Sermon for Sunday, May 8th, 2022, the Third Sunday after Easter

The Lessons: Psalm 100; Numbers 27:12-23; John 10:22-30

The Text: John 10:22-30

The Topic: The eternal security of the faithful

INTRODUCTION

The Jewish Festival of the Dedication (Hannukah) had been instituted by Judas Maccabeus in 164 B.C. to celebrate the rededication of the Temple after it had been defiled by unclean sacrifices offered in it by the Seleucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Macc. 4:52-59). It was an eight-day Festival characterized by joy and by illumination of the Temple and private homes. Tradition held that when the sacred candlesticks of the restored Temple were to be lit for the first time, only one flagon of pure oil was found, sealed by the high priest. This was only enough for one day, but miraculously, the flagon remained full for eight days. In honor of this miracle, the annual celebration of Hannukah required the Temple and private homes to be illuminated for the same period of eight days. During Hanukkah, Ezekiel 34 was read as a warning against false priests. Our Lord Jesus was attending this Festival at the Temple when the Jews surrounded him in Solomons’ porch and demanded that he tell them if he was really the Christ. This was a challenge to his teaching authority, but they hoped that he would clarify his identity as the Messiah, so that they could charge him for blasphemy.

Now Jesus’s reply was a rebuke of their unbelief, for he said, “I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me” (John 10:25, KJV). He points out that the reason they do not believe in Him, is that they do not belong to his sheep (John 10:26).

THE PARABLE OF THE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEEP

When Jesus declares that the Jewish leaders are not of his sheep, we must make sure we understand what this means. In Israelite tradition, for example, in passages such as Jeremiah 23 and Ezekiel 34, the word “shepherd” is used for a king or ruler of Israel. In John 10, the Lord Jesus Christ has already explained that he is both the door of the sheep and the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:7 & 11). King David, even though a king, acknowledged the Lord as his Shepherd (Psalm 23), and in the Vulgate, the expression used is “Dominus regit me” – “the Lord rules over me” – for “the Lord is my Shepherd. In this connection, John Calvin explained:

The reason why the name of sheep is applied to believers is, that they surrender themselves to God, to be governed by the hand of the Chief Shepherd, and laying aside the fierceness of their nature, become mild and teachable.

(p.779, Calvin’s Commentaries: John-Acts. Wilmington, Delaware: Associated Publishers and Authors, 19808)

When the Lord Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that they are not of his sheep, it means that they do not accept his rule over their lives. They reject his lordship. In John 1:12, the Evangelist testifies, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12, KJV). Turning away from sin, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and receiving him as Lord is necessary for one to be spiritually reborn and to become God’s child and a sheep of the one flock of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In John 10:27, the Lord states clearly three important characteristics of his disciples, or sheep, in this metaphor: they hear his voice, and the Lord knows them, and they follow him. Hearing the Lord’s voice does not mean that the disciples hear the Lord speaking audibly to them, although he can do so at any time. Rather, the Lord speaks to their mind or soul and reveals his will to them. Secondly, the Lord knows each disciple personally and intimately. Each has a relationship with him. Thirdly, his disciples follow him. They go where the Good Shepherd leads them and do what He calls them to do. If a person does not hear the Lord speaking to him, and if the Lord does not know him, and if he does not follow the Lord, then how is he a disciple?

Concerning the Lord’s knowledge of his people, J.I. Packer wrote:

What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – that He knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because He first knew me; and there is no moment when His eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters.

(J.I. Packer: Knowing God)[1]

To those who hear the Lord’s voice and obey, to those whom the Lord knows, He gives eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither will anyone pluck them out of the Lord Jesus Christ’s hand (John 10:28). The reason for this is that God the Father who is greater than all, has given the faithful to His Son, and no-one can pluck them from the Father’s hand (John 10:29). The persevering faithful are the ones who have eternal security. The only way that anyone can lose this eternal security is by renouncing his own faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. No-one can remove a person from the secure love of God the Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. St. Paul states this truth in a different way when he writes:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-39, KJV)

ETERNAL SECURITY

Some have argued, “Once saved, always saved.” This statement must not become a license for antinomianism, or disregarding obedience to God’s moral Law, as taught in the Old Testament, as well as in Christ’s teaching in the New. But eternal salvation and eternal life is a secure gift to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, obey his voice, continue daily in their walk with the Lord and follow Him. These are those who endure to the end, persevering in their faith throughout their lives. It is the responsibility of each of us to ensure that we hear Christ’s voice, obey his call, and know Him and are known by Him day by day.


[1] Quoted on p.236, Charles R. Swindoll: Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations and Quotes. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1998.

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