Gerrit Vos (1894-1968) was a minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches and long-time contributor to the SB. This wonderful article was first published as a meditation in the June 15, 1948 issue of the SB (vol. 24, no. 18, pp. 409-411).
“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. I and my Father are one.” John 10:27-30
The occasion for these words of my text must be sought in the curing of the man who was born blind.
That this is so, is evident from the answer which Jesus gives when His disciples ask Him: “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” To this query Jesus gives answer: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.”
And then follows the curing of the man and the resultant struggle with the Pharisees. And these two events constitute a manifestation of the works of God: that is, the curing of God’s people from death to life and the hardening of the reprobates that stumble at the curative works of God. But both together in their relation to one another constitute the work of Jehovah God.
That this is so is further demonstrated at the end of the 9th chapter, where Jesus comes to the blind man and heals him spiritually, and where the formerly blind man worships Jesus. Then Jesus says: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and they which see might be made blind.” And this fundamental statement of the works of God through Jesus is followed by the taunt of the reprobates: “Are we blind also?” And the answer of Jesus: “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”
And this manifestation of the works of God through Jesus, a work that is the saving of the blind, on the one hand; and the hardening of the reprobates who say they see, on the other hand, is carried on further by Jesus in chapter 10 by the preaching of a parable of the shepherd, the sheep, the door, the hireling and the wolves. Each has his proper place.
And my text constitutes the conclusion of that discourse of the sheep and the shepherd. You may also call it a restatement of the works of God.
And its theme is this: Salvation is of the Lord!
Salvation is of the Lord!
You hear of that wonderful truth in my text three times. Salvation is of the Lord! This truth is evident in the actions of the sheep, in the hand of the Good Shepherd, and in the almighty love of the triune God.
The sheep themselves show that it is God that worketh salvation.
They hear the voice of Jesus!
And that is a miracle.
No matter how sweet the voice of Jesus Christ, and no matter where and how He may speak, the natural tendency of our heart and mind is to stop our ears and to corrupt ourselves in the midst of this chorus of the voice of the Lord.
The speech of Jesus!
It is rich and manifold in form.
There is a universal speech of Jesus as He is the Logos in creation.
From the beginning of creation He has spoken in created things. See Psalm 19, Romans 1, and John 1.
Our fathers have listened to that speech of the Son of God in creation, and they have said of it that “the creation, preservation and government of the universe…is before our eyes as a most elegant book, where in all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to contemplate the invisible things of God, namely, His power and divinity” [Belgic Confession, Art. 2].
And this book is written by Jesus Christ, but then as the Logos of creation: “And God said…”! The speaking voice of God is the eternal Son!
But who among men hears that voice of the Son?
None of us as we are by nature!
Oh yes, we notice the things which are characters in the book of God, and we take them and use them and enjoy (?) them, but without giving God the glory. Terrible thought: we will even use these things of God’s voice against Him! Thinking that we can make war against the God supreme!
Most wanton godlessness: not to listen to the voice of God’s emissary.
And in the fullness of time the Voice of God came on earth, and He spoke again. And the words of Jesus are precious beyond compare.
They are different from the characters of the most elegant book of nature, and yet they are the same in essence. The Source is the same.
The difference lies in this, that this second speech of the Son of God is relative of the work of God in recreation, in the rebuilding and exaltation of all things.
If one thing was plain in the fullness of time it was this: humanity had corrupted its way in the earth.
And there comes Jesus in the midst of the darkness of man!
Listen, He is about to speak!
I am the Light of the world!
Do you see the similarity, and the difference?
Similarity, for God also said at the dawn of the history of the world: “Let there be light”!
Difference, for Jesus is the Light of the world in a spiritual sense. Paul spoke of it in II Corinthians: “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness hath shined in our hearts….” There is the difference! God spoke in the midst of the chaotic darkness, and the result was natural light for the natural world. God spoke again in the midst of the dark heart of man, and the result was spiritual light for the spiritual world of His good pleasure.
And the record of this speech of God anent [about] spiritual things is found in the Word of God, the Bible.
It is the voice of Jesus.
And notice: it is of the Lord, whether you listen to His word in nature, or to His word in the realm of His kingdom. God speaks!
Without that voice the darkness remaineth.
Salvation is of the Lord!
And the miracle of salvation becomes manifest in this, that there are men who hear.
That is the miracle of grace in the heart of man.
Without that grace, you will always corrupt yourself, even in the midst of the beauteous symphony of the voice of God in Jesus Christ.
But when grace enters the heart, we take heed to
the voice of Jesus. We hear. My sheep hear my voice.
The objective voice of Jesus penetrates the hearts of man, illuminating him in that heart, so that he sees God in the face of Jesus Christ. Only if and when “God shines in our hearts,” do we receive “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The first fruit of such hearing of the voice of Jesus is regeneration. And regeneration is the light of the world in your heart, dispelling, centrally, the darkness of corruption. You become a new man in Christ.
And the second result is that you follow Him.
You leave the city of corruption and you begin your journey to the city of God, the New Jerusalem. And you will principally use all things to go to that City of God.
They leave the darkness, the sphere of guilt, doom, corruption and death, and they travel to the realm of light and truth, goodness and spiritual power, everlasting love of God and the life that is eternal.
For that is salvation.
Do you not see that salvation is of the Lord?
He found us in our darkness, and that is death and
corruption. And He speaks! And how He speaks. He speaks so that the dead hear His voice, and they leave the sepulcher, and are loosed from the grave clothes that bind them about. They shed them and walk. They see the light of His mercy, and they travel to the face, to the face of God. You cannot keep God’s children from walking to heaven.
And going, travelling, marching to Zion, they sing: This God whom we see in the face of Jesus Christ, is the strength of our strength! His is all the glory!
Salvation is of the Lord!
Salvation is of the Lord!
“And I know them!”
What unutterable sweetness is in these words! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, knows me!
This knowing is no mere intellectual knowing, but it is the same “knowing” of Romans 8. It is because of this “knowledge” wherewith God and Christ know us that we arrive in eternal glory. This knowledge is the beginning of the chain of salvation of Romans 8. “And whom he foreknew, he also did predestinate….”
Can you fathom this? Jesus knew His sheep from all eternity in a knowledge of indescribable love. He knew them so intently and so wonderfully that for the sake of the loving foreknowledge He went to hell for them.
And note that the loving knowledge wherewith Jesus knows His sheep is the manifestation of the love of God. Note that the “love of Christ” in verse 35 of Romans 8, becomes “the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus the Lord” in verse 39!
And it is because of this knowledge wherewith Jesus knows His sheep that “they shall not perish unto eternity”; you must read the text that way. They shall not perish unto all eternity, no, for Jesus did perish for them. He perished unto eternity, that is, He died the eternal death for them. You see: your Jesus is the Good Shepherd. And your negative pasture is this, that He died the death for His sheep.
It means that He took upon Himself all your guilt, and death, and damnation. And coming from the tomb, He sang into your ears: There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Me! They shall nevermore die!
And no one shall be able to pluck them out of the hand of the Good Shepherd!
Who would attempt to do that?
Oh, but there are many that would if they could.
There is the devil and his devils.
They would love to pluck you out of the hand of the Shepherd.
Jesus has revealed to us that Satan would like to have sifted the apostle Peter as wheat is sifted. But Jesus prayed. And Peter stayed in the hand of the Shepherd. You can tell that. For when it seems as though Peter was lost, Jesus takes one look at him, and Peter weeps, he weeps bitterly and goes weeping into the night. Oh God, be merciful to me the sinner! It is the strength of the loving hand of Jesus that keeps Peter on the way to the city of God. Judas weeps too, but he takes the cord and hangs himself. And the deepest reason is that Jesus did not pray for Judas, did not know him in love, and did not prepare his pasture.
There is the world, inspired by the devil and his hosts of hell.
And they, too, would like to spoil the sheep of Christ with an eternal spoiling. They hate you, for you exhibit Jesus, and God. Him they hated before they hated you, and they hate you for His sake.
But Jesus has overcome the world, and He continues to overcome the world by the implanting of a living faith in your hearts. Your faith overcomes the world.
And so: the world is not able to pluck you out of the hand of Jesus.
And there is the power of sin in your heart, inspired by the world and the devil who dwell there by nature. And even though your inner heart is renewed by the power of grace of which we spoke above, there are the remnants of sin in your members, and they, too, would spoil you, and pluck you out of the hand of Christ. Let us put it this way: if Jesus did not hold you firmly in His hand, you, yourself, would try to get out of His hand! You, as you are by nature, are in league with the devil and the world he inspires.
But Jesus loves you, and He holds you. “The Lord my Savior holds me!” Remember how you sang that song? Well, He does. And He does it through the almighty power of His grace which becomes evident in faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God!
For: Salvation is of the Lord!
Salvation is of the Lord!
And I give unto them eternal life!
It is tantamount to saying, as He does later: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
Eternal life is to know God triune, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent.
To have eternal life, therefore, is to have the knowledge of the living God in your inmost heart.
Eternal life is more than enduring life. Adam had this in Paradise. But he could lose it. And he did lose it. Moreover, it was only earthly knowledge of God.
Eternal life is to know God, deeper than Adam in Paradise. It is to know more of God’s virtues in a qualitative and also in a quantitative sense. Qualitative: we know God as the God of our salvation who would go to hell for us. I ask you: what did Adam know of that kind of a God? Quantitative: I ask you: what did Adam know of the riches of the wisdom and the power of God? Through the cross, as a prism, the “white” rays of the virtues of God are broken into the variegated beauties of the knowledge of God in goodness, patience, longsuffering, forgiveness, grace for grace, and what more would tell us of the story of the indescribable love of God in the face of His Son, groaning and crying in eternal darkness. Will you measure the greatness of the love of God? Well, go stand before the cross during the three hours darkness, and listen to the sighs of the Lamb.
Creation, history, providence, the Bible, Jesus and God triune unite to sing one song: Salvation is of the Lord! Are you prepared to sing its choruses? To do so is heaven.