This is the first stand-alone edition of the short Bible Study Notes which have hitherto been attached to the Newsletter. It is hoped that this will be a regular and helpful contribution to the congregation’s knowledge of Holy Scripture.
PLEASE READ GOSPEL OF JOHN CHAPTER 10:1-10
Those of you who have been following up to now, will recall that we are looking at what the Lord Jesus Christ said about himself. In order to do this we are studying the so called I AM statements of our Lord. We come now to the statement “I am the door for the sheep” John 10: 7.
To understand this metaphor which Jesus applies to himself, it is important to remember that Palestine at this time, was a largely pastoral and agrarian culture, so that people listening to Jesus would be able, very quickly, to understand and appreciate what he was conveying by his word pictures.
For instance, when he refers to a sheepfold we need to remember that there were in general two types of sheepfold. On the one hand a village or municipal sheepfold where several flocks might be assembled for protection. This fold was guarded by a hired gatekeeper who, when a shepherd came to reclaim his sheep, gave access to the shepherd who would call to his sheep,
and they, recognising his voice would follow him. This is still true today and can been easily seen in Palestine. The sheep will not follow anyone but their own shepherd.
The other type of fold is what we in Scotland sometimes call a “fank”. These can be seen all over our country and consist of a circular wall of stones with only one access point and are similar to those in the Holy land at the time of Christ. These would be used by the shepherd out on the plain to coral the sheep and protect them overnight from wild animals and robbers. In this case the shepherd would sleep across the opening to the fold and literally be the door to the fold.
When Jesus therefore refers to himself as the door for the sheep we can begin to understand more of the nuances of meaning which the metaphor conveys. Notice first the fact that there is only one access to the fold, and Jesus himself is that access point. There are not several ways or doors into the security of the sheepfold. This unique position of Jesus as the only means
to gain access to the fold (heaven and eternal life) must be robustly maintained in a world which increasingly promulgates the lie that there are many ways to God. Not so. The first letter of the apostle Paul to Timothy says in 1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ”.
Notice also the selfless dedication of the shepherd. Since there is only one access point to the sheep, any would be predators must pass by Him. He protects his flock by his strength and power. This is a fact which all believers may lay hold of. Jesus Christ will protect his sheep for all time. No one or nothing can separate them from him. See Romans 8:38,39. Some people are afraid that, if they trust on Christ for salvation and give their hearts to him they may not stay the course, or they will somehow lose out on life.
But look what Jesus says: “I am the Door, anyone who enters in through me will be saved – will live; he will come in and he will go out (freely), and will find pasture. The thief comes only that he may steal and may kill and destroy. I came that they have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance- to the full, till it overflows”. John 10:9-10 (Amplified Bible).
There are several points to note in the above verses.
- Christ is the only means whereby anyone will be saved. Notice that there is no doubt about the state of those who enter by the Door of Jesus Christ – they will be saved
- Being saved means to be delivered from sin which we are all guilty of, to be forgiven our sin, and to be given new life. Indeed the Lord himself describes this as being born again. See John 3:3
- To the Jewish mind the idea of coming in and going out freely, expressed a state of security and blessing. In an uncertain world, as it was then and is now, this is of great importance. But it also refers to the final condition of the believer when he finally comes home to God
- The idea of pasture speaks to the nourishment of the soul which the believer enjoys through the means of grace. These are, the Word God, Prayer and the Sacraments. It is strange how many who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ never read the Word of God, never pray and never attend Church
- Christ warns of thieves who come to steal and kill and destroy. Who are these? Well they are those who would rob men and women of their faith, peddle untruths and error and seek to destroy the Gospel. We are warned of this in the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy Chapter 3:1-6 which should be read in this context. This is so important that I
will write it out here to save you looking it up:“Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having an appearance of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people”.
Again in 2 Timothy 4:3:
“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions”.
The importance of sound teaching or doctrine cannot be over-emphasised. See Paul’s letter to Titus 2:1.
For this reason we study the Word of God – to allow the Word to speak for itself, without editing those parts which are supposed to be difficult, or do not accord with the received “wisdom” of this modern world. Jesus himself said “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”. Matthew 4:4
If we would please God, and know His will for us individually and as a church, we need to study His Word.