“Rev.” Wright & Other Sheep Not Of This Fold

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.

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Comments 12

  • I always find it amazing how this verse can be used to justify so much in the religious world. Everyone that wants to get around the truth of Jesus being the Christ, will proof-text these words. It seems to me that the Gentiles are in focus here, not every other group looking for present day justification. Good thoughts.


  • Bro. Steve,
    I have know of your work for years and I appreaciate you very much. I am the minister of the South Stokes Church of Christ in King, NC. I was located in Durham, NC, at the Durham Church of Christ which was started in 1997.

    I am orginally from E’town, Ky. My mom and dad bot worship at the E’town Church of Christ and I know you have been there.

    I hope one day to meet you. Our paths have crossed physically but I have used your sermons and articles often. I pray we will meet some day, if not here on this earth, in heaven.

    Keep up the good work.

    In His service,

    Jerry Pence
    South Stokes Church of Christ
    King, NC

  • Unfortunately, Rev. Wright used a common tactic to answer religious questions in public and that is to throw out a scripture verse without additional comment explaining how you understand that verse to be applicable to the question or situation.

    Jesus Christ is the truth and the way to life. No one shall get to the Father but through the Son. But you don’t have to be a Jew. You can be anyone else who accepts the free gift of God through Christ.

    Christ died for ALL men. We should be careful in judging the hearts of others, for we struggle to even know our own heart.

    But, I do not believe that, reading the Bible, taken in its entirety, one could conclude that there is any other way to eternal spiritual life with God but through Christ.

  • To begin with wonderful web site. Im uncertain if it may be talked about, but when working with Firefox I can never get the whole website to load without refreshing many times. Could just be my modem. Enjoy!

  • Hello “studying bible”,
    I too use Firefox and don’t have any of the problems you are describing. I’m sorry, but my guess is that it probably is your modem. I’ve tried to make it as “modem” friendly as possible, but the pictures that I sometimes add may be the culprit. If you will check back in a week, one of the articles on the main page, which contains a slideshow will move to the archives. That might make a huge difference for you.

  • so I was born in a middle eastern country…where I was required by law to be a muslim. I never heard the gospel..never heard about Jesus. I went to prayers and faithfully followed the rules of being truthful, honest and just to my fellowmen. A just God is going to send me to hell?

  • Let’s not put Jesus in a box. The other sheep that Jesus speaks about includes anyone He chooses to save whenever he chooses to do so. Here He speaks about nonbelievers who only He knows will one day become believers. Remember we know NOTHING about who this flock, so please, let’s not pretend we do. If he chooses a Muslim, or two, or 2 billion one moment before their death. Then that’s who He’s referring to.

  • My friend, thank you for your comments. I couldn’t help but think of another situation as I read your comment. It is recorded in Matthew 19:16-22. A young ruler came to Jesus, saying that he had kept the commandments, but wanted to know what he still lacked in order to be saved. While I don’t doubt for a minute that it has been the practice of your life to follow an honorable moral code of honesty and justice toward your fellow man, I think you would agree with me in making the suggestion that while that may be the pattern for your life, you have failed from time to time. It’s those moments of failure that taint our souls with the stain of sin. Since God is holy, and our soul has been stained by sin, we must have that sin washed away to have fellowship with God. It is at this point that we must have Jesus. It is in Jesus, and Jesus alone, that we find forgiveness of sins. If there was another way, why would God allow His Son to endure such agony at the hands of wicked men. The fact that God is a benevolent and just God, and that Jesus died on the cross, proves that His sacrifice was absolutely essential.

    You asked what a Just God will and will not do. That’s a good and fair question. I just God cannot tolerate sin. A just God sent His Son into this world to atone for our sins so that He can not only be “just,” but also the “justifier” of men. That justification is accomplished through Jesus, the Christ. At the end of the day, one will not be lost because they aren’t Christians, they will be lost because they are a sinner. Christianity provides man with the only remedy or cleaning of sin that condemns us. I would invite you to consider the life and claims of Jesus, and if you would like to dialog concerning him, I would be more than happy to do that with you.

  • Thank you Mary Jane, but I must disagree with your comments. I certainly do not propose to limit Jesus, but I do hold Jesus to the truthfulness of his own words. If Jesus says one thing, and he is who he said he is, then I can bank on his statement. Certainly, there is divine prerogative, but that prerogative has been exercised and limited by his own words and promises. If Jesus said that he is the only way to the Father (and he did John 14:6), and if Muslims reject Jesus, then if Jesus is to be true, then Muslims will not be recipients of salvation. If Jesus has the ability to change his word to accommodate 1 person or 2 billion people at his whim, then how can we have any confidence in our salvation. How would we know that he won’t change his mind to condemn us all?

    According to your view of Jesus, why would he have to save them “one moment before their death?” If he’s allowed to change the rules in the middle of the game, then why can’t he just decide to save them after they die? What this boils down to is the veracity of the word of God. Will God do what he said he will do? Can we know that God will be faithful to his revealed will, or might he just arbitrarily change it? I believe that God cannot lie. And if he says that there is one and only one way to the father and that is through Jesus Christ, then those who reject Jesus Christ will not have access to the father. Either God is true, or he is untrustworthy and all his promises become questionable.

  • “I have sheep not of this fold.” – The following comes out of personal experience in Iraq, telling Jesus stories.

    You guys are missing the point. The Good News of the Kingdom of Jesus has power to save anybody. The point isn’t Rev. Wright or universalism, church walls or where to define what a Christian is: it’s that we spent a year in Iraq and He built a gathering of 18 followers of Christ from the Muslim community by telling the Gospel through me and my friends’ pretty poor language skills. He gets all the power. Look:

    Earlier in the text, Jesus says ‘my sheep know my voice, and they follow me.’ Where the Messiah calls, people hear. Just like in Isaiah where ‘the word of the Lord does not return to him without accomplishing his purpose,’ his powerful voice calls those who haven’t heard, whatever and in whatever station they are.

    And they hear.

    Instead of debating which tribe or people God will exclude (400 million people who you probably think are your enemies, for instance), recognize your own American pharasaism: you probably want to limit the gospel to the confines of the American church, rather than taking part in God’s vision for the nations. But the gospel of God’s righteousness and justice through Christ, his Kingdom’s coming, is not bound by national borders, language, politics, or apathetic churchgoers. He’ll raise the rocks to cry out – – Filipino maids who are being abused in Dubai, martyred Catholics in Kirkuk, the taxi driver murdered 2 years ago 100 feet from my house for calling himself a Christian.

    So the debate becomes not if Jesus will call the Muslim people, but when, and how – – with or without you? To say that hundred millions of Pushtuns, Saudis, Acehnese and Libyans aren’t now your flesh-and-blood kindred through Christ is both accurate and utterly pointless.

    Just as the average American is, they are rebels against a holy God and excluded from the grace, redemption, family, and inward working of the Spirit of God. You’re wanting to debate the platitudes of what is to God the most injuring and bereaving fact on the earth: that those to whom God’s common grace came have abandoned the life and fellowship at his table.

    God is calling to them now: will you join him?


  • My friend, if I may speak directly, your comment is both presumptuous and judgmental. Presumptuous in that you suggest that I “want to limit the gospel to the confines of the American church” and you don’t even know me. And judgmental in that you falsely attribute an unbiblical position to me which I do not embrace. I would simply suggest that you re-read what I actually wrote rather than trying to assign views to me that I do not embrace.

    The gospel of Christ has no borders, both Jew and Gentile can be saved through it. However, those who reject it, reject their only hope of salvation, and certainly cannot be characterized as the “other sheep” God has.

  • Right on!!! I love truth and this is. Some can Try to make the word of God fit but when you read it all and put it together that’s when you will see truth…..
    He was talking about the Gentiles.

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