Unity According to the Apostle John

The great truth and privilege of unity appears prominently in the Gospel of John and in the Epistles of Paul; but it is viewed in a different way by these two eminent servants of the Lord, by each subordinately to the purpose which the inspiring Spirit of God had in the work given them respectively to do. In the writings of both, unity supposes and is based on the Lord's death, as in the gospel of grace and in the church of God. Without the accomplishment of redemption as well as the incarnation not one of these things could be. Every intelligent believer knows what a place the apostle of the Gentiles was led to assign to the work of the cross, whereby God was glorified, the door opened to Gentiles no less freely than to Jews, and the mystery of Christ and the church came into view. But it is no less plain in the Gospel of John, which only the present paper contemplates, though its main scope undoubtedly is to set forth Christ's personal glory, and the mission of the Holy Spirit to be here in His own on His departure to heaven.


Hence in John x. the Lord explains His giving His life, as the Good Shepherd, for the sheep, in contrast with both the thief and the hireling (vers. 10 -13). His laying down His life for the sheep He repeats in ver. 15 before He speaks of His other sheep, "not of this fold " (Judaism), but believers from among the Gentiles, whom also He must bring, as hearing His voice; "and there shall be one flock, one Shepherd " (ver. 16). Here is in this Gospel the first explicit announcement of unity for the flock answering to the one Shepherd. It is due to His glory and His love, to His person and His work. They are His own sheep. They hear His voice. To Him the porter opens, as He only is the Shepherd, Who calls them by name and leads them out. For He disowns the enclosure now condemned, that once had divine sanction; and when He put forth all His own, He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him. He is thus their way, protection, and warrant. A stranger they will not follow. It is not that they know every snare; but they know His voice (either in Himself or in whomsoever He speaks), not the voice of strangers. How simple and secure for him who hears!

Plain and all-important as this was, for it is the introduction of Christianity, it was a dark proverb when first spoken. "They understood not what things they were which he spoke to them." So it was when even before His Galilean ministry He spoke of raising up the temple of His body (ii. 19-22). This the resurrection cleared up much, the coming of the Spirit what remained. But He adds a new and deeper figure with the utmost solemnity; He was " the door," not of the fold, not of Israel, but "of the sheep." All that claimed them before He pronounces thieves and robbers. Are not all since yet more blasphemously guilty? How awful for either! For the Father has given all execution of judgment to the Son on Whose rights they encroach, Whose title they in effect deny, as those that honour Him honour the Father also. The sheep hear Him, not these pretenders; and He is the door, so that if anyone enter in (for it is sovereign grace), he shall be saved, and shall go in and shall go out, and shall find pasture. By Him (not the law) are salvation, liberty, and food. In contrast with the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, Christ came that the sheep might have life, yea abundantly in Himself risen. What can hinder Him and His grace to His own?

Thus He presents Himself as the Good Shepherd, and His laying down His life for the sheep as its exercise and proof, in contrast with the hireling, whose own the sheep are not, seeing the wolf's approach, leaving the sheep, and fleeing; so that the wolf seizes and scatters them. Far from self He cares to the uttermost for the sheep, and repeats His gracious title (14), declaring their mutual knowledge according to the knowledge the Father had of Him and He of the Father, saying again, He lays down His life for the sheep. This introduces the Gentile sheep, who could not consistently with the divine ways be brought in, and form with the Jewish ones "one flock," till He died, rose, and ascended to heaven. Here however the Lord, though revealing and reiterating His devotedness in dying for His sheep, speaks with the authority of His person according to divine counsels. Nor is there a passage in scripture which more definitely claims the "one flock" for dependence on Himself, or which excludes more peremptorily the pretensions of men to appropriate this place of His, the only competent and worthy One, the centre of all.