THE GOOD SHEPHERD
1. Biblical Terminology
2. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep
a. Verses 11-13
b. Verses 17-18
c. The Good Shepherd as an example to all the Church’s shepherds
3. The Good Shepherd forms one flock
a. Verses 1-6
b. Verse 16
4. The Good Shepherd and His relationship with the Father and with believers
Appendix one - The wrong use of religious titles
Appendix two - A consideration of Acts 13:48b
Appendix three - A consideration of the purpose of the slug
1. Biblical Terminology
Why does Jesus refer to Himself as 'the Good shepherd'?
Do we suppose that He lived a pastoral existence, herding His flock from one pasture to the next? Do we see Him seeking out streams where His charge could drink freely? Do we think that for most of His adult life, His profession had become the caring for a group of sheep on some verdant Israelite hillside?
Certainly the Bible is silent about this possible aspect of Jesus' life. The only profession that the writers ever associated with Him was carpentry (Mark 6:3 - 'Is not this the carpenter?....'), a skill that He apparently acquired from His step-father, Joseph (Mtw 13:55 - 'Is not this the carpenter's son?').
But to think of Jesus as a shepherd is to misunderstand the passage. Back in the Old Testament, we find God speaking of Himself in terms that, should we take them literally, we would have a struggle to find compatible with the image of God that confronts us elsewhere.
We are told, for instance, that God has a right hand and, therefore, presumably a left one as well (Ps 77:10, 78:54, 80:15); that He has both eyes and eyelids (Ps 11:4), a nose (Is 65:5), a mouth (Prov 2:6) and ears (Ps 34:15). We could well go on to dig up other Scriptures that speak similarly of his anatomy but the above will suffice.
But the Bible also tells us that 'No one has ever seen God...' (John 1:18), that '...man shall not see (God) and live' (Ex 33:20) and that God is invisible (Col 1:15 - Jesus being the image of the invisible God - that is, what can’t be seen is made tangible in Christ) - see also I Tim 6:16, I John 4:12.
So why does Scripture speak to us in language, when describing God, that is quite impossible to be taken literally?
The answer is quite simple. For us to be able to understand God's character and being, He has to speak to us in language that we can understand. To try and begin to describe to us, for instance, the complexities of His own omnipresence (that is, being present everywhere both in time and space) would, naturally speaking, blow us away - though perhaps a few of the brighter of mankind may begin to understand how it's possible. But to say that 'the eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good' (Prov 15:3) immediately brings the intelligence needed down to everyone's level so that all men may understand the concept of God seeing everything (even if many choose not to want to believe it!!!).
So, when Jesus talks about Himself as 'the Good Shepherd', we shouldn't expect His statement to be proclaiming that He has, in the past or present, ever lived a pastoral way of life but that there are certain aspect's of a human shepherd that speak to us in perfect imagery of His character.
Therefore, to understand the occupation of a shepherd as it was in those days (which is far removed from the present intense agricultural practices) gives us a better insight into what Jesus' words mean for us today.
2. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep
a. Verses 11-13
It's so easy for us to think 'forward' and see Jesus' words to mean that He gave His life up for us on the cross. Although this, indeed, must be one aspect, Jesus' protection of His own goes deeper than this and touches every area and situation that we find ourselves in.
This 'forward' thinking has often been done with passages such as John 13:34 where Jesus says '...love one another, even as I have loved you' where Christ's 'love' is taken to refer to the cross - that as Jesus loved us by laying down His life so we should lay our lives down for each other.
But the cross was still hours away and yet Jesus says ‘as I have loved you’ not 'as I will love you’. His life demonstrated His love for us, not just His fast approaching crucifixion. The Good Shepherd, then, lays down His life for the sheep. Or, rather, he lays his life on the line for the sheep - the shepherd's actions will not always result in death even though when he goes in to fight the 'wolf', he has no thought for his own safety. Carson writes 'Within the metaphorical world, that "the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" means no more than that he is prepared to do so. He is willing to risk his life for the sheep...' (Pg 386).
In fact, in those days, if the shepherd was to lose his life, then it would mean disaster for the sheep. But when a threat to the sheep's welfare comes, the shepherd is the one who stands between them.
Such was the 'job description' of every 'good' shepherd (I Sam 17:34-36 - this was where David learnt not only to fight but to trust God to deliver him. Cp verses 45-47).
Jesus is here speaking in language that his hearers will plainly understand. In the Jewish compilation of rabinnic teaching that was prevalent around the time of Christ, we find the statement that 'If one wolf [attacked the flock] it does not count as [an] unavoidable accident, but two wolves count as [an] unavoidable accident' (Baba Metzia 7:9a) meaning that a shepherd was responsible to protect the flock if it was assailed by one wild animal but not if there was more. The Jews would not have disputed the role of the shepherd, but they would have opposed the application that Jesus drew out of it.
The hireling is only concerned, at the end of the day, with his wages - when a situation raises its head that threatens his very existence, then self-preservation is a far more pressing goal than standing as a shield to his flock and risking life and limb. Carson writes that 'when care for the flock is neither too arduous nor too dangerous, he is willing to work and receive his pay; but "when he sees the wolf coming", when there is danger to his own skin, he retires forthwith and abandons the sheep to their [own] devices' (Pg 387).
Jesus, on the other hand, is saying that He is the One who stands between His people and danger, that He has a concern for the sheep that goes beyond a mere financial agreement. He treats His flock as if they were Himself (Mtw 7:12).
For instance, when Jesus found out that the Pharisees were troubling the disciples with difficult questions, He stood up to protect them from falling away (Mtw 9:10-13). When the Pharisees directly attacked the disciples for doing what their tradition forbade, He stood up to defend them (Mk 7:5-8). When the band of soldiers and officers of the Jews came to arrest Him in Gethsemane, He gave Himself up and, in so doing, protected the disciples (John 18:8-9) - even though Peter didn't want to be protected (verses 10-11)!
Back in the OT, the believers' experience was the same. Elisha found that though a terrifying army had encircled the city where he was staying, God had sent His own army of spiritual beings (God's 'hosts') to fight on His servant's behalf (II Kings 6:15-17). Ezra and the returning exiles found that God was a protection to them along a very dangerous and potentially suicidal journey to Judea (Ezra 8:31) after Ezra had entrapped himself in the position of being unable to ask the king for a protective escort (Ezra 8:21-23). And Daniel found that, although the lions would probably have loved to have eaten him, they couldn't get their jaws open (Daniel 6:22) - though I should point out that some believers in a similar situation found that this was the death by which they were to glorify God!
The well-known story of John 'Babbacombe' Lee is also relevant here. A christian, convicted of murder (though innocent) at the end of the nineteenth century and sentenced to hang, called on Jesus to be a witness of his innocence. On the eve of his execution, he dreamt that they would not be able to hang him and, three times the next morning, the trap door that would have sent him to an early grave wouldn't open. Though he was subsequently imprisoned for life and lost his freedom, yet the Lord had stepped in to the breach to protect His servant from death.
Being a christian doesn't mean that painful experiences won't befall us, but that in each one we will not lose the life and presence of God within, put there by the Holy Spirit. Through all things, we will grow stronger in Christ because He protects and delivers His own.
My wife and I went through a very tough time when we lived in Worksop during the first five years of our married life. To summarise, we had 9 boundary fences demolished, 2 attempted break-ins (one of which found me beating the burglar off with a broom handle!), two smashed windows and a car set on fire at three in the morning when they also cut our phone wire so we couldn't dial 999 for the fire brigade (I presume that they didn't want us to watch tv either as they cut the aerial wire, too!).
Some might have wanted to say to us 'where was God in all that?', but look at the protection Jesus graciously gave us - our house wasn't set on fire (as others' were), the burglar didn't get in, the insurance company paid for all the fences and the car only had minor damage done to it.
Being a christian is only a bed of roses without the thorns removed! But the Lord's protection is always there, restricting to tolerable limit's what we have to go through.
Such, then, is Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He is the One who stands in the gap between us and everything that comes against us in order that His life in us may not be destroyed, that we may not be dragged away from a relationship with God because of a force that we had no power to oppose (John 10:27-29).
b. Verses 17-18
We have already looked at verses 11-13 in the context of God's provision of protection for His followers, that God stands in the gap between a real danger and His sheep. Now, in verses 17-18, we see a specific application of this 'shepherding' of God in the direct reference to the work of Jesus on the cross.
Jesus, then, is the One who gives His life up for us on the cross (Isaiah 53:12). As Morris points out, '...the death of the Palestinian shepherd meant disaster for his sheep. The death of the Good Shepherd means life for His sheep' (Pg 510). Rather than being a disaster, the death of the Good Shepherd is the means whereby the wolf is killed and the danger to a relationship with God removed.
Notice also that the resurrection is not an afterthought (John 10:17-18, Mtw 16:21). It wasn't that the Father wondered what He should do once Jesus had given His life for the welfare of the sheep, but it was an integral part of the one work. Carson writes 'Jesus lays down His life "in order" to take it up again. Jesus' sacrificial death was not an end in itself, and His resurrection an afterthought. His death was with the resurrection in view' (Pg 388).
Many have thought that the death of Jesus on the cross was an unfortunate mistake, that 'if they'd been there' then they would have violently (if necessary) prevented it from ever happening. But that view is the same as Peter's who was rebuked on more than one occasion for resisting what Jesus knew to be plainly the will of the Father for Him (John 18:10-11, Mtw 16:21-23). I guess that people who hold to such a 'belief' see Jesus as a little less than Peter did for his misunderstanding was based upon the very real prophecies that foretold of God's King coming to reign in glory and splendour - people today see Jesus only as a 'good man' that the world hated because He spoke Truth, they hold to the teachings of Jesus (normally in mind only) but not the Person, and they haven't really understood the purpose of the cross or experienced the reality of the work that Jesus did.
In other words, the cross, in their eyes, isn't viewed as delivering individual men and women from any real danger that exists. But the graphic language is explicitly plain - the wolf isn't a toothless cowering creature or a cub, but a wild animal intent on destroying the sheep for its own ends.
Jesus' death on the cross saves us from a real danger and not a fanciful one. As Carson writes, '...the assumption is that the sheep are in mortal danger; that in their defence the shepherd loses his life; that by his death they are saved' (Pg 386).
So just what are these 'horrific' dangers that Jesus stands in the gap to deliver us from?
The complexities of the work of the cross would take a lifetime to fathom. Not only are the three areas that I am about to mention provided for in the cross, but also any need whatsoever that stand in between a follower of Christ and God Himself.
Colossians 2:8-15 is a sort of 'greatest hits' passage of the work of the cross. In this one passage we find a brief but condensed resume of what Jesus did on the cross for mankind:
i. He saved mankind from sin (Col 2:13-14)
That is, all those things that we have done whether in deed or thought, whether through negligence or by a deliberate act of the will have been dealt with by Jesus.
The punishment that each one of us deserves to suffer for turning our backs on what we knew to be right and yet failed to do, has been taken by Christ (Isaiah 53:5-6,8).
It was a very real danger - our sins separate us from the presence of God (Isaiah 59:2). Only by removing the barrier that stood in our way could we ever hope to be reunited with God.
ii. He saved mankind from himself (Col 2:11)
Everywhere in society the belief that man is good at heart abounds. Not so in the Bible.
Though it has become unfashionable to think upon even the most innocent young child as a 'sinner', the Bible proclaims it so.
There is a tendency within man to sin, a desire that pulls him away from the right path into ways that are displeasing to God. The Bible refers to this in various ways - sometimes it's as the 'old nature' (Eph 4:22), 'the flesh' (Gal 5:16, Rom 7:18) or 'the old man' (Rom 6:6). Jesus Himself spoke of what defiles a man as coming out from the man in question (Mk 7:14-23) showing that external forces do not in themselves make an individual 'sin'.
But the intention is the same no matter what language is used. Therefore, the Bible is quite justified in saying that christians were 'by nature, children of wrath' (Eph 2:3). Mankind is, because of what resides within us, a collection of people who do wrong from the heart.
There would have been no point in just dealing with our sins, if the root cause of them wasn't also removed. Therefore, figuratively speaking, Jesus killed us off on the cross and, by His resurrection, caused us to experience the life and power of God that puts His nature into us to direct us in correct actions and thoughts (Rom 6:1-11, Gal 5:16-25, Col 3:9-10).
iii. He saved mankind from satan (Col 2:15)
It's very easy to always see the problem with the world as being 'outside' ourselves and try and blame it on 'someone else'. The first two aspects of the cross above should cure us of that - the problem with the world is very much 'me', 'my' sin, 'my' rebellion against God.
But there is also an adversary who began this whole mess by tempting mankind to step out against what they knew to be God's will for them (Gen 3:1-7). The result of that one act is what we see around ourselves today!
Yet, on the cross, Jesus defeats his power. By one act of disobedience in the garden, mankind lost authority over him - now, by one act of obedience from one man, Jesus, we can have that authority back.
And that means power over temptation - to be able to say 'no' (I Cor 10:13 - no temptation is more powerful than that power at work in us). In fact, there is power over anything and everything that satan would use to try and deflect our relationship with God from its purity and sincerity.
And for those who are 'bound' by satan, there is also release by the power of the cross (eg Acts 5:16, 8:6-8, 16:16-18).
See my notes here - Part 2 section 3.
Jesus, then, saves us from a real danger through both His death and resurrection by laying down His life.
c. The Good Shepherd as an example to all the Church's 'shepherds'
Before we conclude thinking about Jesus' proclamation concerning Himself being the 'Good Shepherd' in John 10:11-13,17-18, we need to, very briefly, think on Jesus' example to all the 'under shepherds' - those who have been placed by God (or 'not' as the case may be) in positions of authority within the Church and who exercise some sort of oversight to fellow believers.
That 'shepherds' is an accurate description (though not a label that the Lord would have us use [see Appendix 1]) is seen by reference to Eph 4:11-12 where the five ministry gifts of people to the Church includes that of pastor, the same Greek word (poimen - Strongs Gk word number 4166) that is normally translated 'shepherd' (as in John 10).
The writer to the Hebrews refers to Jesus as 'the great Shepherd of the sheep' (Heb 13:20), implying that there are those appointed within the Church who carry on the work that Jesus began: though to aspire to function in this capacity is to miss the point of Eph 4:8,11-12 - it is God who appoints His shepherds, even though men appoint elders who function partly in that role (I Peter 5:1-3. Cp Titus 1:5, Acts 14:23).
Whether part-shepherd (elder) or full-shepherd (pastor), the example to follow is Christ, the 'Chief Shepherd' (I Peter 5:4). As He lived, so His delegated shepherds are so to do. As He thought nothing of putting Himself in a position of danger, so also they must do - even to the point of putting family loyalty aside or of being maligned (whether within or without the Church) for upholding Truth, for the sake of the Lord's spiritual flock.
Finally, Acts 20:28-30 serves us as a fitting warning. It is the 'under shepherds' who are the source of the wolves that attempt to lead God's flock astray. Paul doesn't mention the individuals in congregations who have no leadership position. This, quite obviously, may fly in the face of many a belief that is held within leadership up and down the land who look at the 'flock' put under them and regard their task as deflecting certain individuals from leading the flock astray. While divisive element's may arise from within the congregation, the 'fierce wolves' that 'draw away the disciples after them’ come from the leadership themselves.
Therefore, both congregation and leadership must be wary - it is not the sole role of leadership to protect the flock. And the certain veneration of Church leaders that often takes place does nothing but elevate them into a position where it is all too easy for them to lead multitudes away from the Lord if they should 'go wrong' or 'be wrong'. In all areas, in all situations, and by everybody, discernment must be exercised.
Although Tasker, in the following quote, is commenting on the 'hireling' shepherds mentioned in John 10, his words have great relevance also to the 'wolves' that arise within leadership drawing on, as he does, the episodes that are indelibly recorded for us throughout Church history:
'Their misdemeanours are many. They bid God's people rely upon political alliances with foreign powers rather than upon God Himself. They give 'religious' support to the policies of reigning monarchs for the sake of personal gain in a manner contrary to the divine will. They encourage men to trust in themselves, as though...sinful men could ever justify themselves in the eyes of a holy God'.
Of course, the list is not exhaustive. But, at the end of the day, each individual has a responsibility (however minor) to both 'shepherd' someone and to discern false and wayward shepherds.
3. The Good Shepherd forms one flock
a. Verses 1-6
The first six verses of John 10 are beyond the scope of these notes, but they are quite important for us to have a brief understanding of in order for us to realise the background to verse 16.
Because Jesus' words are a 'figure' (RSV) or 'parable' (AV - though it is not the normal Greek word used for a parable), it is very easy for us to press home every sentence into some sort of spiritual application. But parables, as such, convey truth without necessarily demanding the interpretation of every individual figure used.
Therefore, an identification of the 'gatekeeper' (v.3) is not necessary. But the sheepfold from which Jesus' flock are drawn out by His voice is definitely indicative of the Jewish nation or Judaism. It was from the Jews that Jesus called His sheep as He travelled through the land for three years preaching the Gospel and demonstrating it in power. Those who recognised His voice as being the voice of God, followed wherever He led (John 6:66-69).
In those days, the shepherd's voice was recognised by the sheep and he walked before them - today, we often see shepherds that drive the sheep from behind with sheepdogs or the like, but in those days, there was a 'bond' (for want of a better word) that existed between shepherd and sheep. Therefore it is the voice of Jesus that His followers both recognise and heed.
b. Verse 16
Jesus says 'I have other sheep that are not of this fold'. The 'fold' we have already seen to be the Jewish nation, therefore the 'sheep' that Jesus must now speak of are the Gentiles, the non-Jews.
Instead of making a distinction between the sheep who were part of the descendants of Abraham and all the others, Jesus brings each individual into one flock in order that there might be equality and unity. Though before Christ there was a positive distinction between Jew and Gentile, now in Christ (and only in Christ) are both one (Eph 2:11-22).
Outside Christ there is still a division but those who are 'in' Christ are one. Indeed, the division that exists not just between Jew and Gentile in the world but amongst black and white, differing nationalities, social standing or sex are removed in Christ (Gal 3:28, Col 3:11) because natural descent (or any other earthly distinction) has been removed by spiritual rebirth in the Holy Spirit (Gal 6:15).
In John 10:16, Jesus says 'I have other sheep' and not 'I will have other sheep' even though the Gentiles had not at that time either been called or had the Gospel preached to them in any great manner (though there were Gentile believers, eg Mk 7:24-30 [Greek], Mtw 8:5-13 [Roman], John 4:1-42 [Samaritans]). Nevertheless, Jesus states quite plainly that the sheep are already His.
In Acts 18:9-10, God speaks to Paul saying 'Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent...for I have many people in this city'. Even though many in the city had not yet believed, God still calls them His people because they will come to believe (Marshall writes 'The connection of thought would appear to be that since God has many people to be won for the gospel in Corinth, Paul will not be prevented by hostile action from continuing his missionary work until God's purpose is complete...The saying indicates divine foreknowledge of the success of the Gospel in Corinth...It is unlikely that the verse means that the opponent's of the gospel will be restrained from harming Paul by the large number of Christians in the city' [Pg 296]).
(See also Appendix 2 where I have dealt with the verse Acts 13:48b that illustrates the difference between God's appointment of time in salvation and His predestination that transcends it)
God foreknows those who will believe, therefore He can call them 'His sheep' at a time before they ever get saved. The subjects of both predestination and foreknowledge have brought with them much confusion over the past centuries and there is not sufficient space here to include an adequate explanation of how they fully interrelate, but, very simply:
Predestination is determining beforehand events that are to take place because of foreknowledge - but there is never an overruling of man's freewill in it’s operation. People who will believe in Christ are only predestined because God foreknows their decision.
Foreknowledge is a knowing beforehand what will happen - even of knowing
what the outcome of a man's freewill is to be - and therefore is the foundation upon which God's predestination takes place.
God has predestined the sheep who will become part of the flock because He knows what the outcome of their freewill choice will be. Therefore God can already call them His own (see my notes on Foreknowledge, Freewill and Predestination’ here).
4. The Good Shepherd and His relationship with the Father and with believers
Hendriksen writes categorically that 'What Jesus states in these verses cannot mean that the fellowship which is found on earth (between good shepherd and sheep) is just as close as is that which is found in heaven (between the Father and the Son), but that the former is patterned after (is a reflection of) the latter' (Pg 113). However, the words that Jesus uses here cut across Hendriksen's exposition rather dramatically in two areas:
1. Jesus isn't referring to the relationship that He has with the Father 'in heaven' but the relationship that He has at the time of speaking - and, therefore, 'on earth'.
2. The force of Jesus' words may show up the shallowness of our own relationship with God, but we shouldn't lessen their weight because we have failed to experience all that God intends us to.
Therefore, the intention of Jesus' words seem to be that the relationship between Jesus the man and the Father in Heaven is the same as the relationship that exists between Jesus the man and His sheep.
Going on slightly from this, we need to determine just what relationship exists now that Jesus is in heaven. Jesus said 'And this is eternal life, that they know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent' (John 17:3). If a relationship with both the Father and the Son is eternal life (one that is entered into on the basis of the work of Christ), then our relationship with both Father and Son now must be the same as Jesus experienced when He walked this earth and 'knew' the Father.
So, just what sort of relationship is it?
When Jesus died on the cross, the curtain of the Temple (that separated the presence of God from mankind) was rent in two (Mtw 27:51) signifying that the way back into God's presence had been opened. Therefore the writer to the Hebrews can say that '...since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He opened for us through the curtain...let us draw near...' (Heb 10:19-22).
There now remains no barrier between a relationship with God, for all the obstacles are removed in Christ. Just as it was in the Garden of Eden before the Fall, so it is today. Though sin exiled us away from His presence (Gen 3:24), that sin is now dealt with and we can enter in.
The relationship that Adam had with God (before He sinned) must be the same as that which Jesus the man (the second Adam - I Cor 15:45-49) had with Him. Because we don't seem to experience this depth and intimacy doesn't mean that it's not there for us to experience!
See my notes here - Part 2 section 1 and Appendix 3 on these pages.
APPENDIX ONE - The wrong use of religious titles
Consider Mtw 23:8-9 where Jesus says '...you are not to be called "rabbi" for you have one teacher and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father who is in heaven.'
Both 'rabbi' (teacher) or 'father' are both designations that elevate the channel of God's provision to a position that is regarded as the source from which it comes - thus fixing our eyes upon a person rather than God Himself. Such structure within the Church through the centuries has been commonplace but it is to be avoided.
Therefore, what is true for the word 'teacher' or 'father' is equally true for the terms apostle, prophet, evangelist and pastor as outlined in Eph 4:11-12. None of these 'gifts' are earthly titles that should be applied to believers, but descriptions of the function that an individual has within the Body.
APPENDIX TWO - A consideration of Act's 13:48b
'And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word
of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.'
What the commentators say
In the IVP Tyndale commentary, I Howard Marshall writes 'The phrase indicates that not all the Gentiles in the town believed the Gospel. It could be taken in the sense that God had predestined certain of them to believe. But it could also refer to those who had already put their trust in God in accordance with the OT revelation of His grace and were enrolled in His people, or perhaps it means that the Gentiles believed in virtue of the fact that God's plan of salvation included them. Whatever be the precise nuance of the words, there is no suggestion that they received eternal life independently of their own act of conscious faith'
Unfortunately, he doesn't indicate which is either more likely or what he takes the phrase to mean!
FE Bruce relegates his teaching on the verse to a footnote stating that 'There is no good reason for weakening the predestinarian note here...'. Of course, he fails to examine the usual meaning of the Greek word used for 'ordained' and chooses rather to pull a quite valid doctrinal truth from else place in the Scriptures and impose it upon the text under consideration.
Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the NT comments briefly on the Greek word used and interprets the verse to mean that conferring of status rather than foreordination is the point after an investigation of the normal meaning of the word, listing 'to appoint' and 'to order' as the most common, with shades of meaning running through ‘to arrange’ , 'to determine', 'to set in place', ‘to establish' and 'to fix for oneself'.
The meaning of the Greek Word
Tasso (Strongs Gk word number 5021) occurs only eight times in the NT. The main thrust of the word, as Kittel's, is to appoint or to order something which is established at the instigation of someone or something. There is no implication of predestination inherent in the meaning of the word.
To look more closely at the usual meaning, it is important that we take time to think about the other places where the word occurs.
Firstly, non-Lukan writings:
Mtw 28:16 - 'Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them' Jesus made an appointment with His disciples to meet them at a prearranged location.
Rom 13:1 - '...those [authorities] that exist have been instituted by God' In the present set up, the world powers and administrative organisations have a commission from God Himself to be in the position they are and to exercise His authority. It is God's appointment - though how they use their authority is not always under God’s control.
I Cor 16:15 - '...they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints’ The household of Stephanas made themselves available (they had appointed themselves) to serve the believers.
And, secondly, onto the other four passages in Luke's writings:
Luke 7:8 - 'For I am a man set under authority...' A Roman centurion made the statement that his position had been determined by others.
Acts 15:2 - '...Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem...' A group of people were selected by others to be representatives of the new teaching that was being undermined.
Acts 22:10 - '...you will be told all that is appointed for you to do' These were the Lord's words to Paul on the road to Damascus. Notice that the appointment does not need an interpretation of predestination (God fixing beforehand) but definitely foreknowledge (God knowing beforehand).
Acts 28:23 - 'When they had appointed a day for him...' The Jews selected a day on which Paul was to make a defence of the Gospel in their hearing.
In all these verses, the word 'appointed' would be entirely adequate but in none of them is it necessary to see any idea of predestination even though in the Romans passage we might like to add that meaning - the point is that the word does not hold this concept in its usage and, therefore, when we come to the passage under consideration we need to be very careful just what we might like to impinge upon it from other Scriptural sources.
The Greek word for 'predestination' is only ever used with God as subject, but the Greek word for 'appoint' is used with both God and man as subject. This should also indicate to us that 'appointment' is not a unique function of God like predestination is.
An explanation of Acts 13:48
The verse does not mean that all those present who had been predestined to receive eternal life were the ones who believed the message - even though, from other NT passages, we see that God's predestination of individuals to be saved and those same individual's freewill do go hand-in-hand for salvation (though the emphasis is often put upon the necessity of God's selection before man's).
In fact, it is vitally important that Luke doesn't use the word for predestination in this verse as he would have contradicted Paul’s (and others') teaching on that subject.
Luke is saying that God had made an appointment, an arrangement at that time, under Paul's preaching, that certain people were going to be saved. God made the appointment of just who those individuals were going to be and, by implication, those individuals must have been predestined to be saved (for all who are saved are predestined).
But, there were others there who could have been and probably were also predestined by God to be saved. However, they had not been appointed by God to be saved at that time.
To have used the word for 'predestination’ would have meant that only the 'predestined' had turned up to be saved whereas Luke is teaching us that, even though an individual may be predestined to be saved, the individual must wait God's appointed time in which to be saved.
The old adage 'I'll wait til I'm older to get saved/I'll wait til I'm about to die before I accept the Lord' is shown to be futile and empty. Man can only receive Christ at the time appointed by God, not in his own time.
Example - In a Church meeting, if 3 become believers and 2 remain unsaved, then it is not true to say that only 3 were predestined. All may be predestined by God to be saved, but only 3 were appointed to believe at that time.
APPENDIX THREE - A consideration of the purpose of the slug
God shapes us through circumstances
and then says ‘Meet Me in the garden'.
He knows all about slugs.
He made them and gave charge to man
over everything that crept and crawled, swam and flew.
The perfect order of the Day.
God first - then His Creation.
Man lost relationship.
Man lost freedom.
And he lost God - but not forever, for Jesus pointed the Way.
Yet man still strives
To work out christianity
And shape others into a man-made mould.
Then, one day, God said ‘Son
I've allowed you to see that man’s way never has been Mine.
Meet Me in the garden and ask Me about slugs
And see My simplicity.
It's time to know Me.
From there aspire to work for Me.
But, first, let's take a walk in the garden.'
Poem by V P Smith
Why did God create slugs?
I suppose you're wondering just why I ask that question for, to the greater proportion of us, slugs are not deemed to be a blessing but a curse. Perhaps, then, they're a result of the Fall - a by-product of man's sin, of a world that has turned it's back on God and on His ways?
That might sound like a neat suggestion but I find it hard to justify such a belief if I turn to Scripture and read of God's Creation of the 'creeping things' being considered 'good'.
Certainly, slugs don't reckon very high on the list of creatures mentioned throughout the Biblical narrative but there is definitely no place where a second 'sinful’ Creation takes place that comes about as a direct result of man's sin.
Puzzling, isn't it?
We have to regard slugs, therefore, as a blessing and part of God's original intention for planet earth.
So why did God create slugs?
My love affair with Creation has been well documented - and is probably the subject of many a conversation between people who find me 'rather eccentric’, 'a bit strange' or just 'downright nutty'. How I go out most nights when it’s pitch black and search out hedgehogs, mice (and their nests), frogs, owls and anything else that raises its head, however small or large (though if I ever witnessed an elephant stampeding through the hedge I wouldn't expect to be believed) and how I occasionally frighten the neighbours who think there’s a prowler about.
Yes, it’s well-known.
But, one night, I started wondering just why slugs seem to be such an integral part of a garden and yet, at the same time, an animal that has had such a war waged against it that it makes World War One look like a bun-fight in a canteen.
Brown and black - and many varying shades between. White and grey - and some speckled. All leaving their glistening trail in the moonlight and going about their business oblivious to the fact that a human stands over them fascinated by their sluggish movement (sorry about that, I couldn't resist it!).
Time and time again I saw them, making their away across my path or exiting from underground mouseholes that served as daytime refuges from the sun.
But why did God create them?
What’s their purpose?
And why make so many? Did God like them better than humans because He made so many millions more?
So, I decided to go back to Source and ask the One who formed them just what the whole idea was. That might sound like an impudent thing to do - perhaps even heretical to some traditional viewpoints - but a simple question never seems to go amiss with God.
He really does prefer me to be honest. I mean, which is best - to have your brand new car written off and inwardly fume and boil over, or ask God the simple question ’Why did you let that happen?’? So I asked Him about the slugs.
‘Why did You make slugs, Lord? What's their purpose?'. Perhaps I could have been a bit more reverent by using 'Thous' and 'eths' but, to be quite honest, God doesn't speak to me like that cos He knows I'd have a hard job understanding Him.
And so, God told me His plan.
It was all so logical, too, I don't know why it never hit me before.
I ask Him about other things, too - I get more sense out of Him than I do out of a hundred nature programs who consistently assert that the only reason the creatures are the way they are is because pure chance brought them about and they survived solely because something didn't eat them.
So, next time you're in the garden, why don't you ask Him about what you call 'weeds' and which the Lord calls 'plants'? What's the point of the thistle? Or the nettle? Or Shepherd's Purse (to specifically name one variety)?
Or why are there always those 'damn' mice under the garage?
You know, when you finally see it all from God's perspective, each previous problem becomes a source not only of blessing but of revelation.
Carson - 'The Gospel according to John' by D A Carson. Published by IVP
Hendriksen - 'John' by William Hendriksen. New Testament Commentary published by Banner of Truth
Marshall - 'Acts' by I Howard Marshall. Tyndale New Testament Commentary published by IVP
Morris - 'The Gospel according to John' by Leon Morris. New International Commentary on the New Testament published by Eerdmans
Tasker - 'John' by R V G Tasker. Tyndale New Testament Commentary published by IVP