Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

The Parable of the Good Shepherd

by Doyle D. Dewberry

Message: The Parable of the Good Shepherd
Date: pdated 1/18/2003
Text: John 10:11

I am the good shepherd. The first activity of man after his creation was the picture of a shepherd, Abel dying at the hand of his brother. So Christ was crucified at the hands of His brethren. Abel, a keeper of sheep, typifies the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus being acceptable to God the Father. It was said that we have come to Jesus .. the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel (Heb 12:24).

Our message is about The Good Shepherd, as Jesus refers to Himself in verse 11, 15. I should like to set forth this message in three phases. The metaphor of Shepherd and Sheep, speak of our Lord Jesus, and His people. It is limiting, as not all are His Sheep.


This chapter begins by defining the false shepherd. He enters not by the door but seeks another way. He is likened to a thief and a robber. The true shepherd enters by the door, and the porter opens the door for him. The sheep hears the shepherd's voice when he calls them out by name. The shepherd leads his sheep out and goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. The sheep will not follow a stranger but will flee from him because they do not know the stranger's voice.

Those to whom Jesus was speaking did not understand the parable. Who are the them mentioned in verse 6? The context shows (John 9:40, John 10:19) that Jesus was speaking of the Pharisees.


Jesus informs his hearers that He is the door - all others are false shepherds. I believe He is the door because He controls the porter who obeys the shepherd in the opening of the door. The sheep do not hear the false shepherds, they are thieves and robbers. Only the sheep that enter by the door are saved, and go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. The True Shepherd is come to give life, and that more abundantly.

The hireling scatters the sheep because he flees at the first sign of danger, and the wolf catches the sheep and they are scattered. The hireling flees because he is an hireling, and cares not for the sheep.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep and they know Him. Jesus as the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He has other sheep He must bring into the fold, and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd. He indicates the Father loves Him because He lays down His life for the sheep. His is a voluntarily giving of Himself as no man takes His life. He lays it down Himself, and He is able to take it again. This commandment was from the Father.

Most Reformed understand the Sheep as the elect of God, and it is for them He died. However, there are some who hold that Jesus died for all, but since not all could believe, He chose a select number out of all mankind. What is wrong with such a view? It makes God a changeable God, and a God without the ability to discern man and his problem of inability, and thus make consessions to make it possible for him to have a people. It would clearly make election conditional which the Bible does not teach. Jacob was chosen before he was ever born, before he had wrought any good, and it so that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth (Rom 9:11). Our text tells us Jesus gave His life for the sheep! It is contradictory to claim Jesus died for His sheep, and also to hold He died for every man


A. The Inability of the Sheep:

You have to understand the nature of sheep. The sheep have no ability to care for themselves. Unlike other foraging animals which can range for their sustenance, sheep need a shepherd to lead them to green pastures. Sheep are one of the most unintelligent of animals. They need constant care and watching which the shepherd affords. They need protection as they are not fighting animals, and are easy prey for ravaging beasts. They say sheep can become so frightened they can die from fright. It is a humbling but accurate description of God's people when considering salvation. WE NEED A SHEPHERD.

At one time I farmed in the Sacramento Valley. We would lease out harvested land to shepherds so their sheep could clean up the fields. They would eat the vegetation right down to the grown. They had to be watched constantly and the shepherd was with them night and day. On one occasion, a big ewe had fallen over on her back and could not get to her feet. The shepherd had to assist her to her feet. Spiritually we are as helpless as sheep

On another occasion, sometime during the night, one of the sheep had been trying to get to the grass through a wire fence. She had to twist her neck sideways to get her head throught the oblong opening in the wire fence. After she ate the grass, she could not get her head back through the fence because she did not know enough to twist her neck to the side again. She stayed in that condition all night. In her effort to free herself, she had dug a trench with her feet, she was so distraught. All she had to do was cant the head to one side and her head would slip out easily. The next morning the shepherd freed her, and he said if she had stayed there much longer she would have given up and died from fear and frustration. Does it not speak of our inability as natural man in discerning spiritual things?

B. The Sheep Represent Those Who Are the Chosen People of the Lord:

The sheep are His people. Like the first David who was sent to the fields to tend the sheep by his father, so the Second David was sent by the Father as the Shepherd of the sheep he was given. (John 17). They are a particular people the Lord is seeking and saving. The sheep do not do the chosing, but the Father the sheep, and they are placed under the Shepherd's loving and tender care. They were given to Him in the covenant of grace and their names are written in the book of life.

In Luke 15 we have the Parable of the Lost Sheep. It gives a look behind the scenes at true evangelism in the world. The shepherd is seeking his sheep that was lost. The lost sheep was his, it was just lost. The shepherd was not just seeking any sheep, but his lost sheep. No other sheep would do. The shepherd is persistent in his searching until he finds his sheep. And when he finds it, he lays it across his shoulder and returns it to the fold, rejoicing, calling on his friends to rejoice with him. The only way we are returned to the fold is on the shoulders of our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus.

C. The Shepherd Gives His Life For The Sheep:

I am the good shepherd .. and I lay down my life for the sheep. I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again (vs 14-15, 17-18).

This statement limits the atonement to His sheep only. The scriptures do not teach that Jesus died for every individual as the context of this chapter tells us. There were some in the midst who were not sheep, and thus He did not die for them. He told some of Jews in John 10:26, Ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep. What He did not say was, "Ye are not my sheep because ye believe not", but what He did say was, ye believe not because ye are not of my sheep. The truth of particular redemption is one of the best documented doctrines in Holy Writ. It speaks of the great love wherewith the Lord loved His people. We are told by the Lord Himself,

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life FOR HIS FRIENDS (John 15:13).

I have heard many sermons on Christ sending the apostles to the house of Israel. Were they to go to every individual in the house of Israel? What did Jesus say, and to whom were the apostles sent? He sent them to the lost sheep OF the house of Israel (Matt 10:5-7). Not all the people in that nation were sheep. (John 10:26).

D. The Effectual Call Is Seen:

The shepherd names the sheep and we are told in verse 3 that He calleth them out by name. Jesus said He had other sheep, and them He must also bring, and they shall hear His voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (v 16). These are they who are the called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). Whom he did predestinate, them He also called, and whom he called, them He also justified (Rom 8:30). Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (Phil 5:24).

After Paul writes that God hath from the beginning chosen His people unto salvation, he adds, Whereunto he called you by our gospel to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess 2:13-14). God has saved us and called us with an holy calling (2 Tim 1:9).

Peter said, But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you OUT OF DARKNESS into his marvellous light (1 Pet 2:9). And after Paul tells us that God has called His people unto His kingdom and glory, he adds, For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (1 Thess 2:13)

E. The Sheep are Eternally Secure Under the Shepherd's Care (v 27-29).

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father's hand (John 10:27-29).

How do God's people persevere?

1. He that hath begun the work in you will continue it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6).

2. We are kept by the power of God (1 Pet 1:5).

3. By the fruit produced in us by the Spirit of God (Gal 5:22). Let us see that faith is produced in us as fruit on fruit tree. Love, joy, peace ... and faith.

4. God working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil 2:13).

5. Jesus praying for us that our faith fail not (Luke 22:32).

6. Jesus our High Priest praying for the Father to keep us (John 17:11).

7. Our God is able to keep us from falling (Jude 24).

Think of this! The sheep do not have free will. They do will their own birth! And, they are made willing to do the will of the shepherd. Man does not have the ability to will into Christ as He does not have the ability to will out, as the Armenians claim. Free will is a contradiction if one believes in eternal security. For if you have the will to will in, you also have the will to will out! This is an Arminian doctrine, not a Bible one! Jesus said, Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (John 15:16).

As sheep do not have anything to do with their birth, so man does not believe and then is born from above. It is just the opposite. We are born from above and then we believe. (John 1:11-13). Of his own will begat he us (James 1:18).

As the sheep depended upon the shepherd, so we. Jesus said, Without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5).

Every believer today who has been saved by the sovereign, free grace of God, having been given the gift of faith, knows the Shepherd, and rejoices in His gracious salvation. They know He died for them as Peter said, (Jesus)..his own self bare OUR SINS in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls (1 Peter 2:24-25).

Setting Forth The Doctrines of Grace In Salvation. Doyle Dewberry, formerly of Alameda, California, is an outstanding student of the Bible and a retired Baptist Pastor and author of The Sovereign Grace Baptist Proclaimer. He can be reached by email at sovereigngrace at 5star-living.com.

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