Christ’s Sheep Know Him

Since I began this iter­a­tion of Tim­o­th­y’s Bur­den back in Novem­ber, I’ve post­ed reg­u­lar­ly about Calvin­ist doc­trine. The more I do, the more I real­ize that I’m post­ing less about “Calvin­ist doc­trine” than I am about Jesus Christ and His glo­ry. I believe Calvin­ism to be the the­o­log­i­cal frame­work which best describes Jesus Christ and His grand sal­va­tion plan, and so by blog­ging about Him I’m blog­ging about Calvin­ism, and vice ver­sa. I can­not help that what I post so often is in defense of Calvin­ism because of the sim­ple rea­son that defend­ing that sys­tem of beliefs is one & the same as defend­ing the truth sur­round­ing He who is Truth, Almighty God Jesus Christ.

That being said, I came across a famil­iar pas­sage of Scrip­ture today which stuck out at me. Like Jesus’ words in John 6, I find in this pas­sage a grand foun­da­tion for Calvin­ist thought, and I am again awed at how sim­ple the vers­es are. With what I’ve come to learn about the Scrip­tures and Calvin­ism, I am amazed that I was ever not Calvin­ist; I am strick­en with sheer awe, though, that the plainest state­ments of Scrip­ture which sup­port Calvin­ist the­ol­o­gy comes from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. 

In John 6, we see that only those dragged to Christ by the Father are saved, and that those who are dragged will be saved and will con­tin­ue in that sal­va­tion until they are raised up at the last day. All of that is con­sis­tent with Calvin­ist the­ol­o­gy, and unless one twists Jesus’ words, it is very dif­fi­cult (if not impos­si­ble) to make Jesus’ words sup­port an Armin­ian or Semi-Pela­gian the­o­log­i­cal viewpoint.

Anoth­er pas­sage that is just as pow­er­ful also comes from John’s telling of the Gospel. As I said, it is a famil­iar pas­sage, but I will share it with you because it is the words of Scrip­ture which are able to renew your mind. Jesus, the Mighty God, is speaking:

I am the good shep­herd. The good shep­herd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shep­herd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf com­ing and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catch­es the sheep and scat­ters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shep­herd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And oth­er sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shep­herd. John 10:11–16, NKJV

Read that over a few times.

Who does Christ lay down His life for? Accord­ing to Christ Him­self, He died for His sheep. Many claim that Christ died for the whole world, but shall we let Christ explain His death for us or shall we pre­sume to do so for Him? Christ laid down His life for His sheep.

Christ did not lay down His life for the wolves. Only for the sheep.

If Christ died for every­one, are we to pre­sume that every­one are His sheep? That presents many prob­lems, for Christ says He is known by His own. Do all know Christ as their Good Shep­herd? Nay, for the vast major­i­ty are will­ful­ly igno­rant, hat­ing Christ because He reproves their evil deeds.

The Jews chal­lenged Christ a short time after the above mes­sage was giv­en. They asked that if He was the Christ, that He would tell them plainly.

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear wit­ness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they fol­low Me. And I give them eter­nal life, and they shall nev­er per­ish; nei­ther shall any­one snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has giv­en them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” John 10:25–30, NKJV

John Calvin him­self could­n’t have penned a more con­vinc­ing sum­ma­ry of sote­ri­o­log­i­cal doc­trine if he tried. Here in Jesus’ words we read of the sheep who are unsnatch­ing­ly His by virtue of their being giv­en to Him by the Father.

Oh, what a blessed thought to have been giv­en to the Good Shep­herd by the Father! What a hum­bling thought that of so many, I am cho­sen. I can­not answer why, for cer­tain­ly noth­ing I did or could do mer­it­ed or deserved any such favor from God.

Rather, I trust that He has mer­cy on those He choos­es to do so, and I praise Him for being one of His sheep.

I am curi­ous what the non-Calvin­ist expla­na­tion of this verse is. I know that in non-Armin­ian non-Calvin­ist cir­cles (i.e., the mid­dle-ground), these vers­es are used to sup­port the idea of eter­nal secu­ri­ty. But why aren’t the vers­es lead­ing up to the descrip­tion of the sheep being safe with­in the Father’s hand made use of? Why trust the sov­er­eign­ty of God in regards to secu­ri­ty but not any­thing else that Jesus spoke of? I’m gen­uine­ly con­fused at how this pas­sage is so eas­i­ly missed by those who reject uncon­di­tion­al elec­tion, lim­it­ed atone­ment, or irre­sistible grace.

2 thoughts on “Christ’s Sheep Know Him”

  1. Rick, praise be to the Father! Who are we that we, of all, should be cho­sen to be watched over by the Good Shep­herd, and that He should lay down His life for us?

    I’ve often won­dered such things, too. Some days I won­der if they are real­ly Chris­t­ian or not. Of course I know they are, but it’s just hard to see true Chris­tians not believ­ing true doctrine.

    As for the lim­it­ed atone­ment, although I agree with you, many try to say that Jesus “is the Sav­ior of all mankind, and espe­cial­ly those that believe.” How­ev­er, if any­one had the most basic def­i­n­i­tion of “Sav­ior” then they would under­stand that Jesus is not the Sav­ior of all mankind, as they under­stand all mankind. In order to be a Sav­ior, one has to save. If all mankind is not saved, then the def­i­n­i­tion of Sav­ior is not met, and hence Jesus can­not be a Sav­ior. But, once some­one inserts the cor­rect inter­pre­ta­tion of “all mankind,” which is to be under­stood as every tribe, nation, peo­ple, and lan­guage, then Jesus is indeed the Sav­ior of all mankind.

    One might legit­i­mate­ly ask, “Why the dis­tinc­tion between mankind and believ­ers?” I reply it is show­ing that Jesus saves with­out dis­tinc­tion, not excep­tion. In oth­er words, Jesus is not going to save the Jews alone. He is not going to save the Gen­tiles alone. He is going to save both Jew and Gen­tile, but only those that believe.

    “Aha! So you admit that in order to be saved, one must believe.” one might say. To clar­i­fy, I’ve nev­er said dif­fer­ent­ly. I only believe that man is inca­pable of believ­ing until he is regen­er­at­ed by the Spir­it, and even then it is not in his abil­i­ty that he believes, but the grace which is inside of him. I believe that faith is the act of man, but it is the work of God. This is best seen in 1 Corinthi­ans 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not with­out effect. No, I worked hard­er than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

    Paul here open­ly admits that he has worked hard­er than any of the oth­er apos­tles. That would give him grounds to boast. How­ev­er, since it is the grace with­in him that caus­es him to work, any foothold for pride has now been swiped from under foot.

    “Well, that’s work­ing, not believ­ing.” Ah, but then why do we believe when oth­ers do not? Broth­er, were you by any chance more spir­i­tu­al­ly enlight­ened than oth­ers? Were you smarter, stronger, bet­ter in any way, shape or form than oth­ers? If so, then you have grounds to boast and it is no longer by grace that you have been saved. If not, then how can believ­ing pos­si­bly be the work of man?

    I can­not find the exact ref­er­ence, but Paul asks of his read­ers in Corinthi­ans, “What have you that you have not received?” His ques­tion expects the answer, “Noth­ing.” And, indeed, that is how every Chris­t­ian should answer. Even the faith we have, it was giv­en to us most gra­cious­ly by God because of Jesus’ death.

  2. Last night I had a very long dia­logue between a girl in my grade at church, and my LUGG (Liv­ing Under God’s Guid­ance) leader about Reformed the­ol­o­gy. They both dis­agree with me. I got the usu­al, “God gives us free choice”, “God desires every­one to be saved”, “God can­not fail, but man can”, “Why does God com­mand us to preach if they’re going to be saved”, “God does­n’t damn peo­ple to hell”, “If God saves us against our will, then that makes us robots”. Accord­ing to human stan­dards, we got nowhere except offend­ed. But, accord­ing to the stan­dards of God and my view of God’s absolute sov­er­eign­ty, this was per­fect progress.

    My LUGG leader wants me to talk with the Youth Leader and the Senior Pas­tor about these things, yet at the same time he will not read a book I rec­om­mend­ed him. Now no offense to my LUGG leader, he’s a real­ly great guy, but I just can­not believe he would be that way.

    It’s real­ly inter­est­ing to wit­ness first­hand how peo­ple encounter John 6:44, “Oh, it does­n’t mean what it says. It means that if I open up my heart to God, His Spir­it will enter into me.” Phst.

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Rick Beckman