And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
This verse is clearly talking about the inclusion of gentiles in the divine plan. Several words in this passage invite highlighting.
First, there’s the phrase “them I also must bring.” Notice not only the divine compulsion – namely, that the gentiles “ must” be brought in – but notice also the divine monergism, that the Lord is doing the “bringing.” Jesus doesn’t say, “And other sheep will hear my voice and follow me.” He says, “them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice.” His “bringing” precipitates the other sheep “hearing.”
Simply put, if gentiles (most of us today) are in the faith, it is the Lord’s work. It is because they “must” be brought in, and because the Lord “brings” them in. He does the work. Our “hearing” of His voice is a consequence of His bringing of us in. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit.
Second, notice the promise of “one flock and one shepherd.” We will come across this topic again soon, but let’s introduce it here.
Jesus doesn’t say, “There might be one flock and one shepherd.” He says, “There will be one flock and one shepherd.” Will, not might. That’s a promise. That’s a prophecy. One flock. One shepherd.
“But whoa,” says the skeptic, “Look at the Church! There are tons of churches, tons of flocks, and tons of shepherds. The Church is hardly one flock under one shepherd.”
OK, is the skeptic saying Jesus is a liar? Let’s look at His words again. “There will be one flock and one shepherd.” These words could be overlooked if (a) Jesus wasn’t God, or (b) He hadn’t risen from the dead confirming His claims to divinity. But He did rise from the dead. Therefore His claims to divinity are truth, therefore we must take His words at face value: there is one flock and one shepherd.
“But I don’t see it!”
Do you see Christ’s kingdom come? Do you see yourself as a saint? Do not see the body and blood of Jesus in communion? Do you see the Holy Spirit descending in baptisms? Do you see Jesus in the pastor preaching a sermon? Do you see God present in the praises of the people?
Do you see the point?
The unity of the Church is not something we see. It is an article of faith we confess. Also, the unity of the Church is not something we cause or create. It is something Jesus has promised. For us to act as if we need to make the church unified is the ultimate presumption of what Jesus Himself has promised.
Why do we confess that the Church is one, and then speak and act as if the church is divided? Every time we speak of the church as divided we make Jesus a liar. Again, He said, “There will be one flock and one shepherd.”
What then do we do with the clear example of divided confessions and churches? Not really our problem, is it. Our task is to “hear the shepherd’s voice and follow.” For that is where the one flock is, where the shepherd’s voice is heard. Not where people “hear into” the shepherd’s voice what they want to hear, or their political agenda. Not where people add to the shepherd’s voice additional words that make them culturally friendly. Not where people drown out the shepherd’s voice with voices from other parts of the Bible, or from their favorite philosopher or thinker. But where the shepherd’s voice is heard.
There are a lot of principles of unity in the church today, as people attempt to construct by human means an edifice for declaring that the Church can be one. “The Church will be one if we all just put our dogmas aside and work together under a common Christian ethics.” “The Church will be one if we just find what unites us at a least common denominator level.” “The Church will be one if we just all submit to a symbol of Christian unity, like the pope, or Christian ethics.”
Nope. The Church is one. We confess it. Faith holds onto things it cannot see. We cannot see the unity of the Church. But yet it is there. How? Wherever Christ’s flock hears the voice of the Shepherd. Are there Baptists, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Pentecostalists, and Lutherans who hear the voice of the Shepherd? Probably, but ultimately it is not ours to decide that, for Christ has already declared His Church, from those who hear His voice, as one. Certainly there are confessions of faith that try to block Christ’s voice, but somehow the sheep will hear the voice despite that. (Like the Presbyterian couple who, when I asked them if they believed Jesus’ body and blood were present in communion, said, “Of course it is. That’s what Jesus says of the bread and wine.” I failed to share with them what their church body really taught.)
The Church is one. And it’s not ours to make it one, for Christ has declared it one from the beginning. Ours is to be faithful in the hearing of His voice. As we are faithful in hearing His voice, the Lord will work the unity.