In John Chapter 21, Jesus appeared to His disciples for the third time and asked Peter the same question three times. “Lovest thou me?” Peter affirmed the positive all three times. Jesus responded the first time with “Feed my lambs.” He responded the second and third time with “Feed my sheep.” During my forty-eight years in ministry service under numerous different pastors, I have found one common trait. Every minister of God considers themself to be a shepherd of God’s sheep tending God’s flock.
However, comparing God’s flock only to sheep is extremely misleading. God defines what His flock truly is in Ezekiel Chapter 34. In this chapter, Ezekiel begins by addressing the shepherds over God’s flock and identifies His flock as cattle, rams, and goats throughout the chapter. In verse 17 of the chapter, God then addresses the flock and says that He will judge the flock. He rebukes the shepherd for feeding themselves of the flock, but rebukes the cattle for treading down the flock itself. He tells in verses twenty and twenty-one that the strong cattle cast aside by their horns the weak and scattered them abroad.
Then Ezekiel told that God would set David up to be the shepherd over the flock. God would make a covenant of peace with His flock so that His flock would dwell in safety. In the last verse of the chapter, God says plainly “And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord GOD.” So whether cattle, rams, or goats, these are all God’s flock. But a major change happens in the New Testament. Jesus concerned Himself with the sheep and identifies His flock as that composed only of sheep.
So He charged Peter with the command, “Feed my sheep.” To the degree that the ministers of today are concerned with pleasing everyone in their congregations more than feeding the lambs of God, are they pleasing the cattle and goats at the expense of the lambs? When Jesus told Peter to feed the lambs, He was telling Peter to take care of young believers. Young believers will eventually grow up to become mature believers. Just as lambs grow up to become sheep, young believers should eventually grow up to become spiritually strong believers. Yet, when you look at the average church of today, it is filled with immature believers who have little or no real concept of “Walking in Faith by the Spirit of God.”
Are too many ministers of today acting like the shepherds of Ezekiel by feeding themselves of the flock of God at the expense of feeding the sheep? We have Christians who know their church doctrines but cannot discern the voice of God. Jesus says in John 10: 27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” Lambs of God are young believers who have made Jesus their Lord. God’s sheep know God’s voice. A goat can never become a sheep and men who are goats and cattle can never know God’s voice. Since it is impossible for them to ever become prepared enough to accept spiritual instruction, we should simply teach sheep and let the goats and cattle go wherever they want. If you really want to follow Jesus’ command to feed God’s lambs and sheep, you may need to be more concerned with pleasing Jesus, by feeding them, and not be so concerned with training your goats and cattle to become sheep. Sure, our churches may become smaller, but they will also be spiritually stronger.
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