Elder Wm. Doyal Thomas
Pastor - Philadelphia Baptist Church
Decatur , Alabama
    “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.  Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves: we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.  For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” Psalm 100
    It shall be our purpose as we prepare this message to write words that will be pleasing to our dear Lord.  We shall seek to honor His great name, for His is the only name that now or ever shall be found to be worthy of honor and praise.  We ask all who read these words to search diligently the Book.  See if these things be so.  If found to be true to the teaching of the Book, then give attention.  Hear God, and approach unto Him with gladness and with thanksgiving for who He is.
    In this psalm of praise, God causes the psalmist to recognize God.  He further causes him to acknowledge that God is our maker, and that He addresses us as His people, and the sheep of His pasture.  That is a most glorious truth.  We are the sheep of God’s pasture!  As His sheep, we are now, and ever shall be totally in dependence upon His care, His protection, and His defense.
    The word “shepherd” is from the Greek “Poimen” and is used metaphorically of Christ as He is presented in the Holy Writ.  It suggests one who is charged with the responsibility of the sheep.  It requires of the shepherd that he be willing to give his life for the defense of the sheep, and to provide their every need.  He must find sustenance (food and drink), shelter against any onslaught of the elements, protection against the attacks of all enemies, security against claims of other false shepherds for these specific sheep.  There is much more that is stated and implied by the title “shepherd” that we cannot adequately deal with because of our limited knowledge and understanding.  To be sure, we can in no way adequately deal with that which we have already suggested.  But so much as in us is, we will proceed to write of the “Shepherd of our souls”.
    Our Great God and Only Savior is presented to us in scripture as our Shepherd.  He is presented in the shepherd’s role in a three fold manner, and we will seek to present Him to you, as God presents Him to us in the Blessed Book.
The Good Shepherd
    In John, chapter 10, we see the Lord Jesus Christ in the role of the Good Shepherd.  He speaks, and plainly presents Himself in that role.  There can be no doubt about the matter, for he speaks.  Now please turn in your Bibles to the 10th chapter of John, and let us read verses 11 through 16.
    “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.  But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth; and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.  The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” John 10:11-16.
    Twice Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd”.  He is the only One who is ever spoken of as the good shepherd.  That fact alone is, or ought to be, sufficient reason for all false shepherds to be clearly identified as imposters and frauds.  There can be none found, in the light of scripture, who can legitimately lay claim to that title except Jesus Christ, our Lord.  I AM has spoken.  There is not another.  No substitute shepherd.  No “just as good as” shepherd can be found anywhere.  None else except Jesus can be God’s Christ, who cam expressly to “give Himself a ransom for many”.  There is, therefore, no ransom or redemption in any other, “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”. Acts 4:12.
    Every shepherd knows his sheep.  As the symbology of a sheepfold is unfolded in the earlier verses of the 10th chapter of John, we see the metaphor of a sheepfold, or corral, being used.  The sheepfold is a holding corral where each shepherd brings his sheep at the end of each day’s grazing and deposits them in the care and keeping of the porter, or gatekeeper, until the following morning.  They are guarded by the gatekeeper during the night, and early in the morning, the shepherd comes for his sheep.  The porter recognizes the shepherd and opens the gate to him.  He goes into the corral and calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  The sheep know the voice of their shepherd, and they follow him.  The voice of strangers or other shepherds they do not acknowledge, nor will they follow strange voices.
    Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, came into the world where His fallen sheep were, for the purpose of calling them out of the darkness of the world into the light and life in Himself.  This is indeed a most marvelous and glorious truth.  The Shepherd comes for His sheep.  He knows them when He comes.  He has always known them.  It is for them He comes, and for none besides.  Since we are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Psa. 100:3), He came for us.  “Thou shall call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matt. 1:21.
    This is an election that truly elects.  This is an atonement that truly atones.  This is a ransom being paid that truly redeems those for whom it was paid.  This is a salvation that truly saves.  Under the stipulations of the Eternal Covenant of Redemption, which God made with Himself, confirmed, and sealed, the Good Shepherd has made certain the calling out of His sheep.
    What did Jesus, the Good Shepherd, do in order that His own might be called out and forever secured?  Surely there was a great work required on the part of the Shepherd.  (None was required on the part of the sheep, however.)  The people of God were as guilty of sin as all the rest of mankind.  There was no good inherently in any of them, nor was there any foreseen good.  They were all in a fallen and totally depraved state.  “For as in Adam all die.” (I Cor. 15:22).  As fallen creatures, the people of God were in a desperate condition and will remain so unless rescued by the Good Shepherd.  Except He come and intervene in their behalf, there is no hope of recovery.  But God.  “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved);” Eph. 2:4,5.
    Christ came in accordance with the stipulations of the Divine Covenant and lived to the expectations and demands of a Just and Holy God.  He took upon Himself the form and nature of His fallen people, yet without sin, and satisfied every demand of a holy, acceptable life before God.  He was, at the appointed time and at the appointed place, offered up to a Holy and offended God as the payment due.  He ransomed us by paying the required price for our redemption.  And according to all the laws concerning redemption, when the ransom is paid, the ones for whom it was paid MUST go free.  They MUST, for the laws of redemption required it.  Did His Blood (the required price) find acceptances with God?  Then every one for whom His Blood was shed must go free.  “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; was buried and rose again the third day according the scriptures:” II Cor. 15:3,4.
    Psalm 22 is directly connected to the work of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd.  God, the Holy Spirit, caused the psalmist to write these words many years before the appointed suffering and death of Jesus, God’s Firstborn.  Yet, they clearly declare what anguish and suffering He will endure as He vicariously suffers and substitutionally dies for His people.  What kind of death is required of our dear Lord?  The most inglorious kinds of humiliation and the most excruciating pain must be borne by His Person.  He has been brought under judgment and the Divine Wrath of a Holy God is poured out upon Him without measure.  The awful, undiluted wrath is His required portion, and He meets the demand unflinching.  “His face set like a flint to the task set before Him.” Isa. 50:7.
    Hear Him as He cries out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?  Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?  O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.  But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.  Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.  They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.  But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.  All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.” Psa. 22:1-8.
    The shame and humiliation of our dear Lord is beyond description in human language.  He is stripped of His garments; He is spat upon and smitten on His face by ungodly and vile men; He is put on public display in the midst of His mother and the other women who view this spectacle, as well as among the violent mob of religious Jews and heathen Gentiles who have demanded His execution as a common criminal.  He is laughed at in His humiliation and is made a gazingstock there on Golgotha’s barren and desolate slope.  But He is bearing our reproach and is carrying our sorrows.  Where He is, we ought to be.  What He is bearing, we ought to bear.  We are the guilty ones, and our sins are laid upon His most noble and glorious Person.  God is dealing with Him as the Substitute Lamb.  Judgment for our horrible sins is His, and He bears them away in His own body on the tree.  He is cursed for our sake, and the chastisement of our peace is upon Him.
    Again He speaks and declares, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax: it is melted in the midst of my bowels.  My strength is dried up like a potsherd: and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws: and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.  For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.  I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me.  They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” Psa. 22:14-18.
    Oh, the awfulness of the suffering of our Saviour.  The horror of it all when seen with human eyes.  But, Oh the glory of it when seen through the God given eyes of faith.  What magnificence is on display of the grace of our Sovereign, in our behalf, and for our redemption.  It causes our hearts to burn within us as we view the work of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd as He willingly and freely lays down His life for His sheep.
    His body is taken down from the cross and is buried in a borrowed tomb.  A great rock is rolled over the entrance; a seal is placed upon it; and guards are set to watch and guard the tomb lest His followers come and steal His body away.  It appears to His enemies that they are successful.  But God.  But God raises Him from the dead after three days and three nights (72 hours), thus bearing testimony that His Law is vindicated and His Justice done.
    And now our hope, and the hope of every Blood bought child of grace rests eternally upon the Risen Saviour.  And it is all because of the Work of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd.  Praise be unto the matchless Name.  Honor and glory to Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His Own Blood.  Amen.
The Great Shepherd
    “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever.  Amen.” Heb. 13:20,21.
    Part I of this message has presented Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd, the One who laid down His life for the sheep.  We now seek to write of that life having been raised up in glorious resurrection, and to see some of the marvelous benefits that accrue to the account of those who are identified in Christ from the foundation of the world.  That is, to the born again ones of God’s choosing and calling.
    We see immediately that all that God does for us is in, by, and through His Own Dear Son.  It is the testimony of God that He is well pleased with His Son in the office and position of the Good Shepherd.  By raising Him from the dead, He has declared that His work is acceptable and is totally successful.  Every one that the Son came to die for is forever safe in Him.  Every one of God’s choosing had been identified with a dead, buried, but gloriously resurrected One, our only Saviour.  For Christ to have failed to secure a single one of His sheep would have rendered His shepherd work “null and void”.  It would have marked Him as a failure in His mission, and would have brought the Godhood of God into question.  But God.  But God raised Him from the dead, and gave Him a name which is above every name.
    The work of Jesus Christ as the Great Shepherd is a wonderful and present work.  The language used in Hebrews 13:21, “Make you perfect”, is declaring that it is a present and ongoing work; that it is a work that is completely in His hands; and that the benefits of that work are experienced by the children of God in this present time.  And it is through the Blood of the Everlasting Covenant.  All that God undertakes in the behalf of His chosen people is through the Blood, and under the stipulations of a covenant.  As God works in His new creations in Christ Jesus, He is working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight.
    Paul sets forth this same truth when he, addressing the saints at Philippi, said, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ;” (Phil. 1:6).  In chapter 2, verses 12 and 13, Paul again states, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.  For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
    Now, dear reader, please turn to Psalm 23.  Here is a portion of scripture that is seemingly held in high regard by multiplied millions.  Children are taught to memorize and recite it.  Professors of the “Christian faith” can tell you about it.  People everywhere have heard about it.  But sad to say, (humanly speaking) most of mankind does not know, nor do they understand the meaning of the 23rd Psalm.  Read and consider:
     “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me.  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
    “The Lord is my shepherd.”  Is this universal language, or is it restrictive language?  Can every son of Adam rightfully claim the Lord as shepherd?  If so, then every son of Adam is of “God’s people, and the sheep of his pasture”. (Psa. 11:3).  If so, then Hell is and forever shall be uninhabited, and God made a great mistake in making it.  Yet, God has declared that Hell was created for the Devil and his angels, and for fallen and unredeemed sinners such as Judas Iscariot, Pharaoh, and the rich man of Luke 16, as well as all unrepentant sinners.
    None can claim Jesus the Lord as the shepherd of Psalm 23 who are not found as one of the sheep for whom He came first as the Good Shepherd.  If the Good Shepherd has not laid down His life for you, then He is not your shepherd.  It matters not if you can recite the 23rd Psalm.  If you are not one of the sheep, then Christ is not your shepherd.
    Only sheep can rightfully say with David, “The Lord is my shepherd”.  And because the Lord is my shepherd, I can also loudly proclaim, “I shall not want”.  I shall not want means that I shall never be lacking.  I shall never be left short of what has for me.  God has vested all that He has in the Son’s name and has made His heir of all things.  He also made His children “heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ”.  In Him there is no lack.  Why is there no lack?  Because the Lord is my Shepherd.
    Because the Lord is my Shepherd, David acknowledges that he is made to lie down in green pastures.  He is succored and sustained.  He is provided sustenance and given peace and joy of being made to walk beside the still waters.  His soul is restored (kept).  He is led in the paths of righteousness.  Paths which David, nor none else would find, nor be able to tread, were it not for the Shepherd.  And He does it, not for David’s sake, but “for his name’s sake”.
    Because the Lord is my Shepherd, David says, “though I am made to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”.  Why, David?  “For THOU art with me.”  Why, David?  “THY rod and THY staff they comfort me.”  Could David walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear, except, “The Lord is my shepherd”?  Could you?
    Because the Lord is my Shepherd, David declares that there is a table prepared for him.  This table is not away from his enemies, but in their very midst.  God has not called David out from among his enemies when these words were written.  Neither have you and I been called away from these enemies of God while we live in this present evil world.  God’s enemies are all around us, and they are numerous.  They are vile, wretched creatures.  Yet, God has said we have a table prepared.  He cares for His won, even while they are in the world.  “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” (John 17:15).
    Because the Lord is my Shepherd, David concludes by saying, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.  Surely!  Without fail!  Without fail, goodness and mercy follows every Blood bought child of God’s grace every day of his or her life.  The breath that we breathe and all the issues of life are in His hands, and this present life now is filled with His Goodness and Mercy.  And most blessed is this closing benefit.  Because the Lord is my Shepherd, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.  Amen.
The Chief Shepherd
    God has graciously permitted us to look at His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in His office of Shepherd as the Good Shepherd and as the Great Shepherd.  We now beg His mercy and grace as we seek to view Him as the Chief Shepherd.  We are rapidly exhausting our space, so our remarks must be brief.  We do not intend to belittle this third aspect of the Shepherd.  May God forgive us, and bless us as we write.
    “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind: Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.  And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” I Peter 5:1-4.
    A few words now concerning faithfulness to our calling.  A few words concerning running the race that is set before us in an acceptable manner.  Brethren, we must strive lawfully, or we strive in vain.  It matters not what our estimate of ourselves is as we serve God.  We are clearly charged before God to “preach the Word”. (II Tim. 4:9).
    Peter, as a preacher (elder), addresses the elders among the strangers scattered abroad and admonishes them to “feed the flock of God that is among you”.  It is a flock, and a flock is made up of sheep, and the flock is of God.  Thus, it is the sheep of God (Psa. 100:3) that must be fed.  Fed on the Word.  Fed on that of God’s providing.  They must not be fed the commandments of men substituted for doctrine.  They must be fed upon “thus saith God”.  Preacher, would you dare leave the Word and feed the flock on the philosophies of men and devils?  Remember, God has given you the oversight of His flock.  You must stand before Him and give an account one day soon.
    We must never be constrained to preach God’s Word, but do it willingly and of a ready mind.  We must not lapse into humanism and say, “I have to preach” (though we must).  Rather, let us lift up our unworthy heads to a Sovereign God and declare, “I have been counted worthy to put in trust with the glorious Gospel of the Grace of God.  I have been privileged to preach to sinners whenever and wherever God sends me.  I do not preach for filthy lucre, dear God, nor for the praise of men, but solely for Your honor and glory.”  So should our words and attitudes be.
    We must never seek to lord it over God’s heritage.  We must not be dictators over God’s flock.  Instead, we are only undershepherds who seek to lead them in every “thus saith God” found in His Book.  Nor can we seek to be “bishops” who seek to “place preachers”, and rule over the flocks and their God appointed undershepherds.
   The glorious promise of God comes ringing through now as we center upon verse 4.  “And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”  And when.  This is a promise of His appearing.  He has not yet made an appearance as the Chief Shepherd.  But He shall.  He shall.  And when He does, each of His true and faithful undershepherds shall receive a crown of glory which fadeth not away.  These crowns will be received along with crowns of righteousness that shall be received by all of God’s faithful among His sheep.
    These are the rewards that He will bring with Him at His soon appearing.  Please study Psalm 24 in connection with the work of the Chief Shepherd.  Remember, it is only Jesus Christ who fills that role.
    If you look for the soon appearing of the Chief Shepherd, then you are presently being cared for by the Great Shepherd.  All this present and future care is because you can rightfully claim Him as the Good Shepherd.  The Lord is my Shepherd.  Amen.

(Sovereign Grace Advocate - July, 1980)

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