Jesus Is The Only Door to The Fold
So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (10:7–10)
Here Jesus changed the metaphor slightly. In the first figure of speech, He was the Shepherd; here He is the Door to the sheepfold. This is the third of seven statements in John’s gospel where “I AM” is followed by a predicate nominative (v. 11; 6:35; 8:12; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5).
Since the religious leaders had failed to understand His first figure of speech, Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” Sometimes the shepherd slept in the opening of the sheepfold to guard the sheep. No one could enter or leave except through him. In Jesus’ metaphor He is the door through which the sheep enter the safety of God’s fold and go out to the rich pasture of His blessing. It is through Him that lost sinners can approach the Father and appropriate the salvation He provides; Jesus alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through [Him]” (14:6; cf. Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 1:30; 3:11; 1 Tim. 2:5). Only Jesus is the true source of the knowledge of God and salvation, and the basis for spiritual security.
The Lord’s assertion, “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers,” does not, of course, include Israel’s true spiritual leaders (such as Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, among many others). Jesus was referring to Israel’s false shepherds—her wicked kings, corrupt priests, false prophets, and pseudo-messiahs. However, the true sheep did not hear them; they did not heed them and were not led astray by them (see the discussion of vv. 4 and 5 above).
Then Jesus reiterated the vital truth of verse 7: “I am the door;” and He added the promise, “If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved” from sin and hell. Christ’s sheep will experience God’s love, forgiveness, and salvation; they will go in and out freely, always having access to God’s blessing and protection, and never fearing any harm or danger. They will find satisfying pasture as the Lord feeds them (cf. Ps. 23:1–3; Ezek. 34:15) on His Word (cf. Acts 20:32). In utter contrast to the thieving false shepherds who, like their father the devil (8:44) came only to steal and kill and destroy the sheep, Jesus came that they may have spiritual and eternal life (cf. John 5:21; 6:33, 51–53, 57; Rom. 6:4; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 2:1, 5; Col. 2:13), and have it abundantly. Perissos (abundantly) describes something that goes far beyond what is necessary. The matchless gift of eternal life exceeds all expectation (cf. John 4:10 with 7:38; see also Rom. 8:32; 2 Cor. 9:15).
“I Am the Gate”
Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
The parable of the Good Shepherd is familiar and generally understood because it has been told so many times. But when the parable was spoken the first time, it was not understood. Thus, in developing the image, Christ changed it slightly, this time speaking of a second kind of sheep pen and of himself as the gate of the sheep rather than as the shepherd. This development throws more light on Christ’s parable and prepares for the explicit identification of Jesus as the Good Shepherd (John 10:7–9).
A Rustic Sheep Pen
In our last study, as we began to talk about the ways of keeping sheep in Christ’s day, we saw that there were two kinds of sheep pen. The first is the kind in view in the opening verses of this chapter. This kind of sheep pen was in the cities and villages. It was fairly large, large enough to hold several flocks of sheep at any rate, and it was public. Moreover, it was fairly substantial. A sheep pen like this was in the care of a porter, whose duty it was to guard the gate during the night and to admit the shepherds in the morning. The shepherds would call their sheep, each of whom knew his own shepherd’s voice, and would lead them out to pasture. We saw from the context of this parable that by it Jesus was referring to his role in calling his own sheep out of Judaism.
The second kind of sheep pen was not public, nor was it in the villages. This sheep pen was in the countryside, where the shepherds would keep their flocks in good weather. Presumably this is where the shepherds were keeping their sheep at the time of Christ’s birth when the angels appeared to them and invited them to Bethlehem. This type of sheep pen was nothing more than a rough circle of rocks piled into a wall with a small open space, a gate, through which the shepherd would drive the sheep at nightfall. Since there was no gate to close—just an opening—the shepherd would keep the sheep in and wild animals out by lying across the opening. He would sleep there, in this case literally becoming the gate. Clearly, this is the kind of sheep pen about which Jesus is speaking in the further development of the parable.
“I am the gate for the sheep.” In this section Jesus is the gate. He speaks of leading his flock in rather than of leading them out. He talks about the church itself rather than about calling the church out of Judaism. In other words, he is dealing now with a particular body of people committed to his care and he is revealing the relationship in which he stands to them.
Only One Gate
What does this image teach us about Christianity then? What does the gate teach us about Jesus Christ? First, it obviously teaches that there is only one gate, meaning that Jesus is the sole way to God. This point is evident from the nature of the sheep pen that Christ had in view—if it had more than one gate, it would have been useless—and it is reinforced from many of Christ’s other sayings. Thus, to give but one example, Christ says in the fourteenth chapter, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (v. 6).
This is crucial for Christianity. It is not so for other religions. It would make little difference to most of the world’s religions if their founder were someone else, or even if they had no founder at all; for essentially they are collections of spiritual truths (or claims to truth) and methods, all of which could exist without their founder. They needed someone to discover them, of course. But the point is that anyone could have discovered them and that once they were discovered they existed in their own right much like scientific propositions. Besides, if they became lost, they could be rediscovered. This is the nature of the world’s religions. Christianity is not in this category. Nor is Jesus like these other religious figures. Jesus did not claim merely to know the truth; he said that he is the truth. He did not merely show the way to God; he said that he is the way. Therefore, within Christianity, if there is no Christ, there is no way to God, no truth about God, and no vitality.
How could Jesus make such claims? If he were only a man, they are preposterous, of course. On the other hand, if he is who he said he is and if he did what he said he would do, they make sense. Jesus claimed to be God and to have come to earth to die for our sin. We deserve to die for our own sin, both physically and spiritually. We deserve to be separated from God. But Jesus died in our place. He who was sinless accepted the guilt of our sin and died for us. No one else could do it, but he could and did. Thus, he literally became the gate by which sinful people can approach God the Father. The author of the Book of Hebrews called him “a new and living way” (10:20). Paul wrote, “through him we … have access … to the Father” (Eph. 2:18).
We must admit at this point that the claim of Jesus Christ to be the gate is a contested claim, contested by those whom he terms “thieves and robbers.” Yet, as Christians believe, it is a claim that can stand up to scrutiny.
There are two kinds of such men, and Jesus uses two different words to describe them. The first word is kleptēs, from which we get our word kleptomaniac. It refers to one who steals cunningly or by stealth. The other word is lēstēs, for which we have no English derivative. It refers to one who steals by violence. Thus, if we may imagine the first word to refer to someone who carries off department store merchandise under a coat, the second would refer to those who might use guns to rob a bank.
In the religious world both types are prominent. The first type uses cunning, as Satan did in his approach to Eve in the Garden—“Did God really say …?” (Gen. 3:1). In this category are all who raise doubts in the minds of others—unbelieving ministers, Sunday school teachers, and professors of theology. By their questions they turn the minds of their learners away from Christ and instead cause them to rely upon the supposed wisdom of the teacher. These are those whom Paul terms “treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power.” He advises, “Have nothing to do with them” (2 Tim. 3:4–5). The other type is violent, for he thrusts himself into a place of authority in the church and demands that others follow him. The Bible terms this ecclesiastical tyranny the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which God hates (Rev. 2:15).
There is only one gate, according to Christ’s image; and Christ himself is the gate. Many have found this claim to be valid and have been willing to be sheep in his pasture.
For Any Man
The first lesson of the image, then, is an exclusive one—there is only one door. But there is a second lesson that is correspondingly broad. It is that anyone may enter it. Jesus indicates this in verse 9: “whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
This verse has sometimes been taken in a way that contradicts John 6:44, which says: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” But those who dislike John 6:44 either completely disregard it or else try to use our text to overturn its plain meaning. Actually the two verses are not in conflict. John 6:44 looks at the matter from the Godward side and declares, rightly, that no man ever made the first move toward God. Men come to God only because God draws them. On the other hand, as our text from John 10 shows, God does not respect persons; therefore, any man, regardless of who he is or where he comes from, may be among that number. Let me put it this way: the call of God is not restricted by anything we can imagine. It is not restricted on the basis of race, education, social position, wealth, achievements, good deeds, or anything else. Therefore, there is no reason why you (whoever you are) should not be among the number of those whom God draws to Jesus.
Do you hesitate to believe that? If so, look at the state of the man who had been blind and for whose sake the parable of the Good Shepherd was told. He had nothing; he was a beggar. He was nothing; no one would have paid attention to him for more than a moment, and then normally only to push him out of the way. Yet this man, despised by every one else, was saved by Jesus. Certainly, if this beggar could have entered in, then any one can. You can. So can others.
You Must Enter
But you must enter in; this is the third lesson that Christ’s image teaches. To enter, in this verse, is the same thing as to “eat” of Jesus, “drink” of Jesus, or “come” to Jesus, all of which we have looked at earlier. It means to believe on him or trust him and do this personally.
I am sure that this is precisely why Jesus calls himself “the gate for the sheep.” As the phrase stands it is a bit peculiar. We might say, “the door through which the sheep enter” or “the door to the sheep.” But “the gate for the sheep”—well, that is just not good English idiom. If we change this into another form, however, then I believe we can understand it. We can understand it if we say “the sheep’s door.” What is the difference? Only that this particular form of the phrase makes the door personal. It makes clear that we are not talking about an abstract principle or concept. We are not trusting an object. We trust a person, Jesus Christ. And, because Jesus gave himself for us by dying for our sin, we find that he becomes ours through our believing on him, just as surely as we have become his by the same act.
Have you believed on him? It is not hard. There is no complicated course to follow. If Jesus had compared himself to a wall we should have to climb over, it might be hard work. If he had compared himself to a long, dark passageway, we should have to feel along it; some might be afraid to try. But he is not a wall or a passageway. He is a gate, and a gate can be entered easily and instantly.
Let me demonstrate how instantly by this story. A number of years ago a woman sat in a pew in the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, which I now serve as pastor. At the time, the pastor was Donald Grey Barnhouse. He was talking about the cross and of the need to believe on the Christ who died upon it. The woman I am talking about was not a Christian. She had been raised in a religious home and had heard about Jesus. She had heard about the cross. But she did not understand these things and therefore obviously had never actually trusted in Jesus for her salvation. In order to make clear that for salvation only belief in Jesus Christ is necessary Barnhouse said, “Imagine that the cross has a door in it. All you are asked to do is to go through. On one side, the side facing you, there is written an invitation: ‘Whosoever will, may come.’ You stand there with your sin upon you and wonder if you should enter or not. Finally you do, and as you do the burden of your sin drops away. You are safe and free. Joyfully you then turn around and see written on the backside of the cross, through which you have now entered, the words ‘Chosen in him before the foundation of the world.’ ” Barnhouse then invited those who were listening to enter.
The woman later said that this was the first time in her life that she had really understood what it meant to be a Christian and that in understanding it, she had believed. She believed right there—in that church at that moment. She entered the door. Moreover, the rest of her life bore witness to the fact that a great change had occurred and that she was God’s child. I am certain of the facts of this story because that woman was my mother.
Finally, I want you to see that these verses also speak of three great benefits of entering into God’s flock through Christ. They are consequences of belief in one sense. In another sense they are inducements to come. Each begins with an “s,” so I know you can remember them.
First, Jesus says that anyone who enters in will be saved. This promise is not the limited promise that we sometimes make it out to be. That is, it is not purely future, as if Jesus were offering a “pie in the sky by and by” salvation. Salvation is partially future; that belongs to it. But it is also past and present. It affects who we are and what happens to us from beginning to end. A better way of talking about it is in terms of sin’s penalty, power, and presence. By entering in through Christ we immediately escape sin’s penalty, so that we need not fear our sins will ever rise up against us. This is justification. Then, too, we also enter into a life in which we are increasingly delivered from sin’s power. The Bible calls this sanctification. Finally, we look forward to a day marked by the return of Christ or else our passing into his presence through death, in which even the presence of sin will be gone and our salvation will be perfected. The Bible calls this glorification.
Second, Jesus promises that anyone who enters in will be safe. This is the point of his reference to going “in and out.” If we did not know better from other references and from a knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic idiom, we might think that this referred to entering and leaving the church or to salvation itself. But this is not what Christ means. To be able to go in and out means security (cf. Deut. 28:6; 1 Kings 3:7; Ps. 121:8), for in Christ’s day when a man could go in or out without fear it meant that his country was at peace and that the ruler had the affairs of the nation under control. When danger threatened, the people were shut up in the cities under siege. Thus, Jesus promises safety for those who trust him.
Third, he also promised that they would be satisfied—saved, safe, and satisfied—for he said that they would be able to go in and out and “find pasture.” Palestine is a barren land for the most part, and good pasture was not easy to find. Consequently, to be assured of good pasture was a wonderful thing. It spoke of prosperity and contentment, of health and happiness. It was in this sense that David wrote of the care of his Good Shepherd: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul” (Ps. 23:2–3). It was this that Paul wrote of when he told the Philippians, “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (4:19). This last verse does not speak of all our desires, of course. We often desire that which is wrong or is not good for us. It speaks only of our needs, but even in that form it is a great promise. It is the promise that the one who enters in by Christ will not lack any good thing.
Finally, let me indicate one more verse by way of conclusion. It comes from the Old Testament, from a passage in which Moses is asking God to raise up a leader for the people. Moses is about to die, and he wants God to provide a person to succeed him. “Moses said to the Lord, ‘May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd’ ” (Num. 27:15–17). In the context of this book God answers the prayer of Moses by choosing Joshua, who then goes on to lead the people in the conquest of the Promised Land. But in the longer view God answered that prayer through the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Great Shepherd, our Savior. He leads us in, and he leads us out. Under his care we find pasture.
9 When Jesus declares that he is “the gate” and that those who enter the fold through him “will be saved,” the immediate reference is to the safety of the flock that follows Jesus as shepherd. But in a fuller sense it speaks of all who will receive eternal life through faith in him. They will come in and go out and find pasture—i.e., in their relationship to Jesus they will find both safety and nourishment.
9 Jesus repeats that he is the door. This time “of the sheep” is lacking and the words stand out in impressive simplicity. The emphasis is on Jesus’ function. The words “through me” are in an emphatic position; it is he and no other who enables people to enter salvation (cf. 14:6). There is a certain exclusiveness about “the” door. If there is one door then people must enter by it or stay outside. They cannot demand another door. John does not often use the verb “to save,” and he never explains exactly what he means by it.34 But he makes it clear that salvation was the purpose of Jesus’ coming (3:17; 5:34; 12:47). It is the comprehensive term for the whole process whereby people are delivered from the consequences of their sin and brought into the blessing of God. Here the blessing is described in terms of secure pasturage, the supreme good of the sheep. The sheep that enters the fold through Christ will then be able to go in and out and have all its needs met. We should not attempt to find some esoteric meaning for “come in and go out.” It is simply an expression to indicate free and secure movement (cf. Knox, “he will come and go at will”).
9 Jesus repeats the “I am” pronouncement, just as he repeated, “I am the Bread of life” (6:35, 47), and “I am the Light of the world” (8:12; 9:5), and just as he will shortly repeat “I am the good Shepherd” (vv. 11, 14). “I am the Door,” he continues, “Through me, if anyone goes in he will be saved, and will go in and go out and find pasture” (v. 9). The difference is that now he presents himself as an open door, open not to “thieves and robbers” but to the sheep. It is no longer a matter of coming “before” the door (v. 8) and being denied entrance, but of going “through” the door to a place of safety. As in 6:35, 47 and 8:12, the “I am” pronouncement is followed by an invitation and promise, introduced by “if anyone,” recalling such classic promises as 6:51 (“If anyone eat of this bread, he will live forever”) or 7:17 (“If anyone chooses to do his will, he will know about the teaching”), or 8:51 (“If anyone keeps my word, he will never ever see death”). Like these others, it is an invitation to “anyone” to believe in Jesus and thereby gain eternal life. But because it stands within the metaphorical world of sheep and shepherds, its vocabulary is distinctive. To “go in” and “go out” implies an enclosure, in this instance the “courtyard” (v. 1) housing the sheep. The promise of being “saved,” uncommon in John’s Gospel,64 is probably chosen here to highlight the thought of sheep being “rescued” or “kept safe” from harm, whether from “thieves and robbers” or natural predators (see v. 12). Those addressed, therefore (and “anyone” implies a very general invitation), are promised entry to Jesus’ “courtyard,” with all the benefits of a shepherd’s care. The “courtyard,” however, is neither a prison nor a fortress, for the sheep, Jesus promises, “will go in and go out and find pasture”—another way of saying, “if the Son sets you free, you will really be free” (8:36). The metaphors of shepherds and sheep and the courtyard are still at work—not least in the term “pasture,” which sustains animal, not human, life—but the reality to which the metaphors point is also clearly visible, and becoming more so. As the discourse continues, the metaphors will begin to fade, having served their purpose, and Jesus will speak more and more straightforwardly of his mission and his relationship to the Father.
I Am the Door
“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
In the parable of the good shepherd (John 10:1–5), Jesus spoke of the true Shepherd who comes to the door, gains entry, and calls his own sheep by name. This parable is so familiar to Christians that it is hard for us to imagine anyone failing to grasp its meaning. But John says that when Jesus first spoke this “figure of speech,” his hearers “did not understand what he was saying to them” (10:6).
Jesus responded with another figure of speech in which he made clear the reference to himself: “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). This answer reminds us that all Christian truth finds its ultimate meaning in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Whatever we may be talking about—whether it is a Christian perspective on world events, interpersonal relations, or personal problems—the real point should always be related to Jesus’ coming and his saving plans for people and the world.
This was Jesus’ constant example. When his hearers wondered about his teaching, Jesus answered with reference to himself—“I am”—and to the blessings he gives to anyone who believes—“he will.” In these two expressions is found the entirety of the Christian gospel.
The Door of the Sheep
There were two kinds of sheepfolds in ancient Palestine, and Jesus refers to both in this chapter. In the parable, Jesus made use of the more durable structure in the towns: a high-walled sheep pen with a paid guard, into which all the shepherds would bring their flocks. But now he refers to the more rustic sheepfolds out in the fields. These were smaller and less substantial, and were used for the sheep’s safety at night. The key feature of these sheep pens was that they did not have a door, only an open space in the wall of piled rocks. After bringing in his sheep, the shepherd would lay his own body across that space so that as he slept in the entry, he himself became the door.
The great Old Testament scholar Sir George Adam Smith was once traveling through Palestine when he came across a shepherd and his sheep. During their conversation, the shepherd showed him the fold into which he led his sheep at night. It consisted of four walls, with one open space. Sir George asked the shepherd whether that opening was how the sheep got in. “Yes,” said the shepherd, “and when they are in there, they are perfectly safe.” “But there is no door,” said Sir George. “I am the door,” said the shepherd. He explained, “When the light has gone, and all the sheep are inside, I lie in the open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door.”
Whether or not this was Jesus’ meaning, this episode illustrates the implication of his words. Unlike the large town sheepfold that he mentioned earlier, which symbolized Judaism, from which Jesus drew out his sheep, this sheepfold stands for his own flock—his church. The way in is through his body, which he offered for our sins on the cross. Jesus is the door of the sheep, and those who enter are safe for eternity.
This is the third “I am” statement that Jesus makes in the Gospel of John. There are seven in all, presenting a mini-Christology all their own. The first was “I am the bread of life,” to which Jesus added, “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Next, he taught, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (8:12). Later in this chapter, Jesus will say, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (10:11). Before John’s Gospel is finished, he will have added, “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “I am the way, and the truth and the life” (14:6), and “I am the true vine” (15:1). If we can understand the meaning of these sayings, we will have grasped the very heart of the Christian faith. And if we receive them in personal faith, we will have gained Jesus as our own great “I am” in salvation.
With each of the seven “I ams,” Jesus’ meaning is clear. Here, the point is that one may enter salvation only through faith in him. There was only one entryway into the sheepfold; likewise, faith in Jesus is the only way to enter God’s salvation.
This is an important point to affirm because so many people, including some who call themselves Christians, deny that Jesus is the only way of salvation. Liberals maintain that while we may believe in Jesus, it would be intolerant to deny salvation by other ways. This is why the teaching of Christ as the only Savior is Christianity’s gravest offense in our relativistic age. Even some sentimental evangelicals have denied the necessity of faith in Jesus. They argue that God will accept anyone who is sincere in whatever he believes. But what matters most is what Jesus and the Bible say. Jesus says here, “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). He is not one of many doors, but the one and only door to salvation. This is something that Jesus emphasizes all through John’s Gospel. Earlier, he insisted, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (3:36). If God’s wrath remains on anyone who rejects Jesus, then faith in Jesus is the one way to escape God’s just condemnation.
People who object that God has provided only one way of salvation show that they do not recognize the reality of their need. A man dying of thirst in the desert does not complain if he stumbles upon only one watery oasis. A man dying of cancer does not object that there is only one person who donates the bone marrow that saves his life. And a sinner, realizing the otherwise unavoidable prospect of unremitting corruption in this life and wrathful judgment in the life to come, does not object that the Son of God lovingly bore for us the hell that our sin deserves. Such a person does not complain, “Why must my soul be saved in only this way?”
This makes the point that the unbeliever’s true objection to Jesus is really an objection to God’s verdict on sin. Unbelievers refuse to confess their guilt. They demand another way—any other way—that grants a salvation that is to their own glory instead of to God’s. Such people delight to insist that many roads lead to God, which is true. But only one of those roads leads to his forgiving grace instead of his judgment. When it comes to salvation, Jesus insists, “I am the door.”
Moreover, it is clear from Jesus’ teaching in John’s Gospel that this door may be entered only by faith alone. This is what Jesus demanded of the blind man whom he had cured in John 9: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” (John 9:35). “Lord, I believe,” he answered (9:38). This is why John wrote his Gospel: “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).
But notice that Jesus says that he is a door, not a wall. We do not climb a ladder of achievements or scale a height to enter in. Indeed, Jesus says that those who try to enter this way do not belong. There are always religious figures who falsely claim that salvation comes on the basis of our achievements for God and others. But Jesus insists that such false teachers, like the Pharisees he was denouncing, “are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them” (John 10:8). The true sheep listen to Jesus, who is a door and not a wall.
Nor is Jesus a ticket booth, so that one may enter by paying money, doing good deeds, or performing religious rituals. Jesus is not a long, winding passageway, so that one must complete a lifelong quest or follow a path laid out by worldly priests with the hope of someday arriving into God’s favor. Jesus is the door, and those who enter by simple faith are immediately received into everlasting life.
So if Jesus is the door, who are the people who may enter through faith in him? According to Jesus, the answer is anyone. He said: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9).
This shows that while Jesus presents only one way of salvation, that one way is open to absolutely everyone. Jesus does not say, “I am the door. If someone has a good reputation, or comes from the right family, or leads a fairly decent life, he may enter by me and be saved.” Not at all! He says, “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.”
Some will see this as a contradiction of the Bible’s doctrine of election, or predestination. In John 6:37, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me.” This means that all who believe come to Christ because they were chosen by the Father and were given to his Son for salvation. Jesus affirms this teaching later in John 10. Speaking of the eternal security of his sheep, he comments that “my Father … has given them to me” (10:29). From these and many other clear passages in the Bible, we know that, as Paul writes of believers, God “chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).
But if this is true, how can we teach that anyone may enter God’s fold through faith in Jesus? The answer is that the gospel is genuinely and freely offered to any and all. In the same verse where Jesus says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me,” he immediately adds, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37).
Is this a contradiction? The answer is No, because the two teachings present the gospel from two perspectives, one from the side of the divine decree and the other from the side of man’s opportunity.
The famous Bible expositor James Montgomery Boice tells of a woman who came to faith in Christ during a sermon preached by Donald Grey Barnhouse that dealt with these matters. Although the woman had been raised in a Christian home, she was kept from coming to Christ by worries that she was not one of the elect. Barnhouse helped her by putting it this way: “Imagine that the cross has a door in it. All you are asked to do is to go through. On one side, the side facing you, there is written an invitation: ‘Whosoever will, may come.’ You stand there with your sin upon you and wonder if you should enter or not. Finally you do, and as you do the burden of your sin drops away. You are safe and free. Joyfully you then turn around and see written on the backside of the cross, through which you have now entered, the words ‘Chosen in him before the foundation of the world.’ ” At this, Barnhouse invited those hearing to accept God’s invitation to enter through faith in Christ and thus to find that they were secure in God’s sovereign and eternal plan.
At this point, the woman came to Jesus through faith and entered into eternal life. For the rest of her life, she would say that it was understanding how a sovereign God freely offers salvation to sinners that enabled her to believe. Boice was able to relate this story with confidence, since the woman was his mother.
The same should be true for you. Do not exhaust your mind by wondering where you stand in God’s eternal plan. Instead, act on the invitation that God has presented to you, sealed in the blood of his own Son. “I am the door,” Jesus says. “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9).
“Anyone” means anyone. It meant the Jewish people who cried out for Jesus’ crucifixion and mocked him on the cross, but to whom Peter preached the gospel so that many were saved. It means the quiet person who has never committed notorious sins but realizes that his heart has regularly broken God’s holy law. It means the person who has lived mainly for himself, using others and taking advantage of opportunities to sin. It means those who have dabbled with religion and toyed with the church but have never made a true commitment. It means you who are broken by the hardship of life but recognize in Jesus a Savior sent from God. It means those who have mocked God and reviled religion, but hear the Shepherd’s voice calling in their hearts. “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved,” Jesus offers you. If you are ever to be saved, it must be through faith in Christ, and there will never be a better time to enter through Christ than right now.
I Am, He Will
Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and his sheep enter his fold through faith in him. But what does it mean to enter Jesus’ flock? He explains with three promises: “He will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).
First, those who enter through Christ will be saved. The Bible presents many examples and illustrations that help us to understand how entering into Christ brings salvation.
One is Noah’s ark. God sent a great flood to destroy the earth and the entire wicked human race. The only exception was Noah and his family, since Noah trusted in God. God commanded Noah to build an ark, and when the rains began to fall, Noah entered in. This flood prefigured the final judgment, in which every person will stand before God and answer for his or her sins (see Rev. 20:11–15). Only those who have entered into salvation through faith in Christ will be saved to escape God’s holy wrath.
Another example is the cities of refuge established by God in the time of Moses. If an Israelite unintentionally killed a man, he would have to flee to escape the judgment of the man’s family. But God had established cities of refuge, and those who entered into these places were promised freedom from punishment. Likewise, we may flee into Christ and escape the vengeance of God’s justice against our sins.
Charles Spurgeon relates the story of some travelers on the Russian plains who were pursued by wolves. Their horses were rushing forward madly, with the savage beasts hot on their heels. They barely made it to some huts into which the travelers all rushed. Immediately, they could hear the wolves crashing against the sides and leaping on the roof, howling and thrashing, but they could not get in. Spurgeon writes, “Now, when a man is in Christ, he can hear, as it were, the devils howling like wolves, all fierce and hungry for him; and his own sins, like wolves, are seeking to drag him down to destruction. But he has got in to Christ, and that is such a shelter that all the devils in the world, if they were to come at once, could not [dislodge] a single beam of that eternal refuge.”
This answers the great question of life. One may escape tax collectors by fleeing the country. One may escape a bad reputation by leaving town. One may escape a harsh boss by changing jobs. But how can anyone escape the unyielding justice of a holy God in his wrath against our sins? Jesus answers: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” Jesus saves us by having fulfilled God’s law on our behalf and by dying as the Lamb of God to pay for the sins of his sheep. Through faith in his cross, we enter into a salvation that is made eternally secure by the precious blood of Christ.
The second blessing is made clear by the illustration of the door in the sheepfold. When the sheep entered in and the shepherd laid his body across the doorway, they were protected from every intruder. Likewise, those who enter in by Christ not only will be saved but also will be safe. This is the point of Jesus’ saying that the sheep “will go in and out” (John 10:9). This means that they will constantly live under the protection offered by their Good Shepherd.
Jesus was referring to an ancient prophecy by Moses. Shortly before his death, Moses said, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd” (Num. 27:16–17). The point is that God would provide a Messiah through whom God’s people would always have a Shepherd to guide and protect them.
Sheep are the most helpless animals on the face of the earth, with no means of defending themselves. This depicts our spiritual vulnerability in a world of sin and evil. But those who enter in through Christ will not be left unguarded against spiritual attacks and the condemnation of sin, but are forever safe under his shepherding care. As Jesus goes on to say, “They will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
Finally, the true sheep who answer Christ’s call and enter in by him will “find pasture” (John 10:9). This means that believers in Jesus not only will be saved and be safe, but also will be satisfied.
Do you fear that by committing yourself to Jesus, you will lose all the joy of living? Do you think that while gaining the life to come, you will lose the pleasures of this present life? If so, I would ask you to consider whether people in this world are really happy. You might know people who are committed to seeking pleasure through sinful and self-serving lifestyles. Are they really happy? Does their satiation produce satisfaction? And are sin’s pleasures making you happy and satisfied? Speaking of worldly pleasures, Jesus once said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again” (John 4:13). Then he added, “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (4:14).
The truth is, as Leon Morris put it, “The Christian life is an exuberant affair, full of the joy of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit.” Can you imagine a life in which God’s power is working in your heart for blessings? Can you deny what a joy it would be to grow in faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 13:13)? Does not your spirit revel in the thought of having communion with God? What Jesus offers is very different from what the world offers, and what Jesus offers is the very best. His sheep “will go in and out and find pasture,” he says. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:9–10).
If you have never come to Christ, these blessings of salvation, safety, and satisfaction provide every reason to enter in through simple faith. And if you are a believer, do you realize these blessings that are yours through Jesus? Do you have the peace of knowing that your soul is safe for all time, that death can only bring you into greater pleasure, and that whatever your present trials, Christ is with you to help, strengthen, and bless? If you know this, is it transforming your experience, so that your faith is bearing fruit in a harvest of worship and rejoicing? Every Christian has every reason to rejoice all the time, because he is saved, he is safe forever, and by feeding in the pastures of God’s Word, his heart will be satisfied.
What a Door Is For
When Jesus said, “I am the door,” he offered us entry through faith into the greatest life and the greatest destiny. But this great opportunity can be wasted if it is misused. A door is not there for you merely to look in and watch as others are blessed. A door is not there only to be admired. It might be possible to use a doorstep as a place to sit down. But none of these things is what a door is for.
Are you allowing yourself merely to watch the blessings of God in other people’s lives? Do you merely admire the obvious excellence of Jesus, without committing yourself to him? Have you come to his church merely to loiter but not to enter in? If so, then you will have wasted the greatest opportunity that anyone could ever offer. For when Jesus said, “I am the door,” he meant for you to enter that door by trusting in him. Have you done that? Will you do that now? If you enter in through him, you will be saved, your eternal destiny will be safe and secure, and as you feed on God’s blessing as one of his own beloved flock, your soul will find eternal satisfaction.
9. I am the door. For the meaning of the statement, “I am the door,” see on 10:7.
Not only is Jesus the door to the sheep; he is also the door for the sheep. To some extent we have already explained verse 9. See pp. 101, 102. A few thoughts must be added. Jesus has just stated that his true followers refuse to listen to thieves and robbers. It is logical, therefore, to assume that when he now says, by me if anyone enters, he is still thinking of these same true followers. Note emphatic position of the phrase by me. There is no other entrance! Let 3:16 serve as commentary: faith in Christ as the Son of God is the only entrance-door. And this faith is full, personal trust in him and in his substitutionary atonement.
Jesus says, “By me if anyone enters, he will be saved. What does he mean when he says that such a person will be saved. This term is explained in verse 10. It means will be given life. The terms to be saved and to have life are used together here, just as in 3:16 and 3:17. From 3:16 we know that everlasting life is meant. See on that verse. And even if we did not have 3:16, 17, we would still have the commentary furnished us by 10:28. These sheep receive freedom from the guilt, the misery, and the punishment of sin. Abundance—the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, the peace of God that passes all understanding—is their portion, here in principle, by and by in perfection.—There is no good reason to restrict the meaning of the verb in this passage, as if it meant no more than, “he will be safe.” To be sure, safety is implied also in the words, and will go in and out; but this is only part of the meaning. Not only will he go in and out, i.e., experience perfect freedom from all real harm and danger, and this even in the small affairs of every-day living, and feel himself entirely at home in the daily routine of God’s people (see especially the beautiful words of Ps. 121:8), but in addition, he will find pasture; i.e., life and abundance, as the following verse indicates. The pasture which the true sheep finds in the study of the Word is certainly included.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 430–431). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 741–746). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 Mounce, R. H. (2007). John. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 502). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (pp. 451–452). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
 Michaels, J. R. (2010). The Gospel of John (pp. 583–584). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
 Phillips, R. D. (2014). John. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (1st ed., Vol. 1, pp. 624–632). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.
 Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to John (Vol. 2, p. 109). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.