I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.
Peter Cameron Scott founded the African Inland Mission. He was born in 1867 in Scotland and went out as a missionary to Africa as a young man. Like so many in that generation, he got malaria and had to come back to Britain.
His second attempt was especially joyful because he was joined by his brother John. But the joy evaporated as John fell victim to the fever. Scott buried his brother by himself and at the grave rededicated himself to preach the gospel. But again his health broke, and he had to return to Britain utterly discouraged. Some of you may be precisely at this point in your efforts to serve the Lord.
“Other Sheep I Have”
In London, something remarkable happened. He visited Westminster Abbey and stood at the tomb of David Livingstone and read the words of our sermon text for today written on the gravestone: “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; Them also I must bring.” God used these words to give him the confidence to return to Africa for the rest of his life. And the fruit of his life still exists today.
The double point I want to make from John 10:16 today is that it is one of the greatest biblical foundations for two kinds of confidence in your life. And you need both of these to live a joyful and fruitful Christian life.
First, John 10:16 gives a great foundation for confidence that you will make it heaven — and I when I say “you,” I mean those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord and Treasure of their lives. You absolutely will make it to heaven.
And second, John 10:16 gives a great foundation for confidence that God’s worldwide saving purpose, and your part in it, will be successful.
Confident Enough to Not Waste Your Life
Peter Cameron Scott was restored to an invincible confidence that he would make it to heaven and that his life would be fruitful as a missionary because of what Jesus said in John 10:16. And I pray it has a similar effect on you. Unshakeable confidence that you cannot be lost, but will persevere to the end and enter the joy of your Master. And unshakeable confidence that your part in God’s saving purposes will be successful. You will not waste your life. Let’s take these one at a time.
The Foundation of Our Confidence of Making It to Heaven
First, John 10:16 as the foundation for your confidence that you — you who have given your life to Christ (Romans 6:13; 12:1) — will make it to heaven, will not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16). (And, of course, my prayer is that those of you who have not given your lives to Christ will listen and be drawn to do so. If you want this, the gift is free.)
John 10:16: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Let each of these four statements in verse 16 sink in. And in this first section, focus on how you, one of Christ’s sheep, came to him and received life — abundant life (verse 10) that can never end.
1. “I have other sheep”
Focus for now on the word “have.” Jesus “has” sheep. And he has them before they come to him. Otherwise, he would not say, “I must bring them also” (verse 16).
Look at verses 3 and 4: “To him [the “shepherd of the sheep,” verse 2] the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (See also verse 14.)
Notice the words “his own.” Verse 3: “He calls his own sheep.” Before he calls them, they are his own. Jesus has come to Israel as her Messiah, and he is calling out his own sheep. He is creating a new people, a new flock. But these sheep are “his own” — he “has” them. As verse 16 says, before he calls them some are his and some are not. “I have other sheep. . . . I must bring them also.” That’s the first thing to see: In some sense, Jesus “has” his sheep — they are “his own” — before he brings them.
How Can Jesus Already Have Them?
Before we look at the next statement in verse 16, we should ask, “How can Jesus have his own sheep before he calls them and they hear his voice and they respond in faith and come to him? The answer is they already belong to God the Father, and he gives these sheep to his Son. You can see this in several other places in John. For example, in John 17:6 Jesus prays to his Father, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me.” God had chosen these sheep for himself (“Yours they were”) and he gave them to the Son (“and you gave them to me”).
The Father’s Election
And we can see it in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” The Father has them before they come to Jesus. So Jesus can say in verse 16, “I have other sheep . . . and I must bring them,” because they first belonged to the Father before they come to Jesus. The Father had chosen them for himself. And he gives them to the Son.
This is one of Jesus’ ways of talking about the great truth of divine election that Paul speaks about in Ephesians 1:4: “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.” “Yours they were, Father from before the foundation of the world, and you have given them to me.” (See also John 6:39, 44, 65; 17:9, 24; 18:9)
So Jesus says, “I have sheep that I must bring.” So let’s focus on that second statement in verse 16.
2. “I must bring them also”
The word “must” here is crucial. Your salvation was included in this “must.” “I must bring my sheep.” This the “must” of divine necessity. The Father has chosen them. I will lay down my life for them. I must bring them. In other words, there is no question: They will be brought. It is not possible that the Father would choose a flock for the Son, and give them to the Son, and yet the Son not bring them. The salvation of Christ’s sheep must take place.
How does he bring them? How did he bring you? He brings them by his word. He calls them. Look at verse 3: “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” He brings them to himself by calling them.
And if we ask how he does that today, he gives the answer in John 20:21 and 17:20. He says to his disciples, “As the Father has sent me [to call my own], even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). And how is his voice heard when he sends them? Jesus prays in John 17:20, “I do not [pray, Father] for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20). Jesus brings his sheep to himself then and now by his word. My preaching and your witness are that word.
3. “They will listen to my voice”
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice” (John 10:16).
Lest we miss the point of saying, “I must bring them,” — lest we fail to hear the certainty in the word “must” — Jesus says with absolute authority, “They will listen to my voice.” And that means they will respond. They will come.
Verse 4: “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” Verse 27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
How to Know If You’re a Sheep
This is how you know if you are one of his sheep. You don’t ask to read the Book of Life (Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12). You don’t pry into God’s eternal decrees. You listen. And if, when Jesus speaks, you hear the voice of God and come, you are his. And what if you don’t come? What if you don’t believe? What would that mean?
The answer is in verse 26: “But you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” Believing doesn’t make you part of his flock. Being part of his eternal flock enables you to believe. Believing shows that you are his from before the foundation of the world. And if someone should say, “Well, if I am part of his flock before I believe, then I don’t need to believe in order to be saved,” he would be denying the words of Jesus. Because Jesus says in verse 27, “My sheep hear my voice . . . and they follow me.” If you never follow him, you were never one of his sheep. If you do follow him, you always were one of his sheep.
4. “So there will be one flock, one shepherd”
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
Focus on the words “will be.” “There will be one flock.” How long will he have a flock? How absolute is this promise?
The answer is given in verses 28–30. Start at verse 27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:28–30).
A Chain of Security
This flock is forever. And that means you, believer. You will make it to heaven forever. Mark this chain of security:
- Those whom the Father chose for himself, he also gave to the Son.
- And for those who belong to the Son, he also laid down his life.
- And those for whom he laid down his life, he also called to himself.
- And those whom he called heard his voice and followed him.
- And to those who followed him, he gave eternal life.
- And those to whom he gave eternal life can never be taken from his hand.
- And there will be one flock and one shepherd forever.
This is how secure you are. This is how solid your salvation is. This is the foundation of your unshakeable confidence that you will make it heaven. It is the work of God (1 Corinthians 1:30). Let him who boasts boast in the Lord! (1 Corinthians 1:31).
The Foundation of Our Confidence That God’s Worldwide Saving Purpose — And Our Part in It — Will Be Successful
You might say, and you’d be right, that we’ve already seen this foundation. If Jesus infallibly saves his own, then his worldwide saving purpose will succeed. And if I have a part in calling any of this sheep, that will succeed too. That’s true.
So all I mean to do here is make sure we feel the thrust of the words “not of this fold” and “one flock, one shepherd.” Verse 16: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold [that is, this ethnic Jewish fold]. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock [from all these other ethnic groups around the world with the Jewish sheep], one shepherd” (John 10:16). What we have spent this whole sermon showing so far is the magnificent, sovereign salvation that God is working to save his sheep. He chose them before creation, and he sent his Son into the world to lay down his life for them, and bring them to himself and to the Father.
The Danger of Becoming Ingrown and Indifferent
It would seem that this salvation should produce the greatest humility and the greatest gratitude possible. God did not choose us or call us because we were anything special. If there is any specialness, it is owing totally to his free and unconditional election and calling.
But because we are sinners still, it has proved often in history that the church has become ingrown and indifferent to the world; and that her chosen standing has been wickedly woven into the fabric of ethnocentrism and racism and nationalism. And the church has become comfortable with its own kind — this “fold.”
Jesus saw it in his day, and he saw it coming. And therefore, right here in the middle of the one of the most glorious statements of election and sovereign grace he says, with razor sharp warning: “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
Sheep Scattered Abroad
These other sheep are scattered all over the world, and all throughout our Cities in the thousands of ethnic groups that God means to save. Consider two passages that John wrote.
In John 11:51–52, John records a prophecy of the High Priest, Caiaphas about Jesus: “He prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” This is the same as saying, He died for the sheep in this Jewish fold and not only for them but for other sheep that are not of this fold. John says Jesus died “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” I have other sheep; I must bring them also.
How widely are they scattered? Where are they? John saw a vision in Revelation 5:9–10 where he gives the answer. The voices in heaven sang,
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
When the Great Shepherd laid down his life for the sheep, he purchased his sheep from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Therefore, whatever ethnic group you are among, there are sheep there to be found (Acts 18:10). They need to hear the voice of Jesus. There are brothers and sisters to be found there. We dare not look on any racial or ethnic group with disdain. We dare not hold back the treasure of the gospel, as though we were worthy of it and they are not.
Waking Up to Other Sheep
God has been gracious to his church and to the world over and over again to waken us from the slumbers of ingrown, self-satisfied, this-fold-and-no-more attitudes.
In the early 1600s, John Eliot in Boston woke up from the Puritan fold and saw that there were “other sheep” among the Algonquin. A century later David Brainerd woke up from the New England Congregational fold and saw that there were “other sheep” among the Housatonic and the Delaware. At the end of the 18th century, William Carey woke up from the British Baptist fold and saw that there were “other sheep” in India.
And just when the mission agencies and churches were growing content with the coastland successes around the world, Hudson Taylor woke up to the peoples of the vast inland stretches of China, and Peter Cameron Scott to the inland peoples of Africa.
And just when all of Western Christendom began to feel content in the 20th century that every country of the world had been penetrated with the gospel, Cameron Townsend and Ralph Winter woke up to the reality of 17,000 unreached peoples and thousands of languages with no Bible. God has been so merciful and patient with us.
God Will Triumph
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” — John 10:16 is the foundation for our confidence that we will make it to heaven, and it is the foundation for our confidence that God’s worldwide purpose will succeed in bring his sheep from every race, every tribe, every language, every people group into one flock with one Great Shepherd.
Therefore, Bethlehem, we will resist all ethnic arrogance; and we will pursue gospel-based, ethnic diversity, and Christ-exalting racial harmony; and we will pray that the strife-transcending voice of Jesus be heard wherever ethnic hostilities are feeding riots; and we will send missionaries to the unreached peoples of the world until Jesus comes. And we will do this with great confidence that whatever happens to us, we will make it to heaven and God’s plan will triumph.