Question: "What did Jesus mean when He said, "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold" (John 10:16)?"

Answer: John 10:16 states, “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” (NKJV). Jesus made this statement during an encounter with religious leaders after healing a blind man (see John 9).

In the discourse, Jesus refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd and uses three separate analogies to convey essential truths to the leaders and those standing by. The first analogy is that His sheep will recognize His voice and follow Him (John 10:1–6). In the second analogy, Jesus emphasizes His authority as the only way anyone can come in, in contrast to the leaders who are “thieves” and “robbers” (verses 7–9). Then comes the third analogy where Jesus directly calls Himself the Good Shepherd (verses 10–14; cf. Psalm 23:1). Although these analogies are slightly different, they all relate to one concept: Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (see John 14:6). As if these analogies weren’t offensive enough to His Jewish listeners, Jesus had more to say. He declared that He had more followers besides those who were already with Him. There were other followers who had not yet believed, including Gentiles.

God’s salvation plan was progressive, beginning from Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” The pronoun he refers to Jesus, and although Satan “struck his heel” at Golgotha, Jesus crushed him on behalf of humanity (1 John 3:8; Hebrews 2:14–15).

A series of events occurred after the fall, leading to the selection of Israel as God’s chosen people through whom Jesus came to earth (Deuteronomy 7:6; Romans 9:5). The Jews viewed this selection as their national identity, so the inclusion of unclean Gentiles as “other sheep” must have come as an unpleasant surprise. After all, they expected the Messiah to deliver them from the Gentile Romans. However, Jesus was merely proclaiming what God had already revealed through the prophets (Joel 2:28; Zechariah 2:11; Isaiah 49:6). Scripture also hinted at the salvation of the Gentiles when God promised Abraham that “all the people of the earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3; cf. Galatians 3:8).

Some of the “other sheep” came when 3,000 Jews were saved in Acts 2:41. Samaritans and an Ethiopian eunuch joined the fold in Acts 8. Then the Holy Spirit led Peter to Cornelius, opening the door for Gentiles to come in (Acts 10). Thereafter, the Spirit chose Paul and Barnabas to take the good news to the Gentiles, a mission that sparked the spread of Christianity worldwide.

It has been over 2,000 years since then, and millions of the “other sheep” have come into the fold. In different continents, nations, tribes, and languages, many individuals have pledged their trust to Jesus and received His gift of salvation. Even in countries hostile to the gospel, believers still flourish. However, the work is not done yet. We are called to be witnesses of the gospel, and through our witness, Christ draws more of His sheep into His fold.