John 10Our blessed Saviour having in the end of the foregoing chapter upbraided the Pharisees for their blindness and ignorance in the mysteries of religion, notwithstanding the high conceit which they had of their own knowledge, he proceeds in this chapter farther to convince them, that they were blind leaders of the blind, though they thought and looked upon themselves as the only guides and teachers of the people. And in order thereunto, he propounds a parable of the true and false shepherd, which represents a good and bad pastor and teacher, and gives us a fourfold mark and character of a good shepherd.
Observe, 1. The good shepherd enters in by the door, that is, he has his vocation and mission from Christ: he comes into the church regularly, in a right and approved way and manner; not by any clandestine methods, or indirect means. To him the porter openeth; that is, the Holy Spirit, who openeth the hearts of men to receive Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the gospel, which the faithful shepherds deliver in his name, and by authority received from him.
Learn hence, That all faithful pastors have a lawful call to the work of the ministry: they enter by a right door, and execute their trust in a right manner; but such as, without a call from God unwarrantably thrust themselves into the ministry, are no better, nor no other, than thieves and robbers, in God's account.
Observe, 2. Another property of a good shepherd is this, That he calleth his sheep by their names.
This importeth three things:
1. A special love that he bears to them. 2. A special care that he has over them. 3. A particular acquaintance with them,
that he may know how to apply himself suitably to them; which though it be eminently verified in Christ, yet it is the duty of every faithful pastor and under shepherd, in his measure, to labour after.
Observe, 3. The good shepherd leadeth out his sheep into good pastures; that is, he feedeth them with sound doctrine, nourishes them with the word of life.
Whereas the hireling or false shepherd, whatever he may do for his own sake, he has no regard to Jesus Christ, to the honour of this person, to the edification of his church, or the salvation of souls; but his design is to raise and enrich himself, and so he may compass that, he cares not how many souls perish through his neglect.
Observe, 4. The last property of the good shepherd, here mentioned, is this, That he goeth before his sheep, as the shepherd doth before his flock; namely, by a holy life and unblamable conversation: he treads out those steps before the people, which they take in their way towards heaven: And the sheep follow him, and are guided by him: He leadeth out his sheep, and goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice.
Observe here, 1. The character which Christ gives of himself, I am the door of the sheep; that is, the only way and means by which sinners have access to God, and can obtain salvation: the only door by which sinners are entered into the kingdom of grace, and admitted into the kingdom of glory.
Learn hence, That there is no possible way of access to God for fallen man, but by Jesus Christ. As there is no way of entering the house but by the door, and those that so enter are safe: in like manner, such as come unto God through Jesus Christ, in the way of faith and holy obedience, shall be put into a secure condition, and at last obtain eternal salvation.
Observe, 2. The end and design of Christ in coming into the world, asserted and declared by himself; I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
But had not his people spiritual life before he came into the world?
Yes, he gave life to his people before his coming, in a measure sufficient to supply their necessity; but since his coming, he gives it in such a super-abounding measure, as may testify his divine bounty: they shall not barely live, but live abundantly, that is, their spiritual life shall abound through the upholding, strengthening, quickening, and comforting presence of his holy spirit; for having conveyed spiritual life unto his people, in their regeneration and conversion, he will cause it to increase more and more in their sanctification, until it arrives to a complete perfection in their glorification.
Observe lastly, The character which our Saviour gives of the scribes and pharisees in general, and those false Christs and false prophets, which went before him, in particular; he stiles them thieves and robbers; All that ever come before me, were thieves and robbers.
Observe, He doth not say, All that were sent before me, but all that came before me, were thieves and robbers. So that Christ doth not speak this of the true prophets, who were sent by God before him, but of the false Christ, and false prophets, that came of themselves without an commission from God.
The meaning is, all persons that came before me, pretending to be what I am, the true Messias, as did Theudas and Judas of Galilee, &c. they were thieves and robbers: that is, they only sought their own advantage, while they deceived and ruined you.
Learn hence, That whoever took upon them the office and person of the Messias before Christ, or whosoever have since usurped a lawful calling in his church, without his commission, they are in Christ's account no better than murderers, thieves and robbers, and they ought to be so in the people's esteem. The sheep did not hear them.
In these verses our Saviour evidently proves himself to be the true Shepherd of his church, by the marks and signs, by the properties and characters, of a good shepherd; which were eminently found with him; namely, to know all his flock, to take care of them, and to lay down his life for them.
1. Jesus Christ, the great shepherd of his church, hath an exact and distinct knowledge of all his flock: I know my sheep, with a three-fold knowledge, with a knowledge of intelligence and observation: he knows them so as to observe and take notice of them, with a knowledge of care and protection; he knows them so as to defend and keep them. Thus Christ knows his sheep, and is also known of them; that is, he is believed on, beloved, and obeyed by them.
2. He lays down his life for his flock. And for this doth he eminently deserve the title of the good shepherd. (As for his power, he is stiled the great shepherd.) A good shepherd indeed, who not only gives life to his sheep, but gives his own life by way of ransom for his sheep! This example of Christ, the great and good shepherd, in laying down his life for his sheep, teacheth all subordinate and inferior shepherds, to prefer the good of their flock, even before their own lives.
Here Christ proves himself to be the true shepherd of his church from another property of a good shepherd, which is to take care for increasing and enlarging of his fold, by bringing in the Gentiles to it; and by breaking down the partition wall, to make one church both of Jews and Gentiles. Christ calls the Gentiles his other sheep, by way of anticipation, because shortly they were to be so, and united together with the believing Jews, into one sheepfold: and whereas he says, he must bring these sheep in, we are to understand it not of a necessity of co-action, but of a necessity of compact; it being a federal agreement betwixt the Father and himself, that both Jew and Gentile should be one flock, inclosed in one fold, and presented to his Father as a glorious church.
Hence learn, How endearing our obligations are to the dearest Jesus, that he should account us Gentiles, who were afar off, his sheep (we being so in respect of his eternal purpose) and make it his care, and esteem it his charge, to call us home, and bring us into his fold, the church, that we might be saved amongst the remnant of the true Israelites. Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold, them also I must bring.
Hence note, 1. That Jesus Christ certainly foreknew his own death and resurrection.
2. That Christ was a volunteer in dying, He laid down his life, none could have taken it from him. 'Tis true, his death was a violent death, but a voluntary sacrifice; he died violently, but yet voluntarily: the hand of his enemies could never hurt him without his own consent.
3. That as Christ died voluntarily with respect to himself, so in a way of subjection to his Father's command. This commandment have I received from my Father.
4. That this voluntary submission of Christ to die for us, was the ground of his Father's love to him. Therefore doth my Father love me: because I lay down my life. Although the Father had many reasons to love the Son, yet none was stronger than this obedience of his to death, even the cursed death of the cross, for the redemption and salvation of lost sinners; therefore did the Father love him with a more exceeding love, because he laid down his life for his sheep.
Here the evangelist shews what different effects this sermon of our Saviour had upon the Jews; many of them calumniate and slander him, as one possessed and mad, and therefore not to be heard and minded; others of calmer thoughts said, That the doctrine be taught, and the late miracle which he had wrought in curing the blind man, were abundantly sufficient to confute such a groundless slander.
Learn hence, That the doctrine of Christ meeting with diversity of dispositions, it is no wonder that it occasions different effects, to the softening of some, and hardening of others: even as the same sun that melteth the wax, hardeneth the clay; yet is not this to be imputed to the doctrine of our Saviour, but to men's corruptions which oppose the truth, and the maintainers of it. There was a division again amongst them.
This feast was not of divine, but human institution; it was appointed by Judas Maccabeus, and continued eight days, as an anniversary commemoration for the repairing of the temple. Now our Saviour was so far from reproving the Jews for observing this feast, which was of human institution, that he graced the solemnity with his own presence.
Hence observe, That our Saviour held communion with the Jewish church, and did, without scruple, conform himself to the observation of their rites and customs, although they were not originally of divine institution.
Learn, 2. That such a christian as doth peaceably comply with the practice of the church, in whose communion he lives, in the observation of those different rites and customs which are used by her, acts most agreeably to our Saviour's practice and example.
Who can with any shew of reason censure Christians for observing the feast of dedication?
Certainly no person of sober principles ever questioned, but that ecclesiastical rulers and civil magistrates have a power to appoint public days of thanksgiving yearly; for the commemoration of mercies, which ought never to be forgotten.
From our Saviour's presence at this feast, Grotius well notes, That festival days, in memorial of public blessings, may piously be instituted by person in authority, without a divine command.
In these verses we have recorded a new and fresh debate betwixt our Saviour and the Jews, and therein we have observable, 1. The time of this debate, Joh 10:22.
It was at the feast of dedication, in the winter, our Saviour taking that opportunity to publish his doctrine, when a concourse of people were gathered together at that solemnity.
Observe, 2. That place of this debate, in Solomon's porch.
Although the temple and porch built by Solomon were destroyed by the Babylonians: yet when the temple was rebuilt, there was a porch like it, which retained the ancient name.
Observe, 3. The debate itself; If thou be the Christ tell us plainly. Not that they affected the knowledge of the truth, but only designed to ensnare him: for it he had affirmed himself to be the Messias, he had brought himself in danger of the Roman governor; because the Jews expected the Messias to be a temporal prince, that should deliver them from the Roman power.
Now if Christ had declared himself such a Messias as the Jews expected, it might have cost him his life. Therefore his hour being not yet come, he answers with his usual prudence and weariness to their ensnaring question.
Learn hence, That Christ's enemies are full of subtile policies, and can turn themselves into all shapes, that, if possible, they may entrap and ensnare him; and accordingly, they pretend here great earnestness of desire to be satisfied, whether he was indeed the true and promised Messias; when in truth they had another design.
Observe, 4. The wisdom and caution of our Saviour's answer; he refers them to his miracles, The works that I do in my father's name, they bear witness of me. Our Saviour's miraculous work were sufficient for the Jews to have grounded and bottomed their faith upon, and to have confirmed them in the belief, that he was the promised and expected Messias, had not prejudice, obstinacy, and malice, blinded their eyes, that they could neither see nor consider.
Observe, lastly, How Christ points out to these Jews the true cause of their infidelity: which was not the obscurity of his doctrine, but their not being his sheep; that is, not as yet converted, they not having the properties of his sheep, which he sites down in the following verses.
Learn hence, That men's final unbelief under the means of faith, is a clear evidence of their being in a lost and perishing condition.
Infidelity is the sin that doth consign a man over to damnation; and to such as sit under the gospel, doth not only procure damnation, but no damnation like it.
Here observe, 1. That all sincere and faithful Christians are Christ's sheep, and he is their great and good shepherd. This relation implies tender affection, powerful protection, and plentiful provision. The tenderness of Christ's affection, towards his sheep, appears by pitying their infirmities, by having a fellow felling with them in their suffering, by suiting their temptations to the degrees of their graces. His care in providing for them appears in affording to them the holy scriptures, the ministry of the word the administration of the sacraments, and the operation of his Holy Spirit, to make all efficacious and effectual to them. His protection of them discovers itself, by preparing them for trials by supporting them under them, and by delivering them out of them, and by sanctifying all to them, causing them to work together in subserviency to his own glory, and his people's good.
Observe, 2. That Christ's sheep hear Christ's voice, and answer the call of their great Shepherd. They hear the voice of Christ speaking to them in the scriptures, in the ministry of the word, in their own conscience, in providences; and they hear Christ's voice speaking to them, in and by his Holy Spirit; and as they hear Christ's voice, so do they answer his call; now the right answer to the call of Christ in the gospel, is a present answer, a willing answer and an abiding answer.
Observe, 3. That all Christ's sheep do follow him their shepherd. They follow him,
1. In his doctrine; and
2. In his example, in his contempt of the heavenly-mindedness of his conversation, in his meekness and patience, in charity and universal goodness, and as he was a mighty pattern of prayer.
Observe, 4. That Christ, the great and good Shepherd, knows all his sheep. My sheep hear my voice and I know them. He knows them so as to distinguish them, so as to observe and take notice of them, so as to own and approve them, so as to take care of them, and provide for them.
And as the Lord knoweth who are his, so he knoweth who are not his too; as he knows his sheep, so he knows the goats also, and their place will be at his left hand. My sheep hear my voice and I know them.
Observe here, 1. The promise made by Christ unto his sheep, namely, the promise of eternal life, and perseverance in grace, till they come to the full fruition of it in glory, I give unto them eternal life, and none shall pluck them out of my Father's hand.
Observe, 2. The confirmation he gives of this from his own and his Father's power, which is employed, engaged, and concerned, for them, and for their perseverance and preservation, notwithstanding all oppostiion to the contrary. My Father which gave them me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
Learn, 1. That eternal life is the portion of Christ's sheep.
2. That eternal life is the gift of Christ.
3. That eternal life is, now given to Christ's sheep: they have it now in the purchase, in the promise, and in the first fruits.
4. That all Christ's sheep are put by God the Father into Christ's hand for security: My Father hath given them me.
5. The Father doth so intrust Christ with his sheep, as yet to take care of them himself; they are in the Father's hand, as well as in the son's, and their being in the hands of both, doth assure them of the certainty of their perseverance. None shal pluck them out of my hand; none shall be able to pluck them out of my Father's hand: implying, that there are many that would pluck them out of their hands, sin, Satan, the world, &c. but they shall be kept by the almighty power of God, through faith unto salvation; for who can be too strong for omnipotent power.
That is, one in essence and nature, one in authority and power, and not barely one in will and affection, one in concord or consent. That this is the genuine signification of the words, appears by a three-fold argument.
1. From the original words: it is not said, I and my Father are one person in the masculine gender, but in the neuter I and my Father are one thing. Now if that thing be not the divine Being, they cannot be one; for since the Father is confessed to be God, the Son cannot be one thing with the Father, if he be not God too.
2. It appears from the context; our Saviour, in the preceding versed, ascribed the preservation of his sheep to the power of his Father; None can pluck them out of my Father's hand; and he ascribes it also to his own power; None shall pluck them out of my hand; plainly intimating, that his sheep were equally safe in his own hand, as well as in his Father's; for, says he, I and my Father are one; that is, one in power: and, if they be one in power, they must be one in nature; unless we make an almighty creature, which is a contradiction.
3. It appears evidently by what follows in the next verse, that the Jews understood our Saviour in this sense; why else did they take up stones to stone him? We stone thee, say they, for blasphemy, because thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
The Jews took our Saviour's meaning aright, and were satisfied, that when he said, I and my Father are one, he asserted himself to be God, and deserved to die; and well he had deserved it, if he had not been God. The adversaries of our Saviour's divinity, to elude the force of these words, which make so much agaainst them, interpret the words thus, I and my Father are one; that is, say they, we are Mia bdlhsiv one in will and affection, one in concord and consent: this is a truth, but not the great truth contained in these words; for thus believers are one with God, and one with one another; namely, by a harmony of wills and desires: so far as they are regenerated, God's will and theirs are unisons, they will and desire the same thing, and are of one heart and of one mind.
But God and Christ are one, in a much higher sense than Christ and believers are one; namely, one in essence and nature, one in authority and power, Christ being con-substantial with God.
Learn hence, That the Lord Jesus Christ is for nature co-essential, for dignity co-equal, and for duration co-eternal with the Father.
2. That although Christ be one in essence with the Father, yet are they distinct persons one from antoher. I and my Father, we are one.
3. Learn hence, That the Son being one in essence, one in power, one in consent and will, with the Father, they are both equally concerned for the perseverance of the saints, for preserving them in grace, and for bringing them to glory. None shall pluck them out of mine or my Father's hand: for I and my Father are one. If the power be the same, the essence must be the same.
Observe here, 1. How the Jews understood our Saviour affirming, that he and the Father are one; that is, one in essence and nature, and himself a person equal with God. This they looked upon as blasphemy in him, to arrogate to himself what is proper to God only.
Observe, 2. That the Jews looked upon it as a piece of justice in them to stone Christ for this apprehended blasphemy; Then the Jews took up stones to stone him. According to the law of God, the blasphemer was to be stoned to death, but then he was first to be judicially tried and judged; but such was the furious and fiery zeal of these Jews, that in a tumultuous manner they attempt to stone him to death. Lord! how far doth the fury of men, in opposing truth, outstrip the true zeal of they faithful servants in defending truth!
Observe, 3. With what meekness our Lord receives this horrid indignity of stoning (for it is probable, that some stones were cast at him, he saying, For which of these works do ye stone me?) he clears his own innocence, and expostulates with them for rewarding him evil for good: Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; that is, by my Father's authority and commission; I have been sight to the blind, feet to the lame, a tongue to the dumb, and hearing to the deaf; do any of these works deserve such usage as stoning at your hands?
Learn hence, That such was the perfect and spotless innocence of Christ in all his actions, that he durst and did appeal to the consciences of his most inveterate adversaries; For which of these works do ye stone me?
Here our Saviour by a two-fold argument vindicates himself from the imputation of blasphemy, in assertion himself to be God.
1. Because the Old Testament gave to magistrates and judges the title of gods, I have said ye are gods Ps 82:6. Now Christ argues strongly from the less to the greater, thus: "If judges and magistrates may be called gods, because they are commissioned by him, and derive their authority from him, how much more is that title due to me, who was sanctified, separated, and ordained for a Mediator, and appointed to the work of redemption, before I came into the world, and consequently was God from all eternity?"
This place the Socinians (whose professed adversaries of our Saviour's godhead) produce to prove, that Christ was not God by nature, but only in respect of his sanctification and mission. It is a certain truth, that he was not therefore the Son of God, because sanctified and sent. His sanctification was not the ground of his sonship; but his sonship was the cause of his sanctification. Christ was not therefore God's Son, because he was sanctified and sent; but he was therefore sanctified and sent, because he was his Son. He was a Son before he was sent, even from eternity, otherwise, it must have been said, that God sent him to be his Son, and not that God sent his Son. This supposes him before he was sent out have been actually his Son, as certainly he was, from before the foundation of the world. Prov 8:25 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the world was.
Here we have a second argument, by which our Saviour proves, that it was no blasphemy to call himself God; but that he was God in very deed; namely, an argument taken from his works: If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not; and the argument runs thus; If (says Christ) I do those miraculous works, which no power less than a divine power can effect, then you ought by these works to be led to believe and acknowledge, that I am truly and really God: but the works which I do are the effect and product of an omnipotent power, therefore you ought to believe, that I am one in essence with the Father, there being a mutual in-existence of one person in the other, so that he Father is in me, and I in him; and thus I and the Father are one.
Learn hence, That Christ never required of his disciples and followers an implicit faith, or a blind obedience; but as he submitted his doctrine to the trial of reason, so he submitted his miracles to the examination and judgment of sense: therefore he says, If I do not the works of my Father, that is, divine works, believe me not to be a divine person.
Observe here, 1. The violence and fury of these unbelieving Jews, against the holy and innocent Jesus! They sought again to take him.
Observe, 2. The prudential care of Christ for his own preservation; his time being not yet come, he withdraws from Jerusalem, the nest of his enemies, and goes beyond Jordan; when Christ was persecuted in one city, he fled to another; he has sanctified a state of persecution to his ministers and members, by his own being in it. 'Tis no disgrace for any of them to fly, when their Captain did it, and bids them do it, saying, When they persecute you in one city, flee unto another.
Observe, 3. The success of Christ's ministry beyond Jordan; Many resorted to him, and believed on him. This place about Jordan was the place where John had exercised a great part of his ministry, and now, many years after John's death, the fruit of his ministry appears: for many believed on him there: that is, about Jordan, where John had preached and baptized.
Learn hence, That the labours of faithful ministers may seem to be lost, and lie long like seed under the ground, and yet at last, by some new watering, may spring up, and the fruit appear in abundance. Here John's ministry about Jordan hath fresh fruit upon Christ's coming, long after John was dead.
Observe, 4. The dignity of Christ above John, John did no miracle: but Christ did all. The wisdom of God so ordered it, that through the Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha, wrought many miracles for the confirmation of their divine mission, yet John the Baptist coming immediately before Christ, as his messenger and forerunner, wrought none, for these three reasons probably:
1. That so the glory of Christ in working miracles, when he came upon the state of his ministry, might be the more clear and evident.
2. That the evidence of Christ being the Messias might be the more clear by the miracles which he wrought.
3. That the minds of the people might not be divided and distracted between John and Christ, and that there might be not pretence or competition between them: Therefore John did no miracle; but all things that John spake of Christ were true.
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