Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.

John 10:16

“Other sheep.”

Our Lord had just said, “I am the good Shepherd.” In distinction from hirelings, who do not own and love the flock but who prove to be thieves and robbers, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who loves and cares for His flock.

When Jesus speaks of “other sheep,” He adds, “which are not of this fold.” There were sheep, the believers of the past, who had been safely brought into the enclosure, the sheepfold of the saints. Most of them were already rejoicing before the throne in glory. This was obviously the church of the old dispensation, gathered mainly out of Israel as a nation, the nation that was typically separated from all the nations of the world as God’s peculiar possession. Now Jesus speaks of other sheep, plainly referring to the church of the new dispensation, and thus referring also to us.

We are called “sheep.” Immediately we think of helpless, dependent creatures. Many animals can forage for themselves, but sheep are dependent upon a shepherd to feed them in green pastures and to provide calm, quiet waters for them to drink. They have no protection against predators. A lion has its claws, a bull has its horns, a bee has its sting, and a dog has its bite, but a sheep is defenseless, a ready prey to wild animals unless well protected.

Still worse, a sheep tends to wander. If you have ever watched a sheep dog that is constantly alert for any stray sheep, you will realize how a sheep will repeatedly try to break away from the flock to wander away on its own. And once having wandered away, it does not have enough sense to find its way back, but, if not sought for by the shepherd, soon perishes.

Sheep can also be stubborn. If two should get into a fight, they will stand back and crash head on against each other so often that one of them is either seriously injured or killed.

That is the picture that Christ draws of you and me. We are helpless, dependent creatures, who are given our life and breath by God from moment to moment. In Him we live and breathe and have our being. Without Him we can do absolutely nothing. Yet it is also true that, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” By nature we are stubborn, rebellious, wandering sheep, totally depraved, incapable of any good and inclined to all evil. Humbly we confess it.

“Other sheep I have.”

The emphasis falls upon the Good Shepherd. Shepherding was a common occupation in the old dispensation. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were shepherd-kings. Moses shepherded the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro. David was a shepherd-lad and spoke of it in his psalms. Still today shepherds are seen in Palestine with their staffs, leading their flocks or watching over them as they graze in green pastures. These shepherds often become attached to them, carefully grazing them and guarding them from predators. David speaks of having fought off a lion and a bear.

Jesus claims all true believers, the entire church of the old dispensation, as His own, as those whom He has already brought into the fold in glory. Now He speaks of other sheep, referring to the church of the new dispensation that must still be led into the fold.

He does not say, “Other sheep I desire to have.” Nor does He say, “Other sheep I might have,” or “I will have.” No, He says, “I have.” Before the foundations of the earth Jesus was the chosen of God to be the Christ. To Him was given the elect of all the ages, the church, His sheep. He and His church are as one. He has a rightful claim to them, to you and to me by eternal, sovereign election. I am inexpressibly thankful to believe that I am eternally one of His sheep. I belong to Jesus, the eternal Christ of God.

“Them also I must bring.”

The Good Shepherd knows His sheep. He knows them as given to Him by the Father. He knows them as His very own, His personal possession. He knows them by name with all their weaknesses, frailties, and sins. This very fact lays upon Him a great responsibility, a powerful “must.” He is deeply aware of the mandate laid upon Him by the Father even when He says, “Them also I must bring.”

It was for that very reason that the Son of God had come into the flesh, taking upon Himself all the weakness of sinful flesh, like unto the brethren, sin excepted. He bowed willingly under the burden of the wrath of God, not because of any sin of His own, but because He bore all the sins of all those given to Him of the Father.

All His life He walked in the shadow of the cross, for He was aware that His “must” required laying down His life for His sheep. It demanded of Him the perfect sacrifice for sin by suffering the torments of hell in our stead. He surrendered Himself to the painful, accursed death of the cross for you and for me. A Christus pro omnibus (Christ for all) is no Savior. He laid down His life for His sheep. “Blessed Savior, Thou hast bought us, Thine we are.” What a wonder of sovereign mercy and boundless grace!

“They shall hear My voice.”

Having accomplished the atonement of the cross, Jesus died our physical death and rose again as Victor over death and the grave to proceed onward into a new, glorious, heavenly life at the Father’s right hand. He was taken up into glory to intercede for us before the throne of grace and to present our prayers before the Father, in order to bless us with every blessing of salvation.

On Pentecost He returned to His church, to us, by His indwelling Spirit. We hear His voice, for He now speaks to us through His Word and by His Spirit. We go to church on the Sabbath to hear Jesus speak to us as we bow in humble worship. The minister is the under-shepherd called of God to bring us the Word, that through Him we may hear Christ. By the power of Christ’s Word and Spirit we are marvelously renewed; unbelievers are changed to believers; sinners are changed into saints; children of Satan become sons and daughters of the living God. In the midst of our sin and misery we hear Him say to us personally: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Rebels, wandering sheep, confess: “My Lord and my God.”

We believe! By that amazing wonder of grace we are not only given the ability to believe, the willingness, but also the believing itself. It is all of God. We are brought into the fold, the church, where we are fed in green pastures and find refreshment by still waters. He restores our soul. He leads us in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. He feeds His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs with His arms, and carries them in His bosom, and gently leads those that are with young. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. All this purely in efficacious mercy from the God of all grace!

“And there shall be one fold (flock) and one Shepherd.”

The church of all ages is one flock. Though we distinguish between the sheep of the old dispensation and those of the new, the two are still one flock in heaven. Though the church is spread over the centuries of time, scattered throughout the nations of theworld, divided into races and languages, it is still spiritually one universal church, united as one in Christ. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6).

We believe a holy, universal church, which the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world gathers, defends, and preserves to Himself by His Spirit and Word out of the whole human race, chosen unto everlasting life and agreeing in true faith. We also believe that we are and forever shall remain living members of that church.

Our Father loves His church, as does His Christ. No man can possibly snatch us out of their hands. We base our eternal security on our unchangeable God, who has begun a good work for us and in us and will surely finish it.

Our Lord is now busily engaged in heaven drawing His sheep unto Himself, that they may be where He is forever. Even now He is preparing a place for us, so that when we are ready for that place, and that place is ready for us, He will reach out His arm, take us into His bosom, and bring us with Him into the fold.

He will also raise our mortal bodies in the likeness of His glorious body in the day when He fully subjects all things unto Himself.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of God forever.

Even there Christ will be our Good Shepherd. Eternally we will be dependent sheep, always receiving from Him grace for grace, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord as we with body and soul reflect the glory of God that shines upon us through Him. One flock and one Shepherd!

Jesus is our eternal Lord, the Shepherd of His sheep, to the praise and honor and adoration of our God!