By Eddie K. Garrett, II
As we read and study the Scripture, we come across the analogy of people said to be, metaphorically, like sheep. To most, this characterization is quite simple, plain, and obvious in its scope and application. Yet, to the Calvinistic system relative to their soteriological premise which states God's arbitrary and unconditional decree in election of certain particular individuals before the foundation of the world to be saved, and others not elected damned to eternal hell; that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world to die and redeem only those particular chosen vessels.
Since this is their soteriological and Christological foundation, it stands to reason that when they come to a verse of Scripture that on the surface clearly implies God's love for all mankind (i.e. "world," "whole world," "everyman," "all men," etc.), their faulty premise, as stated above, is then ultimately challenged. One must remember, as with all humanly-devised "doctrines of men" that it is the declaration of God's Word which in fact is authoritively challenging their theological theory.
When Calvinists come to these passages that read as such, they immediately have to find ingenuous ways to make the "whole of mankind" to represent only those favored chosen ones often referred to as God's elect. The word "world" then is not to be understood in its normal obvious way of all humanity, but to represent the elect only. The same with the universality of passages that use these synonyms throughout the scriptures.
This is inevitably what is done to the figurative expression (Hebrew idiom) referred to as "SHEEP." This expression largely is used in the Old Testament and in the New Testament gospels (Jewish nation). Upon careful study of this usage, we find it expressed in two distinct ways. One in reference to all of Israel as a whole, and the other, contrasted in favor personally to a specific portion of the whole.
For example, it is used to express the whole: I Kings 22:17:
"And he said, I saw ALL OF ISRAEL scattered upon the hills, AS SHEEP that have not a shepherd. And the Lord said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace."
We find the exact same language when Jesus went teaching in all the cities and villages among the people of Israel:
"But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, AS SHEEP having no shepherd" (Matt. 9:36).
Here the term "SHEEP" is being used as before in the OT referring strictly to the Jewish nation as a whole. Not just a select group out of Israel, but all of Israel. We find in the next chapter that after Jesus had, seeing all the people of Israel as sheep without a shepherd, He sent forth His disciples and commissioned them to:
"Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the LOST SHEEP of the house of Israel." (Matt. 10:5&6).
Once again, the Calvinist' try to make this "LOST SHEEP" a specific particular people, "less than all" of the totality of Israel. But clearly, Jesus is telling them to go to all of the people, not just a part of the whole. Jesus considered the nation as a whole, lost sheep. He was using the same terminology as the OT prophets and writers.
"All we (Israel) like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6).
The Bible teaches us that God promised He would send a Deliverer (Messiah) into the world to be the Saviour of the world of which He purposed to send to Israel first. This was the promise given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus:
"Came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1:11).
Not only did Jesus use the analogy of the children of Israel AS SHEEP without a shepherd, but He also viewed the Gentiles as such as well.
"And other sheep I have (Gentiles), which are not of this fold (Jewish); them I also must bring (the gospel message) and they shall hear my voice (His Word); and there shall be one fold (Jews and Gentiles combined), and one shepherd (one Lord)."
As one can readily see, Jesus viewed all humanity as LOST SHEEP in His characterization. This was His reason and purpose in coming into the world:
"For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10).
"If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47).
There is but yet another way in which Jesus used the term "sheep." He added the element of personal "POSSESSION" (i.e. My sheep, His own sheep, etc.). In His usage of "sheep" with reference to all Israel and all humanity (whole world), Jews and Gentiles, He used it strictly as "DESCRIPTIVE" (i.e. as sheep, like sheep, etc.) without a shepherd. Yet, He also used it as showing possession of which He was to some, (God's faithful believers) their personal shepherd. We can see this distinction in John chapter 10, in which Jesus says:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth HIS OWN SHEEP (implying there are sheep that are not His) by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth HIS OWN SHEEP (implying there are sheep that are not His own), he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice." (John 10:ff).
Clearly Jesus is telling us that all mankind are AS SHEEP, yet, those that believe in obedience have accepted Him as their shepherd (Saviour) and thus become HIS OWN SHEEP in a special sense. For one to understand John 10 more clearly, it would be helpful to inform the readers of some historical cultural factors relative to these passages.
In Jesus' day, the poor shepherds who had not a considerable large flock and herd got together before the winter and would put their coins together to rent a large covered fenced-in corral to keep their flocks for the cold winter. They would hire a porter to keep watch at the gate for protection against thieves and robbers. Everyday the shepherd would come to the corral and call out HIS SHEEP by name. And only his sheep would respond to his voice because they knew their masters voice. The porter would open the gate and the shepherd would lead HIS SHEEP out to pasture for the day. It should be noted that there were other sheep in the corral that were not his. Yet, all were still sheep.
Jesus goes on in chapter 10 to display the sheep which have Him as their personal shepherd. He tells the others (non-believing Jews) in verses 26-28:
"But ye believe not, because ye are not of MY SHEEP (showing no possession in personal relationship), as I said unto you. MY SHEEP (implying there are other sheep) hear my voice (believe His Word & testimony), and I know them (personally in relationship), and they follow me (obey): And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
It is obvious that the Lord is using figurative language to teach us a truth. There are the sheep which He uses as DESCRIPTIVE of the whole, and those sheep out of the whole as describing having personal POSSESSION (His elect).
For the Calvinist, he has to make both types of "SHEEP" into one type for his doctrine to stand. His doctrine will not allow for a universal type of sheep. His doctrine only permits the one type which shows personal possession. Yet, the exegesis of these passages, thus stated, clearly implies and shows the universality of all mankind as sheep.
It is a hard place for the Calvinist when his theory goes against the plain, simple, and apparent meaning. Instead of changing his doctrine to square up with God's Word, he feels at liberty rather to change God's own Word to fit his fallacious pre-suppositional premises. Those that feel the liberty to do this are certainly not being guided by the Spirit of God. For He is the Spirit of Truth and not error. The only other spirit that would pull such shenanigans is the spirit of Satan (the father of lies). One can only wonder where is that "fear of God" these Calvinists claim to possess.
Lastly, we want to say something about the "sheep and the goats" as described in Matthew chapter 25. This is often cited by Calvinists to prove that there are ONLY either the SHEEP or the GOATS.
Once again, this is trying to limit and restrict the Lord in being able to use characterizations to teach a fundamental truth. Jesus' giving an analogy of the Final Judgment, says in verses 31-33:
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, AS A shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left."
Notice that Jesus said that He would "separate them AS A shepherd divideth His sheep from the goats." Jesus is using figurative expressions here. No where else in all the passages we have cited, nor any other passages that I'm aware of, does Jesus use the term "goats" for the wicked in His sheep analogies. The term "goats" MUST be kept in this particular context in which the Lord gave it. We are not at liberty to take an expression of our Lord and apply it wherever we chose to do so. This expression is only used in this particular reference and that of the Final Judgment. The Calvinist' make far too much from this one time usage (of goats), and feel at liberty to use it wherever it is needed to support their theory. We cannot play fast and loose with God's Word, otherwise we make the scriptures say and mean just any ol' thing we want it to. Yet, in all sincerity that does not, and will not make it the God's honest truth.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Eddie K. Garrett, II for the article! ]
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