By Charles H. Welch
Israel are spoken of as ‘sheep’, not only as a company under the care of the Lord their Shepherd (Psa. 100:3), but as sheep which have gone astray (Isa. 53:6). Peter, who was the apostle of the circumcision, says to those of Israel that composed the ‘dispersion’, that they were as sheep going astray, but had now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls (1 Pet. 2:25). To the ‘lost sheep’ of the house of Israel, the Lord directed His earthly ministry (Matt. 10:6; 15:24), but revealed that there were those ‘not of this fold’ who should be sought, and compose at the last ‘one flock and one Shepherd’ (John 10:16). The only times that Paul uses the figure of sheep are in Romans 8:36 where the ‘slaughter’, not the sheep, is significant, and in Hebrews, where he speaks of Christ as ‘The great Shepherd of the sheep’. From the survey of the usage of the term, we are led to see that no member of the church of the Mystery is ever called a sheep, and that the title Shepherd is never used of Christ as Head of the church. In Acts 20:28, Paul counsels the overseers to feed the church (Gk. poimaino‘shepherd’), and in Ephesians 4:11, where we read
The word ‘pastor’ is in the Greek, poimen ‘shepherd’. It is inconceivable that the Lord should give to any man the gift of being a ‘shepherd’ but make no provision for the exercise of this gift. Inasmuch as there are no sheep in the church, and inasmuch as John’s Gospel runs concurrently with the smaller circle of the Mystery (see JOHN), and further, that there the Lord speaks of ‘other sheep’ that were not of Israel’s fold, it appears that some who are members of the One Body, may have a ministry to those who are not of their company; consequently it behoves us to be careful when tempted to criticize a fellow-servant, for it does not follow that every believer in the dispensation of the Mystery must limit his ministry to that high calling, he may be sent outside the sphere of his own calling, to act as ‘shepherd’ to those who are without.