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John 10:12-21 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:1 hr 14 mins 59 secs

Spiritual Death; The Good Shepherd; John 11:12-21


When a sheep becomes ill it loses the will be recover, it just gives up. This happens frequently in believers' lives. The further they go into extended carnality the more they go into spiritual lethargy and lose all motivation for spiritual recovery and growth. The sheep that recovers does so because he exercises his volition, his will to recover. The shepherd can't make the sheep want to recover. In the same way, God is not going to violate our volition and reach inside and tweak it so that we will want to recover. He gives us the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail, and if we fail it is because we choose to and we will suffer the loss of rewards and inheritance at the judgment seat of Christ.


John 10:11 NASB "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." The whole contrast in verses 11-13 is between the shepherd and the hireling. The hireling is the religious leaders, the Pharisees. The good shepherd will sacrifice for the sheep but the hireling runs away when danger presents itself. [12] "He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters {them.}" The point of this illustration is what Jesus says it is in verse 13: "{He flees} because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep." The whole point here is that the Pharisees aren't concerned with the sheep. Look at what a lack of compassion they had for the healing of the blind man! They are not concerned with the sheep, the Pharisees don't care about the people. They just care about themselves and what they can use the people for in terms of their own power base and their own approbation.


The significant doctrine at the end of verse 11: "the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." This phrase "for the sheep" is a translation of the Greek preposition huper [u(per], and when huper is followed by a noun or pronoun in the genitive (this is a genitive of advantage) what this means is that Christ died as a substitute. This is the preposition of substitution, substitution for the benefit of someone. So it should be translated "the good shepherd lays down his life as a substitute for the benefit of the sheep. This introduces to us the all-important doctrine of the penal substitutionary atonement. Penal here means that it is a penalty. Jesus Christ paid a penalty on the cross. The word "substitutionary" talks about its nature, a substitute for us, in our place. The sheep would not have to die; He dies. Atonement summarises all that was involved in the nature of that atonement.


We have to ask some questions. What kind of life did Jesus lay down for us on the cross?

1)  What is the consequence, the penalty, for sin? Is it spiritual death or is it physical death. Genesis 2:16 NASB "The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; [17] but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." Notice the phrase "in the day [be yom]." This should be understood as a literal 24-hour day. "In the day" almost becomes an idiom for when, at the moment when you do something. So idiomatically it means "in the instant that you eat" something is going to happen. Then in the Hebrew there is a repetition of the verb—mot is a qal infinitive absolute; tamut is the second person singular qal imperfect of the same word, mot, and the verb means to die. It has been taught that the way to translate this is, "dying you shall die." If we know anything about grammar we know that this word with the ing ending is either a gerundive or a participle. But this is an infinitive, and a participle is not an infinitive and an infinitive is not a participle. There is not a single Hebrew grammar anywhere that supports this translation. There are a number of other passages in the Scripture that use this same phraseology. Numbers 15:35 NASB "The man shall surely be put to death ..." Here is a qal infinitive absolute of mot plus a hophal imperfect, the same syntax, the same grammar, using the same verb. If you are going to execute somebody for a capital crime you would not say at that point, "you shall certainly dying him so that he shall die." It doesn't make sense. What is being said is emphasis, and that is the point that every grammar makes of a qal infinitive absolute plus an imperfect tense verb. It is for emphasis, for certainty, for surety, that at the moment this happens you will certainly die. Genesis 26:11 NASB "He who touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death." This has the same phrase. Genesis 18:10 NASB "He said, 'I will surely return to you at this time next year' …" This is the Lord talking and He uses the qal infinitive absolute of shub (return) plus the qal imperfect to emphasise that "I will definitely, certainly return." Genesis 22:17 NASB "indeed I will greatly bless you …" There we have a piel infinitive absolute plus a piel imperfect of barach meaning to bless: "I will certainly bless you," not "blessing I will bless you." So in Genesis 2 what God is saying is that "in the day, at that moment when you eat, you will definitely die." What happened when Adam ate from the tree? He didn't die physically. He was separated from God so that when God came to walk in the garden with Adam and Eve they went and hid, because they no longer had perfect righteousness and could not have fellowship with God. There was a separation that occurred. Adam was still alive physically but he had died spiritually so that there was a break in his relationship with God. The penalty for sin, then, is spiritual death. It is not physical death.  

2)  What we see here is that there are two categories of death for this discussion, physical death and spiritual death. Spiritual death itself has two categories. There is real spiritual death which is the death that Adam and all of his descendants experience. We are truly separated from God because we lack righteousness. Then there will be the substitutionary spiritual death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Where we are headed with this is that Jesus Christ's death on the cross accounted for our salvation was not His physical death, because physical death is not the penalty for sin. The penalty must be paid in kind.

3)  When Adam sinned in the garden of Eden the entire human race entered into spiritual death. God knows in His omniscience that what Adam did every one of us would do. Romans 5:1 NASB "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." There are seven of Adam's sin in the garden: a) the instant Adam sinned he died spiritually; b) In spiritual death he became dichotomous having only a body and soul, Jude 19; c) his original sin generated the sin nature which is then genetically passed on to the entire human race; d) we sin because we have a sin nature; e) the incarnation of Jesus Christ in hypostatic union is the direct result of Adam's original sin because only a man can die for man.

4)  In rightly dividing the Word of truth we must recognise that for the penalty of sin to be paid it must be paid in kind. A physical death does not pay the penalty for spiritual death, therefore the substitutionary death of our Lord must refer to a spiritual death and not a physical death.

5)  To understand the atonement we must define the meaning of atonement. It is a word that is used in the Old Testament but not in the New Testament. Atonement is a summary term that describes all that was accomplished by the death of Christ on the cross, including the need, the nature, the focus, the means, and the extent of that death. 

6)  The need for the atonement. The need is the character of God. God is perfect righteousness, absolute perfection, and He cannot have fellowship with any creature that is less than perfection. This is the standard of God's character. It we don't meet His standard we can't have a relation ship with Him. Then there is the justice of God, the application of that standard. Because God is perfect His justice is perfect and He is perfectly fair, so what the righteousness of God demands in terms of the standard the justice of God executes or applies. But the love of God in eternity past initiated a solution based on the grace of God. Jesus Christ would pay the penalty as a substitute for mankind so that all the sins of mankind would be poured forth on Jesus Christ. Then when we believe in Jesus Christ God takes the perfect righteousness of Christ and gives it to us, imputes it to us, and that substitutes for our negative righteousness. So it is not our negative righteousness that is the issue anymore. That was paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. The issue now is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, and when we trusted Christ as saviour God the Father imputed to us the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, and so when the perfect righteousness of God looks on us the standard is met. What the righteousness of God accepts the justice of God blesses, so that the justice of God can now bless us because of who Jesus Christ is and what He did on the cross.

7)  The nature of the atonement is substitutionary. This is seen in the Old Testament in the sacrifices. A Jewish believer in the Old Testament would bring a lamb to the priest and it would be placed on the altar. The believer would take his hand and put it on the lamb's head and recite his sins. His sins were now transferred to that lamb as your substitute and then the lamb's throat was cut as a reminder that sin is a horrible thing in God's eyes. So the sacrificial system focused on substitution at its very core. This is seen in Isaiah 53:4 NASB "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. [5] But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. [6] All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him."       There are several false views of the atonement. One is called the moral view. It was first articulated by a priest in the Middle Ages who put forth the moral view which was basically that Christ's death simply demonstrated how much God loved us and how dedicated Christ was to the plan of God, and so Christ's death is an example to us of God's great love and by looking to the cross we see God's love revealed and that should encourage us to love other people and no longer live is selfishness and sin. This is the view of all the liberal denominations. They have all adopted this heretical moral view of the atonement, that it is just an example for us and not really a payment for sin.

8)  The focus in the atonement is towards God. In the early church they put forth the view called the ransom to Satan view, that Christ paid a price but He was paying it to Satan. It was completely heretical. The focus of the atonement is the satisfaction of God's righteous demands, it has nothing to do with Satan.

9)  The means of the atonement is the spiritual death of Christ on the cross. He died as our substitute spiritually. 1 Peter 2:24 NASB "and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed."

10)  The extent of the atonement is to all men, not just to believers. 1 John 2:2 NASB "and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for {those of} the whole world." 2 Corinthians 5:15 NASB "and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf." 1 Timothy 4:10 NASB "For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers." 1 Timothy 2:4-6 NASB "who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, {and} one mediator also between God and men, {the} man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony {given} at the proper time."

John 10:11 NASB "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." In contrast to the religious leaders who are nothing more than hirelings, they don't care about the sheep and when they are threatened they will run. Jesus twice articulated the fact that He was the door and now twice He says that he is the good shepherd. [14] "I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me." The blind man responded to the call and he followed Jesus. [15] "even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."

John 10:16 NASB "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock {with} one shepherd." These sheep are Israel; He has other sheep that are not Israel, they are Gentiles. This is a very cryptic prophesy of the church: "they will become one flock {with} one shepherd." This hints to what is later revealed as mystery doctrine, that there is in the church neither Jew nor Greek, we are all one in Christ.

John 10:17 NASB "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. [18] 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." This flies right in the face of all those who want to blame the Jews for the death of Christ. Jesus went to the cross willingly. He had a plan to fulfil; He had to accomplish the Father's plan of substitutionary atonement for the human race.

Look at what happens in the reaction in vv. 19-22: A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words. Many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?" Others were saying, "These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?" What does that do? It takes us right back to the whole theme that Jesus is the Light of the world, that if we follow Him and understand what he has revealed in His Word then we will not walk in darkness but will walk in light. The issue is our volition.