Reference: John 10:27-29
From last week’s post: “There exists a clear relationship with the believers belonging to him. “My sheep… I know them.'”
An eternal plan
This unique relationship, in which Jesus speaks of “his sheep,” does not actualize when they come to faith. Instead, it’s a relationship which has been determined by God the Father in eternity. Before you were ever born, God claimed you as His own.
Earlier in this chapter, when Jesus speaks of knowing his sheep and laying down his life for them, he continues: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16 ESV).
Jesus speaks of other sheep as his, given him by the Father — not only those who have already come to faith, who are in the fold. He speaks of some who are still dead in sin and blind to salvation who do not yet know him. But Jesus knows who they are, and he must bring them in. Specifically, notice that he refers to them as his sheep.
For sheep to belong, for sheep to be granted salvation, there must exist an eternal plan of salvation in the mind of God. Specifically, it is the Father who plans salvation.
Thus far, all we have covered regarding the “comfort of the gospel” is the revelation from God that the Father has from eternity determined to save a specific people and to accomplish that through Christ the Son, and to open and to keep open the eyes of faith by the Holy Spirit.
Now why is this important, in terms of preservation? Because the sovereign God who determined in eternity to send His Son to pay for our sins and to redeem His sheep does not say, “Well, I have done my part. Now it’s up to you, the sheep, whether you will stay in the fold or leave again.”
If that were the case, God would ultimately be depending on you to make His plan of salvation succeed or fail. Any biblical concept of God teaches us that He does not fail at anything. He is absolutely sovereign, and Jesus makes very clear not one will be lost.
Perseverance means, simply, the God of salvation is absolutely effective in accomplishing what He determined to do. He does not fail.
Specific in application
One of the things I love so much about the Heidelberg Catechism is the personal nature of the language: I belong to my faithful Savior, who now “so preserves me.” It reflects the clear message of the Good Shepherd. Jesus does not simply say, “I will always have sheep; the flock will exist.” His words are personal: “My sheep will not perish… not one will be snatched away.”
Jesus makes a specific promise to you, the believer, that he will not allow anyone to take you away from him. That is a very personal application to the believer about what he has promised.
So this concept of being preserved is according to what God determined in eternity.
According to the calling of the Shepherd
We face the question, how does it become real? To preserve something, you usually have to do something to it, whether you use the freezer or a pressure cooker. How does God go about preserving you, His sheep?
You see, it is not just that Jesus says, “I have saved you, and that’s all.” No. He keeps you as a faithful believer.
When the Good Shepherd speaks his message, his sheep hear his voice. The verses emphasize hearing the word of God. The Shepherd finds the sheep and provides the means by which they join the flock. The prophet Ezekiel, in chap. 34, speaks about the shepherd going out and finding the sheep and bringing them in. Rom. 10:14 refers to hearing Jesus in the preaching of the word.
The basis for the calling
Notice, when Jesus says He speaks and the sheep hear his voice, he has a very specific purpose in mind. Being heard does not just mean the sound of his voice reaches your ears. Look at verse 28 and the pointed goal, “I give them eternal life.” Not just life, but life without end, eternal. It’s a specific promise: they shall “never perish.” Finally, there is a promise to protect. No one can thwart this purpose. It is by the message spoken and heard.
The Apostle Peter in I Peter 1:4 speaks of “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.”
The voice or calling by Jesus is similar to a shepherd calling his sheep. They come because he has something for them. Yet when Jesus calls, we don’t just decide it is so inviting that we will go for it. We answer the call because Christ, through the Holy Spirit, enables us to hear it and is working a response within our hearts.
The effect of the calling
Notice the connection between the call and hearing. Those he calls can hear because he knows them; they belong to him. His calling is not wishful thinking or an idle hoping someone will respond. It is not like in the parable of the sower where the seed is thrown all over and there is one response. That parable references the church proclaiming the call.
The call of the Shepherd is an effectual call. That is the only way in which it can be understood in light of all he says here. Christ’s work is absolutely effective.
Jesus makes an important statement before he says “My sheep hear my voice.” The Pharisees were challenging him, and asked, “Are you the Christ? Just tell us.” Now, they are obviously speaking to each other. The problem is not that Jesus was silent. He had been saying all along who he is. But consider verse 26. Jesus says, “Here is the problem. This is the reason you do not hear me… because you are not of my sheep.”
The “hearing” we are speaking about here is much, much more than simply physical hearing. So when Jesus says, “my sheep hear my voice and follow me,” he is saying, “I open up their ears, I change their hearts through my words; they follow me because I have worked in them, and I have done that because they are mine, given to me by the Father.”
Thus when we speak of preservation, let us understand the basis for perseverance: Jesus’ work of salvation is to save unto eternal life His people. The call of Christ is a lasting call. Salvation is by Christ; faithfulness unto eternal life is by Christ.
Blog post content taken from a sermon series delivered by Dr. Maynard Koerner, President and Professor of Ministerial Studies at Heidelberg Theological Seminary.