AGREEABLY to the request of brother Robbins, on another page, we will offer some remarks upon that part of our Lord’s parable embraced in the passage proposed for consideration, viz.: “But he that entereth in by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep; to him the porter openeth, and he calleth his own sheep by name and leadeth them out.” In perfect harmony with predictions going before, Jesus “Opened his mouth in parables, and uttered dark sayings;” and while unto his disciples it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, unto them that are without, all these things were uttered in parables, for without a parable he spake not to them. This course was well adapted to the execution of the design of God, whose pleasure it is to hide these things from the wise and prudent and reveal them unto babes. The wisdom and prudence of men would rather dictate the opposite course, and instead of purposely concealing the things of the Spirit from the understanding of the great and learned, the wise and the noble, it would seek by moral suasion, lucid argument, conclusive demonstration, &c., to persuade men of influence and talent to embrace the gospel. Had our blessed Redeemer intended to court the favor or applause of those who move in the higher circles of human society, he might have used human policy, and adapted his discourse to their taste and capacity, as the worldly taught preachers of our age do; but then their faith would stand in the wisdom of this world, and not in the power of God. – 1 Cor. ii. 5.
God’s peculiar people are in various parts of the scriptures called sheep; and this figurative appellation is given them as the children of God, in distinction from the rest of mankind, who are designated goats. “All we like sheep have gone astray,” says the prophet, Isa. liii. 6, “and the Lord has laid on him (Christ) the iniquity of us all.” Of these strayed sheep. the same prophet has said, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom.” – Isa. xl. 2. And the inspired psalmist says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” – Psalm. xxiii. 1. And in connection with the parable under consideration, Christ announces himself the good Shepherd, that layeth down his life for the sheep. Hence we have the testimony of Christ himself that the redeemed, or those for whom he died, are his sheep; that they were not only sheep, but they were his sheep, before they went astray, and that they were the objects for whom alone he laid down his life. Much might be said on the appropriateness of the figure, but to trace its analogy would swell our article to too great an extent. In the course of this chapter Christ speaks of two distinct sheep-folds: the one is that into which he as the Shepherd of Israel has entered by the door for the purpose of bringing out his own sheep and the other, that into which he will fold all his redeemed when there shall be but one fold and one shepherd. The carnal tribes of the family of Abraham, under their legal covenant, were a fold in which many of the sheep which he came to redeem were4held in bondage. “For this Agar is Mt. Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.” – Gal. iv. 25, 26. The son differeth nothing from the servant until the time appointed of the Father. And this was evidently the case with those “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” which Christ the Shepherd came to seek and to save. He for this purpose entered into the fold where they were confined, by the door, for the purpose of effecting their emancipation; and as the anti-type of Cyrus, of whom it was written, “Thus saith the Lord thy Redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; that confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited, and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof; that saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up all thy rivers; that saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure; even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundations shall be laid. Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates, and the gates shall riot be shut: I will go before thee arid make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron,” &c. – Isa. xliv. 24-28, and xlv. 1, 2.
As in the execution of the word of the Lord, Cyrus acted as the Lord’s chosen shepherd iii delivering his captive people from their bondage, and in leading them out of Babylon, and in the re-establishment of Jerusalem, and in the building of the second temple, which was more glorious than the first, he was evidently Sb far a type of Christ: even so God has proclaimed his Son as his Shepherd, arid the man that is his fellow. – Zech. xiii. 7. As God went before Cyrus to break in pieces the gates of brass, arid cut in sunder the bars of iron, and to open before him the two-leaved gates which were closed upon captive Israel, so the right hand of Christ in the deliverance of his people from the wrath and condemnation of the law, was upheld by the omnipotence of his eternal power and Godhead. Cyrus entered Babylon by the gates, and the palace of Belshazar by the door; for God had said unto the deep, Be dry, and the proud waters had retreated from their accustomed channel, and the army of Cyrus entered the city under the walls, and the guard or porter opened the gates of the city to him; and according to the word of the Lord these gates could not be again closed against God’s redeemed people. “But he that entereth in by the door is the Shepherd of the sheep.” Christ in entering the fold, or place of his children’s captivity, may be considered as having entered by the door, in reference to the prophecies going before. He came as it was written of him in the volume of the book, to do the will of God. “A body,” said he, “hast thou prepared me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sins thou hast had no pleasure.” “Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first that he may establish the second.” – Heb. x. 5, 6. Secondly, he came in by the door to the place where his sheep were folded, when he was made of a woman, made under the law; for it was a carnal or fleshly covenant that his sheep of that fold were under; “The children being partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren; that he might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” – Heb. ii. 14-17. The captivity and bondage of God s people was in the relation in which they stood to Adam. “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men unto condemnation,” &c. – Rom. 5. 18. And the Jewish covenant embraced a carnal or fleshly people, related to Abraham by being born in his house or bought with his money, and their covenant contained also carnal ordinances and a worldly sanctuary. – Heb. ix. 1. To effect their deliverance from that bondage, to emancipate them from that fold and from that government, he must needs be made flesh and dwell among them, he must be made like them in all points, and yet be without sin; and although like them in point of humanity, yet holy, harmless and separate from sinners.
“For he who could for sin atone,
Must have no blemish of his own.”
Although he had no sin, he was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God through him.
3d. He entered by the door, agreeably to his explanation of the door of his sheep-fold. “I am the door,” he says, and by himself he has fulfilled the law, cancelled its demands, borne its penalty, suffered the vials of almighty wrath, poured out his soul unto death, descended into the grave, encountered the king of terrors on his own dominions, despoiled hint of his sting, and the grave of victory. “Not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” – Heb. ix. 12. He had power to lay down his life, and power to take it up again, so that by himself he was able to enter. This was a new way, a living way of entrance, and the Shepherd who entered by the door is himself the way, and no man can come unto God but by him.
To him the porter openeth. If, by the law, his captive sheep were held in the prison-house Of death, Divine Justice was the porter who kept the door. No bribe could tempt him, no pity move him; he was inexorable. But to Jesus even this inflexible porter opened, and without expense, for Jesus met his full demands, and Justice asked no more. The brazen gates of death were unsealed; the massy bars of death were cut in sunder.
To him the porter has not only opened the door of death, and the grave, but he has opened to him the portals of immortal glory. Not only have the gates of death been opened to receive hi as the ransom of his people, but they have been opened to deliver him up, for it was impossible that he should be holden of death. Having done and suffered all that law could demand, or justice could inflict, he has now entered into the inner court of the temple by his own blood. He has commanded, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in! Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty; the Lord mighty in battle.” – Psalm xxiv. 8, 9.
But again: In the testimony of the Son of God, (1 John 5. 6) we are informed that Christ came by water and blood; not by water only, but by water and blood; and it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.
We have shown in the foregoing remarks, that Jesus by his own blood has entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us, and by reference to Matt. iii. and last clause of the fifteenth verse, where the porter opened the door to Christ in regard to this witness. When Jesus came into the sheep-fold, or palace*, the Spirit, in bodily shape like a clove, designated him as the Son of God. And lo, a voice from heaven was heard, saying, “This is my be loved Son in whom I am well pleased.” This Baptist porter opened the watery door to the Shepherd of the sheep, because “Thus it became them to fulfill all righteousness.”
And the sheep hear his voice. As he had promised by the mouth of the prophet, “I will cause my glorious voice to be heard, and will shew the letting down of my arm,” &c. He has verified the promise not only in causing his voice to be uttered, but he causeth it to be heard, by giving ears to the deaf, and life to the dead. “The hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and they that hear shall live.” – John 5. 22. Although dead in trespasses and sins, he gives unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand. But by the sheep hearing his voice we are under stand something more than to hear what he says; they give the same evidence that they hear his voice, that sheep do when they are called by their shepherd, they follow him. The voice of Jesus as the Shepherd and Bishop of souls is sounded in the gospel, and all the sheep recognize the gospel as the well-known voice of Jesus; but others believe not, because they are not his sheep, as he said unto them.
And he calleth his own sheep by name. He has their names all written in his book of life from the foundation of the world, and the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. He is therefore at a loss in calling them. He knew among the Jews who were the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and he knows equally well all his sheep among the Gentiles, which were not of the Jewish fold. He is not liable to the mistake which the arminians charge on him, of calling some that are not his own and endeavoring to make them his own; and of frequently failing in the enterprise. He says, “I know my sheep and am known of mine;” and he also knows who are not of his sheep: “For whom he did foreknow them he also did predestinate to be conformed to his image, that he might be the Firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom he did predestinate them he also called,” (he calleth them by name, and he makes them hear and understand and obey him) “and whom he called them he also justified; and whom he justified them he also glorified.” He calls them with an holy calling, not according to their works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given them in Christ Jesus before the world began. – 2 Tim. i. 9. If he should call them ineffectually, that would not be a holy calling; for a calling that is holy cannot be defective – must secure the design of him who calls. His calls are not general, as arminians assert, but special and particular, addressed to his own sheep, and these he calls by name, that there may be nothing indefinite in the vocation.
And leadeth them out. Christ was not only anointed to preach good tidings unto the meek, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison doors to them that were bound, but also to bring his prisoners out of their prison houses. The porter having opened the door to him as the Shepherd and Leader of his people, he leadeth them out. In order to lead them out it was necessary that he should go into the prison house where they were: this he did when he was made under the law, and when he descended into the chambers of death. But his was an errand of mercy, and by death he destroyed him that had the power of death, which is the devil; and wrought deliverance for them who were all their lifetime subject to bondage. He leads in the fulfillment of all righteousness, in a perfect obedience to all the requisitions of the law of God. None had ever preceded him in this work. But going before he leads his people after him, in bringing them up to the utmost demands of the law, for he is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. He leads them out from the guilt and consequence of sin: being made sin for them, and having put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, he has brought life and immortality to light, and leads them out of their state of sin and death, into life and immortality. This is fully demonstrated in his triumphant resurrection from the dead. He became the First Fruits of them that slept, and now holds in his hands the keys of hell and death. He giveth unto his sheep eternal life, and the assurance that they shall never perish. He leads them out from condemnation and into a state of justification – taking the lead in this also, for bearing the sins of his people he was numbered with the transgressors, and condemned by the law but having satisfied that law, he that was manifested in the flesh, and put to death in the flesh, was quickened and justified in the Spirit, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, and received up into glory.
We have observed that Christ in coming into the Jewish fold, where he was sent unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel, was made flesh, made under the law, of the stock of Abraham, of the tribe of Judah, and of the lineage of David; was circumcised, and became a debtor to the whole law, and in this body which was made of a woman he was put to death. The law could pursue him no farther. When, therefore, he arose from the dead, instead of returning to that same relation to the legal covenant, to the carnal family of Abraham, tribe of Judah, &c., he was in his resurrection manifested as the Son of God with power. And although he had been known, in these respects, after the flesh, yet we shall know him no more after the flesh.
“No more the cruel spear,
The cross and nails no more;
For death itself shakes at his name,
And all the heavens adore.”
As the Forerunner of his people he has passed into the most holy place: “For Christ has not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” – Heb. ix. 24. In all this transition from death to life, from legal bondage to liberty, Christ is the Leader of his people and must be followed by them. Having removed the o1d tabernacle which was made with hands, and set up the true tabernacle which God has pitched and not man, and having abolished death, and nailed the hand-writing of ordinances which were against us to his cross, abolished the enmity, even the law of commandments, he has taken his seat upon the throne of his glory, and led the way for all his redeemed to follow him, and they shall all return and come with singing unto Zion, and sorrowing and sighing shall flee away.
“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which lie hath consecrated for us, through the vail, that is to say his flesh, and having an high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, for he is faithful that promises; and let us consider one another, to provoke unto love and to good works.” – Heb. x. 19-24.
* The Greek term from which in our version is translated sheep-fold, may also be rendered palace.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
July 1, 1843
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 283 – 292