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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 4

God’s Sheep

Chapter 3 established the difference between Abraham’s natural and spiritual seed. Many descendents were begotten of Abraham’s flesh, but only a small remnant of his faith. The spiritual father of the great majority of Abraham’s physical descendents was actually the devil! John 8:44.

The coming of Christ into the world brought great light into a nation ruled by gross darkness — darkness that was highly religious. The light served to bring deliverance and salvation to the true seed while the rest were blinded, made ready for the judgment soon to follow.

To whom was Christ sent into the world? For what purpose?

In Matthew 15:21-28 we find the account of the Canaanite woman and her great faith. This woman — a Gentile — had a demon-possessed daughter and had obviously heard of the miracles of Jesus. Moving in the wisdom of God, Jesus laid several obstacles before her, obstacles
which only served to illuminate the greatness of her faith. Thus has this simple woman become a shining example of humble, persistent faith to believers down through the years.

The Lost Sheep

Jesus made a revealing comment regarding his mission in verse 24: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Most people, reading that, assume that “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” simply referred to the Jews — all of them. Did it?

What about Jesus’ words in John 10:26 to unbelieving Jews? He said, “But ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep ....” Note carefully what Jesus did not say. He did not say that they were not his sheep because they didn’t believe. It was the other way around. Their unbelief only demonstrated the fact that they were not his sheep.

In Matthew 10, Jesus instructed his disciples as he prepared to send them out to minister. In verses 5 and 6, he began by saying, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

In verse 16, he warned them, “Behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves.” At least some of the Jews were “wolves”! It should be obvious that “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” did not include all Jews.

Understanding the truth concerning “his sheep” makes a great difference in our understanding of the things of God. Sheep are sheep. Goats are goats. Wolves are wolves. Goats do not become sheep, nor sheep, goats. They are different spiritual kinds. Although they are often difficult to distinguish, time and circumstance make the different kinds manifest.

A “lost” sheep is still a sheep. The “finding” and “saving” of a lost sheep is a matter of time and the outworking of God’s sovereign plan. The gospel does not gather goats and magically make sheep out of them.

Consider Jesus’ parable in Luke 15:3-7. He spoke of a man who had 100 sheep, lost one, left the 99 and went after the lost one. The rescue of the lost sheep by the shepherd is compared with a sinner who repents.

One key is this: the man had 100 sheep. Jesus didn’t say that he had 99 and wanted one more, so he went out hunting for a wandering sheep to add to his flock so he’d have 100. That, however, is how a lot of people see this story. They think of all sinners as lost sheep.

The lost sheep in this story, although he was lost and wandering, already belonged to the shepherd! He didn’t know it but the shepherd did! He didn’t seek the shepherd — the shepherd sought him. After finding him the shepherd referred to him as “my sheep which was lost” (verse 6).

Think about it! This is glorious truth! It is a picture not only of Christ’s mission while on earth, but also of his ministry by the anointing down through the church age. Those who are truly converted to Christ were sheep long before they heard the gospel. In fact, God knew them before the foundation of the world! 2 Timothy 1:9-10. Ephesians 1:3-4. I Peter 1:2. Romans 8:28-29. Acts 15:18.

The Good Shepherd

John 10:1-5 records the parable of the Good Shepherd. Note these expressions of the relationship between shepherd and sheep: “... the sheep hear his voice ... he calleth his own sheep by name ... the sheep follow him: for they know his voice ....” In verse 14, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”

Immediately following his words concerning those who were not his sheep (verse 26), Jesus continued, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (27).

Before he ever came to earth, Christ had sheep in the midst of Israel. They were lost and wandering in the spiritual darkness that existed, but they were sheep. There was within them the capacity to hear, recognize and believe the voice of the Shepherd when he came. Like dormant seed in a parched land, waiting for the rain, they sprang to life when it came.

Jesus was specifically sent to them, to rescue them from the darkness and to call them to his kingdom of light. Colossians 1:12-13. Note again the phrase quoted above: “... he calleth his own sheep by name ....” Now that’s specific! If you are his, he knows all about you. Nothing can stand in the way of God’s ultimate purpose of saving every sheep. “Fear not little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32. Romans 8:28-35. Remember that when the devil tries to discourage you through circumstances or your own shortcomings and weaknesses. However things may seem, God is still on His throne!

Peter, in his first epistle, gives us a marvelous confirmation of these things. His ministry was described by Paul (Galatians 2:8) as “the apostleship of the circumcision.” His epistle is addressed to “strangers scattered throughout Pontus ...” etc. Over the centuries the Jews had been scattered throughout many countries. This accounts for the many nationalities present on the day of Pentecost. Peter’s ministry was primarily to the Jews, dispersed among the nations as they were.

His letter was not addressed to all Jews, however, but to those “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” who had been brought to faith in Christ. Note that they had been redeemed from the vain traditions of their fathers (1:18)! Clearly, Peter is addressing the true remnant who had been delivered and separated from the spiritual darkness of the Jews’ religion.

They are described in 2:9-10 as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,” “Which in time past were not a people but are now the people of God.”

How is it that so many today count those who refused to abandon the vain traditions of their fathers and who persecuted the true seed as “God’s chosen people”?! The idea drummed into people’s heads that the unbelieving Jews of today are “God’s chosen people” is just another example of vain tradition.

For those to whom Peter wrote, I believe that their lives as Jews living in foreign lands, in a providential way, had been a preparation for their being “strangers and pilgrims” (2:11) as a result of coming to Christ. All of God’s elect are “strangers and pilgrims” in this dark and evil world. We are here as people on a journey. Our destination and home is a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. II Peter 3:13.

I Peter 2:25 says, “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

See how that confirms what Jesus had said about lost sheep. Remember that this was addressed to God’s elect among the Jews. Christ was already the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls even when they were “astray.” Coming to a personal knowledge of and faith in Christ was “returning” to him. This is just another glimpse into the sovereign purpose of God and what it means to be a sheep.

Other Sheep I Have

Now return to John 10 and read verse 16: “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.”

Jesus’ vision and mission extended far beyond the lost sheep of the house of Israel (“this fold”). It reached out to embrace every Gentile who would ever be brought to faith!

Notice that Jesus said, “... other sheep I have ....” He stood there talking to Jews. His death, resurrection, ascension to the throne, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the proclamation of the gospel to the ends of the earth, all lay in the future. Yet he could say of those who would respond to the gospel, “They are my sheep, and I have them — now”!

They were his because of God’s sovereign plan. Remember that Jesus said in John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Ponder that!

John 10:16 continues, “... them also I must bring ....” While human instruments are necessarily involved in the proclamation of the gospel it is only as they are a literal extension of the hand of Christ by the Spirit that anything eternal is accomplished. Anything less is vain. It is not what we do for Christ that matters: it is what he does through us! He does the bringing. We do not even know who the sheep are. He does! They are made manifest by hearing his voice. The sound may come through lips of clay, but the voice of the Shepherd is a communication in the Spirit to the heart of the sheep. Many hear the sound: few hear the Shepherd.

Hearing the Shepherd

“My sheep hear my voice ....” In John 6:45 Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh
unto me.”

At the end of his discourse, the majority of Jesus’ audience, including many who had, for a time, been his disciples, went away. They said, “This is a hard saying, who can hear it?” John 6:60. Who, indeed?

Jesus answered that question in verse 65: “And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.”

Again we see the sovereign hand of God at work. Those who received Christ, who heard in him God’s Shepherd, were only manifesting the inward preparation by God in their hearts. They had been taught of God. They heard the Shepherd. They followed the Shepherd. He led them “outside the camp,” away from their vain religion to a place of green pastures and still waters!

The scripture Jesus referred to in John 6:45 is found in Isaiah 54:13. “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”

This great promise is from the same passage Paul refers to in Galatians 4:27. Remember that in that context Paul established the difference between earthly and heavenly Jerusalem and the identity of those who were “the children of promise.”

The promises of Isaiah 54 (and many other similar passages) are directed to the believing remnant within Israel, giving them a hope of a time of blessing and restoration. That hope was fulfilled in the coming of Christ. Though they were seemingly barren at the time there was a great promise of children to come.

The “husband” who would father these children was “thy Maker,” “thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel.” Notice that while at that time God was “the Holy One of Israel,” Isaiah 54:5 goes on to say, “The God of the whole earth shall he be called.”

See Isaiah 60 where the promise of a coming time of light is set forth. Verse 3 says, “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” Verse 4 refers to them as “thy sons” and “thy daughters.” If they are “sons and “daughters,” they must belong to the same family!

This is a theme repeated many times in the prophets. The remnant was preserved by God despite centuries of wickedness and its resulting judgment on the nation as a whole. At times they were so insignificant and hidden that even the prophet Elijah thought he was all alone.

Yet over and over came prophecies of a “Redeemer” who would “come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob.” Isaiah 59:20. Not only would light and deliverance come to them, but the Redeemer’s influence would reach to the ends of the earth.

One Fold

Notice that John 10:16 continues, “... and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Paul wrote of the same thing to Gentile believers in Ephesians 2:11-22 concerning the union in Christ of Jew and Gentile. Speaking of Christ in verse 14, Paul says, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.”

Verse 22 speaks of being “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” How is it that so many have embraced religious teaching that maintains the wall of partition, that teaches that God has one program for the Jews and another for the Gentiles? What spirit is behind this? Will God, after tearing down the middle wall of partition, build it again after the so-called “church dispensation”?

There is one God, one Spirit, one Shepherd, one fold, one faith, one people of God down through the ages — the elect remnant, the spiritual seed of Abraham. Flee from those who wrongly divide the word of truth! They will lull you to sleep at just the time when there is a desperate need to be awake.

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