What is one of the marks of the Good Shepherd? Well, the Good Shepherd, when He sees danger coming, chooses to lay down His life for the sheep. And so, Jesus says at the end of verse 11, I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
Five times in this passage, He will say, lays down. It's a metaphorical term referring to His intentional, purposeful, choosing to die in the place of and for the benefit of His own sheep. John 3.16 is one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, and it begins, For God so loved the world. But what does world mean in the Gospel of John?
That's a critical question if we're to understand the atoning death of Christ correctly. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. As part of Stephen Lawson's New Testament overview of the doctrines of grace, today you'll hear an in-depth study of John's Gospel, the various ways in which John uses the word world, in fact, ten different ways, and Jesus' own teaching and His own words concerning His death, and for whom He laid down His life.
Here's Dr. Lawson. In this session, we find ourselves in the Gospel of John, and we want to dig down into the doctrines of grace. Last time, we looked at the doctrines of total depravity and sovereign election. We come now to that somewhat controversial doctrine, definite atonement, sometimes called particular redemption. And in the Gospel of John, as you are very well aware, the word world is used multiple times. Cosmos, John 3.16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life. And so we see the word world used multiple times in the Gospel of John, and many immediately assume, well, that means every person in the entire world, that Jesus came to give Himself for every person, whether they're a believer or die an unbeliever.
Well, in order to untie that knot, a skilled interpreter must first understand the word world. Cosmos, you need to know that it is used ten different ways in the Gospel of John alone. Only one of those ten ways refers to every person in the human race.
The other nine do not. And so it would be very naïve of any interpreter to come to a passage in the Gospel of John and automatically assume that it means every person in the human race when that's not the predominant use in the Gospel of John. If I could take just a moment to walk us through the ten uses of the word world in the Gospel of John, I think it will be somewhat eye-opening. The word world means first the entire universe. John 1, 10 says, the world was made through Him, and everything that is has been made. This includes the birds and the bees and the mountains and the water and the trees and everything that there is.
We certainly don't want to argue for a case that Jesus laid down His life for rocks and thin air. A second use is the physical earth, which is somewhat overlapping with what I just said, but in John 13 verse 1, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world. He would leave this world and go to the other world to return back to the Father. And it refers to just this particular planet within the entire universe. The word world also refers to the world system. That world system that is anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-truth, Satan is the god of this age and the prince of this world. And it refers to the system that is overseen by Satan and is resistant against God.
The world of entertainment, the world of media, the world of music, the world of education. The word is also used of humanity minus believers. In other words, all unbelievers. In John 7 verse 7 says, the world cannot hate you but it hates me. Well, believers do not hate the Lord Jesus Christ. Only unbelievers hate the Lord Jesus Christ and their world clearly is used not of believers but of unbelievers. The word is also used of just a large group. It says in John 12 verse 19, the whole world has gone after him.
Oh really? Did the Eskimos go after him? Did the Aztec Indians go after him?
The answer is no. The whole world has gone after him. No, it just simply means a large group and it's used in a hyperbolic sense.
The word also refers to just the general public. In John 7 and verse 4, his brothers told him, show yourself to the world. Well, they were wanting him to go to Jerusalem, to the religious hub of Israel and show himself. Well, they were not wanting him to go to Hawaii and to China and to Japan.
No, go show yourself to a large crowd, to a large number of people. At other times, it refers to the human realm, just the realm of humanity as a collective group. The word also is used of Jews and Gentiles as the two different groups and I think that's the idea in John 1 29.
Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, meaning not just Jews but also Gentiles. The word is used of all the non-elect. In John 17 verse 9, Jesus said, I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom you have given me.
So here's a clear distinction. Those whom you have given me, which are the elect, and the only other category is the world, referring to those whom you have not given to me, referring to the non-elect. At other times, it refers to the elect only and in, for example, John 6 33, for the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world. Well, that life is only given to believers. That life is only given to the elect. That life is not given to unbelievers and so their world can only mean the world of believers.
The world of the elect. So, as you can see, there are many different ways that the word world is used in the Gospel of John. To add to the challenge for the interpreter, there is the word all, A-L-L. Sometimes it means all without exception. At other times, it means all without distinction. All without exception means every single person or thing within a category.
John 1 3, all things came into being through Him and apart from Him, nothing has come into being. So that means all without exception. But at other times, it means all without distinction, meaning all different categories of people, Jews, Gentiles, male, female, educated, uneducated, those near, those far away. And I'll give you a good example, John 12 verse 32, and I, if I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself. By the death of Christ, does He draw all men to Himself? That would be blatant universalism.
That hell is empty and that no one escapes being drawn into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. That is an interpreter's dilemma that must be acknowledged, that there are times when all does not refer to every single person. Instead, it refers to all without distinction, all different categories. Or it could possibly be argued that all there, all men, refer to all within a certain category, meaning all the elect who are all the believers. But there, all does not mean all people, the entire human race, because all are not brought to faith in Jesus Christ.
Now, at other times, the word all is clearly used to refer to only all the elect, not all humanity, but only all the elect. And John 6 and verse 45 is a clear example of this. It is written in the prophets, they shall all be taught of God, everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. To come to Christ is to believe in Jesus Christ.
It is to be drawn to faith in Jesus Christ. And here, all, they shall all be taught of God, can only refer to all that the Father has given to Me. John 6, 37, I just quoted, all that the Father gives Me shall come to Me.
There, all refers only to all the elect. So, I think you see, it would be rather naïve to go into any passage in the Gospel of John and automatically assume that the word world and the word all always refer to the entire human race. As we continue to study the Gospel of John, we see some qualifiers. And in John chapter 10 and in verse 11 is the account in which Jesus gives the fullest exposition of His own death. This is Jesus on Jesus. This is Jesus preaching Christ and Him crucified.
And in John chapter 10 and verse 11, we have Jesus expounding His own death. And what is interesting is, He's not preaching to the choir here. He is preaching to the Pharisees, who in chapter 9, the previous chapter, have arisen in an uproar. And Jesus is a bold and courageous preacher. And He even preaches definite atonement to reprobates.
He teaches definite atonement to those who are the non-elect. So, in John 10 and verse 11, He says, I am the Good Shepherd. Now, what is one of the marks of the Good Shepherd? Well, the Good Shepherd, when He sees danger coming, chooses to lay down His life for the sheep. And so, Jesus says at the end of verse 11, I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
Five times in this passage, He will say, lays down. It's a metaphorical term referring to His intentional, purposeful choosing to die in the place of and for the benefit of His own sheep. Now, we need to understand that not everyone is one of His sheep.
We talked about earlier in this series that in the community sheepfold, there would be ten different flocks or eight different flocks in one large community sheepfold. And the Good Shepherd would come and call His sheep by name and lead them out. Those are His sheep.
But there would be other sheep of other shepherds that would be left behind. But His sheep are very precious because they have been given to Him by the Father before He ever came into this world. And what you need to note in verse 26 is not everyone is one of His sheep. The whole world is not His flock. And so in verse 26, Jesus says, you do not believe because you are not one of My sheep.
You know why you're an unbeliever? You're not one of My sheep because My sheep hear My voice and they know Me. And I give unto them eternal life and they follow Me and they will never perish.
But you're not one of My sheep. So in verse 11 when He says, the Good Shepherd lays down His life for whom? For His sheep. For those whom the Father has given to Him.
For those who are the elect of God. And Jesus presses down on this and He repeats it in verse 14. He says, I am the Good Shepherd and I know My own and My own know Me. And it speaks of the saving relationship, the intimate personal relationship that exists between Jesus and His sheep. Now, He knows about every person, but He only knows His sheep. And on the last day, Jesus said in John 7 and verse 23, depart from Me, you who work iniquity, I never knew you. But He knows His sheep.
It's the same word to refer to the intimate personal physical relationship between a husband and wife. In Genesis 4 verse 1 it says, Adam knew his wife and she conceived and gave birth to a son. So, when He says, I know My own and My own know Me, He is referring to this relationship that He has with His sheep. And the order is important also, by the way. In verse 14, first He knows us, then we know Him. First He loves us, then we love Him. First He calls us by name, then we call upon His name.
The order is very important. And then He says in verse 16, I have other sheep which are not of this fold, referring to Gentiles. I must bring them and they will hear My voice and they will become one flock with one shepherd. I love this in verse 16, I must, they will. I must bring them and they will come. That is a statement of divine certainty, divine necessity, and divine sovereignty.
I must, they will. Then in verse 17, for this reason the Father loves Me, He continues His main focus on His death, His atoning death. And at the end of verse 17, here's why the Father loves Him.
It's because the Father loves obedience, and the Father loves obedience in His own Son. And He says, because I've laid down My life so that I may take it up again. Verse 18, no one has taken it away from Me. Jesus' life was not taken, He gave it.
His blood was not spilt, it was poured out. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father. It was the Father who commanded Him to lay down His life for the sheep. And Jesus came in obedience to the commandment of the Father to die for His sheep, to die for those whom the Father had given to Him, to die for those whom He not only knew, but foreknew. And there is the meaning of the word foreknowledge.
It has nothing to do with foresight. It has everything to do with those whom I previously loved with distinguishing redeeming love. And Jesus, in obedience to the Father, came to die for those whom the Father chose and gave to the Son to be His chosen bride, to be His own possession. And it would have been disobedience on the part of Jesus if He had come and died for every member of Adam's fallen race. He was commanded to die for His sheep. It's a very important text that gives the clarification that we need concerning the extent of the atonement.
You tell me what His intent was, and I will tell you what the extent was. You tell me what His purpose was and His mission was in coming, and I will tell you those for whom Christ died. He was commanded by the Father to come and to die for His sheep.
So that is a very important text. Now in John 12 and verse 32, a text that I've already read, but I want to read it just one more time because it is so critically important, John 12 verse 32, and I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. And the next verse is very important, but He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He was to die. When He's talking about if Jesus be lifted up, He's not talking about the preaching of the gospel. I always hear preachers say, well, if we just lift up Jesus, He will draw all men to Himself.
No. This is talking about His death. If He would be lifted up upon Calvary's cross, if He would be lifted up from the earth and be hanging suspended in midair as though between heaven and earth, between God and man, if He be lifted up, He will draw all men to Himself.
Obviously, this does not refer to all human beings. It does not refer to all who would ever live in Adam's human race because those for whom He died will be drawn in saving faith to Him. To back into this, He died for all those whom the Father had given to Him and who would be believers. Now, there's one more text to which I want to take you, and it's John 17, and beginning in verse 1, lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, Father, the hour has come.
Glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You. It was for this hour that Jesus came into this world. It was for this moment that would be the ultimate purpose of His mission in coming into this world, and now He clarifies what is the intent of this mission and this hour in coming into the world. He says, even as You gave Him authority over – now watch this – all flesh, meaning every member of Adam's human race, He has authority over everyone, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.
That's a second group, a smaller concentric circle within the larger group. Please note the two different groups in John 17, too. There's all flesh, and then there is all those whom You have given Me. The all flesh refers to all mankind, but all whom You have given Me refers to the elect, all the elect. Jesus has come that He might give life to those whom the Father has given to Him.
Let me repeat that. He has come to give life to those whom the Father has given to Him. Then we read in verse 9, I ask on their behalf, referring to those whom You have given Me, I do not ask on behalf of the world.
Shocking. I am not making intercession for a group outside of those whom You have given to Me. Notice He says, but of those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.
They belong to the Father because the Father chose them in eternity past, and the Father then gave them to the Son. And the Son has come into this world, not for the world, but for those whom the Father has given to Him. And then in verse 19, He says, for their sake I sanctify Myself. Who is their sake?
It's obvious. It refers to all those whom the Father has given Him. Notice for their sake and their sake alone that I sanctify Myself, meaning set Myself apart to the cross, set Myself apart to this death upon Calvary's cross.
For their sake I sanctify Myself that they themselves may be sanctified in truth. It's a very tight circle between the Father and the Son, and those whom the Father chose, He has given to the Son, and the Son has now been commanded by the Father to come into this world and to lay down His life for this very same group. And so in obedience, Jesus went to the cross and laid down His life for His sheep. None for whom He died will ever perish.
You want to know why? He's the good shepherd. He would be a bad shepherd if He died for some sheep, but they would perish in the flames of hell. All who are in hell are there because they did not have Christ as their shepherd. But all who have Christ as their shepherd will never perish. This is the efficacy of the death of Christ upon the cross. Is Christ your shepherd? Those who truly trust Christ can have great confidence and great assurance because He is a good shepherd and His sheep will never perish.
You're listening to Renewing Your Mind. What you heard today from Stephen Lawson is just a taste of the depth of this New Testament series showing that the Bible clearly teaches the doctrines of grace. Each message is as Bible-saturated as today's, and the entire series is actually 24 messages, and they can be yours for your donation of any amount. We'll send you this three-DVD set and give you digital access to all of the messages as well as the study guide. So give your gift today by visiting renewingyourmind.org or by calling us at 800-435-4343. This is the last day that we're making the New Testament volume of the Foundations of Grace series available to you. And in this series, Dr. Lawson will walk you through the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles, even the Book of Revelation to show how the New Testament clearly proclaims God's sovereign grace in salvation. So give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org. Have you ever considered how bold the opening words of Genesis are? In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Well join us next week as R.C. Sproul begins his study on the book of Genesis here on Renewing Your Mind.
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