Who Are These Sheep?
To intelligently deal with the “security of the sheep” we must know something of this select group.
There are many scriptures which speak of the security of God’s people, or His sheep, but it is necessary that we know who these people are, and something of the distinguishing marks which single them out from the rest of the world. What is meant by “My Sheep”?
Some would have us believe that all people on the face of the earth are the sheep of God, or the children of God. All men are the creatures of God, but not all the children of God.
Others would have us believe that all sheep referred to in the Bible come under the class of “My Sheep”. The Bible speaks of “lost sheep”, “scattered sheep”, and “wandering sheep”. According to the truth of God these do not belong to the ‘”My Sheep” class. How often do we hear Isaiah 53:6 wrested from its setting and applied to the children of God — “All we like sheep have gone astray: we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This is a precious portion of the Word which affords light to the lost and wandering creatures of God, but these words, “gone astray” and “turned everyone to his own way,” do not characterize the sheep of God who have been saved from their wanderings and their own way. This is a picture of our past, but not of our present position. (Further proof of our argument here is given in pages to follow.)
“My Sheep” have nothing necessarily to do with church membership. Millions of church members have never been the sheep of God and never will be. Worldly church members have no place in the fold of God even though they go to church every Sunday and say their prayers.
This expression cannot include all so-called believers in Christ. Many profess to believe in Him, but in works they deny Him. Their faith is not sincere, or “unfeigned”. “Thou believest that there is one God: thou doest well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:19, 20
Let us now turn to the positive consideration of these sheep.
Since our booklet title is taken from what is commonly known as the “Good Shepherd” chapter it will be well to read the entire chapter — John 10. By carefully studying this chapter we get the true setting of the words, “My Sheep … Shall Never Perish”. Let us specifically note verse four: “And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him: for they know His voice.” It is His own sheep He speaks of in this chapter. Not just any sheep, but His own sheep. Not wandering sheep, or lost sheep, but sheep who follow Him, because they know His voice. The fifth verse confirms the truth of the fourth. “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” Christ is the Shepherd. Satan is the master stranger. Christ’s sheep cannot follow Satan, for to do so would make our Lord’s words untrue. “And a stranger will they not follow.” Scattered sheep, lost sheep, and wandering sheep do follow strangers, but Christ’s sheep do not. We can positively know whose sheep we are by knowing the voice we hear and the one we follow. The way we are going is the distinguishing mark of who we are. Even the wicked world knows this much, and it is not fooled by our profession.
In order to know clearly just who is secure, and to know if we are included in this promised security, let us look into the twenty-seventh verse and carefully examine its three phrases.
(1) “My sheep hear my voice.” The possessive pronoun “My” denotes ownership. The Shepherd has purchased us with His own precious blood and has a right to call us His own. We who are the sheep of Christ are not simply His own by purchase, but by a personal surrender and acknowledgment of His Lordship. So-called believers who have not accepted Christ as Lord of their lives know nothing of Him as Saviour. To hear the voice of Christ is to give attention to His words as recorded in the Bible. Those who truly belong to Christ take delight in hearing what He has to say. This is why they love the Word of God. In the words of the psalmist: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law doth he meditate day and night.” Ps. 1:2. “I will delight myself in Thy statutes: I will not forget Thy word.” Ps. 119:16.
To the sheep of Christ “His commandments are not grievous.” I Jno. 5:3. God’s children take delight in preaching which is “Thus saith the Lord.” They have no time for mushy-mouthed preaching, or soft-peddling. People who become angry when the preacher bears down on sin and worldliness are not the sheep of Christ, for they all love the truth even when it cuts deep. They delight to know the Master’s will. Pussy-pawed preaching will never satisfy the children of God. They have no time for a compromising pulpiteer who preaches to please his carnal parishioners, for such a one is a hireling and careth not for the sheep of God. This is why the sheep of Christ are often accused of being “disloyal”. They cannot accept everything, nor will they go along with everything. When they hear a voice which is contrary to that of their Master they cannot give attention to it.
“My sheep hear my voice.” The sheep of Christ are not interested in hearing the latest in fads and fashions, for they know that such things do not have the sanction of their Master. He says, “Be not conformed to this world.” They do not listen to hear what the latest show is like, for their Shepherd says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” The sheep of Christ are never interested in “riding the goat,” for He says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness.” II Cor. 6:14.
Card-playing, beer-drinking, pleasure-loving, cigarette-sucking, and world-courting religionists have no appeal to the sheep of Christ, for He says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.” II Cor. 6:17 Christ’s sheep are not interested in listening to, or looking at the world series, for He says, “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4 Do we bear the marks of His sheep?
“And I know them.” We may fool men part of the time, but we cannot fool our Lord any of the time. He knows His own. John said, “The world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” If our Lord knows us the world does not know us. The word “know” as used in this place and in many other parts of the New Testament implies intimacy. The Lord is intimate with His own, but He is never intimate with sinners. He loves sinners and knows them afar off, but He is never intimate with them.
This word implies “fellowship”. The Shepherd is always in fellowship with His sheep. How nonsensical and unBiblical is that teaching which tells us that we can be in Christ but out of fellowship with Him. Let us demand one verse of scripture which teaches such a thing. Thank God for this blessed fellowship which is ours with the Master. How sweet is the intimacy with Christ in the Spirit! Blessed communion is our privilege even while walking with our Shepherd through the deep dark valley. The shadows may hide His face, but only sin could destroy our fellowship. What others say about us never affects the blessed fellowship we have in Him. “And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ … If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness (darkness of sin), we lie, and do not the truth.” I Jno. 1:3, 6
“And they follow Me.” This is another true mark of the Lord’s own sheep. They hear His voice, and they heed His voice. They follow Him. They delight in following Him. They can say with the psalmist, “I delight to do thy will, O God.” Ps. 40:8 He did not say “They try to follow Me.” The Lord never asks us to try to follow Him. He asks us to follow, and that we can do by the grace which He always affords to those who will to follow. He did not say “They want to follow Me.” Many can say this, but to follow is another thing.
Where is the argument of that man who would tell us that we can be saved, the sheep of God, and secure, and yet not be a, disciple? Jesus says, “They follow Me.” Are men following Christ in sin and worldliness? Do they follow Christ to the drinking parlor? Do women follow Christ to the beauty parlor or barber shop where they have their God-given long hair cut off? God says, “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her for her hair is given her for a covering.” I Cor. 11:15. Lady, are you following Christ when you put on men’s apparel and smear up your face or lips with heathen paint? God says, “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man …” Deut. 22:5 The wicked heathen queen Jezebel painted her face and died in that condition. Each time paint is mentioned in the Bible it is connected with heathenism, whoredom, or both.
Are people following Christ when they are given to evil speaking, backbiting, tale-bearing, and creating division and strife? Are they following Christ while possessing bitterness or hatred in their hearts toward their fellow creatures? Jesus said, “My sheep … follow Me.” These words are not to be taken lightly. Like all the words of our Master they are serious and weighty. Are we following Christ when we labor and strive to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth? Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth … But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Did Jesus lay up treasures for Himself, and can we do so and follow Him? Multiplied millions are dying in darkness, hunger and nakedness, and have never heard the Gospel one time. Can we leave these multitudes to die in their darkness and yet follow Christ? Can we be indifferent to the cry of the perishing heathen for whom Christ died, and yet be His followers? God help us and awaken us to our true condition. “My sheep … follow Me.”
To follow Christ is infinitely more than to live a good negative life. Christ went about doing good — pouring out His precious life for others. What am I doing for others? There are sins of omission as well as sins of commission. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” The man who commits the sin of omission is just as guilty before the Lord as the man who steals.
One, Mr. Strombeck, a Calvinist of the old school, has written a book on eternal security in which he stresses the fact that these verses with which we are dealing are the main foundation of the unconditional eternal security theory. He contends that the promise of Christ in this case is in no sense conditional. He bases his argument on the fact that the conditional “if” is not found in this connection. A shallow argument indeed! “If” is not the only conditional word used in the English language. In all honesty who would dare say that the promise of Christ here in the 28th and 29th verses of John 10th chapter is not conditional. If such is not conditional, then these words are for everybody in the whole world regardless of how wicked or righteous they might be. The promise is specifically made to Christ’s sheep, and He Himself tells us that His sheep hear His voice, and they follow Him. By this we can know who are the sheep of God, or the children of God. “He that doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” I Jno. 3:10. It is to this special group, and to no other group, that this promise is made. “Lost sheep,” “straying sheep,” and “wandering sheep,” are thieves in addition when they try to lay claim to this precious promise which our Master made specifically to all who hear His voice, live in fellowship with Him, and follow in His steps.
This is not good news to the “goats” and to the “wandering sheep,” but it is good news to all of God’s dear people. Yes, for them there is guaranteed protection — blessed security. They possess eternal life and no wild wolf can snatch them from the Shepherd’s hands and destroy their life. The Greek word translated “pluck” is the same as that found in verse twelve of this chapter and should be translated “snatch”. We who are following Christ and living in fellowship with Him shall never be overtaken by the enemy and “snatched” from our Shepherd’s hands.
Here is double security. Jesus said, “My Father which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck (snatch) them out of My Father’s hand.” Satan and wicked men must defeat both the Son of God, our Master Shepherd, and our heavenly Father before he can destroy us. Praise God for such security! Praise Him for His protective care. Those who follow Christ can truly say, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” “O fear the Lord, ye His saints: for there is no want to them that fear Him.” Ps. 34:9
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident … For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock.” Ps. 27:1, 2, 3, 5
“Nay, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 8:37-39 We can say with the poet,
“That soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose, He will never, no never, desert to his foes.”
Again Paul says, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” II Tim. 1:12
These are only a portion of the precious promises which proclaim the security of saints — faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us remember this: There is no such thing as unconditional security taught in the Word of God. Christ “became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.” Heb. 6:9 This is absolutely the only security taught in the Bible. Security for saints, but no security for sinners — religious sinners or otherwise. To the disobedient there is no promise but that of endless destruction.