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 heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
David Brainerd was born on April 20, 1718, in Haddam, Connecticut, 43 years before William Carey was born in Paulerspury, England. Brainerd became a missionary to the Indians in New England but died at the age of 29. He spent the last 19 weeks of his life in the home of the great Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Edwards was so deeply moved by the missionary labor and faith and courage of young Brainerd that he edited and published his Life and Diary in 1749. Forty years later a young English pastor, William Carey, was stung by the story of Brainerd’s sacrifices as a young missionary.
When he was 31 years old, Carey published a little book entitled, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use means for the Conversion of the Heathens. Repeatedly in this book he refers to the great example of Brainerd. A year later, as he sailed to India in 1793 on the Kron Princess Maria, Carey wrote in his journal about how the sermons of Jonathan Edwards were giving him strength. For example: June 24, 1793 — “Saw a number of flying-fish. Have begun to write Bengali, and read Edwards’ Sermons and Cowper’s Poems. Mind tranquil and serene. . . .”
Carey’s book, plus his own amazing 40-year career in India have immortalized him as the “father of modern missions.” And the reason that I point out his connection with Edwards and Brainerd is to show that the great era of modern missions was born in the soil of sovereign grace. It was born in the hearts of men and women who believed in the doctrines of unconditional election and predestination and effectual calling and definite atonement and the perseverance of the saints — the great truths that we have been teaching for the past four weeks from Romans 8:28–30.
Believers in Sovereign Grace
Besides the Bible there probably are no missionary documents that are more influential than Brainerd’s Life and Diary and Carey’s Enquiry. And both of them come from what we can call “sovereign grace” men. And what’s even more interesting is that behind each of these young men stood great, older pastors who were known for their passionate commitment to the sovereignty of God in salvation, and who loved and encouraged the two young missionaries.
Behind Brainerd stood the massive theologian and pastor Jonathan Edwards, who spent the last eight years of his own life writing and ministering among the Native Americans of western Massachusetts. And behind Carey stood the great Andrew Fuller, who took part in Carey’s ordination and helped form the Baptist Missionary Society that sent him out. Carey called him the faithful “rope-holder.” Both Edwards and Fuller loved and lived the doctrines of sovereign grace.
So what I want you to see is that primary impulses of the modern missionary movement came from the hearts of people who were emphatically doctrinal in their orientation to Scripture, and who had been captivated by the sovereignty of God’s grace. Therefore, it is historically fitting and, I hope to show you, biblically necessary, that the missionary challenge follow the declaration of God’s sovereignty as we have heard it in the last four weeks.
Six Contextual Observations in John 10
I invite you to turn with me to the tenth chapter of John’s gospel. My text is taken from verse 16. Jesus says,
I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
But in order to understand this missionary promise of Christ we have to take notice of at least six things in the context of John 10.
1. Jesus Calls Himself a Shepherd
Verse 11: “I am the good shepherd.” Verse 14: “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is probably thinking of himself here as the fulfillment of Ezekiel 34:22–24 where God says about his people Israel,
“Being one of Christ’s sheep enables you to respond to his call.”
I will save my flock, they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them: I, the Lord, have spoken.
The flock of God is the people of Israel. God promises to put his servant David over them to be their shepherd. And he speaks of having to judge between sheep and sheep.
This leads to the second observation.
2. Some Sheep Are Christ’s and Some Are Not
Verses 3b–4: “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them.” Verse 14: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.” In other words, not all the people in the flock of Israel truly belonged to Christ. Some were his sheep. Some weren’t.
3. The Father Had Given Them to the Son
Verse 29: “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.”
This is Jesus’s way of talking about election. God has chosen a people for his own. These are his elect sheep. He then gives them to his Son so that they can be saved by faith in him. You can see this clearly in John 17:6 where Jesus says to his Father, “I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word.”
So Jesus can speak with confidence about some sheep among the flock of Israel that are definitely his, because they first belonged to the Father by election and then were given to the Son by the Father — “Thine they were, and thou hast given them to me.” (See John 6:37, 39, 44, 65; 17:9, 24; 18:9.)
4. Jesus Calls Them by Name and They Follow
Verses 3b–4: “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.” Verse 27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
He separates sheep from sheep, as Ezekiel said, by calling his own by name. When he calls, his sheep recognize his voice and they follow him, and he gathers them into a new flock, namely, the church, the true Israel of God.
Be sure you see the thrust of these verses: being one of Christ’s sheep enables you to respond to his call. It is not the other way around: responding to his call does not make you one of his sheep. That is the offensive thing about this chapter. It strips the unbeliever of the presumption that the final determination of his life lies in his own power. Notice verse 26: “You do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep.”
Picture yourself as a Pharisee hearing the message of Jesus and saying to yourself, “If he thinks I am going to be sucked in to this movement along with the tax collectors and sinners, he’s crazy. I have a will of my own and the power to determine my own destiny.” And then picture Jesus, knowing what is in your heart, saying, “You think you are in control of your life. Truly, truly I say to you, you do not believe because the Father has not chosen you to be among my sheep.” The final boast of unbelief is destroyed by the doctrine of election. Those whom God chose, he also gave to the Son, and those whom he gave to the Son, the Son also called, and his sheep hear his voice and they believe.
But that is not all that Jesus does for his sheep.
5. The Good Shepherd Lays Down His Life for His Sheep
Verse 11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Verses 14–15: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
In other words, those whom the Father chose, he also gave to the Son; and those whom he gave to the Son, the Son also called; and those whom he called, he also justified by laying down his life for the sheep.
And on the basis of this sacrifice . . .
6. Jesus Gives Eternal Life That Cannot Be Taken Away
Verses 27–30: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall 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.”
In other words, those whom the Father chose for himself he also gave to the Son, and those whom he gave to the Son, the Son also called, and for those he called he also laid down his life, and to those for whom he died he gave eternal life, and it can never be taken away.
The picture we have in John 10 is of a great shepherd who sovereignly saves his sheep. The Father gives them to him. He dies for them. He calls them by name. He gives them eternal life. And he keeps them forever.
The Pride-Shattering News of Other Sheep
And now, just when the danger starts to arise that we may take this pride-shattering doctrine of sovereign grace and twist it into an arrogant, in-house, elitist charter for the private comfort of the chosen few, Jesus says in verse 16, “I have other sheep, that are not of this fold.”
Just when the Jewish disciples begin to feel like they are the real select heirs of Abraham, Jesus strikes: “I have other sheep that are not even part of this Jewish fold — among the Gentiles.”
Just when the early American Puritans were settling in to their “chosen” status as the New Israel in the New World, Jesus said to John Eliot, “I have other sheep that are not of this Puritan fold — among the Algonquin Indians.” And one hundred years later to David Brainerd, “I have other sheep that are not of this Congregational fold — among the Susquehanna.”
“The final boast of unbelief is destroyed by the doctrine of election.”
Just when the Particular Baptists of England were being frozen in the unbiblical ice of hyper-Calvinism, Jesus spoke to William Carey: “I have other sheep that are not of this English fold — in India.”
Just when the mission agencies and churches were growing content with the coastland successes around the world, Jesus stirred up Hudson Taylor, “I have other sheep that are not of this coastal fold — inland, in the middle of China.” And to David Livingston — “inland, in the middle of Africa.”
And when all of Western Christendom began to feel content that every country of the world had been penetrated with the gospel, Jesus came to Cameron Townsend and said, “I have other sheep that are not of this visible worldwide fold — among the hidden tribal peoples, thousands of them with not even a Scripture portion in their language.”
John 10:16 is the great missionary text in the gospel of John. Every time we start to get comfortable with just us, it is like a thorn in the cushion on the pew. But it is far more than a goad. It is full of hope and power. And we need powerful encouragement when we begin to dream even bigger and longer than 90 by ‘90.
Four Encouragements for Missions in John 10:16
In our Baptist General Conference Board of World Missions, 1985 marks the beginning of a “Decade of Vision.” The goals are to double the number of our 606 churches overseas, to triple the membership in those churches to 95,000, and to double the missionary force to two hundred. I am glad to be a part of a dreaming conference, and I want to be a part of a dreaming church. But to turn dreams into plans and plans into labor and labor into fruit for eternity, you need confidence and hope for the long haul and the valleys of despondency.
So I want us to look at four things in John 10:16 that should fill us to overflowing with confidence in our missions dreaming and planning and labor.
1. Christ’s Other Sheep
Christ has people besides those already converted — other people besides us. “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” There will always be people who argue that the doctrine of predestination makes missions unnecessary. But they are wrong. It does not make missions unnecessary; it makes missions hopeful.
John Alexander, a former president of Inter-Varsity, said in a message at Urbana ‘67, “At the beginning of my missionary career I said that if predestination were true, I could not be a missionary. Now after 20 years of struggling with the hardness of the human heart, I say I could never be a missionary unless I believed in the doctrine of predestination.” It gives hope that Christ most certainly has a people among the nations. “I have other sheep.”
It was precisely this truth that encouraged the apostle Paul when he was downcast in Corinth. Acts 18:9–10:
And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man shall attack you to harm you; for I have many people in this city.”
“I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” It is a promise full of hope for those who dream about new fields of missionary labor.
2. Scattered Outside the Present Fold
The verse implies that the “other sheep” that Christ has are scattered outside the present fold. This is made explicit in John 11:51–52, where John explains a word of prophecy spoken by Caiaphas, the high priest,
He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
Evangelism for the apostle John is the ingathering of the children of God. Of course, in John 1:12–13 it says that we become children of God by being born again and receiving Christ. This doesn’t have to be a contradiction. John 11:52 simply means that God has already predestined who will be delivered from the slavery to sin and unbelief and become children of God by faith; and so he calls these chosen ones “children of God” because from the divine perspective they are certainly going to be reached and saved.
But the point for our encouragement in missionary strategy is that they are scattered. They are not all pocketed in one or two places. They are scattered everywhere. The way John put it when he wrote the book of Revelation (5:9) was this: “Thou was slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” The ransomed children of God will be found in every people reached by the gospel. And that is a great encouragement to get on with the task of frontier missions and to reach the hidden peoples.
3. The Lord’s Commitment to His Lost Sheep
The Lord has committed himself to bring his lost sheep home. He will do it. “I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also.” He will bring them.
This does not mean, as some of the hyper-Calvinists thought it did in Carey’s day, that Christ will gather in his sheep without asking us! In John 17:18 and 20:21 Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so send I you.” We continue the mission of Christ. So Jesus prays in 17:20, “I do not pray for these [his disciples] only but also for those who believe in me through their word.” In other words, just as the voice of the shepherd called his sheep from Jesus’s own lips in Palestine, so he still speaks today through the gospel and calls his sheep by name, and they hear his voice and follow him. He does it. But not without us!
“None of Christ’s sheep finally reject his word.”
This is the wonder of the gospel. When it is preached truthfully in the power of the Spirit, it is not merely the word of man. It is the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13)! In other words, even today in the gospel it is just as true as it was in Jesus day, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). It is Christ who calls in the gospel. Christ gathers. We are only witnesses. That is why Paul said in Romans 15:18, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles.”
So we can take heart: all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to the Son of God and he declares, “I must bring in my other sheep.” He will do it.
4. They Will Come
Which implies the final word of hope from the text: if he brings them, they will come! “I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.” None of Christ’s sheep finally reject his word. What else can keep you going in a hard and unresponsive place of ministry, except that God reigns and those whom the Father has chosen will heed the voice of the Son?
The Story of Peter Cameron Scott
I close with a story about Peter Cameron Scott who was born in 1867 and founded the African Inland Mission. He had tried twice to serve in Africa but had to come home both times with malaria. The third 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 all by himself, and at the grave rededicated himself to preach the gospel. But again his health broke and he had to return to England utterly discouraged.
But in London something wonderful happened. We read about it in Ruth Tucker’s From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya — a book that I hope all of you will read!
He needed a fresh source of inspiration and he found it at a tomb in Westminster Abbey that held the remains of a man who had inspired so many others in their missionary service to Africa. The spirit of David Livingstone seemed to be prodding Scott onward as he knelt reverently and read the inscription,
Other sheep I have which are not of this fold;
Them also I must bring.
He would return to Africa and lay down his life, if need be, for the cause for which this great man had lived and died. (p. 301)
Lord, put a thorn in our cushion and courage in our hearts. And send us with joy and confidence to the unreached peoples of the earth. Give us a passion to be your instruments for the ingathering of the elect through all the world. Amen.