“John 10:26-30. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says to his hearers who reject him despite his miracles, ‘You do not believe because you are not my sheep.’ By contrast, ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow Me’ (John 10:25-27).
Jesus’ words divide his hearers into two categories: sheep and those who are not sheep (we’ll call them goats). People have one of these two identities, and Jesus implies that they are sheep or goats BEFORE they respond to him. Their response of belief or unbelief doesn’t cause them to become either sheep or goats. Instead, their responses REVEAL their prior identities…Jesus does not say that they are goats because they don’t believe, but the opposite: they don’t believe because they are goats. JESUS HERE TEACHES PREDESTINATION: PEOPLE ARE SHEEP OR GOATS BEFORE THEY BELIEVE OR REJECT JESUS, AND THEIR FAITH OR UNBELIEF MANIFESTS THEIR PRIOR IDENTITY” (Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams, “Why I Am Not An Arminian,” page 50).
Today’s post will tackle another of Robert Peterson’s and Michael Williams’ interpretations of the issue of “election” in John’s Gospel. We’re here with John 10:26-30. I’ll print the text here so everyone can read it:
26"But you do not believe because (A)you are not of My sheep.
27"My sheep (B)hear My voice, and (C)I know them, and they follow Me;
28and I give (D)eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and (E)no one will snatch them out of My hand.
29"[a]My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
30"(F)I and the Father are one." (John 10:26-30, NASB)
Jesus often makes statements in John like these that Calvinists attempt to use to argue for predestination. But the truth is that to understand context, is to crumble the Calvinist argument.
Our context involves Jesus in a discourse with the Pharisees. At the end of chapter 9, after Christ heals the man born blind from his birth, Jesus says these words:
“For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that THOSE WHO SEE MAY BECOME BLIND” (John 9:39, NASB).
The Pharisees question him about their being blind, and Jesus responds,
“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ YOUR SIN REMAINS” (John 9:41, NASB).
The Pharisees don’t care to understand their spiritual blindness. Meanwhile, the man born blind from birth is able to teach them (John 9:30-33), and has not only his eyes opened, but also his heart. He becomes a follower of Jesus (John 9:37-38).
Dealing with the hostile Pharisees, Jesus is very blunt with them. But to read verses 26-30 without any immediate context is not wise. Look at the immediate verses above our featured text:
“The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, AND YOU DO NOT BELIEVE; the works that I do in My Father’s name, THESE TESTIFY OF ME. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep” (John 10:24-26, NASB).
So right before our featured passage, Jesus has told them that He has given them signs to show who He is—but they still refuse to believe. All along, they have seen Him prove Himself again and again, but they don’t care to accept Christ. They’ve rejected Him because they choose to.
Look back at John 8. Here we find Christ in dialogue with the Pharisees:
“I speak the things which I have seen from My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.’
They answered and said to Him, ‘ABRAHAM IS OUR FATHER.’
Jesus said to them, ‘IF YOU ARE ABRAHAM’S CHILDREN, DO THE DEEDS OF ABRAHAM. But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. You are doing the deeds of your father. They said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father, the devil, and YOU WANT TO DO THE DESIRES OF YOUR FATHER. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:38-44, NASB).
So when the Lord tells the Jews that they do not believe because they are not His sheep, He is not saying that they don’t believe because they were predestined not to believe. He’s saying that they don’t believe because they CHOOSE not to believe: “I told you, and YOU DO NOT BELIEVE;” (John 10:25, NASB)
Then in verse 27, the Lord tells us something about His sheep: “My sheep HEAR MY VOICE, and I know them, AND THEY FOLLOW ME;” (John 10:27, NASB) The Lord’s sheep OBEY HIM, they seek Him, they pursue Him, they willingly follow Him. Not only do they follow Him, but they HEAR HIS VOICE and they listen to Him.
Notice that after Jesus’ words to them,
“The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him” (John 10:31, NASB).
Clearly Jesus’ message to them hit them hard. They don’t respond by saying something like, “Lord, but you made us this way,” or “Lord, it’s not our fault.” They clearly saw Jesus’ works, which validated His Deity; yet, they chose not to believe. They were not of Christ’s sheep, but that was not because God made them “goats” before, or God declared them “goats” before time began. The Lord knew their hearts, but they still bore a responsibility to believe like everyone else: “But I say these things so that you MAY BE SAVED” (Jn. 5:34b); “I am the door; if ANYONE enters through Me, HE WILL BE SAVED, and will go in and out and find pasture” (Jn. 10:9, NASB).