Vol. 11 — No. 15 April 12, 1970
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
Beloved in the Lord:
What is the Church of Christ? It is the whole number of believers, who shall be saved, and who shall be with the Lord for all eternity.
This Church is one, and is not divided. In our text this Church of Christ, this whole number of believers, is called a sheep fold.
We have learned how this fold is established: that it is built upon Christ who took the guilt of the world upon Himself and died to atone for all men. This is the essential thing! God has been reconciled to the world, and the world has been reconciled to God. This is the Good News which the gospel publishes. Those who believe it and trust in it for salvation are the group that becomes united with Christ their Savior in a new relationship—they are the sheep of His pasture—they are the ones kept safe within His fold.
Now, how are thing within the fold? Who is in charge? How do they live who are within it? Under what economy do they live, what is their charter, their constitution, their bill of rights? Who governs them, and by what prompting do they obey? In other words, how are things within the fellowship of those who are united under Christ, the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, to whom we, who believe, have returned? On the basis of our text, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, let us take—
There we find a Shepherd who is not a thief and a robber, one who is there, not for His own sake and for His own profit, but who is there solely for the advantage of the sheep. How do we know that? How do we know that Christ is one whom we can safely follow? Because He entered the fold by way of the door. He came in a right and proper way. He did not steal along the wall and climb over it to get in. No, He came straightforward, openly and before all men to call for their following. Openly and in public He died for all men. Publicly He sent His Holy Spirit to draw men unto Himself through the gospel. No, this was not done in a corner. It was not according to the secret plans of anyone. It was according to the plan and purpose of God from all eternity! In a legitimate manner, according to the will of the heavenly Father, His Son entered the sheepfold. Everything that was expected of Him, He performed. He received the Father’s stamp of approval. “This is my beloved Son. Hear ye Him,” He declared from heaven at His Son’s baptism and again at the Transfiguration. And when His Son laid down His life for the sheep, the Father showed that He had been satisfied when He raised Him again from the dead.
Yes, within the fold we find the true and right shepherd, all right. According to the very letter of prophecy He fulfilled every detail of the manner in which He should earn for Himself the followers who should be His own for all eternity.
Now the Lord changes the picture a bit and shows us that this very Shepherd is indeed the door itself.
Obviously, for us weary sinners to hear that there is a place of rest and peace and pasture—and not to hear of the way by which we can enter, would be very annoying, to say the least. For us to be told about the many mansions in John 14 without hearing that Jesus is the Way to get there—that could only make us feel worse than ever. How does it not grieve you to wish with all your heart to go to a certain place, and then there is no way to get there! There is no way! How terrible would it not be, now that we have a desire to come within the fold, and there is no way to do it!
Praise be to God! The Lord Jesus Christ declares: “I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Here beams the sun of God’s grace again! Jesus does not say that He is the one who can show you how to do it if you want to get in! He does not tell you to do as He does in order that God, that gatekeeper, will let you pass. He does not tell you that by great struggling and agonizing over your sins you shall be allowed to come in. He does not say that first you must learn to pray so and so much. He does not say that you must go out and make good for all the sin that you have done evil. But He does say, “I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” He says, then: My life-blood was shed in order to wash away the guilt which would have kept you out; because of that you may come, just as you are; and beside, my life of good has made up for your life of evil. I am the door! And it is an open door. It is not one that you have to struggle with to open. It isn’t hard to walk through an open door! Jesus does not say that He is a secret passage. He does not say that the way to the sheepfold is the way up a steep mountain side. He does not say that the way is an obstacle course to be hurdled only by those who are most able and trained for it. He does not say that the entrance to the fold is given to those who cleanse themselves for examination at the port of entry. “I am the door; by me if ay man enter in he shall be saved!’
So, when we look within the fold this morning we find that there is no entrance requirement. Oh, what cheerful Christians you would be if you could readily get that truth into your flesh and blood! You are so used to thinking in terms of worthiness! I know you are! I have heard too many of you breathe thoughts like that. You are wondering whether, on the great day, you will be fit to be received into the fold of the Lord’s redeemed. You think too often as though heaven, too, were a secret society into which you can enter only when you give the tyler the pass-word. You think that it is a society of the Four Hundred, into which you can come only if you have the blue blood of aristocracy. You think too often of facing an examination first, a judgment, before you can be received into the eternal home. That is not the case! Entrance into eternal life is through the Open Door! “The way is now free to the Father’s high throne.”
Everything that you are thinking about, your struggles with sin and temptation, your daily sins and your bitter repentance, your serious concern about remaining faithful—all that is another subject. To be sure, it is a matter for daily concern and attention. But when you think of salvation, of entrance into the sheepfold of the Good Shepherd, then think of only one thing: CHRIST IS THE OPEN DOOR! And the Good Shepherd says not one thing to you but COME! “Come, for all things are now ready.” “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”
Today, when we look within the fold and see what arrangements God has made, we are also struck by the sharp warnings and the strong words with which Christ speaks about all movements to get into the fold by some other way. Thieves and robbers, says Jesus, come only for to steal and kill and destroy.
How lovely would be the shepherding of the flock if the task were only to point to the Good Shepherd, Christ, through whom you may all find rest for your souls! But there are wolves on the prowl! That is the reason for a fold, for a wall, and for a door. Nor only are there wolves, but there are false shepherds seeking to gain the sheep. Jesus applied this directly to the scribes and Pharisees. He said of them once that they travelled far and wide to gain a follower, and when they gained him they made him two-fold more a child of hell than themselves. Cf. Matt. 23:15. Jesus would have us apply this today to every teacher and leader of souls who would lead men to God in some way other than through the one established door of the sheep, namely, Christ.
You know as well as I that there is a great movement on foot today to unite all religions into one, as though all are working for the same thing, and as though all were serving the same God. And simple people actually think that “one church is as good as another!” They are so foolish as to say that, without first seeking to find out whether all shepherds point to Christ as the one and only Door. And yet not half of the churches in our land today point to Christ as the Door for the sheep. At best they tell you that Christ is a door-keeper. They make Him a judge who will allow you to enter when you have made yourself somewhat worthy. Or they hide the Door with an underbrush and with an overgrowth of good works. Or the Door is lost in a maze of self-righteousness and saint worship and Mariolatry, and penance and indulgences. Or, as the Jews still do, they spit on the Door today as well as they did at the time of Pontius Pilate. Or, as Freemasonry and all its allied secret orders, they do not even mention the Door, not only because they do not need it, but because it might offend someone. And you would be shocked if you only knew how many who carry our own name fail to emphasize Christ as the Door of the sheep, but instead they spend their time on a luke-warm morality that everyone will agree to as a very nice thing. Would you believe it, for instance, if I told you that a teacher among our former brethren has only recently denied the resurrection of Christ? So has he slammed the Door, and closed it securely shut! No, it wasn’t for nothing that Jesus called all those thieves and robbers, come but for to steal and kill and to destroy, who do not point to Him as the open Door! The murdering of souls is frightful today, because they are following wolves, and not the true shepherds who know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
But, as we look at the fold today, we see that the responsibility is with the sheep. We learn from this Scripture that true sheep follow the true shepherd; a stranger, a false shepherd, they will not follow. The picture is one from the East. Many flocks were kept in one enclosure for the night. In the morning each shepherd would call, and his sheep followed him. If another shepherd would call, even if they called sheep by name, the sheep would not so much as lift up their heads. Why, then, are false shepherds able to lead so many souls astray today? It is because the sheep themselves are not so used to hearing the voice of Christ that they can tell when a false voice sounds in their midst. They do not mind much what kind of a shepherd it is, so long as it is a shepherd—and they are led to their destruction. On the other hand, there are sheep which no amount of luring and petting and calling and promising can lead away from the truth. There have been such souls in our own local fold, and there are still such. God grant that we all be! For it is the responsibility of the members of the flock what kind of a Shepherd speaks, and what message is proclaimed from this pulpit. If any soul wants to follow a false shepherd, it is his own fault, and it is because he is not a true sheep of the Savior’s fold. If he be a true sheep that has been misled, he ceases to be a true sheep if he does not pay attention to the voice of the shepherd, examining whether he be hearing from him the truth or not. So keep wide awake to the message, to the voice of your shepherd.
And as we look at the fold today, let us also see what is the great advantage and blessing of being within it. The Lord Jesus not only says, “I am the door; by me if any man enter in he shall be saved;” he also says, “And shall go in and out and find pasture.” There, after all, is the essence of what we mean by salvation. The moment you enter the door, you are taken out of the class of enemies of God. You are then the children of God, with access to all His daily blessings. Now you are His child, and you shall inherit His Kingdom. You have the promise that you shall not suffer want, but you shall have all that you need, for “godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” I Tim. 4:8. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt. 6:33. “Things present, or things to come, all are yours.” I Cor. 3:22. You have peace with God, the assurance of salvation, the certainty of eternal life. Yes, you have that which is so beautifully described in the Shepherd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul, he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.