“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9; Jesus is speaking)
Jesus had already given the disciples a figure of speech in which He compared Himself to a shepherd. The disciples didn’t understand, so He gave them another figure of speech in which He compared Himself to the door leading to the “sheep pasture”, which represents Heaven.
In this conversation He also eliminated all other contenders for the title of Messiah when He said, “All who came before me are thieves and robbers“.
Jesus also revealed the true motive of false Messiahs when He said in this same conversation, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His [own] life for the sheep. But the hired man [who merely serves for wages], who is neither the shepherd nor the owner of the sheep, when he sees the wolf coming, deserts the flock and runs away; and the wolf snatches the sheep and scatters them. The man runs because he is a hired hand [who serves only for wages] and is not concerned about the [safety of the] sheep.” (John 10:11-13; Amplified Bible)
The disciples certainly understood that there was only one Messiah. Facing the executioners of King Jesus in Jerusalem at Pentecost about thirty days after Christ’s crucifixion, Peter loudly proclaimed: “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12)
The Door, King Jesus, has a personal interest in “His sheep”. VERY personal. He fought at least a thirty-year war to rescue His sheep, and ended by allowing Himself to be tortured to death in order to rescue us. The motivation of King Jesus can be understood as being due to His ownership of us. That’s not a comfortable thought for Americans, who grew up highly independent. The whole idea of America was the possibility of freedom and personal independence. Keep in mind, though, that a good shepherd does not bully or unnecessarily restrict his sheep. He guards them from danger and leads them into good pasture. He’s not domineering. He doesn’t micro-manage his sheep into a nervous breakdown or a state of rebellion.
The concept is a basic American concept. In the first days of the Republic, you could not vote unless you owned land. You owned a little bit of America, and that was assumed to make you vote responsibly for the good of your community instead of selfishly. Independent businesses have been recognized as major providers of jobs until the historically recent open war against small businesses. Their service was generally better than a lot of giant corporations, because the business owners had the authority to decide how to run their companies, and they were directly and immediately affected by the consequences of their decisions.
It’s the same with King Jesus. We’re His sheep, so He has the right and the responsibility to take care of us. And since He and God the Father love us, they are directly and immediately affected by the consequences of their actions. Just like good parents are deeply affected by their children’ health and happiness.
You might think that God the Father and Jesus have no reason to care whether we’re happy or well-fed, etc. But remember the reason that God sent King Jesus to earth as a human: LOVE! The strongest reason of all.
I don’t recall any mention in the Bible of WHY God loves us. He just repeats over and over that He loves us. Incredible. Left to ourselves, we rapidly become the gnarliest, nastiest, most tick-infested, parasite-riddled, most diseased bunch of dirty disgraceful sheep ever to suffer through life. Of course, that’s another figure of speech. For me, anyway. I hope it is for you also. :E
Thank God that God doesn’t need a reason to love us!
We are “made in His image”, and some would say that’s the reason. That makes sense, but we still have to be vetted to get into God’s Kingdom, so it’s not just that we’re “family”. I don’t care. I just know He loves us, and that’s why He suffered and died under torture at the hands of evil men to rescue us.
I can trust a Shepherd like that.
A person has to be authorized for this Door to be opened for him or her. Yes, unlike the US, God’s Kingdom has vetting and a border wall. John 10:3 mentions a gatekeeper who only opens the door to the shepherd. Revelation 21:27 says about the Holy City / “New Jerusalem”, “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Obviously it’s very important to enter by The Door. Obviously it is necessary to be vetted and authorized for entry.
How does one get “vetted”?
We all know the answer, theoretically. But the “hired hands” and “servants of satan” have muddied the water considerably, and their pollution and dilution is not always easy to detect. We who are long in the faith can help those who aren’t familiar with Biblical doctrine, if we will be patient and persistent with them.
Paul wrote to the Galatians: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:6-9)
In that Galatians quote, the ones who angered Paul (called “Judaizers”)were preaching a variation of Christian faith which was so subtle that it had deceived the Galatians. Paul was so angry with both the Galatians (for being easily deceived) and the deceivers that he uncharacteristically went ballistic on them in the very first chapter of Galatians, verse 6. Usually Paul started his letters with a substantial, fairly lengthy accolade and encouraging words. Not here. He blew his top. And what was the so-effective deception?
Following Judaic tradition. Circumcision and Jewish holy days. Observing the Year of Jubilee.
Paul used frightening words to describe the consequences of adding something to the Gospel of grace:
“Notice, it is I, Paul, who tells you that if you receive circumcision [as a supposed requirement of salvation], Christ will be of no benefit to you [for you will lack the faith in Christ that is necessary for salvation]. Once more I solemnly affirm to every man who receives circumcision [as a supposed requirement of salvation], that he is under obligation and required to keep the whole Law. You have been severed from Christ, if you seek to be justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] through the Law; you have fallen from grace [for you have lost your grasp on God’s unmerited favor and blessing].” (Galatians 5:2-4; Amplified Bible
<whew> and <whew> again. Harsh words indeed.
(I’m aware that this passage seems to say that a person can lose his or her salvation. Responding to that would require at least another article and take us off course, so forgive me if here, I just make this point: you can’t DO anything that will get you into God’s Kingdom.)
The “Judaizers” were only trying to persuade the Galatians to continue the practices which God had required for a couple of thousand years. What could be wrong with that?
Paul’s answer was, the Messiah accomplished salvation for everyone who has faith in Him. If you try to add to that with the intention of “saving yourself”, you have said that what Jesus did was insufficient. That He somehow failed.
So how does one become approved, authorized, vetted, to get into God’s Kingdom?
Simple, but sometimes not easy. John 6:29: “This is the work He would have you do: believe in the One He has sent.”
That’s all. Just believe. Peter, talking to the disciples about whether it was necessary to follow the Judaic laws, said this: “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as [the Gentiles] will.” (Acts 15:11) Not works, just grace.
(The word translated “grace” means “an undeserved gift”.)
In Romans 3:20, Paul wrote, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
In 3:25, he wrote, “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. “
Ephesians 2:6-9 emphasizes this critically important truth from several angles:
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast …”
In that passage, consider this: if we had earned Heaven, then there would be no “incomparable riches of His grace” to display. At least to some degree, God’s grace would be diminished and there would be a corresponding degree of righteousness in humans. But we know that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)
HOWEVER. This does not mean that we are allowed to live as free as the breeze, doing whatever we want. I quoted Ephesians 2:6-9.Now we need to look at Ephesians 2:10: “… because we are God’s craftsmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”We work because we are saved. NOT because we are trying to earn salvation. Those who see our lives should know that we do the things we do, and do not do the things we do not do, because God is working in our lives to (eventually) make us like King Jesus. Not because we are working to get into Heaven.Because they need God’s undeserved gift, too. And because God loves them, too. And believers in Jesus are supposed to be the light of the world, ever since King Jesus ascended back into Heaven. The responsibility is ours now.
And how do we show them our faith?
“What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.] If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective].” (James 2:14-17; Amplified Bible)