A young woman emails to ask, “Pastor John, in John 10:1–21, Jesus tells us that he is the good shepherd and we are his sheep and his sheep know his voice. My question is what is ‘Jesus’s voice’? Is it his word, or is it like someone literally speaking to you?”
Here is the context in John 10, which I think they are referring to: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). And then verse 27 says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” And verse 16 says, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold” — I think he means this Jewish fold: I have other Gentile sheep out there — “I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.”
“‘My sheep hear my voice’ means, ‘my elect are enabled by God to hear the truth, the true shepherd, when the gospel is preached.’”
So he is talking about his elect ones that the Father has chosen, and the Father will give them to the Son when the Son calls them. We know this because of verse 26: “You do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” Believing is what proves you are a sheep, not the other way around. You don’t believe and are thus turned into a sheep. Jesus says, You don’t believe because you aren’t my sheep.
In other words, my elect ones, my sheep that the Father has chosen, will hear my voice and will follow me, and that will prove that they are elect. “My sheep hear my voice” means, “My elect are enabled by God to hear the truth, the true shepherd, when the gospel is preached.”
Seeing and Hearing the Shepherd
Here is another example in 2 Corinthians 4:4: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So blindness keeps us from seeing the glory in the same way that deafness keeps us from hearing the glory or hearing the voice.
We are deaf and we are blind so that when the gospel is preached, we don’t see the glory of Christ, and we don’t hear the voice of the Master. The voice is an alien voice. It is a boring voice. We are not interested in the voice of the God that is speaking through the gospel. And what has to happen is 2 Corinthians 4:6: “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” And we could just use the other metaphor of hearing: God has shouted into our hearts and taken away our deafness and caused us to hear in the gospel the voice of the risen, living Christ.
So God opens the eyes of the heart and he opens the ears of the heart so that the beautiful glory of Christ is seen, and the beautiful voice of Jesus is heard. And here is one more evidence that we are on the right track: John 10:16 — “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice” — is parallel to Acts 18:9–10 where Paul is in Corinth, and he is frightened and discouraged, and Jesus comes to him in a vision and he says this: “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking [Let your voice say the gospel, Paul] and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.
Hearing Jesus’s Voice
In other words, I have other sheep that are not of this fold. They are out there. I have sheep. So speak, and what will happen when you speak the gospel is that the sheep among all those goats will hear the voice of the Master in your preaching of the gospel. They will hear the voice.
So my answer to the question is, The voice of Jesus is the word of the gospel or the word of God more generally in Scripture, accompanied by the work of the Spirit of God that enables us to recognize in the Scripture, or in the gospel, the very call of Jesus on our lives. And so I am sure that if Jesus were saying this, he would end with something like, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”’