Catechism 13: A Description of the Church; The Sheep of God
Catechism 13: A Description of the Church; The Sheep of God
The Church is "also called the flock of the sheep of Christ, of which He is the door and the shepherd."- Catechism of the Council of Trent
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he hath let out his own sheep, he goeth before them: and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. John 10:2-4
I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. John 10:14
Why does God call us sheep?
Before you jump to the conclusion that I am saying Christians are "brainless" sheep, read this post completely.
Why does He call us SHEEP? (The Bible makes reference to sheep no less than 220 times). A few of the more notable passages that come to mind are the 23rd Psalm ( Or in your douay rheims it is Psalms 22), Isaias/ Isaiah. 53:6 and John 10.
There are many references to His People being sheep. So why not something more powerful, like a ram or horse? Why not something more graceful and valued, like a prized bird? Well, God chose to use the word sheep to identify His followers, as we are "His sheep." Our shepherd, Jesus, is leading the way, so let's look at the facts about sheep-the nature of sheep.
Sheep aren’t intelligent.
Sheep are not known to be smart or cunning animals when it comes to safety; rather, they are susceptible and tend to wander away from the protection of the shepherd. Compared to the wisdom of God, all knowing, all loving, human intelligence doesn't compare.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. (1 Corinthians 3:19).
People tend to wander away from God, from everything that is right and holy.
Sheep respond to the shepherd's voice.
The voice of the shepherd brings comfort and security to the sheep. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice: and I know them, and they follow me. ” (John 10:27 ).
Sheep are Directionless - Sheep get lost easily.
Individual sheep easily wander away from the flock while they graze. When even one sheep goes astray, the shepherd goes after it and restores it to the flock. As Isaias/Isaiah 53:6 indicates, “All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way:” If a sheep wanders off from the rest of the herd, it will have a hard, if not impossible time, finding its way back. They have no sense of direction. So it is with those outside the Lord, there is simply no sense of spiritual direction in their lives. They cannot find their way to the Lord by themselves.
Sheep are weak and need a shepherd
People are spiritually weak and need the Shepherd. In a human's unsaved, deprived mind, you will find that humans are always weak, foolish and ignorant. That is why they always need the shepherd to care for them. Sheep need someone to protect them. Ever seen a “Beware of Sheep” sign posted on someone’s gate? Have you ever seen a wide-eyed animal fleeing for its life from a bleating lamb? Never! Sheep aren’t dangerous they’re virtually defenseless. All they can do is freeze in their tracks, or at best run. Without claws, sharp teeth, speed, or a resounding roar to make predators think twice before pouncing, sheep are easy prey. They can’t scamper up a tree, camouflage their color, or even swim. When they sense danger, the poor, timid sheep panic. Jesus disciples must have shuddered with fear when He told them, “Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves.” (Matt.10:16a). A sheep’s best defense is to stay close to the shepherd and remain with the herd. The same is true with us, isn’t it? When we’re out of fellowship with God and isolated from other Christians, we’re most vulnerable. We need the Shepherd’s wisdom and strength to survive, as well as the comfort and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Sheep become restless.
There are two major reasons why sheep become restless: hunger and bugs. Hunger: Sheep can graze peacefully for hours, but they become restless when food is scarce. Spiritual hunger occurs when the word of God is lacking. The Bible tells us that the Good Shepherd, “He hath set me in a place of pasture. He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment:” (Psalm 22:2 Douay Rheims).
A well fed sheep will not quickly feed at a stranger's hand, but hungry sheep will eat anything. (Stay full on God’s word). Bugs: There is in the Middle East a bug that torments sheep by landing and nesting on their heads. If the bug remains undetected by the shepherd, it will multiply and eventually blind the sheep. Shepherds in the Middle East routinely rub olive oil on sheeps' heads to prevent the bug from landing on them, thereby eliminating the problem. In Scripture, the devil is called Beelzebub (the lord of the flies). In the Spirit realm, therefore, bugs are symbolic of demons. The anointing of the Holy Spirit protects us from being harassed by demons.
A Sheep is a Personal, a Prized and a Precious Possession
This sheep belonged to the shepherd, he had paid a personal price to own it and wasn't going to stand idly by while it was lost. (Illustration. The price Jesus paid for the sheep - Illustration. Calvary )
Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own? For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
This sheep may have been no different from any other ordinary sheep, but it was special to the shepherd. To him, it was a prized possession. - To this shepherd, there were no big sheep and little sheep. Every sheep he had was precious in his eyes. So it is with the Lord. He loves all His sheep equally.
Sheep need plenty of water.
In the Bible regions, the shepherds had to get their sheep to water very regularly. As Christians, we need the living water of the Holy Spirit continually. We cannot go without it. John 7:38 says: "He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." ; In dry spells they may not go to get water. They will mob round a tree in a dry paddock or an empty water trough until they die of thirst. They need someone to lead them beside still water. People are often helpless, easily intimidated and will head away from help when it is offered. They need a shepherd to guide them.
Sheep follow the voice of their own Shepherd (no other shepherd).
The Bible says the sheep know the voice of the shepherd. They are not without understanding! They follow the One whom they know. You may never have a complete understanding of your circumstances with all the answers to the questions of life, but you will understand the love of God and the importance of following the Lord to the green pastures and living water. The shepherd is at the front of the sheep and leads the sheep. The sheep know their shepherd, the sound of his voice and follow him. This is also the way that the sheep are separated into separate herds after grazing or sleeping together. The shepherd calls the sheep and they come. They need no markings to distinguish them - all they need is the sound of the shepherd's voice.
Sheep can not get up on their own.
If they fall down (“cast down”), they must have a shepherd to lift them up or they will die. 'Cast down' sheep. . . .This is an old English shepherd's term for a sheep that has turned over on its back and cannot get up again by itself. A 'cast' sheep is a very pathetic sight. Lying on its back, its feet in the air, it flays away frantically struggling to stand up, without success.
Sheep must be sheared for its own good.
(We don’t like when “bad” things happen to us, but we must trust that it is for our own good). Whenever a shepherd finds that a sheep was cast down because it had too long and heavy a fleece, he soon took swift steps to remedy the situation. In short order he would shear it clean and so forestall the danger of having the ewe lose her life. This was not always a pleasant process. Sheep do not really enjoy being sheared and it represents some hard work for the shepherd, but it must be done. Actually when it is all over both sheep and owner are relieved. There is no longer the threat of being cast down, while for the sheep there is the pleasure of being set free from a hot, heavy coat. Often the fleece is clogged with filthy manure, mud, burrs, sticks and ticks. What a relief to be rid of it all!
Sheep must be lead to grass/just as the Holy Spirit leads us to what we need/God.
If left to themselves they will graze in the same place until all the grass is gone. A good shepherd leads them to the best places to graze to keep them healthy.
"He hath led me on the paths of justice, for his own name's sake." Psalms 22:3 Douay Rheims
Sheep remain dirty until someone cleans them.
Sheepskin is full of an oil called lanolin. Lanolin comes through the skin and coats the wool. It conditions the wool so that the animal will stay warm in cold weather, but the oily wool is one of the most effective dirt-catching devices known to man. Every time a sheep lies down, grass, dirt, burrs, dust, and everything imaginable clings to its coat. Sheep are huge walking Velcro strips. 1
And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: Matthew 25:31-32
The sheep in this passage are the righteous and the goats are the wicked and God separates them at this general judgment. We have discussed the attributes and characteristics of sheep already, but what about the attributes and characteristics of goats?
Goats are capricious. They are impulsive and unpredictable, devious and contrary.
If they are not poking their heads through fences, they may be standing on their hind legs, stretching for those tender leaves just out of reach. Goats are never content with what they have.
They are experts in opening gates and squeezing through small gaps because they hate to be confined. Fences that will handle sheep, cattle, and horses will not hold goats. They will work tirelessly to spring themselves from any situation they deem inhibiting.
Consequently, goats are not very good followers.
"Gregarious behavior" is a term that refers to the flocking or herding instinct which is found strongly in sheep, cattle, and horses. Again, this quality is rather weak in goats; they prefer leading or going off on their own. Meat packers use this instinct in sheep and goats to their advantage. They will train an old goat, appropriately called a "Judas," to lead sheep to the pens for slaughter. A well-trained Judas will lead group after group of sheep to the slaughter all day long. 2
Goats also possess a stubborn streak.
A friend once tried to move a goat in a certain direction. He grabbed it by the horns and pushed and pulled and tugged. No matter how or in what direction he tried to move the goat, it resisted. He could not budge it one inch. Then, when he let go, it just trotted off—in the direction the goat wanted to go in!
Another friend grew up on a farm and has a long experience with goats. As a youth he and his brother and sister more or less turned some goats into pets. Once, after the big noon meal, his mother took the kids down the road to their grandfather's house. Knowing they would not be gone very long, his mother decided not to clear the table. When they returned home, though, they found the biggest of the goats standing right in the middle of the table, amidst all the dishes and leftovers. The screen door had been no match for Billy!
One night before they had electricity installed in their house, his mother picked up a lamp and went to a back bedroom. Moments later the family heard her screaming, "Someone's in there!" Grabbing his gun, his father went to confront the intruder. Instead of a burglar, he found the same goat in the bed—under the covers!—with only his eyes peering out! Goats are intelligent and playful but impulsive, unpredictable, and devious.
By now, a goat's characteristics should be clear. They are not evil, but some of their traits could be deadly—spiritually—if found in a Christian. What would we call a Christian who is unpredictable? A goat! Or one who thinks he is above it all? A goat! Or one who independently does his own thing? A goat! What would we call a Christian who wants to take over, has trouble functioning in a group, and does not want to be led? A goat!
A sheep follows its Shepherd, peacefully moving forward with the flock. He is content to be led because he has faith in Him. A sheep responds to his Shepherd's voice and goes where He directs.
A goat follows only its own lead, creating disunity when he comes in contact with others in the flock. Because of his independent nature, he often finds himself in contention with the Shepherd for leadership of the flock, leading some astray. A goat often eats things sheep would avoid because they have no value and cause sickness. 3
These are serious spiritual characteristics. The Church should identify with the sheep. My question to you is this; at the day of the General Judgment, who will you be identified with the Sheep/Church who God allows to enter into life eternal? Or the Goats/The Wicked who are cast into the Lake of Fire?
They profess that they know God: but in their works they deny him; being abominable, and incredulous, and to every good work reprobate. Titus 1:16