How the Bible Belt Confuses Christ and Culture

The Good Shepherd’s Voluntary Sacrifice for the Sheep

This is the third and final post leading to Good Friday, April 6th.

Consider John 10:11-21

11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.   12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 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. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

In vv. 7-10, we see that Jesus will provide protection and provision for His sheep.  But how?  The means by which Jesus the Good Shepherd/Door will give protection and provision to His sheep … the way in which Jesus will rescue them from God’s wrath and restore them to God’s glory … is by voluntarily laying down his life for His sheep.

To help the Pharisees (and us!) see this, notice that Jesus draws a contrast between Himself and a “hired hand.”  A hired hand, when faced with a wolf attacking the sheepfold, takes off.  They’re not his sheep, so he’s not about to lay down his life for them.  The people of the community can’t pay him enough to voluntarily lay down his life for other people’s sheep.  By contrast, look again at vv. 14-15.  14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And as v. 18 further clarifies, this sacrifice (and subsequent resurrection) is voluntary18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Let us focus on vv. 11, 15, 17, and 18 and the nature of the sacrifice, given our proximity to Good Friday.

From this passage we derive four truths about the death of Jesus on the cross.

  1. That it is voluntary (vv. 17-18)
  2. That it is substitutionary (as opposed to merely exemplary) (vv. 11, 15)
  3. That it is intentional (vv. 18, authority/charge). (Acts 2:22-24).
  4. That it is specific (vv. 11, 15).

Number four is typically controversial in Southern Baptist circles.  Yet Jesus and the Bible could not be more clear: in the same way that both God’s sovereignty in election and human responsibility are both true and taught by the Bible, both the global and particular aspects of Jesus’ atonement are also taught in Scripture.  Interestingly, John the Evangelist goes to great lengths to affirm both that Jesus is the Savior of the World AND that He also has laid His life down particularly for His sheep.

 

Global/Human Responsibility Particular/Election
John 1:29 – “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 10:15 – “I lay down my life for the sheep.”
John 4:42 – “They said to the woman, “‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” John 17:1-2 – “… Glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”
1 John 2:2 – “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Ephesians 5:25 – “Husband, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

One of the reasons I am a Southern Baptist is because our statement of faith does an excellent job at affirming these antinomies.

  • Regarding the sovereignty of God – His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures.
  • Regarding election – Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
  • Regarding atonement – Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.

We must rejoice in the voluntary sacrifice of the Good Shepherd for the sheep.  His death is not merely a moral example for sheep to admire, but a death given to sheep who were in real danger, facing the Father’s wrath.  And his sacrifice was not wasted, but accomplished salvation for the sheep.

2 Responses to “The Good Shepherd’s Voluntary Sacrifice for the Sheep”

  1. laodeciapress

    Good post! For the most part I agree; however, do you think that the ‘world’ John refers to in those verses could mean people from every nation, tribe, and tongue as opposed to every single person in the world?

    If ‘world’ is meant to mean every single person, wouldn’t theses verses teach that everyone is saved from the wrath of God?

    • robertltjr

      John’s use of “world” is certainly a matter of debate, and I agree that in many cases, his point is “gentiles.” Nevertheless, I think it’s most helpful (and is honorable to the text) to teach these as antinomies in order to avoid the kind of fatalism that people often see in these doctrines.

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