Christ's Other Sheep
(John 10, Mark 9, 1 Corinthians 3)
Introduction: Why do we have so many Christian denominations? For that matter, why do we have so many religions in the world? Is this God's plan? Does one denomination have all of the correct doctrines? All the truth? If a person is a Christian, is there any reason to try to convert that person to a different Christian denomination? Let's jump into our study this week and see what the Bible says about "other sheep" and their education!
- Unpenned Sheep
- Read John 10:1-3. How do we know the real shepherd from a robber? (The real shepherd enters through the gate.)
- Read John 10:4. How do the sheep know the true shepherd from a robber? (By his voice.)
- This is good information. But, it raises the natural question of who are the first three verses of John 10 intended to benefit? Who has something to learn here? To what audience is the first three verses directed? (Obviously not the sheep. They make a decision on the bona fides of the shepherd based on his voice. The person to be educated here is not a sheep. It is an outsider who wants to distinguish a true shepherd from a sheep stealer.)
- Who would want to know about shepherds, but not be a sheep? Aren't we all sheep or potential sheep?
- Read John 10:6. Looks like the disciples are having trouble with this question too. We learned that the sheep know who is the shepherd by his voice. How do we know who are his sheep? (If you did not know the shepherd's voice, you would not be a sheep of that fold. We are all sheep or potential sheep - and that is the point. There are sheep who belong in the sheep pen and sheep who do not. If you were an outside sheep looking for the true shepherd, you would pay attention to how the person who claimed to be the "shepherd" entered the pen. The first three verses of John 10 are a lesson for sheep who are presently "outside" the sheep pen.)
- Let's read on. Read John 10:7-9. Jesus tells us that He is the gate to the sheep pen. What is Jesus' teaching us about all of the other potential shepherds? (Jesus is telling us that if a religious leader does not put his or her trust in Jesus, then this is a false teacher, a false shepherd.)
- What does this say about all of the other religions of the world? (A religion which does not depend upon Jesus is a false religion.)
- Is it that simple?
- What does this say about religious leaders who seem to be motivated by money or celebrity? (Unless they are motivated by Jesus, they are false shepherds.)
- Read John 10:10-11. What is the goal of false shepherds? How does it compare with Jesus' goals? (They come to kill. Jesus came to die.)
- Do you know of religions which kill sheep? (The most prominent these days is that strain of Islam which kills others for religious reasons. Prominent in the United States is humanism which promotes abortions. The essence of Christianity is to be willing to give up your life to benefit others. Strains of Islam promote giving up your life to kill others. Abortion is the taking another life to benefit yourself. It is the complete opposite of Christianity - which teaches that you lay down your life to benefit others.)
- As you consider what Jesus is teaching in these verses, can there be more than one true religion? (Jesus says there is one true gate (which is Jesus) and therefore it stands to reason that there is one true sheep pen - Christianity.)
- Penned Sheep
- Read John 10:16. Who are these "other sheep?" Are they Christians? Are they members of other Christian denominations?(When Christ says "other sheep," He appears to be speaking of those who will be converted to Christianity. He does not seem to be referring to other Christian denominations.)
- Look again at the second half of verse 16. What do you think Jesus would say today about all of the different Christian denominations today?
- Read Mark 9:38-40. What does this suggest would be Jesus' attitude about the many different Christian denominations today? (The disciples seem to be saying, "He is not part of our denomination - tell him to stop." On the surface, the "one flock" idea seems opposed to all of the different Christian denominations. However, what Jesus says in Mark 9 teaches us that as long as the other person comes through the gate of Jesus and relies on His name, we have no reason to complain. It appears Jesus is comfortable with various groups all working in His name.)
- Higher Education for Penned Sheep?
- If all of these denominations are fine with Jesus, and if the "acid test" for membership in the "sheep pen" is coming in through Jesus, what reason do we have to try to convert someone from one Christian denomination to another? Is this just a useless waste of resources that should instead be used to convert those who are not already Christians?
- To test your thinking on this issue, let's start with the major division among Christians: Catholics and Protestants. On a very simple theological level, this division came about based on the Protestant understanding of righteousness by faith alone, revealed in verses like Romans 1:17. Read Romans 1:17. Is it a waste of time to try to convert the thinking of Christians on this topic?
- Some might argue that righteousness by faith is a "gate issue." By that I mean that if you try to climb into the sheep pen based on your works, as opposed to coming in through the gate of faith in Jesus' righteousness, you are not in the sheep pen. Do you agree with this thinking?
- If you say, "yes," are there any other issues that you think are "gate" issues - issues that determine whether you are really a Christian?
- If you cannot think of any other "gate" issues, then would you agree that if you are a Protestant, you should only be trying to convert those who do not believe in righteousness by faith alone?
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-11. What does Paul mean when he says that he laid "the foundation" which is Jesus Christ? (Paul is telling us that he is teaching potential "sheep" about the "gate" issue: coming to salvation only through belief in Jesus.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:12-13. What does it mean to "build" on the foundation? (It must mean Bible teaching that goes beyond the basic teaching of coming to salvation through Jesus alone.)
- What do you think is "straw" teaching as opposed to "gold" teaching? (Teaching Bible truths as opposed to teaching false doctrines or irrelevant doctrines.)
- Paul says that the quality of our teaching will be revealed by fire on "the Day."
- Read 1 Corinthians 3:14-15. If a Bible teacher builds with straw or wood - teaches false or irrelevant doctrines - will he be saved? (It appears the answer is "yes.")
- What gets burned up? The students or the doctrines or something else?
- If you answer "the students who accept straw doctrines are burned up," does this mean that salvation requires belief in something other than faith in Jesus?
- How do you explain that the lousy teacher gets saved and his students do not? (The Bible text itself is not that clear to me, but it must refer to doctrines burning and not the students being burned. Otherwise, we run into theological conflicts with texts like Acts 16:30-31, Romans 10:13 and Acts 2:21 regarding the requirements for salvation.)
- What is the advantage of having sound doctrine? (It will help you to stand in times of trouble. If your temple is built on the foundation of Jesus and gold-standard doctrines, then you will be able to stand the test of fire.)
- Read Proverbs 2:1-5. What does this text teach about the benefit of continued Bible study? (If we study God's Word, and pray for understanding, He will help us to better understand Him and His will. We need to continually mine for gold-standard doctrines. We should find and then share those doctrines.)
- Friend, once you repent and accept Jesus as your Savior, you are saved. But, this is only the beginning of your walk with God. While some may argue that "doctrines" are irrelevant and divisive, I believe that those who truly love God will want to continually increase their knowledge and understanding of His will. Educating "the sheep" with gold-standard doctrines is part of God's plan for us. Will you pledge to never stop studying God's Word to obtain greater understanding?
- Next week: How to Relate to Non-Christians.