I Am the Door of the Sheepfold
February 25, 2007 / No. 3347
Dear radio friends,
In the Gospel According to John, our Savior Jesus Christ identifies Himself with the statements: “I am. I am the bread of life; I am the good shepherd; I am the light of the world.” Today: “I am the door of the sheepfold.” You may find that in John 10:9. It is another one of the “I am” sayings of Jesus, sayings in which Jesus is telling us who He is and what He is to us—beautiful, wonderful statements, in order that our faith might embrace Him and that He might be precious to us as our Savior and our God.
The context in which Jesus says “I am the door” is extremely important for us to understand. That context goes back into John, chapter 9. You will remember that there Jesus saw a man who was blind from his birth and the Lord miraculously healed him. The man rejoiced. We read in verse 25 of John 9, “One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.”
The neighbors began to ask him questions. They knew that he was blind from birth. How did this happen to you? They took him to the Pharisees. The Pharisees, however, were blind spiritual leaders of the blind. And the Pharisees, we discover in John 9, were not at all happy about the healing of this man. They asked him, “Who healed you? How did he do it?” And when they found out that it was Jesus of Nazareth, they began to mock and ridicule and threaten him when the man would not say that Jesus was a sinner.
The Pharisees, then, turned to an interrogation of the man’s parents. The parents did not say much. They responded to the Pharisees, “Our son is of age. Ask him.”
So the Pharisees returned to the man who had been healed, who had been given his sight, and they asked him about Jesus. He responded (9:30): “Marvelous this is that a man has opened my eyes and yet you do not know who he is.” Further, the man went on to say: “If he were not of God, he could do nothing.”
It was then that the Pharisees, we read, cast the man out of the synagogue. They were dealing with the sheep of the Lord, with God’s children, in a harsh manner. They claimed that they were the religious leaders. But they did not care for the sheep. They ridiculed the Lord Jesus Christ, and they persecuted those who would confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Now it is in that context that Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I am not like these false shepherds, the Pharisees. I love the sheep. I lay down My life for the sheep.” And then, in that context, He says, “As the good shepherd, I am also the door of the sheepfold.” He says, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” Jesus is not only identifying Himself to us as the true spiritual caretaker of every child of God, but He is going on and is saying, “I am the one, the only one, through whom any can come into the fellowship of God and find life eternal.” That is the precious truth that Jesus is teaching. “I am the door: by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
Those are beautiful words of Jesus. You might read different commentators on that passage and you will find that they have no end of difficulty in trying to explain the passage. Nevertheless, Jesus’ words are abundantly clear. They are so clear that all the children who are listening right now can easily understand exactly what Jesus means. He means that only through Him, only through Jesus, can we ever enter into the safety of God’s care and love that is found in His church.
Jesus is using a parable. In fact, He says that in John 10:6: “This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.” Jesus is using a figure, or an example, that was very familiar in His day. In His day shepherds would bring their flocks at night into one fold or corral. The land was very good for pasture. There would be many flocks upon the hills. But there were also many wolves and enemies. So at night the shepherds would all lead their flocks into one fold.
This fold would have a corral or fence made of stone. It would have to be high enough to keep out thieves and robbers and wolves. And it would have a gate. At the gate there would be stationed a porter or a gatekeeper who would open the gate to allow the sheep into the fold and, in the morning, the shepherds were return to their different folds and would come to the gate and call out their sheep. Jesus goes on to say in John 10 that the sheep would know the voice of the shepherd. The shepherd would know each one of his sheep by name and would be able to identify them. The sheep would follow their respective shepherds out of the fold. A very beautiful example of Jesus Christ, the One who calls His people to Himself by His mighty and powerful word.
Then Jesus says, “I am the door.” He means to say that the sheepfold to which He is referring is the church. It is the place where we are kept safe and protected. Later on, in verse 16, Jesus will say, “And 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.” The fold of Jesus Christ is the church. In the church, through the Holy Spirit and the Word, we are given fellowship with the living God. Within the fold of Jesus Christ we enjoy life, we enjoy salvation. Jesus says, “By me, if any man shall enter in, come into this fold, he shall be saved.” Then, later on, He is going to say, “I am come that ye might have life and have it more abundantly.” Within the church of Jesus Christ we enjoy salvation. And salvation is the life that is given to us in Jesus Christ.
To enjoy this, you must go through the door, through Christ. When Christ saves you, He brings you into His fold, into His church. And within the church you have fellowship with God, a living fellowship. Through Jesus you have access to God. That is what He is saying. As the door, Jesus is the only One who can bring us into the fellowship of God, and bring us into abundant life—so abundant that it is much more than you could ever suppose, far more than you could ever deserve. It is fellowship and life with God and to live in God’s presence.
Jesus said, “I am the door. Through Me you enter not merely a meager spiritual existence, but abundant, heavenly, eternal fellowship with God, peace with God, in the presence of God.”
Within the fold, within the church, is where Jesus brings us. There we are brought into the rich, loving embrace of God. And there, within that fold, Christ cares for us through His Word and through sacraments, through elders and through ministers, through fellow believers. Jesus does not say, “Well, there are wolves all over these hills. The last days are filled with spiritual peril. So I want all of My believers, all of My sheep, to camp out in little groups and leave the church.” No. But He says, “I want them within the fold.” That is why it is so distressing when the heresy is promoted that in the last days the end of the church-age has come. What folly! How unbiblical. How ungodly. No, in the last days, when the wolves abound, when the perils against the Christian’s soul multiply, Jesus Christ says, “Enter, through Me, into the fold, into the church, which is the body of Jesus Christ. Enter into that church in its local place, under elders and deacons, under the faithful preaching of the Word. For there I will care for you. And there you will have fellowship with Me.”
“But make no mistake,” said Jesus. “I am the door. Access to life, access to God, access to the blessings of salvation found within the confines of the church, is all through Me. By Me,” He says, “you must enter in.” Jesus is the door because He is the Savior in our flesh.
This is the heart, then, of what Jesus is saying to you and to me today. He says this: “Through Me, through My blood, through My cross, you enter into the riches of salvation that you enjoy within the church of Jesus Christ. I alone can open that way to you. I alone can bring you into the love and care and protection and into the abundant life with God through My blood.”
In the Bible we read in Hebrews 9:12 these words: It is “neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” There you have it. That is what Jesus is saying. “By Me, if any man shall enter and go in.” Oh, the rich fellowship for us with God. Can you imagine the safety and the care and the love of God, for God to embrace you, for God to be your God, for God to watch over you, for God to be committed to you eternally! Oh, what a wonder!
But how can we enter in? We are unworthy. Still more. We do not even desire of ourselves to enter in. We have to be changed. We have to be forgiven. How? Through the blood of Jesus alone. Only through Jesus. Not because we have done something, something that made us worthy to enter into the fellowship of God. No, we cannot do that. And, I remind you again, we do not want to—not of ourselves. The Lord must work a miracle within us whereby we are drawn to Him to covet and to enjoy and to live for the fellowship of God. But all of this, all of this, through Jesus. Jesus is the door. You enter into fellowship with God and salvation through Jesus Christ alone and through the merits, the wonderful merits, of His cross.
There is a danger, says Jesus. There are false shepherds. There are sheep-stealers. There are hirelings, says Jesus, who do not care for the sheep. There are thieves and robbers who climb up another way so that they can steal and kill. They do not come through the door, said Jesus. They may appear to be so very good. But they are not interested in the sheep. They destroy the sheep.
Our Lord, as I said in the beginning, is talking here of the false shepherds, the Pharisees. That is the importance of chapter 9. You must read chapter 9 of the gospel of John in order to understand John 10. The Pharisees said there is another way into the presence of God than Jesus Christ. They said that the way into the presence of God, the door through which one enters into the wonderful care and protection of God is a way of one’s works, a way of one’s merits. They were saying that God had better accept what we give Him and on the basis of what we give Him we may enter into His fellowship. Jesus said that they are thieves, robbers. They are trying to climb up some other way. They will not be allowed in.
All through the ages there have been attempts to enter into the fellowship of God by human merit. But Jesus said that you shall not enter that way. You cannot enter into the fold of God’s presence by the merits of any other than Jesus Christ. You cannot enter by your own works, by your own obedience, or by your own prayers. Yes, prayers and repentance and good works are very important for the Christian. They are the fruit of what Jesus creates within us. They are the fruits of being saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. But do not think that your very best things, your very best spiritual works, open the door into the fold. “I am the door,” said Jesus. “By Me, by Me alone.” Salvation is only (surely, but only) in the work of Jesus Christ alone.
The Pharisees said to Him, “We don’t need you. We don’t need Christ’s blood alone. Oh, maybe we’ll concede that you are very exemplary. Maybe we’ll concede that you can get us a head start in this. But we don’t need you. We can do it on our own.” That is the proud word of sinful flesh. “We can do it.” No, you cannot. Not your best work. No, it will not bring you into God’s presence. Are good works important? Of course they are. But if you trust your good works as being the basis whereby you are received into the fellowship of God, you will perish. Jesus says that you are nothing other than a thief and a robber then, trying to climb up some other way. Trust in Jesus alone.
“By Me,” He said, “by Me.” The words are clear. A child can understand them. Embrace them by the power of a God-given faith. Embrace them—through the work of Jesus alone we enter into the fellowship of God.
Be very clear. Do not say, “Well, of course, I have access to God because my parents are in the church, my grandparents were in the church. I was baptized.” No, the way into fellowship with God is through faith, God’s gift, personal faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way.
To seek another way into the fellowship of God, to seek another way into fellowship in life with God, is to blaspheme. To seek another way than Jesus is to blaspheme. It is to say to God, “Jesus was not necessary.” It is to say, “Christ died in vain.” It is to say, “The cross was not all that important after all. There is another way. God did not need to give His Son to that awful death if there is another way for us to be brought into the fellowship of God.” To say that Jesus did not have to die on the cross is proud blasphemy arising out of hell itself. Will someone say, “Lord, Jesus, what you did thirty-three years after you were born, and especially for six hours on the cross, was very nice. It is very inspiring. Boy, is it inspiring to me! But it was not necessary, for I can make it myself. There is another way, perhaps, through saints or through the virgin Mary or through my good works.” Are you going to say that? Then you say that it was not necessary that Jesus go through the awful agony of the cross.
The gospel is simple. But the Holy Spirit must humble us as sinners, undone sinners. There is one way, one sure way, to the safety of life eternal, into the fold of God. The blood of Jesus, shed for the covering of my sins alone! Only Jesus.
Jesus does not take His stand along with other saviors throughout the world. Jesus is not a Savior, He is the Savior. He is the only Savior. There is no other savior than Jesus Christ.
Enter into the fold through the gift, the marvelous, precious gift of faith. Enter into that fold. Trust in Jesus and receive by faith the assurance that you have been received into the fold, or what we may say is the covenant of the living God. Enter by faith and enjoy fellowship with God. Sit down and rest and be assured of the smile of God. All through Jesus. The Bible says we may do that with boldness. Enter in with boldness, says the Bible. Come boldly, by faith, depending upon Christ.
But be sure that you enter in through Jesus. Apart from Jesus the door is not opened. Apart from Jesus there is no access. The door is shut. If you look for a way into the fellowship of God today other than in Jesus Christ; if you look for a way to the fellowship of God that does not include your utter confession of your own unworthiness, your inability to do anything to merit God’s presence—if you do not believe that, then the door is shut to you. Then, as in the days of Noah when there were thousands around the ark and it began to rain and the water came up and God closed the door after Noah and they scratched their fingers raw but they could not enter in—so also today, apart from Jesus, you shall not be saved. It is through Jesus Christ alone. Throw down your pride, by the grace of God. Throw down trust in your own merits or trust in the merits of any other than Jesus Christ. Confess: “I am a sinner. I am worthless. I am blind. I am naked. I am leprous. I can do nothing. It is Jesus, my Savior. I need Him.” Give all glory to God, allglory to God in Christ. The door is open unto the rich fellowship of God, life eternal, life forevermore. The smile, the embrace of God is given to us through Jesus Christ. Now enter, by faith, through grace and enjoy abundant life, life in the fold and the tender care and love of God through Jesus.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we do thank Thee for Thy Word. We do confess that in our own heart and nature we are constantly looking to ourselves, lifting ourselves up as the way. We pray that Thou wilt give us to repent and by faith to embrace this Savior Jesus Christ, the only Savior who is the door and through whom we may enter and be saved. Grant it, Lord. Grant us to place all of our trust in Him and in Him alone, today and always. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.