Actual Question: “What’s the meaning of John 10:16 (NASB), ‘I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.’”
Possible Answer: Here’s the quick answer: Gentiles are the “other sheep” that Jesus was referring to in this passage. Another way to say that would be “non Jews”. Anyone who wasn’t a Jew was considered a gentile. From Genesis onward it’s made clear that God had chosen the Jews to 1.) be His special people to bless them and 2.) to ultimately bless the entire world through them.
God’s plan for the Jews specifically:
Deuteronomy 14:2 (NASB) says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”
Amos 3:2 (NASB) says, “You only have I chosen among all the families of the earth…”
God’s plan for all of humanity:
1 John 2:2 (NASB) says, “…and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”
Isaiah 56:8 (NASB) “The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”
Zephaniah 3:10 (NASB) “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my worshipers, my dispersed ones, will bring My offerings.”
John 11:52 (NASB) “…and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”
John 17:20 (NASB) “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word…”
God’s Word makes clear that the Jews were God’s chosen people and that through them He would bring salvation not just to them, but to the entire world. While that’s the quick answer I’ve also been thinking through some ramifications of this passage that have led me to a deeper and more personal challenge.
Recently I’ve been thinking about how I see the world (read people) around me. Depending on my schedule for the day I tend to classify people into categories like “church folks”, “community people”, “after school program students”, “church kids”, “people I assume don’t know Jesus”, “jerks in cars who don’t pay attention while they’re driving”, etc. You get the idea right? It’s not intentional or mean spirited, it’s just how I classify the people I interact with. In doing so I’ve realized that I step into those conversations, interactions, etc. with a pre-determined set of lenses that I use to socialize with them. As an example, when interacting with a barista at Starbucks I tend to scale back on my use of the phrase, “Praise the Lord”. I usually just go up, order my drink and then slip off to the side to wait. I assume that they have no interest in me as a person and I assume that they have no interest in me discovering more about them as a person.
On the other hand, as I walk the hallways of my church building and interact with “church folks” I throw that, ‘Praise the Lord” phrase around like it’s going out of style. I ask questions, I interact with intentionality because I assume that it’s welcomed and wanted. People want to know that their pastor cares and is concerned for them and what’s happening in their lives.
This verse in John 10:16 has me asking the question, “Am I seeing those around me as Jesus see those around me?” It’s clear that as Jesus walked the earth He didn’t classify people into pre-determined categories. He interacted with everyone He came into contact with in the same way; with love, interest and compassion. According to John 10:16 all of these people that I have categorized outside of “church folks” and “church kids” are equally deserving and desired as a part of the “fold” Jesus speaks of in this passage. Yes, He has those that are already a part of the “fold” but there are also others, which are not of this fold, and we must bring them also so they can become a part of the one flock with one Shepherd.
Allow me to put it to you like this, if Jesus says, “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold…” we could also say that, “You and I have other brothers and sisters who are not yet of this fold…” Those people that we blow by everyday at the store, at the gym, in the school parking lot, at your kid’s matches, games and meets, are all those “other sheep” that Jesus longs to bring into the fold. So what am I doing to help make that happen? What are you doing to help make that happen? Be encouraged and keep moving forward.