The church is depicted as “the flock of God”, to specifically emphasise God’s great love and care for the church. As Shepherd of His flock, God not only owns the church, but also tenderly leads, feeds and protects her. Like any flock of sheep, the church is weak and defenceless without her Shepherd. She is also prone to wander and lose her way without His supervision. It is only because of His constant tender shepherding that she is safe and sound in a world that is filled with “ravenous wolves” seeking to destroy her.
The Flock’s Shepherd
The Lord God has always been the Shepherd of His people; the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, points to this picture of His relationship with His people. The Lord has been the “Shepherd of Israel” (Psalm 80:1; cf. Psalm 78:52; 79:13; 95:7; Isaiah 40:10, 11; Ezekiel 34:11, 30, 31), with His people responding to Him, saying, “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
When the Lord Jesus Christ came to this world, He proclaimed, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14), and referred to the church as “my lambs” (John 21:15) and “my sheep” (John 10:14, 26, 27; 21:16, 17). The church is Christ’s flock because His Father has given them to Him. Christ acknowledged this truth when He prayed, “thine they were, and thou gavest them me” (John 17:6). He also affirmed in that prayer that the church belongs to the Father and Him: “…for they are thine. And all mine are thine, and thine are mine” (John 17:9, 10). The Lord Jesus Christ shepherds the church, the flock of His Father. The church belongs to both the Father and the Son; and the Holy Spirit effects the divine love and care for the flock through the appointment of godly men as elders of the church (cf. Acts 20:28).
Christ has proven His loving ownership of the flock by giving His life for them that they may be redeemed from sin and eternal damnation. He said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). He gave His life for the sheep that He may purchase them for Himself. It was not for His own defence that He shed His blood, but to pay the ransom for whom He came to save. Hence, in Acts 20:28, the Apostle Paul referred to the church as “the flock, …the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood”. Through His sacrificial death, Christ has proven Himself to be “the Good Shepherd” and also “the Great Shepherd” of the church (cf. Hebrews 13:20). So the Apostle Peter said to Christians, “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). The church’s True and Chief Shepherd is Christ (1 Peter 5:4).
Christ, the Shepherd of the church, knows every sheep of His flock. He knows whom He owns. He knows them collectively and individually. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep” (John 10:14). He knows them by name and “he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out” (John 10:3). He calls them out from their fold and leads them by His voice (through His Word) to “green pastures” and “still waters” (Psalm 23). Jesus illustrated His role of the Shepherd when He said, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:4). Jesus also said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Today, His sheep hear His voice through His Word and they obediently follow His counsel.
Christ the Shepherd is a tenacious defender of His flock. He is not like the “hirelings” who have no commitment to protect the flock against the vicious forays of the enemy. Christ did not mince His words in describing the hirelings thus: “But 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. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep” (John 10:12-13). But Christ the Good Shepherd, in order to deliver His sheep from their adversary, laid down his life for them (cf. John 10:11), with this comforting assurance: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
Christ, as the Shepherd, is the church’s redeemer, provider, protector and guide.
An Encouraged Reader’s Note
It is with great joy and encouragement that I read the article entitled “Beware of Partial Perception” in the Mar-Apr 2018 issue of Bible Witness magazine.
I readily confess to countless instances of partial perception, which can only be rectified by the continued and repeated reading / meditation of God’s Word – accompanied with prayer in seeking the Holy Spirit’s illumination through God’s grace and mercy. There is no other way to be taught by God. This is also true for the larger ministry of the Holy Spirit in the “church age”, in the sharing of God’s Word by His church.
Without prayer for the teaching by the Holy Spirit, I believe one could not perceive what God says in spirit, and at best one will perceive only partially, with the peril of falling away into unbelief.
The hazard of “partial perception” is very real for all who endeavour to read God’s Word, and to date I have not read any article on “partial perception” and wish to praise God for this article’s reminder to all who would come to Christ to learn “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24b). Thank God for Pr Kee How’s article. It is what I needed most at this time. Praise God for the labour of love for our Saviour Christ!
Since coming to GBPC, the riches of Scripture “opened” through the preaching and teaching I’ve received, as well as the “treasure trove” of articles published, have truly been the work of the Holy Spirit. What a joy to see this manifestation in GBPC and its missions!
Joyously in Christ,