The Shepherd and the Sheep


Jesus described Himself as “the good shepherd [who] lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). A shepherd provides guidance, sustenance, and protection for the flock. No one is able to provide the same care for us as Jesus. He willingly sacrificed Himself for us (John 10:17-18). Therefore, it is vitally important that we have Christ as our shepherd.

How do we become one of His sheep? And how do we remain in His fold? Notice what Jesus said:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).

Let us briefly examine this phrase to see how we can take advantage of the care provided by the Good Shepherd.

“My Sheep Hear My Voice”

If we want to have Jesus as our shepherd, we must be willing to listen. Jesus said elsewhere, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 8:8). Many have ears to hear, but refuse to listen (cf. Acts 7:57). A willingness to listen requires humility (James 1:21), as we must recognize that we do not have all of the answers and need the Lord’s instruction (cf. Jeremiah 10:23). We must also have a desire to learn, just as the Bereans who “received the word with great eagerness” (Acts 17:11).

Hearing the Lord’s voice also requires a respect for Him and His authority. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18). A proper respect for His authority (godly fear) will motivate us to hear and understand His teaching. The wise man said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). If one does not fear the Lord, he will see no reason to hear His words; therefore, he will not grow in knowledge of those things that have been revealed from above.

Not only do the sheep hear His voice, they also “know His voice” (John 10:4). In other words, if we are to be of the Lord’s flock, we must be able to recognize His teaching and distinguish it from the teachings of men. The gospel message is distinct (cf. Acts 17:20; 1 Corinthians 14:7-8). We must be able to distinguish it from the errors of denominationalism and liberalism. John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). We must be careful to follow the words of Christ and His apostles rather than being led astray by others.

“I Know Them”

Paul told Timothy, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and that this is a “firm foundation” for us (2 Timothy 2:19). He told the brethren in Corinth, “If anyone loves God, he is known by Him” (1 Corinthians 8:3). How do we show our love for God? We do so by keeping His commandments (1 John 5:3). Therefore, if we want the Lord to know us, we must obey Him.

More than simply knowing His sheep, the Lord has foreknown them. Paul wrote about this predestination in his letter to Ephesus: “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-5). Paul was not teaching the Calvinistic concept of predestination – that God has chosen certain individuals for salvation. Rather, God has predestined a class of people – those who would be holy and blameless.

We can be assured that God notices us when we “keep His commandments” and live in a “holy and blameless” manner (1 John 5:3; Ephesians 1:4). Jesus is the Good Shepherd; He will not forget us (cf. Hebrews 6:9-10). He is distinguished from the “hired hand” in that He has a personal interest in us and was willing to lay down His life for us (John 10:13-15). However, if He does not know us, we will be lost (Matthew 7:23). Our salvation depends upon the Lord knowing us.

“They Follow Me”

The conditions we must meet for salvation include more than just a knowledge of God’s word and belief in Christ. To have Christ as our shepherd, we must follow Him (cf. Psalm 23:2). The shepherd leads, but the sheep must follow.

Following the Lord requires faithful obedience. We cannot be saved by “faith alone” (James 2:24). James wrote, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). We must follow Christ to be of his flock. Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). He is not our Lord if we do not obey Him.

Wandering away from the Lord leads to disaster, as we can no longer enjoy the protection of the shepherd against our “adversary, the devil, [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We are safe as long as we remain in the fold. After saying that His sheep follow Him, Jesus said, “No one will snatch them out of My hand. 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” (John 10:28-29). As long as we follow the Lord, we are safe; but when we turn away from following Him, we are not.


This verse – “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27) – concisely contains the plan of salvation:

  • We must hear the word of the Lord (Luke 8:8; Romans 10:17).
  • We must be known by Him – obey His commandments to become part of His flock (John 8:24; Luke 13:3, 5; Mark 16:16).
  • We must follow Him – continue in faithful service (Revelation 2:10; Hebrews 5:9).

We do not need to worry about Jesus doing what is necessary to save us (John 10:11, 28). He has taken care of His part. We must do our part to become part of His flock and remain in it.

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