Ephesians 4:11 & John 21:15-17 by Robert Dean
Are there different kinds of love in the New Testament? Listen to this lesson to hear about an incident after Jesus’ resurrection when He is explaining to Peter what his role will be after Jesus’ Ascension. Learn that there are differences between two Greek words for love that Jesus uses here and they are not synonyms. Find out that young sheep and adult sheep must be fed in different ways just as a pastor must “feed” the Word of God to his congregation.
Series:Ephesians (2018)
Duration:1 hr 50 mins 10 secs

Feeding the Sheep
Ephesians 4:11; John 21:15–17
Ephesians Lesson #145
April 10, 2022
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.

Opening Prayer

“Father, we’re thankful that we have this opportunity now to study Your Word, to spiritually feed on that which You have provided for us. As the Scriptures say, ‘we are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’

“We are to feed upon Your Word, and through the study, assimilation, and application of Your Word, God the Holy Spirit works, and He works to mature us, to teach us, and to train us that we may serve You.

“Father, we pray that as we continue our study in Ephesians 4:11 that we may come to have a better understanding of why we come to a church like this, and why we have a pastor that teaches verse by verse, and why all these things are vital for our own spiritual growth. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”

Slide 2

Continuing our study in Ephesians 4, focusing now on the last part of Ephesians 4:11, the gifted individual that is identified as the pastor-teacher. What’s the role, what’s the responsibility of a pastor-teacher?

Slide 3

We’ve been looking at “What the Bible Teaches about Shepherds.”

Slide 4

Ephesians 4:11, “And He Himself—referring to Jesus Christ—gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers.”

There are basically four people in view here, not five, the reasons for which we will see in the coming weeks.

Their purpose, Ephesians 4:12, is to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. They are coaches, they are trainers; you’re the team. My job is to teach you, train you, equip you, so that you can serve the Lord in a faithful manner throughout your life.

These are really gifted individuals, gifted leaders that God has provided for the church. In looking at this verse, we talked about the first two: Apostles and Prophets. We saw that these were temporary gifts, foundational gifts.

We studied Ephesians 2:20 a couple of years ago when we went through Ephesians 2 which emphasizes the fact that these two gifts were foundational gifts for the building of the body of Christ.

A foundation for a building is only laid once. You don’t relay the foundation on every floor, you just do it once. The foundation that’s laid at ground level for this edifice called the church, the universal body of Christ, has one foundation, which is the apostles and prophets, and that which they taught, that which they wrote, that is the foundation of the church. Those were temporary gifts.

The third one, Evangelists, is not primarily a gift of doing personal evangelism, although that’s part of it. The primary purpose is stated here in this passage. It is designed to equip the saints, to do the work of ministry.

The purpose of those who have the gift of evangelism is to teach and train those who don’t have the gift of evangelism to be effective witnesses of the gospel. To be clear in explaining the gospel, and helping others who are not saved to come to a saving understanding of Jesus Christ. So that’s the role of the evangelist.

The last one we call pastor-teacher. There’s a couple of different ways you can articulate that: Pastor-teacher, pastor/teacher. But they are connected together, and we will see the reasons for that.

Slide 5

As we’ve gone forward, we looked at “What the Bible Teaches about the Shepherd,” the pastor in the Old Testament. He’s not called a pastor, it is not translated that way, but we have a lot that is said about shepherds.

God is our Shepherd, Psalm 23:1. In Psalm 23, we saw what the characteristics of God as our Shepherd are, which is the focus of this metaphor. Not everything that a shepherd does is something that God does; there’s an overlap. It’s also a metaphor used for political leaders that is brought over from the Old Testament to apply to the leaders in the local the local church.

Slide 6


There are several characteristics that are derived from this metaphor in the Old Testament. A shepherd leads, a shepherd guides, and a shepherd feeds with knowledge and understanding. A shepherd is to heal those wounded by sin, and that is not a physical thing, that is spiritual.

We have healing, forgiveness, recovery through an understanding of God’s grace in His Word. A shepherd secures, he restores the scattered, he seeks the lost, he protects, and he corrects.

Slide 7

That comes out of an Old Testament study, and we saw this in conclusion with two verses: Isaiah 40:11 and Deuteronomy 8:3.

Isaiah 40:11, “He—God—will feed His flock like a shepherd—feeding and nourishment are at the real center of what a shepherd is to do;—He will gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with the young.”

Feeding and leading are primary aspects of the role of a shepherd and is done through God’s Word,

Slide 8

Deuteronomy 8:3, “… that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Slide 9

Last week we began, “What the Bible Teaches about Shepherds/Pastors in the New Testament.”

Slide 10

First of all, in the Gospels Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd, and human pastors are His “under-shepherds.”

We will see in our passage this morning in John 21, Jesus talking to Peter, He tells Peter that he is to “feed My lambs,” that he is to “tend My sheep” and “feed My sheep.” What’s the word before sheep or lamb? It’s “My.” Y’all are Jesus’ sheep, not mine. I’m just an under-shepherd.

Christ is the Good Shepherd, human pastors are the under-shepherds, and we take care of the flock of God, not our flock.

In John 10:11 Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

When those Jews in His audience heard Him say that, they’re immediately connecting that to Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd,” David wrote. He’s identifying Himself with God.

It’s another one of those “I am” statements. There are seven key “I am” statements in the Gospel of John, and each one of them is a claim to deity.

Those first two Greek words, EGO EIMI would be a translation of the name of God, Yahweh, explained by God to Moses in Exodus 4, the One Who is, He Who is Self-existent. That’s the main idea within that terminology.

In John 10:11 Jesus makes this claim, “I am EGO EIMI [which would’ve been understood by the Pharisees as a claim to deity, for which they would want to stone Him]. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

John 10:14, “I am the Good Shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”

Hebrews 13:20, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that Great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant.”

We see that part of who Jesus is and part of our salvation is related to resurrection. He is the One Who came forth from the dead, “the God of peace brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead.”

1 Peter 2:25, “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

In the Greek the grammatical construction here is the Granville Sharp Rule. There’s one article before “Shepherd,” but it’s not repeated before the second noun “Overseer.” And in that kind of construction, those two nouns are describing the same person.

Slide 11

Jesus is a Shepherd and an EPISKOPOS, which is translated in the old King James as “Bishop,” but it has that idea of one who has oversight. That’s what a shepherd does; he has oversight over the flock.

Slide 12

Acts 20 is important because it helps us understand that in the New Testament, there are three terms that are used to describe the spiritual leadership of a local church. One is referenced in Acts 20:17, Paul went to Miletus and “called for the elders of the church in Ephesus.”

That doesn’t mean there’s one church there. There have been several heretical movements down through the centuries that have tried to say there’s only supposed to be one church in one location.

But there are other passages where the singular noun “church” or EKKLESIA is used to describe a group of churches. For example, the church (singular) in Samaria. Samaria was a region, so just because it’s a singular noun doesn’t mean that it’s talking about only one church.

But the leaders in Acts 20:17 are referred to as elders, PRESBUTEROS, one who is emphasizing maturity. Then in Acts 20:28 you have “overseers,” which is EPISKOPOS. Those are both nouns, but they are supposed to be expressed by the verb POIMAINO, which means to shepherd, to tend, to feed. That’s the emphasis.

“Pastor,” a noun related to the leader of the church is only used once in Ephesians 4:11, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t call the leader of the church “pastor.” That’s really become over history the tradition of calling the leader of the church the pastor.

But technically that is what the elder (PRESBUTEROS) or the overseer (EPISKOPOS) are supposed to do, is to shepherd or feed the sheep, to tend to them, which we will see that in our passage.

Slide 13

Three terms are used:

  • Elder emphasizes the spiritual maturity of the person in the office.
  • Bishop or Overseer (EPISKOPOS) relates to his authority or oversight in that office. (Titus 1:7 is synonymously parallel to “elder” in Titus 1:5, 1 Timothy 3:1–2 so they become somewhat interchangeable terms referring to the same individual.)
  • Pastor is the role and responsibility to feed the sheep through teaching.

Slide 14

This is the same is in Peter 5:1–2, “The elders—PRESBUTEROS—who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder. Shepherd the flock … —The activity of the elder. He is to shepherd. It’s the same word POIMAINO, emphasizing to feed, to tend, to provide spiritual nourishment—… serving as overseers—EPISKOPOS.”

Slide 15


The role of the pastor:

  • Leads
  • Guides
  • Feeds with the Word of God
  • Protects
  • Corrects

All accomplished through the teaching of God’s Word.

2 Timothy 3:16–17, all Scripture is breathed out by God. It is profitable for—this is what a shepherd does through the Word of God—for teaching, for rebuke (you’re rebuked through the Word of God), for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That explains our role.

Slide 16

What does the Bible say about feeding the sheep? Open your Bibles to John 21 and we will go through the passage here.

This is really an interesting passage, and I find that often it is not handled correctly for a number of reasons. Part of it has to do with debates over the meaning of the word “love,” the use of synonyms in this passage. We will take a little bit of time to understand that.

The whole chapter is often broken into two parts, like they’re two separate instances, but the second instance, which is our passage, John 21:15–17, grows out of the object lesson when Jesus literally cooks a fish breakfast for the disciples and feeds them. He is demonstrating here, through His feeding of the disciples what the disciples are to do spiritually.

It’s important to understand this, as I’ve emphasized in everything: understand the context. Context, context, context, the three laws of Bible study and interpretation, are the same as the three laws of real estate: Location, location, location. What is the surrounding context of the passage? Often, we misunderstand a lot of Scripture because we don’t pay enough attention to the context.

Slide 17

Overall Context:

We have to deal with the purpose of the gospel. Why did John the Apostle write this gospel? What is his stated purpose for this gospel?

John 20:31 is clearly stated, but it’s the second half of the sentence, so we have to understand everything that is said here or we will miss it.

In John 20:30 after Jesus had talked to Thomas in one of His resurrection appearances, John summarizes it by saying, “And truly, Jesus did many other signs …”

“Other” is an important word. Other than what? Well, the context is the resurrection. There are seven signs in John plus the eighth sign, which is the resurrection of Christ, which is fundamental to an understanding of the completed work of Christ on the Cross.

Jesus did many other signs other than resurrection in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book.

John 20:31, “But these—often we just memorize John 20:31 out of context, not realizing what ‘these’ are. ‘These’ are ‘these signs.’ That’s a demonstrative pronoun referring back to the topic in the previous verse, the other signs that Jesus did—are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah—Hebrew for Christ,—the Son of God and that believing or by believing you may have life in His name.”

We understand that it is by faith alone in Christ alone that we have eternal life. It’s not through ritual, it’s not through good works, or anything else because in the Gospel of John the verb PISTEUO, the word for belief or faith, is used some 95 times, and it’s never qualified.

You don’t see sincere faith. You don’t see genuine faith. You don’t see continuing faith. It’s never modified because faith is faith; you either have it or you don’t. You either believe in Christ or you don’t believe in Christ.

A lot of people make a mistake in thinking that, “I walked the aisle” or “I was baptized” or whatever, so I’m a Christian, but that’s not what the Scripture says. Scripture says you have to believe Christ died on the cross for your sins, and the instant you do that, an act of the mind, God the Father in His omniscience knows what you believe, and you’re saved at that instant. He will never forget it, and we will never lose our salvation.

1.      Purpose of the Gospel:

Having to do with the explanation of how we get eternal life—how we move from spiritual death to spiritual life.

Slide 18

2.      Second purpose of the gospel is stated by Jesus in John 10:10, the same passage I quoted earlier, because the very next verse Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” This is connected to His role as a shepherd.

John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life—that’s one statement—and that they may have it—that is, life—more abundantly.”

He’s talking about two things here:

  • The acquisition of life, which is what John 20:31 is talking about. By believing on Him we have eternal life. But this goes beyond that. He comes to give life and to give it abundantly.
  • The second category of life here has to do with our spiritual life once we’re saved.

When you are born as a human being, you’re a physical infant. What is required is growth, and you get growth through nourishment, by feeding.

The same is true in our spiritual life. When we are born again, we are a spiritual infant, but we have to grow, we have to continue to grow.

Peter learns his lesson from this passage. In 1 Peter 2:2 he says that we are to desire—that’s the command—to desire the unadulterated milk of the Word like a newborn baby “that you may grow thereby.”

How do we grow? We grow through the Word of God. That’s why it’s so important. How often do you eat? We eat two, three, four, five times a day, and that’s how we grow. Sometimes we grow too much. Spiritually you can’t grow too much, but we have to feed.

If you ate physically as much as you eat spiritually, some of you would be dead. You would starve to death. We need to eat spiritually, regularly, on a daily basis. It is not just something I do on Sunday.

If you only ate once a week, yeah you might realize your diet goals, but before long you’d realize your funeral goals. We have to grow spiritually, and we do that by desiring the unadulterated milk of the Word.

Jesus talks about offering two things, and that’s important for understanding what He’s going to say to Peter. His focus is on the fact that the sheep need to be fed. That is the whole focus here.

We see this illustrated by what happens in the beginning of this chapter.

Slide 21

John 21:15–17, “So when they had eaten breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of Jonah—Simon bar Jonah; in English it would be Simon Johnson—do you love Me more than these?’

“And Peter said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ ”

If you just look at the English, you miss a lot because in the Greek there are shifting words, different words for love. And in three different questions Jesus asked, He used different words for feeding, different words for lambs, and different words for knowledge.

He asked the question, “Do you love Me more than these?” using the first verb at the bottom of the slide AGAPAO, which means simply to love. But there are different kinds of love in Greek, at least four different words for love. Basically, only two are used in the New Testament.

A compound of STORGE is used in one place, but it’s either AGAPAO or PHILEO. PHILEO really has the idea of having affection for. Sometimes it’s translated “kiss,” but it has a more intimate context. It’s an interesting word to study.

Slide 22

I’ll give you this summary from the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, because I spent yesterday and this morning skimming through about 20 or 25 different commentaries, and I read through several lengthy discussions on the synonyms. Even though I’ve taught this many times, I always like to go back and read more, learn more, study more.

I ran across what, in a lot of ways, is a good article in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, but he ends up coming to the conclusion that a lot of scholars make, and that is it doesn’t make any difference. These are just totally interchangeable terms. I’m going to disagree with that.

There are a lot of outstanding scholars through the centuries who I would agree with, but today in our world there are a lot of evangelicals that just want to skip over the distinctiveness of some terms in Scripture. But he makes some really good observations about these words, starting off by talking about how these words are used in classical Greek.

1.      PHILEO is the most general word for love or regard with affection in Classical Greek.

2.      PHILEO mainly denotes the attraction of people to one another who are close together, both inside and outside the family. It includes concern, care, hospitality, also love for things in the sense of being fond of. Ideas related to PHILEO do not have a clear religious emphasis.

3.      In contrast, AGAPAO in classical Greek is often quite colorless as a word, appearing frequently as an alternative to, or a synonym with ERAO (where we get our word erotic) and PHILEO, meaning to be fond of, treat respectfully, or to be pleased with. On rare occasions it refers to someone favored by a god. It describes a generous move by one for the sake of the other.

Those last two sentences are important because it’s emphasizing the way we think of AGAPAO as God’s love, that it’s something that is not earned or deserved. It is grace; it’s based on undeserved favor by God, and it emphasizes in human love the generosity of one who loves another. That’s Classical Greek.

Slide 23

Interesting what he says about how this changes in Koine Greek, used in the New Testament.

“PHILEO is the general word, emphasizing affection, concern, care, and fondness; AGAPAO is a colorless word and in a religious context emphasizes the favor of a god or a generous, selfless move by one person for the sake of another.”

Slide 24

4.      In the New Testament, this changes. AGAPAO is the dominant word instead of PHILEO. It remains in every case a more limited and colorless word.

Remember, he said AGAPAO was the limited and colorless word in Classical Greek, but in Koine Greek, PHILEO is the limited and colorless word.

5.      The main emphasis of PHILEO is love for people who are closely connected either by blood or by faith.

The reason I took the time to do this is to demonstrate that there are distinctions. A lot of scholars don’t deal well with the three important questions that need to be addressed.

1.      In the case of synonyms, we have to ask, do both words mean exactly the same thing? In other words, are they totally interchangeable? I say no because with two synonyms, there are things that you would use one for, but you would not use the other one for.

2.      Even in cases where AGAPAO describes the Father’s love for the Son, because there are a host of verses where you’ll have the Father loves the Son, AGAPAO, then two chapters later Jesus says the Father loves the Son, PHILEO. So, they conclude that these words are totally interchangeable. They have a lot more evidence than just those two verses.

The problem with that is it denies the idea that every single word in the Scripture is breathed out by God and is distinctive. So why did the Holy Spirit use AGAPAO in this verse and PHILEO in that verse? Because there’s something about the nuance of AGAPAO that is emphasized in this context, but over “there” something different was to be emphasized.

PHILEO emphasizes a familial love. So, when it says the Father loves the Son, it’s emphasizing more that familial love aspect than in the other context. I think the denial of this is a denial of the inerrancy of Scripture and every word being breathed out by God.

So, we have to look at synonyms and first ask the question, can we see some difference there? I find in any language synonyms are not ever 100% identical; there’s always some nuance difference.

3.      Shouldn’t the meaning of AGAPAO and PHILEO be determined by how John uses them in this gospel?

I did a study/search and I couldn’t find but one passage where these two words are used within 40 words of each other. That’s a pretty broad context. I think I broadened it out to within 50 words of each other, because you want to see that contrast and comparison. Are there any other places where they’re used? The only place where they are used within 50 words of each other is in John 21:15–17. So there’s just this assumption that there’s not really a difference.

Slide 25

To grasp what’s going on here, I just want to go back and look briefly at the previous section.

John 21:1, “After these things—after He appeared to the disciples—He manifested Himself again to the disciples on the Sea of Tiberius, and He manifested Himself in this way.”

So the disciples are out in the boat fishing, Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, along with the two other disciples that aren’t named, on the Sea of Galilee.

Slide 26

Simon is getting bored. He says in John 21:3, “I’m going fishing,” and they want to come with him, and as they were fishing all night, they caught nothing.

(I relate to that. I’ve been out many times with people who catch a lot of fish, and I catch nothing. I don’t know what it is. I never catch anything.)

Slide 27

It’s been a fruitless night, but as the dawn comes, Jesus stood on the beach, and the disciples didn’t recognize Him. Jesus called out to them in John 21:5, “ ‘Children, you do not have any fish, do you?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ ”

Slide 28

This picture is from the Sea of Galilee, one of the men who handle the boat getting ready to throw out his fishing net.

Slide 29

Jesus said, John 21:6, “ ‘Cast the net out on the right side of the boat, and you’ll find some.’ ”

Jesus knows where the food is. That’s an important point when you talk about the role of the pastor. Too often we have pastors today who don’t go to the Lord for the food, and they don’t know where the food is. But Jesus is the One who tells us; we have to go to the Word of God.

They did, and “they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.”

Slide 30

John 21:7, “Therefore, that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter—‘that disciple whom Jesus loved’ is how John refers to himself,—‘It is the Lord.’ So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.

John 21:8, “But the other disciples came in a little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about 100 yards away, dragging the net full of fish—which nobody can really lift out of the water.”

Slide 31

John 21:9, “When they got to the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it and bread.”

Where did those fish come from? They’re not the fish that were just caught because that net’s still dragging along behind the boat. So, Jesus had already caught fish or created fish—we don’t know, but He’s got the food ready to go because Jesus is ultimately the One who feeds the sheep.

They drew in the net, and it had 153 [fish], John 21:11. The backdrop is that Jesus wanted to teach them about feeding; and He has fed them.

Slide 32

In this context we have four different synonyms used:

  • Two different words for “love”
  • Two different words for “know”
  • Two different words for “feed” and
  • Two different words for “sheep.”

What it’s typically going to say in commentaries and from a lot of pastors is that this is just stylistic variation. I don’t agree with that. After you’ve tried eight different options that may be the very last. But if we believe that God the Holy Spirit is selecting every word, then we have to first address the question, even if it’s minimal, what’s the difference between these two words?

Slide 33

Synonyms can be words with overlapping meanings like this, with two different words indicated by the yellow circle and the green circle with about a 50% overlap. But there’s a lot of meanings to these two different words that aren’t the same.

Slide 34

I can also be expressed like this where you have one word, and then the second word is a more technical word that is subsumed under the meaning of the first word. This is the case in John 21, when He talks about “tending My sheep” or “feeding My sheep.” “Feeding My sheep” is POIMAINO, a broader term. “Tending My sheep” is BOSKO, which is a narrower term.

Slide 35

Then another type of overlap, which is minimal. We could also have one where it’s about a 95% overlap. I think that’s probably the case with AGAPAO and PHILEO, but it’s the difference that is important.

Slide 36

Four different words:

  • Two different words for “knowledge:” OIDA and GINOSKO. They can often be used interchangeably. But OIDA tends to emphasize an intuitive knowledge or if it is referencing God to His omniscience. Whereas GINOSKO is knowledge that is acquired, knowledge that is learned.
  • Two different words for “sheep:” ARNIA and PROBATA. One relates to lambs, to the young, and the other relates to adults.

Slide 37

John 21:15, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ ”

He’s talking about the other disciples because Peter had been a bit arrogant at times that he was the best and he would love the Lord more than anybody else. He denied Christ before the crucifixion. In the third appearance of Christ to the disciples, He appeared alone to Peter.

That’s when Peter realizes His forgiveness. You will read commentaries that put it here, but that’s not right. I have a Bible that entitles this section “Jesus Restores Peter,” and that’s not right. Peter has already met with the Lord, realized His forgiveness. This is not restoration. This is more of Jesus commissioning him.

“Peter said to Him, ‘Yes Lord; You know that I love You.’”

He used PHILEO, which is a more intimate family term than what Jesus is saying in terms of AGAPAO.

We have to understand another thing about the context. AGAPAO is used 27 times in the Gospel of John, seven times before John 13. Which means it’s used 20 times from John 13–16, which is talking about the Christian way of life. The noun AGAPE is used seven times, but it’s only used one time before John 13.

To understand what Jesus means when He says, “Do you love Me?” we have to understand that what this means is not the same as PHILEO. It has to do with what Jesus has been teaching in John 13–16, where He uses the term. It’s not used at all in John 17–20. Why not?

First, He taught about what love was, then John 17–19, He’s demonstrating it. First through His high priestly prayer in John 17, and then by going to the Cross and dying for us, and the resurrection. He’s coming back now for the first time since John 16 asking Peter “Do you love Me?”

Let me remind you of a couple of things that Jesus said. John 13:34–35, He said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another—AGAPAO;—as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

When He asked Peter “Do you love Me,” He’s not asking, “Do you have an affection for Me like a family member?” But, “Are you willing to love Me as I have loved you and be willing to give your life for Me?”

He will make a statement about Peter in John 21:18, “when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”

He will be martyred, crucified. So yes, Peter is going to understand what it means to love the Lord, that he will give his life because of his faith in Christ.

Jesus gives this command, John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me,” He’s saying, “Are you going to keep My commandments? Are you going to follow My leadership?”

John 14:21–24, “He who has My commandments and keeps them; it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.”

Contextually, when Jesus said, “Do you love Me,” He was saying, “Are you going to obey Me?” “Are you willing to give your life for Me?” “Are you going to keep My word?” He had denied Him, and he had not done this. That’s what He’s asking.

Slide 38

To paraphrase it, “Simon, do you love Me more than these others?” In other words, have you learned the lesson of humility, and are you willing to be completely obedient to Me?

Peter answered, “Yes Lord, You know from Your omniscience—He used OIDA—that I now have an intimate, intense love for You —now that I’ve been forgiven and understand what grace is all about.” That is how I paraphrase it in context.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ ”

Slide 39

That word for feed is BOSKO, which simply has the sense of feeding, nourishing; whereas the synonym POIMAINO involves much more. It’s the whole responsibility of the shepherd.

Slide 40

He starts off and just says, “Feed My lambs.” Lambs here are the ARNION, the spiritually young.

Slide 41

John 21:16, “He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me’—still using AGAPAO. Are you willing to obey Me? Are you willing to die for Me?] He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I PHILEO You—he hasn’t caught the difference yet.—Jesus says, ‘Shepherd My sheep.’ ”

It’s POIMAINO, to shepherd, the whole realm of responsibility of the leader, “My sheep.” These are adult sheep.

In any congregation, you have spiritual babies, who are just new believers who haven’t learned a lot yet. And you have spiritually mature believers who’ve been studying the Word and living a Christian life for 40, 50, 60 years.

As a pastor, you’ve got a one-room schoolhouse. You’ve got to feed the babies, and you have to feed the mature ones. If you aim for the mature ones, there’re always a lot there that the babies are going to get. But if you just teach the babies, the mature ones will never grow, never go beyond the level of their teaching.

Go back to what took place in one-room schoolhouses in this country 100 to 200 years ago. That’s what they did, and the younger would learn from the older ones. So you aim to get everybody up to that mature level. But if you just teach at the first-grade level, nobody will get beyond the first-grade level. Sadly, that’s what happens in most churches.

Slide 42

Paraphrase of John 21:16, “Jesus says, ‘Do you love Me?’ Peter says, ‘Yes, Lord, You know from Your omniscience—still using OIDA—that I have an intense, intimate love for You.’ Jesus said, ‘Lead My sheep through the teaching of doctrine—God’s Word.’ ”

I get to that because of what He is using there. You’re teaching mature sheep, and they have to learn the Word. The word for sheep is PROBATA, which emphasizes all ages.

Slide 43

The last question, John 21:17, “Jesus says, ‘Simon, son of John, do you PHILEO Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him a third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he says to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ ”

He shifted back to BOSKO, but He was still using PROBATA.

Slide 44

The point of all of this is, as we paraphrase it, “Jesus said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you really have this intimate, intense love for Me? Peter is grieved because He said to him the third time: Do you love Me?’

Slide 45

“And Peter replied, ‘Lord, You know all things——he’s saying “You know from experience, You have seen with Your own eyes my response to Your forgiveness and the change in me because of the resurrection, You have this experiential knowledge of my intense love for You.’ ”

Jesus says, “Peter, feed all My sheep.”

What’s the role of the pastor? It’s to feed the sheep. Feed the young ones, feed the old ones. It’s to nourish them with the Word and also oversee the flock. That’s the role of the shepherd.

Slide 46

2 Peter 3:18, Peter learned his lesson well, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s the issue. We grow not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Closing Prayer

“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to be reminded of the role and responsibilities of the pastor, because they inform us of what is supposed to be the focal point of any local congregation, and that is the feeding the sheep, the teaching of the Word, because it is only by Your Word that we grow.

“Father, we pray that we might always have a hunger and thirst for Your Word that we might not grow weary of growing, weary of eating. Because the flip side of the passage that says “Feed the sheep” is that the sheep need to come to be fed. It’s only by feeding on the Word that we grow.

“Father, we pray for anyone who’s here, anyone is listening, anyone who has never trusted Christ as Savior, that they would understand that the path to new life is simply trust in Christ as Savior. Believe that He died on the cross for Your sins, and You’ll have everlasting life. And as a result of that, we need to grow spiritually; we need to feed on Your Word.

“Father, we pray that we will be challenged by these things, and that we will not grow slack or grow weary in our spiritual progress. We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”