Dr. S. Lewis Johnson continues his series on Christ's role of priest to the believer by focusing on the precise nature of the Great High Priest's atoning work.
[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for the privilege of this particular evening of study. We thank Thee for Thy word. We thank Thee for the doctrine of the atonement and especially the work of the Lord Jesus Christ as Priest. Enable us to understand and profit from the things that we read in Thy word. Give us direction, Lord, and may these things truly mean something to us in our Christian life. We commit this hour to Thee and also the ministry in the Believers Bible Institute. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
[Message] Tonight we are continuing our series of studies in “Basic Bible Doctrine” and we are in that part of our study in which we are dealing with “The Work of Christ as Priest” and this is the second of the three studies in the “The Work of Christ as Priest.” Last week we dealt with “The Necessity of the Atonement.” Tonight we hope to consider the subject of, “The Nature of the Atonement”, and then next week we want to consider “The Design of the Atonement.” I know that a lot of you are always interested in the subject of “The Design of the Atonement” and next week, the Lord willing, in one night, we’ll try to handle that subject on the level of the Basic Bible Doctrine.
For tonight, we’re turning to John chapter 10, verse 11 through verse 18, for our Scripture reading. I want to say before I turn to this particular passage that I am turning to this passage, not because it is the best passage to consider the subject of, “The Nature of the Atonement” with, but it so happens in our studies in Romans, we are at Romans chapter 3, verse 21 through verse 26 and that’s one of the best places from which to study “The Nature of the Atonement.” So thinking that it probably would be a little boring for you to hear two messages that are very similar within a relatively short period, I thought that it might be desirable, therefore, for us to turn to this passage in John chapter 10, verse 11 through verse 18, which also has a great deal to say on the subject of
“The Nature of the Atonement.” So will you listen now as I read beginning at verse 11 through verse 18 of John chapter 10?
This is the third of the beautiful series of parables about shepherd life. And so, it is a chapter in which that particular figure is before us constantly. It’s very appropriate because the Lord Jesus is so much like a shepherd and we are so much like sheep: helpless, prone to wander, and also just a little dumb. [Laughter] Now verse 11 of John chapter 10,
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 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. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. (Now this is a word that really means “flock” rather than “fold.” And so, we should render this, “and they shall be one flock and one shepherd.”) Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.”
When we talk about the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is inevitable that we also have to say something about liberal theology. Because if there is one particular area in which liberal theology has gone astray it is in the field of the atonement. Liberal theology, ignorant of the deep seated disease of the human spirit, offers nothing but the saccharine draft of human self-sufficiency and that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of those who are seeking some spiritual food; particularly seeking the answer to their own spiritual relationship before the Lord God. What we need is atonement and we do not need to be told about human self-sufficiency.
One of the most interesting things, I think, over the past fifteen or twenty years, has been the unusual interest in spiritual things on the part of young people. Because when I first began to preach the gospel, it was rare to have a great deal of interest on the part of young people. But in recent years, there has been a great deal of interest in spiritual things on the part of young people. Of course, I don’t mean all, but I mean proportionately, many young people have become interested in spiritual things. And one of the reasons for this is the fact that the kind of theology to which they were exposed was a theology that did not minister to them. And as a result, many of the young men became rather bitter over the society into which they had been born and among whom they had been placed.
“God”, wrote a bitter young man some years ago “will pardon prostitutes, assassins, thieves, sexual perverts. He will pardon all of us miserable sinners, but he will never pardon liberal theologians.” That young man had come to realize that the doctrines that he had been taught from the time of his youth were contrary to the word of God. And the sentiment that he expresses here is a very biblical sentiment because the Scriptures warn us about teaching false doctrine. The Scriptures warn us about being teachers, “My brethren, be not many teachers for you shall receive the greater judgment” and the Lord Jesus warns about those who lead people astray.
Now we argued in our last study, “The Necessity of the Atonement”, and we argued that the atonement was necessary because of the holiness of God. There must be a punishment of sin. We argued from the bondage of man to Satan, which is expressed in the Bible in many, many places. And then we argued also from the fact of the death of Jesus Christ saying simply, the very fact that the Son of God died is ample proof of the necessity of an atonement; for there is no explanation for the death of Christ apart from the fact that it was an atoning death. In fact, if Jesus Christ died, we said, apart from any death with reference to our sin, then it was the greatest blunder that the world has ever seen and the person responsible for it is not a man, but God himself.
One of the medieval theologians, whose name was Anselm, an Archbishop of Canterbury in the 11th and early part of the 12th Centuries, wrote a very famous book. Anselm’s book was called Cur Deus Homo or Why God-man? Whether that means why God became man or why a God-man we cannot be sure from the Latin, because the Latin can be rendered both ways. Many think that that means, why a God-man? But in this famous book on the atonement, Anselm argued that it was necessary that every sin should be followed by satisfaction or punishment. He argued that man cannot receive what God purposed to bestow until he has restored the whole of what he, man, took away from God. And God alone, Anselm argued, can perform this and he did it by means of the God-man. Anselm argued that God’s rights must be restored and, particularly, his honor must be repaired as the majesty of the universe. And so, consequently, the Lord Jesus Christ came in order to restore God’s honor.
Now he did not fully understand the penal character of the death of Christ that it was a punishment for sin. But this great work of Anselm on satisfaction was really the source of the doctrine that the Reformers proclaimed. Anselm derived a great deal of it from Augustine, but in those years that intervened, those many centuries, very few taught a satisfaction theory of the atonement. So Anselm argued then that God’s honor must be repaired and to pronounce pardon without reparation would violate the declarative glory of God.
Now since unaided man is incompetent to do this, because he himself is a sinner, he cannot restore the honor of God, and since this inability is a criminal inability, it must be done by a God-man. That is, someone who is unaffected by the sin of man, but at the same time has the power and authority to restore honor to God by virtue of his life and ministry. And then Anselm concluded his work by tracing the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. He shows that his life was in harmony with the divine perfections. That he does what man cannot do. That he restores to God the glory of his majesty for which this whole creation about us exists. So Anselm is regarded by many as the father of the satisfaction theory of the atonement. There are many theories of the atonement, but whatever theory we finally decide upon, it must include this satisfaction aspect.
Now we argued that Jesus Christ accomplished atonement as God’s priest and we argued that he was qualified to be priest. It had been prophesied in the Old Testament that he would be priest. That he had the necessary appointment by the Lord God. That he also had, because he was a man, the necessary sympathy. He was unaffected by sin himself and like all priests who must have a sacrifice to offer, he had a sacrifice to offer and the sacrifice was the sacrifice of himself.
Now historically when the Lord Jesus Christ as priest offered that sacrifice, God confirmed the fact that he offered a sacrifice that is acceptable to God and is the fulfillment of the typical priesthood of the Old Testament by rending the veil in the temple from top to bottom. So by doing that he in effect said, “The sacrifice has been offered by the eternal priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now tonight, we want to come to the nature of the atonement. What is it that characterizes the atonement accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ? We know that it is necessary, but what kind of atonement is it? And this is why we’re turning now to John chapter 10, verse 11 through verse 13, and I’ll try to just gather what I want to say around a rather brief and short exposition of these seven or eight verses. So we turn now to verse 11 through verse 13 of John chapter 10 where we have the shepherd and the hirelings. This, I say, is a third of a series of parables, illustrations the Lord Jesus tells here in order to set forth his ministry as a shepherd. He unfolds the shepherd ministry that he has against the background of the healing of the blind man in chapter 9. And interestingly enough, he especially lays stress upon the fact in chapter 10, that if we are his sheep, we will hear his voice. And he will say also, “If you’re not my sheep, you will not hear my voice.” These are rather harsh words, but these are the words of the Scripture and they come from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, “If we are his sheep, we will hear his voice.” If we don’t hear his voice, it’s because we are not of his sheep.
Now, of course, we have to allow for the fact that it may be possible for us not to hear his voice for a long time and then ultimately to hear it. But in the final analysis, so far as our human life is concerned, if we pass through this human life and we do not hear his voice, we are not his sheep. On the other hand, if we do hear his voice we are his sheep. And you will hear his voice too, you sitting in this audience, if you are his sheep.
Now he speaks of the faithfulness of the shepherd in verse 11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Isn’t it interesting that here the Lord Jesus Christ praises himself? You wouldn’t think that a man would do this. He says, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Now you didn’t think anything about that did you? You read that and didn’t say, “Well, he’s bragging.” Why didn’t you say that? Because there was something deep down within that said to you, “He’s right. He is the good shepherd.” There is something that speaks out of Scripture to that effect and when he brags or when he boasts, or words that would be bragging or boasting on the lips of any other individual, these words are not boastings or braggings at all. He’s just speaking of his own nature and being. So as he praises himself, “I am the good or the noble shepherd”, we learn some truths of the atonement; some with more support than others in this particular context, but nevertheless, truths concerning the atonement.
Now I want you to notice in this 11th verse, first of all, the relationship of shepherd and sheep. He says, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” There is a relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. The shepherd belongs to the sheep; the sheep belong to the shepherd. There is a relationship that they mutually enjoy. Now what I want to affirm from this is that the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ is a federal work. That is, it is a work in which there is a union between the sheep and the shepherd. He’s the shepherd of the sheep. He’s the head of his people.
Now in the Scriptures, we read of this federal headship over and over again, “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”, the apostle writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 about verse 22 and 23. Let me read those verses as they are found in that passage, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” In Adam, for Adam is the one in whom or to whom all men are related, in Adam all die, even so all shall be made alive who are identified with Christ, in Christ. Now the two “alls” of verse 22 are not the same. The “all” in verse 22 encompasses all men without exception. In verse 22, in the second part of the verse, the “all” is qualified by the expression “in Christ.”
Now the evidence for that is not only biblical doctrine elsewhere and biblical doctrine in this particular context, because in this context we have the doctrine of the resurrection of believers, not the doctrine of the resurrection of unbelievers. But if you’ll just look at verse 23, you will see that he’s talking about those who belong to Christ; “But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming”, so all in Christ are defined as those who belong to Christ in verse 23.
So the first thing then we read here about atonement is that atonement is a federal work. It’s done by one person in behalf of other people. Just as Adam was the federal head of the whole race, so the Lord Jesus is the federal head of the redeemed. Just as Adam’s act affected all of his descendants, so Jesus Christ’s act affects all who are identified with him. His name is called Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins. So first of all then this work is a federal work.
The writers of the books of the New Testament agree on this. Even the writer of the Epistle of the Hebrews, who doesn’t have a great deal to say about some of those forensic matters, does say in Hebrews chapter 2, “that he came to take hold of the seed of Abraham.” Not the seed of Adam, but the seed of Abraham. In other words, his atoning work is a work that is related to his own people. Therefore, this is a federal work first of all. It is a shepherd who has sheep or sheep who belong to a shepherd.
Now the next thing I want you to notice here is that the text says, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” That expresses not simply that it is a voluntary atoning work, but also that it is a sacrificial work. To lay down one’s life, which is the meaning of the Greek word tithemi here, to lay down one’s life is the work of sacrifice. And you’ll notice in this passage there’s a great stress on that. In verse 15, we read, “And I lay down my life for the sheep.” In verse 17, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.” Verse 18, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself.” So the second thing we can say about the atoning work of Jesus Christ is that it is a sacrificial work. It’s a federal work. It’s a sacrificial work.
Third thing, notice this verse again, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” There are different Greek prepositions which are translated in the New Testament by the English word “for.” In fact, we have as you know, the English word “for,” has about as many different meanings as Heinz has varieties. And one must ask the questions always, “In what sense is a ‘for’ used?” But we have a Greek preposition called huper. We also have a Greek preposition ante.
Now there are many other prepositions but these are two that I’m particularly interested in. In fact, I will give you one more while I’m doing this, but huper is the word that is used here translated “for.” “Anti” is a word that means something like “in the place of.” It sometimes has the force of facing fundamentally sometimes it is translated “for.” Peri is a word that means “concerning” or “with regard to”, something like that. Some New Testament grammarians used to say that this particular word “anti” which means “in the stead of” is the word that one must find if he’s to find substitutionary atonement in the New Testament.
Now classical scholars knew along time ago that that was untrue. I started learning Greek by learning classical Greek that is what I studied before I ever was converted. God was preparing me for doing what I did for about thirty years to teach the exegesis of the Greek New Testament. And I learned a long time ago that the Greek preposition “huper” was also substitutionary in various contexts.
Now in the New Testament, there are a number of places in which this preposition is also substitutionary. In fact, this one as well much more rarely and this one sometimes is not. This is perhaps the clearest one in that my friends, who don’t know about classical Greek and the usage of the word, are most convinced if you cite passages using this. But this particular word often is used in a substitutionary sense as well. And it is the opinion of most of the more contemporary commentators that at this place here, when we read, “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” that we are to understand that the atonement here is set forth as a substitutionary work.
In other words, he represented us and when his sacrifice was accepted, he had, therefore, discharged the obligations for those who are benefited by his work. That is, those for whom he stands. So the Lord Jesus Christ was the substitutionary sacrifice and when his sacrifice was accomplished those for whom he stood, his people, with reference to whom he stood federally, those had all the obligations that they were responsible for before God satisfied by their substitute. He purchased freedom for us.
Now he did not purchase freedom immediately. He purchased freedom in accordance with the terms of the agreement between the members of the Trinity. And the terms of the agreement made between the members of the Trinity was that the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ should accomplish our salvation. And, furthermore, it should not only accomplish our salvation, purchase that, but it should purchase the means by which we laid hold of that atoning work: faith, and also that the time when those benefits became ours should be regulated by the activity of the Holy Spirit in bringing us under conviction and bringing us to the reception of the work which the Redeemer had done for us. So when the Lord Jesus Christ died, he discharged the obligation that his people had with reference to the Lord God. He accomplished their redemption. He purchased the means by which they should receive that salvation and in time as the weeks, and months, and years have passed through the present age, the Holy Spirit at the right time, has brought the people of God to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of faith and repentance by which they receive as a free gift what the Lord Jesus Christ won for them in the shedding of his precious blood.
The Bible says, incidentally, that he laid down his life for sheep. He didn’t lay down his life for the seraphim. He didn’t lay down his life for other angelic beings. He didn’t lay down his life for good men. He laid down his life for the sheep. So the atoning work is a federal work. It’s a sacrificial work. It is a substitutionary work.
Now we’ll say more about this next week when we talk about the design of the atonement, because to understand substitution is to understand one of the most important things about the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. A lot of my friends who talk about the substitutionary work of Christ, but deny that he died in order to save his people are actually setting forth a theory of substitution that is not biblical substitution. Biblical substitution is something else, but I don’t want to get off into that because that’s one of our major topics next week.
One last thing that we note here in verse 11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Now the fact that the Lord Jesus had to give his life for the sheep is evidence that his life was a necessary payment or purchase price. The fact that he gave his life is evidence that there was an obligation of life before the Lord God. He must pay a penalty for his sheep. So we can learn from this expression that the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ was a penal satisfaction. That is, it was a death that was a penalty for sin.
This is something that many modern theologians today do not like to admit. In fact, the whole idea of people being punished for sin is an idea that our generation does not like at all. We can see it in our lower courts. We can see it in the way that we deal with people. The idea of a particular act calling for a certain punishment is something that we think violates the love of God or violates the affection of God. But the Scriptures make a great deal over punishment. It’s a biblical doctrine. The Lord Jesus gave his life. It was a penal satisfaction.
Incidentally, the older theologians, instead of using the word “atonement” used the word “satisfaction”, because the word “atonement”, as I mentioned in one of the preceding studies, has some ideas that are not really too clear. Satisfaction means simply that the Lord Jesus satisfied the holiness and justice of God by paying the penalty that that holiness and justice demanded. So they spoke of the atonement as the satisfaction of Christ. So if I use it, remember it means simply the atonement of Christ or the satisfaction of Christ. So his death then was a penal satisfaction.
He did not die as a mere example. He did not die to exhibit the love of God, primarily. He did not die in order that there might be a substituted penalty, but he died as the penalty itself. He was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
There are two words, they are big words, but we ought to understand them. I made reference to them last week. They are the two words “expiation” and “propitiation”; “expiation”, “propitiation.” Expiation means literally “to pour out.” It is something poured out. Propitiation means something that is poured out before someone else, “pro.” Now these two words are theological words and it’s helpful if we keep the distinction and meaning between them in mind. It enables us to think clearly. The more clearly we think about biblical things, the more clearly we will be able to understand and the better we shall be able to live as believers.
Expiation, the first word, has to do with sin and the sinner. So we say the sinner’s sin is expiated. That is, a judgment is poured out upon that sin. His life was poured out as an expiation for sin. Propitiation because of the preposition “pro” something poured out before is used with reference to God, so that propitiation does not have to do with sin or the sinner, but propitiation has to do with God. So the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice was an expiatory sacrifice in that he bore the penalty for sin. It was a propitiation in the sense that it was done to satisfy the holiness and righteousness of God, so he propitiated God; he expiated sin. Now when he propitiated God it means that he satisfied the claims of God against those for whom he died.
One of the outstanding theologians has been A. A. Hodge. Mr. Hodge or Dr. Hodge was the son of the famous Charles Hodge. He has a paragraph on the distinction between a penal satisfaction and a pecuniary satisfaction. Now he says this, “The first concerns crime and person. The other concerns debt and things. They differ. In crime, the demand terminates upon the person of the criminal. In debt, upon the thing due. Second, in crime, the demand is for that kind, degree and duration of suffering that enlightened reason discerns to be demanded by justice. In debt, the demand is precisely and only for the thing due, an exact quid pro quo. In crime, vicarious sufferings of the penalty is admissible only at the absolute discretion of the sovereign; and the consequent release of the criminal is a matter of grace.”
Now that’s a very important thing because that means that in the case of the Lord Jesus Christ, his atoning work was not precisely what is to be experienced by every man for whom he dies. He doesn’t die a death for every one of us, but he dies an equivalent penalty. But that is acceptable to God by the determination of his will. That’s what he’s talking about here when he says, “In crime a vicarious suffering of the penalty is admissible only at the absolute discretion of the sovereign.” In other words, there are people who say, “It is not right for Jesus Christ who was not guilty to die for people who are guilty. That’s unjust.”
But you see, in this case, the sovereign of the universe that it is right. It is acceptable to him. He has determined that it is right and since he has determined that it is right, it’s right. He has determined that that be so by an act of grace. That’s what he’s speaking about and the consequent release of the criminal is a matter of grace. In debt the payment of the thing due by whomsoever made, ipso facto, liberates and its acceptance in the release of the debtor is no matter of grace. So the Lord Jesus Christ’s death then was a federal work, was a sacrificial work, it was a substitutionary work, it is a penal work. These four aspects then make up the nature of our Lord’s atoning work: federal, sacrificial, substitutionary, penal.
Now it is very important that we remember these particular things about the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. When he died on the cross, this is the kind of death that he died. This afternoon I was reading in a book by Arthur W. Pink on the atonement and I read a chapter I had never read before and in the course of this particular chapter, he cited John Brown, a well known Puritan writer. He says, “To the enlightened eye, there is found on the cross another inscription besides that which Pilate ordered to be written there.” Remember Pilate said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth, ‘The King of the Jews'” and then also remember he said, “What I have written, I have written.” But he said, “This is Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews” that was his inscription. Mr. Brown suggested that there was another inscription besides that which the enlightened mind sees when he looks at the cross and that inscription is, “The victim of guilt, the wages of sin.” This is what we think of when we look at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Someone might ask the question, “Why a cross? Why did the Lord Jesus Christ die on a cross?” Well, one could answer and say, “Because God determined that he should”, that would be all right. But there may be another reason why. The cross, the idea of a tree, goes all the way back to Genesis chapter 3 and the Garden of Eden. And there because man sinned in connection with the tree that was in the midst of the garden, how fitting it is that the Lord Jesus should be hanging upon a tree. And, furthermore, in the Law of Moses, it is stated in Deuteronomy chapter 21, in verse 22 and 23 that one should not be hanging upon a tree as the sun goes down because the curse rested upon someone who was hanging upon a tree.
And so even written into the Law of Moses is the idea that anyone hanging upon the tree is a curse. So associated with the tree is the sin in the Garden of Eden by which man fell. Associated with it is the statement of the law in which the man who hangs upon a tree is a curse. So that when the Lord Jesus Christ comes to die, he dies upon a tree in order that there might be a symbol of the sin of man in the Garden of Eden and of the curse which rests upon men. And in the Lord’s case, as they put upon his head the crown of thorns, thorns, of course, were symbolic of the curse from Genesis chapter 3. It was God’s way of saying in picture form, “This man is bearing the curse” or as Paul puts it, “He hath redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us.” That’s why our Lord died on a cross. It’s all so beautifully appropriate that you wonder why anyone would ask a question like that. It should seem obvious to you.
Well, we don’t have time to expound all of these verses here, but let me just run through them in the remaining five minutes that we have. My purpose is really to set forth the nature of the atonement. In verses 12 and 13, we have the hireling’s flight. These are no shepherds and they are no shepherds, that’s the way the Greek text puts it, those that are not shepherds, they are no shepherds because they’re not interested in the sheep. They’re false shepherds. They’re interested in the money. So in verse 12 and 13,
“But he that is an hireling and not the shepherd (that is a no 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.”
That’s why we try to preach the word of God in Believers Chapel constantly. It is our responsibility to preach the word of God in order that the sheep may be fed from the word of God. If we were hirelings then of course, we would be interested in money, in possessions, in material things, and when the wolves came, we would flee. But the true shepherd is one who gives his life for the sheep.
Now he speaks of the shepherd and the sheep in verses 14, 15, and 16. There are four things that are emphasized here and I put them in capital “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” under Roman Two in the outline and I’ll just mention them very briefly as we go through these verses, verse 14, “I am the good shepherd.” What a complete character our Lord is: a good shepherd. “The creation is too small a frame in which to hang his likeness”, Mr. Spurgeon used to say concerning him. He is inconceivably greater than anything we could conceive and unutterably greater than any utterance that we might make about him. He speaks about a complete knowledge in verses 14 and 15. He says, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father.” These verses are very interesting, if you have the New American Standard Bible, it has been punctuated properly there and what the Lord says is essentially two things. That he knows us as the Father knows him. “I am the good shepherd, and I know the sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father.” So there are two things that are said here and then two things that follow and they harmonize with one another. The first is, “He knows the Father as the Father knows him.” So he knows us as the Father knows him. The Father knows him perfectly. He knows us perfectly.
Human love, they say, is blind. That’s probably true to some extent. Love is blind. Love does not see a lot of things that other people may see about the object of the love, but that is not true of the love of Jesus Christ. He knows us as the Father knows him and isn’t it amazing that he knows us as the Father knows him? That is, he knows us perfectly and he still loves his sheep. Isn’t that amazing? That’s amazing. He knows what sore temptations mean for he has felt the same and he knows all of the experiences that we go through and loves us in the midst of all of them. Surely we could never have a greater Savior then the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second thing that he says here is that we know him as he knows the Father. What an amazing statement that is, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father” so that we know him as he knows the Father. Why he knows the Father perfectly.
In what sense could it ever be said that we know him like he knows the Father? Well, not quantitatively. We could never have the full knowledge of God that he has of the Father, but qualitatively we can. We can have the knowledge of delight as the Son delights in the Father, so we delight in him. We can the love of sympathy. We can have the love of unity. We can have the love of trust and I think our Lord refers to these things. He speaks of the complete sacrifice in chapter 15 at the end of the verse, “And I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Incidentally, anyone can die. Anyone can die for the Lord Jesus Christ, but only the Lord Jesus can die and take up his life again. I lay down my life for the sheep” and later on he will say he takes it up again.
Then finally, in verse 16, he speaks of the complete flock, “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 flock, and one shepherd.” He refers to the fact that ultimately Jew and Gentile as the result of his saving work shall be one flock. Jew and Gentile shall live redeemed in the one body. I would put Ephesians chapter 3 and verse 6 by this where Paul says that the Jews and Gentiles in the present age are members of the same body and enjoy those same promises.
And finally, the shepherd and the Father in verses 17 and 18, someone might say, “Was the shepherd impotent? Did he have to die? Did someone take him and rush him to the cross and could he do nothing about it?” And he answers that in these last two verses, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.” The sacrifice secures the love of the Father. The resurrection is intended to be the end of the death for he lays down his life that he may take it again. “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down; I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” There is the source of all of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, “This commandment have I received of my Father.” It is everything that happens arises out of the eternal agreement between the persons of the Trinity in ages past. This commandment to do this work, I have received from my Father.
Our time is up and I guess I should not begin anything else, but what I want you to bear in mind as we close is that the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ is a federal work. It is a substitutionary work. It is a penal work and it is what? Substitutionary work. This is the nature of the atonement. Next week, we’ll try to answer the question, “For whom did Christ die?” Let’s bow in a word of prayer.
[Prayer] Father, we are grateful to Thee for the privilege of the study of the atoning work of Christ and we thank Thee that the priest has offered the sacrifice for his people and now lives in heaven to see…
[RECORDING ENDS ABRUPTLY]