Calvinist Sheep

Jesus figuratively spoke about Christians being sheep and Himself being the Good Shepherd. This is a nice picture of the Christian life that many are drawn to which indicates how much God loves them. However, I wonder how many people ever consider that John 10 (where Jesus mainly uses this figure of speech) touches upon all 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP).

For the sake of this article, I am assuming that the reader has a basic understanding of the 5 points of Calvinism. If you do not, you can read more about them here. I’m not saying that Jesus was a Calvinist; however, I am saying that Calvinism lines up with what Jesus taught about the Christian life through His imagery of the Good Shepherd and His sheep. For this reason I call the sheep in John 10, Calvinist Sheep. Every time you see the word “sheep” below you may supplement it with “Christians” or “Children of God” referring to those who are saved by Jesus and go to Heaven.

Total Depravity
Jesus does not have very kind things to say about those who are outside of the sheepfold (or outside of the family of God). If the “sheepfold” is analogous to a community of believers, then those who assume that they can get to Heaven by entering through “another door” and believe that “all paths lead to God” are thieves and robbers. There will be no place for those who are not part of the sheepfold in the Kingdom of God. Their heart and their actions metaphorically (and sometimes literally) lead to stealing, killing, and destroying.
John 10:1 – Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 

John 10:8 – All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.

John 10:10a – The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

There are people outside of the faith who are like wolves. They want to snatch the sheep, scatter them, and make their life a living hell. They are not simply sheep with good intentions; rather, they are wolves who want blood. They prey upon the weak, the poor, the outcast, and cause terror within the fold.
John 10:12-13 –  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. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

When Jesus exposes evil hearts, they may even get angered by good works. Elsewhere in the book of John, Jesus uses imagery of the light and how it exposes darkness. In the verse below, Jesus does good works from the Father and they still want to stone Him. Why would this happen, other than the fact that His good works exposed a darkness in their hearts and they rejected even what was good (a characteristic of total depravity)?
John 10:31-32 – The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?”

Unconditional Election
Notice that Jesus says that His sheep know Him. They have been called by Him and they hear His voice. They are His sheep and there is a personal “knowing” that comes with being a chosen part of the flock. They are “His own” because He has chosen them for Himself to be His sheep.
John 10:14 – I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.

Undoubtedly, this verse was spoken to Jews about Gentiles. The act of “bringing” sheep into the fold is language consistent with election. God chooses the sheep and brings them to Himself. Jesus chooses people who are not currently part of the flock to become members of that flock.
John 10:16 – 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.

Belief in God is given to “His sheep.” The lack of belief in God correlates to the lack of being a sheep and having Jesus as the Good Shepherd. There are those who are chosen to be part of the flock and they are the ones to whom belief in God is given.
John 10:26 – You do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 

Again, the language of the Father “giving” the sheep to the Son, the Good Shepherd, is consistent with election. God chooses those who will be sheep and therefore have belief in Himself and eternal life. It is God who gives belief and salvation to people, and causes them to become His sheep.
John 10:29 – My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Limited Atonement
Jesus is the only way to be saved. There is no other way. No amount of good works, personal choice, or other merits will be sufficient to have eternal life. Jesus is the door that leads to Heaven and the sheep must enter by Him in order to find pasture. There are not multiple doors, there is only one door. The privilege of pasture is only given to His sheep.
John 10:9 – I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

Notice Jesus does not say that He lays His life down for the goats, camels, oxen, and all the other livestock in the world. Jesus (the Good Shepherd) lays down His life for the sheep (Christians); therefore, He does not lay down His life for every person in the whole world, as not every person is a sheep or part of the fold. He relates the laying down of His life (atonement) in particular or “limited” terms here.
John 10:11 – I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 

John 10:15 – … I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus does not say that He gives eternal life to everyone everywhere; rather, He has “them” in mind, referring to the “sheep.” Christians are given eternal life and will never perish, and Jesus is specific with whom receives eternal life (not universal, but particular).
John 10:28 –  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Irresistible Grace
Once the sheep hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, He leads them and they follow because they know His voice. Those who are called do not listen to other voices; rather, they listen to the voice of God which chooses them for grace. Individuals are called by name by Jesus, and those who are really His sheep will respond to His call.
John 10:3-5 – To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. 

Again the sheep listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd when He calls them  to Himself as His own because they know His voice. They do not listen to the voice of the world or the enemy which seeks to steal, kill, and destroy.
John 10:8 – All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 

John 10:14 – I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.

John 10:16 – 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.

The sheep do not resist when their Shepherd calls. They follow Him in obedience into faith because they know Him and His voice
John 10:27 – My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

Perseverance of the Saints
Once someone becomes a sheep and part of the fold of God, they will never perish. Because God is the One who chooses them, saves them, and protects them, they are eternally secure in His hand and no one will snatch them away. Those who truly belong to the Good Shepherd will always belong to the Him because He is greater than the wolves which would seek to snatch the sheep away. The sheep may wander and stray for a bit, but the true sheep always come back to the voice of their Good Shepherd when He calls them home.
John 10:28-29 – I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

When we look at the figurative language used by Jesus regarding the Good Shepherd and the sheep, it is impossible not to see what we might call “Calvinism.” Obviously, at that time they did not see themselves as Calvinist sheep; however, thanks to the 5 points of Calvinism formed after John Calvin and the Reformation theological point of view, we can see that they were truly right about John 10 and the Calvinist Sheep.

God Bless,
Tyson Bradley

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