J. N. Darby.
(Notes and Comments Vol. 6.)
In fact, the tenth chapter of John should begin at the thirty-ninth verse of chapter 9. This is the connecting clause with the matter which we have been considering in the ninth; and verse I begins His exposition of the general truth or principle addressed to these Pharisees: "Verily, verily, I say unto you." It was addressed specifically to them, and began relative to the Jews, His assertion that He had entered in exactly according to the ordinance of God. The testimony to all had been given He had not shunned to declare God's righteousness in the great congregation; that is, the whole assembly of the Jews; as He says, "O Lord, thou knowest." The evidence had been given by the works, many good works, He had fulfilled; in a word, every witness of His mission and Person from God (as indeed His unity with the Father) had been rejected generally, now specifically. They had (saw that, had cognisance intelligently in their own estimation of these things) refused the evidence. But His real comfort in doing His Father's will remained. He had entered in by the door. He was the Shepherd of the sheep. But He opens this out in all its bearings most beautifully, as filling up the required ground, prescribed ground, of entrance, so as to be recognised by the Porter, the sovereignty of God by the Spirit, and being also the door out into the real fold. This was the most terrible word to them. The entrance in of the sheep or others (Gentiles) was not unto them the aulee (fold); but He rejected was the door for the sheep out of that into the poimnee (flock), the real fold.
149 - 1. Note, the former part of this gospel clearly displays that on our Lord's first coming His object was to save and not to judge; and therefore as to the world it is only the call of the gospel. As it is written: I came not to judge the world, but that the world through Me might be saved. And again, What have I to do to judge them that are without? Them that are without God judgeth.
But real believers erring from the path of faith God judges here, that they may not be condemned with the world. Further, as to the visible Church the evil is ever mingled with the good; as our Lord prophetically wills: Let both grow together until harvest. [That was the world, not the Church.] They therefore grievously err who propose to separate the elect in a visible Church, and act independently of the Lord's will, therefore in fact in disobedience; which therefore, so far from being a just judgment, is the object of judgment itself. In truth I can suppose nothing more contrary to the will of God as displayed in this and other scriptures. [True as to the elect; but, while the Lord knows His own, we are to judge them that are within: "Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."] In result, however, it is in its operation separative, though not in the exercise of judgment (compare and study Malachi 3:16-18). And thus the Lord is come into the world "for judgment," in that, although He came not to condemn the world, but to save it, yet, having come to save, the perfect manifestation of God in the flesh, as God had promised afore of the holy prophets since the world began, witnessed both by the law and the prophets, "he that believeth not is condemned already."
Having stated therefore that He was come "for judgment," the Lord shows how His work is wholly a work of love, a calling the sheep, and exercising the work of a shepherd; still all love, for even if they must be chastened it is "whom he loveth he chasteneth"; "for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness." But His sheep hear His voice, and follow Him, to make room for judgment where love has had no work, the call being unattended to.
Then comes judgment on the Jews, as now a carcase, when the Son of Man came; all the cities of Israel having been gone through, and the gospel preached to the four winds to found a new system. The same we are assured will take place by the preaching of the gospel, and is in fact so by His word in the Revelation and elsewhere: A voice from heaven, Come out of her; and then, In one hour thy judgment is come. And this is the uniform tenor of God's work in the world; the Flood, Sodom, etc. Here apply the principle of Peter: Judgment begins at the house of God, and what shall the end be of those that obey not the gospel? Note, therefore, as to ministry. Therefore the work is always wholly and merely love, and nothing else; and eldership or judgment applies in its exercise by men solely to him within. The judgment to come is declared as a part of the work of love, saying, Flee from it; if not, ye will die in your sins. See besides the instances in the Old Testament, and the whole ministry of our Lord, the twelve apostles, and the general history from the beginning of His ministry to the destruction of Jerusalem, as portrayed in His prophecy (Matt. 24 and 25); and then Revelation 18 and 19. And note here Peter's laying the foundation of the Gentile Church; Paul's history, and non-permission to preach in Jerusalem; and the silence of Scripture as to the ministry of the other apostles in Gentile countries; though it appears they did; the addresses of the epistles with, if Paul were the author of Hebrews, the absence of his name. The case of Matthias may also be enquired into.
150 I suppose that whereinsoever we may judge we shall find "Tamar is more righteous than I." One there was who, as fulfilling the place of man with the perfection of God, might say, "Yet, if I judge, my judgment is just"; yea, although the Father judged no man, but had committed all judgment to the Son, yet judged no man, as a perfect example of the children of God here. As the Word of God He was the witness of God; so are the children who have the testimony of Jesus.
Let us proceed to the detail of the verses. I tell you Pharisees, I open to you the truth: You have rejected Me, corporately, intelligently. I will open to you the sad truth: "He that entereth not in by the door," by the prescribed order of God's entrance into the sheepcote or yard. Christ had fulfilled perfectly, had met, every requisition, subjected Himself to the inspection of the Porter, and the vigilant eye of the Spirit could have found nothing in which God was not well pleased, the perfectness (as indeed He was the True One, and so formally evinced), of every character and circumstance scripturally ordered and pointed out by which Messiah should be recognised. He came to the right place of the scrutiny of His character. It was to the "fold of the sheep," where the vigilance of God would be exercised, the full opportunity of scrutiny afforded by "seeing," which the taught (intellect) of God could exercise, according to that. This was all that could be required. But then it discovered, though formally so, there even then those not recognising Him, not sheep (they heard His voice), they were properly the inmates, it was (which note) "the fold of the sheep" it belonged to them properly. Within, or attempting to get in, in whatever character but by other ways, other means, of influence over the sheep, so as to be there, they were thieves or robbers. This applied to all pretending to lead the people; as He says, "Three shepherds . . . in one month"; specifically, of course, to any assuming the name of Messiah. But whoever was in the fold not being sheep, and not being Christ, whoever was not subject to Messiah's voice (for thus it was manifested), they, it was clear, must be separate, independent, seek to lead against it; they were thieves and robbers. If they were not Messiah, nor sheep, who or what were they? If they did not hear Messiah, they were not sheep. This therefore, that is, His coming and speaking, was the separative point. The works indeed they saw condemnatorily in evidence. But the "voice" is the separative power. This it is the saints, the sheep, hear; the others not. The works are but directed condemnation; it put them into the character of "entereth not," though they might seem hitherto to be "sheep," or led them as shepherds; or rather they were "he that entereth not by the door." They were not sheep, for they did not hear. They were put into the character of "climbeth up some other way," who even does not come to God's place, so that a testimony to the Gentiles would not have done. He must come not merely "to the sheep" but "to the fold of the sheep," and so be subject to scrutinised conformity to God's way, and so come in, etc
151 The sentence negatives all but One, who is exactly the Person, the Messiah, "Shepherd." No matter what other way he comes or gets at the "fold" he is a thief and a robber. For instance, I believe antichrist will more specifically fulfil this than any one else. He, I believe, will come "to the fold" (Jerusalem, the Jewish people), but he will arise in the power of the Gentiles, not in anywise "by the door"; although it was true of our Lord in Person, as He was evincing Himself, or stating the principles of the subject, which showed them defenceless, and made the separation. He rests it on the evidence of His character: "He that entereth in by the door." He is recognised by God. The Spirit of God, the controlling authority of God, opens the door of access into the fold. They took away keys of knowledge, and thought to hinder the Shepherd as an intruder. But there was a Porter, One who had power and title to open, who knew the Shepherd. Whatever they did, and would give Him who was so, Him who met and manifested all the requisitions of the Shepherd, "to him the Porter openeth," the real Porter. Where we really meet, and in proportion as we really meet, the requisitions of God, the Spirit of God will surely open access to the sheep. Others perhaps, for the same reason, because they are not recognised as the porters, will reject. "And the sheep hear his voice." Equally certain is this result. This is a matter of fact, looked at as to them as within the fold. There they hear His voice. The fact is stated as a result as to their position. This is when He comes into the fold speaking.
152 The next point is His personal acting towards the sheep. He came into the fold, and spoke. The effect we have seen in the history of our Lord. Then comes still the certain, real, resulting office: "He calleth his own sheep by name." There is specific appropriation, and He calls them by name, as knowing them. The Shepherd being the doer of it knoweth them that are His. The object is to bring them forth out of it. He enters into the "fold," but it is not the "flock." The sheep in the "fold" hear His voice; then He calleth them by name, and leadeth them forth out of it. The reference of this to the Jews, and our Lord's present position as rejected, is manifest. "He leadeth them forth." He must authoritatively put His sheep forth. His own sheep cannot be allowed to stay there. When He thus casts them out, puts them forth, He goes before them.
The point He brings them to is painful expulsion. It is His doing. He "puts them forth." We are ever fearful of doing this. The Lord has His own way of doing it. "He goeth before them." He was the first rejected of the ekballomenoi, yet it was indeed in one sense His own doing, the necessary result of His moral presenting Himself to the unbelieving body disowning God; and the sheep follow Him, for thus they knew their path. They knew His voice in the fold. When He goes forth it was "He putteth forth." To Him too, though going knowingly forth; they "follow him; for they know his voice." They know it is His voice. They learnt it (through grace) when He spake in the fold. His business with His own sheep is to put them out. This is appropriating: "the sheep follow him" is the character. He knows them personally, "by name." Besides, in His case, they are His own. This is true, properly speaking, of none else. So He says, "Feed my sheep." Though it would seem that in some sort there was appropriate Judaism. He was the apostle of the circumcision. There is generic result afterwards; sheep not put forth, but brought in, but to the same "flock," but the point of the putting forth and following is acquaintance with Him personally by His word: they know His voice. Consequently, a stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him. And here is the safety of the sheep. The voice is the separating power, because it is voice. Those within the fold may call the sheep forth, as though they were the Shepherd; but they have not the voice of the Shepherd. Now, all their defence is in the Shepherd, and therefore when they hear the voice they flee from it, and the effort of the stranger proves but the protection of the sheep. We may note the Shepherd's voice is the security of the sheep, for it implies personal knowledge of Him, and this leads to the knowledge of the Person. It is not the fold, nor where they enter in being thus put forth, but the Shepherd's voice. Consequently others' voice makes them fly, for they have no strength in themselves, and therefore the voice of others alarms them; it is a stranger. All is identified with them with the voice of Jesus. Their distinction is knowing His voice, and following Him.
153 They understood not the parable, though Jesus spoke it to them. Immediately concerned in the things He said, they did not know what the things were about which He was speaking to them. The Lord was speaking about the position in which His sheep were, and into which they were brought. Yet the parable was addressed to them. He told them what He was doing with the sheep. He might have left this untold to them, as those who had slighted, or shut their eyes to, the light, Him as the Light. But here we have not anger. He told them the things, and if understood there was in them that which was calculated to make them very displeased, more than all yet. But they did not know what the things were which He told them. He addressed Himself to them as before: "Verily, verily." Our Lord opened it out therefore farther, addressing Himself still to them: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep."
154 This is a new light in which He puts Himself, but it fills up the other. It is also simple and more decided. They did not understand how He came in by the door, nor what the thing meant. Now He tells them what remains. He had entrance into the fold. The sheep, indeed, heard Him, but none else. Now, He was the door of the sheep, the door out, a door by which they might get out of the fold, when His voice led out. But He was the door generally to the sheep, the appointed way of access. He came in by the door, and therefore was the door. That is, He, and He alone, came in by God's appointed way, and therefore was God's appointed way to others (the sheep). None, indeed, else could come to that door. He was the door of the sheep.
He was the door. Thus far then was the path or the way marked. They were right; assured thus far. This was most important. "To a land that I will shew thee." The "I" was the security, the point of faith; the "shew thee" the promise. So here: "I am the door." Where or what the fold would be was not yet shown. But He was the door of the sheep. As He came in fulfilling the way, He was their way out. Still the Person, and personal care, of the Shepherd was the security, and thus shown.
"All that ever came before me were thieves and robbers." They did not come in by the door; they were robbers of the fold itself; "but the sheep did not hear them." Their character was known by their character. Now, asserting Himself in Person to be the door that the sheep had to do with, the door of the sheep (for on His rejection He would have the sheep forth out of a condemned fold, a fold whose character was exhibited in His rejection), He declares necessarily, "All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers." They are not Him, and He is the door of the sheep, whom God owned. No matter who they were who claimed cognizance of the sheep, that is what they are, for He is the Shepherd, the door: "All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers." But they had none of the sheep, whatever injury they might have done to the fold. The sheep (that is a blessed truth), did not hear them. But besides, He was the door of the sheep; but He was the door: "By me, if any man enter in." Neither is the where yet developed; but Himself (which was the only real security of anything, specially of place or sheep), He was the door. He did not say "out," for the sheep were the real people; it was not to leave the fold. He was the door of the fold itself. Of the "fold" the in and out was in Him. But "in" He does say, because they who were not in this "fold" might hereby come in.
155 Nothing can be more beautifully accurate than our Lord's words here, as we might look for indeed, but accurate in the depth of their moral instruction. But He states it generally. He is centring their thoughts in Himself as the door. "If any man come in by me." For coming in by the door he was no thief nor robber; hence the opening for the Gentiles; for Christ was the door to them in the "fold"; therefore as the door also he that passed by Him recognised God's appointed way. He came in by that which justified his entrance; for Christ [was] the door of the sheep, by whom they must find really entrance. Therefore he who found entrance by the same found the same justification of his conduct, as he who also had no other warrant for his conduct than that He was the door. Therefore he came out. The same had the entering in; he came through Him, the door. Thus the Gentile was fully and co-equally justified, but here as conversant about the door. It is merely "any one": "he shall be saved." That was the point, the distinctive point of entering in. It was not so in the "fold." A man might be there, and not saved; very far from it; quite the opposite. Certainly a mere outer Gentile was not saved. But the first point here is "saved": "by me . . . any one."
Further, we have evidence of the personal care of Christ, and hence liberty. It was not the close system of restrictive Judaism, nor the outer state of unadmitted Gentilism, barred by the middle wall of partition; but being in the Person of Christ they had liberty. They were called unto liberty, because therein is security, and hence fount pasture; wherever Got hat showed the good fields of His food there they went. The Lord Most High, moreover, would lead them there. However, there they might go. It was the order of Christ: "They shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." If it is by Christ we enter in we shall have this. Not having this is not of Christ. All ordinances which do not carry this are not standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ makes free. This is Christ's order. The door was the appointed way. The appointed way is the way to be saved, the way to go in and out, and so find pasture. It is the order of the Spirit. It is, has, its opportunity of feeding (for indeed herein the Lord is that Spirit) and Christ never can be the door to entering into evil. God forbid! Christ, let Him free ever so much, frees for the feeding of green pastures, holiness of truth; and is not, and never was, a cloak of licentiousness. Man and Satan may use anything for that bondage, as well as liberty. It is the liberty of being always led of Christ, free from sin.
156 But at present He is on the salvation and liberty. Its connection with the Person of Christ is, in fact, shown in the next verse. Salvation and liberty we have seen, now life. "The thief" (all else were so), "cometh not, save to steal, and kill, and destroy." It was for himself, not the sheep, he came. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." They were sheep who were alive within the fold, but their life was feeble and restrained. They longed for this liberty of life (so now Messiah, when He comes, shall give it more abundantly, give liberty to them in bondage, glorious liberty to the children of God). The rest were dead, unquickened, along with those who should never hear (His voice). He does not specifically say sheep here; "any one" was the last position we had. He came that they might have life (if alive at all, in expectation of Him), more abundantly, and the dead ones live; for to the sheep only in fact would it be so. The quickening voice was to all; it quickened the sheep alone; and He came to quicken them. Here then the Shepherdhood came in. It was over the quickened ones. Here it had its place.
Our Lord having exhibited Himself in all the previous characters, and now giving life, more abundant life, now constitutes Himself the Shepherd, the Good Shepherd. This is in contrast to the thief. Our Lord was then the Good Shepherd. He was so in Person. He had come that they might have life, and He was their Shepherd when quickened. But He was so when in the flesh: "Of those which thou hast given me I have lost none," etc. When they were quickened, He, the life-giving Lord, was their Shepherd, the sheep's Shepherd. But He was the Good Shepherd in the flesh: "The Good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." They were now brought into contradistinction with the inhabitants of the fold at large (that is, in this chapter), and were in imminent danger. But there was One that stood before them in it. There were others, thieves. He speaks of character; but the grand fulfilment was the antichristian power of Satan.
157 I am inclined to think that this applies rather to Gog, I mean in character. The idol shepherd of Zechariah 11 is, I should think, however, the Antichrist as in his connection with the Jewish people. Compare that prophecy; it is most important. His object was to steal, etc., even as to the fold, which shows (though specifically resulting in the sheep) the generic character of the one there. He could not touch the sheep. He had no life to give. It was the contrast of the object and the existing state; not of the objects of application; though, if followed out, this was in result, as to the life, the sheep only. This would be most fully shown in Antichrist himself. The Good Shepherd was shown in His own trial and difficulty. He laid down His life, His own life, for the sheep (whencesoever though as yet only known amongst the Jews). This is in faithfulness of love adverted to here, not in power of atonement; though it included that. It is the Shepherd, the Good Shepherd; not the Lamb. He was Shepherd when alive, and then laid down His life for the sheep.
Now we have another character, "the hireling"; not the thief (Antichrist, see above), but the hireling. He is not shepherd, but he has the sheep under his care. This is an awful state of things. The sheep are not his. He is there for the gain from the sheep. He acts from this view, not from care for the sheep (see Zechariah 11). The fold is in his power, and the sheep are merely the most helpless part of his prey. Still, it is not the wolf. It is nominally the shepherd, but is not, but is a hireling. "He sees the wolf coming, and fleeth." The nominal shepherdhood of the Church has had this character, not in its devouring, but in its unfaithful character. If they have not been thieves, they have been "hirelings." Caring for the fold is nothing; it is caring for the sheep, because they are His sheep, that marks the true, the Good Shepherd. "Therefore," says Paul also, "therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory." This is the spirit exactly of the Shepherd. The fold He did care for as nominally the sheep; the world He did care for as ostensibly the objects of His love, and so exercised; but not knowing, rejecting, the Father. He, faithful in love, in spite of the rejection of the world, went through all this rejection to the uttermost that He might have the sheep. "I endure all things for the elect's sake" is the spirit just of a Christian. The wolf's care was against the sheep. They were his prey. The hireling cared not for them, and therefore the moment they were in question (not gain) fled. There was no concern with him about the sheep. That was the mark of Christ's soul. "The wolf seizeth them, and scattereth the sheep."
158 It is remarkable that it is not said that he devoureth or destroyeth them. Nor indeed does he. But he does seize and scatter them. But where is the shepherd? Oh! here is the awful state, where the sheep are, through their admixture in the fold, their love of the world, under the hireling. It is a state supposed by the Lord, and these are moral characters, and may be traced. Wherever they can be traced it is an abstract consideration of the moral character from the conduct, without reference to the circumstances where it may be found, and hence the more morally perfect. But he is "a hired servant," and not "shepherd." He that is the one is not the other; morally, I mean. There is this peculiar, and felt too, in the character: "whose own the sheep are not"; felt where the Spirit of Christ is. But the Good Shepherd is behind. Yet rejected, dead, risen though He be into far distant glory, the scattering of the wolf has not hidden them from His eye, or made them strangers to the care of Him who laid down His life for them, be it ever so toilsome. Blessed be His name! He was the Good Shepherd, as living, of the sheep called to know Him. He laid down His life for the sheep. These were hirelings, then and onward, who did not care for the sheep; though, whether among Jews or afterwards, and again among the Jews (in the Lord's absence) over the fold. For this is the order.
Note, he leaves the sheep. He does not necessarily leave the fold; but he leaves the sheep, because they are the objects of the wolf. Nevertheless, the sheep as to the then fold are supposed to be under personal care. Therefore when "the hireling" fleeth they are scattered. This, as we have said, is in the Lord's absence. Nevertheless, meanwhile He is the Good Shepherd, and (though risen and ascended) knows His sheep, and is known of them. Yea, though it were so before, yet it was now hidden; it was in trial, perfectly indeed, still not in the bright view in which we see Him now. Both are perfect, but it is in this character as thus exalted that He says, "I know my sheep, and am known of mine." It is His special characteristic as the exalted Shepherd. They heard His voice. He called them by name (see John 1:42-47), and leadeth them forth. Now as exalted, as the Shepherd, He knows (which is the material point, a point we might be uncertain about), His own, and is known of them; and this in connection with and according to that testimony, divine testimony, of knowledge in which the Father knoweth Him and He knoweth the Father.
159 At first I had thought that this passage ran, "As I know and am known as," etc. That it has an unexpressed association of this kind I believe. Compare the unities mentioned in John 17.
But I think there is something further in it, our Lord acting and presented in and loving as a Man (the representative of God). The world might seem to have a mind, an intention different from the Father. As a Man He did genuinely love the world, and so did God. But He has now introduced Himself in His Christhood, His exaltation after His death, in headship. He speaks of it in the flesh now, because it is always true in His Person. But He is speaking in the Spirit, prophetically (so to speak) thus; and He has full unity [with], though distinction from, the Father's mind. As the Father knows Him, so He knows the Father, and He lays down His life for the sheep. He had the same identity of purpose, and entered into the Father's mind here (whose the sheep were, and who gave them to Him), knew it as the Father knew Him.
This, I think, is included in it, and is a most important point when connected with the love to the world in which He did God's will, who is also love. Unity in knowledge and purpose here, which could only be in equality; or rather, for that supposes separation, identity in union; unity in nature and power afterwards, with the Persons kept distinct in both. The doctrine also is very important. As to the structure of the passage it might run as marked by the asterisk, but you may refer to John 15:9, chapter 17:16. The sheep is the point. They are elect; recognised the sheep. As yet they were recognised only within the Jewish fold, because there only the Shepherd ministered. He was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. There only was the recognition. The Person was always the same. Therefore, in the Holy Ghost, as knowing the Father as known, He could recognise that which could be attributed to the Person (which was His in office).
160 Having now viewed Himself as the Shepherd in His exalted position, He looks at those belonging to Him as thus the exalted Shepherd, confirming I think distinctly the distinct positions of the office and order of the passage as followed here: "And other sheep I have" (of the Gentiles), "who are not of this [Jewish] fold," the "fold" in which He then was: "them also I must" (it was an obligation on Him of His Father, and the dueness of His own love), "bring," not "lead out," as before as to the Jews, or sheep among them at least: "and they shall hear my voice"; it is Christ's voice now, "therefore," "turn away from him that speaketh from heaven"; "and there shall be one" (not aulee, "fold") poimnee, "flock, and one Shepherd," to wit, the Church and Christ.
Thus we have the order and motives of Christ, and the sheep too, in this work of love. But there is another aspect in which it must be viewed as to the act in its own value, therefore estimated simply of the Father as such: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again . . . I lay it down," etc. The perfect submission to the Father's will; the perfect vindication of holiness; the perfect putting of sin in its darkness out of sight by the bright and all-shining light of Christ's work; the perfect vindication of the Father's love; the right estimate of God's character in it; the perfect triumph over evil in it, evil admitted in its full extent as in itself, and the title of God's justice against it as in man; the full giving a way to all the justice, and giving a fully justified door in spite of the accusations of Satan, both perfect ministrations of love to all His saints; fidelity to individual promise, and opportunity of general love, the secure foundation of its sovereign exercise: all these acted out in the voluntary exercise of Christ's love, ever the perfect object of the Father's love and delight. He was the abstract object of His delight. "Therefore"; just the opposite to the Adam of His delight. Also there was no "therefore" in him, save as the work of His (God's) hand. In Christ there is "of myself" (which note).
Note, this includes the resurrection; for therein is the thing which shows its value. There was a "therefore" for grief and (so to speak) shame to God; but resurrection, Christ, was not merely good, but met this, wholly setting it aside. Without death there would have been no resurrection. Resurrection is not simply what is good. Without resurrection death was merely the power of Satan and of evil as from God, marred in honour in the imposition of curse in the works of His own hands. See Moses' argument: "Wherefore should the Egyptians say?" But it was not merely the fact but the mind in which He did it: therefore, "Therefore doth my Father love me." It was the bona fide giving of His life; as a Man, too, sensible of death. This was wondrous faith, perfect obedience, perfect honouring of God. It was the giving of life now, but it was in the knowledge of value, and that He might have it. So He trusted, as Abraham of old [to] receive it again. The union of living, done in Himself, yet in obedience, is very marked. Both were necessary to make it perfect. "I lay it down of myself; no one takes it from me." Not man, he dare not; not God, He could do no such thing. Yet did He in one sense treating Him as a sinner, and man in another sense treating Him also (strange to speak) as a sinner; both, as to the suffering of it; neither, as to the will by which He died: "I have authority to lay it down, and authority to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father."
161 When a person's will is to suffer he can do in obedience. Both were here directly united, that there might be a "therefore"; as they were disunited, or the opposite united, in the first: by one, disobedience, sin and death; by the other, obedience, righteousness, resurrection. The union of the Lord's act and His obedience ("though he were a Son") is here very simple and definite in its statement. It is needful also to remark here the importance of the introduction of this in this place. As the Good Shepherd He laid down His life in love for the sheep. There was the specialty of love, His own love for them; but the value of His work was universal, it was intrinsic; it was; by this the sheep were led to rejoice in it, that they were led to every right thought, that they were led to the divine mind, one mind with the Father, even in the intrinsic excellence of Christ's death. It is a wonderful sentence, "Therefore," etc., and most mighty; and in His simple glory (as a unity of mind) shows the exaltation of the Son in the point of His humiliation Surely well may we wonder at this marvellous mystery of the incarnation. As the Father "therefore" so the Spirit witnesses of this in all its power, for in this they are all glorified, God is glorified. Of this they speak, the Son never, that is, of His glory in it; but He did it, and His work speaketh, and is spoken of, and so shall be till there be no need to speak of it more. Its glory shall be and is unto everlasting, as from it. It is the glory of God in time.
162 One need make no remark on that which follows as to the people's thoughts, but we should do well to compare diligently their sayings with what passed from the Lord's lips preceding. Note, it was "among the Jews"; and note the rejection of the words, the reference of others negatively to the word and also to this work, which was introduced before as the occasion of rejection of work as well as word. It arose, observe, from it. This closed the question as a question of dispensation. The privileges of the sheep were the thing then to be brought out.
Our Lord took the ordinary opportunity of intercourse. He walked about in Solomon's porch, and He was there in the way of intercourse. The Jews had in fact rejected the Lord upon full evidence. They then, with the consciousness that they were going wrong, gather round Him, saying, How long do you distract our minds, deprive us of our ease of mind? "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly"; we wish to be set at ease about it. They felt they were astray.
Our Lord referred to the ground on which He already stood. "I told you, and ye believe not. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me." You will observe the introduction of the pronoun "I": "I do in my Father's name"; for it is very important here as characteristic of the Son, and demonstrative of His Person. Elsewhere He says, "The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." But He and His Father are one. In Matthew, where the Messiahship was to be established, the Lord says, "If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come amongst you." For the fulness of the Spirit of the Lord resting upon Him was the truth of the Messiahship. Thus, while we find the Person of Jesus celebrated, we find that "it pleased that in him should all fulness dwell"; "in him dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." And while the Person of the Son was manifested in "I," the inseparable glory and presence of the Trinity was manifested in the Man Jesus here. Oh! here is rest and fulness by the teaching and communion of that Spirit. The works, though done in His Father's name (for that was His Sonship), witnessed of Him; done in His own name, they would have witnessed nothing. Done in His Father's name they witnessed "concerning me," this Sonship and glory in that character. "But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep." The distinction was now fully made. It was now to be acted out: When ye have closed the door upon yourselves, "My sheep hear my voice." I have nothing to tell you more than I have; but "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me."
163 Then comes the portion of the sheep, as their generic character had been fully stated. This is the full, sure result. The previous part had been conversant with dispensation: whence the sheep came, how they were gathered, taken out or brought in, the manner and effects of the hireling's conduct as to present (formal) estate, the external, official circumstances; though the attractive principles were stated. Then the death of the Lord, its special love, and its intrinsic character and value, the basis of the whole matter, having been stated (this we have not fully spoken of as we would), and the principle of the sheep having been stated ("I know them, and they follow me") as such, their actual Christ-given portion, their proper portion in His hand as belonging to Him in the purpose of God, is stated: He gives life, eternal life. Christ, the Shepherd, is the lifegiver, eternal life. See this everywhere in the rest of John. Hence two most important points: "they shall never perish," He keeps them for the glory (see elsewhere an enquiry into aionion, eternal, eis ton aiona, for ever); "and none shall pluck them out of my hand."
The life they receive is eternal life. They shall not perish, and they are in perfect protection, His hand. This was the fact in His Shepherdhood as the risen Man, in which He exercised it. He spoke in the Spirit as to the truth, being the Son of God; but He does not lose sight of His humbled Sonship, yet His glory herein: "My Father, which gave them to me." They are the concern as given "to me," the Man Jesus, of the Father's. own purpose; an almighty secret about the sheep. They are Christ's sheep. In Him they get all the benefits He has spoken of, all their portion in Him; and as such in the actual enjoyment of the blessings in Him, and in Him alone, as His simply and rightfully, and Himself given for them. But there was indeed a great secret between Him and His Father, here stated: "The Father who gave to me" (not them alone, but the whole work, plan, counsel, and glory) "is greater than all," aye, or all things, "and no man can" (no man shall, was the point or fact He had stated before), "no man can pluck them out of my Father's hand." This was the prerogative title, whatever might be in the administration of catching or scattering as to man's responsibility (the shepherd below).
164 Then comes that which constitutes the essential value of the Shepherdhood of Christ: "I and my Father are one." And thus we have Christ in His Shepherdhood traced up from His simple obedience to the Father, entering in by the door, implicit though willing acquiescence in every prescribed circumstance, as the subject Man to truth, the Servant, up to His unity with the Father, through the whole course of the necessities of love which the position and care of the sheep imposed upon Him in the faithfulness of love, up to the security which He rejoiced His love could afford the sheep, in spite of all difficulties, all opposition, in His own essential unity with the Father. Earthly shepherdhood might fail, and would, and the wolf seize and scatter them. But no man could seize out of His Father's hand, with whom He was one; and He would give them eternal life. He would do this, in spite of all, for His sheep. The former showed the failure of all Church order, but the infallibility of Christ's personal care, because He was one with the Father as well as one with the sheep, and the security of these, simply and all through. The perfect security, as contrasted with all fallible systems, is the Person of Christ, from His obedience ("though he were a Son") to His essential unity with the Father, which we have seen so frequently brought out as the great theme of this gospel, here as and applying it to the Shepherd of the sheep.
The giving His life is twice mentioned (vv. 11, 15); both as the acts of the Good Shepherd, but one is the act of faithfulness to them in the danger (as John 13:1); the other is the knowledge of exalted purpose according to the Father's knowledge of Him and His of the Father. One is the character of the Good Shepherd, "layeth down"; the other is "I know," etc., I lay down My life for the sheep, as such. Note also, in verses 28 and 29 we have distinctly the personal Shepherdhood of Christ's care: "I give," "My hand"; then the abstract super-eminence of the Father's power: The Father who gave - is greater than all things, and no one of all these things could pluck out of My Father's hand. There is no "them." It is the abstract excellency of the power.
165 - 30. Christ is the perfect manifestation to us of the glory of the invisible God. "He hath declared him." He is the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express Image of His Person. But this we lose all (not to rest on controversial proofs) by the Arian false doctrine. The end of our souls is to know the Father. Him no eye hath seen or can see. None hath seen the Father, but the Son. But if the Son reveal not the Father to us, where shall we find Him, or how come to Him? But if He be inferior or subordinate in His nature how can He in His Person show us the Father, or how in seeing Him can we have seen the Father? It stops short therefore of the whole end and purpose of God's counsels and our hopes, it deprives us of that centre of the whole mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh. Take this away, and what have we but dark alienation, infinite, from the fountain of life and light? Here His unity with the Father is brought before us in respect of His preserving His people in the unchangeable security of His own power.
In chapter 5:17-19 He declares His working in the power of and unity with the Father, appealing at the same time to the works for evidence. In chapter 14:7-11 He declares His unity with the Father in respect of His manifestation of personal glory. The eternity of His nature is stated in chapter 8: "Before Abraham was," etc.
- 31. "The Jews again took up stones to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shown you of my Father; for which work of them do ye stone me? The Jews answered, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and that thou, being a man, makest thyself God." In very deed that He is so is our hope.
We have stated that this chapter is a continuation of the former, and here accordingly the Lord refers again, having gone through the circumstances of the sheep, to the "many good works.": We have, then, in the eighth chapter the words, the testimony which closes with the testimony of full truth, what indeed they were, but what He was. Then we have the works; but on their failing (being the final external testimony), the effectual agency of His union with the Father is developed in the real purpose of it, both in knowledge and result, in the perfect security of the sheep in spite of all this failing and evil in all the rest, or opposition and enmity connected with it. Hence the transition passage of reasoning with the Pharisees. Then (showing that He had indeed fulfilled everything so as to condemn and set aside all else), His sheep heard His voice, His testimony, the first thing. Rejected Gentiles also would be brought in by the voice of the risen Shepherd, for that was atonement. And then came the effectual arm of power, which would keep them, which had indeed wrought among them, but was rejected; and upon the assertion of His unity with the Father, not simply what He was in Himself, shown specially in this of the sheep, whether in submission, knowing Him and His mind, or in the exercise of the care. The sheep drew it all out (compare John 17 in the unity spoken of). The connection is most important (which note), and their taking up stones to stone Him. He resumes the general evidence of this to them: "Many good works." So upon the same works He says, as before quoted, "Now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father." As to the former, "If I had not come and spoken among them, they had not had sin." For this was speaking from God, and He was as much God as the Father, and more especially the Word. Therefore He says, changing the language, "But the Father which dwelleth in me, he doeth the works." They were to the same purport; but there was a distinction of revelation in them. So, in the eighth chapter, of the word. It was "I AM," "I and my Father are one"; and here accordingly the sheep come in. This is all of great importance.
166 Let us further dwell on the conversation which followed from our Lord with the Jews. What comfort to have Scripture to refer to, to love as the word of God, of Christ, receiving it as true, searching us, and revealing all that is in God, the Lord and Saviour, the supply for the necessities as the remedy for the sins thereby brought to light! Our Lord was here applying Himself to them. I seek here merely to know what this reveals; this is the true way of reading the word. He had left the special revelation of Himself as concerning the sheep, and was now reasoning with them, not as concerning them. That had failed, and He had showed the sheep as taking their place in the care of God, but as condemning them out of their own mouth, as it were: "Is it not written in your law" (not the law of God) "in your law: I have said, Ye are gods? If therefore He called them gods with whom the word of God was." This may be spoken of all power that is of the word of God, by which all things consist, which was indeed in Christ, but more particularly of those (the Jews) who knew or having the oracles were peculiarly cognizant of its being from God; yet, I say, true everywhere, for God is true; that is, rulers who held power of the word. - "And the Scripture cannot be broken." For He does not explain, but state. "Do ye say of him whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am Son of God?"
167 Note. This quotation of the elohim shows, I think, that it applies to Jews properly, for the judges there are expressly in the law called elohim, and hence the rebuke of our Lord is most powerful. "What the law saith, it saith to," etc., though it ought to be true of all. It also shows the import of that word elohim in the law, and how foolish the dispute between judges and God, for it is the calling judges "gods" because they stood as sent in God's place and acted God in their office. We know that all power is of God, and ought to be exercised in His righteousness. This eighty-second Psalm judges them. Compare Psalm 101.
I feel the holy and faithful force of that word, "No man knoweth who the Son is but the Father"; nevertheless, all the things that are revealed about Him, and with the Father, is our life and joy, to know Him, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. This is the point stated and rested on here; for we must ever remember that Jesus speaking is speaking in the flesh; it is the Man Jesus speaking, though often He may say things which are true only because He is withal God.
He speaks to them therefore merely as unbelievers of Himself as sent, marked, and separated, as the Man Jesus, and sent to the world. There He was so to be known, for He is the Sanctified One. We know Him as such in the flesh No man knows the Father but the believer. Here at once we know the subordination of the Son taking office and Manhood, in the covenant of redemption, whereby, and whereby alone, we know the Father (being "in form of God," He did all this humbling Himself, being first shown indeed as Jehovah of hosts in the old dispensation); yet know Him as one with the Father, which is our inscrutable blessing and joy, for we have fellowship so, by one Spirit: with, etc. But Him the Father hath set forth to be known of the world, and borne witness by His works that His words are true, that He is the Son of God. But the point of faith by the operation of the Spirit is to know the Son, Him to be the Son of God; and thereby and therein we know the Father also, for "he that hath the Son hath the Father also." So Paul: "When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, immediately," etc.
168 I would take notice here, not intruding above that which is written, into what I observe in Scripture as to the manner of stating this in John 1. I find the truth concerning our Lord stated simply and fully to our blessing. The recognition of the Father and the Son comes in on faith, and known by the incarnation, can behold His glory, etc. So in verse 18, the declaration of the Father. And this He is to faith; for faith, and faith alone, recognises Jesus to be the Son of God. Again, all through the third chapter, to the close, we have the great heads of doctrine declared simply and revealingly; the lifting up by necessity the Son of Man; the freeness of the love: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son," to the same purpose, "that whosoever believeth in him," etc. "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world," etc. Then, verse 33, we have, after "he that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true," even His that came from heaven, after speaking of the unmeasuredness of the Spirit in him (Jesus), so "the Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand." This is a doctrine within faith, etc., the comfort and the glory of hope to those who have known and believed on the Son.
All previously we have God giving, God sending; but when we know Him whom He hath sent we thereby know the Father and the Son. We shall find this gradually and beautifully developed in the opening of this gospel, and in the practical and blessed order in which it reaches us, while the truth of who the Word was is set first, lest it might seem subordinate; that is, intrinsically. Hence we find, after the third chapter, the Lord, when speaking in His own Person directly, says ever, My Father, or the Father, which sent Me. When He speaks of the Son of Man, then He says, "God the Father sealed." The close of the third of John is of John the baptist, in speaking of their position (that is, the Jews, not believers): constantly, "God"; for they knew not Him nor the Father. In the seventh the Father is not spoken of, for it is not the point there spoken of. But here, the works being done in His Father's name (for otherwise He must have set up His own glory), He here speaks of the Father, and "the Father sent": "If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not."
169 His words were not simply His Father's words; therefore He says "God's words," though He heard them with the Father; but the glory of Sonship He claimed in His works, the evidence of what He was from the Father, showing in faith that the Father was in Him, yet not simply dwelling in Him as a Man, but He in the Father also: alike "The Father in me, and I in him.?" This is a blessed sentence. Doing them in His Father's name, He could (while He therein gave all the glory to the Father as righteous in the world) take it as nothing less in evidence than that He was the Son, so Son as that the Father dwelt in Him, and He in the Father. This is a glorious truth. It is, then, as the object of faith, as doing works in the world, as manifested by works amongst men, or known as the Son by His word in faith (being taught of the Father), that He is spoken of as from the Father, sent, sanctified by the Father, as here, and as in 1 John 4:14. In Galatians 4:4 we have the public fact of faith again: "God sent forth his Son," having His existence, being, as so sent, "come." So the law, in its institution in the world on Mount Sinai, "began with glory."
This is the great subject of faith; so when thus instituted (if I may so speak of His being manifested in the world), He was "come under law," showing remarkably how Son is the name of the Person (which is the great due of the whole), not of His nature, whether as Man or as God); for it is quite clear that it was Christ who gave the law on Mount Sinai; but now, "come of woman," He, the same Jesus Jehovah, was "come under law"; a glorious and blessed subjection and truth, magnifying the law in its excellence indeed, and identifying it with the mind of God marvellously. But the joy and glory of faith to a believer is not that as the subject of faith, but therein knowing the Father and the Son. This is the real life and joy and glory, as the apostle says: "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ"; and this is the portion of the sons, because they have the Spirit of the Son in their hearts, dwelling in them? by which they know the Father, and know His love to them, as to Jesus, and have fellowship with the Son; also being one with Him by the same Spirit as the link of communication in His thus becoming flesh, and knitting the body to Himself, and know their unity in the knowledge of the unity of the Father and the Son, who, if they be not so - then does the Church not know its unity; for it is "as we," "as in us," "as thou in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us." And this the Spirit of God, in all His characters, brings them, in vital blessings and life, partakers of the divine nature, into the fulness of.
170 This was the closing point of faith, finished here as to intercourse with the people on ample and conclusive evidence. The evidence of the Son is in the Father's works: "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham." Our Lord submits Himself to the same evidence: "If I do not the works of my Father," whether in power or love, "good works," "believe me not. But if I do"; how but that I am so; if I do, the evidence is complete: "if ye believe not me, believe the works, that ye may know"; of which they are demonstrative evidence in unity of thought, purpose, design, glory, their character in every respect, everything which exhibited that the Father dwelt in Him, and He in the Father. Still it was faith to perceive the glorious truth, which can be perceived only in communion.
"They sought therefore to take him, but he escaped out of their hands." This certainly closed the direct testimony of ministry between Jesus and the Jews. It is not that He did not speak to them afterwards as to dispensation towards them, for He did, as in Matthew 22 and 23, etc. But as to moral testimony, on which that fate was founded in present rejection, this closed it, and the sheep were distinguished. All that then followed was the national rejection, and the calling a people to give fruit in due season. What follows was a vindication of the glory of the rejected Son of God (who quickened whom He would), and the Father's always hearing Him, and the great truth of the resurrection now eminently necessary. Hence, having been rejected in this the point of faith, the Son of God, the central name, as we have seen, of faith, we find this vindicated in the following chapter, as against those who rejected Him in it, in the raising of Lazarus, as we shall see. Then in the twelfth our Lord's headship as King of the Jews, then the gathering of the peoples, the headship of the Gentiles. But to this His death, we learn, was needful. This is the scene of the glory of the rejected Messiah. His ministerial offices (for His people) follow in the following chapters. But we will, please God, enquire and look into them when we arrive at them. Now merely I consider the dependent order of the chapters on what we have considered.
171 - 40-42. Thus the Lord left them; and the scene being, as we have now seen, closed, He returns as it were to the original testimony with which He set out on His toilsome but love-ministered and love-ministering journey. "All things that John said of this man were true." True they surely were, and John bore the best testimony to his own truth, however, in bearing witness, loving, faith - hearted witness, to His glory and Person and work; in a word, all his forerunning message. How long does the faithful testimony of a faithful, rejected witness last and bear fruit, when he perhaps little thought or dreamt of it! The Lord returns to that when all His works and word, wonderful as they were, had been rejected and passed by; "and many believed on him there."
Happy John! rejected as he was; and every word and work our Lord did was testimony to and the seal of his glory. What he spake, Jesus did, and made every word which was his office and glory true. His testimony became effectual in its fulfilment, and the thing fulfilled strengthened in evidence to men, "and many believed on him there." This is remarkable. It shows the work of God going [on] during (in spite of) His rejection.