Last week, I was listening to an interview of a religious leader who, because of some rather controversial comments, has recently been under the scrutiny of the public spotlight. This religious leader, a “pastor” in the United Church of Christ was asked several questions at the National Press Club. One of the questions that he was asked was if he thought that those who are Islamic can be saved?” His curt reply was that Jesus has other sheep who are not of this fold. This answer prompted cheers and applause by those who were assembled.It is true that Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). The question however is whether it is the proper application of Jesus’ words to suggest that those who adhere to the Islamic faith are the “sheep” under consideration.With a little examination, one can conclude that this is not an accurate interpretation of Jesus’ words. Such an interpretation contradicts other statements of Jesus. Consider:
- Jesus said that, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Islam does not believe that one must come to God through Jesus.
- Jesus said that, “…if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Islam does not believe that Jesus was the Son of God.
- The inspired apostle, Luke said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no othername under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Islam does not believe that salvation is only in the name of Jesus.
Friends, in light of these passages, and many more, do you really think that Islam is “the other flock” that Jesus had in mind when he said, Other sheep I have which are not of this fold?”Well, it may be clear to us what this statement does not mean, but what then does it mean? What is the proper interpretation of this statement in John 10:16? When Jesus said he had other sheep who were not of this fold, he was contrasting the Jews and Gentiles. Jesus and his disciples came preaching to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6). But the time was coming when the Gentiles would also be brought into this “sheepfold.” Numerous Old Testament passages teach this (e.g. Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 56:8; Micah 4:1-5). Jesus is saying in John 10:16 what Paul said in Ephesians 2:14-17, that he had created “one new man from the two,” and that he reconciled “both to God in one body through the cross.”
In other words, the other sheep that Jesus had referred to were the Gentiles. The time was coming when Jews and Gentiles would both come together in one sheepfold, live in peace, and follow the voice of Jesus. To suggest that the other sheep that Jesus has are those who will not follow him, and in fact, do not even believe in him, not only does violence to the text, but borders on the preposterous.