We have a choice whether we would like to be a God’s sheep or not, and we also have a choice whether we would like to remain his sheep to the very end. At no point do we lose our free will. Let’s see what the Bible says about sheep.
Joshua was supposed to be like a shepherd to israel, but we know that despite of this important task directly from God, all israel did not obey Joshua or God’s commandments:
Numbers 27:14For ye rebelled against My commandment in the Desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify Me at the water before their eyes.” (That is, the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin.) 15And Moses spoke unto the LORD, saying, 16″Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17who may go out before them and who may go in before them and who may lead them out and who may bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” 18And the LORD said unto Moses, ”Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; 19and set him before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and give him a charge in their sight. 20And thou shalt put some of thine honor upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.
Despite of being God’s sheep, israel could cause God to anger due to their rebellion, and they were told to not harden their hearts. We can read that God was GRIEVED when they provoced him, tempted him and erred in their own hearts. We all make God grieve when we walk our own ways instead of his way.
Psalm 74:1 O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?
Psalm 95:6O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. 7For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, 8Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: 9When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. 10Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: 11Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.
We can read also in Isaiah that God has reasons to be angry and to show his wrath against a wicked people, who show much evil, arrogancy, pride and haughtiness – totally against his will. Sheep are compared with people who walk their own ways. Sheep often go astray but that is never the purpose of the shepherd. The shepherd would prefer that his sheep were always close by to pay attention to him and obey him.
Isaiah 13:11And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. 12I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. 13Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. 14And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.
Isaiah 53:6 All we 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.
Matthew 26:31 Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
Jeremiah tells us about God’s people – his sheep israel – who unfortunately have been scattered due to false shepherds who have caused them to go astray. They have turned away and forgotten their restingplace. There is always a risk that ”wolves in sheep’s clothing” can cause sheep to go astray, and sometimes these wolves don’t even need sheep’s clothing to cause people to err. The risk of being lost applies even if the sheep belong to God himself. God is powerful enough to ”keep” his sheep, and God could easily cause all sheep (people) in the whole world to be his for good, but that would interfere with our free will which God prefers that we have. WE are responsible for making sure to abide to the true shepherd, and we are warned about false pastors which could cause us to go astray if we are not on our guard.
Jeremiah 23:1 Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.
Jeremiah 50:6 My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.
Jeremiah 50:17 Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon hath broken his bones.
Ezekiel makes an interesting prophesy about shepherds (and God’s own shepherds!) who have not been doing their job to take care of the sheep as God expects them to do, but instead they have kept feeding themselves. Ezekiel lists several things which these shepherds have failed to do, with the result that the sheep have become prey and scattered all over the earth. But God promises to step in sometime in the future, and take over. God will JUDGE the shepherds, because they have acted against God’s will and they are responsible for their neglect to take care of the flock. God will also judge between the flock itself, because not only are shepherds responsible for taking care of their sheep, but the sheep are responsible for listening to the shepherds.
Ezekiel 34:2—Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. 7Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 8As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 10Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. —16I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment. 17And as for you, O my flock, thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he goats. 18Seemeth it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, but ye must tread down with your feet the residue of your pastures? and to have drunk of the deep waters, but ye must foul the residue with your feet? 19And as for my flock, they eat that which ye have trodden with your feet; and they drink that which ye have fouled with your feet. 20Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.21Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad
Jesus tells his disciples that he will be sending them as sheep among wolves, and warns them therefore that they must be wise. They are warned they must beware of men, because they could certainly interfere and harm them. Jesus tells his own believing disciples that they will be hated for his name’s sake but he that endures to the end shall be saved. Jesus didn’t give his sheep fake and meaningless warnings but in Matt 10:16–22 he explains to his disciples that they must be on their guard because of a real danger that lies ahead of them. If they don’t stay strong, they risk going astray and become lost. This is the opposite from saying ”you will be safe no matter what because you’re my sheep”. There is no reason to tell people to beware of false prophets if they can never go astray.
Matthew 10:16Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 17But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;— 22And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
In Luke we can read:
Luke 15:4 4What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
But this doesn’t mean the man absolutely WILL find the sheep. It just means that he will never give up as long as their is a hope, just like a mother who will never give up on her lost child. The Father of the prodigal son never gave up on his lost son, but he didnt go out and force him to return. In Matthew we can read the same parable, but here we can read ”IF so be that he finds it”, meaning that it’s not certain. IF a person repents from his sins, there will be lots of joy in heaven! We can read that the Father does not want ONE of those little one to perish. Jesus also gives very serious warnings concerning sins. He says that it’s better to pluck our eye out if it causes us to sin, so that we can escape HELL. He doesn’t say born again christians are excempted from this danger but he actually addresses his disciples, and all of us. Jesus came to save that which is LOST which would be all who have been guilty of sin, which are all who are aware of the law. Also read the parable which Matthew 18 ends with. A servant is cleansed from his debt (sins) and should have been a forever ”forgiven sheep” of this King, but later the same already forgiven debt is put back on his shoulders once again when he (the servant) refuses to forgive another servant. The parable ends with declaring ”35So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses”. This again, is a warning to all of us. God’s born again sheep are not excempted from this danger, but there is a risk that we refuse to forgive another person and thus jeopardize our salvation.
Matthew 18:9And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish..
Matthew 25 tells us about 5 foolish virgins who forgot to bring enough oil with them to their lamps while waiting for the bride groom. This was their own responsibility, and had they acted like the other 5 virgins who brought enough oil with them, they would have been ”sheep”, and they would not have been lost. We can also read about another parable about various amounts of talents, and about our own responsibility to make a high profit to present to the Owner. The rest of Matthew 25 tells us who the sheep are, as compared with the goats. The Bible doesn’t say ”once sheep, always sheep”, but if we endure to the end we will be among the saved. Matthew 25 makes it clear that God’s sheep are those who DO GOOD. Many of us have been indoctrinated to believe that doing something (works) has nothing to do with our salvation, but it certainly does according to the Bible. We can forfeit our salvation if we refuse to show compassion with people around us, and neglect to DO GOOD towards them. This is again a serious warning to all of us. Some might suggest that sheep will naturally always do good, and goats will not, but this is certainly not always the case. It’s true that doing good should come very natural for a sheep, but unfortunately this is not always true. The sheep and the goats are not divided between those who believe in Jesus and those who do not, but among those who do good and those who do not. This is about fruit. YOU decide whether you are a sheep or a goat, and you show this with what you do. Sins will always place you among the goats, unless you repent. Stay strong and don’t let Satan win in your life. The Holy Spirit is your Helper and He can guide you. James says in James 2 that faith without works is dead so make sure you’re not only ”praying” (which is a good thing) but also DOING something for the kingdom of God. Spreading his word and doing good to others.
Matthew 25:31When 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: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Jesus is our teacher. Let him be the light in your life
Mark 6:34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
Finally, John 10. We can’t sneak into the Kingdom of God, but we must go through the door which is Jesus. We are the ones going through this door, and no one is going to do it for us. The gate is narrow, but we can pass if we let the Holy Spirit guide us. Jesus says ”if any man enter in, he shall be saved”. We must come to Jesus and remain with him, and when we have finally entered the Kingdom we wouldn’t be able to return even if we wanted. We are saved for eternity! First we must make sure to follow and obey the true shepherd.
John 10 1Verily, 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. 2But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep FOLLOW him: for they know his voice. 5And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. — 7Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. 9I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. 10The 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. 11I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. 15As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Above you can read 11 ”I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep”, and some wants to understand this as a limited atonement, suggesting that Jesus only died for a select few. But according to the same logic we could just as well say that Jesus died only for PAUL based on this verse:
Gal. 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself FOR ME.
Much have been made of John 10:28-29, but verse 27 is not as popular and seldom included. That is probably because the CONDITIONS for being a sheep are listed there, and if you’re out to prove unconditional eternal security, then you’re out of luck. Verse 27 tells us clearly that Jesus’ sheep are those who HEAR his voice and FOLLOW him. These verbs are in Greek continuous tense, so if you keep on listening to him and follow him, you’re secure. Furtheremore, no MAN is able to ”pluck you out from his hands”, and this would be something that someone else might do to you. You don’t ”pluck yourself” out from his hands. But you can certainly leave Jesus if you want since he doesn’t force anyone to either come to him or stay with him. He could force you if he wanted, and he could even force you to never want to give in for temptations, but this again would interfere with the free will of man which God prefers that we have. We can further read below that Jesus EXPECTS people to believe in him due to the works that he has done, but the fact is that people still refuse to. If we refuse to come to Jesus and obey him, we are not his sheep but we are actually the devil’s sheep (goats) and that’s how people divide themselves. People who are goats naturally wouldn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus. Bad idea to seek to be a goat. Jesus says ”believe the works: that ye may know, and believe”, and yet some of us don’t.
John 10:25Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. 26But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. — 37If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.