Those Other Sheep

Rev. Miersma is a missionary of the Protestant Reformed Churches, currently serving in Ghana, West Africa.

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 I have which are not of this fold.” Notice that the text twice uses the word “fold.” The Revised Version translates the text using that word only once. It reads, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring,… and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” In this instance the latter is better. These sheep are not of the same fold, but they will be one flock. The point is important. The “fold” was the place where the sheep were kept, enclosures in the open country where the shepherds of the Orient herded their flocks at night. “This fold,” therefore, refers to the old dispensation; the Jewish theocracy; the people out of which Christ Himself was, historically; the natural seed of Abraham; national Israel. The “other sheep” are not of this fold. They are, therefore, the elect that are not out of the natural seed of Abraham. They are the elect of the new dispensation, of the Gentile nations, referred to in so many Old Testament prophecies. “In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you,” (Zech. 8:23). Those are the “other sheep.”

“Them also I must bring,” says Jesus. His final sufferings and death and resurrection and ascension and redemptive work throughout the new dispensation still lay ahead. These sheep, therefore, and they only, are the objects of the bringing. They only are the objects of the bringing in the intentions of God. Always God reveals Himself as willing only to those whom He Himself has sovereignly ordained unto eternal life. They only are the objects of the bringing in the intentions of the Christ. “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” (John 6:38, 39). And even as these sheep, and they only, are the objects of the bringing in the purposes of the Most High and His Christ, thus they, and they only, are actually saved. “Them also I must bring.”

This assures us, and all who labor in the gospel, that, regardless of apparent futility, our work is never in vain in the Lord. The work of the gospel often seems so fruitless, like a plowing on rocks. Never fear, God is accomplishing all His good pleasure. This leaves God GOD, out of whom and through whom and unto whom are all things. And this preaches a Christ who actually brings to pass all He came to do.

There is a slogan that reads, “Christ saves to the uttermost.” That is as true as true can be, if only we understand it to mean: Christ saves all He came to save. Our Canons of Dordt state it so beautifully in Head 2, Article 9: “This purpose, proceeding from everlasting love towards the elect, has from the beginning of the world to this day been powerfully accomplished, and will henceforward still continue to be accomplished, notwithstanding all the ineffectual opposition of the gates of hell.”

“Them also I must bring.” The Son of God is speaking here. John, more than all the others, emphasizes the deity of Christ. It is in the sublime consciousness that He is the only begotten Son, and therefore Himself God, that Christ speaks throughout this chapter. “I am the door of the sheep … I am the good shepherd…. As the Father knoweth me so know I the Father … I give unto them eternal life … I and my Father are one.” So well do the wicked Jews understand Him, that they want to stone Him, because, say they, “Thou makest thyself God.” As the Son of God He speaks in our text: “Other sheep I have … them also I must bring … and they shall hear my voice.” The Son of God alone must bring the sheep—if brought they shall be.

As the Good Shepherd, Jesus stands in contrast to the evil shepherds referred to in Scripture. They fed themselves instead of the sheep. They ate the fat, clothed themselves with the wool, but fed not the flock. They strengthened not the diseased, healed not the sick, sought not the lost. They enter by another way than the door, to kill and to steal and to destroy. They flee when the wolf comes because the sheep are not their own. These are the evil shepherds at whose hands the flock will be required. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He feeds the flock; He strengthens the diseased; He enters by the door; He calls the sheep by name; He leads them forth; He gives His life for the sheep. And thus, as the Good Shepherd, the Son of God is in deep reality the only missionary.

True, it pleases Him to use human preachers and missionaries as His instruments. These have the calling to preach the gospel of salvation to all creatures, beginning at Jerusalem and thence to the ends of the earth. With such mission work we agree with all our hearts. Mission work aims to proclaim the blessed gospel of Christ to all creatures. Even so, in truth Christ is the only missionary. We do not win the souls for Jesus. We preach Christ crucified. Christ, through that preaching, wins His own souls. “Them also I must bring.”

Literally, this word “bring” means “to drive or to lead.” It means to lead by laying hold of, so that the basic idea of the word includes the notion of determination and power on the part of Him who does the bringing. It refers, therefore, to all that the Good Shepherd does to bring the sheep to salvation, actually, efficaciously, irresistibly.

To this bringing belongs all Jesus does for us in the fullness of time. Remember, we wrote at the beginning of this article that His final sufferings and death, resurrection and ascension, outpouring of the Spirit and redemptive work throughout the ages still lay ahead when He uttered these words. The Good Shepherd is thinking of all these. He suffers and dies, pays the penalty of sin and removes the guilt, reconciles with the living God, and merits the right to eternal life.

All this He does for His own. Limited atonement! “I lay down my life for my sheep.” Then He rises from the dead and is exalted on the right hand of God, and there He receives all power and authority over all things and the Spirit without measure to bless His own with every spiritual blessing in heaven. “Them also I must bring” includes all this.

Subjectively, this bringing to salvation is realized in all that the Good Shepherd does in us. He calls by the preaching of His Word. Therein He speaks of sin and guilt, punishment and eternal wrath, and calls to repentance. He speaks of grace and pardon in Calvary’s blood and calls to faith. He reveals Himself as the only way and truth and life for lost and damnworthy sinners. He calls the weary and heavy-laden, the hungry and thirsty, the contrite and those that mourn in Zion, and thus He calls His own by name.

And while He calls He works in the hearts of His sheep by His overpowering grace and Spirit. That Spirit seeks the wandering ones, regenerates, inclines the heart, bends the will, opens the eyes, and thus applies the gospel call to the heart. He convicts of sin and guilt, makes weary and contrite, leads to Calvary, sanctifies, and prepares unto every good work. Thus the Good Shepherd does not merely desire to bring; He brings. The gospel is not an offer of some kind or other; it is the power of God unto salvation.

Finally, what must and shall be the result of this “bringing” of Christ? Jesus says, “They shall hear my voice,” the voice of the Good Shepherd—the voice that speaks of incarnation and suffering and death and resurrection, of peace and reconciliation and grace and pardon in the blood that speaks of infinitely better things than the blood of Abel—the voice that speaks of righteousness in the midst of unrighteousness, blessing in the midst of curse, life in the midst of death, glory in the midst of shame—the voice that comes not only to our natural ears and minds though the preaching of the gospel, but to our hearts through the inner, mystical operation of the Spirit within.

This hearing, therefore, is a spiritual matter. Obviously, Jesus is not speaking of physical hearing and mere natural perception. In that sense, all who hear the gospel hear the voice of Jesus, also those for whom this voice is a savor of death unto death. The sheep hear His voice spiritually. It is the hearing of spiritual understanding, of personal appropriation, of obedience and faith. When Jesus calls, the sheep prick up their ears, as it were, and they come, they follow, they forsake sin and every evil way, they repent, they turn, they seek their salvation in His cross alone, they walk according to the Spirit, whereby we know that we too are sheep.

And note the certainty of it all. “They shall hear.” Irresistible grace! If salvation, even in the remotest sense, were dependent on man, this could not be said. But now, salvation is of the Lord. And, says Jesus, “there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” There shall be! Perseverance of the saints! One flock and one Shepherd. No unscriptural separation of Jew and Gentile. The sheep of the Jewish fold and those not of that fold would all become one flock, with and under the eternal Shepherd Jesus Christ.

Thus it must be to the glory of God’s grace. For there is one God, whose one glorious image, through the one Mediator, must be revealed in the one people. However, even as that one image consists of a multitude of perfections, even so that one flock must consist of a multitude of sheep, each of which must reflect that one unspeakable glory of God, to the revelation of the whole and the praise of the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, the one, the only Shepherd of His chosen race.