For two and a half years, Jesus had sought to convey to the Jews His identity and the reason for His incarnation.
• He had done so through at least two ways.
o His works
o His words – teaching
• Both His works and His words pointed to His ministry as being sanctioned and authorized by God the Father and to His identity as the Son of God.
In our text today, we are confronted with some powerful implications for the believer and unbeliever with respect to Jesus’ works and His words.
• Over the next two weeks, we will seek to understand what the implications are.
• And I think we will see that these 22 verses are some of the most powerful in all of Scripture.
• James Boice suggests that in these verses we get, “the most highly condensed statements of the doctrines of grace in the entire Gospel”.
In Part I, we will deal with the relationship of Jesus’ WORDS to the believer/unbeliever.
1) JESUS WORDS
John 10:22–29 (ESV) — 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 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.”
A note about the context of this discussion:
• This encounter with the Jews took place in December.
• We are less than 6 months from Jesus’ crucifixion.
• The Feast of Dedication “celebrated the rededication of the temple in December 164 B.C. after its desecration by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus Epiphanes and the successful Maccabean revolt” – Kostenberger.
Today we will deal with verses 22-29.
• Next week we will contend with verses 30-42.
• I want to pay special attention to Jesus words in verses 25 and 27.
1) “I told you, and you do not believe” (vs. 25):
The Jews gather around Jesus at the temple mount and request, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly”.
• And Jesus tells them plainly, “I told you, and you do not believe”.
• In other words, He has taught them with words and they have rejected His teaching.
• He doesn’t stop there, however.
• He goes on to explain, interestingly, not why they should now believe, but why they don’t believe!
• This is exactly what Jesus did in John 6.
John is clearly seeking to convey something to us about Jesus’ reason for highlighting the reason for unbelief.
• No doubt, the question was asked then and is asked now, if Jesus was/is the Messiah the Christ and God incarnate, why did so many Jews reject Him?
Logically, it seems we are left with 2 choices.
• (1) Jesus’ words in John 6 and John 10 were a later addition to the text which were fabricated in order to explain why so many Jews rejected Jesus.
• (2) Or, Jesus is speaking the truth. He is teaching us about the sovereignty and work of God in the context of belief/unbelief because He sees it as what fundamentally makes the difference between the two.
As just mentioned, Jesus had previously contrasted the believer, the one who trusts in the Father’s Jesus, with the unbeliever, the one who rejects the Father’s Jesus, in John 6.
• And in our text he also does this.
• These instances are worth digging into so that we might understand what Jesus is saying about the sovereignty of God the Father and unbelief.
John 6 – A Similar Example:
Our similar example is the interaction with the crowd at Capernaum in John 6.
• Jesus had fed the 5000 and then crossed the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum.
• Much of the crowd followed Him.
• He told them, “you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of loaves” (John 6:26).
• He went on to teach them that the bread that matters is the bread of life that only He gives.
• They ask Him what they must do for this bread.
• He said the real work of God is to “believe in him whom he has sent” (vs. 29).
• They “do not believe” (vs. 36) in Him and continue to challenge Him throughout the encounter.
• His response to their unbelief – “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe” (vs. 36).
• His explanation for their unbelief – “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (vs. 37).
• And again – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44).
• And again – “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (John 6:45).
o This is clearly a “hearing” quite different from just an audible hearing
o And, the origins of this hearing are with the Father and not Jesus
And in our text today, Jesus also explains the unbelief of the Jews in relation to a work of God the Father.
• This brings us to the 2nd verse I want to focus on – vs. 27.
2) “Hear My Voice” (vs. 27):
John 6:26-27 (ESV) — 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
• And in vs. 29, Jesus elaborates, echoing His words in John 6, when He says that those that hear His voice were given to Him by His Father, “who has given then to me”.
o This “giving” presumably occurs after they have “heard and learned from the Father” (John 6:45).
• It is striking that the Wisdom literature of Proverbs tells us:
o Proverbs 20:12 (ESV) — 12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the LORD has made them both.
o Our ability to hear audibly is attributed to God, and (in Jesus’ words) our ability to hear spiritually is attributed to God.
And so Jesus’ teaching in John 10 is the same as John 6 we just reviewed.
• Those that believe are those that are the beneficiaries of a work of God which frees them from the limitations of their moral deficiency, depravity and inability to “hear” Jesus Christ.
• The unbelievers then, in Jesus’ own words, are those that have not heard, learned, been drawn or given by the Father.
What this means:
The implication of this is that we can’t just “hear” Jesus’ words or “see” Jesus’ signs AND THEN, in our own capacity, realize our need for Him and thus desire to trust in Him as Savior.
• We simply do not have the moral ability to do so.
• There simply does not exist a neutral ground from which mankind can decide yea or nay based on a rational consideration of the work and words of Jesus Christ.
• Jesus, in John’s Gospel, is making this perfectly clear.
• A work of God is first necessary – a drawing, hearing, learning and giving.
• This is why is teaching us that the difference between the believer and unbeliever is to be found in this work of the Father.
o Jesus is submitting to the will of, and giving glory to God the Father!
Our moral inability:
Jesus Himself acknowledged our moral inability to do this in John 2:24.
• John 2:24–25 (ESV) — 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
• Jesus did not “believe in” or “entrust” Himself to mankind because what was in them.
What is in man?
• Not one of us does good (Ps. 14:3).
• We have wicked and deceitful hearts (Jer. 17:9).
• We are dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1-2).
• We are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
• We love darkness and hate the light (John 3:19-20).
• Our hearts are hard like stone (Ezek. 36:26; Eph. 4:18).
• We are unable to submit to God and are hostile towards God (Rom 8:7-8).
• We are unable to accept the gospel (Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:14).
• We are unable to come to Christ or embrace him as Lord (John 6:44, 65; 1 Cor. 12:3).
• We are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17).
• We are slaves of Satan (Eph. 2:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
• No good thing dwells in us (Rom. 7:18).
If we look at it logically, it makes perfect sense that we can’t hear His words or see His signs AND THEN realize our need for Him and thus desire to trust in Him as Savior in our own ability (especially given our depravity).
• The existence of a need and having the desire to satisfy that need are not grounded in, or do not originate from, the thing that satisfies that need.
Let’s look at a simple example.
Why do we need water and why do we desire to satisfy that need by drinking it?
• Is it because water exists?
• No, to say so would mean that to remove the existence of water would be to remove our need for water and desire for it.
Is it because we can rationally understand the physical and chemical properties of water and how it interacts with our body?
• No, to say so would mean that an infant or mentally handicapped person, who can do no such thing, has no need for water.
So why do we need water and why do we desire to satisfy our thirst?
• We need water because we have been made to need water.
• This need is part of what we are, not what water is.
• So because we have been made for water, we desire to seek out water and drink it.
• If we don’t we die.
The same holds for our need of Jesus and a desire to trust in Him as Savior.
Why do we need Jesus and desire to seek Him out?
• Is it because Jesus walked in the flesh and performed signs and taught?
• No, to say so would mean that those in the OT or those that don’t’ encounter Christ have no need for Him.
Is it because we can rationally understand the life of Christ and how brilliant His teachings are?
• No, to say that would mean that Satan and his demons understand their need for Jesus and desire to satisfy that need through a relationship with Him.
• To say that would also mean that the infant or the mentally handicap person who cannot do these things has no need for Jesus.
So why do we seek after Jesus to meet a need we have for Him?
• We seek after Jesus and recognize our need for Him because we have been “born again” (John 3 & Ezekiel 36:26).
• We have been “remade” by a work of God to do so.
• God has taken our fallen, depraved, corrupt will that does not seek after God, and remade it to recognize our need for Jesus and pursue satisfaction of that need in Him.
• So, our need for Christ and our desire to trust in Him is grounded in, and originates in the work of God in our heart.
• If we don’t see this need and trust Jesus, we die.
So whatever else can be said, Jesus’ has told us “plainly” that the sovereignty of God explains the difference between believers and unbelievers.
• So what are we to do at this intersection of human responsibility and God’s sovereignty?
• John MacArthur frames it this way, “From the perspective of human responsibility, the hostile Jews did not believe because they had deliberately rejected the truth. But from the standpoint of divine sovereignty, they did not believe because they were not of the Lord’s sheep, which were given Him by the Father. A full understanding of exactly how those two realities, human responsibility and divine sovereignty, work together lies beyond human comprehension; but there is no difficulty with them in the infinite mind of God”.
Why an understanding of the Father’s necessary work on our hearts should be a comfort and not a concern:
It means that our salvation is secure.
• Jesus tells us that, “no one will snatch them out of my hand” (vs. 28)
• The word for “snatch”, “harpazo”, means “to forcefully grab or seize so as to gain control”.
• Contrasted with the wolf from John 10:12 who “snatches” because the “hired hand” “leaves the sheep”, Jesus is saying that, as our shepherd, not only will He not flee, but none can seize or gain control of our eternal life from His hand.
• In fact, in vs. 29 He points out that our eternal life is not just in His hand but also in the Father’s hand.
• So as we look to the sovereign work of God to bring us to salvation in Christ, we also see a sovereign work of God secure it for all eternity.
o Isaiah 43:13 (ESV) — 13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?”
o Wisdom of Solomon 3:1 (NRSV) — 1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.
Lesson for Us:
So what are we to do with God’s sovereignty?
• Praise Him and rest secure in the
o (1) “realness” of our trust in Christ because it is grounded in a work of God.
o (2) “security” of the eternity of our salvation because it is grounded in a work of God.
• This is why God’s sovereignty should be an awesome source of daily comfort for the believer.
• This should free us to be bold and confident in our walk.