THE SHEPHERD CONTRADICTED OF SINNERS(John 10:22-24).
It seems rather obvious that some time had elapsed between Christ’s expressed declaration that he is the good Shepherd, as recorded in verses 1-21, and the discussion in the temple in Solomon’s, porch as recorded in the verses. 22-39. John states expressly that it was the occasion of the dedication of the temple. This feast was not one of the three feasts prescribed by Moses in the Law. Those feasts were the feast of the Passover, of Pentecost, and the feast of Tabernacles. This feast dated from the time of the Maccabees at the time of Judas’ deliverance of the temple from the hand of Antiochus Epiphanus. In I Mace. 4:59 we read the following,
“and Judas and his brethren and the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their seasons from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Chislev, with joy and gladness.”
It was on this day and occasion that Jesus was at the temple, where the congregation and the multitudes of Israel were gathered. Was not this day a day to remember the heroic battles of two centuries before? Was this not an occasion once more wherein the hope of Israel is expressed, the hope to be delivered completely from the bondage of Babylon and the nations? Was this hope not altogether connected with the expectation of the Messiah, the Christ to come? However, the popular and fleshly expectation of the national Israel, and that which is portrayed concerning the Shepherd of Israel in the prophecies, differ rather radically. It is the question of either returning to the Old Testament typical kingdom or pressing on to the heavenly kingdom in Christ, through His death and resurrection!
The question therefore of whether Christ is the Messiah, the One to come, is a persistent one. It is the question which ever is a burning one: what say ye of the Christ, whose Son is He? Thus it was with these “Jews.” They are called a class, “the Jews,” in the Greek text. They are the leaders of the people, the ruling class, and not simply the common Israelite in “whom there is no guile.” These Jews do not belong to Christ’s, sheep and flock. But they are occupied with the question: is Jesus the Christ? Should this one be the Christ, then all their plans for the earthly kingdom are never to be realized, and all their trickery and politics with the nations shall come to nought. They are concerned not about the kingdom of heaven, but about “our place and nation!”
They feign to have an interest in the Christ which is genuine. They surround Jesus as a Jewish rabble. They are saying (elegon) in vehement tones, “How long do you hold our soul in suspense?” They pretend that they are like those who are watchmen and who say, “We wait for thy salvation, O God!” They accuse Jesus of not having spoken clearly and plainly that He is the Christ. They say, “Tell us plainly.” Now surely, Jesus had been going up and down the land performing his wonders, of whom Peter says on the day of Pentecost, “a man approved among you by miracles, signs and wonders, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.” Christ did not plainly state who He was? Unbelief seeks the excuse, and Christ must be blamed for his defective ministry and self-manifestation.
THE PLAIN SPEECH OF CHRIST’S APOLOGY (John 10:25-29)
Jesus is surrounded by a Jewish rabble in the temple in Solomon’s porch. He is forced (?) to reply to the charge concerning the lack of clarity of his teaching. Of course, his reply is not to those who are willing to learn, nor does Jesus address them as such. It is a reply to the hostile and unbelieving Jews. “Jesus answeredthem!” He answers them most pointedly and completely so that there is no doubt about the fact that he is the Christ of God.
Jesus turns the charge about. He does not merely deny their affirmations and allegations, but He makes a counter-assertion, stating that the fault lies with them, with their not believing his words. “I have told you, and you do not believe.” They do not believe at this very moment! The great Physician accurately diagnoses these unbelievers. Did He not know what was in man? While He was speaking, their hearing was not mingled with faith. From such is taken what they think to have. (Matt. 13:12) To them, it is not given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. It is more the charge of the unbelief of the Jews that is underscored than the Savior’s denial of not having spoken clearly.
Our Lord does not merely claim that He told them. His words were fully and wonderfully confirmed by the works which He did in their midst. First of all, it is asserted by Jesus that they are the works which emphatically He does. They are the works which “I do.” He does these works, and no one else. The blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers are cleansed, and dead are raised to life. And these are not some isolated cases. They are legion which He performs. Even the very waves of the sea obey Him. Secondly, it is asserted that Jesus does these works, is still doing them. In a never-ending, constant labor Christ is doing these works before the very eyes of these Jews. He had recently opened the eyes of the man who was born blind.
These works bear testimony. They are not simply physical effects, but added to the words of, Christ. They abundantly testify concerning the Christ, who He is, and that He is the Son of God. For no man can do these works which He doeth except God be with him.
If these works testify so clearly, why do these Jews not believe Him while others do believe? The answer of Christ is: ye are not out of my sheep. They are reprobate! Here we must remember what John writes in Chapter 12:37-41: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they, could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal, them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory and spake of him.” Although the efficient cause for not understanding that Christ is the Son of God is unbelief, yet the deeper reason is: ye are not of my sheep. And here one must not resort to the Pelagian error of the Arminians, who would make the matter of faith or unbelief the sum total of the counsel of God to be preached, without regard to the deeper question of God’s eternal decree of election and reprobation.
THE FIVE POINTS OF CHRIST’S PLAIN SPEECH TO THE JEWS (John 10:26-30)
These five points, of Christ plain speech are briefly: 1. Efficacious grace. “My sheep hear my voice.” 2. Total depravity, “Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep.” 3. Sovereign election: “Which the Father hath given me.” 4. Particular atonement: “and I give to them eternal life.” 5. Perseverance of the saints. “And no one can pluck them out of the hand of my Father.”
Behold then the five points of Jesus Christ. They are the points in which Christ tells the unbelievers “plainly” that He is the Christ, and how one can believe and what His abiding relationship is to the sheep. Strictly speaking, therefore, these points are not the five points of Calvinism, but they are the “five points” of Jesus Christ. This is the only effective polemic against all unbelief. Small wonder that these points are hated. They are the object of the hatred of unbelief against the very Christ of God!
Do you desire to understand believingly the faith of the believers in Christ, your own faith in Him? Then begin with the confession that by nature you and I are not sheep, but that we are as the wild and ferocious beasts. But. God makes us a sheep by His efficacious grace alone. He enlightens the mind and bends our wills, and makes us docile as sheep toward the Shepherd of Israel to hear and heed His voice. It is for this reason that Christ can state so dogmatically: my sheep hear my voice! There is not one sheep which does not hear the Shepherd’s voice. It is all because of the efficacious calling, the calling from darkness into God’s marvelous light. Thus we are partakers of the heavenly calling, the upward calling in Christ Jesus. (Hebrews 3:1; Philippians 3:14) He who truly holds to this reality of the efficacious calling has the assurance of faith in that He is faithful who has called us. Leave it up to man’s alleged free-will, and all certainty of faith is forever gone.
Secondly, we must hold to the truth that those who do not receive this gift of faith, nor are called with the upward calling in Christ, are not called because they were none of Christ’s sheep, which were given Him from the Father. Such is the full import of: ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep. This may not be reversed into: ye are not my sheep because ye do not believe. Our faith is the gift of God to the sheep!
Thirdly, we should notice that there is God’s sovereign election. God gave a “certain number” of people to Christ out of the entire human race before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:3, 4) He elected us not because we were holy and without blame, but He elected us so that we should be holy and without blame before Him. Wherefore Jesus says, “whom the Father hath given me.”
Fourthly, we should notice that Christ speaks of “giving eternal life.” This does not simply mean that Christ gives the opportunity for people to be saved, making salvation possible! No, this means that He has merited eternal life on the Cross for as many as the Father has given Him, and that to these and these only He gives this merited life.
Fifthly, this means that no one can pluck the sheep out of the Father’s hand. None can frustrate his purpose. The saints will persevere. It is the power and strength of God in which the saints are kept. The “hand” of the Shepherd and the hand of the Father are the same hand. For the Son and the Father are one!
Such is the “golden chain” of the five points of Christ’s polemic against the unbelieving Jews. The chain is: Election—atonement—efficacious calling—preservation of the sheep. This is done by the Father through the Son, and they are one. The works of God are manifested. Yet, this is not a dogmatically formulated doctrine, but it is apology of the hearing of the sheep and the unbelief of those who are not sheep. It is plain speech. Standing in the midst of the sheep, the sheep are portrayed in their listening and hearing activity. This is explained by contrast: those not my sheep do not hear, and I do not know them. I lay down my life for the sheep, and I give them life more abundantly. And I shall never allow anyone to pluck them out of my hand.
Paul picks up this polemic and makes it a confession: those whom He has predestinated He has also called, and whom He has called He has also justified, and whom He has justified He has also glorified. The golden chain not of human logic (who could conceive of it), but of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.