When we say we belong to a particular organisation, community or society, we mean that we are part of that organisation, community or society. Although we are individuals with different personalities, talents and idiosyncrasies, we share the same identity, values, mission and vision of the group we belong to. So what does it mean to belong to Christ?
Jesus said: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
“My sheep” refers to the church, the people of God, those who have the true spirit of discipleship. The name is given to his people because it was an illustration which would be well understood in a country abounding in flocks. Verse 26 suggests that there are some who do not possess the spirit of meek and humble disciples and hence do not belong to his flock. “Hear my voice” (Cf. John 10:3-4) means that they hear and obey his commandments.
“I know them, and they follow me” (Cf. John 10:14). A flock follows its shepherd to pastures and streams (Cf. John 10:3). Christians not only obey Christ, but they imitate him; they go where his Spirit and providence lead them; they yield themselves to his guidance, and seek to be led by him. When Jesus was upon earth many of his disciples followed or attended him from place to place. Hence, Christians are called his followers, and in Revelation 14:4 they are described as “they that follow the Lamb.”
Jesus told his disciples: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.” (John 12:26)
Those who serve Christ are considered his disciples or Christians. Perhaps this was said to inform the Greeks (Cf. John 12:20) of the nature of his religion. Christ’s disciples must follow him. They must imitate him; do what he does, bear what he bears, and love what he loves. He is discoursing here particularly of his own sufferings and death, and this passage has reference, therefore, to calamity and persecution. His disciples saw him enter Jerusalem in triumph, and supposed that his kingdom was to be set up without opposition or calamity; but it is not. Christ is to die; and if they will serve him, they must follow him even in these scenes of calamity; be willing to endure trial and to bear shame, looking for future reward.
“Where I am” (Cf. John 14:3; John 17:24). That is, he shall be in heaven, where the Son of God then was in his divine nature, and where he would be as the glorified Messiah. The natural and obvious meaning of the expression “I am” implies that he was then in heaven. The design of this verse is to comfort them in the midst of persecution and trial. They were to follow him to any calamity; but, as he was to be glorified as the result of his sufferings, so they also were to look for their reward in the kingdom of heaven, Revelation 3:21; “To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne.”
St. Paul told the Romans: “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9)
Believers may be chastened by the Lord (Cf. Heb 12:6), but will not be condemned with the world. By their union with Christ through faith, they are thus secured. What is the principle of their walk; the flesh or the Spirit, the old or the new nature, corruption or grace? For which of these do we make provision, by which are we governed?
The unrenewed will is unable to keep any commandment fully. And the law, besides outward duties, requires inward obedience. God showed abhorrence of sin by the sufferings of his Son in the flesh, that the believer might be pardoned and justified. Thus satisfaction was made to Divine justice, and the way of salvation opened for the sinner. By the Spirit the law of love is written upon the heart, and though the righteousness of the law is not fulfilled by us, yet, blessed be God, it is fulfilled in us; there is that in all true believers, which answers the intention of the law. The favour of God, the welfare of the soul, the concerns of eternity, are the things of the Spirit, which those that are after the Spirit are mindful. Which way do our thoughts move with most pleasure? Which way go our plans and contrivances? Are we most wise for the world, or for our souls?
Those that live in pleasure are dead (1Ti 5:6). A sanctified soul is a living soul; and that life is peace. The carnal mind is not only an enemy to God, but enmity itself. The carnal man may, by the power of Divine grace, be made subject to the law of God, but the carnal mind never can, and must be broken and driven out. We may know our real state and character by inquiring whether we have the Spirit of God and Christ, or not. “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.” Having the Spirit of Christ, means having a turn of mind in some degree like the mind that was in Christ Jesus, and is to be shown by a life and conversation suitable to his precepts and example. If a man is not influenced by the meek, pure, and holy spirit of the Lord Jesus, if he is not conformed to his image, if his life does not resemble that of the Saviour, he is a stranger to Christianity. No test could be more easily applied, and none is more decisive. It matters not what else he may have. He may be loud in his professions, amiable in his temper, bold in his zeal, or active in promoting the interests of his own party or denomination in the church; but if he has not the temper of the Saviour, and does not manifest his Spirit, it is as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
The above scripture passages attest that disciples of Christ (i.e. Christians) must follow him and have his Spirit. The words “my sheep” and “my servant” suggest ownership or a sense of belonging. In fact, St. Paul told the Romans that the presence or absence of the Spirit of Christ can be used to tell if someone belongs to Christ, or not. It is quite ironical for one to be baptised in the name of Christ, to eat his body and drink his blood, and yet not belong to him. Hence, we should allow the Spirit of Christ to dwell in us and to influence our thoughts, words and deeds so that we may truly belong to him.
Let the words of the song “Take and Eat” renew our hearts and minds so that we may truly belong to Christ, the Good Shepherd: