The Good Shepherd
October 15th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
The Good Shepherd
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-15-67 7:30 p.m.
And you who listen on the radio, you would be surprised at how many people are at church tonight in this great auditorium in the First Baptist Church in Dallas; we are here because we want to come – rather be here than anywhere else in the world, looking at God’s Book, listening to God’s message. It is entitled The Good Shepherd.
As you know on Sunday night, every Sunday night, the pastor preaches a sermon from the life of our Lord. We are going through the life of Jesus, step at a time. It is so slowly progressing that you have no sense of movement in it, but that is what we are doing every Sunday night; taking the life of our Lord, one incident after another. Now tonight, the message is from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, and if you listen on the radio you are invited to turn with us in God’s Book to the Fourth Gospel, to the Gospel of John, chapter 10, and we shall read the first 10 verses together out loud. You on the radio get your Bible and read it out loud with us, and you share your Bible with your neighbor here and all of us read it out loud together. John chapter 10, the first ten verses. Now together:
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 by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which He spake unto them.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before Me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
And the whole chapter follows that beautiful and gracious order: The Good Shepherd.
Some of you have been to Palestine, and if you have at all looked at any section of the country, you are very cognizant of the sheepfolds that are found most everywhere. Now the flocks are very small and the sheepfolds are very small; they are made out of stone piled up in a fence. And into every one of those little sheepfolds where the flock is gathered at night, where it is carefully watched over, is a door. And that is the first thing that our Lord says in this parable of the good shepherd, the door into the sheepfold, "he that entereth in by the door" [John 10:2]; and again, "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" [John 10:9]. "I am the door of the sheep" [John 10:7].
There are not half a dozen ways out of our sin and out of our misery. There’s not a half a dozen ways for us to be saved. There is one way, just one. There is one door into the fold, there’s one door into the kingdom, there’s one door for us to enter heaven; just one door, and Jesus is that door. "Verily, truly, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep" [John 10:7]. And how many times will you find that emphasized in the words of our Lord? "I am hē hodos kai hē aletheia kai hē zoe – I am the way" not a way, "I am the way"; "I am the truth" – hē alethea – "I am the truth," not a truth, "I am the truth"; "I am the life" – hē zoe – not a life, not a way of life, "I am the life" [John 14:6]. There is no eternal life outside of our Lord. A man will never know the truth outside of Jesus, and he will never find the way apart from our Savior; "I am the door."
How many doors were in the ark, which is a type of Christ, and which is a type of our salvation? In the judgment of God upon the antediluvians [Genesis 6:5-8], when the Lord destroyed man from off of the face of the earth [Genesis 7:17-24] but he saved righteous Noah and righteous Noah’s family, how many doors were in that ark? There was one door and only one! [Genesis 6:16]. And that is that chorus that I used to teach these children when I was a teenager and I led the music, and I preached the sermons, and I taught the Sunday school class, and I taught the Training Union. I didn’t have anybody leading the prayers, I prayed all the prayers. I did all the visiting, I did everything, and that was the best job you ever saw any church doing good in your life! I did it all. I did it all.
I taught all those juniors, and I always had a junior band, and I taught those juniors a chorus: "One door and only one, and yet the sides are two; I’m on the inside, on which side are you?" [Dutch Reformed Sunday-school song] Now wasn’t that classical? I don’t know what operatic work that was taken from, but it is a great chorus, and it’s God’s message. "One door and only one, yet the sides are two; I’m on the inside, on which side are you?" Come in and be saved, come in and love the Lord with us: one door, just one.
And in that one door into the ark lumbered the great elephant; he came in that one door. And in that one door, a little snail crawled in – I would have left him out, but that one snail crawled in. In that one door, the great eagle swooped out of the blue of the sky and entered in; and in that one door, the little wren hopped in. In that one door Noah entered and his wife; Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives [Genesis 7:7-9]. There is one door into God’s sheepfold: "I am that door" [John 10:9]; we are saved in Jesus our Lord.
Then He says, "I am the good shepherd: and the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep" [John 10:11]. And He repeats it again in the fourteenth verse, "I am the good shepherd" [John 10:14]. Then as He describes His tender care for us, He says, "I know My sheep by name, I call them by name, and they know Me [John 10:3, 14] – I am known of mine" [John 10:3, 27]. Then He says, "They hear My voice and they follow, Me and a stranger will they not follow: for they know not the voice of a stranger" [John 10:3-5]. Now that’s a marvelous passage.
Now look at it carefully. You won’t get the thought of what the Lord is saying when you think of the sheep industry in our modern day. Today, men follow the herd business, the sheep business, the flock business as they do the other businesses. It’s an investment, it’s an enterprise. You could invest in it like you can invest in any other kind of stock; you can also invest in livestock, and today we are conditioned to that kind of marketing procedure. Here is a man, and he is the foreman over a vast ranch, and he will have hundreds of thousands of acres in that ranch, and he will have thousands and thousands of sheep; and to him they are just marketable, that’s all. They are just instruments of investment and money and they raise them by the thousands and they market them by the thousands and the investment is in terms of the thousands. Now that’s the way that we live today.
It is altogether different, altogether different in the life of the shepherd who lived in the day of our Lord. Oh, how different! For in that day, the shepherd lived with his little flock, a little flock. And he named every one of those sheep. And every one of those sheep had its own personality, and its own idiosyncrasies, and its own self. And the shepherd lived with them by day and by night. And in those vast, lonely solitudes, in those interminable deserts around and beyond Palestine in the Sinaitic Peninsula in Northern Arabia, oh, how very much was the life of the shepherd identified with his sheep; Moses on the back side of the desert with a little flock [Exodus 3:1], or David out with his father’s sheep, challenging a lion and a bear, preserving the flock [1 Samuel 17:34-37]. And he knew them intimately, and they were close together. Now it’s that kind of a shepherd, with tender care, with every sweet and heavenly remembrance, it’s that kind of a shepherd that our Lord says He is. Then He says that "I know My sheep, and they know Me, and they hear My voice and they follow Me" [John 10:27].
Did you know I am told – I didn’t see this over there, I wish I could have but I didn’t have the opportunity – I am told that in Palestine and in those Arabic peninsulas and deserts that three shepherds, three shepherds or more, but three shepherds could meet and their flocks all inter-commingle, and when time comes for one of those shepherds to leave, that he could raise his voice and speak and all of the sheep that know him and that follow him will disassociate themselves from all the rest of the flock and follow him; isn’t that a remarkable thing? And the shepherd, out in the blazing Syrian sun – seeking water, seeking food, seeking pasture – before wild animals, before mountain torrents, before the driving rain, always identified with his flock. And they know him and he knows them and calls them by name [John 10:3, 14].
Then that leads me to what the Lord says about a stranger. Down here in the passage, He calls that stranger "an hireling," – a hireling and not the shepherd, who owns the sheep or not:
seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is a hirling, and careth not for the sheep,but the good shepherd, He lays down His life for His sheep.
Think of that for a moment with me: how many strangers are there and how many hirelings are there who bid us follow them? I have never in history ever seen any phenomenon like the bedlam of voices that call to us today, "You follow me and I will lead you into life, and into pasture, into joy and happiness and pleasure, every good thing." Ah, what people, and what things they say!
Everybody now tries to approach life scientifically, so we have these pseudo-scientists, and they approach life with great erudition and learning. So we have these philosophers, and they are men of the books, and they made great researching, and they have studied, and they have found what it is that can bring us into these marvelous rewards that await those who listen to their voice. And what things they say!
For example, this week, either in the newspaper, on the radio, or in groups talking – in this one week alone I have heard these things. One: the way for us to find happiness and solution in our liquor problem is to teach all the children to drink. "Oh, the children are to be taught to drink in their homes, and the drinking age is to be lowered." My soul in heaven! They arrested one thousand teenagers Friday night here in Dallas. If they lowered the age, I don’t know what in the world we’d have here in Dallas on any Friday night. But that’s the scientific approach to it that I have been reading about this week. And we’re to solve our liquor problem by flooding it into our homes and with our children! What an amazing way to sobriety.
All right, another thing this week, we are to legalize the sale of "dopa." And that’s not out here just where these dope-heads are, this is in the area of our great scholastic institutions, and it is to be openly sold and openly condoned. Listen to me! We have a scientist who has said that the peddling of dope has no ultimate repercussions in life at all, and of course as is with liquor – if it is available – why, the people will not touch it or indulge in it. So the suggestion is made on the basis of great learnedness that we ought to license and peddle and sell dope. Ah, what a marvelous and interesting suggestion!
Then of course, all these things that belong to the sex revolution, and this week one of those articles I read, for a man to bind himself to purity with his wife would be unthinkable! What he needs is trial. And in trial, and in experience, why, he can find a life’s companion that will be companionate and uh, every wise, Well I’ve been casting word after word out of my mind, just how would you say that? That a fellow tries and tries and then finally finds somebody that suits him, now what is the word for that? Why, you just can’t imagine! You can’t imagine! These voices that say, "Come and follow me, and I will show you the path into happiness – the great summum bonum for which life was made."
All right, another world; this very week there was described to me a lecture in one of our great religious institutions. Now were this in a communist university in Moscow, I would think nothing about it at all, or were this in some infidel institution that scoffed and mocked at the religious faith, I would think nothing about it at all; but this is in one of our great Christian universities! The professor this week was teaching and he said the first eleven chapters of Genesis are myth. And he compared them and paralleled them with the myths of Greek story, lore, mythology. Then when he got through toward the end of the lecture, he said, "And for the benefit of you students who are here today listening to me, I would also like to say to you that just as the first eleven chapters of Genesis are myths, I would also like to say to you that the stories of the resurrection of Christ are myths and that the story of the ascension of Christ is a myth. It came out of hallucination."
And then to cap it all, in our daily newspapers – and if you read any of them, here is this learned doctor of philology, and of all those Semitic languages, and he says:
I have read and studied the Dead Sea scrolls ever since they were discovered and I have found that the roots of Christianity – I have discovered, in the drugs, the hallucinatory drugs that the community of Essenes took in the days when Christ lived. Out of those fantasies of drug addiction, and out of those hallucinations of the medicines that they took came the Christian faith.
Now I’m not parroting what madmen are saying, I’m not repeating in this pulpit what fools are saying, I am voicing what the learned and the pseudoscientists are saying in this day, and in this time, and in our generation. What a voice, "Come and follow me and I will lead you into the life abundant."
Aren’t you glad? Aren’t you glad that Jesus says, "But My sheep will not follow the voice of a stranger" [John 10:5]. Never, never; they fool lots of people, and they delude lots of students, and they cast lives on the rock, and they lead others into frustration and infidelity and unbelief and rejection, but not God’s own. "My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me, and a stranger will they not follow, but flee from him" [John 10:3-5].
Did you know – and I am speaking out of the years of the experience of my life; did you know if a man is born again, if he is a real Christian, a fellow can stand up in the pulpit, and within five words almost, the born again Christian can tell, can know, can intuitively sense whether the man up there in the pulpit is a man of God or a false prophet? They can do it immediately, just like that. You just sense it, you just feel it. God’s sheep hear and know and follow the voice of the Lord [John 10:27]. But a stranger, when he stands up, immediately they will sense, they’ll feel that this man is not God’s messenger; he’s a hireling, he’s a pseudopreacher – he’s a false ambassador from the court of heaven. Aren’t you glad all of this bedlam of voices will not deceive God’s people? Never, never, God has given us an intuitive hearing on the inside of our souls and when the true Shepherd speaks through one of His undershepherds, God’s people know and rejoice. And when a false undershepherd speaks, God’s people, God’s people intuitively and instantly know it.
Now I want to conclude. "The good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep" [John 10:11]. Then He repeats it:
Therefore doth My Father love Me because I lay down My life, 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. This have I received from God the Father.
Does that mean that the death of Jesus was a suicide? "I have power to lay it down; I lay down My life for My sheep." Does that mean that Jesus’ death was a suicide? "No man taketh it from Me, I am not killed by any man, but I lay down My life of Myself, I do it" [John 10:17]. Does that mean He is a suicide? No, what it means is that Jesus could have withdrawn, He could have refused to die for us, He could have.
When Simon Peter drew out that sword and [he was] right-handed and tried to cut off the head of that servant of the high priest, Malchus, Malchus ducked, and he cut off his ear, his right ear [John 18:10]. You can just see him duck away from that sword as Simon Peter brought it down; he meant not to cut off his ear, he meant to cut off his head. And the Lord turned to him and said, "Simon, put up that sword. If I were to ask, there would be seventy-two thousand angels here to fight, to protect, to stand by Me" [Matthew 26:51-53].
When we had the Lord’s Supper the last time I pointed out to you that one angel, one angel over the army of Sennacherib, one angel that night passing over left one hundred eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian army corpses dead, dead, dead – one angel [Isaiah 37:36]. And the Lord said, "If I were just to ask, seventy-two thousand angels," [Matthew 26:53]. Oh! what He did, He voluntarily did, and no man took His life from Him, even on the cross He bowed His head and gave up the ghost and gave up His spirit [John 19:30]. "Weep not," in the fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation, "Weep not, for the Lion of the tribe of Judah has prevailed to open the seals thereof. And I looked, and behold a Lamb as it had been dying, slain," crucified [Revelation 5:5-6]. "I lay down My life for these sheep" [John 10:15]. This was a voluntary immolation on the part of our Lord; He gave Himself for us.
Most of you young people do not even remember the Second World War; I lived through it, every syllable of it. I was pastor at Muskogee in that war; we had an enormous camp there. I came to be pastor of this church in Dallas in the midst of that war; all those cruel and merciless days. I don’t know of a more moving – maybe it is a melodramatically moving – I don’t know of a more moving story than this one that I have heard in the days of that cruel and merciless war
There was a mother who went down to the dock to see the ship come in and to welcome her son back home. After everybody had been taken off the ship, they began to roll down the gangplank some of those American boys who were greatly hurt, wounded – amputees. So as that mother stood there and watched those men wheeled down, she found her son and she ran up to him and said to him, "Son, look, look, here is your dear old mother son, look on your old mother!" And the boy replied, "Mother, I can’t see you, my eyes are gone." She said then, "Son, can you stand up and greet your old mother?" And he replied, "No, Mother, my feet are gone." She knelt down by his side and said, "Well then, son, just put your arms around your dear old mother!" And the boy replied, "But Mother, I can’t, my arms are gone." And the mother burst into a lament and said, "Oh son, this terrible war, you’ve lost your eyes, and you’ve lost your feet, and you’ve lost your arms!" And the boy proudly sat up the straighter in his wheelchair, and said, "No, Mother, no. I gave them away. I gave them away."
Jesus laid down His life for us. He gave Himself for us [John 10:11, 17; Galatians 2:20], and it is that response in our souls: this did He do for me. O God, with how much, with how much of love and appreciation and devotion and thanksgiving and praise do we return glory unto Thee. "Unto Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, unto Him be dominion and power and glory, world without end, forever and ever, amen and amen" [Revelations 1:5-6]. That’s the song we shall sing in heaven, "This did the Lord do for us!"
"I lay down My life for you" [John 10:15-17].
We are going to sing our hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, to put your life in the church, come and stand by me. "Here I am, pastor, I make it tonight." What a glorious night to come, what a blessed night to stand here before men and angels; confess your faith and your love and your thanksgiving to the Lord Jesus. "Lord, wash me that I might be clean: give me a new heart, a new hope, a new vision, a new life. Master, I come to Thee, forgive me, save me, keep me forever." And God will do it. What He has done for others, He will do for you. In a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming. In the balcony round, on this lower floor, make the decision for Jesus now and when we stand, you stand up coming. Do it now, make it tonight, come now, while we stand and while we sing.