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What is the one shepherd and one flock that Jesus talks about in John 10:16?

one shepherd and one flock

John 10 gives us a beautiful portrayal of Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd. He is the “gate” and “gatekeeper” to the sheep pen, meaning that only through Jesus can anyone be made right with God and thereby enter the sheepfold (verses 1–3). The sheepfold is comprised of members of God’s kingdom. Jesus is the true Shepherd who leads, cares for, and protects His sheep, even to death (verses 3–15). As the Good Shepherd, Jesus explains, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

Who are these “other sheep that are not of this sheep pen”? Most scholars understand that the sheep pen introduced at the beginning of the chapter represents first-century Jewish believers. Initially, Jesus focused His ministry on “the people of Israel—God’s lost sheep” (see Matthew 10:5–6; 15:24–27, NLT). At Pentecost, “God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” were converted to Christianity (Acts 2:5). But, eventually, Peter and Paul would take the message of Christ’s salvation to the Gentiles and to the farthest reaches of the Roman world (Acts 10:1—11:30; 13). The true mission of God’s heart has always been to have one flock comprised of disciples from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9; see also Matthew 28:18–19; Isaiah 49:6).

The “one flock” is the New Testament Christian church made up of both Jews (from the sheep pen) and Gentiles (the other sheep). Of “the other sheep,” Jesus said, “I must bring them also.” In Romans 11:11–24, the apostle Paul compares the people of Israel to the natural branches of a cultivated olive tree and the Gentiles to the wild branches of an uncultivated olive tree. Most of the natural branches were “broken off” because they rejected their Messiah. In the sheep analogy, these Jews would have failed to enter the sheep pen because they did not come through the gate. The wild branches (the Gentiles) were “grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root” (Romans 11:17). The Gentiles were made partakers of God’s salvation. Jesus has brought them into the sheep pen. Together, Jews and Gentiles—all those who belong to the Good Shepherd—now comprise the spiritually unified “one flock,” the body of Christ, and Jesus is their “one shepherd.”

In Ephesians 2:11–22, the apostle Paul teaches about the oneness that has come to God’s people through Christ: “Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called ‘uncircumcised heathens’ by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11–13, NLT).

Jews and Gentiles have been united with God and with one another through one shepherd—the Good Shepherd. They are all now one flock. Jesus is “our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility . . . to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. . . . For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Ephesians 2:14–18). Later, Paul refers to the oneness of the New Testament church as a “mystery” that “through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:6).

God’s plan has always been to gather in one flock “the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one” (John 11:52; see also Isaiah 56:8; Matthew 8:11). Jesus prayed for His flock, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11; see also John 17:21–22). No matter how different we are, no matter how diverse our backgrounds, as redeemed believers in Jesus Christ, we are no longer estranged from one another. We are one flock with one shepherd—fellow citizens of the kingdom of God. Skin color, social class, ethnicity, and nationality are all united in the Good Shepherd’s sheep pen (Ephesians 2:19).

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What is the one shepherd and one flock that Jesus talks about in John 10:16?
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This page last updated: January 30, 2023