The following words from the pen of Brother Robert Roberts remind us of the wonderful work that has been accomplished for us by the Good Shepherd who gave his life for the sheep and by 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.

This primarily refers to Christ himself, who offered himself a sacrifice of “sweet smell ing savour” to Him who required this declaration of His righteousness, “that he might be just and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus” (Rom 3). But it is true of all shepherd-men who have received the truth in the love of it, and estimate the work of Christ as their sweetest occupation and their highest honour. There is “a chief shepherd” (1 Pet 5:4), viz, “that great shepherd of the sheep,” our Lord Jesus, who was “brought again from the dead through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb13:20). This implies under-shepherds, namely, the apostles and all who enter into their work in the line of things indicated to Timothy in the words of Paul: “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). Men of this qualification are the true “successors of the apostles,” and they have been found wherever faithful men of ability have received and espoused the faith of Christ with the ardent appreciation and disinterested aims of the apostles. They require no hiring to look after the sheep, and when the wolf of danger in any shape presents itself, they sally forth with clubs to beat off the beast at the peril of their lives.

The Shepherd’s Voice and the Listening Flock

“The sheep hear his voice, and he calleth his own sheep by name and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.” These are the natural facts in the case. Their spiritual meaning is plain. The shepherd’s voice is what Christ has said for the guidance of men, but with this is bound up much more than the precepts that actually came out of his own mouth. What he said himself is only part of the message of God to man. For the rest of the message, he refers us to Moses and the prophets: “Think not,” said he, “that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfil” (Matt 5:17). “They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them. If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:29). “If ye believe not his writings (the writings of Moses), how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:47). “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). “The Scripture must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49).

Such are a few illustrations of the way in which, in so many words, he binds up the message of God in the “Old Testament” with his own personal word in the New. In addition to these, the instances in which he does so by implication, and in which such an association results of necessity from his teaching and his work, are more numerous and weighty than the casual reader of the Bible can be aware. The conclusion resulting from them all is that the Shepherd’s voice is co-extensive with the Bible. The Shepherd’s voice is the voice of the Spirit, as especially manifest from the pendant to each of the messages sent by Jesus to the seven ecclesias: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the ecclesias”: concerning all of which messages, he says, “I, Jesus, have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the ecclesias” (Rev 22:16). Because, therefore, the Scriptures of Moses and the prophets are given by inspiration of God—because their authors were “holy men of God who spoke (and wrote) as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” and not as impelled by human will (2 Pet 1:21), those only truly listen to the voice of the shepherd who listen to those Scriptures, as interpreted and applied by the Spirit in Jesus and the Apostles.

The voice of Jesus is not a different voice from the Holy Scriptures which were read in the Jewish synagogues every sabbath day in the days of Jesus, and now placed in the Providence of God in the hands of Christendom. The voice of the personal Jesus is but a supplementary and explanatory expression of the same Eternal mind. The Old Testament Scriptures, in conjunction with the Apostolic testimony to Jesus as their fulfiller, were able to “make men wise unto salvation” in the days of Paul (2 Tim 3:15); and they are still able to work that great result for men if they will allow them. God not only spake by Jesus, but the prophets also, as Paul says: “God, who at sundry times and divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son” (Heb 1:1). So also Jesus teaches in the parable of the vineyard—the proprietor of which sent first various messengers, and then his son.

Now, the voice of the shepherd being of this amplitude, we have to note how the fact bears on the claims of many in our own day who are regarded as his sheep. If that which constitutes and distinguishes men as the sheep of Christ’s parable is the hearing of the shepherd’s voice, and if that voice be the voice of God in the entire Scriptures of Moses, the prophets and the Apostles, where do myriads stand professing his name, who not only neglect making the acquaintance of these Scriptures, but who actually, in an increasing multitude of cases, discard them as the obsolete and infantile conceptions of a past age? They are manifestly not even hearers of the Word, let alone doers. They do not recognise the voice of the Shepherd, and therefore follow him not. The sheep are to be found among those who are enlightened in this matter—who discern the voice of the shepherd in the “whatsoever things” that have been written aforetime for our learning—who “hear what the Spirit saith,” whether through Jesus, or the apostles, or the prophets.

Such are strongly characterised by that other sensibility of which Jesus speaks, when he says his sheep “know not the voice of a stranger”. “A stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him”. A knowledge of the Scriptures, in the understanding thereof, gives them a quick sense of the alien element. They quickly detect what is foreign to the mind of God. Philosophy in all its branches comes under their reprobation, where it claims to guide in divine matters. They see with clear eye that Paul uttered no empty flourish when he spoke of philosophy as a spoiling thing, of which believers had to beware. They can exactly tell why. They can define the limits of philosophy in relation to religious truth, and demonstrate the radical distinctness of the two realms of thought. They know the whereabouts of the natural thinker, while the natural thinker cannot place the sheep, except by a blundering hazard which attributes their conceptions to mental peculiarity bordering on aberration. Paul expresses the fact well when he says, “He that is spiritual judgeth (discerneth) all men, but he himself is judged (discerned) of no man”. The eyesight of the spiritual man not only covers the ground occupied by the natural man, but extends much further, like the visual range of the man at a higher altitude than his fellows, eg a mountain observatory overlooking a plain. They know enough to know that Christ is the only guide for man in relation to the things of God and futurity. Therefore they hear his voice and follow him, while they flee very determinedly from any man or system who poses as a substitute, or rival, or equal. These things are discerned by all who truly know Christ. They know his voice, and they know all counterfeits.