Study 12 WHAT THE GOOD SHEPHERD SAYS ABOUT HIS SHEEP
HOLDING OUT THE WORD OF LIFE
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: John 10:1-16 and 26-31)
In John chapter 10 our Lord presents Himself as the Good Shepherd and he speaks of His people as “my sheep” (verse 27). Notice in the section John 10:26-29 that Jesus was speaking these words not so much to His friends but to His enemies, to those who were “not my sheep” (verse 26), and who after He had finished speaking “picked up stones to stone him” (verse 31). How clearly the Lord speaks of His own people as His sheep! Do you come into this category? Are you one of Christ’s sheep? As sheep we are weak, wayward, foolish, helpless and dependent; but He has made us His own by His redemptive work on the Cross (compare verses 11, 15, 17). What are the characteristics or the marks of Christ’s sheep?
1. Christ’s sheep believe on Him (verse 26)
There were people present who did not believe because they were not the Lord’s sheep. It is clear, therefore, that to become one of His sheep we must believe on Him. The word ‘believe’ is the great word of this Gospel of John; compare John 1:12 and John 3:16; this is the one great condition of salvation. This is the initial step into the fold of God’s love and grace. We must “believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:30-31). To believe, of course, does not simply mean to give mental assent to the facts concerning Christ; it means to put our trust in Him so that we rely on Him to be to us and to do for us all that He offers to be and to do.
2. Christ’s sheep hear His voice (verse 27)
Compare also verses 3-4. Christ’s sheep recognise His voice as their Shepherd, but they do more than this, for the word “listen” means ‘pay close attention’. They obey the voice of the Good Shepherd. How do we hear the Shepherd’s voice today? Primarily through His Word, because this is where He speaks to us. Do you obey His Word? Do you seek to conform your life to its teaching? Do you endeavour to measure up to its standards? This is what the sheep of the Lord’s pasture do, and this is a test by which we may tell whether or not we are one of His sheep.
3. Christ’s sheep are known by Him (verse 27)
Compare also verse 14. There is a very remarkable bond between the eastern shepherd and his sheep; he knows his sheep individually. To a stranger entering the pen the sheep would look very much alike, but not so when the shepherd enters because he knows each one (compare verse 3). All this is spiritually true because our Shepherd knows everything about us – how weak, how foolish and how wayward we can be – but thank God He still loves us.
4. Christ’s sheep follow Him (verse 27)
We have an amplification of the same truth in verses 4-5. In the east the shepherd leads the flock, and what do the sheep do? They follow their true shepherd. Here is another test as to whether we really are His sheep! Do we follow Him? The words ‘Follow Me’ constitute our Lord’s simplest and most direct invitation and command to men – compare Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:18-20; John 21:21-22; Revelation 14:4. To follow the Good Shepherd means to trust Him, to obey Him and to respect His authority.
5. Christ’s sheep possess eternal life (verse 28)
What is eternal life?
- 1. It is everlasting life, that is to say, it is unending, it goes on for ever.
- 2. It is spiritual life, the divine life. By nature we are dead – compare John 5:40 with Ephesians 2:1 – but by the miracle of regeneration we receive a new life – compare John 3:3 with 1 John 5:11-12.
- 3. It is life to the full. We see this in John 10:10, and Christ gives to all His sheep, here and now, life to the full.
Eternal life is God’s gift to His people, His sheep. It is not merited but received by faith – compare Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8-10.
6. Christ’s sheep are eternally secure (verses 28-29)
These verses are precious and what comfort they have been to God’s people all through the generations! Notice four things about the security of Christ’s sheep:
- 1. They have eternal life (verse 28.) Well, if they have eternal life they must be eternally safe, for they have been saved by an eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9).
- 2. They shall never perish (verse 28). Do not alter the word “never”. We may grieve the Lord by being silly sheep, and feel that we have forfeited His love and grace, but He says, “they shall never perish”.
- 3. They are safe in Christ’s hand (verse 28). How safe is that? Surely they could not be safer, and no-one should say, ‘But they may take themselves out of Christ’s hand!’ No, this is not true. He would never allow that.
- 4. They are also in the Father’s hand (verse 29, and compare verse 30). Look at Colossians 3:3.
Do you sometimes wonder whether after all you will be saved and reach the end of the journey to live with the Lord? You will, if you are one of His sheep because in verses 28-29 you have His own sure promise concerning your eternal security.
7. Christ’s sheep are His Father’s love-gift (verse 29)
Compare also John 6:37 and consider this moving thought: how humbling it is that if we are Christ’s sheep the Father has given us to His own Son to be His special possession! Now I shall want to love and serve Him with all my heart!