The shepherd of the sheep

by Mike Ratliff

1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. (John 10:1-2 NASB)

In John Bunyan’s classic allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian encounters two interesting men shortly after his own salvation. These two men are named Formalist and Hypocrisy. He saw them enter the Narrow Way by climbing over the wall which bordered the Left Hand of the path. Christian asks them what they are doing and where they are going. They reply that they were born in the land of Vain-Glory and that they are going for Praise to Mount Sion. Christian asks, “Why came you not in at the Gate which standeth at the beginning of of the Way? Know you not that it is written, That he that cometh not in by the Door, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a Thief and a Robber?” They replied, “…to go to the Gate for entrance, was by all their countrymen counted too far about; and that therefore their usual way was to make a short cut of it, and to climb over the wall, as they had done.” Christian asked, “But will it not be counted a trespass against the Lord of the City, whither we are bound, thus to violate his revealed Will?” They replied, “That as for that, he needed not to trouble his head thereabout; for what they did, they had Custom for, and could produce, if need were, Testimony that would witness it, for more than a thousand years.”

Bunyan wrote this in the 17th Century from a prison cell, He was imprisoned for preaching and pastoring a Church, but he was not licensed by the Church of England since he was a Baptist. God had allowed Bunyan to suffer over 12 years of prison for the crime of preaching without a license.

John Bunyan was very well acquainted with the hypocrisy of religion that claims to be genuine Christianity, but is nothing more than formalism and hypocrisy. Testimonies can be false. Our Lord dealt with this throughout His earthly ministry. In John 9 He healed a man who was born blind. The Jewish religious leaders proved that they were false shepherds of the people through their hostility toward our Lord and the man born blind because there was no way they could deny the miracle, but they could not bear that our Lord healed the man on the Sabbath. These same cast out the healed man from the Synagogue.

35 Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “ Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. 39 And Jesus said, “ For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “ We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “ If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘ We see,’ your sin remains. (John 9:35-41 NASB)

Who are the false shepherds? They are the religious leaders who claim to be of God, but who are anything but. They are motivated by their religiosity. They want to build big churches. They want to be considered the coolest pastor in town. They want to have the most culturally relevant church. Instead of preaching the Gospel in belief they form a religious paradigm rooted in unbelief all based around appealing to the flesh using the ways of world to attract their “large crowds.” One pastor uses profanity in his sermons. Others use intellectualism and cool clothes all with a tailored look that will appeal to their target audience. The problem with all of this is that these “shepherds” are spiritually blind. They claim “to see” the truth while rejecting what is the truth proving that they are under the Lord’s judgment which is causing them to become even more blind as they refuse to repent. Hence, we have church after church spending weeks and weeks on series dealing with sexuality for instance. These are the false shepherds of our day. Our Lord continued to speak after rebuking the Pharisees.

1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them. (John 10:1-6 NASB)

Christians are the sheep in this analogy. The shepherds are pastors and other Christian leaders. The sheepfold in this analogy is a local church. All genuine shepherds of the sheep are ordained by the Lord Himself. They enter the sheepfold by the door. Both the door and the doorkeeper is Christ. False shepherds cannot come via the door because they do not belong to the Lord. Instead, they climb over the wall into the Narrow Path, but they are strangers there. They are thieves and robbers. Genuine Christians know the voice of their Saviour and when their shepherd speaks they hear the Lord speaking through him. On the other hand, when a false shepherd preaches or teaches they will not recognize the Lord’s voice in him. On the other hand, those who are in the sheepfold who are not genuine believers do not really know the voice of the Lord. These “goats” will follow the ones whose teaching and preaching tickles their ears. The false shepherds and their goats will not understand what the Lord says nor will they agree with His servants who speak the truth to them.

7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 “ I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. 18 No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” (John 10:7-18 NASB)

The Lord is the door of the sheep. All who claim to be of Him, but came in some other way instead of by and through Him, are false. We are given the criteria to use to know when a shepherd is true or false by the Lord Himself in Matthew 7:13-16.

13 “ Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? (Matthew 7:13-16 NASB)

This fruit by which we will know if a shepherd is true or not is his doctrines, what he preaches and the affect these have on his “flock.” The genuine shepherd preaches according to the will of God and will not deviate from His pure doctrines. These doctrines are used by God to draw His sheep into lives of repentance. Their flesh is crucified and they are becoming humble servants of the Lord. On the other hand, the doctrines of these false shepherds have no power or ability to draw their flocks into denying their flesh. Instead, their people come to be entertained by the show. These are hirelings, not true shepherds. The enemy of the souls of men comes into their flocks and easily blinds and deceives them because they are not protected by a true shepherd of the sheep. In many cases those deceived by these false shepherds are drawn into a belief system of works righteousness. This places the burden of salvation of “righteousness” in order to be saved on the individual and his or her works rather than the finished work of Christ.

On the other hand, the true shepherd, being ordained by the Lord and submitted to Him as Lord and Saviour, will stand firm against the wiles of the enemy and will lead his flock as the Lord would away from false teaching and the clutches of the false shepherds all around.

Notice that the Lord says that there is only one flock and one shepherd. This is the Church and He is the shepherd. There are a lot of pretenders out there my brethren and though we can often think that we are scattered by the enemy, the Lord promised to build His Church so until He returns we must continue as His sub-shepherds in working to teach and preach and pastor the Lord’s sheep.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “The shepherd of the sheep

  1. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing who would try to scatter the flock of God. Stay clear of springs that produce salt water and therefore dry up the spirit of those who drink from them. Preaching the Word of God was never meant to be an opportunity to be famous or achieve status. Quite the contrary, it is an activity that will cause a lot of upset to those who hear it because it reveals things about people that they do not want to think about. Nevertheless, the Christian is called to preach the Truth regardless of the consequences; we are called to serve God rather than man.

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