John 10:1-5 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. (2) But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. (3) To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (4) When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. (5) A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
I was raised in my earliest years in Bible churches and Baptist churches. Churches where the Bible was said to be central, where sinners were called upon to repent and believe the gospel and where you underlined your Bible as the pastor preached.
And where sin was generally, but not specifically addressed.
What I mean by “generally” but not “specifically,” is that “sinners” were called upon to turn to Christ and be saved. “Sin” was preached against. And yet church members, professing Christians, who were walking in sin habitually, showing no fruit of regeneration in their lives, were never called out. In fact many of them held positions of leadership. This is why the constant infighting and divisions kept happening in those churches. Pastors would come and go, but very few people really knew why. This was the condition of the church I have pastored now for some 26 years when I first came.
The underlying assumption in such “churches” is that everyone who claims to be a Christian must be believed. In fact, as many of you know, even the most wicked domestic abuser (usually operating in secret of course), when exposed, is still assumed to be a real Christian and treated as such by the church. Woe to the victim of such an abuse if she balks at doing the same.
Jesus and the Apostles, as clearly recorded for us in Scripture, make it very plain that not all sheep are sheep. Not all shepherds are really shepherds. That is what Jesus was saying here in the tenth chapter of John. Here are His points:
- There are counterfeit shepherds who are in fact thieves and robbers, not sent by Christ
- Christ’s true sheep hear (recognize and obey) His voice and follow Him
- Christ’s true sheep will not follow a false shepherd – they are able to discern that he is a counterfeit. In fact they will flee from him
- The false shepherd’s purpose is to use the sheep to feed his own lust for self-glory. He kills and destroys rather than leading and feeding.
- Christ the true Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep, standing against the wolf. The false shepherd, in contrast, runs away and abandons the sheep when threatened, leaving the sheep to fend for themselves.
There is reality. That is the condition of the visible church (in contrast to the IN-visible church which consists of all true Christians in heaven and on earth). The visible church has false sheep and false shepherds in it. In fact it is generally true that there are far more counterfeits than real sheep – thus the Bible calls the true church the “remnant.”
I suggest to you that these are truths that are currently out of vogue in most local churches and this is the reason that so many of Christ’s true people are being so sorely oppressed and rejected by those “churches.” That is to say, congregations are being taught for the most part that everyone in their church, with maybe a very few exceptions, are objects of God’s mercy, adopted children in His household, certain shoe-ins to heaven on the Day of Judgment. And no one must ever, ever say otherwise.
Therefore, evil abounds in the churches. Evil is people. Evil people. People who are of the darkness rather than the light. People who therefore oppose the Light lest they be revealed for what they really are.
The solution? God’s Word! This is the mission of Christ’s true pastors and people. “Preach the Word!” Paul told Timothy. His Word is light. It cleanses His body. It exposes evil and the wicked flee from it. His Word is powerful – it restores the soul of the downcast and calls those who hear to repentance and faith and life. Tweak it, even a little bit, and the lights go out, the power is unplugged, and darkness returns.
Jesus’ truth is plain. There are many false sheep. There are many false shepherds. False sheep hear the voice of the false shepherd and refuse to hear Christ’s voice. Not so His real sheep. They hear Him. They follow Him. This is His truth. And we need to proclaim it loudly and clearly.