Lord declares “I am the door.” However, in this verse He explicitly claims to be the exclusive door by which any man entering in shall be saved. These two claims, He declares in verses 7 and 9, may echo Psalm 118.20, where we read,

 

“This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.”

 

There are two very important though not at all obvious truths we need to grasp to benefit most from this verse, paying careful attention to the two middle phrases: “by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” First, notice that the Savior indicated salvation is the result of entering in by Him. This is important to note since no sinner can save himself. Not only must a sinner pass through the Door from death to life, from sin to salvation, but that passing through must be accomplished, according to the Savior, “by me.” That is, no one saves himself. Sinners are saved by the Savior. Second, Do not mistakenly think that the words “if any man enter in” refers to entering the sheepfold. It does not. The fact is, for those Jewish people to enter in they had to actually leave the sheepfold of Mosaic Law Judaism, something most of them would not do because so many in that sheepfold were not, in fact, sheep. Then, the final phrase about going in and out to find pasture is a frequent theme describing God’s relationship with His people in the Old Testament.[9] Before moving on to verse 10, let me read a summary of verse 9 written by a wonderful commentator:

 

“‘I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.’ Seven things are enumerated in this precious verse. First, ‘I am the door’: Christ the only Way to God. Second ‘By me if any man enter’: Christ the Imparter of power to enter. Third, ‘If any man enter’: Christ the Saviour for Jew and Gentile alike. Fourth, ‘If any man enter in’: Christ appropriated by a single act of faith. Fifth, ‘he shall be saved’: Christ the Deliverer from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. Sixth, ‘he shall go in and out’: Christ the Emancipator from all bondage. Seventh, ‘and find pasture’: Christ the Sustainer of His people.”[10]

 

Verse 10: “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.”

 

It is abundantly clear from John chapter 9 that the Lord Jesus Christ is addressing the Pharisees who were so opposed to His ministry. In John 10.5 He refers to them as strangers (plural). In John 10.6 we are told that He was speaking to them (again, plural). In verse 8 He refers to them as thieves and robbers (plural for the third time). In this verse, however, our Lord speaks in the singular by referring to “the thief.” Who do you suppose He is referring to? The Pharisees are described in verse 8 as “thieves and robbers,” but this individual is one who comes “for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” Stealing is usually done by stealth. Destruction is typically accomplished by violence. And this word kill may be related to slain offerings. Who is our Lord alluding to? Could it be our Lord is powerfully contrasting Himself not only with the Pharisees, but also with the “idol shepherd” of Zechariah 11.15-17. Turn to Zechariah 11.15-17 and read with me:

 

15    And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.

16    For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.

17    Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.

 

I think this is likely the antichrist, with the Devil being the real genius who lies back of the Pharisee’s opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Devil is back of the insane denials of the implications of our Lord’s great miracles, and His rightful claim to be the Messiah of Israel. Those who are false shepherds are, like the idol shepherd, unconcerned about the health and welfare of the flock. What a contrast there is, then, between the counterfeit and the True. The verse concludes with one of the most wonderfully comforting statements of our Lord’s mission found in the Bible:

 

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

 

What a comfort to the sheep is the voice of our Shepherd. His motives are pure. His strength is unsurpassed. His wisdom is unmatched. His sovereignty should be unquestioned.

 

Time constraints require that we draw our study of John 10.1-21 to a close for today. Lord willing, and if our president and the U. S. Supreme Court does not further dismantle our constitution and our way of life, we will resume next Sunday night with a consideration of John 10.11-21.

If I may, let me tell you now where I wish to take you then. It is my purpose to show the importance of John 10.1-21 in God’s plan for Christians during the age in which we live by showing our the Savior revealed to His apostles in this passage that His sheep must hear His voice and come out of the sheepfold of Israel, leaving behind those who are not His sheep and who do not hear His voice.

As we consider His claim to be the Good Shepherd we will also see that He has other sheep not of this fold, which I understand to be sheep who come to Him from the Gentile nations. The Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep, while the hireling flees in the face of danger. What is not stated in this passage, but what I think the Lord Jesus Christ establishes a foundation for, is the new flock into which His sheep called out of the nation of Israel and from the Gentile nations will be gathered.

We must be careful not to demand too much from any parable or allegory. However, my own conviction is that this passage is one of two that is important to show that the church of Jesus Christ is the flock of the Good Shepherd’s sheep.



[1] http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.org/sermon.php?sermonDate=20150518a

[2] http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.org/sermon.php?sermonDate=20150524b

[3] http://www.calvaryroadbaptist.org/sermon.php?sermonDate=20150531b

[4] Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), Vol 2, pages 102-103.

[5] Andreas J. Kostenberger, John - ECNT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), page 299.

[6] A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol V, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1932), page 175.

[7] John 9.22-34

[8] John 6.35; 8.12

[9] Deuteronomy 28.6; Psalm 23.2; 79.13; 100.3; 121.8; Ezekiel 34.12-15

[10] Pink, page 115.


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org