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Sermon Notes

Please note that these are only notes, not transcripts, and as such are not identical to the recorded sermons. They also contain frequent abbreviations.

Introduction

    1. In John 10 Jesus contrasts Himself sharply with the scribes and the Pharisees, the unfaithful shepherds and hirelings of Israel.

      1. He is the Good Shepherd; He loves His sheep; He cares for His sheep; He protects His sheep and He even lays down His life for His sheep.

      2. Who are His sheep? His sheep are the ones who hear His voice, esp. in the preaching of the Gospel, and who follow Him, and who, in a word, believe, all because Christ knows them with an affectionate regard of love and a deep interest in their welfare.

      3. But the unbelieving Jews, esp. the scribes & Pharisees, are neither faithful shepherds, nor beloved sheep (“Ye believe not b/c ye are not of my sheep” v. 26).

    2. But why do Christ’s sheep keep on hearing His voice and keep on following Him (the original Greek) and why are they not taken and destroyed by ravening wolves?

      1. Is this to be attributed to their own faithfulness?

      2. Is their being and remaining sheep cond. on their continued hearing and following?

      3. Not at all! Every sheep knows his own weaknesses. Beset by enemies without and our sinful nature within we cannot stand even for a moment.

      4. Rather, our perseverance depends on Christ’s preservation of us, and Christ asserts this in the strongest possible language for the comfort of His sheep who were listening then and for those who hear these words today. Consider ….

 

THE ABSOLUTE SECURITY OF CHRIST’S SHEEP”

I. The Meaning

II. The Necessity

III. The Reason

 

  1. The Meaning: Christ affirms the security of His sheep both pos & neg. Positively, He gives unto them eternal life, and negatively, they shall never perish.

    1. I give unto them eternal life.

      1. The words “eternal life” sum up all the blessings of salvation. In verse 10 the Good Shepherd declares, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”

        1. What is eternal life?

          1. Eternal life is more than endless existence; the damned in hell exist forever but they do not have life in any sense

          2. Nor is eternal life a mere continuation of earthly life.

          3. Eternal life is fellowship with God, heavenly, higher, spiritual life. Jesus defines it this way in John 17:3, “And this is life eternal that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.”

        2. Eternal life, then, is life of a higher and richer quality than this earthly life.

          1. The one who has eternal life never really dies; even when he passes thru physical death he never dies.

          2. His communion with God remains unbroken throughout all eternity, and he spends eternity knowing God in love and growing in that blessed knowledge.

          3. The result of this eternal life is unspeakable bliss, and since he has eternal life, it is not a mere temporal possession; it lasts forever and is unlosable. A life which you enjoy for a few years, but then forfeit b/c of your sins, is not eternal life.

      2. That Christ gives us eternal life presupposes that we are by nature dead.

        1. Of ourselves we have no life.

          1. We are under the power of death: conceived and born in sin, by nature we are spiritually dead, estranged from God, guilty, depraved and polluted in our sins, and therefore cut off from any fellowship with the Holy God.

          2. Physical death is already at work in our members from birth; men are dead in trespasses and sins, and they are heading under the judgment of God to eternal death in hell.

          3. Should they die impenitent and unbelieving, God’s wrath shall abide on them forever, and they shall never ever live.

        2. But Christ gives His sheep life as a free gift of His grace to them.

          1. The “I” is emphatic: I, I alone, I give. Only I have the authority and the power to give.

          2. Dead sheep cannot give themselves life; no mere teacher of whatever rank can breathe life into our souls; no religious philosophy can impart life.

          3. But Christ gives this life to whomsoever He will, and He keeps on giving, continually pouring into the hearts of His sheep eternal life.

          4. He does not try to give it to all men, or offer it to all men with the hope that they will accept it. He does not give it to many who then lose it. He actually and effectually gives it to His sheep with the result that they believe on Him and follow Him (“I give unto them …”).

        3. The source of this life is Christ Himself.

          1. Christ gives life b/c He is the living Son of God who has life in Himself.

          2. Christ gives life b/c He has purchased for His sheep, for whom He died, the right to live. The sins which we, who are His sheep, have committed were imputed to Christ and He paid the penalty for those sins. Now no barrier remains to our receiving this glorious life.

          3. Christ gives life b/c He conquered death in His glorious resurrection. The richer, higher life which Christ’s sheep possess is the resurrection life of Christ Himself .

          4. And X gives this life in regeneration. Sovereignly and irresistibly and by the power of His Spirit He implants His own life as a seed into our hearts. Out of that seed of regeneration we live, and bring forth good works to God’s glory.

      3. But how shall we know that we are of that blessed number to whom Christ gives life? How shall we know that by “I give unto them …” He means us?

        1. The answer is that we believe which is seen in hearing His voice and following Him

          1. We do not become sheep and Christ does not give us life because we believe.

          2. That is impossible because Christ’s sheep are a certain definite number of people who cannot be increased or diminished. A person cannot become a sheep. He is a sheep. He always was a sheep – lost & wandering, now saved.

          3. Besides, no man can believe and thus become a sheep, because needing life he is dead.

        2. Christ imparts life and then by consequence of that, the sheep believe.

          1. And because Christ continues to give life, they continue to believe, and they show that faith by their hearing His voice and following Him.

          2. Those who do not believe, who do not listen to the voice of Christ, but reject Him and His Word, and therefore do not follow Him in obedience, are not His sheep (v. 26).

          3. They never were.

    2. Christ gives His sheep eternal life. Therein lies their security. But, to put it negatively, they shall never perish.

      1. Perishing is the opposite of eternal life.

        1. To perish is to suffer everlasting death in body and soul in hell.

          1. To perish is to be eternally lost, cut off from the blessedness of life with God and to know God only as an avenging Judge who makes the sinner utterly miserable.

          2. Dreadful it is to perish. Better for the one who perishes never to have been born.

        2. But the good news is that we, the sheep of Jesus Christ, shall never perish.

      2. Jesus asserts in the strongest possible language using a grammatical construction called emphatic negation when something most certainly shall not happen.

        1. As such

          1. They shall not perish! (That’s strong …!)

          2. They shall never perish! (Even stronger …!)

          3. They shall never ever perish! (Even stronger … but X says more …!)

          4. They shall never ever perish into eternity!

        2. The reasons

          1. The sheep have eternal, unlosable life which X gives to them, which X has earned for them on the cross b/c of which they continually hear His voice and follow Him.

          2. Neither today, nor tomorrow, nor in the greatest of temptations, nor at the point of death, nor into the endless ages of eternity shall they perish!

  2. The Necessity

    1. The security of Christ’s sheep is necessary first of all because they are sheep. This point is so obvious that we might miss it. We are sheep, not lions!

      1. Sheep is a fitting, but not very flattering, picture of Christ’s elect. God has made sheep without claws or any other way of defending themselves exactly to be pictures of defenseless believers.

        1. In many ways sheep are pathetic creatures.

          1. They fall over & cannot get up. They do not know what is good for them.

          2. Left to themselves they will eat the wrong food and drink the wrong water. They need a shepherd to guide them every step of the way.

        2. Besides, sheep are foolish creatures. All we like sheep have gone astray!

          1. They are prone to wander into dangerous pathways, falling into pits, becoming entangled in briers, sinking into swamps, because they are attracted by something off the beaten track.

          2. They are followers and are easily led. When one sheep wanders away the rest usually follow.

          3. A shepherd needs to be constantly vigilant lest his sheep wander off into danger.

      2. This is the answer to the oft-quoted but foolish objection of some Arminians.

        1. Arminians concede that none can pluck believers out of the X’s hand but they imagine that they could wander off on their own accord & perish that way.

          1. Their argument goes something like this, “No-one can pluck us out of Christ’s hand, but we can choose to jump!”

          2. Such objection shows fundamental misunderstanding about nature of sheep.

          3. Of course sheep wander! The very fact that they are sheep makes it inevitable that they shall wander.

          4. Christ makes this solemn promise fully aware of the fact that His sheep are prone to wander.

        2. But X’s protection of them ensures that they never wander into perdition.

          1. The assertion, “They shall never perish,” includes perishing caused by the wandering of Christ’s sheep.

          2. Wandering into perdition is entirely possible from our perspective. In fact, the Canons of Dordt assert that it “would undoubtedly happen” (Canons V, 8).

          3. But Christ the faithful shepherd will no more allow His sheep to wander off and perish than a vigilant parent will allow his toddler to wander off and be killed on a busy road.

      3. Therefore, this promise does not make us presumptuous because although Christ’s sheep cannot wander into perdition, we can wander into misery, the consequences of which could last a lifetime.

        1. Think of examples of wandering but preserved believers.

          1. David wandered and God preserved him, but only in the way of severe chastisements of the sword never leaving his house.

          2. Jonah wandered and God preserved him, but only in the way of almost drowning, being swallowed by a great fish, and vomited on the shore.

          3. Peter wandered and God preserved him, but only in the way of his being severely humbled with bitter weeping.

          4. To this could be added many examples, all of whom learned the hard way, that Jehovah’s fatherly hand of chastisement is never pleasant: “If they break my statutes […] then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes” (Ps. 89:31-32).

        2. We must never reason this way: Christ promises I will not perish. Therefore I can sin as much as I like with the assurance that I will still get to heaven.

          1. Such reasoning is abhorrent to the child of God.

          2. Let us therefore cry to God, Lord, heal my wandering heart lest I stray from thee. Lead me not into temptation for thou knowest that I am so weak that I cannot stand.”

    2. We need the security of Christ, in the second place, because there are many would-be “sheep snatchers” in the world. The fact that Christ promises that no man shall snatch us out of His hand indicates that there will be many who will try.

      1. The verb “pluck” refers to the violent taking away of someone or something.

        1. The would-be sheep-snatcher seeks to take away by force, to ambush or to overcome with violence.

          1. A wolf seizes a sheep and carries it off to devour it (v. 12). Christ will not permit a wolf to do that to one of His sheep.

          2. The enemies of our souls use two main weapons to attempt to wrest us from Christ: violence (or threat of violence) and seduction.

          3. These weapons are powerful and formidable.

        2. Less than a generation after Christ spoke these words the devil unleashed his fury upon the church.

          1. Christ’s beloved people were being torn to pieces by savage beasts, crucified and made into human candles at Nero’s garden parties.

          2. Many centuries later in the Netherlands, Guido de Bres, the author of our beloved Belgic Confession, languished in a dank dungeon while many other believers were tortured & burned at the stake to attempt to make them recant.

          3. This Satan-inspired cruelty of the persecutors of Christ’s church was not able to separate even one of His sheep from the Good Shepherd.

          4. And we can be assured that when Antichrist unleashes his fury against the church that he will not be able to wrest us from X. The temptation to forsake Christ will be tremendous but Christ will give us the grace to stand; we will continue to hear His voice and to follow Him, even to a martyr’s death.

        3. Seduction is in many ways a more dreadful weapon. Now the devil appears as an angel of light.

          1. His powers of seduction are well-refined. They fooled our first parents in the Garden, and he has been fine-tuning them ever since.

          2. The devil’s servants, the heretics and propagandists of evil, are persuasive, honey-tongued, eloquent and alluring.

          3. The media (television, the movies, the internet and the literature of this world) present the way of sin as pure pleasure and ridicule the way of holiness.

          4. Satan uses the seductress at work or in the college dorm; he uses the lettered professors in the universities; he uses the plausible heretic to infiltrate the church and to lure the sheep away from the voice of the Good Shepherd.

          5. Left to ourselves we would succumb to such allurements because our flesh wants what the devil’s seducers offer

      2. Moreover, this attempt of our souls’ enemies to seize us is constant.

        1. The fact that no one succeeds in snatching us from Christ is not from a lack of trying on their part.

          1. Daily there is a relentless battle for our souls. The devil wants nothing more than to drag us down to eternal perdition with him.

          2. But he cannot succeed. No amount of persecution or violence will separate us from Christ. And no amount of seduction can lure us into perdition.

          3. Jesus says in Matthew 24:24 that it is impossible for the elect fatally to be deceived.

        2. This is not because of anything in the elect sheep themselves.

          1. It is not because the elect are smarter than everyone else that they are not deceived, but because Christ keeps them.

          2. He keeps them in the way of their continually hearing His voice.

          3. We have eternal, unlosable life; we shall never perish; neither shall any (no power of earth or hell) pluck us out of His hand.

          4. All would-be sheep-snatchers are powerless in the face of the Almighty power which keeps us.

  3. The Reason

    1. The reason for the security of Christ’s sheep in His love for them and His power to keep them.

      1. The sheep are identified in the text as they whom the Father gave to Him (v. 29).

        1. This phrase throughout the Gospel according to John refers to the elect (e.g., 6:37, 6:39, 17:2, 17:24, etc).

          1. God gave these precious individuals to Jesus Christ. They are a precious gift of the Father to the Son.

          2. The Father’s commission to the Son is to save all of these sheep and to lose none of them. This is exactly what He does.

          3. Christ knows and loves these sheep and He lays down His life for them.

        2. Given His work of atonement there is no grounds for their condemnation.

          1. None for whom Christ died can perish, else the efficacy of the cross would be overthrown and God’s justice denied.

          2. The Father gave these sheep to Christ and they remain His possession forever.

      2. But the main focus of the text is the Almighty power which preserves Christ’s sheep.

    2. Jesus uses the beautiful figure of a hand to underline this point.

      1. Hand in Scripture is a figure of power, the instrument whereby one executes one’s will. You have a hand and when you want to do sth you use your hand.

        1. The hand of God in providence is His power to execute His counsel in and thru all creatures.

        2. As Christ’s sheep we are in His hand and there He holds us as something exceedingly precious to Him.

        3. The figure here is of a parent who holds the hand of a child so that he will not let that child go.

      2. Christ’s hand is firmly holding our hand and is clasped around us so that we are surrounded by His protection.

        1. We might wriggle at times, just as an impatient child who wants to run off squirms, but Christ will not let us go.

        2. Will the hand which was nailed to the cross for our salvation suddenly let us go when He sees danger coming?

        3. Will the one, who at such a high cost purchased us, now through neglect or carelessness allow us to go lost?

        4. Of course not! From His hand, declares Christ, none shall seize us.

      3. Around that hand is clasped another hand, the hand of the Father.

        1. This is the hand of Almighty God, the hand which formed the earth and upholds all things.

          1. This is the hand which so controls all things that without His will they cannot so much as move.

          2. He is greater than all. He is mightier and more glorious than any mere creature. Before Him all men and devils are powerless. They have no strength.

        2. What can mere men or devils, all creatures, do with the hand of God?

          1. Can they launch an assault upon the Almighty Hand of God? Can they prize open His fingers?

          2. Can they outwit Him so that in a moment of distraction His grip is loosened? Of course not!

          3. But foolishly, blinded by his own malice, the devil tries. He has been trying from the dawn of time.

    3. Strikingly, Jesus draws a parallel between His hand and the Father’s hand.

      1. To snatch from Christ’s hand is equivalent to snatching from the Father’s hand.

        1. Both hands are almighty.

          1. Yet as the Athanasian Creed puts it, “The Father is almighty, the Son is almighty and the Holy Ghost almighty, and yet there are not three almighties, but one almighty.”

          2. Christ’s hand possesses the same power which the Father possesses.

          3. For this reason He makes the startling, and to the Jews blasphemous, statement in verse 30: “I and my Father are one.”

        2. Some have said that this means that “the Father and I are in agreement on this point”

          1. It is true that the Father and the Son are one in purpose: they both will the salvation and eternal preservation of the elect.

          2. But verse 30 in its context means more than mere unity of purpose. Christ is asserting unity of power.

          3. The Father and the Son are one, one is essence, sharing the same power and glory, but they are distinct Persons.

      2. This is the great comfort of the text.

        1. The almighty power of both the Father and the Son (and, of course, the Holy Spirit, who is the eternal power and might of God [Belgic Confession, Art. 8]) guard the sheep of Christ.

        2. Christ gives us eternal life. He assures us we shall never ever perish into all eternity.

        3. He assures us that we belong to Him and we always will because we are the eternal love-gift of the Father.

        4. And He reminds us that all the ineffectual powers of hell are not able to snatch us out of the Almighty Hand of the Triune God.

        5. No greater guarantee could ever be given us. Let us hear the voice of our Good Shepherd and follow Him out of gratitude for such a great salvation!