“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.”
There are some people among the fallen sons of Adam whom God almighty has purposed to save. They are called “his own sheep.” These sheep are sinners loved of God with an everlasting love, chosen by him unto salvation, and redeemed by Christ the Good Shepherd. They shall, each of them, be called to life and faith in Christ by the power of God’s irresistible grace at his appointed time and preserved in him unto everlasting glory.
Sheep and Goats
According to the Word of God, the whole human race is divided into two categories: sheep and goats. Sheep never become goats; and goats never become sheep. Our Lord plainly tells us that some men and women are his sheep; and some are not his sheep. Some are goats (Matthew 25:31-33; John 10:16, 26). This division of the human race was made in eternity in God’s sovereign purpose of grace in eternal election. He chose some to salvation and passed by others.
This division is made manifest in time, at the time of love, when the sheep are called by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the gospel to life and faith in Christ. The call of the Spirit and our resulting faith in Christ do not make the division or make us sheep; but the call of God and the gift of faith in Christ make the division manifest, and make it manifest that we are Christ’s sheep, chosen, redeemed, and called by grace.
This division of the human race is a permanent, immutable division. — Sheep never become goats; and goats never become sheep.
Lost and Found
As the human race is divided into two categories (sheep and goats), so, too, the Lord’s sheep are divided into two categories: straying sheep and returned sheep, lost sheep and found sheep, wandering sheep and folded sheep. This is what Peter tells us in 1st Peter 2:25. — “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
Whenever I preach the gospel, my mind is upon the sheep. My heart is fixed upon the sheep. I am not much interested in goats. I am on the trail of Christ’s sheep. I have nothing for goats. And I am not disturbed by goats. My business is with sheep. I am seeking the Lord’s sheep who are lost. I am sent of God to feed those sheep who are in the fold. Having my mind and heart fixed upon the sheep, I know that I have a good and noble object, and that I am in harmony with the will of the Shepherd, because the Shepherd’s mind is ever upon his sheep. The Shepherd’s heart is always upon his sheep. The Good Shepherd’s glory is wrapped up in and is one with the salvation of his sheep.
The Lord Jesus often speaks of “my sheep.” He calls his people “his own sheep.” But how did he get his sheep? How did those who are his sheep come to be his sheep? I can find only four ways by which a shepherd can obtain the possession of sheep. Here are four ways in which God’s elect belong to Christ as sheep belonging to a shepherd.
- A man can come into the possession of sheep by a gift; and we were given to Christ as his sheep from eternity in the covenant of grace, and in time by the effectual call of the Holy Spirit (John 6:37-40). Those the Father gave to the Son from eternity, and those he is now giving to the Son in effectual calling, and those who come to believe on the Son by the gift of his grace, and those whom it is the Father’s will that Christ raise up to eternal life at the last day are all the same people. They are “his own sheep!”
- A man may also obtain the possession of sheep by lawful purchase; and the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Good Shepherd, purchased his sheep out of the hands of divine justice by the lawfully demanded price of his own precious blood (John 10:11, 15).
- Third, if a man owns a flock of sheep and those sheep give birth to other sheep, then the new born lambs belong to the original owner by birth. So it is that we belong to Christ instrumentally by birth, too (Isaiah 66:8).
- And, fourth, a man may become the owner of sheep by inheritance. If the original owner gives his sheep to another person as his inheritance, then the sheep become his property by inheritance. We are the inheritance of our dear Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are called “God’s heritage” (1 Peter 5:3; Ephesians 1:18; Psalm 2:8).
10 Bible Descriptions
I have searched the Scriptures and found ten things plainly revealed in the Word of God about those people who are called by the Son of God “his own sheep.”
1st All who belong to Christ as his sheep are chosen sheep (John 15:16; Ephesians 1:3-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Sheep love the doctrine of election. We know that had there been no election of grace there would have been no salvation by grace. Election is the sheep’s friend. And all sheep are the friends of election. They all confess…
“‘Tis not that I did choose Thee,
For, Lord, that could not be.
This heart would still refuse Thee,
Hadst Thou not chosen me.
My heart owns none before Thee.
For Thy rich grace I thirst,
This knowing—If I love Thee,
Thou must have loved me first.”
2nd All the Lord’s sheep are, by nature, straying sheep (Isaiah 53:6). “Sheep” — A more suitable word could not be found to describe us. It is ever the nature of sheep to stray. We went astray in our father Adam. We went astray from the womb, speaking lies. We went astray all the days of our lives, by willful, deliberate choice, each one to his own way, until God the Holy Spirit arrested us by his almighty grace (Ephesians 2:1-5).
We all know what it is to stray. None of us know how to return. Even after experiencing the grace of God in salvation, it is still the nature of our evil hearts to stray from our God. And, even now, when we stray, we would never return to him if he did not fetch us back to himself. Even now, we are compelled to cry, “Turn us, O God of our salvation and we shall be turned. Draw me, and we will run after thee.”
“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart. Oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above!”
None of the Lord’s saved sheep have any problem with the doctrine of total depravity. It is the bitter reality of our daily experience!
3rd I rejoice to read in the Word of God that all the Lord’s sheep are redeemed sheep (John 10:11, 15).
“Redeemed! How I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
Redeemed by His special atonement!
His child and forever I am!”
We have been eternally redeemed (Revelation 13:8), justly redeemed (Romans 3:24-26), particularly redeemed (John 10:25), vicariously redeemed (Galatians 3:13), and effectually redeemed (Hebrews 9:12). Talk to sheep about limited atonement, and they will rejoice. Tell them about effectual blood, and they will sing. Proclaim to sheep how that they have been particularly redeemed, and they will shout, “Hallelujah!” And they will honor the man who preaches that message as God’s messenger to their souls. Sheep honor the Shepherd’s precious blood.
4th At God’s appointed time, in the time of love, each and every one of those chosen, redeemed, straying sheep are called sheep (John 0:2-4). The Good Shepherd always seeks his sheep “‘til he find it.” And when he finds it, he always fetches it home by his almighty, effectual, irresistible call. This irresistible call is what David described as fetching grace, when he commanded Ziba, his servant, to go bring Mephibosheth to his palace, saying, “Fetch him!” So it is, in the time of love, that the Lord Jesus sends his Spirit to his chosen, redeemed, straying sheep, saying “Fetch him.”
Notice how the Good Shepherd describes this call here in John 10:2-4. Our Good Shepherd calls “his own sheep.” He never calls goats, but only “his own sheep,” his personally chosen, redeemed, predestinated sheep. When he calls his sheep, “they hear his voice.” He never calls in vain. “He calleth his own sheep by name.” That is a particular, personal, effectual call. And when the Son of God calls his sheep, he always “leadeth them out.” His call is an almighty, effectual, irresistible call.
God’s sheep rejoice in the knowledge of his almighty, irresistible grace. What sane man would quarrel with irresistible love? What sane man would be angered by infallible grace? What man in his right mind would ever get upset with a friend who snatched him from the jaws of death, when he was both unaware of his condition and unwilling and unable to do anything about it?
5th Every one of the Lord’s sheep are specially known sheep (John 10:27). The Lord Jesus says, “I know them.” The world does not know them (1 John 3:1). Before they are called, the church does not know them, the preacher does not know them, and they do not know themselves. Sometimes even after they are called churches and preachers do not know them. But Christ says, “I know them.” And that is enough! He knows them eternally. He knows them distinctively (Matthew 7:23; Romans 8:29). He knows them universally. He knows them wherever they are and knows everything about them. And he knows them savingly. All who are known by him are saved by him.
The Lord’s sheep rest in his love. We rest in his distinguishing knowledge of us. It is his knowledge of us, not our knowledge of him, that is the source and cause of our salvation, justification, eternal life, and assurance. The experience of eternal life is found in our knowing him; but the cause is in his knowledge of us. (Isaiah 53:10-11).
6th Our Lord Jesus declares that all his sheep are knowing sheep (John 10:14). Not only does The Good Shepherd know his sheep, he says, “I am known of mine.” They know him and “they know his voice” (John 10:4). The Apostle John explains this for us in 1st John 2:20-27. Goats are driven to and fro with every wind of doctrine, because they do not know the Shepherd’s voice. Sheep, all of them, know the Shepherd’s voice and follow it (John 10:4-5).
7th The Word of God tells us that all of the Lord’s sheep, as soon as they are called, are folded sheep (Ezekiel 34:11-15). When the Lord calls his sheep, he brings them into his fold. It seems to me that he is telling us here that he brings his sheep into his church. I realize that all true believers, when they are born of God are born into the church and kingdom of God. But Ezekiel’s prophecy refers not to the church in its universal aspect, but to the local church. So that the promise is this: — I will bring my sheep into the fold of a local church. Here he feeds them in a good pasture, refreshes them with living water, and causes them to lie down in peace and safety in this good fold.
I realize that many make light of believer’s baptism and church membership. I recognize that neither baptism nor church membership has anything to do with our salvation. But we must never be seduced into thinking that the ordinances of Christ and the church of Christ are non-essentials. I cannot find in the Word of God any evidence that the Lord’s sheep are found outside his fold once they have been called Ezekiel 20:37-38). All Christ’s sheep follow him into the watery grave of believer’s baptism. And all Christ’s sheep dwell with him and his sheep in the fold. Sheep need each other. They are never found alone unless they are either lost or sick.
8th All the Lord’s sheep are following sheep (John 10:4, 27). None of the sheep follow the Shepherd by nature. Yet, our Lord says, “They follow me.” How can both things be true? The answer is simple. The Shepherd causes the sheep to follow. Yet, he causes them to do so in such a way as to make them perfectly willing to follow him. He entices the sheep to follow him by his goodness. He lovingly forces his sheep to follow him with his rod. But the sheep, all the sheep, do follow the Shepherd. They follow the doctrine and counsel of his word, the direction of his Spirit and the revelation of his will. They all “follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth” (Revelation 14:3-4).
9th Our Lord Jesus assures us that all his sheep are secure sheep (John 10:28-30). In this world the sheep must face many dangers. Many wolves seek to devour them. Their own flesh is ever opposed to them. The devil seeks by every means to destroy them. And the world, both the religious world and the material world, are instruments by which our adversary the devil seeks our ruin. But in the midst of all our enemies and all our dangers, all the sheep are perfectly safe. We are in the hands of our dear, almighty Shepherd. And he and his Father are one. That is a simple declaration that our security is to be found in the Persons of the triune Godhead. The Father’s purpose cannot be defeated. The Son’s blood cannot be wasted. The Spirit’s seal cannot be broken. Immutable grace cannot be altered. Omnipotent power cannot be subdued. The will of God cannot be resisted.
10th The Word of God speaks of some sheep in a very singular way. They are called “other sheep” (John 10:16). Our Savior says, “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.” These other sheep belong to Christ as surely as the rest. The other sheep have been redeemed by Christ. The other sheep are safe and secure in the hands of Christ. The other sheep shall be effectually called by Christ. If you are one of these “other sheep,” the Good Shepherd says concerning you, “Them also I must bring.” If you are one of these “other sheep,” the Good Shepherd will get you. He will return you to himself.