1. Verily, verily, I say to you, He who entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth by another way, is a thief and a robber.2. But he who entereth 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 having put out his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice.5. But they will not follow a stranger, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.6. Jesus spoke this parable to them; but they did not understand what those things were which he spoke to them.
1. Verily, verily, I say to you. As Christ had to do with scribes and priests, who were reckoned pastors of the Church, it was necessary that they should be divested of the honor of this title, if he wished his doctrine to be received. The small number of believers might also diminish greatly the authority of his doctrine. He therefore contends that we ought not to reckon, in the number of shepherds or of sheep, all who outwardly claim a place in the Church. But we shall never be able, by means of this mark, to distinguish the lawful shepherds from the reprobate, and the true sheep from the counterfeit, if all have the same object, and beginning, and end.
This warning has been highly useful in all ages, and in the present day it is especially necessary. No plague is more destructive to the Church, than when wolves ravage under the garb of shepherds We know also how grievous an offense it is, when bastard or degenerate Israelites pretend to be the sons of the Church, and, on this pretense, insult believers. But in the present day, there is nothing by which weak and ignorant persons are more alarmed, than when they see the sanctuary of God occupied by the greatest enemies of the Church; for it is not easy to make them understand, that it is the doctrine of Christ which the shepherds of the Church so fiercely resist. Besides, as the greater part of men are led into various errors by false doctrines, while the views and expectations of each person are directed to others, scarcely any person permits himself to be conducted into the right path.
We must therefore, above all things, guard against being deceived by pretended shepherds or counterfeit sheep, if we do not choose, of our own accord, to expose ourselves to wolves and thieves The name of |The Church| is highly honorable, and justly so; but the greater the reverence which it deserves, so much the more careful and attentive ought we to be in marking the distinction between true and false doctrine. Christ here declares openly, that we ought not to reckon as shepherds all who boast of being such, and that we ought not to reckon as sheep all who boast of outward marks. He speaks of the Jewish Church, but what he says applies equally well to our own. We ought also to consider his purpose and design, that weak consciences may not be alarmed or discouraged, when they perceive that they who rule in the Church, instead of pastors or shepherds, are hostile or opposed to the Gospel; and that they may not turn aside from the faith, because they have few fellow-disciples, in listening to Christ, among those who are called Christians.
He who entereth not by the door. It is useless, I think, to scrutinize too closely every part of this parable. Let us rest satisfied with this general view, that, as Christ states a resemblance between the Church and a sheepfold, in which God assembles all his people, so he compares himself to a door, because there is no other entrance into the Church but by himself. Hence it follows that they alone are good shepherds who lead men straight to Christ; and that they are truly gathered into the fold of Christ, so as to belong to his flock, who devote themselves to Christ alone.
But all this relates to doctrine; for, since
all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ, (Colossians 2:3,)
he who turns aside from him to go elsewhere neither keeps the road nor enters by the door. Now, whoever shall not despise Christ or his instructor will easily rid himself of that hesitation which keeps so many in a state of perplexity, what is the Church, and who are they to whom we ought to listen as shepherds For if they who are called shepherds attempt to lead us away from Christ, we ought to flee from them, at the command of Christ, as we would flee from wolves or thieves; and we ought not to form or maintain intercourse with any society but that which is agreed in the pure faith of the Gospel. For this reason Christ exhorts his disciples to separate themselves from the unbelieving multitude of the whole nation, not to suffer themselves to be governed by wicked priests, and not to allow themselves to be imposed upon by proud and empty names.
3. To him the porter openeth. If by the word Porter any one choose to understand God, I do not object; and Christ even appears expressly to contrast the judgment of God with the false opinion of men in approving of pastors, as if he had said, |There are others, indeed, whom the world generally applauds, and on whom it willingly confers honor; but God, who holds the reins of government, does not acknowledge or approve of any but those who lead the sheep by this road.|
He calleth his own sheep by name. I consider this as referring to the mutual consent of faith; because the disciple and the teacher are united together by the one Spirit of God, so that the teacher goes before, and the disciple follows. Some think that it denotes the intimate knowledge which every shepherd ought to have of each of his flock, but I do not know if this rests on solid grounds.
4. Because they know his voice. Though he speaks here of ministers, yet, instead of wishing that they should be heard, he wishes that God should be heard speaking by them; for we must attend to the distinction which he has laid down, that he alone is a faithful pastor or shepherd of the Church, who conducts and governs his sheep by the direction of Christ. We must attend to the reason why it is said that the sheep follow; it is, because they know how to distinguish shepherds from wolves by the voice This is the spirit of discernment, by which the elect discriminate between the truth of God and the false inventions of men. So then, in the sheep of Christ a knowledge of the truth goes before, and next follows an earnest desire to obey, so that they not only understand what is true, but receive it with warm affection. And not only does he commend the obedience of the faith, because the sheep assemble submissively at the voice of the shepherd, but also because they do not listen to the voice of strangers, and do not disperse when any one cries to them.
6. This parable. This is the reason why, proudly vaunting of their wisdom, they rejected the light of Christ; for in a matter not very obscure they are exceedingly dull of apprehension.
But they did not understand what things they were which he spoke to them. In this clause the Greek manuscripts differ. Some copies might be literally rendered, they did not understand what he said Another reading, which I have followed, is more full, though it amounts to the same meaning. The third reading is, that they did not know that he who spoke of himself was the Son of God; but this is not much approved.