Reading Time: 8 minutes

I am the door of the sheep

Dr. Jim Denison is the CEO of Denison Forum.
His Daily Article and podcast globally reach over 160,000 subscribers. Dr. Denison guides readers to discern today’s news—biblically. He is the author of multiple books and has taught on the philosophy of religion and apologetics at several seminaries. Prior to launching Denison Forum in 2009, he pastored churches in Texas and Georgia. He holds a Ph.D and a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jim and his wife, Janet, live in Dallas, Texas. They have two sons and four grandchildren.

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Topic Scripture: John 10:7–10

Don’t look now, but an asteroid could be headed for Earth. I don’t know that one is. But I don’t know that one is not. And neither do astronomers, apparently.

An asteroid estimated to be at least 150 feet in diameter passed our planet last Sunday morning just hours after it was first observed by astronomers. It came closer to us than the moon. It could be as much as six times bigger than the meteorite that exploded over Russia in 2013. That rock sent thousands of fragments to earth, breaking windows and injuring about 1,500 people. If last Sunday’s asteroid had entered our atmosphere, it could have done that much damage, or more.

If the asteroid had in fact threatened our planet, would you have been grateful to NASA for finding a way to protect us? Or would you have demanded that the space agency devise numerous options for us to choose between? So long as one strategy worked for our entire planet, wouldn’t we be thankful for it?

Now let’s change metaphors.

Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a disease caused by tiny virus particles which attack the brain and spinal cord. Why is polio not feared as it once was? The answer is named Jonas Edward Salk. Dr. Salk, an American research scientist, announced in 1953 that he had developed a trial vaccine for polio. By 1955, his discovery was being used across the world.

In those exciting days, there were two questions no one thought to ask. First, aren’t all vaccines basically the same? They knew that all others had failed, and that Dr. Salk’s had succeeded. And second, why only one vaccine? For the simple reason that only one was needed.

No one asked these questions, because the answers were obvious. And across the world, millions of people made sure they were vaccinated, and those they cared about as well.

Unfortunately, there is another disease which still exists today and is far worse even than polio. This disease has infected every person who has ever lived and is always fatal. Fortunately, there is a vaccine which will work for every person on earth and it is free of charge.

The disease, of course, is sin, our broken relationship with God. The cure is salvation through Jesus Christ, his Son. And yet questions persist about this spiritual, eternal “vaccine”: aren’t all faiths the same? Why is there only one way to God? What does the issue say to you today?

What did Jesus claim?

Our text begins with Jesus’ proclamation: “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). His “I am” calls us back to God’s personal name for himself (Exodus 3:14) and presents another clear claim to divinity on the part of his Son.

In this case, Jesus states that he is “the door of the sheep.” “The” points to his uniqueness as the only door of the sheep, a claim we will discuss in a moment. For now, let’s get his image clearly in our minds, then we can apply it to our culture and our souls.

In the field, sheep were collected into hillside sheep-folds, open spaces enclosed by three walls like a triangle but open on one end. When the sheep were inside, the shepherd would lie across the opening and serve as the “door” of the sheep.

In the same way, our Lord describes himself as “the” door of the sheep. The only door. He adds: “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them” (v. 8).

The brilliant New Testament scholar D. A. Carson notes: “The world still seeks its humanistic, political saviors—its Hitlers, its Stalins, its Maos, its Pol Pots—and only too late does it learn that they blatantly confiscate personal property (they come ‘only to steal’), ruthlessly trample human life under food (they come ‘only . . . to kill’), and contemptuously savage all that is valuable (they come ‘only . . . to destroy’)” (The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to John).

By contrast, Jesus asserts, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (v. 9). His promise is unconditional: anyone who trusts him as their Lord “will be saved” and will find divine provision.

Our Lord makes his claim once more: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (v. 10). “I came” points to Jesus’ missional purpose in entering our fallen world. “Abundantly” translates perisson, meaning “beyond the regular number, prodigious, extraordinary.”

To summarize: Jesus claims to be the only door the sheep can use to find eternal and abundant life. Everyone who comes through his door will find such life. But only those who make this pivotal decision for their souls.

Is Jesus the only way?

What is the logic behind Jesus’ claim to be the only door for the sheep, the only way to heaven?

A few chapters later, we find his emphatic words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Later he was even more emphatic: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

Peter would later proclaim, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Paul stated, “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

The apostle John added, “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11–12).

What makes Jesus so unique that he alone can be the way to heaven?

Scripture declares, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). With all due respect to other world leaders, none of them claimed to die for those they served. Not Buddha, or Muhammad, or Confucius.

The reason is simple: none of them was sinless. And only a sinless sacrifice could pay for our sins without needing to pay for his own.

Because Jesus owed no debt, he could pay our debt. He could be the perfect “Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8 NIV) because he was sinlessly perfect (Hebrews 4:15).

Isn’t this claim intolerant?

Jesus’ claim to be the only door for the sheep, the only way to heaven, is politically incorrect today, to say the least. Three “isms” dominate our culture and reject everything we’ve learned so far.

The first is relativism, the idea that all truth is relative and subjective. We’re taught that language is only a convention of human power; words do not describe reality, but only our version of it. There can be no objective truth claims, only subjective experiences. It’s fine if Jesus is your way to God, but don’t insist that he must be mine.

The second word for our society is pluralism: different religions are roads up the same mountain. They’re all worshipping the same God, just by different names. It’s fine if Jesus is your road to God, but don’t make the rest of us travel it.

And pluralism typically leads to universalism, the idea that everyone is going to heaven, no matter what they believe. It doesn’t matter which God we believe in, so long as we’re sincere. We’re all on the road to God, whatever we might believe about him.

How can we respond?

First, we can address relativism with the fact that objective truth is an intellectual and practical necessity in life. To deny absolutes is to affirm them. If I say, “There is no such thing as absolute truth,” haven’t I made a claim to absolute truth? We don’t accept relativism with regard to the historicity of the Holocaust, or our doctor’s diagnosis, or the aircraft mechanic’s assurance that the plane is safe. Objective truth is an intellectual and practical necessity in life.

Next, let’s respond to pluralism with the fact that the world’s religions teach radically different truth. If one is right, the others are wrong. These cannot be different roads up the same mountain—they are different mountains.

Third, we can respond to universalism with the fact that Jesus is the only way to God we need or can trust. It doesn’t bother me that only one key in my pocket will start my car, so long as it works. And only Christianity works.

Our basic problem with God is called “sin.” We have all made mistakes and committed sins in our lives. These failures have separated us from a righteous and pure God. The only way to heaven which works is the way which deals with these sins. And only Christianity does. No other religion offers forgiveness for sins, grace for sinners, and the security of salvation. Only Jesus.

Conclusion

If your daughter were facing the threat of polio in 1955, would you accept a doctor’s relative assurances that she would be well? Would you try every possible vaccine, in the belief that they’re all the same? Would you complain if you were given only one proven option? Or would you gladly vaccinate your child?

What about your soul?