1-6-13 Study Notes

10:14-15 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, [15] just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. [16] And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

The Mission of Christ

By saying that “I know my own and my own know me” Christ is saying that He is on a specific mission to rescue specific sheep.  This is what He’s been expounding upon and now by repeating it He gives even further emphasis to this.

Furthermore, Christ has more to say about the scope of His work.  For in verse 16 He says that He has “other sheep” to rescue as well – “not of this fold.”  And the end goal is “there will be one flock” – and this is certainly referring to the church of Christ.

So who are those who are “not of this fold”? These are the gentiles who are not part of the nation of ethnic Israel. He has specific sheep that He is rescuing from among all people’s on the earth. This speaks to what we call “particular redemption” or “limited atonement.”  The doctrine is described by Paul this way:

…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love [5] he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (Ephesians 1:4-5 ESV)

So the mission of Christ has been founded from before time began, and scope of this mission is worldwide (1 John 2:2). Paul is saying is that from the beginning God had a rescue plan for specific people – not all people, but specific sheep. These sheep (the “elect”) respond to their Shepherd because they have been united with Him through faith and by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who exercises the will of the Father and of Christ; they are all of one mind (vs. 30).

Carson comments on the call of Christ the Shepherd, “Jesus comes to the sheep pen of Judaism, and calls his own sheep out individually to constitutes his own messianic ‘flock.’ The assumption is that they are in some way ‘his’ before he calls them.”

That’s a HUGE insight by Carson.  There is ownership here.  Christ has purchased you by His blood, when He calls you by the efficacious power of the Holy Spirit, He will make sure that His love overpowers your enmity toward Him. Carson later says, “Christ’s elect sheep inevitably follow him.” He will not allow the sheep He has purchased to go astray into the hands of robbers and thieves.  He will certainly complete the work; He will come and claim those for whom He died!

The Trinity as an Example

Lastly, although I just mentioned this, I love the appeal Christ makes to the Trinity here and it’s worth just looking over closely again because it permeates the teaching of Christ. He says, “Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” He will even go on to say in verse 30 that, “I and the Father are one.”  The word “just” in verse 15 signals to us here that Christ is making a comparison between His relationship with the Father, and His relationship with us, His sheep.

MacArthur comments, “In these verses, “know” has that same connotation of a relationship of love. The simple truth here is that Jesus is love knows His own, they in love know Him, the Father in loves knows Jesus, and He in love knows the Father.  Believers are caught up in the deep and intimate affection that is shared between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

That we can be united with Christ in this way is an amazing truth. He is talking about bringing us into a relationship with God, and there are a few things that ought to run through our minds when we think about what that mean – things we ought to be meditating on. For instance, this entire picture of the relationship between us and God, and between God and Christ is one that exudes love. The care and compassion of the shepherd for the sheep signals the sort of care and compassion that we will receive from our Shepherd. There are so many other things to consider here, but I think the love relationship between the trinity and its implications for our relationship with God are numerous and profound and worthy of our consideration and meditation.

10:17-18 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. [18] No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

The Reason…

This theme of love again permeates these verses, and Christ here expounds on what true love looks like in action. True love lays down one’s life for another man/woman. John wrote of this in his epistles, and Christ tells us that it is love – love for the Father, and love of the Father – that is the driving force behind His atoning death on the cross.

This ought to cause us to take a step back and ask if our actions are loving on a daily basis, and even ask if the larger plan and vision we have for our lives is being motivated out of love for God, and love for others. Can I say that what I plan on doing today, as well as my long-term vision for 5 and 10 and 25 years from now is being driven by love for God and others? I think we probably don’t plan that way normally.  Do we ask, “How do my plans show love for Christ? How can I adapt my plans or words to better glorify God and love others?”

These are difficult questions.  I don’t know exactly how to answer them, I’m sure that there are mixed answers – perhaps in some ways my life’s goals are motivated out of love, but perhaps they are mostly motivated out of greed, or self-seeking desires as well. These are questions that Christians alone must face. No unbeliever has to worry about these kinds of examinations. But if we are walking in the light, these kinds of questions ought to both encourage our hearts, and cause us to repent.

The Authority of Christ

The next thing we see in this passage is that Christ reiterates what He already told us in chapter five:

[19] So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. [20] For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. [21] For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. [22] The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, [23] that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. [24] Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

[25] “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. [26] For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. [27] And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. [28] Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice [29] and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:19-29 ESV)

In chapter five as I note above, we see that Christ has been given all authority by the Father. In fact, in 5:26 we see that Jesus Himself has “life in himself.”  That means that in His very being He has life – the power of being is a very profound thing that we don’t have space here to cover, needless to say that the authority to create life from nothing at all has been given to Christ, and He has been executing that authority for a long time.

Now, if Christ has the authority and power to create life ex nilhilo, then certainly He has authority and power of when and where He lays down His own life.

This ought to give us great confidence in the power and plan of Christ. No one did a single thing to Him that He did not allow to happen.  Such was the magnificent meekness of Christ, that He possessed complete power and ultimate authority, yet He yielded all of His rights to exercise the privileges of His deity during His first advent in order that He might in humiliation die a bloody death as a disgraced and rejected Jewish man.

Yet because He has this power of being (of life) within Himself, we are told that the grave could not hold Him (Acts 2:24). You see it is impossible for darkness to swallow up the light of life.  And Christ, who embodied life in His very being, would inevitably triumph over the grave.

This is why it should not surprise us that when He calls us, when He powerfully transfers us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, His voice alone is powerful enough not simply for us to recognize Him, but for Him to create new life within us. His sheep hear the voice of the one who has created within them a new life, who has made us a new creation!

10:19-21 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. [20] Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” [21] Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Just as in chapters 7 and 9, we see a division among the hearers of Christ. There are some who can’t stand what Jesus is saying, but others who are thinking logically and “swim upstream” as Henry puts it, and posit a more thoughtful/logical response (even if they aren’t believers yet).

I think there is also something interesting here about where life and the power of life comes from.  I just finished talking about how Christ had the power of life within Himself, and here we see that even the common folks of earth recognize that the Devil and his agents do not have this same power.  They state “can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” because demons don’t have that power – darkness doesn’t have the power of light. It is a logical impossibility.

Not only is it a logical impossibility, but it goes against all practical knowledge as well. What I mean by that is this: when was the last time you read of a demon doing something positive for mankind? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? That’s because it is. And yet that was the argument that the Pharisees used against Jesus, that He was of the Devil and used the Devil’s power to cast out demons (Luke 11:15).  Christ explained how this was a logical impossibility, and also just didn’t mesh with real life. Demons don’t help people, they don’t cast each other out, they don’t heal people – even if they could they wouldn’t!

10:22-23 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, [23] and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon.

The Feast of the Dedication was a relatively new feast, it was not an old testament feast but rather a feast that celebrated the Jewish freedom from the oppressive persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes.  Wikipedia actually has a pretty decent outline of the background that largely agrees with what D.A. Carson has to say as well:

The Feast of Dedication, today Hannukah, once also called “Feast of the Maccabees” was a Jewish festival observed for eight days from the 25th of Kislev (usually in December, but occasionally late November, due to the lunisolar calendar). It was instituted by Judas Maccabeus, his brothers, and the elders of the congregation of Israel, in the year 165 B.C. in commemoration of the re-consecration of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and especially of the altar of burnt offering, after they had been desecrated in the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes (168 BC). The significant happenings of the festival were the illumination of houses and synagogues, a custom probably taken over from the Feast of Tabernacles, and the recitation of Psalm 30:1-12.  J. Wellhausen suggests that the feast was originally connected with the winter solstice, and only afterwards with the events narrated in Maccabees.

10:24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” [25] Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, [26] but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

The Method of Christ

It seems to me that though Christ had been teaching these people, they did not like His methodology. Here they complain about His lack of clarity on the matter of His messianic role.

The Implication

When Christ says here that they don’t believe Him, He is saying that they don’t believe Him “because” of something.  There’s a reason attached, and that reason is because they are not His sheep.

The implication of this is that God must take the initiative to call them and create the belief within them before they will respond.  The ESV Study Notes put it well:

Those who belong to Jesus’ flock (i.e., those who are chosen by him) are those who believe. The reason people do not believe is because they are not among Jesus’ sheep, implying that God must first give them the ability to believe and make them part of his people with a new heart (see 1:13; 6:44). Eternal life (10:28) by definition can never be taken away (see note on 6:40), especially when Jesus’ sheep belong to him and to his Father.

Therefore, the fact that these people were still not able to understand what Christ was telling them signaled that they were not His sheep.  He even makes a distinction to serve as a sort of bookend the point, as if to say, “I’ve already told you who I am, and if you were one of my sheep you would already have picked up on this and be following me. Evidently you are not one of my sheep because you don’t follow me – and you aren’t my sheep because I have not enabled you to be my sheep.”

The idea that belief is a gift from God is not foreign to us, for we read of it in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

10:28-29 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

In this simple analogy of the shepherd and his sheep, there are many theological implications. We don’t have to read into the analogy too far to find them because Christ Himself brings to our attention exactly what He wants us to learn from the analogy.  He is quite explicit in this section of His teaching (contrary to what some in His presence felt), and in verses 28 and 29 He continues to explore some of the radical implications of our relationship with Him as our shepherd.

The Perseverance of the Saints

Perhaps no doctrine is more beloved among conservative Christians (I speak as a Baptist) than that of The Perseverance of the Saints.  The doctrine simply states that once one is born again, that person can never lose their salvation.

This belief is based on passages like the one we’re looking at now – as well as many others. For example, Paul says in Philippians that, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).

Here the picture is that no one will lose eternal life because of the power of Jesus to keep that life intact. “No one will snatch them out of my hand” indicates that Christ is powerful enough to keep us from death and hell (which are the same thing at the end of the day). What a beautiful truth to cling to!

A Love Gift from the Father

But in case His hearers were to be concerned about the power of Christ to live up to His word (I speak tongue-in-cheek), He takes this teaching a step further.  He claims that God the Father has given us who believe into His hands.  Who is going to believe that the Father would be thwarted?  No one – as Christ says for emphasis that “He is greater than all” to make this very point.

Therefore, we are a give of love from the Father to the Son. Think about that for a minute – that means that there is real value in each one of us.  We are valued because we are created by Him to bear the divine image. We are not valuable because of what we do, but simply because He made us and loves us. We bear His image and He is renewing us day by day so that we will be more and more like the Adam…the second Adam!

In Matthew 7 Jesus talks about how the Father knows how to give good gifts – this passage is referring to the blessings of God in common grace, and how He will take care of us. But it also reminds me of His character. He not only acts in love toward us, but also toward His son as well.  That is why it is so important to understand the nature and relationship of the trinity.  It helps us understand how God will relate to us if we understand His character and How the Father relates to the Son and the Son to the Father and so on. This has enormous implications for our hope for tomorrow, and our help for today. How we understand the trinity/the Godhead helps us understand the character of God in His dealings with us and consequently how we ought to deal with and behave (lovingly) toward others).

10:30 I and the Father are one.

The Shema in Deuteronomy six is echoed here.  The ESV Study Notes explain this, and also why it is that this would have caused such an angry reaction:

Jesus’ claim that I and the Father are one (i.e., one entity—the Gk. is neuter; cf. 5:17–18; 10:33–38) echoes the Shema, the basic confession of Judaism, whose first word in Deut. 6:4 is shema‘ (Hb. “hear”). Jesus’ words thus amount to a claim to deity. Hence, the Jews pick up stones to put him to death. Jesus’ unity with the Father is later said to constitute the basis on which Jesus’ followers are to be unified (John 17:22). As in 1:1, here again the basic building blocks of the doctrine of the Trinity emerge: “I and the Father” implies more than one person in the Godhead, but “are one” implies that God is one being.

One thing I especially note here is how the people expect a non-divine messiah.  They ask Him the question about His messianic role in verse 24, but they didn’t do it in order to bait Him into claiming deity so that they could then stone Him. Instead, they had a misconception about the nature of the messiah. They felt it would be a man – a great man yes, but not the Son of YHWY!  This is not at all what they expected, so the idea of deity and the divine nature of Christ had not entered their thinking, and, apparently from this text, it was very difficult for them to wrap their head this truth.

12-30-12 Study Notes

Introduction to Chapter 10

It’s important that we understand that this chapter’s dialogue flows directly on the heals of the encounters and dialogue Christ has in chapter nine. He has just healed a man born blind, and He is addressing the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day. These men scorned Him, and also threw the healed man out of the temple for his affiliation with Christ.

D.A. Carson comments, “The thematic break between ch. 9 and ch. 10 is not as radical as first appears. The healed man has been roughly treated by the religious authorities, and thrown out of the synagogue. What John next writes, then, is that many thieves and robbers destroy the sheep, while the good shepherd leads his own out from the sheep pen and into his own flock.”

10:1-5 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. [2] But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. [3] To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. [4] When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. [5] A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Jesus is saying that He is the shepherd and we are the sheep.
Philip Keller, who is an expert shepherd and student of all things sheep, says this about the way a sheep responds to his master’s call:

The relationship which rapidly develops between a shepherd and the sheep under his care is to a definite degree dependent upon the use of the shepherd’s voice. Sheep quickly become accustomed to their owner’s particular voice. They are acquainted with its unique tone. They knew its peculiar sounds and inflections. They can distinguish it from that of any other person.

But there is a third party involved: thieves/robbers. Carson comments on how Ezekiel 34’s backdrop helps us understand this passage, “the thieves and robbers are the religious leaders who are more interested in fleecing the sheep than in guiding, nurturing, and guarding them. The are the leaders of ch. 9, who should have had ears to heard Jesus’ claims and recognize him as the revelation from God, but who instead belittle and expel the sheep.”

In the ancient near east, sheep were not herded as they are today. Today we use other animals like dogs to heard them into the general direction they are to go. But during the time of Christ, sheep followed the shepherd walking behind him wherever he called them. R.C. Sproul notes that if one went astray, the shepherd would simply call out to that sheep and get its attention. The sheep would recognize the voice of its owner and pop back into line.

10:6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

How ironic that they didn’t understand His voice…

10:7-9 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. [8] All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. [9] I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

First, we see Christ laying forth another “I AM” statement. This one is based around exclusivity. He is saying He is the door to the sheepfold. In this analogy, heaven is the sheepfold, and Christ is the only way into that heaven. This is similar to when He would later claim to be the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except “by me” (John 14).

Another thing that struck me here was Jesus’ words “he will be saved” tied closely with “go in and out and find pasture.” Salvation is tied immediately with blessing. This He follows up with in verse 16.

Obviously when Christ says they will “go in and out” He is not saying the sheep looses his salvation by going in and out, for not only would that torture the metaphor, it would also contradict His own clear teaching on the matter in other places.

But what is so wonderful about this is the peace and provision that a green pasture provides. Christ our true and good shepherd takes care of us. He cares for us, and has compassion on us. He calls us by our names, He knows us intimately!

Carson’s comments are helpful:

That he calls his own sheep presupposes that several flocks are in the fold; the shepherd calls out this own. Near-Eastern shepherds have been known to stand at different spots outside the enclosure and sound out their own peculiar calls, their own sheep responding and gathering around their shepherd. This shepherd goes further: he calls his own sheep by name, which at the least means that he calls them individually.”

Certainly even in Scripture we aren’t unfamiliar with this intimacy, for God has shown it before in the Old Testament. He said through Isaiah, “But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Is. 43:1).

The whole purpose for our calling as His sheep is to be a special possession, a treasure for Him and also a light to the nations. This is a theme found in both the Abramatic Covenant and the Mosaic covenant (Deut. 7:6) and is fulfilled in the New Covenant Church. Listen to what Peter says:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Again the contrast between the thief and the shepherd. Here Christ contrasts not His position, or the reaction of the sheep, but rather what the end game is: death or life. But He doesn’t simply stop at death and life; He says that He came to give us abundant life. MacArthur comments that this “describes something that goes far beyond what is necessary. The matchless gift of eternal life exceeds all expectation.”

It reminded me of Jesus’ discussion with the woman at the well in chapter four where He said:

…but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14 ESV)

In past notes, I have made a point of citing this John 10:10 reference because I think it is such an important verse. Even from the beginning of Christ’s ministry at the feast at Canaan, He demonstrated that what He came to give was abundant. He was never stingy. He gave more wine than necessary (John 2:6-7), He gave more food than necessary (John 6:13), and He gives more life than we ever expected – more than we deserve.

10:11-13 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. [13] He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

Characteristics of Sheep

In a sermon on Psalm 23, C.H. Spurgeon said that sheep are both “dependent” and “foolish” creatures. We as Christians must come to a place where we understand our foolishness apart from the wisdom of God, and feel that true dependence on our great Shepherd is the only way to approach a successful Christian life.

This is something that King David felt acutely. Even though he himself was a great king and the shepherd of his people, he also knew that in the eyes of the Lord he was merely a sheep in the Lord’s pasture – and he was okay with that because he trusted the Lord’s provision and care for him and his nation. Matthew Henry notes that David and Jacob both knew what it was like to guard a flock. Listen to just a few of the ways David talks about the God as the shepherd of Israel:

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

You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (Psalm 77:20 ESV)

Then he led out his people like sheep​and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. (Psalm 78:52 ESV)

But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. (Psalm 79:13 ESV)

Sheep are some of the most unwise creatures. They need a lot of help to subsist day to day, and without the help of the shepherd they would be lost. In fact, without the shepherd they wouldn’t even know they were lost. They would wander and wander. Spurgeon comments, “Left to itself, it would not know in what pasture to feed in the summer, or wither to retire in winter.”

All of this, of course, leads us to ask the question Spurgeon asked his audience: do we perceive the necessity for our dependence on God? If not, it is likely that we are puffed up and prideful. This pride is antithetical to a right relationship with God.

This text also teaches us that Christ knows His sheep. He knows us so intimately that he calls us by name. Not simply do we hear the voice of our Shepherd, but we hear Him calling OUR name! This is why Jesus calls Himself the “good” shepherd. He isn’t simply “a” good shepherd, but “THE” good Shepherd because he knows us intimately and addresses us by our names.

Hirelings…Who Are These Guys?

I’m not sure this is the most important part of this analogy, but the hireling could be depicting several people. It could depict the lesser, more lazy stand-in shepherds who are idle with their flocks (as Matthew Henry notes), or it could have less of a negative connotation and mean those who are put in place by the shepherd to lead the sheep while He is away. Sproul contends for the later, saying, in short, we who are teachers and pastors and leaders of the flock are the “hirelings.” We are not the shepherd, only Christ is the shepherd of His flock. But those who are in leadership positions over us are here by His good purpose and direction. There is nothing dishonorable in being a hireling, but as we can see, the hireling has a hard time keeping the best interests of the flock in mind when a bear or a wolf comes calling. We naturally want to fend for ourselves. Again, I don’t think that this is a major theme in this analogy, but I wanted to address it nonetheless.

Christ the Good Shepherd and Greater Son of David

When Christ says he’s the “good Shepherd” he’s using the Greek word kalos, and as MacArthur says, it “refers to His noble character.” One of the most notable characteristics of a good shepherd is the fact that he is willing to lay down his life to save the sheep. This isn’t something that a hireling is willing to do because the hireling cares about his wages, whereas the shepherd cares about the sheep.

It’s an amazing thought that we have a God who is not only willing to commune with us, to let us know Him, to interject Himself in our lives to bless and keep us safe, but we have a God who is willing to Himself suffer humiliation and death on our behalf. That is quite and amazing love.
Ezekiel foretold the coming of a shepherd who would be greater than all shepherds of Israel in his striking prophecy in chapter 34 of the book that bears his name. Listen to what he says about the coming of the Good Shepherd:

[11] “For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. [12] As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. [13] And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. [14] I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. [15] I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. [16] I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.

[17] “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. [18] Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? [19] And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

[20] “Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. [21] Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, [22] I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. [23] And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. [24] And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.

“I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. [26] And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. [27] And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. [28] They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. [29] And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. [30] And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. [31] And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 34:11-31 ESV)

This striking passage portrays God a great Shepherd over His people – a Shepherd who “will seek the lost” and who will “bring back the strayed.” Further He promises to “strengthen the weak” and “bind up the injured.”

Does this not fit will with Christ’s mission to “seek and save that which is lost”? Ezekiel says God “will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey.”

Furthermore, look at the fulfillment of Christ as the coming better fulfillment of David. Ezekiel speaks for God saying, “I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall fee them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them.”

The next thing He goes on to say is that along with this new and better shepherd comes a new and better covenant. God says, “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.”
He goes on to say He will break the bars of the yoke of slavery for His people. This is just an awesome prophecy of the amazing work of Christ as a great Shepherd, and as the greater fulfillment of David.

Separating Sheep from Sheep…

Lastly, Another thing that makes this passage pop so well is not only the character of God and His mission of compassion and love for His people, but also his saving them from the false religious leaders of both Ezekiel’s day, and Christ’s day – we saw earlier that those who do not enter by the door of the sheepfold were robbers or mischief makers. These people want to devour, and plunder the sheep and care only for themselves. Ezekiel has this to say about such people, “I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. Its it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feed?”

This distinguishing between “sheep and sheep” is directly related to what Christ says next…

Study Notes 8-19-12

This section covers John 6:48-54 and begins with Christ’s reaffirmation that He is the Bread of Life.  I regret that I didn’t record audio from today’s lesson, I simply forgot to do that, but hopefully these notes are sufficient for those who might have missed the lesson today.

6:48 I am the bread of life.

It is perhaps significant that Christ repeats this again and again. And it got me thinking once again about the importance of what He’s saying.  I see an obvious parallel between His desire to feed His sheep and the instructions He left with Peter at the end of this gospel.  He said to Peter:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” [16] He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” [17] He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  –  John 21:15-17

When Christ repeats something it means that its important, in fact, that was a sign of emphasis during New Testament times.  They didn’t bold or italicize words, they simply repeated them.  And what He says to us here three times He also tells Peter three times, namely that He is the Bread of Life, and that Peter (and the church) was to feed on Him and to pass that food along to others constantly and faithfully.

How Does This Look in Your Home?

But what does this look like in practice?  In your life, are you feeding on Christ, and what does that look like?  What it ought to look like is a constant devotion and passion for the Word.  You ought to be immersing yourselves in the Word as much as possible.  Those whom you love, you spend as much time with as possible, and the same is true with Christ.  That means stoking the passions of Scripture reading.  It means spending more time in prayer.  It means meditating on and memorizing Scripture.

6:49-50 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 

Much of this I have covered earlier, but Christ repeats it here again for a reason, namely to bookend this discussion by getting back to his earlier analogy about the nature of fulfillment and eternal life.  As Ryle says, “We must never be ashamed of repetition in religious life.”

At first Christ had given the example of manna, but had then explained the nature of salvation, and now He comes back to explain once again (with the fresh thought of His teaching on God’s sovereignty in mind) how what He said earlier fits into the discussion on His role in their salvation.

One thing that Christ adds here that He hadn’t mentioned earlier, is that, “the bread that I will give for life of the world is my flesh.”

This is simply another way of stating, “mankind can only achieve life through me.  Through my life, death and resurrection I will achieve righteousness and justification and finally glorification for humanity.”

Does He mean all of humanity?  Surely not, for that contradicts what has been said elsewhere (in fact just earlier in His explanation of God’s sovereignty).  But rather the word “world” is used to represent mankind as a race.  He is obviously not advocating universalism.

6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

I wanted address this particular verse separately.  Christ concludes this section by alluding to His flesh being the life He is giving (an elusion to the cross).  Ryle says, “The thought here is only an expansion of the one contained in the 35th verse…The meaning is that the soul of the man who feeds on Christ by faith, shall never die and be cast away in hell. There is no condemnation for him. His sins are put away. He shall not be hurt by the second death.”

But first let me look at one other thing, namely the nature of the claim as it relates to His person.

Dealing With the Claims of Christ

So many people in our day say that Jesus is a nice man, a good man, in fact.  They say that He was a great teacher, maybe, or that He was even a prophet (as Islam says).  But as C.S. Lewis said, “He has not left that open to us, nor did He mean to.”

Look at His words here.  He says, “I am the living bread…from heaven!”  He says He is from Heaven!  Then, He goes on to say something even crazier (if we are to think of Him merely as a good teacher) and states, “If anyone eats…he will live forever.”  He’s saying that He has eternal life.  You eat of this bread and you’ll live forever!  Do those sound like the words of a “good teacher?”  Do those sound like the words of a sane individual?  No.  If Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, the very Deity Himself, then He must be a lunatic because these statements are about as far fetched as any you’ll ever read.

In the course of your work week, or your trip to the store, or your gathering with friends, if someone brings up the fact that they think Jesus was a good teacher, or a good godly man, then you take them to John 6:51 and ask them if these are not the very words of God incarnate.  Because they aren’t the words of a finite man – at least not one we’d consider sane.

We must take Jesus for what He is.  We must realistically deal with these claims and come to grips with the Person of Christ.

6:52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Once again the Jews get stuck on the metaphor rather than on the meaning of the metaphor.  Their spiritual ignorance is not astounding, for we have seen earlier that they did not have an understanding of the things of God.

For this very reason we must not be surprised when Roman Catholic leaders or television personalities like Pat Robertson who are supposed to be evangelical church leaders advocate for this or that shocking position, or fail to understand the gospel. We must not be surprised when they say things that are quite contrary to scripture.

Why just this week Pat Robertson said to a lady who had adopted children that she shouldn’t be surprised if a man didn’t want to marry her because her kids could “grow up weird” or even dangerous.  Russell Moore rightly condemned Robertson and helps us understand these types of comments better.  He said, “This is not just a statement we ought to disagree with. This is of the devil.”

There are two possibilities why these supposed leaders – like the Jews of Jesus’ day – don’t understand the gospel.  The first is that they are believers who have been led down a path of man-centered doctrine to a point that they now no longer put a priority on the gospel and have deadened their senses to the teachings of grace.

The second, and perhaps more obvious, is that their fruit reveals their deadness. One who is still dead in sin, will surely not understand the things of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:13).  Jesus told us that in order to see the kingdom of God, we must be born again.  “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit’” (John 3:5-6).

In other words, they are not followers of Christ; His Spirit has not quickened them. They are, in fact, part of the church of Satan.  For whoever is not under the control of the Spirit is surely under the control of Satan (Eph. 2:1-3).  Therefore, they will say and do things that are, of course, completely ignorant of what Christ and the Scriptures would say or have us do.

Augustine says that these men are completely unable to hunger for the bread and makes a great connection between the righteousness of Christ, and hungering for Christ, “This bread, indeed, requires the hunger of the inner man: and hence He saith in another place, ‘Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’ (Matt. 5:6). But the Apostle Paul says that Christ is for us righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30).  And, consequently, he that hungers after this bread, hungers after righteousness, – that righteousness however which cometh down from heaven, the righteousness that God gives, not that which man works for himself.”

What a great connection between our thirst for the righteousness of God, and Christ being our ultimate satisfaction for that righteousness.  Augustine explains a bit further, “God’s righteousness here means, not that wherein God is righteous, but that which God bestows on man, that man may be righteous through God.”

So these men were unable to hunger after Christ the way He was calling them to, and Ryle sums up what I’m saying: “Fallen man, in interpreting the Bible, has an unhappy aptitude for turning meat into poison.  The things that were written for his benefit, he often makes an occasion for falling.”

6:53-54 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. [54] Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

Early Church Historical Background

It was said by the Roman authorities of the early church that they were cannibals and atheists (among other things).  They were called cannibals because they participated in the Lord’s Super where they “at of the body and drank of the blood of Christ.”  Now of course we know this is simply an ignorant falsehood, but it was such a prevalent misunderstanding in the early days of the church that it was a main point of accusation and was one of the false reasons Christians were martyred by Roman Caesars. The reason they were called “atheists” was because they didn’t worship the pantheon of Roman gods.

Catholic Misunderstanding of the Passage

The Romanists (Catholics) have taken this verse incorrectly to mean that whoever participates in the Lord’s Super is saved.  They couldn’t be further from the truth.  As Carson says, “…if its primary reference is to the Eucharist we must conclude that the one thing necessary to eternal life is participation at the Lord’s table. This interpretation of course actually contradicts the earlier parts of the discourse, the least verse 40. The only reasonable alternative is to understand these verses as a repetition of the earlier truth, but now in metaphorical form.”

And so it seems obvious that Christ is not talking about a literal eating and drinking.  Though, as Ryle points out:

The plain truth is, there is a morbid anxiety in fallen man to put a carnal sense on Scriptural expressions, where he possibly can. He struggles hard to make religion a matter of forms and ceremonies, of doing and performing, of sacraments and ordinances, of sense and of sight. He secretly dislikes that system of Christianity, which makes the state of the heart the principle thing, and labors to keep sacraments and ordinances in the second place. Happy is the Christian who remembers these things, and stands on his guard.

So when Ignatius (as representing the Papists) says that the Eucharist is “the medicine of immortality”, Carson is right to respond that this view is “ruled out of court.”

A Correct Interpretation of the Passage

So what does Christ mean here?  Perhaps Augustine summed it up best in the Latin phrase, “Crede, et manducasti” which is to say, “believe, and thou hast eaten.”  The full context of what Augustine said is this, “For to believe on Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food.”

I’d further point out that each of Christ’s statements in this chapter are miniature gospel messages.  The amazing truths of the gospel are contained in each vignette.  Here Christ said that by eating His flesh and blood we will have life – not just life here on earth, but eternal life.  “Eating,” means partaking, it means believing in His bodily sacrifice for our sins.  Then it says that not only will we have eternal life, but that our bodies will also be raised up on the last day.  This is a complete gospel.  Take part in My sacrifice by believing in Me and you will have eternal life spiritually and bodily.

Rightly commenting on this verse the puritan Thomas Goodwin said, “Christ is as meat that man feeds on, chews, and digests, and whose stomach works on continually. The man lives on Him everyday; that is the application of faith.”  And Ryle adds, “We need food every day, and not once a week or once a month, and in like manner, we need to employ faith every day.”

Some Examination of American Christianity…Paying Lip Service to Christ

This passage, and Augustine’s commentary in particular, has brought to my mind the nature of our devotion and hunger for Christ here in America.  Christ is calling us to feast on Him, to seek His kingdom first, and says that He is all we’ll need to be satisfied. He is saying that He is sufficient for our life here and in the hereafter. Without saying it, He is ordering our priorities for us – priorities that we often pay lip service to, but don’t actually obey.  I’ve been calling our class to holiness, and we’ve been discussing how to further pursue holiness each day.

And so, I’m sure you’d agree with me, that it is a bit of a snare to us that we often fear getting too spiritual. We fear giving up a certain way of living, or some certain things we do.  For we find freedom in those things.  They may not seem like sin to us, but they may be distractions from a more satisfying life – the life of a Christian. Some might say that I go too far, or that these words might cause some to stumble into asceticism.  However, I’m clearly not advocating that!  The problem the American Christian Church finds in its body is not asceticism, but rather worldliness. We are far less like the Puritans and far more like the Catholics who (mostly) aren’t even Christ followers at all.  They simply play at church (you’d know what I mean if you ever attended a local Catholic service – they have no clue what they’re talking about, aimlessly wandering around in the dark, quoting scriptures completely out of context, mashing them together with other, as if its some kind of children’s rhyming game).

I fear that in today’s world, you might not know the difference between a Catholic and a Baptist if you were to talk with most of them.  Ah, but you say that we know the truth!  So we have the truth on our side. Well, I suppose that’s correct.  But if our outward life doesn’t conform to the holiness God demands of us, then how are we to tell the difference?  And what good is all that knowledge without any fruit. Your knowledge is rotting you from the inside out.

But I won’t let most American Christians off that easy because most Protestant Evangelical Christians in America today only think they have the truth on their side because they know that they are saved by faith and grace, and they don’t have to pray to a priest.  But if you ask them why, they can’t cite a single passage in Scripture, they can’t tell you how this came about, or why the distinction was made in the first place (much less the historical circumstances leading to the rediscovery of these truths in the 16th century).  Most American Christians would rather preach to you that their “free will” is intact than that God is sovereign (foolishness that’s nowhere found in the Bible).  In other words, having the truth doesn’t matter much when you don’t actually know the truth (Heb. 5:11-6:1).  We’ve lost that in America.  We need to get back to a frame of mind that is more humble, and more dedicated to the study of Scripture.  We must devote our entire lives to understanding and teaching these truths to our children and others.

The Importance of the Bodily Resurrection

One of the things that gets lost in the discussion of this great portion of Scripture is the fact that now 4 times Christ has mentioned the bodily resurrection.

This is something (the resurrection) that many of the Jews – particularly the Sadducees – were adamantly against. Paul gives a great deal of time in 1 Cor. 15 to discussing this, and we find that it is extremely important for understanding the plan Christ has for us.  This, if nothing else, shows His sovereignty over His creation.

He is, in affect, saying that God has complete power over life and death.  He will create spiritual life in whom He wishes, and He will raise those people (His creation) to an entirely new kind of bodily life at the resurrection.  There is no part of life on earth or in heaven that God does not control.  There is no part of the scope of redemption – spiritual or bodily – that He does not sovereignty reign over.

Ryle paraphrases, “It is though our Lord says, ‘this bread that cometh down from heaven is bread of such a nature that he that eateth of it shall never die. His soul shall not be hurt by the second death, and his body shall have a glorious resurrection.”  Note the dichotomy between the soul and the body in Ryle’s statement.

This entire discourse has been about salvation, both the nature and the method (and also the benefits) of salvation.  Throughout the discussion Christ has been emphasizing the sovereignty of God.  There is no getting around verses like 37 and 44 here.  In explaining all of this to these people (who are getting more than they even dreamed of asking for), Christ wants them to know that from all eternity He and the Father and the Spirit have had a plan for them.  This isn’t plan B, so to speak.

And in doing so, Jesus is explaining that the resurrection will play an important part in our future.  Christ will grant to us not only spiritual redemption, but also bodily redemption. What God does, He does completely.  He is not content to allow our bodies to remain in the ground rotting in remembrance of past sins and their resulting death.  He will wipe all of that away with the resurrection of the body.  Sin and its traces will be wiped off the face of the earth and all will be renewed.  There will be no sin and no death, and no reminder of the slavery to which we once were held captive!

Paul says this in 1 Corinthians:

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [21] For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. [23] But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. [24] Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. [25] For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. [26] The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Cor. 15:20-26

The Great Shepherd ‘Stands and Feeds’ His Sheep

What a great class today!  Wonderful insights and interactions today, a sweet time of fellowship.  When I got home, I took a few minutes to read this morning’s devotional from C.H. Spurgeon, and thought I would share it here (below) because of its strong ties to His being the Bread of Life.   Enjoy!

 

He shall stand and feed in the strength of the Lord.Micah 5:4

Christ’s reign in His Church is that of a shepherd-king. He has supremacy, but it is the superiority of a wise and tender shepherd over his needy and loving flock; He commands and receives obedience, but it is the willing obedience of the well-cared-for sheep, rendered joyfully to their beloved Shepherd, whose voice they know so well. He rules by the force of love and the energy of goodness.

His reign is practical in its character. It is said, ‘He shall stand and feed.’ The great Head of the Church is actively engaged in providing for His people. He does not sit down upon the throne in empty state, or hold a sceptre without wielding it in government. No, He stands and feeds. The expression ‘feed,’ in the original, is like an analogous one in the Greek, which means to shepherdize, to do everything expected of a shepherd: to guide, to watch, to preserve, to restore, to tend, as well as to feed.

His reign is continual in its duration. It is said, ‘He shall stand and feed’; not ‘He shall feed now and then, and leave His position’; not, ‘He shall one day grant a revival, and then next day leave His Church to barrenness.’ His eyes never slumber, and His hands never rest; His heart never ceases to beat with love, and His shoulders are never weary of carrying His people’s burdens.

His reign is effectually powerful in its action; ‘He shall feed in the strength of Jehovah.’ Wherever Christ is, there is God; and whatever Christ does is the act of the Most High. Oh! it is a joyful truth to consider that He who stands to-day representing the interests of His people is very God of very God, to whom every knee shall bow. Happy are we who belong to such a shepherd, whose humanity communes with us, and whose divinity protects us. Let us worship and bow down before Him as the people of His pasture.

Ravenous Sheep

This is a late night entry here, but I had to repost this because in light of some recent discussions about sheep, their nature and troublesome character traits, this seemed hilarious.

RC Sproul, Jr has a short column today about his own hilarious attempt to take care of three sheep a few years back.

Enjoy…

Ravenous Sheep

I had already failed my first test in becoming a gentleman farmer. Three years and roughly 200 chickens produced eggs for my family at a rate of roughly $1… each. A few years had passed though since my experiment in folly, and I was ready to try again. I purchased three recently weaned lambs, set up portable fencing on my land and became a shepherd.

Things went rather smoothly, until they didn’t. Two weeks into the experiment I looked out into my field and saw a third of the fencing was down. I raced outside to find two of the lambs safe and content, still eating grass. The third also had not run off. No, she had managed to turn the downed fence into a straight jacket. She had gotten herself hopelessly entangled, was on her side and kicking about wildly, tangling herself all the more. I remember grabbing one of the rubber “posts” and pushing the pointed metal end into the lamb’s side, trying to pin her down so I could begin to untangle her. She just kicked all the more. I was sweating, frustrated, and a smidge frightened, and screamed to this little one, my voice echoing across the valley, “Be still. I’m trying to help you.” That’s when I learned what it means to be a shepherd.

Most of us have a rather distorted, city-fied understanding of sheep. We remember from Sunday School that picture of Jesus, smiling as He carried that smiling lamb, the one, over His broad shoulders back to the 99. We never stopped to ask how that one managed to get so far away.

Now the world is full of failed shepherds. Some fail by confusing shepherding with bullying. Most fail by being hirelings, by just not caring. There is, however, a reason why sheep need shepherds, on earth, flesh and blood shepherds. Because sheep are sinners too. They don’t just wander off out of ignorance. They jump over fences to get at what has been forbidden them. They close their ears to the voice of the Master and follow their own downward path. They hide when they sense a shepherd has come for them. And when cornered they will hiss, bite and kick. Worse still, so often after being carried back to the flock they run off again. Some are so anti-shepherd it’s hard to tell if they’re even sheep at all.

Whenever I am blessed to visit another’s pulpit I always try to work this nugget into my address. I tell the gathered saints- “The hardest thing about being a pastor is not being poorly paid. If that needs to be fixed and you can, please do. The hardest thing about being a pastor isn’t the long hours. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call when you are in the emergency room. It does mean if you have a theological question at 9:30 Saturday night, try to wait until after Sunday service to ask. The hardest thing isn’t the lack of respect in the church and the world over his calling. If you can help there, please do. The hardest thing about being a pastor is the pain of watching the sheep you love banging their heads against the wall until their wool is like scarlet.” The hardest thing about being a shepherd is the pain of loving the sheep.

This, though, is the calling of the shepherd. Jesus repeatedly told Peter the implication of his love for Him- feed, tend, feed His sheep. He didn’t say the sheep would joyfully receive their food. He didn’t say they would return the shepherd’s love. He didn’t say they would run to you joyfully when you call them. He said to tend them, and to feed them, to love them. Feed them the Word. Love them. And know that the Great Shepherd of the sheep promises to turn the bloodiest of fleece into the whitest of wool, for them, and for you.

Study Notes 7-22-12

6:36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.

  • I think that what we have here is a perfect example of people seeing, hearing, and yet not believing the very words of Christ (the outward presentation of the Gospel message from the Monogenes Himself).  How can this be?  We often ask ourselves the same thing.  How can I present the gospel in any clearer terms?  Why won’t these people respond to this?  The reason is because they are still spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1) and that your talk is complete foolishness to them (1 Cor. 2:14).
  • Why could they not believe?  Jesus is about to explain that they don’t believe because they haven’t been called – “draw” is the word He uses here.  They can’t come to Him because “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  So this verse is a setup for what Jesus is about to tell them.
  • The lesson is this: God is completely sovereign over salvation.  When He calls someone with the inward call of the Holy Spirit that is when a man begins to see the light.  Until then, we are preaching foolishness, but it’s a foolishness we will continue to preach because it has the power of life, and God is pleased to use this foolish preaching of ours as the outward call that informs the inward call.

6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

  • What a magnificent statement by our Lord.  He says that even though these people won’t come to him (vs. 36), those who do come He will accept with open arms – “I will never cast out.”  The Savior is saying that for those who believe in Him, He will embrace them as His own.
  • For those who might have grown up in a culture or a church that taught that eternal security is not possible, this verse stands diametrically opposed to that kind of false teaching.  The Roman Catholic Church not only says that (due to mortal sins) salvation can be lost, but that to think of our eternal state as secure is puffed up and arrogant.  However, according to Christ, nothing could be further from the truth.  He will never cast out any who come to Him.
  • John Calvin puts it this way, “In the first place, he says, that all whom the Father giveth him come to him; by which words he means, that faith is not a thing which depends on the will of men, so that this man and that man indiscriminately and at random believe, but that God elects those whom he hands over, as it were, to his Son; for when he says, that whatever is given cometh, we infer from it, that all do not come. Again, we infer, that God works in his elect by such an efficacy of the Holy Spirit, that not one of them falls away; for the word give has the same meaning as if Christ had said, ‘Those whom the Father hath chosen he regenerates, and gives to me, that they may obey the Gospel.’”
  • Also, the word here “come”, as I detail elsewhere, is equivalent with “believe.”  John MacArthur puts it this way, “To come to Christ is to forsake the old life of sin and rebellion and submit to Him as Lord. Though John does not use the term ‘repentance’ in his gospel, the concept is clearly implied in the idea of coming to Christ.”
  • MacArthur cites a great Spurgeon quote to back up his statement, “You and your sins must separate, or you and your God will never come together.”

6:38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.

  • Christ is one with the Father.  His will is one with the Father – we have talked about this before.  And looking ahead to chapter 10, and Christ’s discourse on His role as the Good Shepherd, we see Him saying something similar, but even more explicit:

10:26-30 “…but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. [30] I and the Father are one.”

  • It’s important to remember that at this saying, the Jews began to pick up stones to kill Jesus.  This was a highly offensive statement.  Now, Christ didn’t get stoned here, for as radical as this statement it, He’s about to rock the minds of these men and women all the more…

6:39-40 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. [40] For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

  • Why is it that you will never lose your salvation?  Because Christ will lose nothing! Why is it that Christ will lose nothing?  Because that is the will of the Father.
  • Whether or not you commit a so-called “mortal” sin or not, the Lord Jesus Christ will not allow one person to slip from His hands.  What has been alive by the Holy Spirit cannot be made dead by a human being.  By the power of God the Almighty Creator of the Universe, you will be Christ’s adopted brethren for eternity, not by your will or effort, by the power of God.
  • You see, when God wills something it happens.  All forces of creation, both spiritual and physical, bow to his wishes.  He opens His mouth and the nations tremble.  By His words Satan is thrown down and bound.  By His will you are kept safe.  No one can cross His sovereign will.  What an amazing and comforting thought.
  • This verse also gives us a preview of the resurrection.  Jesus says that not only will He keep you safely in His hands, but that He will raise you up “on the last day.”  On the last day, we will see the final consummation of His power over the grave and of death and will realize the power of the resurrection – this time in our own bodies.  On that day, God will complete the work He has begun, and the saying that what is perishable will be raised imperishable will realize its completion. He will be redeeming more than your souls, friends.  He will be redeeming your bodies.  Paul talks about this at length in chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians:

15:20-23 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [21] For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. [23] But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.  

  • Commenting upon Jesus’ power and plan from election to glorification Calvin says this:

Besides, as the election of God, by an indissoluble bond, draws his calling along with it, so when God has effectually called us to faith in Christ, let this have as much weight with us as if he had engraven his seal to ratify his decree concerning our salvation. For the testimony of the Holy Spirit is nothing else than the sealing of our adoption, (Romans 8:15.) To every man, therefore, his faith is a sufficient attestation of the eternal predestination of God, so that it would be a shocking sacrilege to carry the inquiry farther; for that man offers an aggravated insult to the Holy Spirit, who refuses to assent to his simple testimony.

  • Therefore, when Christ says in verse 40 that, “I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day” He is saying that from beginning to end, from predestination, to calling and justification to adoption and resurrection to glorification, He will loose nothing, nor will the “will” of the Father be interrupted by the schemes of the Devil, the world – and/or even our own flesh!

6:41-43 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” [42] They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” [43] Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.

  • These Jews did not like Christ equating Himself with bread from heaven.  Christ was to them a stumbling block.  For they seemed to know from where Jesus came, and who His earthly parents were.  This made it all the more difficult to believe Him when He said that He had “come down from heaven.”
  • The word “grumble” here has definite parallels with the grumbling of the people of Israel in the Old Testament.  They were provided great manna from heaven, yet they still complained.  Here Christ has just explained that He is the bread from heaven that will forever satisfy them.  Like their ancient forefathers, they grumble. The reason was the same: unbelief.  When we don’t believe the words of God we grumble.  Grumbling is the outward fruit of unbelief.
  • That is why we must never grumble, but always set our hope firmly on the work and purposes of God.  This whole passage is about deeper things.  Deep things that we can’t fully understand, and such is our life, we run up against many things we can’t understand.  But let us not grumble in unbelief.  Let us let go of our unbelief and place our full trust upon Him who is able to sustain us until the last day.

6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

  • In verse 37 He had just said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me”, and in verse 36 He had said that, “you have seen me and yet do not believe.” But now He’s saying WHY they won’t believe, and why they won’t come to Him.  They won’t believe because “no one can come to (Him) unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
  • The Father had not drawn these people to Christ, and therefore they were unable to come to Him.  Christ is enumerating an important spiritual principle, not just for these Jews, but for us as well.  For what He is saying here is in the general sense.  His words are “no one” and “all” and so on.  So He’s not limiting His discussion to simply Jews, but is giving a discourse about a universal spiritual principle.
  • To further affirm this, John Piper reminds us that we need to realize the full implications of what Christ is saying here.  He’s about to talk about how – in particular – God draws people to Himself.  But in doing so, Christ it known that He will not be limiting His kingdom to the Jews, or any one group of people.  He is not a “tribal deity” as Piper says.  And to emphasize the point, Piper reminds us that John stresses the wide call of Christ in this Gospel (of John) to all men (John 3:16, 3:18, 3:36, 5:24, 6:35, 6:37, 6:47, 6:58, 7:38, 12:46, etc.).
  • Here are all the reference and what they look like to show what I mean, and what Piper was getting at:
    • “Whoever believes in him will have eternal life” (John 3:15).
    • “Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
    • “Whoever believes in him is not condemned” (John 3:18).
    • “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).
    • “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (John 5:24).
    • “Whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
    • “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
    • “Whoever believes has eternal life” (John 6:47).
    • “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever” (John 6:58).
    • “Whoever believes in me, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38).
    • “Whoever believes in me will not remain in darkness” (John 12:46).
    • It is obvious that this verse is talking about God’s methodology in calling and saving us for all eternity.  But while we talk about God’s work in the lives of particular men and women – in you and men – we need to remember the role we play in spreading that gospel to all men – not ones we choose, but ones HE chooses. John Piper reminds us of this when he says the following:

It is an awesome thing that we are sent to the whole world with the greatest news in the world—with a free offer for all who believe. And it is an awesome thing that as many as are appointed to eternal life believe (Acts 13:48).  It is an awesome thing that God commands all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). And it is an awesome thing that God grants repentance to whom he will (2 Timothy 2:25).  It is an awesome thing that God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). And it is an awesome thing he acts decisively to draw particular people to the truth (John 6:44).

  • When John says the Father “draws” men, the Greek word he’s using is helkō, which literally means to “drag off.”  This is important because when we hear the word “draw” I think that our minds tend to think of the word differently than that.  We think the natural synonym might be “ compel” or something like that, when the sense of the word is nothing of the sort.  Here John is talking about a powerful “dragging” force.  The Father isn’t just wooing people to come to Christ, He is making sure they come by grabbing a hold of them, and bringing them all the way home.

Irresistible Grace

  • We call this the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.  The idea behind the doctrine is not to teach us that God “drags us” kicking and screaming into heaven, but rather that in His sovereign will, He creates within us a desire that we never had before.  That desire is for Himself.  Once our desires have changed, we begin to see the irresistible nature of His love for us.  Our eyes are opened to the magnificence of His love and plan for us – the fact that He is working on our hearts ought to be enough proof that He loves us, but then He reveals the mysteries of His will in Christ Jesus, and the truth of what Christ has done is so amazing, so profound, so audacious, and so ludicrous, that we can’t help but want to run to the cross and embrace Christ as Lord.  That is what God does by drawing us.
  • The point is that this “drawing” is active and not passive.  John Piper says it’s “decisive” and says, “When you chose Christ—when you awakened spiritually to the compelling truth and worth of Christ—it was because God gave you eyes to see. God awakened you. God gave you eyes to see the irresistible greatness of Jesus.”
  • Calvin puts it magnificently:

Christ declares that the doctrine of the Gospel, though it is preached to all without exception, cannot be embraced by all, but that a new understanding and a new perception are requisite; and, therefore, that faith does not depend on the will of men, but that it is God who gives it.

  • The first part of the verse says, “can come”, and by this we know that the Apostle is referring to “believing” in Christ.  When we “come” to Christ, we believe in Christ, we are placing our faith and truth in Him for salvation.
  • Calvin explains:

The statement amounts to this, that we ought not to wonder if many refuse to embrace the Gospel; because no man will ever of himself be able to come to Christ, but God must first approach him by his Spirit; and hence it follows that all are not drawn, but that God bestows this grace on those whom he has elected. True, indeed, as to the kind of drawing, it is not violent, so as to compel men by external force; but still it is a powerful impulse of the Holy Spirit, which makes men willing who formerly were unwilling and reluctant. It is a false and profane assertion, therefore, that none are drawn but those who are willing to be drawn, as if man made himself obedient to God by his own efforts; for the willingness with which men follow God is what they already have from himself, who has formed their hearts to obey him.

Sovereign Election

  • The verse also teaches us that God had a sovereign plan – that is the overarching theme, isn’t it?  This is what is known as the doctrine of Election.  That from eternity past, God chose to create a particular people for himself.  I’m not just talking about Israel, but of the true Israel, which is the church, and indeed is Christ Himself.  This verse teaches us is that God’s work of salvation is particular.  That is to say, it is discriminating.
  • To discriminate means to choose some, but not others based on a desire.
  • 1 Peter 2:9-10 tells us:

…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. [10] Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Radical Corruption

  • By necessity, Jesus is also teaching us the state of mankind.  Specifically, as the ESV Study notes, “No one can come to me means “no one is able to come to me” (Gk. dynamai means “to be able”). This implies that no human being in the world, on his own, has the moral and spiritual ability to come to Christ unless God the Father draws him, that is, gives him the desire and inclination to come and the ability to place trust in Christ.”
  • Sproul puts it this way, “Jesus said that we are so corrupt, that our hearts have been so hardened toward the things of God, that we cannot respond to God and come to Him on our own…If the Father wants us to come to Christ, He must effectually draw us to His beloved Son.”
  • We are so morally and spiritually bankrupt that we can’t come to Christ on our own.  We are dead in our sins.  This is the doctrine known as Total Depravity.  This saying of Jesus is one that men hate to accept, and you might not like hearing it either.
  • You might think that I’m wrong and the Bible is wrong to tear down “human character”, but as C.H. Spurgeon once said, “You cannot slander human nature, it is worse than words can paint it.”
  • John MacArthur points out “the Bible indicates that fallen man is unable, of his own volition, to come to Jesus Christ.”  MacArthur goes on to give a lengthy list of Biblical reasons why this is the case:

Unregenerate people are dead in sin (Eph.2:1; Col. 2:13), slaves to unrighteousness (John 8:34; Rom. 6:6, 17, 20, John 8:34), alienated from God (Col. 1:21), and hostile to Him (Rom. 5:10; 8:7). They are spiritually blind (2 Cor. 4:4), captives (2 Tim 2:26), trapped in Satan’s kingdom (Col. 1:13), powerless to change their sinful natures (Jer. 13:23; Rom. 5:6), unable to please God (Rom. 8:8), incapable of understanding spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14; John 14:17).

Preserving Grace and Assurance of Salvation

  • The beauty of this passage does not lie alone in the call of the Spirit, however, but also in the preserving nature of the work of the Spirit and in the power of Jesus Christ.  Sproul says, “Those who are truly saved will continue in that condition, for Jesus will not let them fall away.”
  • As we get deeper into the book of John, we’ll see other passages that detail the magnificent power of God’s preserving grace.  In John 10:26-30 Jesus is giving a very similar discourse and says that the power He has to keep His children in grace is the same power that God the Father has (because they are “one”) – which His listeners at the time would have understood to be omnipotent.  He says this:

10:26-30 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. [30] I and the Father are one.

  • Christ mentions this in order to give us assurance. In His compassion He came to give us peace.  He came to give us a peace that the world couldn’t give (John 14:27).
  • If salvation is a monergistic work, and if He is truly sovereign over salvation, then surely there is nothing we can do to lose what we have not earned or worked for.  It is all by His preserving grace that we are kept until the day of Christ’s return!

Why Me?  The Pleasures of God

  • Perhaps the most difficult and unknowable question we come to about the nature of God’s sovereign work in salvation – at least from this particular text – is the why. Specifically, you might be asking “why does He discriminate?” or “why does He choose to ‘draw’ some and not others?”
  • R.C. Sproul even admits that this is the deepest theological question that I can think of, the one for which I have no adequate answer.”  Specifically, Sproul was referring to the question of “why me?”
  • Sproul offers the best explanation I’ve heard for a question that really can’t be answered in specifics (anyone who says they know the answer is lying):

I can’t give a single reason under heaven why God would save me other than, as the prophet Isaiah said, that the Suffering Servant of Israel should see the travail of His soul and be satisfied – that God has determined to honor His Son by giving Him adopted brothers and sisters (Is. 53:11).  In the final analysis, the only reason I am a Christian is that the Father wants to honor the Son.   From all eternity, He determined that the Son’s work would not be in vain and that He would be the firstborn of many brethren.  Therefore, He determined not just to make salvation possible and then step back and cross His fingers, hoping that somebody would take advantage of the ministry of Jesus. No, God the Father, from all eternity, determined to make salvation certain for those whom He had determined to give to His Son.

  • My own explanation would simply lie in the hidden counsel of God, and the manifestation of His discriminating love for us.  Ephesians 2:4-5 says that God loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses.  It says…

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” 

  • Note the “rich” mercy and the “great” love of God toward us.  These are the things that compelled Him to do what He did from all eternity past.  And because of this love, the Father knew from eternity past that He would have to send His only Son to be a sacrifice for us.  He knew that we would fall – otherwise there would be no reason to elect anyone, for everyone would always have been in perfect harmony with God – and yet He determined by the counsel of His own will to create us in His image, and plan before hand whom to save – a particular people for Himself, as a love gift for His glorious Son, Jesus Christ.

Conflicts and Objections

  • Despite the heavy predestinarian overtones, some would like to strip the verse of its potency, and by doing so, find a way to enter into the salvation process some way in which man’s free will can be justified.  For men, left to their own devices, will always want to preserve the notion of their freedom from God – as some have stated in this Sunday School class before, men (like you and me) like to “maintain the illusion of control” as much as possible.  But they do this because they misunderstand the nature and way in which God works in the hearts of men.
  • The chief verse that men of this stripe use to discredit God’s sovereignty is John 12:32, where the same word for “draw” is used in the Greek, and Jesus says that when He is lifted up (on the cross) that He will “draw all people” to Himself.
  • Carson explains, “The context shows rather clearly, however, that 12:32 refers to ‘all men without distinction’ (i.e. not just Jews) rather than to ‘all men without exception’ (ever single human being on earth).”
  • Looking at this verse in context we see that it is clearly the negative expression of verse 37, which we just read.  Carson explains that “the combination of vs. 37a and vs. 44 prove that this ‘drawing’ activity of the Father cannot be reduced to what theologians sometimes call ‘prevenient grace’ dispensed to ever individual, for this ‘drawing’ is selective, or else the negative note in vs. 44 is meaningless.”

NOTE: The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines Prevenient Grace as follows, “The grace that ‘comes before’ any human response to God in justification or conversion. In Reformed theology, this grace is seen as irresistible. In Arminianism and Wesleyanism the view is that God’s grace is extended and persons may choose whether or not to believe in Jesus Christ. The human decisions of the faithful are responsive and enabled by God’s grace.”

  • John Piper seems to think that the “all” in John 12:32 is referring to “all the sheep” of Christ – all the elect.  For, as Piper points out, in the Greek, there is actually no word “people” in that verse.  It’s simply “all”, with no reference to “people” whatsoever.  So what he argues we must do is derive the correct meaning of the word “all” from the context of the verse, and he does this by looking at several other similar passages in John’s gospel (namely John 11:50-52 and John 10:15 and 10:27).  He explains:

In other words, running straight through the Gospel of John is the truth that God the Father and God the Son decisively draw people out of darkness into light. And Christ died for this. He was lifted up for this. What John 12:32 adds is that this happens today in history by pointing the whole world to the crucified Christ and preaching the good news that whoever believes on him will be saved. In that preaching of the lifted up Christ, God opens the ears of the deaf. The sheep hear his voice and follow Jesus (John 10:16, 27).

  • Personally I am satisfied with either of these options – both are plausible, both could be correct.  But I think that to say that 12:32 somehow implies that “all” means every single human being would be to affirm universalism which runs counter the teaching we find throughout Scripture that some people die and go to Hell and others die and go to Heaven.