Those given to Jesus by the Father were not the Calvinist elect, but rather they were the ones who had already believed the Old Testament and thus were followers of the Father before they met the Son. The Calvinist that I was debating introduced John 10:26 as an argument against my view of John 6, and I’d like to share my response with you as well.
"But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you."
Let's look a little more in depth at John 10:26. The first phrase, "But ye believe not," does not give us any indication of what it was that the audience did not believe. To find that out, we have to begin at verse 24 where we read that the people said, "If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly." And in verse 25, we read the answer of Jesus: "I told you, and ye believed not." What then did the people not believe in verse 26? They did not believe that Jesus was the Christ which is to say that they did not believe Him to be the Messiah. This is the exact same message that the people did not believe in John 6. That's why John 6 and John 10 have so many parallels. In both passages, Jesus is rebuking the people for not believing that He was the Messiah.
In the second phrase of John 10:26, Jesus explains why the people did not believe that He was the Messiah. They did not believe that He was the Messiah because they were not His sheep, but this verse alone does not tell us how these people became the sheep of Christ. To learn this, we must gather a few facts from the surrounding context.
When we look back at verse 8, we can see that the people referred to as sheep were sheep even before Jesus came. Therefore, verse 10 cannot be referring to a regeneration that is followed quickly by belief and salvation. These people were Christ's sheep before Jesus even came on the scene. Thus they could not have been made His sheep immediately prior to their belief in Him as is so often assumed, but this brings us to another question. How could people have been the sheep of Christ before Christ had come? The only plausible answer is that they were the sheep of the Father and thereby the sheep of Christ for the Son and the Father are one (vs. 30).
This answer is born out by the Old Testament where the people of God are often referred to as His sheep. Consider, for example, Psalm 100:3 which proclaims that "we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." This reference to the people of God as the sheep of God is also found in Psalm 79:13 and Psalm 95:7. The only people we read about who were called sheep before Christ came were the nation of Israel as a whole and the followers of God in particular. And just as the Son spoke of thieves and robbers coming before Him and harming the sheep, so the Father made many references to those who proved to be evil shepherds by bringing harm to His sheep (Jeremiah 50:17). Thus, the sheep spoken of in John 10:26 were not people who had received regeneration just prior to believing that Jesus was the Messiah. Rather, they were the people of God, the sheep of the Father who were also the sheep of the Son because the Son and the Father are one.
This is the same message that Jesus presented in John 6. In John 6: 45, Jesus explained that the reason that some of the people did not come to Him as the Messiah was that they had not previously heard and learned from the Father. He explicitly stated that every man who had already heard the Father and who had already learned from the Father would come to the Son. This is perfectly consistent with what we find Jesus saying in John chapter 10 when He is once again rebuking those who did not believe that He was the Messiah.
The explanatory scope of this view also encompasses John 8:41. In this passage, the unbelieving Jews claimed that God was their Father, but "Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God." Jesus then asked "Why do ye not understand my speech?" And He answered "even because ye cannot hear my word." Then in verse 47, Jesus told these unbelievers that "He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God."
Which words were these that Jesus referred to here as "God's words"? They were the words of the Son that were mentioned in verse 43. And why did these people not hear the words of the Son? Because they were not the people of God. Therefore, if they who did not hear the words of the Son and did not believe the Son to be the Messiah were not the people of God, then they could not have been the sheep of God either.
Who then is it that heareth the words of the Son and believeth that He is the Messiah? They who are the people of God, and they who are the people of God are the sheep of God. Thus, in all of these passages, Christ preached the same message to the Jews of His time. The sheep of God the Father -- those who are already the people of God -- were the ones who would hear the voice of God the Son, recognize His voice to be the same as the voice of the Father and believe that the Son is the Messiah. In other words, those in Jesus' day who were following the instruction of the Old Testament would recognize that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament and accept Him as the Messiah.
Bill Fortenberry is a Christian philosopher and historian in Birmingham, AL. Bill's work has been cited in several legal journals, and he has appeared as a guest on shows including The Dr. Gina Show, The Michael Hart Show, and Real Science Radio.
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