Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Sheep of a Wonderful Shepherd

by J. Vernon McGee

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:27-29)
His sheep hear His voice, and they follow Him. The brand of ownership on the sheep is obedience. Do you want to know whether a person is saved or not? Then see if he is obeying Christ. Our ears must be open to His voice. "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them" (Proverbs 20:12).

"And they follow me." I believe in the eternal security of the believer and in the insecurity of the make-believer. If a shepherd called his sheep one morning and out of five hundred sheep in the sheepfold one hundred came out and followed him, then I would conclude that those one hundred were his sheep. And I would also conclude that the other four hundred were not his sheep.

"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish." Friend, when He gives to them eternal life, that means they don't earn it and they don't work for it. He gives it to them. Note that it is eternal life. It is forever. If it plays out in a week, or in a year, or until they sin, then it is not eternal life after all. They are not really His sheep if the life does not last forever. The sheep may be in danger, but the Shepherd will protect them. They may be scattered, but He will gather them up again. They shall never perish. May they backslide? Yes. Will they perish? No. The sheep may get into a pigpen, but there has never yet been a sheep in a pigpen that stayed there. Sheep and pigs do not live together. The sheep is always a sheep. No enemy, no man, no created being can pluck them out of the Savior's hand. This is wonderful!

One time a fellow gave me the argument that one can jump out of His hand because we are free moral agents. Listen to the passage. It actually says "no created thing shall pluck them out of my hand." He is the Shepherd. He is God. If you think you can jump out, the Father puts His hand right down on you, and you can't do any jumping. Brother, He's got you and you can't get loose. Both hands are the hands of Deity. No created thing can take the sheep out of His hand.

Years ago a Texas rancher told me about sheep. He said he had two thousand sheep, and someone had to be watching them all the time. If two little sheep go over the hill and get half a mile from the flock, they are lost. They cannot find their way back by themselves. The only way in the world they can be safe is for the shepherd to be there. If a wolf would come up and eat one of the little sheep, you'd think the other one would be smart enough to say, "He ate my little brother; so I'll go back over the hill and join the flock." No, he doesn't know where to go. All he does is go "Baa" and run around and wait to be dessert for the wolf. A sheep is stupid. Neither has a sheep any way to defend himself. A sheep can't even outrun his enemy. If a sheep is safe, it is not because the sheep is clever or smart. It is because he has a good shepherd.

When I say to you that He gives me eternal life and I shall never perish, you may accuse me of bragging. No, my friend, I am not bragging on myself; I'm bragging about my Shepherd. I have a wonderful Shepherd. He won't lose any of His sheep. If He starts with one hundred, He will not end with ninety-nine. If one gets lost, He will go out and find it. None will be lost.

From Edited Messages on John by J. Vernon McGee

34 Comments:

  • He is a wonderful shepherd indeed!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/26/2007 7:24 AM  

  • The sheep are already owned by the Shepherd - that is, they don't suddenly become his sheep because they respond to his call - they respond to his call because they are his sheep. It isn't really that subtle, but some miss it anyway and putting the cart before the horse they get confused about what is being taught.

    When I responded to the gospel, I was one of those 100 sheep. I didn't become one of those hundred sheep by responding to the gospel - I responded to the gospel because the Lord is my Shepherd - if the Lord were not my shepherd, I would not have responded to His call. It isn't that I became one of his flock when I responded to the gospel, it is that my status as one of his flock became manifest when I responded to His call. The call goes out to all the sheep in the fold, but the ones who reject the gospel demonstrate that they are not of Christ's fold.

    I liked that post Rose.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 2/26/2007 11:01 AM  

  • Hey!
    How does an earthly shepherd aquire sheep, Daniel, and how does that relate to the parable?

    I like this:
    If a sheep is safe, it is not because the sheep is clever or smart. It is because he has a good shepherd.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/26/2007 11:10 AM  

  • Rose asked, "How does an earthly shepherd aquire sheep?"

    An earthly shepherd purchases a flock of sheep with currency.

    Rose also asked, "... and how does that relate to the parable?"

    We should be careful about mixing metaphors at this point. To be sure, Christ did not "purchase" His flock - He redeemed it. Understanding the difference might help one to understand why the sheep are already the property of the shepherd.

    Purchase suggests that one is aquiring something that was never their own, but redeemption suggests that one is paying a debt to retrieve something that one already owns.

    Christ is our Redeemer, He paid the "purchase" price to redeem us, but make no mistake - His flock was already His before He ever redeemed it, otherwise it would have been a purchase and not redemption.

    Does that help?

    By Blogger Daniel, at 2/26/2007 12:00 PM  

  • My all-time favorite preacher!

    He never learned to equivocate.

    By Blogger Joe, at 2/26/2007 11:35 PM  

  • Great post Rose!

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 2/27/2007 7:31 AM  

  • This is how I see it, and I don't believe I'm the least bit confused. We are Jesus' sheep BECAUSE we believed and received Him. (The reason Jesus knows who His sheep are is because He knows our hearts. It's not because He CHOSE particular people for no reason, but rather He KNOWS and has ALWAYS known who will and will not receive the gospel. So yes, His sheep hear and know His voice. Those who try to come into the kingdom a different way (allah, Buddha, good works, etc.) are not allowed. We must all enter through trusting in Jesus.

    Here are a few examples in scripture:

    John 1:7 "The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe."

    John 1:9 "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."

    John 1:12-13 "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

    (All emphasis to scripture added)

    With this context in mind we read what Jesus has said about His sheep and we understand what is being said here. No one is chosen by God for reasons known only to God. God has known who we are from before the foundation of the world, but ALL are given the chance to receive Jesus. We were ALL purchased, but we are not ALL going to be redeemed.

    By Blogger Dawn, at 2/27/2007 10:56 AM  

  • Good post on grace and eternal security. Jesus's sheep hear his voice. Those that are not his sheep do not hear his voice.

    Daniel nailed it.

    How's the baby doing?

    By Blogger jazzycat, at 2/27/2007 1:53 PM  

  • When Christ heals the blind man on the Sabbath in John 9, the Pharisees conclude that Christ is "not from God" because Christ did not "keep the Sabbath" (John 9:16). In questioning the blind man they contrast themselves with Christ - they were disciples of Moses and Jesus, because he healed on the Sabbath was obviously a false teacher. They wanted the man who was formerly blind to agree with them that Christ was a false teacher, but the man felt that Christ was no false teacher, but at the very least a prophet, for no one had ever opened the eyes of anyone born blind. When the man refused to agree with their condemnation of Christ they put him out of the synagog.

    The description of the good shepherd and the sheep etc. follows this encounter in the narrative, and the figurative language is not arbitrary, but is the very language used in the OT to describe the major OT men who pictured the coming Christ - men like Moses (Ps 77:20) and David (Ps 78:70-72; Ezek 34:23). Using the imagery of the shepherd and the flock Christ demonstrated whom God was endorsing, himself or the Pharisees.

    Jesus paints the picture using a scene from everyday first century life in Palestine. Many families owned sheep, but not all families had sheepfolds where the sheep could be penned in for the night. In a village it was common to keep the sheep from many families in the same pen at night. During the night the sheep would mingle and mix, and in the morning the shepherd would come to take his own sheep out of the fold. When the door to the pen is opened the shepherd makes a distinct call, or even blows a special whistle, and his own sheep recognize him and follow him out. The sheep do not follow a shepherd they don't know, so the only sheep who follow the shepherd are his own. Likewise at watering holes and whatnot, flocks were inclined to mingle and mix - but when it was time for one flock to leave, the shepherd would call to his flock, and they would separate themselves from the other sheep and follow him.

    It is good to understand that this was common knowledge to the people Christ was addressing - when Christ spoke of His sheep hearing His voice, it was picturing this very phenomenon.

    Let's not mix up what is being described here. The call to the sheep is the gospel - and those who respond to it do so because they are God's flock.

    Dawn, you said, The reason Jesus knows who His sheep are is because He knows our hearts. It's not because He CHOSE particular people for no reason, but rather He KNOWS and has ALWAYS known who will and will not receive the gospel.

    In John 6:44 we read, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." (emphasis added).

    That is, Christ does indeed call all men to Himself, but no one answers that call ever, unless God the Father (who sent Christ) draws them to Christ.

    Note what Christ says in John 10:26 - "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep."

    Whenever we see the word "because" in a simple cause and effect relationship, we do well to examine the effect, and see what causes it. In this case, the effect is that they did not believe. Why didn't they believe? BECAUSE they were not of His sheep. It wasn't that they were not of his sheep because they didn't believe - that is ==NOT== what the text says, it says they did not believe because they were not of His sheep.

    Dawn, you said "No one is chosen by God ..."

    You may wish to read again the account of Paul's conversion, it describes an encounter between Christianity's greatest enemy (at the time) and Jesus Christ who came to him on the road to Damascus. To deny that God -chose- Paul, strikes me as a little myopic.

    The fact is that Hebrew means "chosen ones" - God chose Abraham, He chose Issac (not Ishmael), he chchose Jacob (not Esau) - He chose Moses, chose all the judges in the book of judges, chose David and his family. That claim that God doesn't choose people is just ... just... magnificent. I do hope you will reconsider what you are saying there.

    Finally Dawn, you suggest that we are all purchased, but that we are not all redeemed.

    That will take a whole 'nother comment I think to correct.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 2/27/2007 5:06 PM  

  • Rose, am I missing something or is this the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance and lordship salvation as well?

    I’m afraid I find myself at odds with this article in many respects.

    I think to interpret the sheep hearing the call as hearing a call to salvation is in error. Verse 10 makes it clear that the call to salvation has already gone out and these Jews rejected and refused to believe; “I told you, and ye believed not”. He then tells them that they should have believed because His works gave proof but they can’t because they refuse to believe His word. The sheep that are His are those that believed and those that will (verse 16).

    By Blogger Kc, at 2/27/2007 9:43 PM  

  • Daniel,

    I think we see the call of the shepeherd in this metaphor as a different item. You say it is the call of salvation, but I think it is the call to believers to follow Christ.

    We should be careful about mixing metaphors at this point.
    I think it is important to limit the metaphor overall. I asked my question to illustrate that. IOW, unless you're into extreme covenantalism, you wouldn't think that your children are automatically part of "the elect." Yet, a real shepherd owns the offspring of his other sheep. See? The metaphor doesn't correspond in every way. It is limited. It really isn't dealing with how the shepherd aquires the sheep at all or how God redeems a people for Himself. This seems to be focused on the shepherd. He is the good shepherd and will lose none of His sheep. To read into this that I was a sheep from the foundation of the world is really reaching. The simple application is that if I am a sheep, I will hear Jesus. Believers are supposed to be with Christ, not wondering off into unknown territory - there's wolves out there. Finally, Jesus will lead them to the presence of God and the full realization of eternal life that He grants them. How beautiful. I don't get the doctrine of UE from this verse, Daniel. I see it teaching the fact of eternal security.

    You and I have talked about this sheep thing before. I feel a sense of dejavu here. :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/27/2007 11:16 PM  

  • Hi Joe,
    equivocate = 1 : to use equivocal (subject to two or more interpretations and usually used to mislead or confuse) language especially with intent to deceive
    2 : to avoid committing oneself in what one says

    You're right!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/27/2007 11:18 PM  

  • Dawn,
    Those who try to come into the kingdom a different way (allah, Buddha, good works, etc.) are not allowed. We must all enter through trusting in Jesus.
    Yes, He is the gate of the sheep.
    Thanks for your comment and your good Scripture references.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/27/2007 11:20 PM  

  • Hi Jazzycat,
    I agree, unbelievers do not hear the Lord's voice at all. They think His words are foolishness.

    The baby is fine. Thanks for asking. That is so very thoughtful of you. He sleeps mostly through the night now - what a relief. He is filling out, too - no longer a wisp of a boy.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/27/2007 11:22 PM  

  • Hi KC!
    Rose, am I missing something or is this the Calvinist doctrine of perseverance and lordship salvation as well?

    I was wondering if anyone was going to notice that!

    I don't really go along with the way J. Vernon states things in the beginning of this article, but I like His stance on eternal security ... and that was what I took from the article, mostly. But ... you're right -

    Do you want to know whether a person is saved or not? Then see if he is obeying Christ.

    That makes me raise my eyebrow a bit. Are we supposed to go around determinig who is obeying Christ and who isn't and then deciding whether or not they are saved based on our evaluations? I think NOT!

    The thing is, KC, I like JVM and when I saw this article I did not want to shy away from posting it just because of a way he said something that I don't quite go along with. Usually, he did not come across as a LS or POS at all. In fact, he wasn't. I have read many times where he confirmed salvation by faith alone and looking to Christ and what HE has done for assurance - absolutely. Maybe he just had a bit too much coffee that day. tee-hee :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/27/2007 11:32 PM  

  • Rose, I truly understand and I promise it’s only the doctrine I question and not JVM. The truth is that I have a similar love for C. H. Spurgeon. His heart for the lost and his attitude toward the Gospel make it nearly impossible for me to hesitate quoting anything he has said.

    I would agree with your critique of this article entirely as well as your admiration for the author. ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at 2/28/2007 5:12 AM  

  • Daniel, I was thinking some more about your comments to Dawn at 3:00 am (can you believe that?!) Just yesterday I was telling how the baby is sleeping through the night.

    I was particularly focused on this:
    Note what Christ says in John 10:26 - "But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep."
    Whenever we see the word "because" in a simple cause and effect relationship, we do well to examine the effect, and see what causes it.


    I was nearly ready to embrace UE, but a thought occurred to me. Perhaps we all have a bit of myopia when we read that kind of a verse. let me

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/28/2007 9:03 AM  

  • Rose, it seems you find the belief in Vs. 26 to be the belief in Christ that leads to salvation instead of the belief that the works He did were a witness of Him (Vs. 25). I understand these Jews would not believe Him concerning His works because they had not believed He was the Son of God and therefore were not His sheep and would not hear His voice when He plainly told them He did the work of God His Father.

    By Blogger Kc, at 2/28/2007 9:27 AM  

  • oops ...
    You assume that the "hearing" of the shepherd in v. 27 is the hearing of the gospel - the call of salvation. Then we see a verse that says

    But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep...

    We think it means that all who ever do not listen to Christ -for all time- do not listen because they are not His sheep.

    Hold the phone!
    First of all, He is speaking to a particular group of people, who -by the way- he also attributes with having committed the unpardonable sin ... but that's just something I mention for drama. These were not just your ordinary unbeliever or fence sitter.

    To make my point, I direct you to what else He said to them earlier:
    John 8: 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!

    He says these men wanted to murder Him! Does He say these kinds of things: you are of your father, the devil ... to the ordinary Joe? For that matter, would he call my unbelieveing neighbors a "brood of vipers"? OUCH! I don't think so. In fact, I don't think He used that strong of language for anyone else in the NT ... and He had plenty of run-ins with ordinary folks who rejected His message.

    So, all this got me to thinking about the Pharisees here spoken to: You do not believe because you are not of my sheep. These were "blind guides." They were power hungry legalists who "made null the Word of God with their traditions". They were also compromisers. These Pharisees were not really looking for the Messiah that was to come! We could say they were not inclined toward the Father's Words in the Scripture. They were not sheep of the true God ... when Jesus came on the scene. Others sitting there were. Their hearts were ready to hear from Jehovah. They weren't looking for power and revenge, but were like sheep without a shepherd ... and here He came.

    The Pharisees He was talking to were already sold out to despise Him and He KNEW IT!

    This is the setting for the verse you quote and those are the people He was directing it at. No one else in history has performed the dreadful blasphemy of looking God in the face and saying that He does miracles through Baalzebub.

    Why must this verse be taken to be such a blanket statement ... reaching past it's immediate context and audience in such an all-encompassing way?

    It is because of Calvinistic myopia.

    What do you think, Daniel? Can you at least think about what I have suggested ... maybe at 3:00 am? ;~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/28/2007 9:46 AM  

  • Hey KC,
    I am tired, so can you read my comment to Daniel and then see if I was thinking what you thought I was thinking and ask me again if I was? :~)

    My brain hurts.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/28/2007 9:48 AM  

  • KC,
    That is a good point, too.
    Context, context.
    ... the belief [is] that the works He did were a witness of Him (Vs. 25). I understand these Jews would not believe Him concerning His works because they had not believed He was the Son of God and therefore were not His sheep and would not hear His voice when He plainly told them He did the work of God His Father.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 2/28/2007 9:51 AM  

  • [slaps his head]

    I shuda known better.

    love ya sis. Rest well. ;-)

    (BTW, baby Casey and fam are doin great, thanks!)

    By Blogger Kc, at 2/28/2007 10:15 AM  

  • Rose, thanks for taking so much time to answer my comment.

    I apologize for the length of my comment here, but I wanted to address your first comment as best I could.

    You rightly identify the point of convergence in our understanding of this passage. Unless I misunderstand you, you believe Christ is calling people who are already believers to continue to follow him.

    To put your mind at ease, I am not a covenantalist, neither in the extreme nor in the least. Which is not to suggest that I am dispensational either, frankly, I don't fit into any one box well. ;-)

    I appreciate that newborn lambs become the property of the shepherd, and that the inherent procreative ability of the sheep can be seen as a means by which one can dismiss the interpretation that the shepherd's call to his sheep represents Christ's call to the gospel. But the question I would ask is whether the basis for that dismissal is warranted.

    There are a few ways I could answer this. The most obvious would be to remind us that the metaphor Christ used was catered specifically to the immediate situation: Recall that Christ had healed the blind man who was thereafter cast out of the synagog. Upon finding him again Jesus explains a riddle to the healed man: that he has come into the world to open the eyes of the (physically) blind and to close the (spiritual) eyes of the sighted (c.f. John 9:30). Some of the Pharisees who happened to be with Jesus in the street heard this conversation and asked Jesus whether they were spiritually "blind" - and Christ explains that had they been victims of blindness they would have no sin, but because their continuing "blindness" required them to intentionally ignore what they were plainly seeing their sin remained.

    John 10 begins in the middle of this conversation - where Christ figuratively expounds what He had just told the Pharisees who were with him and overheard the conversation.

    He starts by vividly prefacing what he is about to say by emphasizing that it is the full and only truth in the matter ("Amen, amen, I say to you" - John 10:1a). Then he expands upon what he has just told them (you Pharisees having made yourselves intentionally blind, are not part of the true flock), by way of this parable, expounding both [1] their error, and [2] what is really true.

    Now, as I said above, this is a specific parable, but I want to be unambiguous - the parable is directed specifically at both the false religion being taught by the Pharisees, and its consequences.

    So we see in verses 10:1-2 the identification of "Who holds the truth" the false teachers have come into the flock, not through the only doorway - that being through a turning to God - but rather they have come in a false way - through a regiment of religious tradition that has been molded to look like a relationship with God, but is in fact a relationship with the traditions of man.

    Recall that the purpose of the law was (and is) to teach people that they are sinners. The Pharisees however taught that the law could be kept, and invented workarounds, circumventions, and misinterpretations whereby they appeared to be keeping the law. This was (of course) spiritual poison because instead of humbling a man so that he would call out to God, their tradition exalted the man so that he believed himself to be righteous (recall the prayer of the Pharisee: God, I thank you that I am not like other men...")

    So Christ begins by hitting the bases. Here is the false hope, and it comes from these false teachers who have come into flock through means other than coming to God in broken repentance (thieves and robbers). Here is the right Teacher of the flock, He comes through the door (that is, through God), the door keeper (God) opens the way to the flock to Him (Christ), and His sheep hear His voice, and He leads them out. (verses 10:1-3)

    Now we ought not to lose sight of this fact - Christ is explaining to the Pharisees who overheard his conversation with the healed blind fellow why it is that they are blind (spiritually), and why it is that this formerly (physically) blind man now sees (both physically and spiritually).

    In verses 4-5 He explains that He goes before His sheep, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. Christ notes that not all the sheep who hear his voice are going to follow Him; only the sheep that are of His flock are going to follow Him, and more than this - that these sheep who follow Him would not follow a stranger - this is to say that the very fact that the sheep are following the Shepherd demonstrates that they are His sheep, for they would not follow a stranger.

    But the Pharisees with Him didn't get it (verse 6) so He spelled it out again, with a little more clarity - and we do well to note some of the finer points here...

    In verse 7 Christ identifies himself as the only door of the sheep, in verse 8 He explains that His sheep didn't listen to the thieves and robbers (false teachers) who came before Him, and in verses 9 and 10 He identifies (in no uncertain terms) that what he has been talking about is the way of salvation - that the Pharisees do not have it, nor are the teaching men how to be saved, but that He has it, and that He is teaching men how to be saved, "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."

    He is contrasting the false teachers (Pharisees) and their false teaching (Pharisism) with the genuine Teacher (Himself) and a true teaching (the Gospel).

    In verses 11-18 he again contrasts Himself with the Pharisees, this time showing that they are loveless and he is loving, that He is willing to die for the flock, but that they are only concerned about the "righteous" wages they imagine themselves to be earning through their imagined "righteous" shepherding of the flock.

    In verse 22 and 23 we see a segue into another scene - Christ entering Solomon's porch in the temple, and being surrounded by Jews who want to know if He is the Christ or not. Christ's response to them is a continuation of this same metaphor. Perhaps John linked two separate but overlapping narratives together to logically link (and therefore emphasize) what was clearly the same teaching, or perhaps this scene is a continuation of the last, meaning that the former conversation took place as Christ was coming to the temple and John stops here to interject that now they had arrived at the temple and more people were joining into this same conversation. Whatever the case, it is no coincidence that these two passages are linked immediately together, and it is a not some empty speculation to suggest with some certainty that what is being discussed in verses 24 to 42 is a continuation of what was being discussed previously in the chapter.

    We already know that Christ is talking about the gospel - he said that in verses 9 and 10, so when we begin to see the theme come up again, we understand that John isn't pulling a confusing switcheroo, but is still presenting the same gospel truths in the same figurative language.

    In verse 24 the Jews ask Jesus plainly, are you the Christ?

    Now, understand that they weren't asking because they believed He was the Christ, and wanted some sort of formal declaration so that they could commence worshipping Him. It is plain in verse 25 that these Jews did -not- believe that He was the Christ. That needs to sink in for us to understand why they asked the question. They weren't asking the question in order to decide whether to follow Him or not - they had already decided that He was not the Christ - they were asking for the sole purpose of having a justifiable reason to reject Him and His teachings "formally" - they were trying to get Him to admit to something that they could say was blasphemous.

    His response in verses 26 and 27 is perfect - they did not believe that He was the Christ because they were not His sheep, that is why they did not "know" His voice.

    Verse 28 reminds us that this was speaking of the gospel - had they "known" Christ's voice He would have given them eternal life. That is, had they responded to what Christ was teaching (recall that Christ's ministry was summed up as preaching "repent" and "believe" in the gospel) - had they responded to the message to repent and believe, they would have demonstrated that they were part of Christ's flock - but failing to do so they demonstrated that they were not part of Christ's flock.

    In verse 29 Christ again re-emphasizes the fact that the Sheep are Christ's because God gave them to Christ, that is, Christ didn't purchase them, they were God's gift to Him, He came, as I said in a previous comment, to redeem those whom God had already given Him.

    Also in verse 29, and especially in verse 30, Christ identifies Himself as the Son of God, and introduces the theological conundrum that He and God the Father are one - which gives those Jews the excuse they were looking for - but even in this Christ calls their attention to the works He had done - the very things that bear witness to the legitimacy of His claim - really, giving them even in that moment ample opportunity to rethink their theology, repent, and be saved.

    But of course they don't want that - they want to stone Him, so He answers their charge in kind - showing that it is not blasphemous to call oneself God's child since scripture makes it plain that God himself calls us that, he quotes from Psalm 82, the first part of verse 6 "I said, "You are gods," - but the remainder of the verse says, "And all of you are sons of the Most High." Recall that the Jewish hymn book at the time was a psaltery - so that by quoting the first have of the verse, he left them to fill in the latter - never theless, they tried to stone him anyway - but he eluded their grasp.

    That is how I see the passage.

    Your understanding of the passage fails to convince me on the grounds that Christ himself in several places puts the passage into a soteriological framework. He is speaking specifically about whose teaching brings salvation - His or the Pharisees, and explains why it is that the Pharisees get it wrong - because they are not His sheep (v. 26), which is the same as saying because they have not been given to Christ by God (v.29).

    I am not suggesting that Christ's discourse in this passage was intended to teach the Pharisees about UE. What I am saying is that Christ's answer to the Pharisees and Jews teaches UE.

    It isn't the first place I would go in scripture to make the case for UE - (that is better demonstrated elsewhere - starting with Christ's coming to Paul on the road to Damascus) but it certainly illustrates the point if one understands the metaphor.

    I should mention, the passage in John 8 where Christ refers to the Pharisees as being children of Satan (8:44) - that conversation took place in the treasury of the temple, and ended with those Pharisees picking up stones to stone Christ, and Christ left the temple through the midst of them (and therefore left that conversation c.f.John 8:59) to go and find the man whom he had healed.

    The conversation that takes place after Christ finds the man He healed, is (presumably) overheard by different Pharisees, as I hope we will all agree. It would be difficult for me to accept, as you seem to suggest in a different comment, that these same Pharisees who picked up stones to stone Christ, and from whom Christ escaped by walking through their midst (c.f. John 8:59) - were in fact the same Pharisees we encounter in John 9 and 10. I say, it would strike me as rather remarkable that those who were crying for His blood moments ago, and whom He had presumably left behind at the temple - should suddenly be with Him wherever it was that he found the man whom he had formerly healed.

    I think it is fair to say, all drama aside [ ;-) ], that those comments we find in John 8 are not to be understood as being contextually significant to the conversation in John 9 and 10 - certainly not (at least) in the way you seem to be inferring. I appreciate that it was 3:00 a.m. when we wrote this, I have four little ones myself, and I know all about sleep deprivation. ;-)

    Let me know if this all makes sense. I appreciate this post because I had to go back and look at the text quite closely to make sure I wasn't messing up anywhere - and in doing so I had to put myself before the Lord, that is, I had to be willing to be wrong if what I was saying wasn't being borne out by the text. But I think I am being true to what the text says - which is my way of reminding you that I am not trying to "be right" - rather I am trying to rightly divide the word, and I am entirely open to having any errors on my part revealed - since I am not pursuing "being right" but rather I am pursuing what is truth.

    I know your heart is the same, or I wouldn't bother commenting. ;-)

    I may post this on my blog just because it is so big I ought to take advantage of it and make a giant post!

    By Blogger Daniel, at 2/28/2007 1:28 PM  

  • Daniel: "Using the imagery of the shepherd and the flock Christ demonstrated whom God was endorsing, himself or the Pharisees."

    Himself.

    Daniel: "Let's not mix up what is being described here. The call to the sheep is the gospel - and those who respond to it do so because they are God's flock."

    Exactly. The people who are going to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ ARE God's people. God knows this from before the foundation of the world and, of course, in real time. That does not mean that God never gave them many chances to receive Him. It does not mean that they were incapable of believing. It simply means that they did not believe because they chose not to believe. These Pharisees were never God's people in their hearts. They were hypocrites. They were of their Father the devil. So, because their hearts were evil (though outwardly they APPEARED to be of God) they did not believe the truth which is that Jesus is the Messiah. Therefore, God is basically backing up and saying you do not believe because you are not my sheep. In other words, they were never God's so they would never believe Jesus who is sent from God. They would not believe because they were not of His sheep, but they were not of His sheep BECAUSE they did not believe God.

    John 5:42-47 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you. I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

    Daniel: "Why didn't they believe? BECAUSE they were not of His sheep. It wasn't that they were not of his sheep because they didn't believe - that is ==NOT== what the text says, it says they did not believe because they were not of His sheep."

    And why were they not of His sheep? BECAUSE they were not of God. Why are they not of God? BECAUSE they had wicked hearts and were hypocritical. They had not the love of God in their hearts. BECAUSE they did not believe God.

    John 8:47He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

    Daniel: "You may wish to read again the account of Paul's conversion, it describes an encounter between Christianity's greatest enemy (at the time) and Jesus Christ who came to him on the road to Damascus. To deny that God -chose- Paul, strikes me as a little myopic."

    What I meant was that God does not CHOOSE people for Heaven or Hell for reasons only He knows. (Which I thought was the context of this post.) He chooses on belief.

    God did not choose Paul's salvation. God did not force Paul to believe. If I've missed that specific scripture please feel free to provide it. Jesus presented himself and Paul believed.

    God did not choose Abraham, Isaac or Jacob to Heaven or Hell. He chose them for specific services.

    I agree that God chooses certain people for specific purposes; however, He does NOT choose certain people for salvation and choose others to Hell for no apparent reason. Those He chooses for Heaven are those who believe.

    By Blogger Dawn, at 2/28/2007 9:13 PM  

  • Rose:

    To make my point, I direct you to what else He said to them earlier:

    John 8: 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me!
    "

    Exactly, Rose! I re-read John today and that those verses (along with a few others) leapt out at me with regard to those who are not of the flock and why they would not believe. I think it is circular. They don't believe God in the first place so they are not of Jesus' sheep. And because they are not of His sheep they don't believe.

    Hope that makes sense. You are much better at explaining these things than I am. :-)

    By Blogger Dawn, at 2/28/2007 9:19 PM  

  • One other point I forgot to make, Rose, but Daniel has made it. I see the true compassion Jesus still has for these Pharisees. He exhorts them that if they can't believe what He's saying, then believe the miracles.

    Daniel: "Also in verse 29, and especially in verse 30, Christ identifies Himself as the Son of God, and introduces the theological conundrum that He and God the Father are one - which gives those Jews the excuse they were looking for - but even in this Christ calls their attention to the works He had done - the very things that bear witness to the legitimacy of His claim - really, giving them even in that moment ample opportunity to rethink their theology, repent, and be saved."

    Daniel, why, if these Pharisees were not the chosen ones and they had no choice in the matter, did He continue to try to persuade them to believe? What's the point?

    By Blogger Dawn, at 3/01/2007 3:45 PM  

  • Dawn, perhaps the best way to answer your question is with another question ..?

    In Genesis 20:6 we see a remarkable thing - God Himself witheld Abimelech from sinning.

    In Exodus 4:21 God tells Moses that =HE= is going to harden Pharaoh's heart, and yet in Exodus 8:15, 19 we see that Pharaoh hardens his own heart.

    My question to you Dawn is: given that scripture teaches that God is [1] not only able to keep a man from sinning (Abimelech), but [2] He is also capable of hardening a man's heart so that he sins (Pharaoh) - and given that scripture shows God not only being able to do both, but actually does both - and given that God "declares the end from the beginning" (c.f. Isaiah) as opposed to merely "looking forward in time" - given all these, please tell me why God declared an end wherein Adam sinned - and if you can't accept that Adam sinned according to God's decree, then answer why God created Adam knowing He would sin - and if you find that too "out there" - then answer at the very least, why God allowed Adam to sin when scripture plainly shows that God could have stopped him from doing so...

    I ask of course because like yourself I also believe that everyone has a real, genuine choice, and that we, and we alone are culpable for the choices we make - that is, if I reject God, I can't blame God for it, I can only blame myself. Yet the bible teaches that God is utterly sovereign - a sovereignty that extends all the way to declaring the end from the beginning - and most certainly includes Adam's fall, and subsequently includes showing mercy to some of the already condemned human race.

    So it isn't that I imagine that God picks innocent people and forces them all to sin in order to send most of them to hell, and save a remnant. Rather I think that when God created man, he created him with free will making him culpable for His own sin - but because God is sovereign nothing a man can do escapes God's sovereign ordination.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 3/01/2007 8:41 PM  

  • Amen. I love John 10:11
    "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."

    Rose, I trust you are doing well. I'm very excited to let you know that there is 90% chance that I will be in Toledo, Ohio this coming June. Lord willing, I will be attending a revival meeting at Hope Bible Baptsit Church (Pastor Sowell). I went 3 yrs ago and it was such a blessing. Can you tell that I'm SUPER EXCITED!!!! :)

    By Blogger Redeemed, at 3/01/2007 8:46 PM  

  • Daniel,

    Like you, I believe in the utter sovereignty of God. I also believe He has decreed the end from the beginning, but I also believe He uses His foreknowledge. It's both. I believe He does both while at the same time holds His revealed character intact.

    I have no problem reconciling the fact that God "[1] not only able to keep a man from sinning (Abimelech), but [2] He is also capable of hardening a man's heart so that he sins (Pharaoh)", but it is clear to me that God does so with regard to the person's heart.

    In the case of Abimelech, it appears that his heart was right in taking Sarah and God honored his integrity in the situation and kept him from sinning.

    In the case of Pharaoh, he had already rejected God (5:1-2) before God ever hardened his heart.

    I'm not saying that God doesn't have the sovereignty to keep whomever He so chooses from sinning or whomever He so chooses to harden them to continue in their sin. What I am saying is that it appears He does so according to the person's heart. I believe these examples show us the reason He has mercy on whomsoever He will and He hardens whomsoever He will. It is God's choice to save (or give earthly blessings to) those who believe and pour out His wrath (on earth or in eternity) on those who do not believe.

    Daniel: "...why God declared an end wherein Adam sinned...

    I don't know why God did this, but He did.

    Daniel: "...- and if you can't accept that Adam sinned according to God's decree, then answer why God created Adam knowing He would sin..."

    I don't believe He "ordered" Adam to sin. Adam sinned of his own free-will. I believe God ordained what He KNEW would happen to mankind. However, why He created Adam knowing He would sin is a mystery to me.

    Daniel: "... - and if you find that too "out there" - then answer at the very least, why God allowed Adam to sin when scripture plainly shows that God could have stopped him from doing so..."

    Again, I do not know why, but He did and it doesn't prove that He "ordered" or "made" Adam sin. And maybe that's not what you're trying to say, either.

    Daniel: "Rather I think that when God created man, he created him with free will making him culpable for His own sin - but because God is sovereign nothing a man can do escapes God's sovereign ordination."

    Agreed. But we differ in that I don't believe God said, "Daniel will go to Heaven, but Daniella will go to Hell "because I said so." (Forgive me if that is not how you believe.) One goes to Heaven or Hell of their own volition. That is not to say that the Holy Spirit doesn't have anything to do with our salvation, because He does. Without the Spirit we would not be able to respond to the Lord. But I believe the bible teaches that we all have been given that grace and ability.

    I fail to see how your questions have answered my question as to "why, if these Pharisees were not the chosen ones and they had no choice in the matter, did He continue to try to persuade them to believe? What's the point?" Did I miss your answer somewhere in there?

    By Blogger Dawn, at 3/02/2007 12:33 AM  

  • Dawn, you likely missed the answer because I wasn't clear enough.

    The Pharisees were culpable for their own sin and God had declared their end from the very beginning - reserving the blackness of darkness forever for them, giving them ears that could not hear, and eyes that could not see.

    To be sure, we read about where we get ears to hear and eyes to see begining in Deuteronomy (29:4), where Moses is explaining to the Israelites that even though they all saw what happened in Egypt with their own eyes, yet in spite of that God did not give the Israelites a heart to perceive, eyes to see, or ears to hear to that very day.

    That reminds us that God is the one who opens hearts and eyes, and not our own cleverness or personality - and that God doesn't do it in response to our faith, but rather our faith is in response to God's enabling. Surely there ought to have been at least a few hundred thousand amongst the roughly 2 million Jewish exiles after seeing the ten plagues, after being under the cloud day and night for forty years - that would have had enough information to have their eyes opened, if it were something that we do - so that God could "repond" - but we see that the reason their eyes and ears were not opened was because God hadn't opened them.

    We see the same again in Isaiah 6:9-10 - God explains that He is going to make their heart dull, their eyes shut and their ears heavy in order to make it impossible for them to return to Him and be healed until God's apppointed time. (c.f. Isaiah 32)

    Jeremiah prophesies to a people whom God has made blind and deaf (Jeremiah 5:21) - recall that God told Jeremiah specifically that they would not listen to him, but he was required to call them to repentence.

    Paul explains this very idea in Romans 11:7-9 - that the reason Israel failed to embrace Christ was because God had made them blind - and he quotes from similar texts to the ones I have quoted to make his point.

    God made them culpable and they remained culpable even when God made them blind and deaf.

    It is entirely consistent for Christ to give the Pharisees every opportunity to repent, and even as Jeremiah was instructed to preach to a people whom God had ordained before hand would not listen to his preaching - so too Christ, even though these men were not of His flock, Christ gave them every opportunity, in good faith, to repent.

    Recall Christ washing the feet of Judas at a time when He already knew Judas was about to go and betray Him? That is the character of our God - a humble servant, willing to treat all men, even His own betrayer, with the same grace.

    Had Christ treated those who were not of His flock differently than those who were of His flock, He would not have been God. God is not partial (c.f. Romans 2:11)

    So my answer is that Christ gave them the opportunity to repent because He is God, and God is merciful. Christ knew these men were not of His flock - that is plain enough from the immediate dialog, and we could examine John 2:24-25 if we were still hazy on the idea. Christ knew these were not of His flock, but He gave them the opportunity to repent.

    Now if it is a question of motive, why did He do it, I can say this much, my first inclination is to look for some motive common to man - but that has a man centered myopia to it. I like to speculate as much as the next guy, but honestly, sometimes we allow our speculations to drive our interpretation, and when we do that our speculations can cause us to re-interpret what is going on because we are unable to speculate an answer that satisifes our understanding of the character of God.

    That is, I might be inclined to say - God is so loving and so merciful, that the only reason God could ever give the Pharisees an opportunity to repent was because he was wringing His hands in hope that just maybe "this time" they would believe. Such a notion is premised upon the idea that God really has no control over salvation - and that is premised upon the errant idea that God would be wicked for saving one man while allowing another to perish.

    But that line of reasoning is grounded in our own sense of fairness - If I work all day and another works only one hour, and our boss pays us the same wage - I am offended because I feel that if the boss gives the other fellow the same as he give me - I should get more because I worked more. The true wicked nature of my heart is revealed in that I am offended by the kindness of my boss. I want the other fellow to get less, or alternately I want the boss to pay me more - because I don't understand justice. Maybe when I was a kid my mom used to give us all the same equally, and call that "fairness" - and maybe this is why I have this idea in my head that if the boss shows this guy who worked only an hour and gives him a merciful wage - one he did not earn, that the boss must therefore over compensate me in order to remain "fair" - and that unless this boss hands out mercy according to my understanding of "fairness" he is unjust.

    But the reality is, the boss can give the days wage to whomever he wills, and it is not unjust to allow me to receive what I have earned.

    Soteriologically speaking, we earn condemnation by our sin, and God is justified in paying every last one of us that wage - and God is not unjust if He, because of His great mercy, gives to some eternal life which they have not earned. It doesn't make him evil if He gives life to some and not all - it makes Him merciful. It is the mind set on a wrong kind of fairness - that cannot see this.

    They were given the opportunity to repent, even though Christ knew they weren't going to. They certainly had the ability to repent - it isn't like God was forcing them to =not= repent; that image is grossly cartoonish - rather it is that repentance is a gift given by God (c.f. Acts 11:18, 2 Tim 2:25), and that God was not compelled to give them that gift. These were not innocent men - they were wretched sinners, treasonous rebels who had earned a place in hell a thousand times over through their consistent God slandering rebellion. God's only obligation to them was to give them their wage - hell. God is not wicked for "withholding" the gift of repentance - if repentance were something we had a right to, scripture wouldn't describe it as something God grants.

    I may be starting to ramble - there is only so many ways to say the same thing. Let me know if my point is coherent enough to be understood.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 3/02/2007 6:24 AM  

  • Daniel,
    Excellent explanation! Whether we like it or understand it, this is what Scripture teaches.
    Wayne

    By Blogger jazzycat, at 3/02/2007 10:28 AM  

  • Hi Sarah!
    Maybe I can meet you! Email me the details when you know for sure. We have never visited that church - maybe we could when you are there. I see it all the time because it is right on the highway.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 3/03/2007 12:17 PM  

  • Daniel, thanks for your response. Your point is coherent enough to be understood. I can agree with some of your points, though not all of them. I really need to do further study.

    Again, I appreciate the time you've taken to explain your position.

    By Blogger Dawn, at 3/03/2007 3:25 PM  

  • Dawn, I am thankful for having had the opportunity to discuss it. Thanks.

    By Blogger Daniel, at 3/03/2007 3:49 PM  

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