Reflections for the Week ending Sunday April 22, 2018 Fourth of Easter

Gospel: John 10.11-18 in which Jesus says He is the Good Shepherd…who lays down His life for the sheep in protecting them from harm. The sheep belong to the Shepherd who loves them and protects them and brings them safely home in the evening after pasturing them during the day.

Let’s use this Scripture to consider the Christian doctrine of grace. Grace can be defined as the ‘unmerited favor’ of God toward His people. All people receive some grace (life, food, benefits referred to as ‘common grace’), but some receive ‘special grace’ in being chosen by God as His adopted ‘sons’ (and ‘`daughters’). A prior doctrine has been called ‘total inability’ meaning that mankind, in a fallen state of rebellion against God is ‘morally unable’ to turn to God of his/her own choice (Article Ten of the Thirty Nine Articles in the Book of Common Prayer). This inablility is because, as Martin Luther argued in his Bondage of the Will, we can only choose what we want or desire, and fallen man does not want God to whom he must submit and obey. Thus, if a person truly wants a relationship with God, it signifies that the Holy Spirit has given him/her this affection or desire that could not have come from himself.  Thus the Shepherd bought His sheep (not vice versa) and they belong to Him through His blood shed for them on the cross. This is a matter of grace in the sense that He chose them freely as a gift (Jn 15.16) and gave them the desire to submit to Him out of love through the Holy Spirit (Rm 5.5; 1Jn 4.10,16). He may have wanted all sheep but many have rejected Him (many are called but few are chosen– Mt 22.14). Biblically speaking, we are  all sinners (Rm 3.20, 23) and deserve only judgment, so it is not unjust that they are not saved. The fact that God saves some is not unjust; it is mercy and a free gift (grace–Eph 2.8-10). If some do not believe in the Lord, that is their responsibility and their fault (according to Scripture) and is the sin of unbelief for which they are responsible (Rm 1.18f.; Mt 18.7, 26.24) and deserve to receive judgment and justice. If any believe in God and His Son, it is because of the gracious, merciful gift of faith  through the Holy Spirit, for which the believer should glorify God. The Good Shepherd purchased His sheep by laying down His life for them. This is the redemption (the purchase of freedom for a slave) which the Son bought by His blood for His sheep. The Son and the Father together then sent the Holy Spirit to apply the redemption of the Son to individuals to make them His own. For this reason our Scripture says that the sheep know their Shepherd and follow Him (obey, trust, believe in, and love Him), and (more importantly) the Shepherd knows His sheep. In Jn 10.16 the Shepherd says He has other sheep ‘not of this fold which I must bring…and these will be one flock and one Shepherd.’ This refers to Gentiles and other unbelievers that will be brought into the one flock (by believing faith through the Holy Spirit). They are all brought by grace and mercy through faith since they are totally unable to come by themselves. People are surprised and incredulous at the inability of people to turn to God, but this is what ‘salvation is of he Lord’ (Jonah 2.9) means. We see ‘bondage of the will’ in another sense in  addicts of all kinds who think they can quit, but can’t (one example among many of the bondage of the will).

Memory Verses: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him…No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father’ (John 6.44, 65). No one comes to the Father except through Me (Jn 14.6).

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