I’ve been told over and over again, by Protestants, that “the church is the collection of all true believers.” I agree with this statement wholeheartedly. Anyone can make this claim. But who is a True Believer according to Jesus? Every Protestant tradition from the Mormans to the Iglesias ni Cristo and every denomination, cult and sect in between make this claim. Are the Presbyterians, the Baptists, the Jehovah Witnesses, those who are the collection of all true believers? Actually all of the approximately all 45,000 denominations, cults and sects which are protestant or not in communion with the Bishop of Rome make that claim. But can it really be if many of these communions are teaching opposite and opposing doctrines and new gospels?
Jesus gives us our answer as to who are His sheep.
John 21:15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.”16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.”
At this scene, Jesus calls St. Peter by the name he gives him in Matthew 16:17-19, Rock or Kephas in Aramaic. In the original Greek, the word love has 3 specific meanings, which is not what this post is about.
As Jesus tells us here, he chooses St. Peter to Feed My Lambs, Shepherd by Sheep, Feed My Sheep. This is how we know we are one of His sheep, his lambs. No other person is given this charge by Jesus Himself. This is a right here and right now command to “Shepherd My Sheep.” Not some of the Sheep, not some of the Lambs, but all the Sheep and all the Lambs.
John 10:27-30 (NASB)
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.
29My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 I and the Father are one.”
To be one of the Sheep is to have St. Peter or his successors, as your Shepherd, until Christ comes again in Glory. While it is true that Satan cannot snatch you out of the Hands of Christ, you most certainly can take yourself out of His hands as many have done, i.e. become a heretic.
Why does Jesus entrust St. Peter with the earthly flock? Jesus tells us:
John 16: 16In a little while you will see Me no longer, and then after a little while you will see Me.” 17Then some of his disciples asked one another, “Why is He telling us, ‘In a little while you will not see Me, and then after a little while you will see Me’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?”…
I’ve been challenged a few times that it’s not necessary to be in the Sheepfold of Peter as long as you are in the sheepfold of Christ. They have pointed me to this scripture verse:
12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices more over that one sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.…
The problem is that if you are lost or went prodigal, you have to be lost from the only Sheepfold that Christ left here on earth until he comes again. That is the Catholic Church who is the Mystical Body of Christ. If you are not of this Sheepfold, these words do not apply to non-Christians, which is to say, non-Catholics.
All God’s grace directs you to the Mystical Body of Christ. Whether you are a Protestant or of a non-Christian religion, you cannot be of that Sheepfold entrusted to Peter and the Apostles. It is by Grace you have been saved, through Faith in Jesus Christ whose voice is spoken through His Church.
Luke 10:16 “The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.”
There is someone we must listen too. I’ve asked who is the ….WHO LISTENS TO YOU….” in this verse? It is the Apostles of which Peter is the first of the Apostles. Of all Christ’s disciples He choose 12 to be Apostles and of this 12 He choose one.
Putting these 3 sets of verses together, it is St. Peter and his successors, who speak with the Authority of Christ. There is one Shepherd, Christ Jesus, and there is one who Shepherds His flock until the new heavens and the new earth comes down to us (John 21: 15-17).
Peter himself tells us this:
1 Peter 5:1-4 1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Each of the particular Churches the Apostles and their successors started are within the 1 Church Christ established on the foundation of the faith of the Apostles….. Those appointed by the Apostles and their successors are the shepherds of the one flock of Christ. And when the Chief Shepherd comes in glory to judge the living and the dead, we will receive that unfading crown of glory.
Christ never says to Peter in John 21:15-17 that he will only be the Shepherd of the flock, which is the church, until the reformation occurs. These Red Letter Words of Jesus Christ are binding upon every Christian, everywhere.