Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 11, 1957
NUMBER 48, PAGE 7,9b

One Fold And One Shepherd

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Missouri

Correspondence with a Roman Catholic gentleman in Ohio, brought about the compiling and writing of this article. The Catholic correspondent's erroneous premise at the very outset of his statement, proved to be his downfall. We copy as follows:

"Christ made Peter the first Shepherd of His sheep. His sheep are still here but Peter is gone. Will you tell me who is the shepherd that takes Peter's place?"

The thing that our Catholic friend needs to prove or establish, is that which he has apparently accepted without any study or investigation, i.e., that "Christ made Peter the first Shepherd of His sheep." This I emphatically deny, and ask for the proof!

John 10:14-17

"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so I know the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again."

In the above, we have copied the words of Jesus as He addressed the Jews of His day. At this time, neither Jesus nor His disciples were making any attempt to contact the Gentile peoples with this teaching. They were confining their efforts in behalf of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It was not until after Christ's resurrection that He gave the instruction to "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . . ." (Matt. 28:19.)

The "other sheep" to which Jesus referred, were the Gentiles who were not of the Jewish fold. This middle wall of partition which served to separate the Jew from the Gentile, was removed by the death of Christ upon the cross. (See Ephesians 2:11-16.)

In summarizing Christ's teaching to the Jews, we list as follows: (1) Christ was (and is) the Good Shepherd. (2) Christ knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. (3) Christ laid down His life for His sheep. (4) Other sheep (the Gentiles) would also be brought into the fold. This was yet in the future. (5) There SHALL be one fold and one shepherd.

Next, we need to determine if Christ ever ceased to be the one Shepherd.

Matthew 26:31-32

"Then saith Jesus unto them. All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee."

In this scripture, Jesus warns his disciples at the last supper of His impending doom. In it He quotes the prophecy of Zechariah 13:7, applying the term 'shepherd' to Himself. We must notice, however, that Christ states that He would rise again and lead them into Galilee. In the previous reference (John 10:14-17), Christ had promised that He laid down His life "that I might take it again." In each instance indicating that as the resurrected Saviour, He would still be the Great Shepherd over the sheep.

Hebrews 13:20

"Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever."

Does this sound as though Christ ceased being the shepherd over the sheep? No, of course not. This was written about 63 A.D., thirty years after the death of Christ. Yet, "A Catholic Dictionary" edited by Donald Attwater, lists Peter as bishop of Rome from A.D. 43 to A.D. 67. If the Hebrew writer by inspiration still called Christ "that great shepherd of the sheep" in A.D. 63, then Peter could not possibly have been also 'the shepherd' simultaneously. Actually, Peter was NOT the shepherd in Christ's stead. Only tradition, not historical facts, claim that Peter was ever in Rome.

What About John 21:15.17?

"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep."

In gaining proper understanding of the above passage, we need to be completely familiar with Peter's past relationship with Christ.

In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, we read of Peter's confession of the divinity of Christ. Upon that occasion Christ promised the 'keys of the kingdom' unto Peter.

In the 26th chapter of Matthew (52nd verse), Jesus rebuked Peter for taking a sword and cutting off the ear of Malchus, a servant of the high priest, with whom Judas had associated in betraying Christ. In the 56th verse, ALL the disciples forsook Christ and fled.

After Christ was taken captive, Peter followed at a great distance to avoid being identified with Christ. (Matt. 26:58.) Later, as Christ has foretold, Peter denied Christ without equivocation, three distinct times.

Immediately after the resurrection of Christ, Christ made an appearance unto Peter, seemingly for Peter's particular benefit, as if Peter needed more reassurance of Christ's resurrection than would the other apostles. (See Luke 24:34 and I Corinthians 15:5.)

Next, Christ appeared before the eleven, which, of course, included Peter, (See John 20:19-20) and yet another time at the sea of Tiberius. (John 21:1-14.) This, of course, leads up to the last of John's record concerning Christ, and to the verses quoted above. (John 21:15-17.)

With an adequate knowledge of Peter's previous instability and his specific three-time denial of Christ, we can readily understand the import of Christ's three-time instruction to Peter, to "Feed my sheep." Christ's personal teaching was now at an end. The only way or method which Christ left on the earth for mankind, His sheep, to be instructed, was through the teaching of the apostles. Peter had previously been promised the opportunity to use the 'keys of the kingdom,' the word of the gospel of Christ, in figuratively 'unlocking the doom of the church' on Pentecost. Peter fulfilled this duty when he proclaimed the first gospel sermon to the Jews on Pentecost and the first gospel sermon to the Gentiles (other sheep) at the house of Cornelius. (Acts 10.)

Once Peter had exercised his prerogative in first preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles, he appears to have been designated as an apostle to the Jews. Paul wrote, ". . . . the gospel of the uncircumcision (Gentiles, L.W.M.) was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision (Jews, L.W.M.) was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) . . ." (Gal. 2:7-8.)

Paul the apostle wrote, "And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." (II Tim. 2:2.) He also said. "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." (I Cor. 14:37.) Please notice Paul's use of the word WRITE. The same apostle Paul warns against thinking more of men than we think of that which is WRITTEN. (I Cor. 4:6 ) He also said, "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you . . . ." (Acts 20:20.) And, he declared ALL the counsel of God. (See Acts 20:27.)

In view of the above New Testament statements, we charge our Catholic friend in Ohio, with having made an unfounded assertion that Christ ever made Peter or anyone else, "the first Shepherd over His (Christ's) sheep." Secondly, Peter, Paul and the other New Testament writers, still speak to us, still teach us through the written word of the New Testament ... : and if my friend is a 'spiritual man' he MUST accept Paul's writings as the commands of God. Thirdly, no one is qualified to take the place of any of the apostles of Christ, Peter included .. . . other than Matthias who met the qualifications set forth in Acts 1:20-26, and took the place of Judas. No one in any succeeding generation can qualify as a witness of the personal ministry, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ. ...and that's exactly what any so-called successor of an apostle would have to do. Obviously, it can't be done, and has never been done.

In conclusion, the requirement made by Jesus of Peter, as recorded in John 21st chapter, was to discipline Peter. This took place in the presence of the other apostles and no doubt proved quite embarrassing to Peter. In fact, the record said that Peter was GRIEVED at the third' repetition of the question. It wasn't a compliment as Catholics claim, but to the contrary served as a chastening which was not joyous but grievous. (Read Hebrews 12:11.)