1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
In the above quoted passage, we find the parable
of the Good Shepherd and the hirelings, (see verses 12-13), whom Jesus
calls thieves and robbers. Jesus says they have climbed up some other way
than God's way, which according to Matthew 9:36-38, and Matthew 20:1-16,
is to be called and sent by the Lord of the harvest. They are a picture
of the preachers, and are in the ministry for selfish reasons
and will not endure hardships. Even worse, they will allow the sheep
to be scattered and slaughtered by the wolf (Satan).
There is much to be said on this subject, but we also see another truth
revealed in the parable that can be rightly divided without doing damage
to the scriptures, and which I feel led to address in this newsletter.
It is absolutely certain that the hirelings, or false shepherds, are thieves and robbers from the explanation of the parables given in verses 7-18. But if we look at verse 9, in connection with verse 1, we can see that this truth also applies to a sheep who enters the sheepfold, which is a type of the church, in any way other than through Christ. He is also a thief and a robber! That this is so, and that it applies to salvation, is obvious from the terms, 'any man,' 'he shall be saved,' and 'find pasture.' The phrase find pasture does not mean 'to locate pasture,' as in the case of a shepherd locating pasture for the sheep, but rather means 'to be nourished,' as the sheep who graze there would be. That this truth applies to salvation is also shown in verses 22-30, when the Jews, who are a picture of the church members, question Jesus, and he tells them in verse 26, "Ye are not of my SHEEP," and He is still dealing with the shepherd/sheep relationship. One might ask, "What does this have to do with possessing stolen goods," which is the subject of this piece? The answer should become clear as we continue.
The Pharisees were the thieves and robbers that Jesus was referring to in the parable, and we know that they were in possession of the things of God. They conducted the religious worship, they handled the holy vessels, they observed the feasts and rituals, they taught and judged the people, &c. Yet, they had entered the sheepfold in a deceitful manner, and had thus presumptuously appropriated the things of God, and for selfish motives. In their own minds they were justified, however, because they were convinced that possession of these things showed they were right. They saw possession, rather than title, as proof of ownership, and of legal acquisition. They became infuriated when Jesus accused them of this, and of wrongfully continuing in this way.
This attitude and false belief is what Peter is dealing with in II Peter 2:10, when he speaks of 'presumptuous individuals.' The word presump-tuous means 'boldness carried to the extreme,' and it is a boldness which is self-motivated, and self-initiated. It has no concern for the interests, rights, or welfare of others. It causes on to disregard the orders of a higher authority, and even to deny the authority's right to govern their actions. This was the attitude of the Pharisees toward Jesus, and it is the same attitude Moses had to deal with in the children of Israel. Moses speaks of their presumptuous attitude in Deuteronomy 1:43, after they tried to go up and possess the land after God told them not to [see Numbers 14:40-45]. Here, the word 'presumtuously' means 'to be insolent, arrogant, proud, &c.' They disregarded the command of God and said by their actions, "We'll do what we please." David prayed to be kept from these type sins in Psalm 19:13.
There are two groups I wish to look at, and show the spiritual relationship to the earthly characters. They correspond to the thieves and robbers that Jesus spoke of. That they are distinct, though similar, is evident from Jesus' use of two words.
The first group is comprised of those who, by force, steal things. They are robbers, and are aware of their wrong actions, yet do not care to cease from them. They are driven by their selfish desires, and consumed with a hunger to have it at any cost. They may fear being apprehended, but not as much as they desire to have. They take inordinate risks and employ any means to obtain their desires. They may even take the lives of those who resist, confront, or hinder them in some way! These are the ones who pose the greatest threat to the church, though the robbery is not of material things, and the taking of lives is not physical life. These have no compassion or concern for others. These will lie, cheat, and deceive on one hand, or flatter, praise, and appear to agree on the other, as they feel is necessary to achieve their desired end. Yet this end is purely selfish. They will even make 'professions of faith' to obtain what they want. They may fear detection, but will continue anyhow. Indeed, if they are discovered, they will simply move to another fold and take up there, often with a good recommendation from the fold they left! Examples of these type folks are those who make a profession to marry one they know will not marry them otherwise, or ones who join to merely to profit financially, then move on when all have bought from them, or sales fall off. These, of course, are only representative of the many motives of robbers in our midst. There are multitudes of these individuals in our churches today, and there is less hope of converting them than those in the second group.
The second group is comprised of those who steal in darkness. They are the thieves. This group also includes those who have received something from another person. These individuals may not even have knowledge that the object was wrongfully obtained. Yet in the eyes of the law, they are also guilty parties, as they did not take the time or expend the energy to discover its origins. The Pharisees had received their practices from those who, for several generations, had been deceived and were practicing wrong methods. Thus, many of them knew no better, and believed they were doing right because they were practicing traditions and methods they had been told were correct and endorsed by God. Yet Jesus gave them no room for making excuse. We seem to have gotten the idea that all of the Pharisees were aware of their condition, like the robber, but this is not the case.
Nicodemus is a prime example of those who were not knowingly wrong in their practices. He came to Jesus to inquire about the discrepancies in His teachings and those he and the other Pharisees were teaching and practicing. He was virtually unable to see what was wrong with his beliefs and practices, though there must have been something that troubled him inside. Jesus asked him in John 3:10, "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" Nicodemus presumed that because he had the stewardship over the things of God, and because he had received them from the religious leaders who all did as he did, they had to have been rightly obtained. He and the other Pharisees also wrongly presumed that their rituals and traditions were blessed and honored by God because they had not been judged prior to Jesus' arrival. Thank the Lord, when Jesus came preaching the truth, Nicodemus heard something that made him question what he had and diligently seek the truth.
In our churches today, we have many who presume that because they did what they were told by religious leaders and professing Christians, they must be saved. This despite the fact that it does not measure up to historic practices [this is different than vain tradition], nor scriptural truth. These assume that because they have stewardship over the things of God, they must be in the right: because they have a testimony of sorts, because they have religious activity, because they enjoy the things of God, surely they must have obtained them rightly. The truth is, a large percentage of church members are those who have climbed up some other way than through repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus [Acts 20:21]. They have come through prayers, plans, programs, and promise claiming, which are all rituals and vain traditions of men. Baptists have their own version of the Catholic catechism to get folks into the church.
Resistance to this truth is intense. This is so for several reasons. First, it forces many to admit that they have been misled personally and have not really been saved. They have the words and appearance of the truth, but it has been presumptuously taken or wrongly obtained.
Secondly, because men won't believe that God would allow His house to be that spoiled. Yet the parable makes it clear that God allowed hirelings among His sheep in the past, and even allowed them to be abused and slaughtered. It is not cruelty on His part, but is what the people asked for through their unwillingness to hear the truth and diligently seek God.
Thirdly, it requires that we accept the fact that the problem is so huge that many of our friends and loved ones are not saved either. Yet Jesus said there were few saved at the time He came to earth due to the practices of the Pharisees. The religion of the day not only failed to help people get to God, it kept them from Him! Jesus said in Matthew 23:13, "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer them that are entering to go in." There were no saved nations besides Israel, and according to Jesus, few of them were saved. He also said it would be same in the last days. In Luke 18:8, Jesus asks the question, "Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" We are told that the last days would be like the days of Noah, when out of the entire world population, only eight were saved!! Certainly, the number is not literally the same today, nor would I imply the percentage is the same, but it is certainly a remnant as it has always been. Men preach with enthusiasm all of the signs of the last days as it pertains to the lost and their activities, but not as it applies to the deception of those in the churches. LORD help us!
Finally, to face the truth would force folks to admit that 'salvation is of the Lord.' He is the Author, the Initiator, the Worker, the Performer, and the Finisher of it. If one has climbed up any other way, they are thieves and robbers. This is on the authority of the scriptures, and the words of Jesus, not this author's.
We must begin to examine what we have received, and how we have received it, in light of the scriptures, and not presume that we are right with God simply because we possess the things of God. - J. M. G. ((03/95)
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