The Shepherd and His Flock
The New Testament uses various symbolic illustrations to describe the relationship between the universal Church and Jesus Christ. These symbolic illustrations can help us to get a better understanding of our relationship with Christ. We have looked at some of these symbolic illustrations already, and today we discuss Christ’s relationship with the universal Church as illustrated by the Shepherd and His flock.
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One Shepherd, One Flock
In John 10:15, Jesus says as “the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” In the Old Testament, Israel had a unique relationship to the Lord as sheep to a Shepherd (Psalm 80:1; Jeremiah 23:17; Enns 2014:369). But Jesus declares in John 10:16 that “other sheep I have which is not of this fold [flock]”. Enns (2014:369-370) interprets John 10:16 as follows: “The uniqueness about the Church being a flock and Christ the Shepherd is that this flock is composed of both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus declared, “I have other sheep [Gentiles], which are not of this fold [Jews]; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall become one flock [the Church].” Christ’s relationship with the universal Church can be compared to the figure of a Shepherd and his flock.
Practical implications for the flock (the Church) include the following:
- As a shepherd provides for his sheep, so Christ provides food, water and rest for his Church (cf. John 10:3-4, 9, 11).
- Jesus deeply cares for his flock (John 10:13).
- Christ protects his flock (John 10:5, 12-13).
- Jesus calls his flock and they listen to his voice (John 10:3).
- Christ provides security for his flock (John 10:28-29).
The Past, the Present and the Future
One New Testament mystery is that in Christ both Jewish and Gentile believers are united in the one body of Christ (Ephesians 3:3-7). Fruchtenbaum (2005:17) observes that there are certain time distinctions in this relationship between Christ as the Shepherd and the Church as his flock: “Insofar as the past is concerned, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, laid down His life for His sheep (Jn 10:11). As far as the present is concerned, He is now the Great Shepherd of the sheep and is in the process of sanctifying the sheep (Hebrews 13:20-21). Insofar as the future is concerned, the Shepherd will reward the sheep (1 Pet. 5:1-4).”
To the Great Shepherd be the glory, great things He has done, great things He is doing and great things He will yet do!
Our next article in this series about the symbolic illustrations of the universal Church will focus on the Heir and the joint-heirs.
If you would like to read more about the Universal Church, we suggest you read the original article and source of this short series, The Universal Church, written by Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.
We also made use of The Moody Handbook of Theology by P.P. Enns, which was published in 2014 by Moody Publishers in Chicago.
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