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James

The following is merely a synopsis of the book of James and is by no means to be understood as a substitution. The reader is expected to read the book of James which is God’s God-breathed word and then examine this synopsis under the authority and veracity of the book of James. Also, this synopsis of the book of James is limited because it really focuses on the point of the book of James as a whole to point out some major theological themes. To God alone be the glory in the Lord Jesus Christ, amen!

James was written by James the half-brother of the Lord through the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. James was written sometime most likely around or after the events of the persecution described in Acts 8 but before Paul’s first missionary Journey (cf. Acts 13-15). Accordingly, James wrote this epistle to counsel his readers how to handle the trials they encountered in three ways namely, in obedience to the word of God, without partiality but according to the wisdom of God, and the faith of God because it evidences itself by a changed life.

To begin, James first opens his letter with a greeting (cf. 1:1) and then gives counsel to his readers for the purpose of handling the trials they encounter in obedience to the Word of God. We learn from James the reason God sends trials into the believer’s life – namely, for the testing of their faith to produce endurance. God wants his people to grow in maturity. His way of accomplishing maturity in His children is testing their faith. That is why from the beginning the brothers must “count it all joy” when they encounter various trials (cf. 1:2) because God is providing for the believer an opportunity to grow in maturity. When a believer responds to various trials with joy and endurance they grow in maturity and that is the sense of “perfect and complete lacking in nothing” (cf. 1:4). James is not arguing that a believer can reach a state of sinless perfection this side of the grave. Sinless perfectionism or complete sanctification this side of the grave is not a teaching warranted from the NT (e.g., “For we all stumble in many ways . . .” James 3:2).  The final outcome for the believer is the crown of life (cf. 1:12). The element that brings growth in the Christian life is responding to the trial in obedience to the Word of God. For instance, James explained that living out the word of God as an “effectual doer” (cf. 1:25) and not just listening to the word of God as a “forgetful hearer” (cf. 1:25) is the key to perseverance when he wrote,

Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:21-25)

The blessing is in the doing not merely the hearing. The joy, perseverance, and obedience in the word of God is what brings about the blessing of maturity in this life and eternal rewards in the life to come.

Next, James wrote to his readers to handle the trials without partiality but rather according to the wisdom of God. Being a double-minded man is the result of doubting. Doubting is the result of partiality because the doubter does not trust God. That person must be favoring someone else or something else (cf. 1:9-8). Favoring monetary status (cf. 2:1-7), rank (1:9-11) or any other attitude of personal favoritism is the sign of an immature and faithless person. James calls such a person a judge with evil motives (cf. 2:4). Distinctions that include how old or young a person is or how much money they do or do not make which are done with personal favoritism have absolutely no power in the maturity of a person. Whether or not a person matures is based on their obedience in trials. James contended that the Christian must not syncretize demonic wisdom with faith in the glorious Lord Jesus Christ when he wrote, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (2:1). The reason partiality (i.e. personal favoritism) is demonic is because it is the opposite of being impartial. James wrote that the wisdom that comes down from heaven is impartial (cf. 3:17f ESV). To show personal favoritism in an attitude of partiality and personal preferences is hypocritical judgment and it is not of God (cf. 2:8-13). James calls partiality sin (cf. 2:9). 

Third, the faith of God must be in a person to respond correctly to trials. The brothers must ask God in faith (cf. 1:6) and must pray in faith (cf. 5:15). The faith of God is evidenced by a changed life by the power of God. James’ section in 2:14-26 does not contradict Pauline soteriology, instead it complements Pauline soteriology. Dead works cannot save anyone. The objective evidence that someone is saved is that their life has changed by the power of God and there are good works that follow faith. 

In conclusion, there are three ways James counseled his readers to handle the trials they encountered. These three ways are obedience to the word of God, acting without partiality but according to the wisdom of God, and living in the faith that is of God because it evidences itself by a changed life.

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Romans

The following is merely a synopsis of the book of Romans and is by no means to be understood as a substitution. The reader is expected to read the book of Romans which is God’s God-breathed word and then examine this synopsis under the authority and veracity of the book of Romans. Also, this synopsis of the book of Romans is limited because it really focuses on the first five chapters of the book of Romans to point out some major theological themes. To God alone be the glory in the Lord Jesus Christ, amen!

Romans was written by the Apostle Paul through the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit during Paul’s third missionary journey (c. AD 57). Paul used an amanuensis named Tertius (cf. 16:22).  Romans is an epistle (i.e. letter) that predominantly concentrates on soteriology (i.e. the study of salvation). The main premise of Romans is the righteous shall live by faith and is found in 1:16-17 which reads, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” This summation of Romans is interested in how Paul developed the theme of righteousness in this letter to the Roman church.

To start, in Paul’s introduction of Romans he introduced that in the Gospel there is the righteousness of God and it comes through faith (cf. 1:16-17). Paul stated that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (cf. 1:16). That is, God’s plan of salvation offered to the Jew first and then to the Gentile. Next, from 1:18-32 Paul argued that the Gentile religious ungodly unrighteous person who suppresses the truth in unrighteous is thoroughly unrighteous and is therefore the object of the Wrath of God. Then, from 2:1-29 Paul argued that the Jewish religious person who appears to be godly and righteous on the exterior because of their apparent external adherence to the Law is actually a person who is a hypocrite because they practice the same things that they judge the ungodly for practicing. Because of religious hypocrisy, the hypocritical judge will himself be judged (cf. 2:27). Therefore, Paul presents both men (i.e. the unrighteous ungodly person and the externally pious hypocritical person) as objects of the Wrath of God. Both men are sinners and both men are thoroughly unrighteous. Just as the Gospel is first offered to the Jew and then the Gentile, likewise God’s wrath will first be rendered to the Jew and then to the Gentile. Those who have received the oracles of God and more revelation will face more severe judgment.

God’s righteousness is revealed not only from faith to faith but also in His judgment of the wicked because He is an impartial judge who does not judge with hypocritical judgment. To this effect, in 2:9-11 Paul proclaimed the righteous judgment of God when the text reads, “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”

In chapter three, namely 3:1-20 Paul presented the entire world as being thoroughly unrighteous and accountable to God. It is through the Law that comes the knowledge of sin (cf. 3:20) because the Law excites sin (cf. 7:5). This does not mean that the Law is sin (cf. 7:7). The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good (cf. 7:12). When Paul says “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” he argues that no one can take the Law and attempt to fix their unrighteous sin problem with the Law in order to present themselves to God to be considered righteous by God. Paul argued in 9:30-33 that the Jews did not attain righteousness because they pursued it by works of the Law and not by faith. Paul went on to explain that they did not attain the righteous of God by works when he wrote, “For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (10:3).

So how does one attain the righteousness of God? Paul revealed how a sinner cannot attain the righteous of God by works, but a person can be in the right before God only by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Paul explained justification by faith when he wrote,

But now apart from the Law the righteous of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. (3:21-25a) 

God maintained His righteousness by giving His Son the Lord Jesus Christ over to die on the cross in vicarious penal-substitution for the believing sinner. Propitiation means to satisfy the wrath of another. This is the great exchange of the cross, namely that on the cross Jesus satisfied God’s wrath toward those that would believe in Christ to save them from the Wrath of God. God treated Christ on the cross as if He lived the believing sinner’s unrighteous life and then God treats the one who has faith in Christ as if they lived Jesus Christ’s righteous life. God justifies the believing sinner this way because the believing sinner has faith in His Son to save them from the wrath of God. The great exchange of the cross is a legal transaction. God the Father charged (i.e. imputed) the sins of everyone who would ever believe in Christ to Christ’s account on the Cross and Christ paid the penalty for their sins. To the one who believes God concerning this matter, God credits (i.e. imputes) Christ’s righteousness to that person’s account. Therefore, the great exchange of the cross is both the demonstration of God’s righteousness and the legal transactional imputation of God’s righteousness.

God’s righteous standard in which He will hold the entire world accountable is His good righteous and holy Law (cf. 3:19). It was Christ and Christ alone the only one who achieved and fulfilled all the holy and righteous standards of God (cf. 10:4). This is Christ’s active obedience, that is, Christ has perfectly met all the righteous requirements of God that is required of the ungodly who believes (cf.10:4; 5:6). The Lord Jesus Christ’s substitutionary death reconciles believing sinners to God. This is Christ’s passive obedience (cf. 5:9-10c). Christ perfect life that saves the ungodly is Christ’s active obedience (cf. 5:10d). It is therefore both Christ’s life and death that God imputes to the believing sinner as justification for the one who believes and the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead (cf. 4:24-25).

Romans is saturated with examples of legal vocabulary. For instance, justification and imputation are both court room terms. The two most noteworthy examples of justification and imputation are Abraham and Adam. In chapter four, Paul used the example of Abraham to argue his point concerning imputation of righteousness by faith and not by works when he wrote, “But to the one who does not work, but believes Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (cf. 4:5). Abraham believed God and faith was credited to him as righteousness (cf. 4:9). Paul wrote again in 4:22 that Abraham believed God, that is Abraham was “fully assured” that God was going to keep His promises and perform His promises, “therefore it was also credited to Him as righteousness” (4:22). Likewise, Paul explained that imputation (i.e. crediting) of righteousness will also be credited to the believing sinner when he wrote, “but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (4:24-25).

In 5:12-14, Paul explained imputation with the origin of sin. It was Adam who first sinned against God. Consequently, God executed the sentence and Adam’s sin was imputed to Adam’s descendants (i.e. the entire human race).  The first Adam was our representative (Vicar-federal headship and seminally the progenitor) in the Garden and because of Adam’s sin, God judged the entire human race by imputing Adam’s sin to the entire scope of humanity. Original sin was credited to every single person’s account who has ever lived on this earth except the Lord Jesus Christ (namely, the Second Person of the Eternal Triune Godhead who in His incarnation took to Himself human flesh permanently forever, Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, and it is important to note that concerning His human nature He was born of a virgin and therefore did not have original sin). Adam was the seminal head of the entire scope of humanity. This means that Adam, being the first man, contained the entire human race in his loins or semen. Therefore, post-fall beginning with Adam and Eve’s procreation in the production of offspring, sin is very much a part of man’s status and nature (Romans 3:9-12; 23; 5:12-15b, 16a-b, 17a-b, 18a, 19a). Death reign from Adam to Moses even before the Law (cf. 5:14). On the other hand, Christ did not have original sin or a sin nature and He never sinned (Romans 5:16c, 17c-d, 18b, 19b, 21c). Christ as the second Adam takes away the imputation of original sin from the account of the believing sinner.                

In conclusion, Paul developed the theme of righteousness in his letter to the Roman church by explaining that man falls under the righteous judgment of God and His Law. Man can only be in the right before God based on what God has already accomplished for Him in Christ namely, satisfying God’s wrath toward original sin and actual sins by Christ’s active obedience thus satisfying all God’s righteous requirements, as well as Christ’s passive obedience dying in vicarious penal-substitution on the cross and bodily resurrection from the dead for justification.

Philippians 2 Exposition Cont. “Make my joy complete. . .”

Paul desired for the body of Christ to be united. However, it was important to the apostle for the body of Christ to not settle for a man-centered or selfish unity. Today, in mainstream modern evangelism, the term unity is redefined to mean almost anything from compromising the truth to a sphere of like mindedness in pragmatic fraternal orders. But it was not so with the Apostle Paul. He called the Philippians to be encouraged in Christ (cf. Phil 2:1). This would presuppose the temptation to be discouraged in the face of Paul’s own imprisonment. There were those who were supposed to be co-laborers with him, yet they imputed motives to him during his imprisonment (cf. 1:15-17). Also, there were those who preached Christ yet did not seek to do so in way that encouraged those who, like Paul, were cast down and suffering (cf. 1:15-17).   

While some may only consider the preaching of Christ whether by pretense, self-ambition as suitable, this is to miss the point of Paul’s exhortation in chapter two. Paul was grateful, irrespective of those who preached Christ from their self-ambition and rivalry, because the preaching of Christ was still advancing throughout the known world. However, some today may rest in this thought, “I am arrogant, my motives are ulterior, but yet I still preach Christ!” To rest in this premise is a fool’s errand. Paul’s scope of ministry was loftier than this. For some today are arrogant and preoccupied with everything but the kingdom of Christ, and preaching themselves but not Christ. Further, when they mention Christ, they preach a dethroned “christ” which is not the biblical Christ. So we should not rejoice that Christ is proclaimed from those who redefine who He is or speak about Him when all-the-while their actions preach against Christ. Paul did not settle in this manner, and neither should we.   

Paul from chapter 2 verse 1 connected to what has taken place in chapter 1 for us to understand that we must consider how Paul would consider service to one another in Christ. First, Paul proclaimed both the encouragement and comfort related to fellowship in the Spirit. Thus, it is the Spirit who draws believers together and it is their fellowship that sets the stage for affection and compassion. But more than settled for ministries built of pretense, Paul’s main focus in the first two verses and beyond was to explain how the Philippians would make his “joy complete” (see. verse 2). Paul’s premise was not, “it is ok to be selfishly ambitious, arrogant, and self-centered, so long as Christ is preached!” Instead, Paul found that Christ was preached among those who were driven by selfish ambition and it was only a cause for rejoicing that Christ was still preached because His name needed to advance throughout the world. But Paul also countered the ministry of false pretense with Philippians 2. Paul went beyond allowing selfishness to be the benchmark of the true church. We see this in the imperative commands from Philippians 2:3-4:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

It is a cause for rejoicing that Christ is preached either way, but Paul’s joy would be complete when selfishness and conceit gave way to humility, compassion, and agape love. 

Some have already missed the mark because they not only preach themselves but they also cause dissension around themselves as in the conflict among the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor chps 1-3). Some would say “we do not preach ourselves” (cf. 2 Cor 4:5), while preaching themselves and Christ as an addendum to their ministry. But they will find no solace in what is said in Philippians 2:3-4, because Paul is not only referring to ministry but to serving one another in Christ. Some ministers and confessing Christians do not get close enough to anyone in order to perform the commands Paul himself performed. But they keep a safe distance to cause distress and devastation only to proclaim themselves nearest to Paul because of ministry breadth with only superficial depth. God will not be mocked in any of this. The imperative commands in verses 3-4 go right to us.   

Verse 3 reads, “Do nothing . . .” and the scope of Paul’s statement leaves nothing outside of consideration. It is not only how we must serve one another, but how Christians must regard one another. How many ministries are built on self-ambition and empty conceit, extolling ruthlessness, gossip, fraternity and arrogance as its virtues? But Paul wrote, “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. . .” Selfishness is not only dealing with self-serving motives, but the kind of self-centeredness that stirs up strife and only strife. How many ministries are built of self-centered strife while punishing humility of mind and the humility of Christ? Conceit is specifically related to the swelling pride that is accompanied by vainglory or boasting in oneself as the source of God’s divine scheme. If it sounds as though I am describing most of what is categorically labeled as “Christian ministry” and the “Christian walk” it is because the “shoe fits.” But this type of conceit is baseless and groundless. It leads to nothing and will come to nothing at its end.   

Paul is clear to do nothing from each of these motives or actions. God is extremely concerned with motives. Please let no one tell you any different. Then what is that we must do? We know what we must avoid. Well, Paul says that we must “with humility of mind. . .” (motive and disposition) esteem and consider one another more important than ourselves invested in each other’s interests above our own. This does not mean that we consider ourselves worthless in some comparison to one another, but that our love for one another is consistently and constantly reciprocated as we consider each other with more regard than ourselves. Since our interests both align with Christ, or so they should, then we cannot lose. Paul is not concerned with personal interests separated from the will of God. Rather, Paul assumes the interests are the same as we strive for the things Christ has aimed to accomplish in us. This is the true compassion, fellowship of the spirit, affection, and comfort of love (cf. verse 1). Paul wrote plainly that we must not only seek our own interests. We have interests that we must tend to, and Paul does not say to avoid them altogether, but we must also account for the personal interests of others. The best-case scenario in Christ is when everyone wins.  Among so many these are foreign concepts. Many are only concerned with self, self-esteem, self-preservation, covering up oneself, selfishness, self-promotion, and self-aggrandizement. But all those things are the devil’s playground with instruments to destroy yourself. Paul will reveal from verse 5 that we must imitate the humility of Christ in all of its features, and that we must imitate Christ Himself.

Doron Gladden.  

Philippians Chapter 2 – Introduction

Philippians 2 and its overall purpose must be rescued from the pseudo-academy and the verbose “scholars” whose expertise is in the traditions of men and not the Word of Christ. It is fitting to consider the chapter in the context of encouragement for the believer. And if it is encouragement (cf. Phil 2:1), then it is meant to be understood and it is meant to be clear, all illumined by God the Holy Spirit. Paul’s concern is for humble and genuine fellowship among true believers. He wanted them to be knit together so well (cf. Phil 1:27; 2:1-3), that their joy and love for one another would be evident to the world around them. Paul’s suffering and imprisonment filled his letter to the church in Philippi with the urgency & boldness of a war-torn soldier, and yet the tenderness and affection of a shepherd. Paul could care less if the church considered him a theological titan. Paul did not see himself as an astute giant chasing acclaim prestige. Paul was not chasing after affluence. His suffering was not center stage to compel the masses toward some self-serving end. His hope was for the spread of Gospel through the church and to the world. Paul was already marked for a martyr’s death and had before him, in his mind, the hope of true Christian fellowship in the bond of love and peace. Paul’s practical theology was interwoven with the certainty of a simple Christology meant to draw Christians together, not pouring themselves over dictionaries and thesauruses, lost in definitions and never practicing what was written to them.  

He had already compelled and exhorted the Philippians to join together in both doctrinal fidelity and unity (cf. Phil 1:25, 27). But even more he desired for that unity to establish within them a single-minded and unified purpose to extol the glory of Christ to a world that hated them and ultimately hated Christ. But this would take courage and Paul knew that they could never be in disunity or so self-assured by the stench of their own pride and at the same time claim victory in the annals of spiritual warfare. They needed to be full of Christ not full of themselves. They needed to be filled with his testimony, not filled with testimony about their own self-ambition. So, Paul called them together. He called them to unity and an abounding love founded in Christ and founded in doctrinal clarity and fidelity. Even more, Paul called the church in Philippi to humility. He called for them to be humble in the face of their opponents and the afflictions guaranteed to meet those who belong to Christ. He not only wanted to be their example but their example in humility.   

Where had Paul gotten this humility? He did not learn it from apostate Judaism. He did not learn it from age and experience. He did not learn it from the leading rabbis. He learned it from Christ. As we examine Philippians 2:1-12, it is not enough to tell people to be like Christ without explaining biblically what it is to walk in the manner He walked. There are no shortages of religious merchandisers who have found a niche in talking “about” Christ while being so far from Him in everything they say and do it would seem as though they believe they have taken His place. This study will take us to the call to “be like Christ.” It is from this foundation that the humility of Christ is the focus of Christ emptying Himself, while forever maintaining His deity. A “Christianity” without the humility of the cross is no Christianity at all. It is simply a worldly fraternity soon to be crushed by the power of God so that His meek will inherit the earth. We are not called to imitate the ignorant or the arrogant, but in humble meekness to imitate Christ who gave Himself for His own.

– Doron Gladden  

The Good Shepherd Series: Part Five

The Evening Scene (vv. 16-18)

Vv. 16-18 are not an explanation of vv. 7-15 but rather these verses are an expansion of the overall shepherding metaphor which explained what happened to the man born blind that Jesus healed and delivered from the Pharisees. Up to this point, the Lord Jesus Christ has used the day of a shepherd in the first century of the ANE as a metaphor for His first advent, that is, the morning scene vv. 1-6 and the midday scene vv. 7-15. He finished the shepherding scene prophetically looking to the Church Age where the Gentiles are grafted in to be included as recipients of His atonement. Jesus’ cross work and atoning death were not only intended for Israelites but also for non-Israelites that would be grafted in to make into one new body, the church (cf. Jn 11:51-52; Rom 11:11-36; Eph 2:11-22). To include Gentiles as recipients of Christ’s atonement had always been intended by God in His eternal decree and prophesied from the OT (cf. Gen 12:1-3; Isa 42:6; 49:6). The Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd delivered the man born blind away from the malpractice of the false shepherds and then provided real salvation (cf. Jn 9). The Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd delivered elect Israelites away from the malpractice of thieves, false shepherds and hirelings and then provided real salvation (cf. 10:1-15). In the conclusion of the shepherding scene metaphor Jesus announced that He will deliver Gentiles from the bondage of sin and the malpractice of hirelings, who like the Pharisees are false shepherds and infiltrate the church (cf. Acts 20:28-31). Only the Good Shepherd can lay down His life for Gentile sheep and then bring both Israelites and Gentiles into one flock with one shepherd (cf. Jn 10:16). Only the Good shepherd can qualify for that office because not only did the Lord Jesus Christ die to atone for the sins of the sheep but He was raised from the dead to secure the divine eternal purpose that God intended to accomplish in Christ’s cross work. It is the Lord Jesus Christ’s endless resurrected life that qualifies Him to be the only Good Shepherd to provide eternal security for the sheep (cf. 10:17-18, 27-30).

During Jesus’ first advent, Israelites were still under the Law of Moses and when Jesus publicly delivered His shepherding scene metaphor, His crucifixion and subsequent resurrection had not yet taken place. Therefore, the divine purpose for the church to be one flock with one shepherd was publicly announced when the sheep were still living under the Law of Moses. Moreover, from Jesus’ shepherding metaphor a distinction between Israelites and Gentiles was maintained when Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not from the fold this” (v. 16a). The term “fold” is distinct from the term “flock.” A fold is the place where sheep are found. A flock is a group of sheep. The first fold or place where sheep are found in the shepherding metaphor is the nation of Israel (cf. 10:1). The second fold or place where sheep are found in the shepherding metaphor is from out of the Gentile nations (cf. 10:16). Both covenant theology and hyper-dispensationalism are dismantled by Jesus’ statement because the nation of Israel fold is distinct from the Gentile fold. Yet both groups equally share in the soteriological promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, namely one way of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in the Person, cross work and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. The sheep from the Gentile nations are included as recipients of the atonement because Jesus said, “those also it is necessary Me to bring” (v. 16b).

The revelation that there would be a Church and Church Age was not first revealed in the New Covenant times by the Apostles after Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, but was revealed by the OT prophets and by the Lord Jesus Christ during the Old Covenant dispensation (cf. Isa 42:6; 49:6; Jn 10:16; 11:51-53). To this effect, the Apostle John expressed this truth when he recorded Jesus’ use of the future tenses in the phrase, “and the voice of Me they will hear and there will be one flock with one Shepherd” (v. 16c, d).[1]  

 The fact that God intended one Shepherd who is also referred to as the Shepherd (cf. 1 Pet 2:25) and the Chief Shepherd (cf. 1 Pet 5:4) ascertains that men in the Church Age should not call themselves Senior Pastors.  There is only one Chief Shepherd, namely the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Eze 34:23; 37:24). Only the Lord Jesus Christ is the Senior Pastor, that is, Chief Shepherd in the sense of pastor as an office.        

Jesus solely qualifies to be the one Shepherd by office because he said, “Because of this the Father loves Me because I lay down the life of Me, that I might take it again” (v. 17). Only the Lord Jesus Christ died for the sheep in substitution. Only the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead to live forever for the purpose to eternally secure the sheep’s eternal life. His resurrection from the dead secures the purpose in what He accomplished in His death on the cross for the sheep. Therefore, His unique death and resurrection from the dead qualifies Him to be the one Shepherd of the one flock. Jesus Christ is the only resurrected Person who fulfilled God’s purpose of atonement for the sheep.

As a final point, the Lord Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was voluntary because He said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay down it of Myself” (v. 18a-b). Moreover, the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who qualifies to be Shepherd by office because He has the authority to voluntarily die on the cross in substitution as well as the authority to be raised from the dead. No other man has such authority because Jesus Christ is the Godman – namely, God in human flesh. Jesus proclaimed His unique qualifications for the office of Shepherd when he said, “I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it again, this commandment I received from the Father of Me” (v. 18 c, d, e). Only the Lord Jesus Christ has the ability to die for the sheep and then to rise from the dead for the sheep. The Lord Jesus Christ was successful in qualifying for the office. He was successful because He was eternally successful in His mission for the redemption of the sheep through His physical death and His resurrected endless life to give eternal life to His sheep.    

Qualifications for the Shepherd (Pastor as Office)

It has been extensively demonstrated above that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Person qualified to occupy the office of Shepherd. In summation, the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Person qualified to occupy the office of Shepherd because His effectual sacrificial death for the sheep’s redemption and His resurrection from the dead proved the exclusivity of His Messiahship and deity. Now, because of His glorification and Ascension God the Holy Spirit is sent to minister to the sheep in the Church Age as Christ through God the Holy Spirit gives the gift of shepherding to men in the Church Age who occupy the office of overseer/elder (cf. 7:37-39; 14:16-17; 15:26-27; 16:5-15; Acts 2:16-39; Eph 4:7-11).    

Senior Pastors in the Church Age?

The Word of God is unmistakably clear that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Person qualified to occupy the office of Shepherd because the office of Shepherd has specific qualifications and is synonymous with the office of Messiah (cf. Isa 40:10-11; Eze 34:11-16, 23; Jn 10:1-18; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 2:24-25; 5:1-5; Rev 7:17). The office of Apostle has ceased after the Apostolic Age because there were specific certain qualifications that one had to possess to occupy that office (e.g. Acts 1:12-26; emphasis on vv. 21-22). Today, after the Apostolic Age, no one in the Church Age can rightly claim that they occupy the office of Apostle. There are two offices in the Church Age for qualified men to occupy, namely, overseer/elder (cf. 1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet 5:1-5) and deacon (cf. 1 Tim 3:8-13). The Apostles and the early church did not know anything about a succession of the office of Good Shepherd or an apostolic succession of office after their departure. Instead, the early church understood there were spiritually gifted men given by God who occupied the office of overseer/elder that exercise the action of shepherding the flock (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1-2). In the early church no Christian would have dared to take the position or title of “Senior Pastor” especially after reading or hearing Jesus’ shepherding scene metaphor. The NT does not refer to anyone other than the Lord Jesus Christ as the Pastor (i.e. with the definite article). This NT truth should provoke every Christian today to labor to dismantle the modern customary extra-biblical practice of calling one individual in a local church their “Senior Pastor” when that person is not the Lord Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ is the “Senior Pastor.” The claim for men today that they occupy an office or position called “Senior Pastor” is a claim that violates the great “I AM” statements of Christ in John, specifically 10:11 – “I AM the good Shepherd.” The “I AM” statements from Christ in the Gospel of John teach Jesus Christ’s existence is immeasurable – therefore, there cannot be a “Senior Pastor” in office unless they are the Christ. This is because “senior” presupposes seniority and Jesus said, “truly, truly I say to you before Abraham was born, I AM” (cf. 8:58). As a final point, men today who claim they are “Senior Pastors” use business pragmatism where one professionally trained individual assumes complete authority and control over a local church like a CEO on the top of a company’s hierarchical pyramid.       

Conclusion

The Lord Jesus Christ has the ultimate authority over His church. The Lord Jesus Christ was sent by God the Father in His mission concerning the duties of His office as Shepherd. Jesus used the day of a ANE shepherd as a metaphor to explain what God eternally purposed the Good Shepherd to accomplish in the redemption of His sheep. To this effect, there are three scenes to Jesus’ shepherding metaphor –  namely, the morning scene (vv. 1-6), the midday scene (vv. 7-15), and the evening scene (vv. 16-18). The occasion of Jesus’ shepherding scene metaphor was to explain what happened to the blind man that Jesus healed and how Jesus saved him and rescued him from the false shepherds of his day – namely, the Pharisees.  Continuity today with the blind man that Jesus healed is that anyone who is freed by Jesus is freed from the prison of pragmatic man-made religious institutions. Wolves try to destroy the flock with false doctrine. On the other hand, Jesus as the Good Shepherd protects His sheep from wolves.

               There are two distinct folds where Christ’s sheep were (v. Jn 10:1, 16) The first fold is the nation of Israel (cf. v. 1). During His first advent, the Lord Jesus Christ called His sheep from out of the fold of the nation of Israel and they followed Him. However, in the general sense and during Christ’s first advent, the nation of Israel was in unbelief and responsible for His crucifixion. But because of the death and resurrection of Christ His Israelite sheep are saved. The second fold is the Gentiles nations (v. 16). With the nation of Israel the Romans crucified the Lord Jesus Christ. However, the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and because of His death and resurrection from the dead His Gentile sheep are saved.  At His second advent, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to execute judgment upon the rebellious inhabitants of the earth, but those who are His sheep have and will trust in His perfect life, cross work, and resurrection from the dead. Therefore, His sheep are saved from the wrath of God. In the sense of distinctions the sheep come from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (cf. Rev 5:9). In the sense of efficacious salvation, there is only one way of salvation. Salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone – that is, the salvation from the wrath of God with one Shepherd and one flock.

Interpreting Jesus’ shepherding scene outside of the three parts of a shepherd’s day in the ANE, as a metaphor for the first advent of Christ and through the Church Age to His second advent is anachronistic. The Lord Jesus’ care for the sheep in His dying for them – that alone qualifies Him as the good shepherd and no one else. Jesus’ death on the cross for the sins of the elect is what qualifies Him to be the Good Shepherd. The nature of the atonement is vicarious propitiatory penal-substitution; not in example so that the sheep can die the same way as an example – because anyone can die in example but no one else except the Lord Jesus Christ can die in substitution for sheep saving them from the wrath of God. Sheep cannot save themselves. Sheep cannot save other sheep (cf. Ps 49:7-8). Any man can die. But only the Lord Jesus Christ can lay down His life for the sheep (cf. Ps 49:15). By the death of Christ the sheep are saved. No one else has the ability to care for the sheep or die for the sheep the way that Jesus cared for the sheep and died for the sheep. The sheep cannot be saved in any other way other than the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross for them. The sheep owed God as payment their eternal punishment because of their sin. But the sheep could not pay the penalty themselves. The sheep needed someone else to pay the penalty on their behalf. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only One who qualified to be the substitute, to pay the debt of the sheep so that the sheep would no longer be charged with eternal guilt and owe eternal penalty facing eternal condemnation for sin. The “I AM” statements that Christ made teach that He is the Infinite God in human flesh, the second Person of the eternal Trinity, the Son of God, and therefore His death on the cross has infinite value and resource to pay for the sins of the sheep.

E. V. Powers

To God alone be the glory!

sempre reformanda

To go back and re-read entire series for the whole context click the links below:

https://bcri.wordpress.com/2022/05/19/the-good-shepherd-series/

https://bcri.wordpress.com/2022/05/20/the-good-shepherd-series-part-two/

https://bcri.wordpress.com/2022/05/24/the-good-shepherd-series-part-three/

https://bcri.wordpress.com/2022/06/01/the-good-shepherd-series-part-four/

https://bcri.wordpress.com/2021/11/08/is-pastor-an-office-or-gift-sneak-preview-rough-draft/


[1] The Greek verb ἀκούω from v. 16 is in the future tense, indicative mood, active voice, 3rd person plural and is translated into English as “they will hear” from the phrase “and the voice of Me they will hear” – “ἀκούω,” BAG, 31. Likewise, the Greek verb γίνομαι from v. 16 is in the future tense, indicative mood, middle voice, 3rd person plural and is translated into English “there will be” from the phrase “there will be one flock with one Shepherd” – “γίνομαι,” BAG, 157-59.  Therefore, grammatically the Church Age is announced by Jesus as happening in the future after His crucifixion and resurrection. But, it is important to identify that at the start of v. 16 before he announced the future Jesus said, “And other sheep I have” in which He used the present tense form of the Greek verb ἔχω “I have” signifying that the elect from the Gentiles are known by God and belong to God at present when Jesus gave His shepherding metaphor speech, before these sheep from the Gentiles hear His voice in the future – “ἔχω,” BAG, 332.   

The Good Shepherd Series: Part Four

The Midday Scene (vv. 7-15)

Vv. 7 – 15 are not an explanation of vv. 1-5 but rather these verses are an expansion of the over all shepherding metaphor which explained what happened to the man born blind that Jesus healed and delivered from the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the false shepherds of the morning scene. The Pharisees through thievery and robbery at night before the morning came, controlled the religious oversight of the nation of Israel. During the rule of the Pharisees over Second Temple Judaism the nation was apostate in a general sense. Nevertheless, God had His elect sheep that were in the general Israelite fold. Then the shepherd came in the morning scene (vv. 1-5) and there was the separation of the elect from unbelieving Second Temple Judaism. The blind man that Jesus healed represented one of His sheep delivered from the religious bondage of the Pharisees.

To leave the unbelieving fold of Second Temple Judaism and its apostate leaders was to enter into the shepherding care of the true Shepherd the Lord Jesus Christ. Only by entering through Christ to be saved was real freedom, freedom likened to sheep being saved and going in and out, having pasture that they may have life abundant.

The chronological development of Jesus’ shepherding metaphor has the prophetic nature of prognosticating events that are future from the perspective of the original audience. In other words, when Jesus first gave this speech publicly it was before His crucifixion. As the midday scene is pictured by Jesus to the original audience, Jesus foretold of the salvation of His sheep (cf. v. 9) and the nature of His atoning cross work. Salvation comes only through Christ as the door (cf. v. 9), His crucifixion and atoning death for His sheep (cf. v. 11, 15). From the midday scene Christ symbolically pictured Himself as a new figure  – namely, the door.

“I Am the Door of the Sheep”

Jesus’ shepherding metaphor developed from Jesus as the shepherd of the sheep to Jesus describing Himself as the door of the sheep  – “Jesus said, therefore again, ‘truly, truly, I say to you that I AM the door of the sheep’” (v. 7). In the first 6 verses of the 10th chapter, during the morning scene of the shepherding metaphor, Jesus the Shepherd entered through the door. Now in verse 7 Jesus is the door. The image of the ANE shepherd sleeping in the entrance of their sheep pens purposed to keep out danger and to keep sheep in the pen has been discussed above. The religious leaders on the other hand were false shepherds – that is, thieves and robbers, because they did not “enter by the door into the fold of the sheep” (v. 1).

The fact that there is no continuation of the watchman (e.g. doorkeeper) figure from verse 3 in the midday scene supports the claim that the doorkeeper is John the Baptist. To this effect, there is contrast between the first door (i.e. the entrance into the sheep-pen of Israel) and now a new door in verse 7 – namely, the Lord Jesus Christ. The point of the entrance in the first 6 verses of chapter 10, was that the door was guarded by John the Baptist for the purpose to recognize the OT prophetic testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah and to let Him in the door to have access to His sheep (cf. Matt 11:9-10; Jn 1:6-8, 19-51; 3:22-36). The religious leaders of the day refused to recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah (cf. 1:11). At this point in the development of the midday scene, there is continuity with the synoptic gospels because John the Baptist had been martyred (cf. Matt 14:3-12; Mk 6:17-29; Lk 9:9).

From verse 7 there is recorded one of the “I AM” statement from the Lord Jesus Christ from the Gospel of John – namely, Jesus said, “I AM the door of the sheep.” The development in the metaphor from Jesus the shepherd entering into the door (i.e. the public announcement that He is the OT promised Messiah) to Jesus describing Himself as “the door” is inseparably constrained to His claims to deity. In the OT God is described as the Shepherd of Israel symbolizing protection for the sheep, abundance for the sheep and salvation for the sheep (cf. Ps 23; Gen 49:24; Ps 80:1-3). Jesus described as the door represents the same salvation, protection and abundance for the sheep.

The main point is that Jesus was rejected by the false shepherds, and was always separated from their fraternity. Likewise, the blind man that Jesus healed was rejected by the false shepherds – therefore, to leave the false shepherds and their false religious system means to enter into true salvation through Christ as the door. To enter through Christ alone brings freedom from false shepherds and their religious bondage. To enter through Christ as the door is the door out of the sheeppen of false religion. To enter through Christ as the door is the door into the sheepfold of the true Shepherd. This is because Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead and to enter into His sheepfold means to believe in Him as the Messiah, having true salvific relationship with God (cf. 1 Jn 4:2).  

The “I AM” statements are a significant theme in the Gospel of John. To this purpose, the significant theological emphasis taught from the Gospel of John is the deity of Christ.[1] The Gospel of John proclaims one of the attributes that defines God – that is, His self-existence. Because God is self-existent all His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. All God’s attributes are supreme because He is the One and Only Supreme Being.[2]

What is more, in the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus Christ made specific claims to deity, identifying His divine nature with the “I AM” of Ex 3:14-15. For example, the “I AM” statements in John are as follows, namely, “I AM the One speaking to you” (4:26); “I AM do not fear” (6:20); I AM the bread of life” (6:35); “I AM the bread the having come down from the heaven” (6:41);  “I AM the bread of life” (6:48); “I AM the living bread from the heaven having come down” (6:51); “I AM the Light of the world” (8:12); “I AM the One bearing witness concerning Myself, and the Father having sent Me bears witness concerning Me” (8:18); “For if you believe not that I AM, you will die in the sins of you” (8:24); “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM He” (8:28); “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM” (8:58)[3]; “I AM the door of the sheep” (10:7); “I AM the door” (10:9); “I AM the good Shepherd” (10:11); “I AM the good Shepherd” (10:14); “I AM the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “I AM” (13:19); “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6); “I AM the true vine” (15:1); “I AM the vine” (15:5); “I AM” (18:5); “I AM” (18:6); and “I AM” (18:8).[4]

When Jesus said, “I AM the door of the sheep” He used the Greek personal pronoun ἐγώ “I” together with the verb copula εὶμι which expresses being and existence – that is, “to be.” I AM used in the context and the sense Christ referred to Himself has timeless implications that include His divine attribute called eternality – that is, self-existent life. Therefore, true belief in Christ is trusting in Him exclusively for eternal life (His Person and cross work) and believing that He is the great I AM in human flesh. The objective reality that such belief has occurred in a person’s life will evidence itself by genuine repentance from sin resulting in a changed life in obedience to the will of God by leaving false shepherds for the true Shepherd who is the door of the sheep. God honors such a life with the gift of discernment to come out of false religion (cf. 7:17-18; 9:30-41).

Jesus referenced the apostate life of the religious leaders during Second Temple Judaism when he said “All whoever came before Me are thieves and robbers but the sheep did not hear them” (v. 8). The religious leadership over Israel during the first century were primarily the Pharisees who came at night in the sense that their inception as a religious sect and their rise to influential power over the people happened right before Jesus’ first advent. The Pharisees were workers in the nighttime. Their ministry was that of unbelief because they were shepherds of darkness.

When Jesus began His earthly ministry He was the shepherd of light (cf. 1:8-10). Jesus went into the fold of Israel and called out His sheep like a shepherd who begins His day early in the morning at the crack of dawn when the light of day first appears. Therefore, there is a contrast between false shepherds trying to destroy the sheep at night versus the true Shepherd leading His flock out early in the first light of day to feed them. As a final point, Jesus is the shepherd of light because He said, “I AM the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12).

The sheep did not listen to the false shepherds of darkness. The religious leadership in a general sense were unbelievers living in darkness. However, there were a few that were freed from the darkness of the Pharisees. Nicodemus who was a Pharisee repented by listening to Jesus against his fraternity (cf. 7:50-51). In that sense, Nicodemus stopped listening to the thieves and robbers and instead started listening to Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy prominent man, became one of Jesus’ disciples and later buried Jesus in the tomb directly after Jesus died on the cross (cf. 19:38-42). But as for the false shepherds they were thieves and robbers because they were workers of darkness trying to prevent the light of the true Shepherd from shining (cf. 2 Cor 4:4-6). However, in spite of the efforts of the workers of darkness the sheep did not listen to them because the sheep follow the Shepherd of light in the daytime (cf. 1 Thess 5:4-11; Pr 4:18). The false shepherds did not have the light because they were blind (cf. Jn 9:39-41; Pr 4:19). As a final point, false shepherds exhibit that they are not shepherds at all because one cannot lead sheep to pasture in the middle of the night when robbing them.

The sheep being led out to pasture under the care, protection, and provision of the shepherd has the sense of passing from morning to midday in the life of the ANE shepherd. This beginning with salvation is used symbolically in the sense of what Jesus meant when He said, “I AM the door, by Me if anyone enters in he will be saved and he will go in and will go out and pasture he will find” (v. 9). “I AM the door” is an evangelistic appeal not only to the Israelites to come out of Judaism but also for anyone to come out of their false religion and enter into Christ to be saved (cf. Ps 118:19-21). There is only one door to enter to have eternal life (cf. 14:6). So far in the shepherding scene there is the exclusivity of Christ as the shepherd of the sheep as well as the exclusivity of Christ as the only door to have eternal life.

There are six Greek verbs in verse 9. One of the verbs from the phrase, “by Me if anyone enters in.” The verb for “enters in” is active in voice – therefore, action of the verb is actively being done by the one who enters through Christ the door. The next verb is passive in voice and in the future tense – that is, “he will be saved” indicated that the action of being saved is performed upon the one entering, not by the one entering through Christ the door. When a person enters in through Christ as the door, what does Christ save him or her from – except the wrath of God upon sin and in this context the sin of false religion. The next two verbs for “and he will go in and he will go out” are future indicative middle in voice, 3rd person singular. Going in and out in this sense denotes the liberty and ability for those that believe in Christ. Those who have entered by Christ are free to pasture and are protected while they pasture without the danger of being robbed and snatched by false shepherds as long as the sheep stay close to Christ the shepherd. The sense of the Greek term νομή (i.e. pasture) denotes being fed and growth that occurs from being fed. That is what the person who enters through Christ discovers – namely, being fed by the truth of the living Word of God and growing in the truth of the living Word of God. The final verb of verse 9 “will find pasture” is future tense, 3rd person singular but the voice returns to the active. The verb is from the Greek word εὑρίσκω from where we get the English word eureka and has the sense to mean I find and discover after searching.[5] Christ’s sheep are led by Him, fed by Him, grown by Him under His provision and protection and never enter in a state where they lack grace and truth (cf. Ps. 23; Jn 1:16-17).

In verse 10, Jesus once again warned about the ministry of false shepherds when he said, “the thief not comes if not that he might steal[6] and might kill[7] and might destroy[8], I came that they may have life and abundantly may have.” There is a contrast between false shepherds figured as the thief who steals from the sheep, kills the sheep and destroys true shepherding versus Christ as the true shepherd who only gives to the sheep. False shepherds steal to only feed themselves (cf. Eze 34:1-10). Contrariwise, Christ the true shepherd gives His life to the sheep and truly cares for His sheep (cf. Isa 40:11; Eze 34:11-30). False shepherds sacrifice the sheep by killing them. But, through the death of death in the death of Christ, Jesus sacrificed Himself by laying down His life for His sheep so that they would have life. The life that comes from Christ is abundant life.[9]

“I Am the Good Shepherd”

The central feature that is at the heart of Jesus’ shepherding scene is the doctrine of the atonement. To this effect, the life that Jesus lived and the life that Jesus gave in sacrifice was summarized in His statement – “I AM the Shepherd the good, the Shepherd the good lays downs the life of Him for the sheep” (v. 11). An exposition of the “I AM” statements have been presented above. Here in v. 11 Jesus once again presented to His audience the claim that He is God in human flesh. Furthermore, the harmony between His claims “I AM the door of the sheep” (v. 7) together with “I AM the door” (v. 9) have been culminating to the climax of His statement “I AM the Shepherd the good” to reveal the exclusivity of Christ and the nature of the atonement. Christ began the shepherding scene as a shepherd figure (cf. v. 2) to then the figure of a door (cf. vv. 7 & 9) to then return to the figure of a shepherd. But the point is – Christ is not merely a shepherd, He is the Good Shepherd and He is the only Good Shepherd. 

The “I AM” statements made by Christ in John’s gospel are unique to Him in that they are claims to deity as well as statements uniquely identified with the office of Messiah. Likewise, Jesus’ claim to be “the Good Shepherd” is constituent to His claim to deity (e.g. in the OT God was portrayed as the Shepherd of Israel – cf. Isa 40:11) as well as His claim to be the promised Messiah (e.g. in the OT the Messiah was portrayed as One who would lay down His life in substitution for His sheep – cf. Isa 53:6). Therefore, the claim that Jesus made, namely “I AM the Good Shepherd” referred to the office in which only He has the qualifications to occupy (see – Matt 2:6; 1 Peter 2:25; 5:4; Rev 7:17).

Jesus maintained the contrast between Himself versus the false shepherds of His day throughout His shepherding metaphor when He said, “I AM the Shepherd the Good.” The adjective in the Greek text used to translate into the English word “good” is the Greek term καλὸς and it has the sense to mean excellent in nature and characteristics, beautiful, handsome, eminent, noble, surpassing, precious commendable and admirable. The Greek term καλὸς has the force to comprise all these adjectival qualities together to show the attractiveness of good. There is no other shepherd that can compare to the attractiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ in the sense of His goodness. Likewise, there is no other shepherd that can compare to the attractiveness of the Lord Jesus Christ in any sense. Christ alone has the noble goodness that cannot be said of any other man. This beautiful attribute that Christ possesses not only does He apply to His shepherding but is a qualification that only He fulfills to serve as Shepherd by office. In the NT, the criteria required to designate an office are qualifications.[10]

The phrase “the Shepherd the good the life of Him lays down for the sheep” (v. 11b) described the substitutionary work of Christ by giving His life for the sheep by dying for them. The Lord Jesus Christ vicariously lived for and cared for the sheep by fulfilling the righteous requirements of the Law in their place, hence the quality of His shepherding (e.g. “The Shepherd the good”). The significance of the phrase “the life of Him lays down” has the sense of caring for the sheep by dying for them in substitution. To this effect, the apostle John used the Greek preposition ὑπὲρ (for) which means “in behalf of” indicating substitution when found in a genitive construction (e.g. Mk 14:24; Lk 22:20; Jn 6:51; 10:11, 15; 11:50, 51, 52; 15:13; 18:14; Rom 5:6, 7, 8; 8:32; 14:15; 1 Cor 1:13; 11:24; 15:3; 2 Cor 5:14, 15, 21; Gal 1:4; 2:20; 3:13; Eph 5:2, 25; 1 Thess 5:10; 1 Tim 2:6, 14; Heb 2:9; 5:1; 6:20; 7:25; 9:7, 24; 10:12; 1 Pet 2:21; 3:18; 1 Jn 3:16).[11]

The nature of the Lord Jesus Christ’s atonement is His death on the cross on behalf of the sheep. This death is penal and substitutionary because the sheep were born naturally just as the rest of mankind – that is, spiritually dead and in danger of the eternal wrath of God. However, what separates the sheep from those who are not sheep is that sheep are “born again” and believe in Christ to be saved from the wrath of God; whereas those who are not sheep do not believe in Christ (cf. Jn 1:11-12; 3:3, 5-15, 16-18, 21; 5:24). As a result, those who do not believe are not sheep, die in their sins, and suffer the wrath of God (cf. Jn 3:19-20; 8:24). Jesus’ death is penal and substitutional because it is a penalty that is eternally paid for on behalf of the sheep (cf. 19:30).[12] The payment was made by the Second Person of the Eternal Godhead to the First Person of the Eternal Godhead in Christ dying a physical death to eternally satisfy the wrath of God against the sheep.

The Lord Jesus Christ’s death is what qualified Him to be the good Shepherd. This qualification cannot be said of any other man because no other man can lay down his life the way that Jesus lay down His life for the sheep. Only the Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal sinless Son of God. In the incarnation, the Second Person of the Godhead took human flesh to Himself permanently forever and He was born of a virgin entering into this world without the defilement attached to the sinful fallenness of man. Jesus Christ knew no sin, He did not sin, and He had no sin in Him (cf. 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 Jn 3:5). In His Person and work He was and is the good Shepherd. Pilate had to acknowledge that he could find no guilt in Christ (cf. Jn 18:38). Therefore, only the Lord Jesus Christ is qualified as Shepherd by office because only He can lay down His life as the penal substitutionary death required on behalf of the sheep providing for them life eternal. Although The Lord Jesus Christ physically died He did not remain dead. It was the death of death in the death of Christ and because of Jesus’ sinless innocence death had no ultimate claim over Him. This was confirmed by the eye witness testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead (cf. 20:1-21:25).

The Hired Hand

What is more, only the Lord Jesus Christ cares for the sheep when the sheep are in danger of being led astray by false teaching. Up to this point, there has been no explanation or expansion of the doorkeeper after verse 3 and there is no other description of any other shepherd being a protagonist in the shepherding metaphor other than the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, there is no description of positive shepherds except for Christ in the shepherding scene. Hirelings or “hired hands” are in contrast to the good Shepherd and they are portrayed negatively because Jesus said, “however, the hired hand not being shepherd[13] who is not the owner of the sheep (NASB), sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees and the wolf snatches them and scatters” (v. 12). The word translated into English as “hired hand” is the Greek word μισθωτός which has three occurrences in the NT and has the sense of one hired for wages (Mk 1:20; Jn 10:12, 13). The word for hired hand does not have the sense of ownership. The hired hand does not own the sheep and therefore, they do not serve as shepherd by office or position. According to Jesus, a shepherd owns his own sheep because of the use of two Greek εὶμι “to be” verbs in v. 12; one in the form of a present participle – translated into English, “being” in the phrase “not being shepherd” and one in the present indicative 3rd person singular “who not he is the sheep owner.” In Jesus’ shepherding scene there is only one shepherd, only one owner of the sheep therefore there is only one senior or chief shepherd by office (cf. v.16). Today, in modern evangelicalism, if a “senior pastor” refers to a congregation as “their flock,” then they are wrong – because if there had been any of Christ’s sheep among that congregation they belong to Christ.  

One who gets paid for their work does not necessarily impute the guilt of possessing bad motives (e.g. 1 Tim 5:17-18). However, in Jesus’ shepherding metaphor, the hired hand operated cowardly because Jesus said, “he sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees” (v.12). There are imperatives in the NT for those serving in the office of overseer to not flee from wolves but to watch over themselves and the flock and guard against wolves (cf. Acts 20:28-35; 1 Tim 4:16). Anyone who serves in the office of overseer must be one of Christ’s sheep. In the context of Christianity, sheep love other sheep (cf. Jn 13:35; 1 Jn 4:7). Because the hired hand is a coward he is not one of Christ’s sheep (cf. Rev 21:8). For instance, even though a sheep might wander, Christ’s sheep do not leave Christ’s fold as an ongoing characteristic of their lifestyle.[14] The Greek word for “flees” is the Greek word φεύγω (pheugό) and is from where we later get the English word fugitive. If the hired hand were one of Christ’s sheep he would not abandon his watch post and leave Christ’s fold when he sees danger.  In the OT, God criticized the religious leaders who abandon the flock by calling them “worthless shepherds” (Zech 11:17). A worthless shepherd is a bad shepherd, therefore, opposite to the good Shepherd. The Lord Jesus Christ is the good shepherd by office and gives the gift of shepherding to those who serve in the office of overseer/elder (cf. Acts 20:28; Eph 4:11). However, the office of shepherd is reserved for only the Lord Jesus Christ. Hired hands have neither the office of shepherd nor the gift of shepherding as evidenced by the ongoing characteristic of their lifestyle. It is clear from the shepherding metaphor that hired hands are only interested in the sheep for what they can get out of the sheep (cf. Jn 10:13).     

Furthermore, one who gets paid for their work does not necessarily impute the guilt of possessing greed (e.g. 1 Tim 5:17-18). What is more, concerning bad motives in relation to caring for the sheep – the hired hand operates selfishly and ominously because Jesus said, “because he is hired hand and not is himself concerned to him about the sheep” (v. 13). The conjunction “because” gave the reason why the hired hand left the sheep and fled – that is, he is concerned with protecting his assets that he acquired from the sheep (cf. Jude 1:12).[15] The hired hand only cares about himself. He does not care about feeding and caring for the sheep. The hired-hand is in ministry for the money – that is, to fleece the flock. The hired hand is not as surreptitious as the thieves and robbers, but he is a professional. He was hired, operates with a great deal of pragmatism and expects his wages in return. However, when danger manifests itself the hired -hand quickly flees and finds another naive congregation that he can serve himself as “senior pastor.” Further evidences that the hired-hand is not one serving in the office of Elder/Overseer are the qualifications and imperatives to flee from the love of money in the NT that characterize the biblical Elder/Overseer (cf. 1 Tim 3:3; 5:5-19).  

The Wolf

The wolf is distinct from the thieves, robbers, strangers (cf. v. 1, 5, 8, 10), and hired hands (vv. 12, 13) as the wolf is more dangerous. Nevertheless, thieves, robbers, strangers, hired hands, and wolves all have a common spiritual ancestry – that is, the devil (cf. 8:41, 43-44). The wolf is like the thieves, robbers, strangers and hired hands in the sense that like them the wolf is interested in hurting the sheep (e.g. v. 12). To this effect, the wolf is interested in destroying the fellowship of the sheep because Jesus said, “and the wolf snatches[16] them and scatters[17]” (v. 12c). Wolves in the ANE would snatch sheep from flocks and eat them. Wolves are ambush predators and when they pounce on their prey, usually the weakest sheep, the rest of the sheep scatter helplessly in confusion and chaos. The word translated in English “wolf” is from the Greek word λύκος which has the sense to mean “white hair” and was used no less than six times in the NT (cf. Matt 7:15; 10:16; Lk 10:3; Jn 10:12 2x’s; Acts 20:29). Wolves in the ANE were not bright white like arctic wolves but had mainly greyish fur with some white fur underlining their breast area and sometimes dark grey fur on their backs. ANE sheep had similar tones in their fur with greyish fur, sometimes white fur, therefore it is not too surprising that Jesus also said in Matthew’s Gospel – “But beware of the false prophets, who come to you in clothing of sheep; inwardly however they are ravenous wolves” (Matt 7:15). There was a sense of camouflage with greyish tones that could allow wolves to blend in surreptitiously where the sheep would pasture. Therefore, a wolf could sneak up and blend in unbeknownst to the sheep. The wolf in the shepherding metaphor is the worst kind of heretic. The wolf is very smart and subtle, that unless the sheep have trained their powers of discernment in the Lord (cf. Heb 5:14), the sheep will be snatched and scattered. This is what Paul warned the Elders in Ephesus about when he said,

Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has set you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with of the blood of the own. I know that after the departure of me will come in grievous wolves among you, not sparing the flock. And out from your own selves will rise up men speaking perverse things, from to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30)   

Today in modern evangelicalism there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing behind pulpits calling themselves the “Senior Pastor.” That is why it is imperative to have a plurality of Elders without the “CEO” business pragmatic hierarchy model. Biblical church government is designed for a plurality of Elders to oversee like watchmen by taking heed to themselves and all the flock. To this effect, God is honored when sheep point sheep to the good Shepherd so that the sheep are protected from wolves in sheep’s clothing. Ultimately, there is no wolf that has the ability to snatch a sheep away from the good Shepherd or from God the Father (cf. 10:28).

“I AM the Good Shepherd”

Jesus once again stated His exclusive right to the office of Shepherd because of His Divinity and ownership of the sheep when He said, “I Am the Shepherd the good and I know the My own and I am known by Mine” v. 14. The “I AM” statement of Christ in v. 11, namely “I AM the good shepherd” was repeated in v. 14 as it is once again fitting to contrast Christ to the false shepherds and hired hands. This is because the Lord Jesus Christ owns the sheep and cares for the sheep, whereas the hired hand does not care about the sheep (cf. v. 13). The phrase “and I know the My own and I am known by Mine” has two present indicative active forms of the Greek verb γινώσκω (“I know” and “am known”) which has the sense of first hand acquaintance through experience.[18] The Lord Jesus Christ has an intimate personal relationship with His sheep through His vicarious satisfactory penal-substitutionary cross work – for He was sacrificed and died for the sheep. The sheep have an intimate personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ because He is known by them through faith in His perfect life, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection from the dead on their behalf. The Lord Jesus Christ gave the gift and action of shepherding the sheep to the apostle Peter but not the office of shepherd (cf. Jn 21:15-17).[19] There is no other shepherd who can eternally satisfy the wrath of God toward the sheep and with His blood purchase to God the sheep (cf. Rev 5:9) – therefore, the office of shepherd in Christianity exclusively belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ because He owns the sheep and He alone satisfied the wrath of God the Father.          

The Father

The last character Jesus introduced in the midday scene from His shepherding metaphor is the Father because Jesus said, “As the Father knows Me, I also know the Father and the life of Me I lay down for the sheep” v. 15. The identity of the Father is God the Father. The Greek word for Father is Πατήρ and is found over 100 x’s in John’s Gospel referring to God the Father and has no less than four occurrences in Jesus’ shepherding metaphor (cf. v. 15 2x’s, vv. 17, 18).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus maintained the testimony that God the Father is distinct from Christ in Personhood – namely, Jesus is not the Father (cf. 7:33; 20:17). What was also maintained by Jesus in His “I AM” statement is the truth that Jesus is the same Subsistence, Being, Essence and Nature as God the Father (also see 1:1-3). Therefore, God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are One in Being, Essence and Nature yet distinct in Personhood (cf. 10:30).

The phrase “As the Father knows Me, I also know the Father” like v. 14 has two present indicative active forms of the Greek verb γινώσκω (“knows Me” and “I also know”) which has the sense of first hand acquaintance through experience. The relationship between the Father and the Son is the foundation of John’s gospel because it is the emphasis of the prologue (cf. 1:1-18). The Lord Jesus Christ was sent in His first advent by God the Father (cf. 3:17; 5:23, 30, 36, 37, 38, 43; 17:18; 20:21). Part in parcel of Christ’s mission was to testify to the truth about God the Father with figurative speech discourses as well as plain direct discourse (cf. 16:25, 29).

Christ is the objective exegete and expositor of the Father (cf. 1:18). Whenever Christ taught about God the Father the teaching was absolutely and objectively drawing out the meaning God the Father eternally intended (cf. 7:16). Not only is the Lord Jesus Christ the only shepherd authorized by God the Father to occupy that office (cf. Isa 40:11; Eze 34:23; Jn 10:16), the Lord Jesus Christ is the only unique Son of God that leads the way to properly lead out completely the truth from God the Father. Only Christ could explain God the Father in clarity to the uppermost exegetical teaching. The relationship that God the Son has with God the Father is in perfect union because as God, God the Father and God the Son equally and self-existently possess the divine attributes of veracity and unity (cf. 5:18). The term used at the end of John’s prologue, namely, ἐξηγέομαι[20] is a Greek compound word with the Greek preposition ἐκ[21] which has the sense to mean “out of.” The prefix ἐκ is attached to the Greek verb ἡγέομαι[22] which means “to lead the way as the guide.” Therefore, the point John made in the end of the prologue of his gospel was that Christ is the unique Son of God (i.e. only begotten) who has the unique divine relationship to God the Father and He is the only way to exegete God the Father. Inseparably constrained to shepherding the sheep is feeding the sheep with sound doctrine – that is, exegesis and exposition from the Word of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the only standard to correctly lead the sheep to the truth to know Him and to know God the Father. Anyone who wishes to engage in the action of shepherding the sheep through teaching the sheep the Word of God – must acknowledge that the office of shepherd and the office of teacher belong to the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 10:11, 14-15; 13:13-14).

In the Lord Jesus Christ’s priestly prayer recorded by the apostle John (cf. 17:1-26) He prayed to God the Father, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (17:3). The Greek verb that was translated into the English word “sent” is ἀποστέλλω[23] (cf. Matt 10:5) and its Greek noun form “ἀπόστολος[24] is from where the English transliteration “apostle” is derived (cf. Mk 6:30; Lk 6:13; see Mk 3:13-19). God the Father sent God the Son to exegete the truth, God the Son sent the apostles to exegete the truth (cf. Jn 17:17-20). God chose the apostles to preach the Word of God and to write the Word of God (cf. 2 Pet 3:15-16). The glory of unity that is found within the Godhead – that is, the glory of unity from veracity is the relationship in which the sheep have the assurance of a real salvific relationship with God through Christ because Jesus prayed to God the Father;

That they might all be one even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (17:21-23)

The glory of the unity in like-mindedness with God from God’s veracity because of the glory of love in the vicarious propitiatory penal-substitutionary atonement of Christ is given from God the Father to Christ’s sheep. Anyone who is a recipient of these preeminent pulchritudinous salvific gifts proves they know God the Father and God the Son through the salvific relationship only found in The Lord Jesus Christ.

Knowing God through Christ is the only way to know God the Father in a personal salvific relationship because Jesus said, “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me” (Jn 14:6). Knowing God the Father and having a relationship with Him through like-mindedness – that is, thinking His thoughts after Him, is friendship with God the Father. For instance, Jesus explained how those who are like-minded with God the Father concerning the truth are God the Father’s personal friends when He said, “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father” (16:27).[25]  

On the other hand, the enemies of God responded with rage to Jesus’ discourse about the Father (cf. 5:18; 10:22-39). This is because the enemies of God – namely, the thieves and robbers, the strangers, the hired hands, the wolves and the world are like-minded with their thoughts about shepherding the sheep. The world hates the sheep because the world hates God (cf. 15:18-19, 23-25). The world has like-mindedness with each other in their unsound doctrine and therefore they are enemies of God the Father because the world follows the father of lies, namely the devil (e.g. 8:38, 41-44; see 1 John 2:15-16). In the Lord Jesus’ shepherding scene the recipients of the atonement are not the thieves and robbers nor the strangers nor the hired hands nor the world system of false teachers created by the devil (cf. 8:47; 10:25-26).

In summary, the knowledge that exists between the Good Shepherd and His sheep is like[26] the knowledge that exists between God the Father and God the Son – namely, the glory of unity and like-mindedness from sound doctrine. In other words, the relationship that the sheep have with God through Christ is the friendship from believing the truth of the Word of God. The sheep do not have equality with becoming God but the sheep are given the glory of possessing eternal life through the atonement accomplished by Christ Jesus and the glory of unity with each other from sound doctrine being sanctified in the truth by thinking God’s thoughts after Him.    

There is a distinction between the nature of the atonement and the extent of the atonement. The biblical position concerning the nature of the atonement – namely, the vicarious propitiatory penal-substitutionary atonement of Christ, has been defended above. The extent of the atonement – that is, the recipients for who atonement was made, are the sheep. Pointedly, the extent of the atonement concerns the scope of the atonement. Jesus clarified whose iniquity He atoned for when He said, “and the life of Me I lay down for the sheep” (10:15b). Jesus’ life is the perfect sinless life that fulfilled all of God’s righteous requirements in which He requires of man (cf. Matt 5:17; Rom 5:9-10). Jesus lay down His life in substitution indicated by the Greek preposition ὑπὲρ (for) which means “in behalf of,” hence a death on behalf of someone. Without ambiguity the recipients for the substitutionary death of Christ are the sheep (cf. v. 15b). By the life of Christ, the death of Christ on the cross, and the resurrection of Christ from the dead the sheep are saved from the wrath of God. Therefore, the scope of the atonement is particular to the sheep. In other words, the extent of the atonement is limited in scope, not universal in scope because every singular person who has ever lived are not all His sheep (cf. 10:26). Jesus’ shepherding scene concerns the redemption of the sheep because the sheep were in danger of being robbed by thieves and robbers, neglected by hired hands, or eaten by wolves (i.e. all of these are designed by the devil to lead the sheep into apostasy by the means of false teaching). Although Christ protects the sheep from false teaching, ultimately the greatest danger the sheep have is the wrath of God towards sin and it is in the defense of the sheep that the Good Shepherd dies for them in substitution. The Lord Jesus Christ in His death on the cross took the place of the sheep in order that the sheep are delivered from the penalty of their sin. The Lord Jesus Christ propitiated the claims of God against the sheep. Jesus bore all the judgment of God upon the sin of the sheep and eternally exhausted the wrath of God upon sin so that the sheep that Jesus died for are in the position that no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth can bring a charge against the sheep (cf. 10:27-30; see Rom 8:31-39). 

There is a great amount of confusion today in modern evangelicalism concerning the scope of the atonement. Many persons today think that the Lord Jesus’ death was a general atoning death with a purpose designed of Christ dying for every individual person who has or will ever exist. If Jesus atoned for every individual person who has or will ever exist, then God is a frustrated and trounced deity who attempts to do something in atonement which He is unable to accomplish. All universal expressions of atonement made in Scripture were made to show how the atonement of Christ extends to all kinds of people that are in the world outside of Palestine and Asia Minor (cf. 1 Tim 2:3-6; 1 Jn 2:2). Universal or general statements in Scripture that concern the atonement are there to show that the death of Christ was not only intended for Israelites but also for Gentiles (cf. Eph 2:11-22). The definite scope and particular design of Christ’s atonement is for the sheep. The sheep are not only Israelite but also found among the Gentiles out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation (cf. Jn 10:16; Rev 5:9). Scripture does not contradict Scripture and if Christ atoned for the sins of every individual person who has ever existed then why did He claim that there are those who will die in their sins if they do not believe (cf. Jn 8:24)? Likewise, why did Christ explicitly refer to individuals who did not believe as not being His sheep (cf. 10:26)? Christ died in atonement for the sheep but not for goats (cf. Matt 25:31-46; see Jn 5:25-29). If an individual goes to the lake of fire to eternally pay God the eternal penalty for their sins then Christ did not atone for that individual’s sins or we have a frustrated deity who has not accomplished what He has promised in the death of Christ. However, the Word of God teaches an actual atonement not a potential or hypothetical atonement because Jesus said, “truly, truly I say to you that the one the word of Me hearing, and believing the One having sent Me, he has life eternal and not into judgment comes, but has passed out of death into the life” (5:24). The Word of God teaches a particular redemption for the sheep and God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit know the exact number of the sheep. To this extent, the sheep are not only found from the ethnicity of Israel but also found out of every Gentile ethnicity.

E. V. Powers

To continue reading the series click the link below for part five “the evening scene” and the conclusion:

https://bcri.wordpress.com/2022/06/02/the-good-shepherd-series-part-five/


[1] The Gospel of Matthew presented Jesus as the King of Israel and was written primarily to an Israeli audience (cf. Matt 21:5). The Gospel of Mark presented Jesus as the Suffering Servant, emphasized His servanthood, and was written primarily to a Roman audience (cf. Mark 10:45). The Gospel of Luke presented Jesus as the Son of Man, emphasized His humanity as the perfect man, and was written primarily to a Greek audience. The Gospel of John presented Jesus Christ as the Son of God, God in human flesh, emphasized His deity, and was written to the world – that is, all of humanity (cf. 3:16).

[2] God eternally exists in three distinct Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. God is One in three distinct Persons, each Person is fully God and there is one God. Each Person of the Triune God is one in being, essence/substance, co-equal and God is three distinct Persons (cf. Jn 10:30; 1 Cor 8:6). This is the unity of the divine essence in three Persons and in this one essence are three Persons, yet so that neither is there a triple God, nor is the one essence of God divided. The sound doctrine of the Trinity teaches the truth that God the Father, Son, and Spirit, are One God, and yet the Son is not the Father, the Holy Spirit is not the Son and the Father is not the Holy Spirit. When Jesus said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one”, He taught that He is one in essence, one in nature, one in being, yet distinct in Person. Therefore, in John 10:30 Jesus made a declaration of His absolute deity. So, there are three distinct Persons in one essence, not three qualities in one and the same Person. One God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor separating the substance. The Apostle John recorded in Jn 14:9 how the self–existent infinite God is knowable when he recorded Jesus’ conversation with Philip; “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

[3] Concerning Jesus Christ’s self–existence, grammatically, John 8:58 indicated Jesus’ aseity because the present tense ‘I am’ predicates absolute existence for the person of Jesus, with no point of beginning either in time or eternity. That is why Jesus did not use the imperfect ἤμην, ‘I was’; for this would say only that the existence of the person of Jesus antedates the time of Abraham and would leave open the question whether the person of Jesus also has a beginning like that of Abraham (only earlier) or not. What Jesus declared was that, although His earthly life covers less than fifty years, His existence as a person (ἐγώ) is constant and independent of any beginning in time, just like He is during the time of Abraham. Thus with the simplest words Jesus testified to the divine, eternal pre-existence of His person. See Richard Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961), 670-1.

[4] In several instances from John’s gospel account, Jesus attached His “I AM” statement with seven metaphors e.g. “I AM the bread of life” (6:35, 41, 48, 51); “I AM the light of the world” (8:12); “I AM the door of the sheep” 10:7, 9; “I AM the good Shepherd” (John 10:11, 14); “I AM the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “I AM the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6); “I AM the true vine” (15:1, 5). 

[5] “εὑρίσκω,” BAG, 325.  

[6] The Greek verb for “he might steal” is κλέπτω and has the sense to take or steal secretly by stealth, and someone who is a dead person – “κλέπτω,” BAG, 435. False Teachers operate surreptitiously like a thief trying to avoid  detection (e.g. 2 Pe 2:1-3). 

[7] The Greek verb for “might kill” is θύω and has the sense to kill by sacrifice; “θύω,” BAG, 367. The false shepherds sacrifice the sheep, but the true shepherd sacrifices Himself by laying His life down for the sheep (cf. Jn 10:11).

[8] The Greek verb for “might destroy” is ἀπόλλυμι and is a compound word with the Greek preposition ἀπό as the prefix which means “from” together with the Greek word “ὄλεθρος” which means death. Together the word means ruin and destroy; “ἀπόλλυμι,” BAG, 94. False shepherds seek to destroy the way of true shepherding. 

[9] The Greek term for “abundantly” is περισσός and has the sense to mean extraordinary, remarkable, more, greater, excessive, exceedingly, a sense of surplus; see “περισσός,” BAG, 657. This must mean that the abundant life that Jesus offers is spiritual life at regeneration (cf. Jn 3; 7:38-39; Eph 2:1-7) springing up to eternal life after physical death (cf. Jn 4:14). 

[10] The following referenced designations for offices in the NT because of their listed qualifications are as follows: the Lord Jesus Christ – the office of the Chief Shepherd cf. Matt 2:6; Jn 10:1-18; 1 Pet 2:25; 5:4; Rev 1:9-3:22; 7:17. The office of Apostle cf. Acts 1:12-26 emphasis on vv. 21-22, 25. The office of Elder cf. 1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9. The office of Deacon 1 Tim 3:8-13. 

[11] The genitive is the relationship between two nouns usually indicated with the words “of” or “from” in between the two nouns.  

[12] One of the last words that Jesus spoke when He was dying on the cross immediately before His death was recorded by the eye witness John the apostle. This word was recorded in Greek and is the Greek verb Τετέλεσται “it has been paid” which is in the perfect tense –  that is, the tense in Greek that denotes a completed action with ongoing results.  

[13] The Greek text does not have a definite article with the word shepherd. What is more, the Greek verb copula εὶμι which expresses being and existence – that is, “to be,” is singular indicating that the existence of the hireling is not existence of Jesus as Shepherd. No one can exist as Jesus as Shepherd. Likewise, no one can apply for the position of Shepherd by office because no one else is qualified except the Lord Jesus Christ. Shepherd is a unique office with unique qualification that only Jesus possesses. 

[14] Present indicative active 3rd person singular

[15] The phrase “caring for themselves” from Jude 11:12 is the Greek word ποιμαίνω which has the sense to mean to act as a shepherd. “ποιμαίνω,” BAG, (690).

[16] “ἁρπάζω,” BAG, (108) – “I seize, I catch up, I obtain by robbery suddenly.”

[17] “σκορπίζω,” BAG (764) – “I disperse, I scatter abroad (as of sheep).”

[18] “γινώσκω,” BAG, (159-61).

[19] At the end of John’s gospel, Jesus reinstated Peter and gave imperatives to Peter to involve himself in the action of shepherding the sheep. However, during Peter’s reinstatement, Jesus clearly maintained His ownership of the sheep with use of the possessive personal pronoun “My” in the phrase “shepherd My sheep” (Jn 21:16).   

[20] “ἐξηγέομαι,” BAG, 275.

[21] “ἐκ,” BAG, 233-36.

[22] “ἡγέομαι,” BAG, 344.

[23] “ἀποστέλλω,” BAG, 98.

[24] “ἀπόστολος,” BAG, 99.

[25] The Greek word for “love” from the phrase “for the Father Himself loves you” is the Greek term φιλέω which has the sense to mean the love of friendship because of like-mindedness from sound doctrine (cf. 16:27; see 15:13-15).

[26] The Greek word translated “as” from the phrase “as knows Me the Father” is the Greek term καθὼς which has the sense to “indicate a comparison.” The Greek term serves to make a comparison between the phrases “and I know My own and My own know Me” (v. 14) and “. . . the Father knows Me and I know the Father” (v.15). “καθὼς,” BAG, 392.  

The Good Shepherd Series: Part Three

The Morning Scene Jn 10:1-6

The Morning Scene (vv. 1-6)

The symbolic picture began with the ministry of the first advent of Christ and the earliest period of the Apostolic Age where the sheepfold is meant to mean the nation of Israel. This is the sheepfold that Jesus initially purposed to enter by the door. It was the Messiah’s mission during His first advent to call out His own sheep from this ethnic sheep pen. This harmonizes with Matthew’s Gospel as he recorded the Lord announcing the same mission when Jesus said, “I was sent only to those being lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24; cf. Matt 10:6; Rom 15:8).    

The Door into the Fold

Jesus introduced the setting of His symbolic picture in Jn 10:1 with the words, “Amen, amen, I say to you the[1] not entering in through the door to the fold of the sheep but climbing up another way, he is thief and robber”[2] The first feature of Jesus’ symbolic picture is the door into the fold. The natural features of the main entrance into the ANE sheep pen have already been established above. Later in the symbolic picture Jesus will refer to Himself as the door of the sheep (cf. v. 7). Concerning the morning scene, the emphasis on the door concerns the one who was authorized to enter by the door as well as the one who was authorized to guard the door.

The door into the fold has meaning backdrop that extends from the OT prefiguring of the Messianic office as early as the Protoevangelium (i.e. Gen 3:15). The OT is about the history of the Nation of Israel – the nation from which the Messiah would come. In the NT, the Gospels record that the Messiah has come. The OT prophesied of the Messiah and revealed that He would have distinct qualifications inseparably constrained to signs that He would perform that would authenticate His offices – namely, raise the dead, heal the deaf, open the eyes of the blind, heal the lame, heal the mute, cleanse the lepers, heal the sick, and preach good news to the poor (cf: Isa 26:19; 29:18; 35:5-6; 42:7; 61:1). Jesus fulfilled these features when He came during His first advent to the glory of God the Father. God the Father authenticated that Jesus was the Messiah by identifying these features prophesied from the OT (cf. Jn 6:27 e.g. “the Father’s seal”). In this sense, Jesus is the door, that is, the door representing the Messianic office. As the only Messiah, Jesus is the only Shepherd who has authority to enter the door and have authority over the sheep. It is undeniable that in the first century A.D. Jesus came as the Messiah and because He fulfilled the OT credentials and qualifications for that office He became the only door. In conclusion, the standard according to the OT is that the only lawful authority over the sheep is through the Messianic office which is represented by the office of shepherd and the office of door.  In other words, the “door” and the “shepherd” from Jesus’ shepherding symbolic picture are synonymous terms to the OT Messianic office.

The Fold of the Sheep

As mentioned above the fold of the sheep in the morning scene represented the nation of Israel (Jn 10:1-10). During the First Advent of Christ, the Self-Existent Second Person of the Triune Godhead took human flesh to Himself permanently forever in the incarnation (cf. Phil 2:5-11). In His humanity when the fulness of time came Jesus was born of a virgin woman and born under the Law (cf. Matt 1:18-25; Gal 4:4). The ministry of Christ during His First Advent was involved in fulfilling the Law and the Prophets (cf. Matt 5:17). The Gospel period, namely, the First Advent of Christ recorded in the Apostles’ memoirs of His ministry (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were written to show that Jesus is the Messiah – the fulfillment of OT prophecy. To this effect, the Gospels serve as a bridge between the OT and the NT because they record a period still under Law during Jesus’ First Advent that He had to fulfill concerning His active obedience. There were lost sheep from the house of Israel (i.e. the ethnic sheep pen) that Jesus came to call unto salvation because Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 15:24). During His First Advent, Jesus was not initially sent to the Gentiles (cf. Matt 10:6). The initial purpose of His First Advent was to minister to and save the elect from the nation of Israel (cf. Rom 15:8). There was an initial sheep pen full of ethnic Israelites and from out of that sheep pen Jesus called ethnic Israelites who were the elect out of the nation of Israel (cf. Rom 9:6). Indeed, when Greeks sought after Jesus during His First Advent He did not disavow Gentiles (cf. Jn 12:20-26). However, His initial purpose for His First Advent was to disclose Himself to the lost sheep of Israel (e.g. Jn 7:4-7; 14:22). It would be through the ministry of His Apostles that the Gospel would go to the Gentile nations because Israel’s salvation was intended to be extended also to the Gentile nations as their salvation (cf. Isa 49:6; Acts 14:47). In conclusion, the fold of the sheep in the morning scene symbolically represented the nation of Israel. From that national sheep pen it is quite clear in the shepherding scene that Jesus called His sheep out of this larger fold which had become corrupt.

Thief & Robber

The first character mentioned in Jesus’ symbolic picture that was negatively involved with the fold of the sheep is the thief and robber because the text reads, “Amen, amen I say to you the not entering in through the door to the fold of the sheep but climbing up another way, he is thief and robber” (v. 1). It is unmistakably clear that Jesus intended the religious leaders of the nation of Israel, namely the Pharisees, to be identified as the thief and robber.[3] Emphatically, Jesus’ initial point in the symbolic picture was to reveal the contrast between the Pharisees versus Jesus in how they led God’s people (cf. v. 10). In the case of the Pharisees they are surreptitious in obtaining a place inside the sheepfold – that is, they secretively access the sheepfold in a way that attempts to avoid notice or bring attention to their destructive philosophy of ministry just as a literal thief or robber would enter a sheepfold secretively to steal sheep. The Greek term εἰσερχομαι” translated in English “entering in” from the phrase “the not entering in through the door to the fold of the sheep” is a present middle/passive participle and has the sense to mean “I go in; I enter in.”[4] Because “εἰσερχομαι” is middle/passive in the context it has the sense that those who would enter through the door are called by God – that is, grammatically and contextually the action is performed by God upon the subject who would have entered through the door. However, in the case of the Pharisees, the negative adverb “not” is used before the participle in reference to those who do not enter through the door because they have not been authorized by God to shepherd the sheep, let alone even be identified as sheep. If they had been authorized to enter the door then there would have been no need to try and enter the sheepfold surreptitiously for the goal to steal from God.[5] On the other hand, the Greek term “αναβαίνω” translated into English “climbing up” from the phrase “but climbing up another way” is a present active participle.[6] Therefore, the grammatical active voice from “αναβαίνω” shows that the thief and robber actively on his own gained access into the sheepfold by an opposite or different way than the way God has authorized to enter the sheep pen.[7] The One God has authorized and called to be Shepherd of the sheep to enter the sheepfold is the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. vv. 14; 18). What is more, the only others that have been called by God to enter into the sheepfold are the “doorkeeper or porter” v. 3 and the “sheep” v. 9. On the other hand, after the thief/robber has gained access to the sheep he imitates a shepherd in disguise for the purpose of intimidation toward the sheep – namely, fleecing the flock for his own financial gain. This is implied by Jesus referring to the Pharisees and their philosophy of ministry collectively as “thief and robber” v. 1 and “thieves and robbers” v. 7 because a thief or robber is only interested in taking what does not belong to him for the purpose of obtaining a profit from stolen goods, as well as actively plotting casualties by malice aforethought if anyone should try to expose them and prevent them from achieving their goal.[8] Thievery and malice aforethought are certainly not the criteria that the NT identifies as qualifications that one must fulfill to occupy the office of “the Good Shepherd.”

The Shepherd of the Sheep

On the other hand, the Lord Jesus Christ introduced in v. 2 the authenticity and honesty of the protagonist in the scene –  namely, the shepherd, when Jesus said, “the however entering in through the door is shepherd of the sheep.”[9] The shepherd is portrayed in Jesus’ symbolic picture by entering in through the door to access the sheep pen. John contrasted the entrance of the thief and robber with the entrance of the shepherd by using the Greek disjunctive δὲ translated in English “however” (cf. v. 5, 6). Literally the text is translated into English as follows – that is, “the however entering in through the door is shepherd of the sheep.”[10] The contrast between the thief and robber versus the shepherd is not merely the literal nature of the different ways they enter the sheep pen but the moral implications concerning their different entrances because of the symbolic nature of the scene. The shepherd’s entrance, because he entered through the door, is honest, non-secretive, life-giving, selfless and interested in protecting the sheep from harm (cf. v. 3, 9, 10, 11, 15). On the other hand, the entrance of the thief and robber is disingenuous, surreptitious and with malice aforethought to harm the sheep (cf. v. 10). The identity of the shepherd in Jesus’ symbolic picture is without doubt the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. v. 11). The identity of the sheep in the morning scene vv. 1-6 are undoubtedly Israelite believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah (cf. v. 16). The singularity both grammatically and contextually of the shepherd in Jesus’ symbolic picture revealed there is no one else who can qualify to fit His description. To this effect, there is continuity throughout the Word of God concerning the exclusivity of Christ as occupying the office of shepherd. The exclusivity of Christ as shepherd in the sense of an office was prefigured in Ezekiel 34:23 when God spoke through the prophet Ezekiel the following – “Then I will set over them one shepherd . . .” The same sense is found from Jesus’ shepherding scene concerning the exclusivity of one shepherd who is qualified to occupy the role as an office and its synonymous association with the Messianic office.  

The Doorkeeper

In v. 3 the Lord Jesus Christ introduced another character called the doorkeeper[11] when Jesus said, “to Him the doorkeeper opens . . .”[12] It has already been established above with hermeneutic clarity that the overall sheep pen in the morning scene of the symbolic picture is Israelite. What is more, the same clarity has been established above concerning the synonymous relationship between the shepherd and the OT Messianic office. Therefore, the identity of the doorkeeper to the sheep pen who best fits within the context is John the Baptist. John the Baptist is the best answer to the identity of the doorkeeper because of the authority he was given by God over the entrance into the sheep pen to only let the Messiah enter among the sheep. The OT prophesied that the Messiah would be preceded by a forerunner – namely, a messenger who would prepare the way for the Lord (cf. Isa 40:3-4; Mal 3:1).    

There are two major reasons why the doorkeeper is John the Baptist. First, the doorkeeper does not allow thieves and robbers access through the door to the sheep pen. It has been thoroughly established above that the thieves and robbers represent the Pharisees. John the Baptist severely rebuked the Pharisees and would not allow them to be baptized (cf. Matt 3:7-12).[13] It was John the Baptist’s ministry to be the forerunner for the Messiah and prepare people for the Messiah’s First Advent (cf. Matt 3:1-3, 7-10; Lk 3:1-18; Jn 1:6-8, 19-34; 3:22-36). Due to the shepherding scene serving as a symbolic picture – the phrase, “to Him the doorkeeper opens” harmonizes with the Gospel narratives record of John the Baptist’s ministry testifying to Israel the Lord Jesus as the Messiah.

There are four qualifications that can only be fulfilled by the shepherd from v. 3, namely, “to Him the doorkeeper opens,”[14] “and the sheep hear the voice of Him,”[15] “and the own sheep He calls by name,”[16] “and leads them out.”[17] Because the sheepfold in the morning scene of the symbolic picture represents Israelites, these features are unique to the Lord Jesus Christ during His First Advent. The first of these qualifications was recognized by John the Baptist who proclaimed, “behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! . . . . I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (Jn 1:29a, 34). John the Baptist’s testimony as the last OT prophet was to recognize publicly the Messiah. This was one of the ways in which God identifying to Israel He had arrived. The disciples Andrew and John were quite literally following John the Baptist until John the Baptist pointed them to Jesus – then they started following Jesus (1:35-42). This example, that is, 1:35-42 is the literal sense of the doorkeeper (i.e. John the Baptist) guarding the door and watching the sheep (e.g. Andrew and John) and then announcing the Messiah (i.e. Jesus). Jesus entering the door is the consummation of His ministry (cf. 1:32-34). The sheep heard John the Baptist speak and in turn followed the shepherd.[18]     

The Sheep

The next group introduced from the shepherding scene is the sheep. The sheep belong to the shepherd because of the phrase from v. 3 which reads, “and the sheep hear the voice of Him.” As mentioned above, in the ANE several shepherds would use a single sheep pen with multiple flocks. A shepherd would call to his own sheep and they would recognize that shepherd’s voice from among the other shepherds. It has already been established above that the sheep from the morning scene (cf. vv.1-6) are the elect from among the nation of Israel. Not all Israelites received the Lord Jesus as the Messiah during His First Advent – only the elect from the house of Israel (cf. Jn 1:11-13). Those who did receive Him as the Messiah received Him due to the fact that God the Father had chosen them beforehand and had given them to God the Son to be saved (cf. 6:37, 6:65). The elect evidence that they belong to God because they hear God’s words (cf. 8:47). This harmonizes with 10:3, namely, “and the sheep hear the voice of Him” because sheep only recognize the voice of their shepherd (cf. Jn 8:47).

The Calling & The Leading

Just as there are qualifications that can only be said of the shepherd that cannot be said of the thieves and robbers – there are also distinctions that can only be said of the sheep versus those who are not sheep. Towards the end of the morning scene vv. 3c-4, respectively, Jesus showed the exclusivity of both the shepherd and the sheep in the symbolic picture when he said, “and the own sheep He calls by name and leads them out. When all the own he has brought out, He goes before them and the sheep follow Him because they know the voice of Him.” However pleasant and peaceful it may seem in a general sense in the mind of the hearer (e.g. the image of a small flock separating from the sheep pen and being led by a shepherd to pasturage during late morning with the pleasant weather in Israel, etc.), on the other hand the implications are quite clear that Jesus made a division in the nation of Israel of those who are His sheep and those who are not His sheep (cf. Jn 10:26-29).

Concerning the inception of the history and spread of Christianity, Jesus quite literally called his first disciples by their names and led them out of the larger sheep pen (cf. Matt 4:18-22; 9:9; Mk 2:14; Lk 5:1-11; 27-28; 19:1-10 “. . . Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house . . . today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”; and Jn 1:42-51 “Your name is Simon, but you shall be called Peter”).The calling is an effectual calling, not a general call. [19] Jesus did not call all the sheep – that is, every person that belongs to the nation. Instead, He called His own sheep from out of the nation. In a general sense, Jesus during His First Advent was sent to the nation of Israel (i.e. the larger sheep pen) to preach the gospel to the nation. However, the elect were separated from the nation as a whole because Jesus effectually called the elect from out of the nation of Israel (cf. Rom 9:6).

The most obvious example is the healing of the man born blind (ch 9). Jesus called him out of the larger sheep pen of the nation of Israel, a nation who had become apostate and influenced by the apostate teaching of the Pharisees. Jesus as the good shepherd called one of His lost sheep – namely, the man born blind. The man born blind that Jesus healed was thrown out of the synagogue because he would not listen to the Pharisees. Instead, the man born blind listened to Jesus and followed Him. The casting out of the man in 9:34 by the Pharisees is symbolically pictured in 10:3 as being called by the Lord Jesus. The Greek word for the action “leads out” is from the Greek verb ἐξάγω and has the sense to mean “I lead out sometimes to death by execution.” The very unpleasant treatment by the Pharisees of the blind man that Jesus healed became the most pleasant event of the man’s entire life. Consequently, Jesus mercifully called and led the man born blind out of the apostate environment of unbelieving Second Temple Judaism in the first century into the abundant life of a salvific relationship with God in Christ Jesus.  

In summation, the Lord Jesus Christ was sent to the nation of Israel but ultimately to the lost sheep of Israel. Jesus called His elect Israelites out of the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel rejected the Lord Jesus Christ during His First Advent even though He was their King, but the elect from Israel did not reject Him (cf. 1:11-13; 17:2, 6, 9, 24).

The phrase, “and leads them out” from verse 3 has an evangelistic sense that could result in death by execution.[20] Jesus as the Messiah began His ministry during His first advent preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and presented Himself to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (cf. Mk 1:14-15). Jesus’ message was “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”[21] Some of the elect sheep that followed Jesus became His apostles (cf. 17:2, 6, 9, 24). His apostles began the history and spread of Christianity by preaching the Gospel to Israel and the Gentiles (cf. 17:20; Acts 1:8). They followed the Lord Jesus Christ by living their lives in obedience to Him and preaching His gospel that He preached. God led Christ to the cross where He was executed in substitution for the elect to save them from the wrath of God. The leading has to do with the sheep that belonged to Christ that followed Christ by preaching the gospel. Preaching the gospel ultimately resulted in their executions. They died for their Lord and the spread of Christianity so that other sheep would believe their message and be saved (cf. 21:19).

The Voice of the Shepherd

There are further features from Jesus’ shepherding scene that distinguished Jesus’ sheep from the over-all sheep pen during the morning setting of the metaphor. For instance, v. 4 captured this distinction when Jesus said, “When all the own he has brought out He goes before them and the sheep follow Him because they know the voice of Him” (cf. 10:25-30). Concerning the over all sheep pen of the nation of Israel, Jesus gave the general call to all, but His effectual call, that is, the voice of the shepherd, was reserved for His elect sheep (cf. loses life to follow Christ! 12:23-26; 8:51; 17:6).

This symbolically represented that God called His people to follow His authorized shepherd. God first regenerated them (cf. Jn 3), called them to follow, and gave them ears to hear. There were many people who believed in Christ when they saw His miracles – but they were believing unbelievers that Jesus did not entrust Himself to and which over time manifested a temporary belief (cf. 2:3-25; 12:37-40). However, the regenerated believer follows the Lord Jesus Christ as sheep following their shepherd in trust even if it meant one might lose one’s life as a result of faith together with obedience (cf. 12:23-26). Persecution came to the man born blind that Jesus healed in chapter 9 because the Pharisees purpose was to put out of the synagogue anyone who followed Jesus. Jesus brought out the man born blind from the religious establishment by healing him physically and spiritually. The man Jesus healed ignored the voice of the religious leaders by not listening to the Pharisees. This led to the man being persecuted and kicked out of the synagogue. He then heard the Lord Jesus Christ’s voice and worshiped Him. In this sense, v. 4 pictures symbolically what happened to the man born blind that Jesus healed as the man was called by Jesus, then kicked out of the synagogue (i.e. the general sheep pen) and then followed Jesus as his shepherd.    

There is continuity in the meaning of the Greek word ἐξάγω (I lead out) from the phrase “leads them out” in v.3 and the Greek word πορεύομαι “I go” from the phrase “He goes before them” in v. 4. The Greek terms are synonyms because the former has the sense to be led out sometimes to death by execution and the latter has the sense to mean traveling or going on a journey to die. Jesus goes to die – the sheep follow Him. Jesus’ followers hear His voice (i.e. believe His word) and follow Him (i.e. obedience to His word because of a changed life). His faithful followers in the early church literally died for their faith in Christ.

Today through God the Holy Spirit the voice of the Shepherd comes through illumination (cf. Eph 1:18). The same ordo salutis applies to any who are elect. Today, the objective evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is that the regenerated person has come to know the shepherd’s voice through illumination (cf. Eph 1:18). The regenerated person responds to the shepherd’s voice in genuine faith in the word of God and obedience to the word of God. In other words, to believe the shepherd’s voice is to believe the NT. To follow the shepherd’s voice is to follow the imperative commands in the NT. Following the shepherd results in dying to oneself. Following the shepherd could even result in one’s physical death because of genuine trust in the shepherd’s promise of eternal life (cf. 10:27-28). Jesus’ sheep refuse to renounce Him under even intense persecution from the world system. Jesus’ sheep refuse to listen to the voice of the world system.

The Stranger

Discerning between the shepherd’s voice and the voice of strangers is characteristic of Christ’s sheep because He said, “however stranger not in no way they will follow but will flee from him because they not recognize the voice of the strangers” v. 5. Sheep do not turn away from hearing and following their shepherd’s voice. Sheep can wander away (cf. Ps 119:176), but they cannot listen to strangers.[22] In continuity with God’s evaluation in Ezekiel, the evaluation of the religious leaders of the nation of Israel in the first century AD was that they were unqualified to lead God’s people. The unqualified religious leaders were strangers in that sense. A stranger is a false shepherd in Jesus’ shepherding metaphor. When false shepherds call to true sheep, true sheep do not follow the false shepherd.[23] On the other hand, the sheep will flee from false shepherds. The Greek word φεύγω from the phrase, “but will flee from him” is where the English word fugitive is derived.[24] Just as a fugitive will flee to escape being captured, so do true sheep flee from strangers who will try to capture them to keep them from their true shepherd. Such was the case of the blind man that Jesus healed. The Pharisees represented “the stranger” because they tried to get the blind man to blaspheme the true shepherd, for example:

So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, ‘Give glory to God; we know that this man is a sinner.’ He then answered, ‘Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ So they said to him, ‘What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?’ He answered them, ‘I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?’ They reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.’ The man answered and said to them, ‘Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.’ They answered him, ‘You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?’ So they put him out. (9:24-34)

The man born blind who Jesus healed proved to be a true sheep because he did not follow the voices of the false shepherds (viz. strangers). Instead, the blind man Jesus healed heard Jesus’ voice (cf. 9:7) and followed Him (cf. 9:38). Those who know the true shepherd are called by name by Him and He leads them out (v. 3), and they follow Him and know His voice (v. 4). This knowledge of Him and His voice leads to obedience to Him. Obedience to Christ comes through genuine fellowship with Him in the word of God and not recognizing the voice of false shepherds (viz. the stranger) and not following man-made religion (cf. v. 5). The sheep not recognizing false teachers (viz. the stranger) is a completed action of not recognizing them with ongoing results of not recognizing them.[25]  

‘Shepherds’ today who discourage obedience to Christ and who discourage fellowship with Him in the Word of God are strangers to true sheep. In the first century the false shepherds discouraged open faith in Christ – in the present age false shepherds discourage following Christ and His Word because they try to lead through the pragmatism of man. If it is true that Jesus is the only senior pastor by office, then those who create a senior pastor positional office for men to hold in their version of church government are following the voice of strangers. In Jesus’s symbolic picture of the shepherding scene, the nature and quality of the Pharisees’ religious leadership represent a complete contrast to Jesus’ office as “the good shepherd” (cf. 10:11).

The Symbolic Picture

There was clearly symbolism intended by Jesus in the shepherding scene from John’s gospel because John wrote, “this the symbolic figure the[26] Jesus spoke to them they however not knew what it was that He was saying to them” v. 6. It was established above that the literary subset of narrative that Jesus used for His shepherding scene was a literary device in the nature of a symbolic picture or figurative speech (cf. 16:25; 29). When discerning the meaning of details in the genre of narrative or subset literary genres of narrative one needs to pursue the meaning intended from the mind of the original author. The shepherding scene is parabolic in the sense that it is a story that makes a comparison between common experiences and reality to teach theological truth. The shepherding scene is also parabolic in the sense that Jesus included characters mentioned inside the shepherding scene that represent people in the real world. The Greek word the Synoptic Gospel writers used for parable is παραβολή (parabole) (cf. Matt 13:3; Mk 3:23; Lk 5:36). John did not use the usual word for parable but instead used the Greek word παροιμία (paroimia) (cf. Jn 16:25, 29; 2 Peter 2:22). It is best to translate the Greek word παροιμία (paroimia) that John used in v. 6 as “symbolic figure” with the understanding that in the context of the shepherding scene it closely resembles a parable because of its story-like figurative discourse in the narrative flow versus an allegory. The Greek term in the NT for allegory is ἀλληγορέω (allégoreó) used by Paul in Galatians 4:24 and is a hapax legomenon.[27] The fact that the shepherding scene pericope is cryptic or enigmatic in effect does not mean it is allegorical. This is pertinent to the discussion because each cryptic symbol from the shepherding scene has a monolithic identification instead of a dual meaning. Church history has shown that literary overdrive through the mechanism of the allegorization of Scripture has disastrous implications like the theory of multiple meanings – that is, dual, threefold, or even fourfold meanings of cryptic or enigmatic intent.[28] The sense of Jesus’ shepherding metaphor was inherently monolithic – in that, each feature mentioned had its own representative in the real world (e.g. the thieves and robbers represented the false shepherds of the day, the doorkeeper represented John the Baptist, the Shepherd represented the Lord Jesus Christ, and the sheep represented Jesus’ own sheep that He called out of the sheep-pen of Israel).[29] If “thieves and robbers,” and “strangers” all referred to the apostate religious leadership of the Pharisees’ false shepherding this does not mean the same as “threefold meaning” found in the institutionalization of the allegorical method because the historical religious sect of the Pharisees truly existed in the first century.[30]

In summation, although the term John used for Jesus’ metaphorical shepherding scene is not the usual word for parable that the synoptic writers used, nevertheless, the shepherding metaphor more closely resembles a parabolic discourse instead of an allegorical discourse. The morning scene of the metaphor was intended to explain what happened to the man Jesus healed in chapter 9 by directing the rebuke towards the Pharisees. One of the major implications of the morning scene that applies thereafter throughout church history is – one warrants the same rebuke from Jesus if one practices the same religious malpractice that the Pharisees exercised towards the man born blind. To treat people as such places the guilty party categorically as a Pharisee.  

E. V. Powers

To keep reading click on the link for part four – https://bcri.wordpress.com/2022/06/01/the-good-shepherd-series-part-four/


[1] The definite article “the” in the phrase “the not entering in through the door” is nominative masculine singular. The definite article mentioned is later modified by the personal pronoun “he” in the phrase “he is thief and robber” at the end of the verse because the pronoun is also nominative masculine singular. Therefore, adding the term “one” or “person” (which are not original) after the definite article mentioned is not necessary.

[2] The author’s literal “wooden” translation from the Greek New Testament into English.

[3] Köstenberger argued that the initial point that Jesus made with the symbolic picture of the shepherding scene is not so much about His being ‘the good shepherd’ but, at least initially, about ‘the bad shepherding’ of the Pharisees. Andreas J. Köstenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 226.

[4] “εἰσέρχομαι,” BAG, 231-32.

[5] Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees’ philosophy of ministry was motivated not just by stealing but also characterized by malice aforethought (e.g. “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” 10:10a).

[6] “ἀναβαίνω,” BAG, 49.

[7] “ἀλλαχόθεν” another place; e.g. climb over at some other place, BAG, 38. 

[8] The Pharisees plotted to stop Jesus’ ministry because they worried about losing their position, money and status. (cf. 11:45-48).

[9] This author’s literal “wooden” translation from the Greek New Testament into English.

[10] The Greek term for shepherd is ποιμήν (poimén) and is in the nominative case (the case that designates the subject of a sentence). Shepherd is the subject of verse 2 because the disjunctive δὲ  “however” shows a contrast introduces the reader to a new subject from the subject of verse 1 – namely, the thief and robber.

[11] The Greek word for “doorkeeper” is θυρωρός and has the sense to mean a guardian of the door (cf. Mk 13:34). “θυρωρός,” BAG, 366.

[12] The author’s literal “wooden” translation from the Greek New Testament into English.

[13] John the Baptist was the last OT prophet. The issue was true prophets versus false prophets and that conflict makes sense that John as a true prophet that he would be the one as the gatekeeper ushering in the Messiah. Today in the church age the conflict is between those with the gift of teaching versus false teachers.

[14] The doorkeeper is John the Baptist. Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who has this qualification.

[15] In the NT in order to hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ presupposes one has “ears to hear” which is the result of God first granting that person spiritual life – on the other hand, if one does not hear the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ presupposes regeneration never took place (cf. Is 6:9-10; Zec 7:11-13; Matt 13:14-17; Mk 4:12; Lk 8:10; Jn 8:43; 12:40; Acts 28:26-27; Ro 10:16-17; 11:8; 2 Tim 4:4; Heb 5:11; Rev 2:7, 17; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9).

[16] Only the shepherd claims ownership of the sheep and individually knows all His sheep by name. This harmonizes with what Jesus commanded Peter at the end of John’s Gospel – namely, “tend my lambs . . . shepherd my sheep . . . tend My sheep” (21:15-17). Pointedly, the sheep belong to Jesus not Peter.

[18] e.g. “the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus” Jn 1:37.

[19] https://bcri.wordpress.com/2015/12/08/effectual-callirresistible-grace/

[20] The sense of the Greek word ἐξάγω” (I lead out) has the sense to mean “I lead out sometimes to death by execution.” Christ laid down His life for the sheep by dying in their place on the cross. The sheep in turn deny their lives, carry their cross, and are willing to die for Christ. “ἐξάγω,” BAG, 271.

[21] This was also John the Baptist’s message (cf. Matt 3:2). At Jesus’ second coming the Kingdom of God will be established on the earth (Dan 7:13-14; Zech 14; Matt 25:31; Rev 19-20). The nearness in the presentation of the kingdom was the arrival of the King and His presence during His First Advent. The arrival of the Kingdom is conditioned on the national repentance of Israel (cf. Matt 3:2, 4:17; 10:5-6; Mk 1:15).

[22] The Greek word for stranger is ἀλλότριος and has the sense to mean “belonging to another, other, or different.” Therefore, the meaning of stranger is a synonym for false shepherd because a false shepherd is a different shepherd than the singular shepherd of the sheep (cf. v. 2).

[23] The Greek verb ἀκολουθέω from the phrase, “they will not follow” is in the future tense, indicative mood, active voice, 3rd person, plural number. The word has the sense to mean I accompany, follow and attend. After hearing the true shepherd’s voice the sheep cannot follow strangers who are false shepherds. 

[24] The Greek word φεύγω from the phrase, “but will flee from him” is in the future tense, indicative mood, middle voice, 3rd person, plural voice and has the sense of fleeing, escaping or even shunning.

[25] The Greek verb οἶδα from the phrase, “because they not recognize the voice of strangers” is in the perfect tense, indicative mood, active voice, 3rd person, plural number. The perfect tense in Greek has the sense of a completed action with ongoing results. The sheep do not recognize the voice of strangers in the completed sense and they continue to not recognize the voice of strangers.

[26] Definite article present in Greek text.

[27] Hapax legomenon – (plural: hapax legomena) an item found only once in a body of literature. The Greek participle ἀλληγορούμενα “speaking allegorically from the Greek verb ἀλληγορέω (allégoreó) is a hapax legomenon. That means from Galatians 4:24 this is the sole occurrence of this term in this form in the NT. Kaiser explained the difficulty of basing an entire system for interpreting Scripture on top of a hapax legomenon when he wrote: “The most difficult words of all to deal with are the hapax legomena, ‘words used [spoken] only once’ in the known texts at our disposal. Since dictionaries, lexicons, and related tools are based on collecting instances of usage from a number of contexts, they too, once in a while, let us down because of a lack of sufficient examples” Walter Kaiser, Toward An Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 127.

[28] “Origen from Alexandria institutionalized the allegorical method in the late second century and early part of the third century. Origen explained his approach in his work De principiis (On first principles). It was his contention that every passage potentially has a threefold meaning . . . . (or) fourfold meaning. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. Toward An Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching & Teaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1981), 58.

[29] “It is the author’s prerogative to tell us what he wants to say before we attach a significance of our own to his text. Such a subjective use of narrative must fall into the category of spiritualizing rather than exegeting a text.” Ibid, 199.

[30] “Now this may be interpreted allegorically” (Galatians 4:24 ESV).  “The Greek word was used of a story that conveyed a meaning beyond the literal sense of the words. In this passage, Paul used historical people and places from the OT to illustrate spiritual truth. This is not an allegory (in the sense that Plato or Origen employed the allegorical method), nor are there any allegories in Scripture in that sense. An allegory is a fictional story where real truth is the secret, mysterious, hidden meaning. The story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac is actual history and has no secret meaning. Paul uses it only as an illustration to support his contrast between law and grace” ESV MSB p. 1749.

The Good Shepherd Series: Part Two

Immediate Context for John 10:11

Jn 10:11 – “I AM the Good Shepherd”

In the NT, the criteria required to designate an office are qualifications. John 10 is indeed an example of this designation. In Jn 10:11 the Lord Jesus Christ identified Himself as “the Good Shepherd.” With His claim as “the Good Shepherd,” the Lord Jesus Christ listed a series of qualifications that one must fulfill to occupy the office of “the Good Shepherd.” The purpose of this exposition of the symbolic picture portrayed in Jn 10 is to identify the features that qualify the Lord Jesus Christ as “the Good Shepherd” in contrast to the features that disqualify religious leaders who are only interested in claiming they occupy an office as a means of financial gain. This symbolic picture concerns the activity that exists within a fold of sheep, namely a metaphor for a gathering of people within an ecclesia context.[1]

Immediate Context of Jn 10:11

Contextually, Jesus’ words in Jn 10:1-18 is the explanation of the events John narrated in Jn 9. In other words, 10:1 does not start a new context but is a continuation of 9:41.  In our English bibles John 10:1 began with the words, “Truly, truly I say to you.” The word “truly” is from the Hebrew word אָמֵן rendered in Greek ἀμήν and transliterated into English “amen.” The phrase “truly, truly” or “amen, amen” is not starting a new section from the discourse of the blind man who Jesus healed in ch 9. Instead of introducing a new section, the phrase “truly, truly” or “amen, amen” connected the description of the events concerning the blind man that Jesus healed with the explanation of the events concerning the blind man that Jesus healed. Therefore, 10:1-18 is a continuation of ch 9.[2]

Pointedly, ch 9 is the historical narrative of what happened in the synagogue and ch 10 is the explanation metaphorically of what happened in the synagogue. To this effect, Jesus gave an explanation of what happened with the blind man He healed and the response of the religious leadership in the synagogue to the healing of the blind man in the form of a symbolic picture (cf. 10:21; e.g. reference to the situation with the blind man at the end of the context). All in all, this discourse of Jesus’ symbolic figure is the Lord’s evaluation on what was exposed concerning the spiritual nature, quality, ability and condition of Second Temple Judaism’s apostate religious leadership in the first century (see also 16:2-3).     

In Jn 9, the Pharisees persecuted the blind man that Jesus healed by removing him from any access to the religious community that the Pharisees controlled, hence the words, “So they put him out” (v. 34; also see v. 22). Jesus heard that the Pharisees had “put him out” so He comforted the blind man He healed. Jesus comforted him with the manifestation of His presence, the sound doctrine of His incarnation and the affirmation of His deity (cf. vv. 35-37). The blind man who was healed not only saw Jesus with his physical eyes but also saw who Jesus truly was with the eyes of his understanding – namely, that Jesus is the Messiah. He worshiped the Lord which revealed that the Lord Jesus Christ not only healed him physically but also spiritually (v. 38). Then the Lord Jesus Christ gave the following judgment publicly that concerned the conflict between those who He spiritually heals versus the religious leaders when He said, “. . . For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind” (v. 39; cf. 15:22-25). The Pharisees who were present listening imperiously questioned Jesus’ judgment. Their response revealed they understood He assessed their spiritual condition as one of spiritual blindness (v. 40). However, the Pharisees could not see that they were lost and blind. Then Jesus answered their question with remarkable clarity concerning their unbelief in Him as the Messiah and their criminal position before God when He said, “. . . If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains” (v.41; cf. 15:22-25).[3]  

The narration of these historical events segued into Jn 10 which symbolically explained the conflict between the blind man that was healed by Jesus versus the Pharisees’ cruelty to put out of the synagogue anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Christ (cf. v. 22; 12:42-43). In the symbolic picture portrayed by Jesus in Jn 10, He identified distinct characters that metaphorically represent real persons in the real world, that is, starting with the events concerning the religious activity of the Israelites during Christ’s first advent extending through all of church history until the time of Christ’s second advent at the end of the age of the Gentiles.  To this effect, it is imperative to define the characters inside Jesus’ symbolic picture corresponding to who they represent in the real world and to define them exactly the way Jesus intended because He is the Author. The reader does not have the license or liberty to interpret the identity of these characters in any other way other then what the Author/author intended. In summary, Jn 10 is the meaning to what happened in Jn 9, and to understand the identity to the various symbolic features of Jesus’ veiled shepherding scene, one must find the answers from the healing of the man born blind discourse. 

Historical Context of Shepherding in ANE during the First Century A.D.

In the ANE during the first century, the profession of shepherding sheep had a distinct protocol that would have been common knowledge to the Israelite as well as to the nations of the ANE. To understand shepherding in the ANE, there must first be a description of the sheepfold – namely, in a general sense the location where sheep would feed, rest and sleep.[4] Throughout the ANE there were many enclosures that were called sheep pens (sheepfolds) built for the protection of sheep as well as intended to keep them from wandering out from these enclosures and getting lost.[5] The ANE sheepfold was usually enclosed by stone walls.[6] What is more, the ANE sheepfold was roofless, but the walls were usually covered with hedges of thorn branches to keep robbers from scaling the walls to steal the sheep.[7] John 10:1-18 is a symbolic picture about the ANE sheepfold as a metaphor for those who gather to worship and follow the Lord Jesus Christ as their Shepherd. 

The daily routine concerning the duties of shepherds in the ANE during the first century can be outlined by three parts of a day – namely, morning, mid-day and evening. In many of the ANE towns and villages of the land of Palestine, shepherds would usually share a single sheep pen enclosure and as such there would usually be several flocks of sheep at night in a localized sheep pen.[8] When morning arrived, shepherds would separate and lead their sheep from the other folds out to the pasturage to feed.[9] To this effect, the shepherd would call his sheep and as they would recognize his call they would in turn follow their shepherd. During the day, the shepherd would watch his fold. Sometimes sheep wandered away from the flock so the shepherd had to search for the lost sheep until he found it.[10] What is more, each day the shepherd would need to lead his fold of sheep to running streams of water or troughs attached to wells for the sheep to hydrate.[11] At evening, the shepherd brought his sheep back to the enclosed sheep pen. He made them individually pass through the gate of the enclosed sheep-pen to see if any sheep were missing – namely, an evening routine called “under the rod.”[12] Finally, the several shepherds that shared a sheep pen would individually take turns or utilize a porter (i.e. gatekeeper) to watch the entrance of the fold at night.[13] The entrances of ANE sheep pens did not have gates like doors to seal the entrance because the shepherd himself would lay [sic.] down in the entrance and guard the sheep with his body.[14]

Three Scenes of the Shepherding Metaphor

The daily routine of the duties of the shepherd during the first century in the ANE were used symbolically by Christ. To this effect, Jn 10:1-18 is outlined by three parts of the day. Respectively, the morning scene, the mid-day scene and the evening scene symbolically represent the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. The purpose of the three scenes is meant to symbolically represent the Lord Jesus Christ’s goal to gather into one flock both Israelite and Gentile elect persons (i.e. sheep) throughout human history. What is also portrayed in the symbolic picture are the obstacles designed by antagonists to attempt to prevent this gathering of sheep in human history. The literal duration of time that needs to be discerned from the three scene symbolic picture is the historical timeline from the Lord Jesus Christ’s first advent (i.e. the terminus a quo for the shepherding metaphor)[15] and continuing through history into His second advent (i.e. the terminus ad quem for the shepherding metaphor).[16]

E. V. Powers

To continue reading the series click the link for part three: https://bcri.wordpress.com/2022/05/24/the-good-shepherd-series-part-three/


[1] The phrases “the fold of the sheep” (v. 1) and “I have other sheep which are not from this (the) fold” (v. 16) are metaphors for gatherings of true believers who listen to and follow the Lord Jesus Christ as their Shepherd. The term “ecclesia” in the NT has the sense to mean “an assembly, gathering, Christian church congregation,” or in a general sense the visible church. “ἐκκλησία” BAG, 240. 

[2] The expression, “Verily, verily,” in the Gospel of John never occurs at the beginning of any discourse or at the beginning of a new context. “Verily, verily” was intended by the Author/author to show the reader that Jn 10 is a continuation of Jn 9, not a new context. “Never in the New Testament does truly, truly introduce a new section. This is something that is intended by John to follow along as a continuation of chapter 9. ‘Truly, truly,’ you are to think of now the blind man being thrown out of the synagogue, having been healed by the Lord Jesus both spiritually and physically” S. Lewis Johnson, “the Shepherd of the Sheep,” http://www.sljinstitute.net, 2008, https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/sljinstitute-production/new_testament/John/44_SLJ_John.pdf, (accessed 12 December 2021).

[3] The Pharisees did not understand the meaning of the symbolic picture of the sheepfold in John 10 because they were spiritually blind (cf. 10:6; Matt 13:13-15).

[4] Merrill F. Unger, “Sheepcote or Sheepfold,” in Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977), 1009.

[5] J. D. Douglas and Merrill C. Tenney, “Sheep pen, Sheepfold,” in Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, revised by Moises Silva (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 1335.

[6] Ronald F. Youngblood, “Sheepfold,” in Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, consulting editors F. F. Bruce and R. K. Harrison (Nashville: Nelson, 1995), 1160.

[7] Douglas and Tenney, “Sheep pen, sheepfold,” 1335.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Unger, “Shepherd,” 1013.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Douglas and Tenney, “Gatekeeper (porter),” 1038.

[14] Youngblood, “Shepherd,” 1165.

[15] Terminus a quo is a Latin term that has the sense to mean the point at which something begins.

[16] Terminus ad quem is a Latin term that has the sense to mean the point at which something ends or finishes.

The Good Shepherd Series: Part One

Part One: Introduction

Johannine Texts (The Gospel of John)

Introduction

From the Gospel of John there are three texts that elucidate the identity and exclusivity of the progenitor and sole proprietor of the offices shepherd and teacher in the NT – namely, John 10:11 “I AM the good shepherd,” John 13:13-14 where Jesus referred to Himself as “the Teacher”; and John 21:15-17 where Jesus said to Peter, “tend My lambs . . . shepherd My sheep . . . feed My sheep” (emphasis added).[1] Therefore, to answer the question, “is there any biblical warrant for the office of senior pastor for men to occupy in the church age?” these Johannine texts need to be examined in their original context by the Scripture’s self-attested principles of interpretation.  

The Purpose of the Gospel of John

The apostle John’s purpose statement for the entire book explained why the Gospel was written when he wrote, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:30-31). There are three fundamental words from John’s purpose statement as the thread that extends through the entire book, namely “signs”, “believe”, and “life.” Concerning “signs,” out of the repertoire of signs Jesus performed, John was very selective in choosing to record specific signs in his gospel which he witnessed in person for his evangelistic purpose. What is more, John was selective in recording specific statements that he heard in person from Christ which affirmed His deity as well as what it truly means to believe in Him. Concerning the term “believe,” the Greek word πιστεύω (pisteuó) that was translated into the English words “believe, believed, believes, or “believing” is found no less than 98x’s in the Gospel of John and as a word occurs in John’s gospel more than any other NT writer. Believe has the sense to mean to trust in Christ for eternal life. Concerning the term “life,” the Greek word ζωή (zóé) that was translated in English “life” is found no less than 36x’s and has the sense of eternal life given to the one who trusts in Christ and therein knows God (cf. 17:3). Concerning these three features, John’s purpose statement is conclusive because he was an eyewitness of the events he recorded. To this effect, John’s memoirs of Christ harmonize along with many other credible witnesses who gave their lives to defend the facts with specific details concerning the person and work of Christ (cf. 1:14).

The Theme of the Gospel of John

The theme of the book is Jesus Christ Son of God. The significant theological emphasis taught from the Gospel of John is the deity of Christ. The Gospel of John presented Jesus Christ as the Son of God, God in human flesh, emphasized His deity, and was written to the world – that is, all of humanity (cf. 3:16). The theme of the Gospel of John is inseparably connected to the purpose statement (cf. 20:30-31). To this effect, there are seven signs that signify Jesus as the unique one and only begotten Son of God, that John recorded in this Gospel, namely, turning water into wine (cf. 2:1-11); healing the royal official’s son (cf. 4:46-54); healing the invalid man (5:1-17); feeding the five thousand (cf. 6:1-14); walking on water (6:16-21); giving sight to the blind man (cf. 9:1-12); raising Lazarus from the dead (cf. 11:45).

The purpose of the signs was to direct people to Jesus as the destination, not the other way around (i.e. where Jesus points people to the signs as the destination). In other words, unbelievers were only interested in the signs and did not truly believe in the One the signs where purpose to direct. Unbelievers had a reversed belief because they used Jesus to get to the signs instead of using the signs to get to Jesus (cf. 6:2). They only saw Him as the prophet who was to come into the world (cf. 6:14). They failed to see Him as the self-existent God in human flesh (cf. 8:58-59).  As the signs developed in John chronologically, unbelievers only increased in their hatred for Christ until they wanted to kill Him – for that is the end result of merely believing in the signs of Christ with a natural human faith and not believing in Christ with true genuine faith. They even wanted to kill those who were trophies of Jesus’ work and who helped other people truly believe (cf. 12:10-11).

One of the attributes that defines God is His self-existence, and because He is self-existent all His attributes work at maximum capacity forever. All God’s attributes are supreme because He is the One and only Supreme Being whom eternally exists in three distinct Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (i.e. God is one in three distinct Persons, each Person is fully God and there is one God). God is one in being, essence/substance, co-equal and God is three distinct Persons (cf. Jn 10:30; 1 Cor 8:6; Matt 28:19). This is the being and unity of the divine essence in three Persons and in this one essence are three Persons, yet so that neither is there a triple God, nor is the one essence of God divided. The sound doctrine of the Trinity teaches the truth that God the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God, and yet the Son is not the Father, the Holy Spirit is not the Son and the Father is not the Holy Spirit. When Jesus said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one”, He taught that He is one in essence, one in nature, one in being, yet distinct in Person. Therefore, in John 10:30 Jesus made a declaration of His deity. So, there are three distinct Persons in one essence, not three qualities in one and the same Person. One God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confounding the Persons, nor separating the substance.

The Apostle John recorded in John 14:9 how the self–existent infinite God is knowable when he recorded Jesus’ conversation with Philip; “Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” What is more, in the Gospel of John the Lord Jesus Christ made specific claims to deity, identifying His divine nature with the “I AM” of Ex 3:14-15. For example, the “I AM” statements in John are as follows, namely, “I am the bread of life” (6:35); “I am the Light of the world” (8:12); “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, cf. v 9); “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, cf. v 14); “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (14:6); and “I am the true vine” (15:1a). Concerning Jesus Christ’s self–existence, grammatically, John 8:58 indicated Jesus’ aseity because the present tense ‘I am’ predicates absolute existence for the person of Jesus, with no point of beginning at all (cf. 1:1-3, 14-18). That is why Jesus did not use the imperfect ἤμην, ‘I was’; for this would mean only that the existence of the person of Jesus antedates the time of Abraham and would leave open the question whether the person of Jesus also has a beginning like that of Abraham (only earlier) or not. What Jesus declared was that, although His earthly life covers less than fifty years, His existence as a person (ἐγώ) is constant and independent of any beginning in time, just like He is during the time of Abraham. Thus with the simplest words Jesus testified to the divine, eternal pre-existence of His person.

In the prologue, the reader learns that Jesus is God (cf. 1:1). Also, John wrote that Jesus Christ is necessary being and the agent of creation (cf. 1:2-3). Jesus is the One who gave eternal life to those who believe in His name because of the regeneration that comes from God (cf. 1:4; 12-13). As a final point, Jesus Christ is God in human flesh and therefore has the resources to be the agent of creation and it’s redeemer (cf. 1:14-18).

The Occasion of the Gospel of John

The Gospel of John presented Jesus Christ as the Son of God, God in human flesh, emphasized His deity, and was written to the world – that is, all of humanity (cf. 3:16). The occasion is the first advent of Christ as the light coming into the world (cf. 1:9) in which a distinction was made between those who would receive Christ as their Messiah versus those who would not receive Him as their Messiah (cf. 1:11-13).  In the context of 6:26-58 Jesus Christ explained that it is His penal-substitutionary cross work that is the means by which the believing sinner has eternal life. To eat His flesh and to drink His blood is a metaphor of having true union with Him and His cross work (i.e. the great exchange of the cross; satisfactory penal-substitution and imputation). Those who did not receive Him thought that Jesus was advocating cannibalism (cf. 6:52). Therefore, they did not truly believe because they did not accept or understand election (6:66) and they did not accept or understand vicarious satisfactory penal-substitutionary atonement (cf. 6:60). The will of God is a limited atonement, that is, a particular redemption for everyone who would believe in Christ for eternal life (6:39-40). Later in the gospel, one of His disciples betrayed Him and Jesus was arrested, sent to the priests and then delivered over to Pilate to be tried (18:1-19:16). During this encounter, Jesus told Pilate the occasion for Jesus’ first advent and the destiny for those He came to save when He said, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (18:37).  Jesus was crucified, died on a Roman cross, was buried, then bodily rose from the dead and appeared to many eyewitnesses (cf. 19:16-21:25).

Literary Genre of the Gospel of John

The literary genre of the Gospel of John is gospel narrative. Gospel narrative is the historically unique written genre that concentrated on the historical facts of the life, ministry, crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Christ with the purpose to proclaim this good news (εὐαγγέλιου).[2] Found within the confines of the overarching literary genre of narrative – in the Gospel of John during the first discourse of ch 10 is found what some have classified as a parable or symbolic picture.[3]  Subsets of narrative literary genre are the literary devices called parable, figure of speech or proverb.[4] The honest mind sees Scripture as literature written for a purpose (cf. 20:30-31). It is important for the reader to identify and share the features of the literary genre the Author/author chose within the context established by the Author/author. Likewise, it is important to identify these features so that the reader determines the same meaning that the Author/author intended to monolithically communicate to the reader.[5]  The reader needs to understand that the literary genre of the Gospel of John as a whole is gospel narrative and inside this gospel narrative the apostle John recorded a speech of Jesus in Jn 10 in which Jesus used a literary device in the nature of a symbolic picture or figurative speech (cf. 16:25; 29).[6]

E. V. Powers

To continue reading click the link for part two: https://bcri.wordpress.com/2022/05/20/the-good-shepherd-series-part-two/


[1] The first-person pronoun “My” from the phrase “shepherd My sheep” is capitalized by the NASB to show grammatically reference to the Lord Jesus Christ as the modifier of the possessive personal pronoun.    

[2] Guthrie Donald, New Testament Introduction, third edition (Downers Grove, Ill: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970), 13-4.

[3] The Greek term used by the author is term παροιμία (paroimia) and has the sense to literally mean proverb – “παροιμία,” BAG, 634. The Greek term παροιμία (paroimia) is not the usual word for “parable” used in the synoptic gospels – namely, παραβολή (cf. Matt 13:3) which is a compound word (i.e. pará the Greek preposition which means “along side” together with bállō which has the sense to cast) – thus, “a teaching aid cast alongside the truth being taught” – “παραβολή,” BAG, 617. The Greek term παροιμία (paroimia) used in John 10:6 has been translated into English “allegory” (ABE, BLB, DBT, LSV). However, it is not accurate to translated παροιμία (paroimia) as “allegory” because the Greek term in the NT translated in English “allegory” is “ἀλληγορέω” (allégoreó) and is a hapax lagomena (cf. Gal 4:24) – “ἀλληγορέω,” BAG, 38. Other English translations render the term παροιμία (paroimia) as “parable” (ASV, KJV, ERV, GNT, NET, NHE, WEB) or “illustration” (BSB, NKJV, HCSB, GWT, ISV) or “figure of speech, figurative language” (NIV, ESV, NASB, AB, CSB, WNT). Some have even translated the term παροιμία (paroimia) as “similitude” (YLT) or “story” (CEV). In the end, it is more accurate to translate the Greek term παροιμία (paroimia) into the English term “figure of speech, figurative language, or proverb” to convey a symbolic picture. Hereafter, the author will use the Greek term as “symbolic picture.”

[4] A Parable is a story inside a story that makes a comparison between common experiences and reality to teach theological truth. Usually, parables include characters mentioned inside the parable that represent people in the real world. Parable is a literary subset of narrative. In the case of Jn 10 – the Apostle John divinely inspired by God the Holy Spirit to write the Gospel of John gave a historical account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and in that account, John recorded Jesus giving a story. In that sense, a parable is a story inside a story.

[5] John D. Grassmick, Principles and Practice of Greek Exegesis (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1974), 11-2.

[6] This writer will use the labels ‘symbolic picture’ and ‘figurative speech’ synonymously throughout this section (hereafter usually designated as ‘symbolic picture’ and sometimes ‘metaphor’).

Is Pastor an Office or Gift? Sneak Preview (Rough Draft)

Ephesians 4:7-13 – “According to the Measure of Christ’s Gift . . . He Gave Gifts . . . And Some as Pastors and Teachers”

There is a distinction in the NT between “offices” and “gifts” – specifically, in the Pauline epistles. However, many have attempted to conflate the terms “office” and “gift” together. One of the passages in the NT that has been used by commentators and others to conflate the terms “office” and “gift” is Eph 4:7-13 – specifically, verse 11. Therefore, to have the issue brought to light whether there is biblical warrant for pastor to be identified as an office in the NT – the intended meaning from the apostle Paul must be drawn out from the passage. The approach of this writer is the self-affirmational rule from Scripture called the literal grammatical-historical approach to draw out from the Scripture the author’s intended meaning. The literal grammatical-historical approach identifies “the laws of grammar and literary form, the facts of history, and the framework of context.”[1] Likewise, the book of Ephesians has a specific theme, purpose and occasion. Theme, purpose and occasion are all features that contribute to the framework of context and these features cannot be ignored. Likewise, the rules of Greek grammar must be examined to identify the author’s intended meaning. On the other hand, it is disingenuous to redact and revise the facts of history concerning the book of Ephesians. Therefore, it is imperative to employ Scripture’s self-affirmational rule – namely, the literal grammatical-historical approach to determine from the author if the term pastor found in Eph 4:11 is to be understood as an “office” or as a “gift.”  

The Theme of Ephesians

The theme of the book of Ephesians is the position and purpose of the church in/with Christ as the head.  There are two major theological themes from the book of Ephesians – namely, the Christian’s position “in Christ,” hence, the epistle to the Ephesians is Christological, as well as the manifold wisdom of God made known through the church, hence the epistle to the Ephesians is ecclesiological. Concerning the Christian’s position of union in Christ there is the sound doctrine of election (cf. 1:4); the sound doctrine of predestination (cf. 1:5, 11), the sound doctrine of divine sonship (cf. 1:5, 14), the sound doctrine of the atonement (cf. 1:7; 2:13; 5:25, 29-32), and the sound doctrine of the eternal security of the saints (cf. 1:13-14). Therefore, the epistle to the Ephesians is soteriological. The word “will” (θέλμα) was used no less than seven times in Ephesians [the doctrine of the will of God (cf. Eph 1:1; 1:5; 1:9; 1:11; 5:17; 6:6) contrariwise to the will of the flesh (cf. 2:3)]. The word “mystery” (μυστήριον) was used no less than six times in Ephesians (cf. 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9; 5:32; 6:19). The prepositional phrase “in the heavenly places” (ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις) was used no less than five times in Ephesians and as a prepositional phrase is only found in Ephesians (cf. 1:3; 1:20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12). The “church” was used no less than nine times in Ephesians (cf. 1:22, 3:10, 21; 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 32). The “body” was used no less than nine times in Ephesians referring to the church (cf. 1:23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4, 12, 16 x 2; 5:23, 30). “Saints” was used no less than nine times in Ephesians (cf. 1:1, 15, 18; 2:19; 3:8, 18; 4:12; 5:3; 6:18). Due to the frequency of the terms “church,” “body,” and “saints,” it can be honestly determined that the apostle Paul intended the epistle to the Ephesians to comprehensively reflect an ecclesiological theme.[2] 

The Purpose of Ephesians

The distinct purpose of Ephesians was explicitly indicated in 3:9-11.[3] The reason this was the purpose of Ephesians was because the author used the word πρόθεσις (prothesis). The English word “purpose” (e.g. thesis statement) is translated from the Greek word πρόθεσις (prothesis) in 3:11 which reads, “This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (cf. 1:11). God eternally purposed to save some (cf. 1:9, 11) in Christ, establish Christ as head of the church (cf. 1:22) and to reveal to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places (cf. 3:10; 6:12) the manifold wisdom of God (i.e. the manifold wisdom is the grammatical subject of 3:10-11). The purpose was to crush the rulers and authorities under Christ’s feet (cf. 1:22) thus providing victory for the church in Christ and access to the armor of God to stand firm against the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. In Christ, the church has victory over the enmity in the heavenly places (cf. 1:3; 20; 2:6; 3:10; 6:12) as well as victory over the ethnic enmity of discrimination between Jews and Gentiles on the earth (cf. 2:11-19). It is the logical sequence and quantity of the author’s emphasis in Ephesians that one is to draw from in order to accurately determine the purpose of the book. The issue of God versus satan is found in 1:22– namely “and He put all things in subjection under His feet” (cf. Gen 3:15; Ps 110:1) and Eph 2:1-10– namely, God taking those He saved from walking “the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” and children of wrath as the rest (2:1-3) to a position of being raised up with Christ and seated in the heavenly places in Christ (cf. 2:6). Thus, saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, not works of the law (cf. 2:8-10).

The Occasion of Ephesians

The epistle to the Ephesians had a specific occasion – that was, the reconciliation of ethnic Israelites and ethnic gentiles together only by the means of the reconciliation of those ethnic Israelites and ethnic gentiles to God through the Person, cross work, death and resurrection from the dead of the Lord Jesus Christ. For example, the internal evidence from Ephesians explicitly identified this occasion (cf. 2:11-19). The explicit context and means of the reconciliation to God through the Person and work of Christ was “and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity” (2:16). God redeemed individual persons through Christ alone from distinct ethnic groups of people (cf. 1:7; 2:13). Individually redeemed persons make up the one church in Christ (cf. 1:22; 2:15-19; 5:23; 32). The church is the body of Christ (cf. 4:12), God’s household (cf. 2:19). Therefore, the occasion of the epistle to the Ephesians was that there was a dividing wall of hostility and enmity between Jews and Gentiles according to the flesh, but Christ had now broken down the dividing wall (i.e. ethnic discrimination and legalism) and God had established the headship of Christ over the church as both the church’s reconciliation to God and those in the church’s reconciliation to one another.

Immediate Context of Ephesians 4:1-16

Ephesians 4:1-16 contains the only two occurrences in the NT of one of the Greek words for unity – that is, ἑνότης (4:3, 13).[4] The unification of ethnic Israelites and ethnic Gentiles into “one new man”[5] is the body of Christ.[6] Because of the new position in Christ, unity must exist among believers in Christ and unity must be preserved not invented (4:3) – therefore, a church is a unified preserved body based on God’s purpose in the church age. God’s purpose in the unified preserved body of Christ is to bring all of the individual members of the body of Christ to the unity of the faith (4:12-16). Only God’s power accomplishes this through the ministry of gifted believers who Christ gives to the church.[7] That is the purpose in Christ distributing gifts to each believer (4:7). If it can be determined from the author’s intended meaning that the term “pastor” from 4:11 was intended by the author to be understood as a “gift” and not an “office,” then modern evangelicalism might learn that when the term “pastor” is redefined as an “office” it hinders true biblical unity. If it can be determined from the author’s intended meaning that the term “pastor” from 4:11 was intended by the author to be understood as a “gift” and not an “office,” then modern evangelicalism might learn that when the term “pastor” is redefined to mean an “office” it hinders true biblical ethnic reconciliation. Moreover, if it can be determined from the author’s intended meaning that the term “pastor” from 4:11 was intended by the author to be understood as a “gift” and not an “office,” then modern evangelicalism might learn that when the term “pastor” is redefined to mean an “office” it is an attempt to hinder God’s eternal purpose statement to the universe. Finally, if it can be determined from the author’s intended meaning that the term “pastor” from 4:11 was intended by the author to be understood as a “gift” and not an “office,” then modern evangelicalism might learn that when the term “pastor” is redefined to mean an “office” it is an attempt to hinder the fullness of the theological themes that Ephesians teaches from being accurately represented.

Immediate Context of Ephesians 4:7-13

Ephesians 4:7-13 is about the means of preserving the unity of faith by the use of various gifts to the church.[8] Eph 4:7-8 presents a description of the giving of gifts when the text reads, “But to each one of us the grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore, it says having ascended on high He led captive captivity gave gifts to men.” The text does not read here in Ephesians that He gave “offices” to men, but instead the text reads that He gave “gifts” to men. Therefore, the descriptive emphasis concerning the author’s intended meaning from 4:7-13 concerns “gifts” not “offices.” What is more, the Greek preposition κατα is found in 4:7 together with a noun in the accusative case, namely μέτρον (i.e. measure). When the Greek preposition κατα is together with a noun in the accusative case it has the sense to mean standard (i.e. according to).[9] The standard denotes that Christ gives each believer a gift but also determines the amount of the gift, hence the term measure.[10] Therefore, to redefine the emphasis that 4:7-13 (particularly 4:11) puts on “gifts” to put the emphasis on “offices” is a different standard than the measure of the gift of Christ (because an office is not measured in an amount of the office, one either has the qualifications for that office or they do not – the emphasis is the quality of the officer). In the NT offices are qualified by lists of qualifications (e.g. Acts 1:21-26; 1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). There is no list of qualifications for people to have to receive a gift from what is described from Eph 4:7-13. On the other hand, gift giving from the Lord is all of grace – “But to each one of us grace was given” (4:7a). What is more, instead of prerequisite qualifications that are attached to offices – concerning gifts, here in 4:7 there is mentioned a quantitative measure. The term μέτρον (measure) found from 4:7 has the sense to mean a quantity within a limit to which Christ has apportioned.[11] This is in continuity with Rom 12:3, which reads, “to each as God measured out the measure of faith” (see Rom 12:6).  

The standard from Ephesians 4:7-13 is the measure of the gift of Christ. The standard for the qualifications for “offices” is not in 4:7-13 but is found in other places in the NT (i.e. Acts 1:21-26; 1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). Likewise, the emphasis found from Eph 4:7-13 is on the distribution of “gifts,” not the distribution of “offices.” There is no “thesis” versus “anti-thesis” that exists among Pauline literary corpus concerning these features. There is no need for the Tübigen historical critical “synthesis” model. In dealing with this dilemma, some commentators have inquired whether ministry is to be understood in terms of office or function.[12] On the other hand, the controversy occurs when one has conflated the terms “office” and “gift” into a synthesis to argue that such interchangeableness exists among terms when they are distinct in the NT. Not every believer is given an office but every believer in Christ is given a gift or gifts.[13] In this case, the interchangeable orientation position versus the position that argues a distinction between the term “office” and the term “gift” cannot be based on circumstantial evidence but must be determined from exegesis. Simply put, the term used in 4:7 is from the Greek term δωρεά which is translated into English “gift.”[14] What is more, from 4:8 the text reads “ἔδωκεν δόματα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις” – literally, “gave gifts to men.” The term from 4:8 is from the Greek term δόμα, translated in English “gifts.” The term from 4:8, namely, “gifts” as a noun is plural and is related to δωρεά from 4:7 because both terms – that is, δωρεά and δόμα find their etymology from the Greek verb δίδωμι which has the sense “to give.”[15] The gifts that Christ gives to believers come from Christ because there are two genitives found in the phrase “the measure of the gift of Christ.” The second genitive is a genitive of source – namely, “gift of Christ” meaning that each believer has received from Christ (i.e. the source) a measure of a gift to be used in a particular function in the body.[16] However, the term “ἐπισκοπή” – namely, “office, position or overseership” (cf. Acts 1:20; 1 Tim 3:1) or the term “ἱερατεία” – that is, “office” are not used in Eph 4:7-13.  Concerning 4:8 “therefore, it says, having gone up on high He led captive captivity and gave gifts to men” Christ has the only right to give gifts to believers because He has proven His victory over the devil, sin and death (cf. Col 2:15). Therefore, Christ having gone up on high to the highest in victory gives gifts to those who He redeemed in His penal-substitutionary atonement. Believers are no longer in bondage but are associated with their victorious Redeemer who in turn gives them gifts to use in ministry to build the church (cf. Matt 16:18). Concerning the inception of the church, the church has been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone (cf. Eph 2:20). In building up of the body of Christ as it is growing there certainly includes men occupying offices in the church age as defined by the NT (e.g. 1 Tim 3; Titus 1:5-9). In Eph 4:7-8 every believer is included in this building up of the body by using the gift or gifts given them by Christ for ministry, it is not only for those who occupy offices.  In summary, the emphasis on 4:7-13, particularly introduced in verses 7-8, is on the distribution of gifts not the distribution of offices.

The meaning of Christ giving the gifts because of His ascension was defined by Paul in Eph 4:9-10 through the description of the all encompassing dominion that belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Not only did Christ ascend to the highest realm but He also had descended into the lower regions of the earth. His descent preceded His ascent. The phrase “the lower parts of the earth” describe the portion of the earth, namely the low-lying parts – that is, in the grave not Hades.[17] His ascent “above the heavens” (v. 10) is the location where Christ ministers at present during the church age, the duration of time between His ascension and His second coming. Christ is above all the heavens at the right hand of God the Father (cf. Acts 7:56; Eph 1:21; Phil 2:9; Heb 4:14; 7:26). Christ’s ministry during the church age at present includes the unmerited bestowal of grace gifts (cf. Eph 4:7 – 8, 11). Since Christ is above all the heavens and also sovereign over the universe (cf. Eph 1:22; Col 1:17-18), the phrase “in order that he might fill all things” (Eph 4:10), revealed that Christ fills the universe and the proclamation of His truth and love fills the universe by the persons Christ has given gifts according to the measure of His gift (cf. 3:1-11; 4:7). This proclamation is according to God’s eternal purpose that the wisdom of God is made known through the church to angelic beings in the heavenly places (cf. 3:10-11). The purpose of gifted persons given to the church to use their Christ given gifts is to prepare believers for the work of the ministry for building up the body of Christ (cf. 4:12).[18] Because of what Christ has accomplished and His position as head over the church, only Christ has the authority to give gifts. Treason to the Lordship of Christ occurs when men or women misidentify or misapply that such and such a person has a gift (or conflate the terms “office” and “gift” together as one interchangeable entity outside the context of the Word of God) – when indeed such and such a person that they have misdiagnosed in fact is not the beneficiary of a gift or gifts given from Christ. Real God given gifts unify with one another in support because they recognize their heavenly pattern – contrariwise, faux gifts are designed to cause disunity and division among truly gifted men (cf. 1 Cor 7:7; 12:25).  The breadth to the seriousness of getting this right is an understatement. Any redefinition or misapplication of these features compromises the mission of the church and as such will result in deception and immaturity (cf. Eph 4:14-15). Nevertheless, because Christ fills all things in the sense of His sovereign relationship over the entire creation and His sovereign position to have the only right to give gifts – gifted persons in the church can use their gifts with success against the extinguishing efforts from the world and pseudo-gifted professors who are not possessors.          

Christ fills the church, and Christ is Sovereign over the world. This has to do with the power of what Christ accomplished on the cross and that power being bestowed to the church so that the church would fulfill its ministry. The Apostle Paul established from Eph 4:7 – 10 that only Christ has the authority to give gifts because the definition of Christ giving the gifts is inseparably constrained to the dominion of Christ over all authority.[19] Therefore, a person cannot have a gift or gifts unless Christ has authorized and given a gift or gifts to that person. But when a person does have a gift or gifts given them by the Lord Jesus Christ and when the gift or gifts are performed – the truth of the Gospel goes forth without being snuffed by the quenching attempts from the world to put out the fire.

Pastors and Teachers – One and the Same Spiritual Gift or Two Distinct Gifts?

In Ephesians 4:11 the subject is Christ who performed the action “gave” and what Christ gave is the direct objects – namely, the gifts. There is no copula “to be” or “is” verb governing the direct objects in 4:11. The gifts mentioned from 4:11 are the gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (all these nouns are accusative in case, masculine in gender and plural in number). The text reads in wooden English (i.e. literally word for word translation from the Greek into English and in the same Greek order) the following–, “And He gave the indeed apostles the and prophets the and evangelists the and pastors and teachers.” The reason why it is helpful to look at this verse in the wooden English translation is to observe the word order of the exegetical features. For example, the first three nouns, namely, apostles, prophets, and evangelists have in Greek each a definite article preceding them. The last two nouns, namely pastors and teachers share one definite article together.[20] With pastors and teachers there is only one article with both plural nouns. Because of this, the major controversy with 4:11 in modern evangelicalism is whether “pastors and teachers” designate one spiritual gift or two.[21]

The exact same grammatical construction is found in Eph 2:20 where two plural nouns share one definite article, namely, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.”[22] Chrysostom (c. 347 – 407) argued that apostles and prophets identified from 2:20 are distinct yet blended together to show the union in the body, like a building with all its parts in solidarity.[23]  John Calvin (c. 1509 – 1564) made a distinction between apostles and prophets but claimed that they share the article to show that they had the same goal and one and the same object was promoted by both.[24] The Pulpit Commentary contributor for Ephesians W. G. Blaikie (c. 1820 – 1899) argued a distinction between apostles and prophets as two distinct offices.[25] R. H. C. Lenski (c. 1864 – 1936) argued that the one article makes the apostles and prophets one class but not that the apostles and prophets are the same office or gift.[26] Harold Hoehner (c. 1935-2009) understood that the one article for both nouns in 2:20 does not identify the apostles and prophets as one and the same persons.[27] John MacArthur (b. 1939)  argued that apostles and prophets mentioned in 2:20 are distinct offices from one another when he wrote “these are New Testament prophets, as indicated by the facts that they are listed after the apostles and are part of the building of the church of Jesus Christ.”[28] However, even though he made a distinction between apostles and prophets as being distinct offices, MacArthur interpreted pastors and teachers as two functions of a single office of leadership in the church.[29]

Concerning the phrase “and the pastors and teachers” from Eph 4:11 – scholars have debated this for almost the entire church age.[30] One position argues the construction refers to pastors and teachers as one and the same gift and the other position argues that the construction refers to two distinct gifts.[31] Some scholars place the emphasis on the nouns being gifted persons and debate whether pastors and teachers represent two gifted persons or one person with a combination of two gifts.[32] Those who favor the “one and the same gift” position or the “one person with a combination of two gifts” position argue that the Greek conjunction “and” placed in-between pastors and teachers is explicative and has the sense to mean “pastors ‘that is’ teachers.”[33] On the other hand, some argue that the one article was used to designate these two gifts as functioning in a local church as distinguished from the “itinerate ministry” gifts listed earlier in the list.[34] Hoehner argued, just as seen in 2:20 where there is one article for apostles and prophets, that also in 4:11 one article used for both plural nouns does not mean the same identity but does indicate that they are distinct yet treated for a unified purpose. The following chart is a visual summary of the differing positions concerning the pastors and teachers from Eph 4:11:

Chart: Differing Positions concerning the Pastors and Teachers from Ephesians 4:11

Position 1 – One and the same gift. One gift because the two nouns share the same article; i.e. “pastor-teacher means “pastor, that is, teacher.”

————————————————————————————————————–

Position 2 – Two distinct gifts. Granville Sharp TSKS Rule: In Eph 2:20 there is a TSKS construction where one article governs two plural nouns, namely “the apostles and prophets.” But those who hold position 1 above argue that 2:20 refers to two distinct offices. Eph 4:11 also reflects the Granville Sharp TSKS Rule where one article governs two plural nouns, namely “the pastors and teachers” in the context of gifts (cf. Eph 4:7-11).

————————————————————————————————————–

Position 3 – One and the same office with two functions together to define a single office of leadership in the church. The interchangeable orientation position A. i.e. “pastor – teacher = pastor, that is, teacher” The Greek word kai (and) can mean “in particular (that is) cf. (1 Tim 5:17). MSB

—————————————————————————————————————

Position 4 – Two distinct offices. The orientation position B. Problem with this view is that the context supports gifts, not offices.

—————————————————————————————————————-

However, the only position that works grammatically is that the construction refered to two distinct gifts or two different gifted persons.[35] Some who hold the position that “pastors and teachers” refer to one gift or one gifted person at least understand the context concerns the description of gifts where as others conclude that this has the sense of one office with two gifts – such a position does not make any sense grammatically by using the term office.  Calvin saw a distinction between the two but called them offices.[36]

Pastors and Teachers – Offices or Gifts?

Consequently, Eph 4:11 concerns the description of gifts that Christ has given, not the description of offices. The term ποιμήν (pastor) mentioned as a gift or to describe gifted men in 4:11 described a function with no hint of reference to an office.[37] The term διδάσκαλος (teacher) mentioned as a gift or to describe gifted persons in 4:11 described a function not an office. It is important to know that these are gifts and not offices.[38]

Conclusion

In conclusion, the immediate context to which Eph 4:11 belongs supports that pastors and teachers are gifts not offices. What is more, the grammar of 4:11 supports that pastors and teachers are two distinct gifts indicating two distinct gifted persons – although a person can have been given both of these gifts. Remarkably many in modern evangelicalism do not see this distinction from the text and therefore teach this text and apply this text wrongly not without disastrous implications.  The position a local church takes on this issue has significant implications on how ministry is conducted at that local church. For instance, if a local church takes the position that pastors and teachers are one and the same gift – let alone redefining them as an office when in fact the truth is that they are distinct gifts and not offices (or one and the same office), then ministry at that local church lacks the biblical designation of those gifts. If a local church lacks the biblical designation of those gifts then how will that local church represent and carry out the function of those gifts with clarity and be unified with the universal body (cf. 4:12-13). Different positions in competition results in disunity not unity. Therefore, it is imperative to hold the correct position. Grammatically the Author’s intended meaning reveals that pastors and teachers from 4:11 are two distinct gifts or two distinct gifted persons with the same purpose to equip the saints for ministry for building up the body, just as 2:20 grammatically shows that apostles and prophets are distinct from one another but had the same purpose concerning the foundation of the history and spread of Christianity.


[1] John D. Grassmick, Principles and Practice of Greek Exegesis (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1974), 11.

[2] This paragraph was slightly modified from its original content source. Eric V. Powers, “Is There Any Biblical Warrant for the Doctrinal Triage?” (M.Div. Thesis, The Master’s Seminary, 2016).

[3] “And to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:9-11).

[4] “ἑνότης,” BAG, 267.

[5] ἕνα καινὸν ἄνθρωπον “one new man” (Eph 2:15).

[6] “the hostility, in the flesh of Him, the law of the commandments in ordinances having annulled, so that the two He might create in Himself into one new man, making peace” (Eph 2:15).

[7] Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), 501.

[8] Hoenher rightly emphasized in his commentary that “within the body of believers, God has bestowed gifts” and the giving of these gifts were “the vital role in the maintenance of unity within this unique body,” Ibid, 521.

[9] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 377.

[10] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 523.

[11] “μέτρον,” BAG, 516.

[12] Fung argued that the function of a gift and the office that one holds in the church are fused together into a united whole and that the gift can find expression in the office, but that the office must not be severed from the gift in the relationship between function, gift and office, specifically office and function being the aspects of a person’s ministry (in the case of someone who holds office; for which he must have the appropriate gift). However, in a general sense, Fung took exception to the view of some scholars who argue that Eph 4:11 in particular refers to office holders in the church or at least having the sense of a double reference to offices as well as gifts. Fung argued that the terminology used in connection with charismata in 1 Cor 12:4-6, together with 12:28 and 12:18, together with the explicit reference to variety of functions preceding the Romans list (i.e. Rom 12:4), and the immediate following context of Eph 4:11 with its emphasis on harmonious functioning among the body of Christ (cf. Eph 4:12-16) – all are factors that strongly favor the conclusion that the charismata (i.e. grace gifts) refer only to functions appropriate to gifts and not the office. Ronald Y. K. Fung, “Ministry in the New Testament,” 163-75.

[13]  “Now to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ” Eph 4:7. The phrase Ἑνὶ δὲ ἑκάστῳ ἡμῶν – “Now to each one of us” is in reference to each individual believer not only those holding offices. Hoehner argued based on the exegesis of 4:7 that gifts are given not only to people serving in leadership but to fellow Christians who are not in offices of leadership. Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 521.

[14] “δωρεά,” BAG, 209.

[15] “δόμα,” New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible Hebrew – Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries, Robert L. Thomas, Th.D., General Editor (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1981), 1644.

[16] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 523.

[17] For a discussion on the location of Christ’s descent, see Doron Gladden, TBCRI “What does it mean that Christ ‘had descended into the lower parts of the earth?’” https://bcri.wordpress.com (accessed 1 August 2021).

[18] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 547.

[19] Ephesians 4:10, specifically the phrase “so that He might fill all things” is not about the omnipresence of Christ’s physical body in the universe. The Missouri Synod Lutherans are the major proponents of the omnipresence of Christ’s physical body in the universe. They argue this in 4:10 and call their view the ubiquity of Christ’s physical body. For a definition of the Lutheran doctrine called the ubiquity of Christ’s body, see R.C.H. Lenksi, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1963), 524 – 25.

[20] The definite articles are in bold with the nouns they modify –  Καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς δὲ ποιμένας καὶ διδασκάλους. Only the last two nouns of 4:11 share the same definite article together. Moreover, there is a definite article + substantive (noun) in plural number + conjunction καί + substantive (noun) in plural number which grammarians call the TSKS construction in relationship to the Granville Sharp rule in Greek grammar [T = definite article; S = substantive (i.e. noun); K = conjunction καί (i.e. and); S = substantive (i.e. noun)]. For a discussion of the relationship between the TSKS construction in the Granville Sharp Rule and related constructions – namely, the article with multiple substantives connected by καί see Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 270-90.

[21] Bill Mounce, “Pastor’s and Teachers – Ephesians 4:11,” http://www.zondervanacademic.com, 13 October 2008, https://staging.zondervanacademic.com/blog/pastors-and-teachers-ephesians-4-11-mondays-with-mounce  (accessed 4 October 2021).

[22] “The use of a single article with multiple plural nouns indicates a single unit, but it does not necessarily mean the two nouns are identical. This same construction occurs earlier in 2:20 and joins “apostles” and “prophets,” but these are not identical gifts.” What is more, Mounce mentioned that this is the same rule that is shown in Robertson’s grammar when one article with multiple plural nouns can indicate “groups more or less distinct are treated as one for the purpose in hand.” Robertson, Grammar, 787; MHT 3:181; also see Wallace, “Semantic Range of the Article Noun-καί-Noun Plural Construction,” 82. Ibid.

[23] Philip Schaff, St. Chysostom Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus and Philemon, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. XIII (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), 75.

[24] John Calvin, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thess., 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, Calvin’s Commentaries, vol. XXI (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989), 277-80.

[25] W. G. Blaikie, Galatians Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 46 (London and New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company), 67.

[26] Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians to the Ephesians and to the Philippians 450.

[27] Hoehner argued that the genitives (apostles and prophets grammatically as substantives are in the genitive case) are appositional which grammatically has the sense to mean the apostles and prophets are the historical persons who first formed the universal church. This presupposes that the two are distinct but have one purpose in hand. Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 397.

[28] John MacArthur, Ephesians, MacNTC (Chicago: Moody, 1988), 82.

[29] Even though 2:20 and 4:11 share the same Greek construction with two nouns sharing one definite article (e.g. “the apostles and prophets” 2:20 and “the pastors and teachers” 4:11) MacArthur interpreted each construction differently. MacArthur claimed that the phrase “pastors and teachers” is a single office of leadership in the church. He claimed that Greek conjunction “and” can mean “in particular” to argue that “pastors and teachers” are two functions together that define one office which he argued is synonymous with the NT office of Elder. However, if MacArthur’s claim is this is true wouldn’t that also apply to the same construction used in 2:20 for apostles and prophets as two functions together that define one office because the Greek conjunction “and” can mean “in particular?” MSB, 1763. 

[30] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 543.

 

[31] “One interpretation sees them as one gift and point to the use of the article. It is repeated before all the other gifts, but when it gets to the last two there is only one article that governs both nouns. Grammatically, this signals a change and expects us to see that “pastors and teachers” form a unit that is set off from the preceding series . . . . the second interpretation is that “pastor” and “teacher” are somewhat distinct gifts.” Bill Mounce, “Pastor’s and Teachers – Ephesians 4:11,” http://www.zondervanacademic.com

[32] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 543.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] “According to the exegetical work provided by Wallace, Eph 4:11 concerns the gifted leaders that Christ has given to the church for the church’s maturity. More specifically, Wallace is concerned with whether one gift or two are mentioned with the phrase ‘some now pastors and teachers.’ Wallace is concerned that many commentators have seen only one gift here, which Wallace claimed is an erroneous and misapplication of the Granville Sharp rule applied to plural constructions. Wallace further argued that with the ‘one gift’ view of pastor-teacher instead of two distinct gifts presented (i.e. pastors and teachers), there are no clear examples of nouns being used in TSKS (article-substantive-καί-substantive) construction in the sense to specify one group in an interpretation of pastor-teacher. Wallace did point out that the uniting of these two gifts by one article distinguishes them in a different grammatical observation than the other gifts given with their own definite articles, however that gives the sense that they are similar functioning gifts (e.g. ‘since elders were to be teachers,’ those who are gifted with the gift of pastors usually have a teaching capacity). However, Wallace rightly observed that not all teachers were elders and not all teachers were pastors (cf. Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28-29; Heb 5:12; Jas 3:1; 2 Tim 2:2). But Wallace’s conclusion in the matter at hand was ‘Eph 4:11 seems to affirm that all pastors were to be teachers, though not all teachers were to be pastors.’ Nevertheless, Wallace exegetically proved that pastor and teacher are two distinct gifts instead of ‘one gift with two functions.’” Ibid.  

[36] Calvin, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thess., 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon, 280.

[37] Hoehner, Ephesians An Exegetical Commentary, 544.

[38] Hoehner concluded in his dictum notes on Eph 4:11 there presents a problem when people confuse the gift of pastor and teacher with the office of elder or deacon because they want to exert the authority of an elder or deacon. The NT does not mix gift and office. Ibid, 547.

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