Monday, June 07, 2010

Flock membership precedes belief

I am struck repeatedly by the Good Shepherd discourse in John 10 and what it says about a question that so many people wrestle with. When it comes to evangelism, why do so few people believe even when they hear the same Gospel presentation? Free will doesn’t explain it because all unregenerate people are in the same boat, dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2: 1-3). Why then do some believe and not others? Jesus answers this question very clearly in this pivotal chapter of John’s Gospel record…

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. (John 10: 14-16)

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. (John 10: 25-26)

To summarize...

- You are not part of the flock because you believe, you believe because you are part of His flock.

- People are not outside of His flock because they don’t believe, they don’t believe because they are not part of His flock.

- When someone who is part of the flock, those God the Father has given to the Son, hears the Gospel proclamation at the appointed time, they believe it.

This seems so straightforward. The Pharisees didn’t believe because they were not part of His flock. We who do believe do so because we are part of the flock. We were given by the Father to the Son (John 10: 29) to be part of His flock, all of those given to the Son by the Father will hear His voice, all will come to Him and none will be lost. As clear as this is, it is the source of so much confusion for people. Scripture and plain old common sense tell us that dead sinners don’t respond unless acted on first by an outside source but the majority report in evangelicalism is focused on us choosing God of our own volition. Little wonder that evangelism is so muddled in the church.

This does not negate our need to preach the Gospel to all people everywhere. One of His sheep doesn’t look much different from someone who is not His sheep. In fact, to our sinful eyes it sometimes might seem that some people look more like His sheep to us than those who really are because of our biases. It is often the unlovely, the poor, the unwise who are His sheep instead of the respectable, well-educated and wealthy. This knowledge does (or should) give us boldness because we know that those who are the sheep of His flock will believe the Word. It is not up to us through clever arguments or impassioned sermons or evangelistic methods. His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. If someone rejects the message, it is not because of you, it is because they are not His sheep.

I for one am glad that my status as one of His sheep was not left up to me.

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