John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 10:8 - 10:8

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John Calvin Complete Commentary - John 10:8 - 10:8


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8.All who came before me. The words πάντες ὅσοι may be literally rendered, all as many as came before me They who restrict this expression to Judas the Galilean, and such persons, depart widely, in my opinion, from Christ’ meaning; for he contrasts all false doctrine, in general, with the Gospel, and all false prophets with faithful teachers. Nor would it even be unreasonable to extend this statement to the Gentiles, that all who, from the beginning of the world, have professed to be teachers, and have not labored to gather sheep to Christ, have abused this title for destroying souls. But this does not at all apply to Moses and the Prophets, who had no other object in view than to establish the kingdom of Christ. For it ought to be observed, that a contrast is here made between the words of Christ and those things which are opposed to them. But so far are we from discovering any contradiction between the Law and the doctrine of the Gospel, that the Law is nothing else than a preparation for the Gospel. In short, Christ testifies that all the doctrines, by which the world has been led away from him, are so many deadly plagues; because, apart from him, there is nothing but destruction and horrible confusion. Meanwhile, we see of what importance antiquity is with God, and in what estimation it ought to be held by us, when it enters, as it were, into a contest with Christ. That no man may be moved by the consideration, that there have been teachers, in all ages, who gave themselves no concern whatever about directing men to Christ, Christ expressly states that it is of no consequence how many there have been of this description, or how early they began to appear; for it ought to be considered that there is but one door, and that they who leave it, and make openings or breaches in the walls, are thieves

But the sheep did not hear them. He now confirms more clearly what he had already spoken more obscurely and in the figure of an allegory, that they who were led out of the way by impostors did not belong to the Church of God. This is said, first, that when we see a great multitude of persons going astray, we may not resolve to perish through their example; and, next, that we may not waver, when God permits impostors to deceive many. For it is no light consolation, and no small ground of confidence, when we know that Christ, by his faithful protection, has always guarded his sheep, amidst the various attacks and crafty devices of wolves and robbers, so that there never was one of them that deserted him. (284)

But here a question arises, When does a person begin to belong to the flock of the Son of God? (285) For we see many who stray and wander through deserts during the greater part of their life, and are at length brought into the fold of Christ. I reply, the word sheep is here used in two ways. When Christ says afterwards, that he has other sheep besides, he includes all the elect of God, who had at that time no resemblance to sheep At present, he means sheep which bore the shepherd’ mark. By nature, we are at the greatest possible distance from being sheep; but, on the contrary, are born lions, tigers, wolves, and bears, (286) until the Spirit of Christ tames us, and from wild and savage beasts forms us to be mild sheep Thus, according to the secret election of God, we are already sheep in his heart, before we are born; but we begin to be sheep in ourselves by the calling, by which he gathers us into his fold. Christ declares that they who are called into the order of believers are so firmly bound together, that they cannot stray or wander, or be carried about by any wind of new doctrine.

It will perhaps be objected, that even those who had been devoted to Christ frequently go astray, and that this is proved by frequent experience, and that it is not without good reason that Ezekiel ascribes it to the good Shepherd, that he gathers the scattered sheep, (Eze_34:12.) I readily acknowledge that it frequently happens, that they who had belonged to the household of faith are, for a time, estranged; but this is not at variance with Christ’ statement, for, so far as they go astray, they cease, in some respects, to be sheep What Christ means is simply this, that all the elect of God, though they were tempted to go astray in innumerable ways, were kept in obedience to the pure faith, so that they were not exposed as a prey to Satan, or to his ministers. But this work of God is not less astonishing, when he again gathersthe sheep which had wandered for a little, than if they had all along continued to be shut up in the fold. It is always true, and without a single exception, that

they who go out from us were not of us,

but that they who were of us remain with us to the end,

(1Jo_2:19.)

This passage ought to strike us with the deepest shame; first, because we are so ill accustomed to the voice of our Shepherd, that there are hardly any who do not listen to it with indifference; and, next, because we are so slow and indolent to follow him. I speak of the good, or of those who are at least passable; for the greater part of those who boast that they are Christ’ disciples kick fiercely against him. Lastly, as soon as the voice of any stranger has sounded in our ears, we are hurried to and fro; and this lightness and unsteadiness sufficiently shows how little progress we have hitherto made in the faith. But if the number of believers is smaller than might be desired, and if out of this small number a large proportion be continually dropping off, faithful teachers have this consolation to support them, that the elect of God, who are Christ’ sheep, listen to them. It is our duty, indeed, to labor diligently, and to strive by every possible method, that the whole world may be brought, if possible, into the unity of the faith; but let us, in the meantime, be well satisfied with belonging to the number.



(284) “En sorte qu’ n’ en a pas eu une seule qui l’ laisse.”

(285) “Du troupeau du Fils de Dieu.”

(286) “Lions, tygres, loups, et ours.”