John, Chapter 17, Part 1

John 17:1 – When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…”

We have arrived at John chapter 17, one of the most sublime portions of scripture in the entire bible. 

Jesus has just expressed his parting thoughts to his disciples, reiterated his love for them, and given them numerous reasons to rejoice.  He now commits them into the protection and blessing of Father God through prayer. 

The prayer that Christ prays here was not just for the disciples; it is for every Christian in every generation, including you and me.  Let’s see what he had to say.

‘These words’ refers to the extensive teaching that Jesus had given to the disciples beginning at the Passover meal and concluding at the end of John chapter 16.  There is some difference of opinion about where ‘these words’ were spoken.  Some believe the entire conversation took place in the Passover room.  Others believe it took place as the group walked to the Garden of Gethsemane. 

In either case, scripture tells us that as Jesus began to pray, he lifted up his eyes to heaven.  Some scholars believe he did this to signify his reverence for God (whose throne is in heaven) and to denote his confidence that God hears and answers prayer.  According to them, it shows the Christian that help comes from God, not from the world.  Apparently, it was a common position of prayer back in that day (Luke 18:13).   

However, this position of prayer would be uncommon for us.  We tend to express reverence of God by closing our eyes and bowing our heads. 

Which way is correct?

The answer is both!  Jesus gave us a model prayer to follow (Matthew 6:9-13), but he never prescribed a particular position or place to pray.  You can pray standing up, sitting down, on your knees or lying on the floor.  You can pray with your eyes open or shut.  You can pray loudly, quietly or even silently (but keep in mind that spoken words carry power).  The key is getting alone to communicate with God.

Notice that Jesus prays directly to the Father.  The first thing he says is that his ‘hour has come’.  This refers to the appointed time of his suffering and death, which would result in his victory over Satan.  This is one more confirmation that Jesus laid down his life at a predetermined time; his life was not taken away from him at the whim of man.

Now that the time of his death had arrived, he prays that the Father will ‘glorify the Son’.  In other words, Jesus was asking Father God to manifest or display his power in Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension; this would prove to the world that he was truly the Messiah, the Son of God. 

In turn, Jesus (as the Son) would also glorify the Father.  His death honored both the Law and the mercy of God.  As men were reconciled to God through his blood, it glorified the Father.

The mutual glorification of the Father and Son did not end at the cross.  As the gospel spreads throughout the world by the will of Christ and the assistance of Holy Spirit, God continues to be glorified by the regeneration of each lost sinner.  

John 17:2 – “…since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”

This is a verse that we need to make sure we are interpreting correctly. 

Jesus acknowledges that the Father has given him authority over all flesh. 

There are some false teachers who claim that if God gave Jesus authority over all flesh while he was on the earth, it means that he did not have authority before, and thus he was not divine.  This is absolutely false. This verse does not speak of Jesus’ divine power as God, but of his power as the Mediator between God and man.

The entire human race was ‘given’ to Christ by his Father, so that he could procure salvation for all through his death:

Hebrews 2:9 – But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

(See also I Timothy 2:4-6, Romans 5:21, II Corinthians 5:14-15, Psalms 2:8, etc).  Thus, the entire human race is under the power and authority of Christ as Mediator; he has universal dominion over all things.  He has legislative power (power to make laws) as well as judiciary power (power to judge).

While his sacrifice purchased grace and forgiveness for every person, not everyone will voluntarily bow to his authority.  Those who place their faith in him receive salvation, while those who reject him will be judged at the end of this age.  

 John 17:3 – “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

God is the only source of eternal life; we must know him in order to receive this blessing. 

What does it mean to know God?

First, let’s talk about what it doesn’t mean.  It does not mean familiarity or simple factual knowledge.  For instance, I am familiar with actor Johnny Depp.  I know about his occupation, his love life, his income, his legal issues and much more.  But despite having factual knowledge about his life, I don’t know him – we have never met each other and we have absolutely no relationship at all.

In the same way, there are people who are familiar with or have factual knowledge about Jesus, Father God and Holy Spirit.  They may attend church and hear all about their activities, personalities and work.  These people may even read the bible on occasion or say some words of blessing over their food from time to time.  But despite being familiar with God, they don’t know him – they have absolutely no personal relationship with him. 

The fact is, the only way to truly know God is through the Mediator, Christ Jesus.

We were dead in our trespasses and sin; we had no means of having a relationship with God.  But then Jesus came to earth to make the Father known to us.  His final act on earth was to assume the office of Mediator by dying for our sin, so that our relationship to God could be restored. 

We know God by placing our faith the sacrifice of Christ for our sin.  Once we do so, we are in relationship with Father God and he gives us eternal life – but that’s not all!  Our relationship with God grows and flourishes while we are here on earth.  We can discover and experience the many attributes of God such as righteousness, justice, love and holiness.  We can know him as a parent, a friend, a king, a defender, a healer and a provider.  We know we are in a true relationship with him when we strive to obey his laws and yield our lives to his will. 

Furthermore, is important to know that he (the God introduced to us via Christ Jesus) is the only true God:

Isaiah 45:21 – Tell and bring forth your case; yea, let them take counsel together: who has declared this from ancient time?   Who has told it from that time?  Have not I the LORD?  And there is no other God besides me; a just God and a Savior; there is none besides me.  

All other gods are false; they are mere idols that cannot see or hear or save a man’s soul (Daniel 5:23, Revelation 9:20, Isaiah 2:17-21).

John 14:6 – Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me. 

Just as there is only one God, there is only one way to have a relationship with him – through his Son Jesus, our Mediator.

John 17:4 – “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

Jesus did indeed glorify God on earth.  He spoke only what the Father told him to speak, and he did only what the Father told him to do.  Everything he did was for the purpose of bringing glory and honor to his Father.

Jesus came to earth, preached to the Jews, gave irrefutable proof that he was the Messiah, called the apostles, taught them the doctrines of the new covenant of grace, and gave them his parting council along with the promise of Holy Spirit. 

The only thing left to do – the final accomplishment of his work – was his atoning sacrifice on the cross, which would occur in a matter of a few short hours.  After that, he would return to the Father in heaven, who was well pleased with all he had done.

So think about this for a minute… on the threshold of his death, Jesus could rightfully say that he had lived his life well – he had done all that God gave him to do. 

What about you and me?  Our culture doesn’t like to think about death.  We do everything we can to look and feel young.  We get teeth implants, we re-grow our hair (or dye what we have), we get plastic surgery, we exercise and we take all kinds of health supplements.  But despite all of our effort to stay young and vigorous, each of us will eventually die (Hebrews 9:27). 

What will you be able to say about your life on the threshold of your death?  Will you be satisfied with the things you pursued and the choices you made?  Will you be content with the way you spent your time and the status of your relationships?  Will you be able to look forward to eternity knowing that you accomplished everything that God gave you to do?

John 17:5 – “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

Jesus is divine; he and the Father (and Holy Spirit) are one and they have always existed for eternity.  Up until he came to earth, Jesus enjoyed the splendor and glory that was fitting for him as a member of the Trinity.  But for a short time (about 33 years), he humbled or emptied himself of his glory and took on a body of flesh (Philippians 2:7-8).   He now prays that God will restore him to the honor and dignity which he had before the incarnation. 

We can be assured that he has not only been restored to his former glory, he now has the additional honor of making atonement for sin and becoming our High Priest forever (Hebrews 6:20). 

His glory will not be hidden or kept secret.  The magnificence of his greatness and power which now exist in heaven will be displayed on earth at the appointed time; everyone will see it and everyone will be affected by it (Philippians 2:10, Zechariah 12:10).

John 17:6 – “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.  Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”

When Jesus says he has manifested God’s name, he means that he has revealed the attributes and character of God to mankind.  Man was able to discern a little bit of God and his divine nature by the works of creation.  He gained a little more knowledge of God through the Mosaic Law, but the full manifestation of God (his nature and attributes) came only through the revelation of Jesus.

Although Jesus ministered to many people, the full revelation of God was only given to the apostles.  These men were chosen by God from among the unbelieving Jewish nation (out of the world) to be the disciples of Christ and to spread the message of salvation throughout the world by their teaching, preaching and writings.       

John 17:7 – “Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you.”

Unlike the majority of the Jewish nation, the disciples are fully persuaded that Jesus has been commissioned by God to be the Messiah.  They believe that the doctrine Jesus taught, the miracles he performed and the authority he carried were all given to him directly from Father God.  

John 17:8 – “For I have given them the words that you gave to me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”

This explains how the disciples became fully persuaded that Jesus was teaching them the doctrines of God. 

Specifically, Jesus taught them only the doctrines he received from Father God (John 12:49).  These doctrines were pure; they did not contain the wisdom of man or any traditions of the elders. 

For their part, the disciples received this teaching into the fertile soil of their hearts where it took root and grew (Matthew 13:23).  Thousands of Jews heard the teaching of Jesus, but many of them had not prepared their hearts to receive the message, so the enemy was able to steal it from them.

The disciples also kept or continued in the words of Christ by obeying the doctrines they heard.  Jesus has already stressed the importance of obedience to his commands.   Obedience is one of the ways we demonstrate faith and love to Jesus.  As we obey his words, he abides in us and we abide in him, and Jesus further manifests himself to us (John 14:21-24).

The end result of all this is that deep down in their hearts the disciples are absolutely certain that Jesus came from God and that he is the true Messiah.  This does not mean that they fully understood the gospel, in fact, the opposite is probably true.  At that point in time their knowledge of spiritual truth was very limited and weak.  But even though they did not fully know/understand the message they still believed it was true.  They received the doctrines of Christ as divine truths, they obeyed his commands as divine laws, and they trusted in his promises as divine securities. 

Don’t forget, Jesus does not speak this only about the first disciples.  Believers in every generation (including you and me) have heard the word of God and allowed it to take root and grow within our hearts.  We too obey the commands of Jesus and abide in him; we too are fully convinced that he is the Messiah, the only Son of God.  In fact, we have assurance of this truth from Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16).

John 17:9-10 –“I am praying for them.  I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.  All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.”

‘Them’ refers particularly to the apostles that were called by Christ to be his special envoys on earth.  They were about to face some very intense trials and dangers; Jesus sought the protection and blessing of God on them so that they would be able to carry out their mission of preaching the gospel of salvation to the world (to the Jews first and later the Gentiles) and establishing the church. 

Jesus’ role as the intercessor did not end with the death of the apostles.  He continues to intercede on behalf of every believer in every generation that we too might experience the protection and blessing of the Father as we carry out the specific work he has give to us.

Notice that there is absolutely no disunity or competition among the members of the Trinity.  The Father, Son and Spirit are one in essence; they are equal in power and glory.  For this reason, all that belongs to God also belongs to his Son and Holy Spirit.

The scriptures declare that Christ redeemed us not only to himself, but to Father God as well:

Revelation 5:9-10 – And they sang a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation; and have made us unto our God a kingdom and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.  

In fact, everyone who receives salvation from Jesus is put into a covenant relationship with the Father – God considers them his children and they consider him to be their Father (Romans 8:15).  Covenant relationship is one of the chief foundations on which our prayers can rest (Exodus 32:11-13).

All of the benefits of salvation that Jesus purchased with his blood bring glory to the Father when they are bestowed upon man.  In return, God glorifies his Son by placing all things (including believers/the church) under the authority of Jesus.  

John 17:11 – “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.  Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”

Jesus is just hours away from being crucified.  Although his work on earth is almost done, he was not going to retire – he was returning to the Father and to heaven where he would assume the role of Mediator.  (Thankfully, He is also busy preparing a place in heaven for you and me [John 14:3])!

But for now, his followers will remain behind, to spread the gospel throughout the world.  In the midst of this, they will experience trials and temptations.  In addition, the wicked will hate and persecute them, just as they did Jesus.  Therefore, Jesus prays that God will preserve his followers by his divine power.  This is a prayer that God always answers; the whole Trinity is involved in supporting us here on earth:

– Our Father gives us everlasting love and all sufficient power.

– The Son gives us redemption and constant intercession. 

– The Spirit perpetually inhabits/dwells with us, giving us his constant influence, wisdom and leading.    

All of this leads us to an inescapable conclusion: as believers, we have not been set up to fail; we have the strongest assurance of victory in this life.  What a comfort to know that while we labor here on earth, God keeps his eye fixed on us; he watches over us and provides help and relief when we need it.

Psalm 121:2-4 – My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  He will not allow your foot to be moved: he that keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, he that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

(See also Proverbs 18:10, I Corinthians 10:13, II Timothy 4:18, Psalms 124, etc).  We are also set up to be inseparably united to God, just as Jesus is united to the Father and Spirit (Ephesians 4:2-6).

John 17:12 – “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me.  I have guarded them, and no one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”

Jesus was a faithful steward of all that God entrusted to him – including the people who served him.  While Jesus was in the world he perfectly shepherded his twelve disciples.  He preserved them from apostasy by his example, his instruction, his miracles and his presence. 

Although Jesus did not fail in any way, one of the disciples was ‘lost’ – Judas Iscariot.

Judas is described as the ‘son of destruction’.  The term ‘son of’ was used to describe someone who displayed the characteristics of the name or word which followed.  For example, Jesus refers to the religious leaders as sons of hell:

Matthew 23:15 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

In this example, the term ‘child (son) of hell’ means that the religious leaders had hellish characteristics – they were liars and hypocrites who pretended to serve God while their hearts were full of evil.

The term ‘son of destruction’ (your translation may say ‘perdition’) means one who desires and promotes complete loss, utter ruin/devastation/subversion; one who destroys or devastates; one who desires a state of damnation, future misery or eternal death.

Judas personified the spirit of destruction.  His crime (betraying Jesus) appears to be an attempt to devastate/destroy the entire human race by means of ‘destroying’ Jesus or causing him to fail which would result in the damnation/eternal death of us all. 

The point is that even though Judas was with Jesus outwardly, he never inwardly placed his faith in Christ.  He never accepted Jesus as the Messiah, despite being an eyewitness to all of the miracles he performed.  He did not believe in the gospel, despite hearing it repeatedly and in greater detail than others.  And once he sinned, he did not seek repentance or forgiveness, even though he could have obtained it at any time.  

Psalm 41:9 – Yea, my own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

It should be noted that even though scripture predicted the falling away of Judas, it was Judas’ own decision to reject Jesus.  He was not ‘forced’ to reject Christ simply to make the scriptures true; he had a free will choice, just as we all do.  Scripture simply foretold the decision Judas would make.

This is a tragic outcome, but not an uncommon one.  Even today we find people who go to church and profess to be Christians, but have never actually placed their faith in Christ as Redeemer.  To us, they seem to be followers of Christ, because we look on their outward appearance.  However, God can see their hearts (I Samuel 16:7). When they die, they will not inherit eternal life; they will be assigned a place in hell with their real father, Satan.

Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:

As we look at the state of our country – our culture, our schools, our government and our economy – we may be tempted to despair.  We may be tempted to think that Satan is going to gain victory over the entire world, despite the work of the church of Jesus Christ.  But let me give you some encouragement and relief – that will NEVER be the case!

God has NOT set us up to fail.  Jesus is the head of the church and he has never lost a battle.  He is going to make his church victorious over the kingdom of darkness: 

Matthew 16:18 – And I say also unto you… upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

When you are tempted to be discouraged by the evil around you, take your eyes off the enemy and place them back where they belong – on the promises and assurances of God Almighty. 

Instead of considering the power of the enemy, think about this:  God has given us all the weapons we need in order to prevail over Satan and his kingdom.  We have spiritual armor, we have God’s word, we have the keys to the kingdom of heaven, we have power and authority over demons/sickness, we have the power to bind and loose, we have the power of testimony and we have Holy Spirit living within us. 

In light of what God has given us, how should we be living our lives?  Should we be hiding in fear, or courageously take a stand for Christ in this generation? 

Don’t let the devil fool you – he is a defeated foe. 

Let me offer you some strength:

You can’t save the entire world and you will be overwhelmed if you try.  But what you can do is take action in the place where you are right now: 

Campaign for a position on the local school board or town council.   Run for mayor.  Get involved in antiabortion work. Support your local police.  Pray on the campuses of local schools and colleges.  Use your creative talents to bring Christianity into music and entertainment.  Use your social media influence as a platform for Christ. 

Do something/anything to get involved in taking our society back from the enemy and placing it under the authority of Christ!  It has always been God’s will for us to exercise authority over this world on his behalf, so get started today, in your own corner of the globe.  

Genesis 1:28 – And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.


John, Chapter 15, Part 2

John 15:9 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Abide in my love.”

As Jesus continues this heartfelt discourse with his disciples just before his death, he touches on the subject of love between the Father, Son and mankind.

This is a topic that even the best of writers, teachers and pastors could not ever hope to fully communicate.  The love of God towards us is so profound, so deep and so past understanding that it seems almost futile to try and write about it.  If you dwell on it too long, it almost blows your mind!

How can we understand (much less explain) a love so intense that the God of the universe was willing to give his own Son to die that our debt could be paid?  How can we explain a love so profound that the Son of God was willing to lay aside his glory, come to earth in a human body and subject himself to pain and humiliation to atone for sin that WE committed?  What kind of love allows Jesus to die at the hands of his own creation?

1 John 4:10 -In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

How can we account for a love that transcends all our faults and reinstates us as God’s children and heirs, instead of his slaves (or worse)? How fervent must God’s love for us be, if he guarantees each believer a place in his eternal kingdom?   How can we hope to grasp a love so ardent that it allows for mercy to a thousand generations (Deuteronomy 7:9)?

We can’t explain the love of God, but that is okay… I am just glad it exists!  It is always a reason to rejoice in the Lord and praise his name.   

Jesus begins by telling us that the Father loves him; he was/is God’s beloved Son (Mark 11:1).  Yet God also loved us – so much so, that he gave up his Son to deliver us from sin (John 3:16).  Even in his humiliation as he bore the curse of our sin, Father God continually loved Jesus, and Jesus continually loved the Father. 

John 15:10 – “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

This steadfast and unchanging love was due (at least in part) to the fact that Jesus kept every single one of his Father’s commands.  Jesus’ love of his Father was displayed in his obedience to all that the Father asked of him. The Father’s love and presence were always with Jesus because Jesus always did what was pleasing to Him.

Jesus goes on to reveal that he loves us the same way Father God loves him.  Therefore, the love and presence of Jesus the Son (in the form of Holy Spirit) is always with us whenever we endeavor to be obedient to all he has commanded us. 

Obviously, we will fall short in this regard, but as long as we are diligent and sincere in our service to Christ we don’t need to fear, because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us through his sacrifice on the cross (Romans 4:21-24).  Because of this, we are just as righteous as Jesus in the sight of God. 

So, by keeping his commands we please Jesus and continue to abide in his love.

As we just mentioned, Jesus loves us with an eternal and constant love.  We continue to abide/live in his love by keeping his commands.  This is true because obedience is the way we demonstrate our true love for him (see the commentary on John 14:21).

However, we want to make an important distinction:  We do not earn Christ’s love through works; works can never save us.

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The keeping of Christ’s commands is an outward proof of the love we already have in our hearts because we have placed our faith in him as our Redeemer.  It was his shed blood that redeemed us, not any works of obedience we might complete.

How do you feel about the concept of obedience?

  • Does it conjure up memories of doing things you hated, like being forced to clean up your room as a child? 
  • Or do you think of obedience as an obstruction that prevented you from doing certain things you wanted to do? 
  • Does it remind you of a time when you had to comply with worthless or inane tasks assigned to you by an employer?    

To be honest, obedience isn’t always fun.  The act of obedience implies that you have submitted to the authority of someone else, and most people don’t like to do that.  Most of us prefer to be our own ‘boss’ and do as we please.

In the spiritual realm, we are always under the authority and command of God (Father, Son and Spirit).  But God has something that our earthly parents/bosses don’t have… perfection!

Because God loves us with a perfect and unfailing love, we can be confident that placing ourselves under his authority/command will result in our good. 

Furthermore, scripture reveals that God places a very high value on obedience:

1 Samuel 15:22 – And Samuel said, has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

Jesus is our ultimate example of obedience to God.  He exhibited a perfect, sinless and willing submission to all of the requirements of his Father, including:

  • Setting aside his glory and coming to earth. 
  • Taking on a human body of flesh. 
  • Subjecting himself to the authority of his parents, Mary and Joseph. 
  • Fulfilling the law. 
  • Allowing himself to be rejected by the Jews. 
  • Gathering and training his disciples. 
  • Being tempted by Satan. 
  • Bearing the burden of our sin, which caused him to be cut off from the Father. 
  • Allowing mortal men to crucify him, etc.

The obedience of Jesus is based upon his love for his Father.  That love allows him to keep the Father’s commands, which in turn causes him to abide in his Father’s love.

In the same way, our obedience to Jesus is based upon our love for him.  Because we love Jesus, we keep his commands and as a result we continuously abide in his love.

John 15:11 – “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

‘These things I have spoken to you’ – Because of the way our study is designed, we have broken chapters 14&15 up into several sections.  But we must keep in mind chapters 14-17 were a single session between Jesus and the disciples.  So when Jesus says ‘these things’ he is referring to all that he had spoken to them in chapters 14 and 15.

These would include the promises of fruitfulness in the kingdom, the blessings of obedience, the victory of abiding in Christ as a branch, the gift of Holy Spirit and the boundless love of God.

‘That my joy may be in you’ – This statement is interpreted in different ways. 

It may refer to a joy that Jesus experiences.  In other words, the disciples’ obedience to their Christian duty is a continuous source of joy to Christ.  He rejoices/delights in the faith, holiness and obedience of his people.  His joy in us causes us to experience joy as well. 

Alternatively, it may refer to a joy that Christians experience as a result of being obedient to the commands of Jesus.  In this case, ‘my joy’ or the joy of Christ refers to a divine joy that Christ gives to the believer once he is redeemed from sin.  Once we are saved, Holy Spirit drives dread and anxiety away from our hearts and replaces it with divine joy.

‘Your joy may be full’ – In either case, we can rest assured that when the joy of the Lord abides in us, it will be a full, overflowing joy.  This kind of joy is not fleeting or temporary.  It is not based on our outward circumstances.  Since it is derived from a divine source, it never fails or passes away.  It can be yours no matter what your circumstances look like, or what trial you may be experiencing.

John 15:12 – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Love to God and our fellow man is fundamental to true religion; it is an integral part of both Old Testament Law and New Testament grace.  In fact, Jesus declared that all the Law and prophets hang upon love (Matthew 22:37-40, Mark 12:28-34). 

Paul gives us an amazing discourse on love in I Corinthians 13.  He teaches us that love is the greatest of all the Christian graces.  It is greater than speaking with tongues, the gift of prophesy and even supernatural faith.  It is even greater than all wisdom and knowledge.  Paul goes on to say that even though all of these gifts/graces are desirable and useful, they are as nothing without love:

1 Corinthians 13:2 – And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. 

As love is the highest expression of God to mankind, it must also be the highest expression of man to his Creator and to his fellow man.

Can we be honest for a minute?  Loving our fellow man may be the most difficult command Jesus gave us!  Our fellow human beings are often selfish, disgusting, idiotic, lazy, irritating, cruel, evil or just plain mean.  Sometimes they make bad decisions, do the wrong thing, or ‘throw us under the bus’.         

But once again, our example must be Christ.  We must show others the love which he exhibited towards us.

Jesus loved us before we loved him.  While we were still separated from God, wallowing in the filth of our sin, Jesus loved us.  His great love was evident when he agreed to die for us, so that we could be reunited to the Father.  His love was evident when he took a severe beating/lashing so that we could be healed in every regard – physical, mental and emotional (Isaiah 53:5, I Peter 2:24).

Likewise, we should love others, even when they don’t love us.

Jesus loves us unconditionally.  Regardless of what we have done in our past or what we will do in the future, he still loves us.  As long as we sincerely repent of our sin, he will forgive us. 

In light of what Christ has done for us, can we do any less for our fellow man?  If Jesus has forgiven us, can’t we forgive others, and in so doing reflect the love that God has for them?

John 15:13-14 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Life is the most valuable thing we possess.  We will do anything to preserve it (Job 2:4).  Therefore, the highest expression of love is to lay down your life for another person.

We have people in our society that take this risk every day, such as policemen and women, firefighters and soldiers to name a few.  Thankfully, they are always prepared to protect and serve us. 

But what we don’t ordinarily see are people of great rank and power prepared to die for others.  For instance, the president does not routinely put himself in harm’s way for a fellow citizen.  In fact, the opposite is true – he has secret service people ready to die in order to protect him.

When viewed from this perspective, the love and sacrifice of Christ is all the more astonishing. 

  • He is a part of the living Godhead, incarnated in human form (Matthew 1:18-23). 
  • He was the co-creator of the world along with the Father and the Spirit (John 1:1-3). 
  • He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16). 
  • He is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22). 
  • He has a name above every other name, and a time will come when every knee shall bow before him (Romans 14:11). 

Even though Christ is infinitely greater than we are in every way, he was still willing to sacrifice himself for us.  There is no greater love than this (John 3:16)!

With the love of Christ as an example, the disciples must be willing to put their lives in jeopardy in order to spread the gospel message to the uttermost parts of the world.  History tells us that all but one of the disciples (John) was martyred for his faith in Christ.

But the mandate to show the love of God by laying down our lives did not end with the disciples.  It continues even today.  According to the group Open Doors USA, roughly 5600 Christians were murdered, more than 6000 were detained and another 4000 were kidnapped for their faith in 2021.  That is an average of about 15 martyrs each day, worldwide. 

When we love others as God commanded us (and Jesus demonstrated for us), God considers us his friend.    

John 15:15 – “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

Up to this point, Jesus had referred to his followers as servants (John 12:26, Matthew 10:24-25).    

Servants are people who labor under the command of another.  Because they are not of equal rank with their master they are not normally acquainted with the plans, wishes, councils or desires of their commander.  They are not taken into his confidence.   

Friends, however, are different.  Friends are intimately acquainted with each other.  Friends will often take other friends into their confidence and reveal their plans, goals and desires.

Jesus has treated his disciples as friends.  He has shown them the plans of the Father concerning his Messianic office (his death, resurrection, ascension, etc).  He explained to them that Holy Spirit would shortly come to comfort and guide them.  He has assured them that he will go to prepare a place for them and subsequently bring them to heaven.  He has revealed to them the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:11).

Furthermore, the life of Jesus was a full disclosure of the Father; Jesus told his disciples that anyone who knew him also knew the Father (John 14:9). 

Having treated the disciples as friends, it only makes sense to give them the title as well.  We might say that all Christ’s disciples are his servants and all his servants are his friends.   

Interestingly, after his resurrection, Jesus further elevates his friends to the position of brothers/sisters:

John 20:17 – Jesus said unto her [Mary], Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

See also Hebrews 2:9-13.

John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

‘You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you’ – Jesus reminds the apostles that they had not chosen him to be their teacher; he had chosen them to be his disciples.  He set them apart to preach the gospel and help usher in a new dispensation of grace to the world.  This honor was not due to their own merit, but to his grace and mercy.   

This knowledge should spur the disciples on to execute their Christian duties faithfully and diligently.

Jesus has also chosen you and me to accomplish specific tasks and perform good works for his kingdom.  We too were chosen by the grace of God, not because of any merit or skill on our part.  In fact, God sometimes chooses us for certain tasks specifically because we are NOT as qualified as someone else.  This allows his glory to shine through us in an even greater measure. 

This knowledge should encourage us to do our best in performing our Christian duties, no matter what they may be.  

‘That you should bear fruit and that your fruit should abide’ – Jesus has already set up his followers to be successful in his kingdom.  They will not fail.  They will preach the gospel, God will confirm the message with signs and wonders, and Holy Spirit will bring conviction which results in salvation.  Thousands will accept Christ as savior and become ‘branches’ grafted into the ‘vine’ of Christ.  Eventually they will also bear fruit. 

The work of the disciples will not wither and die – it will be everlasting fruit.  

‘So that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you’ – In order for us to be successful/fruitful in the kingdom of God, we are going to need assistance and resources.  We have direct access to everything we need through Jesus.  All we need to do is ask the Father in Jesus name (see the commentary on John 14:13-14), and the Father will provide it.  

John 15:17 – “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.”

Jesus has been very clear on this point – mutual love among Christians is demanded above all other things.  Love is the essential characteristic of the new kingdom. 

John 13:35 – By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.

The hidden love of the Father was manifested towards us in the love of Christ.  Now we must pour that love out upon our Christian brothers and sisters.  This witness of the love of God will draw others into the kingdom.

Love for one another will also ensure the unity of believers.  Division is a lethal weapon in the hand of Satan – if we are at odds with each other, then the house of Christ is divided and it will not stand (Mark 3:25).

Sometimes love does not come easily – it must be a choice.  Through the strength of Holy Spirit, we can choose to love the family of God, and please our Lord.        

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Today’s post centers on the theme of God’s love.  His love for us is absolutely unexplainable and incomprehensible.  It is far deeper and more intense than we can imagine on this side of eternity.  I suspect we will only know the fullness of it when we stand in his presence. 

The idea of his boundless love should encourage our faith while bringing us peace and joy.  Why not let his love be the basis of your praise and worship this week? 

Let me offer you some relief:

Satan would love for you to believe that God does not love you, or that he loves others more than you.  He would also like you to believe that God’s love for you is conditional – that it is somehow tied to your performance in life.  These concepts are absolute lies!

God loves you completely, totally and perfectly.  We should never, ever, ever doubt the love of God for us.  And since God never changes, neither does his love for us, even when we fail.  When those times of failure do come, let’s run to his love and forgiveness knowing that he wants to restore us. 

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus says that the greatest demonstration of love is to lay down your life for someone else.  We generally take this to mean dying as a martyr for your faith, and all of us should be willing to pay that price, if asked.  Through the strength of Holy Spirit, I believe we could.

However, there are other interpretations of ‘laying down your life’. 

Think of it this way:  What is the most precious commodity in this world? 

Answer:  Time. 

Each of us has a certain preordained amount of time to live upon this earth.  No matter how rich we become, we can’t buy more.  Neither can we beg, borrow or steal it.  Furthermore, we can only spend our time once.  There are no refunds, exchanges or ‘do-overs’. 

Therefore, to spend time in prayer interceding for the salvation of another person (or nation) is essentially laying down your life for them.  You are sacrificing your time for them, which you can never receive back. 

You and I may never be asked to die as martyrs, but we still have the opportunity to lay down our lives for our friends – through prayer, fasting and other intercessory activities.




John, Chapter 10, Part 1

John 10:1 – Truly, Truly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.

As we discovered in chapter nine, the Pharisees had essentially drawn a ‘line in the sand’ at this point. 

The Pharisees considered themselves to be the spiritual leaders or pastors of the Jews.  They ardently opposed Jesus on the grounds that he was not commissioned to be a teacher of the Jews.  Because they did not commission Jesus, they considered him an imposter or false teacher (regardless of all signs to the contrary).  Therefore, in their minds, the Jews should reject Christ and continue to blindly follow their spiritual leading.

In opposition to their perverted lie, Jesus gives the Jews a parable which describes both true and false shepherds.  The parable contains many different truths; we are only going to unlock a few.  As you study and meditate on the parable, ask Holy Spirit to reveal further truths to you.    

Because parables are natural stories that illustrate spiritual truths, we should begin by examining the role of a common shepherd back in the days of Christ.  In general, they:

  • Lead their flock into pastures suitable for grazing.
  • Lead their flock to fresh water, which is critical for the life of the sheep.
  • Watch over the sheep and defend/protect them from any predator attacks.
  • Search for any lost sheep which has wandered away from the flock.
  • Bind up or heal any injuries the sheep may suffer.  

Likewise, God has provided spiritual shepherds for his people.  We call them pastors (Ezekiel 34:1-19).  In general, they:

  • Lead their flocks into the word of God, which is spiritual food. 
  • Introduce their people to the works of Holy Spirit, which are critical in the life of every believer.  Holy Spirit is often compared to water in the scriptures (Acts 1:5).
  • Act as spiritual defenders of their congregations.  They protect their people from false doctrines and warn them about spiritual attacks.      
  • Seek out people who are drifting or wandering away from the Lord and try to lead them back into relationship with God.
  • Bind up spiritual, physical or emotional wounds or hurts the people of their congregation may suffer. 

With that background in mind, let’s begin to look at the parable.  Jesus begins his teaching by mentioning the sheepfold.  A sheepfold is a roofless pen or enclosure made in a field where sheep are gathered for the night.  The purpose of the sheepfold is to keep the flock together and to protect/defend them from robbers or predators.

As evening fell, the shepherds would lead their flocks to this pen.  Multiple flocks would often enter the same sheepfold.  Once it was full, the door would be secured and an under shepherd would stand guard all night long. 

In the morning, each shepherd would come, the door would be opened and he would call for his sheep.  Since the sheep recognized his voice, they would leave the pen and follow the shepherd.

What spiritual parallels does this parable show us?  In general, we can say:  

  • The sheep represent individual Christians. 
  • The flock or fold refers to the Jewish people collectively. 
  • Jesus also speaks of having another flock/fold which would be the Gentiles. 
  • Jesus is both the door and the head shepherd. 
  • The thieves and robbers are those who illegally occupy the office of shepherd/pastor.

What spiritual truths does this parable reveal?   

First of all, Jesus gives us a word of warning.  He reveals the presence of thieves and robbers.  Again, these are people who illegally occupy the office of a spiritual shepherd (pastor).

One example of a thief/robber would be a pastor who was never called/commissioned by God.  In other words, this person simply decided that becoming a pastor was an acceptable occupation, so they acquired a degree and applied for the job.  Further, we find that these people do not have God’s heart for his flock; consequently they will always lack a sincere regard for the spiritual growth and edification of the people under their care.  They will not be genuinely concerned about the salvation of the lost, or the honor of God.    

Another example of a thief/robber would be any pastor who teaches that salvation can be obtained without the blood of Christ.  Sadly, this was the position of many of the Pharisees and other religious leaders during the days of Christ.  They believed and promoted the idea that the Jews would find salvation because:

  • They were physical descendants of Abraham. 
  • They were God’s covenant people. 
  • They kept the law. 

Obviously, none of those things would result in salvation for the Jews.  Therefore, when the Pharisees did everything in their power to keep people following them instead of Christ, they were operating as thieves and robbers. 

It is interesting to note that the Pharisees and other religious leaders were, well, religious!  They wore religious clothes, recited prayers, read the scriptures, gave alms and attended the synagogue.  However, none of these things could save them.  Only the blood of Christ could do that!   

A true Christian certainly does religious things, but their outward actions are the result of the internal salvation they have received from Christ.  External works can never produce an inward change of the heart that leads to salvation.    

John 10:2-3 – But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the gatekeeper opens.  The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  

In contrast to the thieves and robbers, there is a single head shepherd, who has the legal right to open the door of the fold.  Spiritually speaking, who is the head shepherd?  How does he obtain the legal right to open the door?

The head shepherd is the highest spiritual authority of mankind (both Jews and Gentiles).  In order to claim this authority, the person had to:

  • Fulfill all of the legal conditions established by God in the law and the prophets. 
  • Be perfectly obedient to God’s will at all times. 
  • Accept the role of a servant. 
  • Live by every word that proceeded out of the mouth of God. 
  • Be a true shepherd, willing to lay down his life for the sheep. 
  • Set aside his heavenly glory and take on the form of a man. 
  • Come to earth to seek out God’s lost people. 

In short, only the Messiah could be the head shepherd or highest spiritual authority over mankind.  Only the Messiah had the legal right to open the door of the sheepfold.

Psalm 23:1 – The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.      

So at this point, the Jews had to stop and ask themselves a question. 

Was there a person who fulfilled all of the requirements of the law, who demonstrated himself to be approved by God and to whom God therefore gave access to the spiritual lives of his people?

YES.  That person was Jesus.  He perfectly fulfilled the Law.  The hundreds of miracles he performed demonstrated that he was commissioned and approved of God.  And despite the hindrance of Rome, the lack of mass communication in that day and the interference of the Jewish leaders, God granted Jesus access to the spiritual lives of the Jewish nation. 

As Jesus delivered the gospel message, Holy Spirit anointed every word that came from his mouth.  This anointed word had the power to activate faith in the heart of everyone who heard it, which in turn led them to accept salvation.

Thus, those who believed in Christ heard his voice and followed him into a fresh, new and exciting pasture:  The age of grace! 

Psalm 23:2 – He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.

It is also true that the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) appoint or commission men and women in every age to act as pastors/under-shepherds for Christ.  They are charged with the spiritual well being and care of those in their congregations, which is a huge responsibility.  But God provides them with everything they need for this task, especially a portion of his own heart for people:  

Isaiah 40:11 – He [the Lord] shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.

To be commissioned by God to be a pastor over part of his world-wide flock is both a great honor and a heavy responsibility.  So if you appreciate your pastor, let him or her know!  Take a moment to tell them how much you value their service and how they have impacted your life.  Please also thank that person’s spouse, because they make lots of sacrifices for the congregation too!   

John 10:4 – When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.

It was customary for the shepherd to take a position at the head of the flock and lead them into desirable pastures, clear water, etc.  Each individual sheep would follow him because they recognized his voice.  They were familiar with his voice because they spent time in his presence each day. 

The same is true for us.  Jesus assures us that he speaks to each and every one of us, and we have the capacity to hear him.  How does the Lord speak to you?  Is it through dreams or visions?  Is it through his word?  Is it through worship?  Is it with an audible voice, or perhaps an inward confirmation in your spirit? 

Again let me stress that Jesus himself says that each and every one of his children has the capacity to hear his voice.  So if we find that we are unable to hear what God is saying to us, we urgently need to correct that problem.  How can we do that?

Here is one common method for training yourself to hear the voice of God:  Begin by spending a few minutes in praise and worship. Focus your mind on God, shutting out the affairs of daily life.  Then, pray and ask Holy Spirit to speak to you through his word.  Next, get out your bible and begin to read the scriptures, pausing to meditate on them, and allowing time for Holy Spirit to speak to your heart/mind.  It won’t be long before you recognize the voice of God as he speaks to you.  The more you do this, the more familiar you will be with the voice of God, until you can hear him quite clearly.  The more time you spend in his presence, the easier it becomes to recognize his voice.

If you are one of the people who hears from God in dreams or visions, you should consult some reliable Christians who are skilled in dream interpretation, so they can assist you in understanding the way God speaks in dreams.    

Regardless of how God speaks to you, one of the keys to hearing him is to spend time in his presence listening, instead of doing all the talking!  

John 10:5 – A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.

Sadly, there will always be false teachers who try to draw true believers away from Christ.  In the book of Acts, Paul warned the elders of the church at Ephesus of this same danger:

Acts 20:28-30 – Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood.  For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

Jesus issued a similar warning to his followers (Matthew 7:15-16).  He also tells us that we can identify these false teachers. 

One way to do that is to look at the fruit in their lives.  Is it good fruit, or evil fruit?  

Another way to identify a false teacher is to compare their teaching with scripture and look for inconsistencies. 

Holy Spirit will also warn you against false teachers.  Have you ever been listening to a preacher or teacher and Holy Spirit nudges you that something doesn’t seem right?  Have you ever felt uneasy in your spirit as you listen to some people?  If so, you need to pay close attention; Holy Spirit is giving you a warning.     

John 10:6-7 – This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.  So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”

As we pointed out earlier, the sheepfold only has a single door.  This indicates that there is only one way for the sheep to reach the safety of the fold.  Jesus plainly tells us that he is that door.  We are immediately reminded of some other words of Jesus:

John 14:6 – Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me.  

The meaning is crystal clear: Jesus is the door to the kingdom of heaven.  In order to enter the kingdom, you must go through him; there is no other way.  His shed blood is the only legal means by which your sin can be purged and you can be reconciled to God.  Scripture confirms that there is no other name under heaven whereby man can be saved (Acts 4:12).

John 10:8 – “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.”

Who qualifies as “all who came before”? 

‘All’ is used in the popular sense; it denotes the great mass or majority, not necessarily every single one.

Those ‘who came before’ does not refer to the true prophets of God.  Rather, it means anyone who came pretending to be a pastor or spiritual guide to the Jewish people.  It is probable that Jesus was referring to the Scribes and Pharisees of that day.  They claimed to be instructors/pastors of the people, but their only true goal was to elevate and enrich themselves, while oppressing the people.

Jeremiah 23:1-2 – Woe be unto the shepherds that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the LORD.  Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds that feed my people; You have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, says the LORD.

As true Christians we don’t need to be overly concerned about false pastors, because we should be able to spot them fairly quickly.  However, there is another facet of this statement that we should consider.

If a false pastor has not been commissioned by God, then what grounds does he or she minister on? 

The fact is, the only foundations they have to build upon are their own talents, strengths and wisdom.  And no matter how much they know or how talented they are, human abilities are a poor substitute for the strength and wisdom of Holy Spirit.  Therefore, anytime a person ministers under their own strength, they are essentially robbing the flock.

Now, stop and consider that for a moment – was there ever a time in your ministry that you operated on your own strength or wisdom?  Was there ever a time you implemented a program without consulting Holy Spirit because you thought it was a good idea?  My guess is that the answer is ‘yes’ for most of us.  This means that at some point, we robbed people of the full blessing God wanted to give them at that time. 

I don’t know about you, but I consider that a very sobering thought.  Let’s keep this in mind as we minister in the future.     

John 10:9 – “I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Again, any person who goes through Christ to obtain salvation will be saved.  He or she will have their sins blotted out, their soul purified and their name written in the Lamb’s book of Life (Revelation 20:12-15).

The phrase ‘going in and out’ is a common Hebrew phrase which denotes the comings and goings of daily life.    

The meaning is that in the course of the daily life of a Christian, they safely go about their business always able to come and go to the refuge of Jesus when storms or dangers approach.

Psalm 23:3-4 – He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.   

For his part, Jesus will lead and guide us into communion with himself, the Father and Holy Spirit.  He will provide every good thing that we need in our lives as well as many wonderful things we don’t!  We never have to fear the evil one, for our Father is vastly greater and more powerful than Satan!      

John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

The goodness and abundance that God has bestows upon his people are contrasted with the actions of the false teachers/pastors. 

These ‘wolves’ are in the church to promote their own interests at the expense of the spiritual lives of the people.  They seek their own honor, as well as the riches and fame of the earth.  They do nothing to assist their flock in experiencing true spiritual life and goodness.  Once they steal the sheep’s allegiance to Christ, they have destroyed them spiritually and the sheep is in danger of eternal death. Again, this more or less describes many of the Scribes, Pharisees and priests during the time of Christ.         

Jesus, however, never brings death or destruction to his people.  He brings life – only God can take a valley of dry bones and make them live again!  

And when the church (and we as individuals) is made spiritually alive, it is not just a ho-hum boring existence.  Jesus has come to bring us abundance! The original Greek word for ‘abundantly’ denotes that which is NOT absolutely essential to life.  In other words, it stands for things that are added on top of the essentials to make life happy and blessed.  He truly fills our cups until they overflow!

Psalm 23:5 – You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.   

If the only thing Jesus provided for us was deliverance from hell, we couldn’t complain (although we probably would).  But that is not the case:

  • Jesus has generously given us and overflow of eternal joy, peace, love and life. 
  • We have endless opportunities to know God more. 
  • We can come into his presence at any time.   
  • We enjoy greater and deeper spiritual blessings than anything experienced by those who lived prior to the incarnation, including Adam and Eve! 

Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

And this is just the beginning…eternity with God will be even better!   

Let me offer you some encouragement, relief and strength:

Many people live under the false impression that God is stingy and cruel.  They picture him as an angry disciplinarian who is just waiting for them to make a mistake, so he can punish them. 

Don’t buy into that lie of the enemy!  Let me assure you, nothing could be further from the truth! 

Jesus died on the cross just to save you.  If you were the only person on earth who needed salvation, he still would have done it. 

Scripture tells us that it is God’s will/desire for every single person to have salvation (I Timothy 2:3-4).  When you do accept him, he becomes a caring, loving Father and companion.  He guides you, provides for you and watches over you.  He greatly desires to have a unique relationship with YOU!

Go ahead and read Psalms 23 one more time – it oozes with the love that Jesus feels for you!  




John, Chapter 9, Part 1

John 9:1 – As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.

At the close of chapter 8, we found Jesus leaving the temple after a serious confrontation with the Jewish leaders.  He was essentially escaping from the Jews who were ready to stone him for blasphemy. 

The question is, how much time elapsed between the last verse in chapter 8 (Jesus left the temple) and the statement here in chapter 9 (as he passed by)? 

Some people believe that Jesus encountered the blind man immediately after leaving the temple.  While this is possible, it would hardly create a ‘cooling off’ period where the Jewish religious leaders had a chance to calm down (remember, they wanted to stone Jesus).  It is much more likely that Jesus left the temple and went directly to the Mount of Olives, where he stayed the night.  This was his customary ‘hang out’ when it was not safe for him to stay in Jerusalem. 

Common sense dictates that Jesus reentered Jerusalem the next day and he encountered the blind man ‘as he passed by’ on his way to the temple.  In fact, scripture reveals that it was common for beggars to be placed near the temple gates, where there was a steady stream of Jews going in and out (Acts 3:2); the man was obviously well known as a beggar to the Jews in that district (John 9:8).  

Back in that day, there were no social programs to assist this man and there were no opportunities for him to earn a living.  That being the case, he probably began begging at a very young age.  His parents probably led him to the temple gates each morning and led him home each evening.  He spent YEARS at or near the exact same location crying out for mercy from those who passed by.  Now he was no longer a child; he was an adult with no hope for the future.  What a pitiful and miserable existence!     

The apostle John stresses that this man was not blind due to an illness or injury.  He had not lost his sight through the normal course of the aging process.  He had been blind from birth.  His blindness was incurable by any known human means. 

John 9:2 – And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Scripture teaches that all of the sufferings in the human race are a direct result of sin.  We could say that sin is the fountain head or source of all human suffering.  Once Adam and Eve opened it, there was no going back.  The fountain of sin/suffering will never run dry – it will continue to relentlessly flow until this world ends. 

Suffering can be classified into three separate categories: punitive, redemptive and collateral.


Some suffering is punitive – it pertains to punishment for sinning or breaking a law.  For example, in the natural realm, if you kill someone you can expect to be pursued by the police, arrested, tried and punished if found guilty.  The suffering you experience would be punitive in nature; you are being punished for breaking the law. 

The same is true in the spiritual realm.  If you choose to break God’s spiritual laws or direct commands, you can/will experience some suffering.  One example of this can be found in the book of Jonah. 

God gave Jonah a direct command – go to Nineveh and preach a message of repentance (Jonah 1:1-2).  But Jonah chose to ignore God and take off for Tarshish.  Of course, we all know what happened – he suffered in the belly of a big fish for three days.

The children of Israel are another good example.  God led them to the Promised Land, but they refused to go in.  As a result, they were forced to wander in the desert for 40 years while that entire generation perished.  They endured some pretty severe suffering. 

Another example, more common in our day, would be to break God’s marriage laws.  God has ordained that sexual relations take place in only one context – marriage between a man and a woman.  Any other kind of sexual encounter is breaking the spiritual law of God.  The suffering that results (disease, broken homes, children without fathers, financial ruin, emotional scarring, etc) can be devastating.   


Some suffering is the result of God’s eternal wisdom.  This is something you may not have considered before, so let me explain.  God is not adverse to allowing you to suffer if it will be for your eternal good and/or his glory. 

Keep in mind that this earthly world is not our true home.  God’s plan is to have us join him in the kingdom of heaven and live there with him forevermore.  So if some type or some amount of suffering will greatly benefit us in the future realm, God will certainly allow it to happen.  I am personally convinced that once we are in heaven, we WILL be able to see/understand that some of the suffering we endured on this earth resulted in eternal benefits for us.     

Let’s look at some biblical examples.  The apostle Paul suffered in many ways.  We know that he had something he described as a ‘thorn in the flesh’, which was a type of suffering.  However, he goes on to tell us that God allowed this suffering in his life for his own good; to keep him from pride, which would result in his downfall:

2 Corinthians 12:4, 7 – How that he [I, Paul] was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

This suffering served an eternal purpose in the life of Paul – it kept him humble and allowed him to finish the race that God had called him to run.  As he ran that race, he continued to earn eternal rewards.  Without it, he may have fallen into the sin of pride and perhaps have missed the kingdom of heaven altogether.   

At other times, God allows us to suffer in order to build up some characteristic or fruit in our lives.  For example, Joseph spent 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  This suffering was a way of cultivating both faith and patience in his life.  It was a form of training for some of his future duties.  It transformed him from a spoiled boy into a humble man.  He learned to listen to the voice of God and trust him to guide the way.  His suffering matured and shaped him as a leader, preparing him for his ultimate purpose in life – saving the nation of Israel and many other people as well. 

God also allows us to suffer in this life to bring glory to himself, which always results in the salvation of sinners.  A prime example of this is the death of Lazarus, which we will study in greater detail very soon.  In the meantime, lets again look at the life of the apostle Paul.    

In Acts chapter 16 we find that Paul and Silas cast a demon out of a young girl in Philippi.  This resulted in her masters demanding that Paul and Silas be punished.  The authorities arrested Paul and Silas, publicly whipping them without a trial, then placed them in chains in the deepest and darkest part of the prison.  As they lay there suffering, they sang praises to God, glorifying his name.  All of the prisoners heard them (Acts 16:25). 

At the midnight hour, God sent an earthquake which shook the very foundations of the prison and set all of the prisoners free.  As a result, the jailer prepared to commit suicide because he knew he would be killed if the prisoners escaped.  But Paul intervenes, explaining that all of the prisoners were still there.  He and Silas then get a chance to preach to the jailer: 

Acts 16:29-30 – Then he [the jailer] called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas …and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

Subsequently, the jailer and his entire family receive salvation (Acts 16:34).  In other words, God allowed Paul and Silas to suffer, which resulted in his name being glorified, which led to the salvation of many people.


Finally, there is suffering that is neither punitive nor redemptive.  It is simply the result of living in this fallen world.  Think of it as collateral damage due to sin. 

For example, many years ago my parents experienced suffering when their house caught on fire.  The entire inside of the house was ruined and they lost many treasured possessions. 

So far as anyone could tell, there was no punitive or redemptive basis for their suffering.  It was simply collateral damage – because we live in a fallen world, electrical circuits sometimes fail, allowing fire to burn and travel inside walls until it reaches combustible material. 

Or perhaps you are one of the many people in Ohio who have slipped off the road in icy conditions and damaged your car.  Unless you can identify another basis for it, it is probably collateral suffering.

Before we go on, we definitely want to consider another very important topic – our response to suffering.


It is no secret that all of us have suffered at one time or another.  One of the most important parts of suffering (regardless of what kind) is your response to it.

If you have broken one of God’s (or man’s) laws, and you are suffering for it, your best bet is humble repentance.  Admit what you did, and ask God to forgive you.  Then seek to remedy your situation.  When Jonah was vomited out onto the beach, he immediately went to Nineveh to preach.  If you are in an unlawful sexual relationship, either break it off or make it right. 

If you find yourself in the midst of redemptive suffering, be sure that all of your words and actions glorify God.  What would have happened in that Philippian jail if Paul and Silas sat around grumbling about the unfairness of their recent beating instead of glorifying God?  Or more importantly, what would NOT have happened – perhaps the jailer and his family (and their future generations) would never have found salvation.     

There is no doubt that this can be difficult to do, especially if you don’t yet see the results that your suffering will bring about.  You can always ask Holy Spirit to reveal his plan to you and to let you see the fruit you are bearing for the kingdom.  But the bottom line is that you must trust God.  You must have faith that what he is asking you to endure has an eternal purpose. 

Collateral suffering always provides you an opportunity to witness about the goodness of God.  Yes, the house burnt down or yes, the car was damaged.  But you still have many reasons to give God the glory for what happens in your life.  Let your attitude and words reflect the goodness of God in every situation.  

John 9:3 – Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

In this instance, we don’t need to speculate about what kind of suffering this man endured.  Jesus plainly tells us that it is redemptive suffering (it is not punitive as the disciples believed); so we know that God will be glorified in it,

Jesus says that the works of God will be displayed in this man.  This refers to the mercy and grace that God will demonstrate when he physically heals this man, brings him to salvation and demonstrates his love/power to the Jewish nation.

It is interesting to note that the Jews pity this man, because they can see what he cannot.  While that may have been true in the natural realm, it was not true in the spiritual realm.  All of us (including the Jews) were born into sin; we are spiritually blind (Romans 5:12).  Unless the infinite mercy and grace of God touches our lives (as it did this beggar), we will never understand the truth of salvation and we will die in our sin.

John 9:4 – “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

In this verse, ‘day’ refers to the time appointed to work (Psalms 104:22-23).  Jesus only had a short time (approximately 3 1/2) years) to accomplish the work which his Father sent him to do.  Therefore, he pursued his work vigorously and tirelessly, never passing up an opportunity to carry out his mission.  He was always aware of the limited time he had on earth. 

Jesus knew that eventually ‘night’ or death would come to him.  After that time, his earthly ministry as the Redeemer was over. 

This is a great reminder for all of us.  We too, have only a limited time on earth.  If we are going to engage in ministry, we should not delay; we should vigorously pursue every opportunity that comes our way.

John 9:5 – “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

In John 6:35, Jesus declared that he was the bread of life.  This was a spiritual truth that he demonstrated by physically feeding 5000 men (plus women and children) from just five small loaves and two fish. 

In John 11:25 Jesus declares to Martha that he is the resurrection and the life.  He demonstrated this spiritual truth by physically raising Lazarus from the dead. 

Now Jesus is declaring that he is the light of the world.  He will demonstrate this spiritual principle by removing the physical darkness of the blind man, and allowing him to see.  Jesus is revealing himself as the one who has come to shine the light of salvation into the darkened minds of mankind. 

Now that Jesus has returned to heaven, we are his representatives, shining his light into a dark world.     

John 9:6-7 – Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva.  Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.

This healing consisted of two distinct parts. 

One, an act of divine power on Christ’s part:  Jesus healed people in many different ways.  This one is most unusual – he spit into the ground, made clay and smeared it on the eyes of the blind man.

Scholars have put forth numerous theories about why they think Jesus healed in this way.  For instance, one theory interprets the clay as being symbolic of the dust of the earth from which man was created.  The thought would be that Jesus was able to exercise the same creative power that was evident in the beginning at creation.  Therefore, he is God. 

Another theory asserts that Jesus used spittle simply because there was no other water source nearby. 

Others feel that Jesus healed in this manner to show that there is no ‘secret formula’ in healing.  There may be some truth to that.  Let’s face it – if Jesus had used this method to cure all the blind people in the bible, we would be trying it too! 

Although Jesus’ reason for using clay/spit in this miracle may be ‘clear as mud’, the outcome is crystal clear – the man was healed of his blindness. 

Two, an act of faith and obedience on the man’s part:    

After Jesus smeared the mud on this man’s eyes, he told him to go and wash off the mud in a specific pool of water.  Think about that for a minute.  This guy would have needed to find a family member or friend to lead him to that pool because he couldn’t see the way there himself.  Neither did he know the purpose behind the command.  Why that pool?  Obviously, the water itself had no miraculous powers or someone would have taken him there sooner.  Why wash in the water at all?  What was the purpose? 

Jesus gave him this command in order to test his faith and obedience. 

We find this pattern over and over in the scriptures. 

  • Naaman the leper – Elisha commanded him to go and dip himself in the Jordan seven times (II Kings 5:10).  After the seventh dip, he came out fully restored.
  • Widow of Zarephath – She and her son were starving during a famine.  Elijah told her to gather sticks and make a cake/bread for him first, even though she only had enough supplies for one final meal.  She obeyed, and her supply of oil and meal miraculously lasted until the end of the drought.
  • Peter – He needed money to pay the temple tax.  Jesus told him to go and catch a fish.  When he did, he found a coin in the mouth of the fish (Matthew 17:27).

The bottom line is that God often requires that we take a step of faith and obedience, even when it may not make any sense to us in the natural realm. 

Here is something to keep in mind: if you are praying for a miracle of some kind, you should expect to be given a task that shows your obedience and faith.  Holy Spirit is standing by to speak to you; he will tell you what you need to do.  So if you hear his still small voice, or if he speaks to you in a dream or through a word of knowledge, I suggest you do as he commands without delay!     

 John 9:8-9 – The neighbors and those who had seen him before as a beggar were saying, “Is this not the man who used to sit and beg?”  Some said, “It is he.”  Others said, “No, but he is like him.”  He kept saying, “I am the man.”

After he returns home fully healed, the people of the town are astonished.  They are so surprised and confounded that they literally don’t believe their eyes!  They go so far as to ask each other if they are mistaken in what they see – is this really the blind beggar who sat at the entrance to the temple every day? 

As for the man, he is happy to proclaim to anyone and everyone that he was indeed blind, but now his sight has been restored.

John 9:10-11 – So they said to him, “Then how were your eyes opened?”  He answered, “The man called Jesus made mud and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’  So I went and washed and received my sight.”

Here we find yet another important spiritual principle:  Testimonies are powerful, because they give hope and increase faith.

This man’s testimony certainly captured the attention of his neighbors and friends.  They knew he was not a person of any importance; he was just a beggar.  So if God was willing to heal him, He would heal anyone!  Thus, faith is built up in the lives of the hearers.  If it is built up enough, they will be able to receive a miracle themselves.

His testimony wasn’t just about healing, either.  The Jews had long believed that only God could miraculously heal.  So if Jesus was healing (and this testimony certainly confirmed that), then Jesus must be the Son of God, the true Messiah.  Therefore, his doctrine/teaching should be fully received and obeyed.

Thus, the testimony of healing also draws people to salvation in Christ. 

What was true for the former blind man is true for us as well: our testimony is a powerful weapon because it gives hope and raises faith in anyone who hears it.

Revelation 12:11 – And they overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.    

What has God done for you lately?  Whatever it is, don’t keep it to yourself.  Proclaim it far and wide and give him the glory for it.  When you do, you are helping others to overcome the obstacles that Satan has thrown in their way.

John 9:12 – They said to him, “Where is he?”  He said, “I do not know.”

What was the motivation of the people who asked this question?

  • There were some who truly wanted to connect with Jesus and learn more about what he had to say.  They were ready to consider that he was the long awaited Messiah.
  • There were also some who were probably asking out of idle curiosity.  They viewed this miracle as an entertaining distraction; something that would amuse them.
  • And some were the bitter enemies of Jesus.  They wanted to know his whereabouts so they could arrest him for once again breaking the Sabbath, as we will see in our next post.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

 Miracles have two parts: your part and God’s part.  God is always ready, willing and able to fulfill his end of the bargain.  Many times he is waiting for us to quit praying (or begging) and take the step/action that he has revealed to us.  So… no matter how strange it may seem, get up and do what he told you to do!  

Let me offer you some relief:

Suffering touches the life of every single individual on planet earth.  But let me offer you some relief – we don’t walk alone through suffering.  Jesus is right there with us; he sticks closer than a brother.  He has also given us brothers and sisters in the body of Christ who can comfort us in our suffering.  They can listen to us, encourage us, hug us, cry with us, cook for us and even make us laugh.

Jesus uses us to comfort each other.  So if you hurting, reach out to another Christian who loves you.  If you aren’t suffering right now, then look for someone else who needs comfort. 

 Let me offer you some strength:  

We noted that the testimony of the blind man was a very powerful weapon.  According to the book of Revelation, our testimony, coupled with the blood of Christ, allows us to overcome our enemy. 

If you have a testimony, do the rest of us a favor and share it!  It will strengthen our hope and faith, so that we too can overcome the evil one.

John, Chapter 8, Part 2

John 8:12 – Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus just finished dealing with the woman caught in adultery.  He quickly and completely shut down the plan of the Pharisees to ensnare him in a controversy that could have potentially ended his ministry and/or his life.

At the same time, he shows the mercy of God to the woman who deserved death (according to the law).  He forgives her sin and sends her on her way with the command to sin no more. 

This shows that Jesus doesn’t just teach with words; he teaches by example.  This is one of the attributes that makes him a good leader.  Anyone can talk about forgiveness or mercy, but Jesus shows us how to shower these blessings on a confused and desperate world.    

To start with, we note that Jesus did not immediately condemn this woman, even though she was guilty of sin.  He did not embarrass her in front of the crowd, nor did he pound his fist on the ground and tell her she was going to hell. 

Why is that?  For one thing, those who are caught in the web of Satan have an immediate need for mercy/grace, not judgment. 

Mark 2:16-17 – And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with tax collectors and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?  When Jesus heard it, he said unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Many Christians, perhaps unwittingly, decide which sins they will accept in other people and which sins they will not.  For example, there are Christians who are willing to forgive people who have an addiction to alcohol, but they immediately condemn and dismiss a person who is addicted to drugs.  Some Christians are willing to support women and men involved in an adulterous relationship, but they turn their backs on people who are confused about their gender.     

In God’s eyes, sin is sin.  ALL those who are caught in Satan’s snare are in need of God’s love.  When dealing with the lost, we should follow the example of Jesus as he dealt with the woman caught in adultery – he demonstrated the love and grace of God without affirming her sin or life choices.  

This is a powerful key in relating to the lost.  Most of them are expecting judgment from you, so when you show mercy it tells them something is ‘different’ about you. This opens the door for you to share the gospel message.

Once Jesus had shown her the mercy of God, then he privately addressed the issue of her sin.  For us, it is best to establish a solid relationship with the lost before we approach the topic of their sin.    

Jesus then reaffirms that he is the light of the world.  As we discussed in John chapter 1, nothing on earth would survive without the light of the sun.  The same is true in the spiritual realm – none of us could live spiritually without the Son.  It is our privilege to give the world a glimpse of spiritual life in Christ.

Here is something interesting to consider:  Although the woman in John chapter 8 saw the light of Christ while in the temple, that is NOT true for most people, because the vast majority of sinners aren’t attending church.  For most of them the only glimpse of Jesus they will get is the one they see in you. 

Let me repeat that:  For most sinners, the only glimpse of Jesus they will get is the one they see in you.  

Therefore, it is imperative that the light of Christ is shining brightly in our own lives (Matthew 5:16).  It is essential that we offer his love and grace to the lost.  Jesus has done his part – he shed his blood so we could be set free from sin.  Now we need to do our part and show that grace to those who need it most.  

John 8:13 – So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” 

When Jesus declares to the religious leaders that he is the light of the world, they immediately oppose him. 

As we have discussed in earlier studies, the Law required two witnesses for a testimony to be accepted as true.  Since Jesus is testifying about himself, the Pharisees reject his testimony as false.

However, they are spiritually blind.  All Jews believed that only God could work miracles.  Since Jesus was working miracles by the hundreds, God was surely confirming that Jesus was the Messiah. 

John 8:14 – Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.”

Jesus responds by basically saying he is an exception to this rule. 

The law demanded two witnesses because men are sinful and they often speak from a spirit of pride or falsehood.  In other words, human beings will lie or deceive to gain an advantage or to make themselves look good.  But Jesus is not a mere man.  As the divine Son of God, he never promotes himself or his own agenda.  He says and does only what the Father has commanded him.  Therefore, this law doesn’t really apply to him (John 5:30-32).

Furthermore, Jesus points out that his testimony is true because he fully knows and understands that he came from heaven at the command of God.  He also fully knows and understands that after he has been crucified and resurrected (completed his mission) he will once again return to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.

No other man on earth could possibly confirm these facts, because no one on earth had seen or witnessed Jesus as he lived in Heaven with Father God and Holy Spirit.  Consequently, none of them were qualified to pass judge the testimony of Jesus. 

John 8:15-16 – “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.  Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.”

There are two ways to perform judgment – by the flesh or by the Spirit.

To judge according to the flesh is to judge according to appearances, preconceived opinions and/or prejudices.  This was exactly how the religious leaders judged Jesus. 

For example, the Jews believed that the Messiah would come as a conquering hero, who would immediately defeat their enemies and set up a kingdom that rivaled the ‘golden age’ of Israel under David and Solomon.  As such, he would obviously be rich and powerful.  Because Jesus did not fit their preconceived ideas, they rejected him as Messiah.  They judged according to the flesh.

We know that when Jesus came to earth as our redeemer, he did not come to judge/condemn the world, but to save it.  Yet even if he did (and he one day will), his judgment would be fair, true and impartial because he judges by the Spirit.  To judge with the guidance of Holy Spirit is to judge righteously (Psalms 72:2) – according to the facts and the motivations of a man’s heart: 

1 Samuel 16:7 – But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.           

Unlike the Pharisees, Jesus has the right and authority to pass judgment because he is no ordinary man.  He is the divine Son of God, sent by the Father.  Since he and his Father are in complete agreement, their testimony/judgment is true (two witnesses).    

John 8:17-18 – “In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.  I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”

Once again Jesus shows that he has come to fulfill the law, not to abolish it.  There are indeed two persons who agree about his testimony – he and his Father.

As he mentioned earlier, Jesus’ testimony of himself is credible/true because he knows where he came from (heaven) and where he is going (into the presence of the Father and Spirit).  No man on earth could confirm this testimony, but that’s okay; it is accredited by a much higher source – Father God.

The Father had indeed testified to the divinity of Jesus in several ways including audibly at his baptism (Matthew 3:17), through fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy (Zechariah 9:9, Micah 5:2, etc) and through the performance of miracles. 

The same is true for any judgment Jesus makes – it would not be an individual judgment but the judgment of two witnesses because he and the Father are in agreement on all things.  This was discussed at length in our study of John chapter 5.

John 8:19 – They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?”  Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father.  If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

There can be no doubt that the Pharisees asked this question in a spirit of mockery and spite, because they were well aware that Jesus was referring to God when he spoke of his Father.  We can even picture them pretending to look around for Joseph as they asked it. 

By ridiculing Jesus, they have also mocked and rejected the very God they claim to serve.  If you were Jesus, how would you deal with these people?  Perhaps your reaction would be similar to mine – I would probably call fire down from heave to consume them!

But Jesus does not allow them to stir up his anger.  Instead, he ignored their contempt and gave them a righteous response – if they will listen to his instruction, and receive him as the Messiah, then they will know his Father. 

The fact is, no man can approach God unless the Messiah (Jesus) makes a way for him through his blood.  Consequently, anyone who rejects Jesus has rejected their only path/avenue to find God.  The Pharisees did not seem to grasp this concept, no matter how many times Jesus taught it to them!

Once again, we find Jesus teaching us by example.  Do we respond righteously when we are mocked or ridiculed for our faith?  We are definitely called to do so:

2 Timothy 2:24-26 – And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose them; if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

The apostle Paul admonishes us to respond righteously, as Christ did.  We are to consider the lost as captives of the devil, snared by his evil schemes.  We are to have compassion for them as a shepherd has compassion for a lost sheep. 

Paul cautions us not to strive with them, but to answer them gently and patiently so they can escape the deadly snare of the enemy.  If Jesus can ignore the taunts of his enemies, can’t we do the same?   

John 8:20 – These words he spoke in the treasury, as he taught in the temple; but no one arrested him, because his hour had not yet come.

The treasury was a part of the temple where the sacred offerings were collected.  It was within the court of the women.  Scholars tell us it held 13 chests or collection boxes – one for each tribe and one that only women were permitted to use for offerings.  It was a much frequented place; we can safely infer that the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees was witnessed by a large group of Jews.  But strangely, the religious leaders did nothing to stop Jesus.

Think about what a remarkable miracle this really is.  The religious leaders held immense power and influence in the Jewish nation, especially in the temple.  They had the authority to permanently banish people from the temple with a single command (John 9:22).  Yet, we find Jesus constantly teaching in the temple and they do nothing to stop him!  Furthermore, they had already decided to kill him, but he continues to teach while they stand by and allow him to speak!   

Clearly, God protected Jesus and restrained Satan so that mankind could hear the gospel message.  Eventually, Jesus would die for us, but only at the time appointed by God.

Let me offer you some encouragement and relief:

God had an appointed time for Jesus to finish his ministry by dying on the cross and then rising again.  If you think about it, the same is true for you and me.  God numbered the days of our earthly existence before we were ever born (Psalms 139:16).   He established a plan/purpose for our lives, just as he did with Jesus. 

So let me give you some encouragement and relief – Satan may hate you, but he cannot cut your life short unless God allows it.  Stay close to God, and let your light shine for Christ.  He will make sure you are able to complete all the good works God ordained for you to do. 

Let me offer you some strength:

The religious leaders mocked and taunted Jesus, but he never allowed them to bait him into an angry response.  Instead, he answered them righteously and revealed the truth of the gospel to them. 

We need to follow the example of Christ in this area.  The first step in this process is seeking the help of Holy Spirit, who can give us the strength and wisdom to avoid these traps. 



John, Chapter 6, Part 3

John 6:30 –So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?  What work do you perform?”

The crowd who ate the loaves and fish followed Jesus across the sea/lake to Capernaum.  They caught up with him at the temple, where he was teaching. 

At that time, Jesus told them to seek food that endures to eternal life.  This spiritual food was available from the Son of Man, who has been ‘sealed’ or commissioned by Father God to be the bread of life and provide eternal life to all who believe in him. 

The people respond by asking for a sign or miracle which proves Jesus is the Messiah and that has been ordained by Father God.

How do we explain this strange request in light of the recent miracle of the loaves and fish? 

The answer lies in the fact that this new request is being made in the temple setting.  The crowd no longer consists of just those from across the sea who at the loaves and fish.   It also includes other Jews from Capernaum as well as the temple rulers.

As for the crowed that ate the loaves/fish and acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, they were thinking of Jesus in terms of our present physical life.  They expected the Messiah to be a leader who would overthrow Rome, restore Israel and provide them with a happy and comfortable existence here on earth.  This was the Messiah they were willing to accept and support.

But Jesus rebuffs their attempt to make him an earthly Messiah and subsequently informs them that his kingdom is not physical, it is spiritual.    

Just as earthly life depends upon earthly food, spiritual life depends on spiritual food.  The Messiah has come to provide spiritual food by fulfilling/completing the ceremonial law and replacing it with the gospel.  Through the plan set forth in the gospel message, the Messiah will become the spiritual bread which sustains eternal life.

This plan was a serious issue for the religious leaders of the day.  So the request for a sign most likely came from the rulers of the temple.  Despite the miracle of the loaves/fish (which they were no doubt aware of), they were demanding further proof/confirmation that Jesus was the true Messiah, because only Messiah had the authority to set aside the law and establish new religious doctrine. 

The conversation that takes place in the next few verses may well have occurred between Jesus and the religious leaders, with the crowd watching.

John 6:31 – “Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Not only do they ask for a sign of confirmation, they disparage the miracle of the loaves and fish by comparing it to the manna given to their forefathers.  Their basis is found in the book of Psalms:

Psalm 105:40 – The people asked, and he brought quail, and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.    

In essence this is what they are saying:  The law came through Moses, and his message was confirmed by God who gave manna or ‘bread from heaven’ to millions of Jews, every day, throughout their wilderness journey of 40 years. 

This is a greater miracle than Jesus feeding a single meal to a crowd of five thousand men plus women and children.  If Jesus is the Messiah, and he wants us to believe his message, it must be confirmed with a greater sign than the miracle of the loaves and fish.

John 6:32-33 –Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Again, the Jews are focused on the physical bread of this life (manna) and again Jesus patiently redirects their focus to the spiritual realm.

The true ‘bread from heaven’ is not manna.  Manna is simply another form of physical food which God provided for Israel to sustain their physical lives as they wandered in the wilderness.  It had no spiritual power; it could never preserve the soul from death.

Furthermore, manna did not come from ‘heaven’ as in the third heaven and throne room of God (II Corinthians 12:2-4).  Manna came from ‘heaven’ as in the first heaven, meaning the air and clouds of Earth’s atmosphere.

The true ‘bread from heaven’ is spiritual food which results in eternal life; it saves the soul from eternal death.  God provided this true bread through his Son Jesus, who came down to earth from the third heaven.  God gives the bread of heaven to the entire world – not only Jews, but Gentiles as well.

The phrase ‘bread of heaven’ is full of deep meaning: 

  • Since Jesus is the ‘bread from heaven’, the Jews can be assured that he is divine, because heaven is the dwelling place of God. 
  • Since Jesus is the ‘bread from heaven’ the Jews can be assured that Jesus has been with God from the beginning (John 1:1) and that he was present and assisted in the creation of the world (John 1:3). 
  • Since Jesus is the ‘bread from heaven’, the Jews can be assured that he possess all power, because heaven is the seat of all power and authority.
  • Since Jesus is the ‘bread from heaven’ the Jews can be assured that Jesus has a divine commission from the Father to bring them the gospel message.  

These Jews are either ignorant or stubborn when they esteem Moses greater than Jesus.  Moses was simply a servant of God, while Christ is the Son (Hebrews 3:5-6).

John 6:34-35 – They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

Does this request seem at all familiar to you?  The phrase ‘give us this bread’ is very similar to the words of the woman at the well, who said, ‘give me this water’ (John 4:15).  This indicates that, like the woman at the well, these Jews are beginning to receive spiritual understanding. 

They are starting to realize that manna was not the true bread of heaven as they previously believed.  They begin to consider the possibility that God has sent them a better kind of bread. 

In the remainder of this exchange Jesus proceeds to reveal himself to the crowd and show that the blessings they hoped to receive were contained within himself and therefore they could only be obtained by belief in him.  

In fact, the person who receives Christ and believes in him as the atoning sacrifice for sin will be perfectly satisfied spiritually.  He will be free from the misery, guilt and burden of sin.  His soul will be purified and reunited with God.  He will enter into true rest and joy with God.  He also finds solace, strength and victory in this life.

Sadly, this is where the similarities between this crowd and the woman at the well end.  While the woman believed in Jesus and was satisfied, this crowd rejected Christ and went away spiritually unsatisfied/dead.

John 6:36 – “But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.”

Jesus now goes on to chastise these Jews.  He notes that they have ‘seen me’.  Of course, Jesus is not talking about physically seeing him in the flesh, he is speaking in spiritual terms.  He is saying that the crowd saw or perceived that he was the Messiah.  They were witness to his power.  They saw that Father God had confirmed his ministry with miracles.

It is not a lack of evidence that causes them to reject Christ and his gospel.  They have chosen to be spiritually blind.  But despite their rejection, the work of Jesus will not be in vain.

John 6:37 – “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  

Although some people will reject him, Jesus has been guaranteed by the Father that his labor will not be in vain.

Isaiah 53:11 – He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Jesus promises that all who come to him will be accepted and cleansed by him.  Notice how boundless and wonderful the mercy of God is – NOTHING you have done is so bad that it cannot be forgiven! 

To ‘come to him’ simply means to believe on him.  To believe implies that we recognize our need/sin, we have confidence Jesus can help us and we are ready to trust and submit to him. 

But just as in the case of this crowd, Jesus never forces anyone to accept him.  The Spirit of God touches us offering to do a work of faith and repentance in our lives, but it is still our choice.  All who accept are saved.  Those who prefer the path leading to death are free to travel that road, although God will constantly reach out to save them.   

The phrase ‘cast out’ literally means ‘thrust out of doors’.  The reference is of a person in deep poverty and distress who, in desperation, knocks on the door of a nobleman’s house in order to get relief.  Rather than being cast out, he is welcomed into the house.

In the same way, Jesus assures us that when we knock on his door seeking relief, he will not shut the door in our face; he will kindly and lovingly welcome us into his kingdom no matter how sinful and vile we may be.  In fact, he not only forgives our sin, he welcomes us as brothers and sisters and makes us children of his Father.  

John 6:38 – “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

This is a confirmation of the preceding statement, that we do not seek Christ in vain.

Jesus assures us that he came to earth to do his Father’s business.  He came as an agent of God or what we might call an ambassador.  He came from the kingdom of heaven to settle the affairs between the great Creator and all of creation.  The scope and purpose of his whole earthly life was to glorify God and to do good to men.

Therefore he never considered his own ease, safety or comfort.  When the time came for him to lay down his life, he did so willingly.

John 10:17-18 – Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.  No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.

Of course, we know that the Godhead is in perfect unity at all times.  The will of Jesus was identical to that of the Father; he too desired for men to be redeemed. 

John 6:39 – “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”

In other words, Jesus is not there to just introduce us to salvation, he is with us every minute of every day until we finish our earthly course.  He guards our salvation until the final day – the Day of Judgment.

This is the will/desire/intention of God and as such, we can be sure that it will be done because Jesus is faithful and he has been given all power in heaven and on earth to accomplish his Father’s will.

The last day is also known as the Day of Judgment.  On this day, all of the dead will be raised.  Their bodies will be changed and reunited with their spirits.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 – Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

This is the comfort and hope of every Christian – someday Jesus will defeat the final enemy – Death (I Corinthians 15:54).  Our sinful flesh will be transformed and we will live with the Lord forever!

John 6:40 – “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Salvation consists of two parts.  There is the gift of God, which was Jesus the Son, our redeemer.  This is a free gift which God offers to every single person, because it is his will that none perish, but all come to a saving knowledge of the Lord.  However, he will not force his will on us.

This brings us to the second part of salvation, acceptance of this free gift by each individual.  In order to accept salvation, we must recognize our sin, and place our faith in his atoning work.  This assures us of eternal life.  At that point, Holy Spirit will come to dwell in our hearts and begin the life long process of sanctification.    

Let me offer you some encouragement, relief and strength:

We see over and over again in the New Testament that the Jewish leaders chose spiritual blindness.  They were unable to accept the fact that God was doing something new in their midst.  As a result, they missed out on the amazing things God wanted to do in them, through them and for them.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on any of the blessings of God. 

So I encourage you today to look at your own life, or ‘wine skin’ (Mark 2:22, Luke 5:37-38).  God has promised an epic, world-wide, end time harvest of souls.  But we can be sure it won’t occur as it has in the past, because God never repeats himself.  He is always doing something new.

Isaiah 43:18-19 – Remember not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  

Let’s be honest – the lost of this generation are different from generations past.  Basic beliefs in Christian values no longer exist.  If we want the fires of revival to ignite and burn, we must be willing to follow where Holy Spirit leads us, how he leads us and when he leads us. 

The good news is that if we are willing (if we do NOT choose spiritual blindness), Holy Spirit will lead us into victories that we can’t even conceive of right now.  As long as we follow his leading, we don’t need to worry about failing because he will make sure we are victorious.  We don’t need to worry about having enough strength/endurance for the task, because he will be our strength.  With him, we cannot fail.

Here are some things to consider this week: Are you ready and willing to accept a new and different move of God in your life and ministry?  Are you ready to leave your current spiritual comfort zone?  Are you in a position to hear Holy Spirit speaking to you and to act on his instructions?  Are you willing to seek Holy Spirit involvement/gifts in your life?

John, Chapter 4, Part 1

John 4:1-3 – Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.

In chapter one, we saw that the religious leaders (particularly the Pharisees) sent representatives to question John the Baptist about his religious activities.  We noted that the Pharisees were very zealous for the Jewish religious rites.  They would never allow any changes to Jewish worship except by authority of the Messiah or a prophet. 

After interviewing John the Baptist, they determined that he was not Elijah, a prophet or the Messiah.  Therefore, his ministry of baptism was unlawful.  I am sure they did everything in their power to stop him from baptizing, particularly after he confronted them about their own need for repentance (Matthew 3:1-12). 

In chapter three John testified that Jesus was the Messiah, and he encouraged all people (even his own disciples) to follow Jesus.  Soon, Jesus had even more followers than John.   This would have been a substantial number, because ‘all Jerusalem, Judea and the region around the Jordan’ turned out to hear John (Matthew 3:4-6).  Jesus taught them about the kingdom of heaven and his disciples baptized them in water. 

Can you imagine how irritated the Pharisees would be when they discovered the growing ministry of Jesus?  In their minds, Jesus would be the second unlawful teacher and baptizer in their midst.  Just as in the case of John the Baptist, his ministry drew their own followers away, diminishing their influence and authority among the Jews.

Don’t forget that about this same time, Herod had John the Baptist arrested and put in prison (Matthew 4:12, Mark 1:14, Luke 4:14).  This would actually have increased the followers of Jesus even more, as those who formerly followed John now followed Christ.       

Worse yet (according to the religious leaders), many Jews believed this man Jesus was the Messiah.  But according to their way of thinking, Jesus couldn’t possibly be the Messiah they were expecting.  Therefore, he was an enemy of Israel who was leading people away from their true teachers (themselves). There can be no doubt that the Pharisees would confront Jesus and seek to take his life in order to protect their own religious authority.

So, when it comes to the attention of Jesus that the Pharisees are aware of the extent of his ministry, he simply leaves Judea and heads for Galilee.  By doing so, he avoids a premature confrontation with them. 

This is one example of how Jesus was in control of his destiny on earth.  He was not going to allow himself to be imprisoned or hindered from spreading the gospel; he needed to be free to complete his mission.  At this point, no purpose would be served by provoking the Pharisees, so simply leaving/avoiding confrontation was the right thing to do.

Mary and Joseph followed the same strategy when Jesus was a baby (Matthew 2:13).  Jesus advises us to do the same, if we need to (Matthew 10:23). 

There is a difference of opinion among scholars about exactly how Jesus became aware of the knowledge of the Pharisees.  Some maintain that Holy Spirit revealed it to him.  Others believe that a person (possibly one of John’s former disciples) found out and simply relayed the information to him. 

Either way, the point is that Jesus exercised wisdom in how he dealt with those opposed to the gospel message.  There were times for confrontation and times to simply withdraw.

John 4:4 – And he had to pass through Samaria.

What do you recall about Samaria?

Originally, Samaria was the name of a city in ancient Israel.  It was founded by the wicked king Omri around 925 BC.  Omri made it the capital city of Israel, and he built a temple of Baal there (I Kings 16). 

The city was not a particularly peaceful place.  It was besieged (several times), destroyed, rebuilt and even renamed.  It is important to note that by the time Samaria is mentioned in the New Testament, it no longer refers to a specific city, but to the region or district where the city had been located.

Who did the Samaritans descend from? 

Well, Samaria was originally part of the nation of Israel.  As we would expect, the people who lived there were Jews.  However, in 722 BC when the Assyrians conquered Israel, they really mixed things up.  They resettled the best of the Israelites in Assyria.  Only the poorest and least desirable people were left in Israel (including Samaria).  Then, to avoid the land becoming uninhabitable, the Assyrians brought in foreigners from other conquered lands and forced them to settle in Israel/Samaria.  Over the course of time, the Jews who were left intermarried with these foreigners.  The people born from the union of the Jews and these foreigners were called Samaritans.

What did the Samaritans believe?

During New Testament times, the Samaritans considered themselves believers in the God of Israel, however, their religion had become corrupted: 

The Samaritans only believed in the Pentateuch, rejecting the Psalms, the law and the prophets accepted by the Jews.  Also, their version of the Pentateuch was slightly different than the one used by the Jews. 

The Samaritans were looking for a ‘Taheh’ or ‘restorer’ who was more of a teacher than a Messiah.  The Jews, however, were expecting a deliverer/Messiah who was a warrior/king. 

The Samaritans believed that Abraham had offered Isaac as a sacrifice on Mount Gerizim.  But Genesis 22 says that event occurred on Mount Moriah which is in Jerusalem.

The Samaritans taught that Melchizedek appeared to Abraham on (you guessed it) Mount Gerizim and they also taught that that when the Jews came to the Promised Land, they were to set up an altar of worship at Gerizim.  This was false; the altar was to be set up on Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:4-5).  As you may recall, mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal were the mountains of cursing and blessing as mentioned in Joshua 8:30-35. 

Basically, the Samaritans considered Mount Gerizim to be the most sacred place on earth.  However, the Jews considered Jerusalem to be the most sacred place on earth, because that was where the temple or dwelling place of God was located and it was the place where God had chosen to manifest his glory. 

In fact, when the Jews returned from Babylonian captivity and began to build the temple, the Samaritans asked to help.  The Jews refused, and the hatred between the two groups never ceased (Ezra 41-5, Nehemiah 4:1-3).  For example, the Samaritans ended up building a temple on Mount Gerizim, which the Jews destroyed in 130 BC.

The worst insult a Jew could give someone was to call them a Samaritan.  For their part, the Samaritans were just as hostile; even after seeing the power of Jesus they refused him entrance to their district once they found out he was bound for Jerusalem (Luke 9:35).

So we see that these two groups despised one another because each felt the other had polluted/corrupted the Jewish religion.  By the time Jesus walked the earth, tensions had existed between the two groups for hundreds of years.  (Kind of sheds a new light on the parable of the Good Samaritan, doesn’t it?).

Their hatred of each other was so intense, that the Jewish leaders refused to even pass through the district of Samaria.  Consequently, a trip from Jerusalem to Judea (which took 3 days if you went through Samaria) would take these men 7 days, because they would skirt Samaria and travel through Peraea. 

Now… notice that this verse says Jesus HAD to pass through Samaria.  This cannot mean that there was no way around Samaria, because we already know there was – the route through Peraea. 

John is referring to something else here –The Father had work for Jesus to do in that region.  That is why Jesus had to pass through Samaria, and this is correct explanation of this verse.

Thus we find that the purposes of God over rule the wickedness of man.  The Pharisees had driven Jesus to Galilee with their malice, but God used that occasion to bring the first fruits of the Gentiles into the kingdom of heaven!

In the same way, you and I find ourselves in this world but not of it.  Some Christians go to great lengths to avoid rubbing shoulders with the world (much like the Pharisees).  But let me ask you this – if you never associate with the lost, how can you show them the love of Christ?  If you never go to a movie, or a concert, or pass out candy on Halloween, how do you expect to minister to the lost?  Let’s be honest – they are not flocking to church to hear the message.

Jesus did not hesitate to interact with the women of Samaria.  He met her where she was.  He treated her with respect and had honest communication with her, yet at the same time he did not approve or condone her false religious beliefs.  He spoke the truth to her in love and won her into the kingdom. 

This is an excellent example to us.  We need to interact with the sinners around us, meeting them at their spiritual level.  We need to treat them with respect, but without approving their sin or their false religious beliefs.  We need to be with them, to reveal the truth of the gospel when the time is right.

Being clothed with the whole armor of God and being in close fellowship with Holy Spirit will allow us to successfully minister to the lost without falling into the same sins they are practicing.

John 4:5 – So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

Passing into the district of Samaria, Jesus comes to the town of Sychar.  This town was formerly known as Sichem, or as you may recognize it, Shechem (Genesis 33:18, 12:6).  It is located approximately 40 miles north of Jerusalem.  It is mentioned several times in the Old Testament.

Shechem was located in the territory of Ephraim (Joshua 21:21).  This was the place where Joshua gathered all Israel together before his death, to renew the covenant with God (Joshua 24).  After the death of Gideon, Shechem became a seat of Baal worship (Judges 9:46).  It was eventually destroyed by Abimelech (Judges 9:45) and rebuilt becoming the residence of King Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:25).  It was eventually destroyed and rebuilt again, being named Neapolis or Nablous. 

But let’s back up a bit, because we want to focus on the history of Shechem during the times of the patriarchs. 

Back in the day, Jacob purchased a parcel of land from Hamor, the father of Shechem.  It was the place where he erected his first altar to the Lord.  Eventually, Jacob gave this parcel of land and an adjoining tract (Genesis 48:22) to his son Joseph:

Genesis 33:18-20 – And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.  And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for a hundred pieces of money.And he erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-israel.

Interestingly, this was the place where the children of Israel buried Joseph’s bones after they left Egypt (Joshua 24:32).  It was a very historical place for the Jews.  As you probably already surmised, it is very near to Mount Gerizim.

John 4:6 – Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well.  It was about the sixth hour.

There is no well in the Old Testament identified as Jacob’s well.  The name probably came as a result of an oral tradition which stated that Jacob had dug it, or because it was near to the land which he gave to Joseph. 

As we have already discussed in earlier lessons, the Jews marked time beginning at 6 am.  This makes the ‘sixth hour’ noon, a very hot time of the day.  Jesus was probably thirsty, hungry and tired from his extensive walking.  He waited at the well as his disciples went into the town to buy some food.

John 4:7-8 – A woman from Samaria came to draw water.  Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.”  (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.)

Jesus was certainly in need of a drink of water after his exhausting travels.  Although the divinity of Jesus is a frequent point in John’s writings, he also provides proof that Jesus was dwelling in a body of flesh, and was bound to its weaknesses; he exhibits hunger, thirst and tiredness.

“Give me a drink” is a perfectly normal request for a traveler to make to a native beside a well.  This type of request is practically never refused.  But in this case, because Jesus is a man and a Jew, while she is a woman/Samaritan, it is an unusual request.

However, it was not unusual to find women at wells.  As we learn from historical records and other portions of scripture, it was often the job of females to draw water for both their families and their flocks (Genesis 24:11, Exodus 2:16).

The Jews used to say that those who wished to find a wife should go to the wells where the young women were to be found in abundance.  I guess that could be considered an ancient version of a dating site!

John 4:9 – The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”  (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

How would the woman have known that Jesus was a Jew?  Although it might have been a particular mode of dress, the more likely reason is that Jesus spoke with a Galilean dialect; his speech identified him as Jewish.

This helps to explain the reply of the Samaritan woman.  Her response to Jesus is not so much a question as it is a reproach or a jeer, which had its source in the bitter enmity between Jews and Samaritans. 

The woman indicates that there were no ‘dealings’ between the two groups.  History indicates that the Jews had no qualms about buying and selling with the Samaritans, but the Sanhedrin forbid them from any familiarity or social interaction with them.  In other words, a Jew could not accept a gift from a Samaritan, or borrow anything from them, or marry them or even eat with them.

Thus the woman is surprised when Jesus asked her for a favor; any/every other Jewish man would have endured the worst type of hardship rather than be indebted to a Samaritan for help.  Their pride simply wouldn’t allow it, even if it was only a drink of water.   Besides, a Jew wouldn’t help a Samaritan, why should she show kindness to Jesus?

John 4:10 –Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

For his part, Jesus does not argue or debate with the woman, though he certainly could have.  Instead, he uses the situation at hand as a starting point to share the good news of the gospel. 

He builds up some anticipation in her mind by saying, ‘If you knew’.  The implication, of course, is that there is something extremely important and valuable at hand, but she is ignorant of what it is. 

That extremely important and valuable thing is Jesus himself, the Messiah, the gift of God, the lamb who takes away the sins of the world!  She, a heathen sinner, has no idea that she is conversing with the God of the universe who is both willing and able to bestow a priceless blessing upon her – Holy Spirit! 

Holy Spirit is the agent of salvation in the lives of mankind.  He is often metaphorically referred to as water or living water.  Jesus himself refers to him as such later on in the gospel of John:

John 7:38-39 – He that believes on me [Jesus], as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.  (But this spoke he of the Spirit, whom they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)

Our souls are like dry, barren fields that have no hope of producing life.  In fact, they are dead.  But when the gentle rain of Holy Spirit falls down upon us, we are revived and brought to life and fruitfulness.

At other times the scriptures speak of Holy Spirit as a cleansing water, which washes us from sin/spiritual defilement (Hebrews 10:22). 

Holy Spirit is living water because he comes from a living source – Father God (Revelation 22:1).

For her part, the woman views Jesus as a weary traveler, burning with exhaustion and thirsting for rest and refreshment.  But in reality, she is the one who is spiritually dry/exhausted and needs to be revived!

John 4:11 – The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep.  Where do you get that living water?”

This woman exhibits the same spiritual blindness we saw in Nicodemus in the last chapter.  It should look familiar to us, because ALL of us were spiritually blind at one time, before Holy Spirit quickened us.  The scripture tells us that the natural or earthly man (like the woman or Nicodemus) cannot perceive or understand spiritual things because they are spiritually blind/dead. 

1 Corinthians 2:14 –But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

To us, it seems obvious that Jesus uses earthly water as a starting point to teach this woman about spiritual things.  But to her, it was confusing.  In her earthly understanding, she cannot imagine how Jesus will give her living water since the well is very deep and he has no bucket to draw with.

But we will see that Jesus patiently works with her until her spiritual eyes/understanding are enlightened and she begins to understand that he is not speaking about earthly water from her ancestor’s well. 

John 4:12 – “Are you greater than our father Jacob?  He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.”

Apparently, this woman thinks that Jesus has access to another physical well of ‘living’ or fresh spring water.  In her mind, Jesus is saying his water is far superior to hers.  At that point, she defends the well of Jacob claiming that Jacob, his family and his live stock all drank from this well; whatever Jesus has can’t possibly be as good as this.  Clearly, her understanding is still in the natural realm.

John 4:13-14 – Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

But Jesus is about to change all that. 

He begins by explaining to her that Jacob’s well could produce nothing more than ordinary water.  As good as it might be, it is no different than other water.  It will quench your thirst for a moment, but in a few hours your thirst will return.  You will soon have as much need and desire for water as you ever had.

Just as a drink of fresh cold water could satisfy her earthly desire (temporarily), so the gospel of Christ could satisfy all the deep spiritual longings of her heart by introducing her to the living water of Holy Spirit.  Holy Spirit, however, never provides temporary satisfaction.    

Because the Spirit of God indwells the heart of the believer, he has a constant unfailing spring of grace, mercy, peace, joy, love, etc available to him.  This fountain of grace wells up and overflows in the life of a believer at all times – in times of comfort or hardship, hunger or plenty, prosperity or adversity, life or even the valley of the shadow of death.  Outside circumstances have no effect upon the grace that supplies and sustains his soul in all situations. 

The end result of this grace is that it wells up into eternal life, which we will enjoy forever, in the presence of our Savior.  This is the unspeakably wonderful gift that Jesus wants to bestow not only on this woman, but on all mankind!         

Let me offer you some encouragement and some relief and strength:

The world can be a really ugly and repulsive place – just ask the Jews.  They felt that nothing could be worse than a Samaritan.  But Jesus wasn’t afraid to interact with the Samaritan woman.  Unless he stopped where she was and interacted with her, he could never have given her eternal life.    

You and I should definitely have Christian friends, who can support us in a time of need, advise us, sharpen us and journey with us through this life. 

But we also need to have friends and associates that are sinners.  If you know nothing of the struggles of the world, how can you relate to them?  If you never associate with the unsaved or unchurched, how do you expect to win them to Christ?  

I encourage you to take a look at your relationships.  Make sure some of them are with unbelievers.  As we will see in our next post, it is not our job to condone their sin, but it is our job to explain the truth to them in love.   

Galatians, Chapter 5, Part 1

Galatians 5:1 – For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Welcome back, readers! 

In chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul continues to exhort the Galatians to be firm and unwavering in their resolve to reject the yoke or bondage of the law.  Since they are under grace, there is no need to continue observing the rites and ceremonies of the law.

The law was a burden!

Just take a moment to consider the burden of the law:  There were daily and weekly sacrifices.  There were numerous (and frequent) washings and purifications.  There were dietary laws.  There were restrictions on what was ‘clean’ and what was ‘unclean’.  There were rites and ceremonies for births, marriages and burials.  There were even laws for sowing and harvesting.  There were laws that defined when you could work and when you must rest. 

William Burkitt’s Expository Notes sums it up this way: “… so numerous were these observances, that they took up half their time, and were as burdensome as they were numerous.”

In fact, the scriptures describe the law as being impossible to fully obey:

Acts 15:10 – Now therefore why test God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?   

The good news is that as Christians, we are free from bearing (or trying to bear) this heavy load. 

As Paul points out to the Galatians, Christ has made us free.  By his obedience to death, he has purchased freedom from not only the law, but from our slavery to sin, and the curse of death. 

Since Christ has sacrificed himself to buy this freedom, the Galatians should consider it their duty and privilege to firmly defend their liberty in Christ.

Galatians 5:2 – Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.

It is true that Paul had a relationship with the Galatians, and they might well listen to him because of that bond, but there was a much higher authority at work here.

Paul spent the entire first part of this letter establishing the fact that he was an apostle expressly chosen by Jesus to carry the gospel message (see our discussion of chapter 1).  Therefore, Paul has the authority of Christ backing up his teaching.  So when he makes the point in verse 2 that “I, Paul” say something, Christians need to pay attention; his comments carry the authority of Jesus.   

In regards to his comments in chapter 5, we must tread carefully.  We must take Paul’s remarks in the context of his whole letter, or we will fall into a serious misinterpretation.  Paul says “if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you” 

Paul is NOT saying that anyone who is circumcised is excluded from salvation/Christianity.  All Jewish males, including the 12 apostles were circumcised according to the law.  In fact, Jesus himself, as a Jewish male, was circumcised on the eighth day of his life:

Luke 2:21 – And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, who was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The issue here is that the false teachers in Galatia claimed that circumcision was essential to salvation.  In other words, they taught that faith in the blood of Jesus was not enough to save you.  If you wanted to be justified and accepted by God, you had to add your own works to the blood of Christ.  This is tantamount to blasphemy, because as soon as you accept that doctrine, you are declaring that the sacrifice of Jesus was insufficient to save you.  By default, you are saying that you had a hand in saving yourself, which we know is utterly false!

Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.        

To claim that circumcision was required for salvation was a denial of Christ.  If you deny Christ, then you can’t be saved by grace.  You are left to try and justify yourself by keeping the law.   

So again, the act of circumcision does not exclude people from salvation.  However, it doesn’t save them either.  Salvation is through faith, regardless of your circumcision status.    

Galatians 5:3-4 – I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.  You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.   

You can be justified by faith, or you can try to earn salvation through keeping the law, but it’s one or the other… the two will never, ever mix.

The person who chooses to try justification by the law binds himself to obey the entire Law of Moses.  He must perfectly and completely fulfill all the requirements of the law for his entire life.  If he fails in even one instance, he is guilty of breaking the whole law. 

Keep this in mind too – anyone who is bound by the law and breaks it, is subject to the penalties outlined in it.  The penalty for breaking the law is condemnation and death – for eternity.    

The Galatians must make a choice: the law or Christ.  If they choose the law, then they forfeit the favor and mercy of God.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any part of that!  As I read and study Paul’s words, joy and thanksgiving well up within my soul for the freedom I have in Christ.  What about you?  Are you even more thankful now for his mercy and grace?  I certainly hope so!

Galatians 5:5 – For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

What is the hope of righteousness?  It refers to the state of being justified before God or to be counted as righteous in his (God’s) sight.  Those who are justified/righteous in God’s sight can expect to spend eternity in his presence and experience all of the untold blessings that await them in the next life.  This is often called the ‘hope’ of Christians. 

This hope is not founded on any works of our own, but solely on the redemption provided for us by Jesus.  As the old hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”. 

And how do we obtain this hope?  We receive it by faith through Holy Spirit.  It is the work of the Spirit to convict men of sin and draw them towards salvation in Christ. 

Any person living in the gospel dispensation who attempts to be justified in any other way will be disappointed.  If the Galatians misplace their hope in their own observance of the law, they can expect nothing but condemnation.  But if they will rely on the mercy of Jesus, they will have a ‘living hope’ for salvation (I Peter 1:3).     

Galatians 5:6 – For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

The era of the law put a separation between people.  You were either one of God’s people (a Jew) or you were not (a Gentile).  Because of the nature of the law, it kept a constant separation between the two groups.  And as we know, the signature sign of being Jewish was being circumcised in the flesh.    

But God never intended for that state of affairs to be permanent.  He always intended to make it possible for EVERYONE to be justified in his sight, whether Jew or Gentile:

Isaiah 49:6 – And he [God] said, It is too small a thing that you [Messiah] should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the Gentiles, that you may be my salvation unto the ends of the earth.

When Jesus ushered in the gospel dispensation with his death and resurrection, God’s plan was fulfilled.  The law, along with all of its rites and ceremonies (including circumcision) passed away; it was no longer in effect.  Therefore, at the time Paul is speaking to the Galatians, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision of the flesh mattered anymore; neither state could make a person justified in the sight of God.

If circumcision did not justify a person in the sight of God, what would?       

Salvation by grace through faith!

How is our faith displayed to the world? 

Through our love of God and our fellow man. 

Our love of God will always result in obedience to his commands (John 14:23).  This same love will prompt you to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:30-31). 

Galatians 5:7-8 – You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?  This persuasion is not from him who calls you.

Paul describes the Galatians as ‘running well’.  What does he mean by that?  The Christian life is often represented as a race in the scriptures (1 Corinthians 9:24-26, Hebrews 12:1).

Paul says they began their race or Christian life with zeal.  They had readily and joyfully embraced the doctrine of grace through faith.  They rejoiced that their sins were forgiven and their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  They were no doubt baptized and considered themselves disciples of Christ.  They had a very ardent love for God and his ways.  

But someone came along and hindered their obedience to the gospel.  The word ‘hinder’ is an Olympic expression which literally means ‘to beat or drive back’.  It has the connotation of someone cutting across the race track to push the runner off the course or throw him out of the way. 

Who is attempting to overthrow or thwart the Galatians with the doctrine that they must obligate themselves to the Law?   

Paul asserts most strongly that it is not the Lord (him who calls you).  The false doctrine could not be traced back to God, even though the false teachers claimed to be commissioned by him.  That leaves only one source for the despicable, foul lies that had ensnared the Galatians – Satan himself.    

Galatians 5:9 – A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

What do you think of when you hear this proverbial expression?  My mind immediately goes to bread!  For many people, bread is off limits.  They don’t want to eat it because of gluten or because of the carbohydrates it contains.  I am happy to announce that I am not one of those people!  I love bread of all kinds – white, wheat, cinnamon raisin, sour dough, pumpernickel, baguettes, bagels, ciabatta and even corn bread!

What do these breads have in common?  They all contain some kind of leaven.     

Leaven is any substance that is designed to produce fermentation in dough or liquids by producing a general change in the mass.  The most common application is when yeast is added to bread dough in order to make the bread rise.  The amount of leaven required to make this change is relatively small because the leaven penetrates and diffuses throughout the entire batch of dough.

In the scriptures, leaven or yeast often represents sin (I Corinthians 5:6-8, Mark 8:15).  That is why the children of Israel could only eat unleavened bread during the Passover, and why the use of leaven was strictly forbidden in all offerings made to the Lord by fire (Leviticus 2:11 and 7:12, Numbers 6:15).    

Paul’s point is that a relatively small amount of false doctrine which is introduced into a pure, healthy Christian will eventually spread and damage/destroy his entire spiritual life.  Likewise, it only takes a couple of misguided Christians to influence a whole congregation into accepting a false doctrine.   

So while the Galatians may think that their adherence to circumcision was only a minor issue, it was actually a very serious situation.  It had the capacity to destroy their faith and their church.

Galatians 5:10 – I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.

But Paul has confidence that destruction will not be the final outcome for the Galatians. 

Paul knows that when he speaks the words that Holy Spirit gives him, those words are anointed with power – power to convict, save and heal.  If the Galatians will listen to Paul’s message, the Lord will bring them to repentance and they will be restored to a right relationship with God.

Can we pause a minute and acknowledge that the same is true for us?  We too sometimes fall into sin or error in our lives.  This is one reason why it is so important for each one of us to read the scriptures every day.  The scriptures are the word of God and they are anointed with the power of Holy Spirit to convict, save and heal us.  But if we never open the book, the power will have no effect upon us. 

Paul then turns his attention from the Galatians to the teachers who have introduced the ‘leaven of the law’ into the church.  Punishment awaits those who have thrown the Galatians off course.  God himself will surely deal with these false teachers.  As for the Galatians, their duty is to identify the false teacher and cut off or separate him from their fellowship.

The hope is not that these men would be cut off from salvation, but in being cut off from Christian fellowship they might see the error of their ways and repent.

Galatians 5:11 – But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?  In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.

It is evident that the false teachers who insisted on circumcision had somehow included Paul in their teachings.  We know that Paul himself was circumcised.  We also know that in order to reach some of the Jews he had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3).  But there was never a time when Paul preached or taught that circumcision was a necessary component of salvation. 

Paul defends himself by asking this question:  If I preach the necessity of circumcision to salvation, then why do the Jews continuously persecute me?  If I really taught that men must keep the law in order to make grace effective, then the Jews would love and embrace my message.  They would not take offence at the message of the cross.  But take a look at the facts – everywhere I go, the Jews fight against me.  This is proof enough that I do not preach a mix of grace and law.

Galatians 5:12 – I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

Our version of the scripture has an interesting translation of this verse!  Let’s take a look at the King James Version:

Galatians 5:12 – I would they were even cut off which trouble you.

The apostle’s use of the expression ‘cut off’ is probably an allusion to the practice of circumcision where the foreskin of the flesh is literally cut off and thrown away from the rest of the body.

In the same way, Paul desires for the false teachers to be cut off and cast out of the church fellowship.  This shows the seriousness of their offence.    

Galatians 5:13 – For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Paul wants the false teachers to be cut off from church fellowship because the church has been called into liberty through Christ (freedom from the law), but the false teachers were destroying that liberty.  This example brings up a teaching point for Paul.

It is true that all Christians have been set free from the bondage of the law and have liberty in Christ.  But the liberty we have is not an excuse to sin.  Our liberty is not a license to throw off all righteous restraint.

Let’s face it – even though we are born again and are new creatures in Christ, we still live in a fallen world.  We still reside in bodies of flesh that are subject to corruption.  We are still tempted by evil.  Therefore, we all need to be vigilant to monitor our own lives.  We must still fight against temptations.  We must still diligently work to add Christian graces to our lives.  We must still allow Holy Spirit to continuously transform us into the image of Christ; this process will never stop until we arrive in eternity.

This leads us to the next important aspect of freedom:  how we treat each other.     

Galatians 5:14-15 – For the whole law is fulfilled in one word:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

At this point, Paul has rather skillfully changed from a doctrinal argument (which he has thoroughly covered) to a series of practical teachings for all Christians.

Do the Galatians want to obey the law?  Then let them fulfill the heart and substance of the law without being in bondage to legalism.  This is accomplished when we serve others in love. 

Romans 13:8, 10 – Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.  Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

If we act according to this command, we fulfill the law (Matthew 7:12) without being enslaved by it.  The Christian who loves God with all his heart, soul and mind and who seeks to love his neighbor as himself needs no other law.

This is a good chance to remind ourselves that there are two aspects of love, inward affection and outward action. 

It is also a good chance to define the word ‘neighbor’.  It includes all people, rich/poor, friend/foe, those that are near/far.  In some ways, it describes all of humanity. 

Our love of God is demonstrated in the way we love those around us.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Jesus said that all men would realize we are his disciples by our displays of love towards one another (John 13:35).  But quite frankly, recent world events have left many people separated from other believers.     

When was the last time you displayed love towards another believer?  What was your act of love?  If you can’t remember the last time you touched someone’s life with a display of love, I encourage you to reconnect with other believers.  Get plugged back into your local church!     

Let me offer you some relief and some strength:

All Christians have a ‘hope of righteousness’; we trust and believe that we will be justified in God’s sight because of the sacrifice of Jesus and we will spend eternity with God. 

Sometimes, when we make mistakes or we fail in our Christian walk, we may feel unworthy of this hope.  But let me offer you some relief – we were never worthy of it in the first place! 

Our hope of righteousness and our expectation of the benefits of heaven are the result of the mercy and free gift of God.  While we need to strive to live holy lives before God, there will be times when we fail.  Satan would love to convince us that we should walk away from God because we are unworthy, but the truth is we are unworthy no matter what. 

So repent, pick yourself up, and keep running your Christian race!  

Galatians, Chapter 4, Part 1

Galatians 4:1-3 – I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father.  In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.

Hello, again readers!  We are midway through the letter of Paul to the Galatians and we find that he is still making a case for justification by faith apart from the law.

Jewish false teachers have convinced the Galatian believers that they need to keep the law in order to have salvation.  Paul tears down that false doctrine with example after example from the Old Testament.

It is interesting to note that the false Judaizing teachers held onto the Old Testament with a death grip, but that is the very thing that Paul uses to make his case for justification!

In this case, Paul likens the Old Testament believers to an under-age child.

Perhaps you yourself have young children under the age of 18.  Obviously, they are heirs to all that you will have in this life.  This gives them advantages that other children don’t have, but at the same time they still don’t have full rights. 

When your child is young (say 5-8 years old) you are the one who determines when they go to bed, and when they get up.  You decide what to feed them and what they will wear.  You make sure they attend school and become educated, whether they want to or not!  They don’t determine the household budget – you do! In a way, they would be no different than a servant.  You make the decisions and they do as they are told. 

According to Paul, this is a picture of the people who lived under the law.  They were children of God, but they lived under a very tightly structured system. They had to do as they were told by the law; they had to bear the burden of all the rites and observances of the law (and there were LOTS of them!). 

Just as a young child does not understand everything their parents tell them to do (why do I have to go to bed?), those under the law did not understand the full meaning of the rites/ceremonies they had to obey. 

So, at the time of the law, God’s people were more like children/servants than heirs. 

Galatians 4:4-5 – But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

But God had an appointed time for the end of the legal dispensation.  All along, according to his master plan, he had a definite, set time to put the covenant of grace in place. 

Let’s take a pause here, to consider God’s timing.  God decreed a definite period of time for the legal age.  At the end of that time, he gave his people something MUCH better – the age of grace.  Likewise, God has also established a definite period of time for the age of grace.  When that is over, he will reward us with something even better – heaven!  I wonder what incredible things are waiting for us there!  Aren’t you glad to be a child of God?

Here is something else to consider:  You have a definite lifespan here on earth, predetermined by our heavenly Father.  Be sure that you redeem your time, making every day count for the kingdom of heaven!

Back to our lesson…the only person who was qualified to fulfill/end the law and institute the age of grace was Jesus Christ, the Son of God (as prophesied in the Old Testament). 

Jesus agreed/submitted to taking on a body of flesh, even though he was God.  Jesus agreed/submitted to earthly parents, even though he was Lord of all. 

He did these things in order to fulfill the law, thus removing that terrible yoke and burden from his people.   He suffered and died for us, to pay the awful price of God’s wrath against us.  Because of his sacrifice, we are no longer slaves to sin; we are children of God grown up and mature.

As mature children, he gives us greater freedom and more privileges than ever.

Galatians 4:6-7 – And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba!  Father!”So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Son-ship is no longer limited to the Jews.  It is now available to ‘whosoever will’ (John 3:16).  It was available to the Galatians back in the day of Paul, and it is still available now.

Because we are sons and daughters of God, Holy Spirit lives inside of us and leads us to call out to God as our Father.  Clearly, we are no longer servants/slaves but we are adopted children.  It therefore follows that if we are children of God, then we are an heir of God through Jesus Christ.  As heirs, we are entitled to a heavenly inheritance.

Romans 8:16-17 – The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Who in their right mind would choose to be a servant/slave rather than a son/daughter with an inheritance?  Yet, that is what the Galatians chose, when they agreed to bind themselves to the law!

Galatians 4:8 –Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.

Paul now reminds the Galatians what life was like before their conversion.  During that time, they did not know the true God Yahweh and they certainly had no idea how to worship him. 

Instead, they were in slavery to false gods.  In fact, Gentiles were in the lowest, most grievous form of slavery possible.  They served multiple idols/false gods.  They were under constant pressure to give gifts, pay homage and do nothing that might be offensive to their idols.  Sometimes, they even sacrificed their own children in a vain attempt to get one of these gods to help them. 

Their religious duties had no power to cleanse them from sin or give them peace of mind or bring them relief from sickness and trouble.  The only thing they reaped by their efforts was more bondage and death. 

Can you imagine the hopelessness they experienced?  They were in the worst kind of bondage imaginable.  What a horrible life!

Galatians 4:9-10 – But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?  You observe days and months and seasons and years!

What a remarkable change!  Formerly, the Galatians were slaves, not entitled to anything.  But now that Jesus has touched their lives with his grace, they are totally transformed.  Through the power of the gospel, their sins have been washed away and they have been made children of God, and heirs with Christ! 

Again, Paul is mystified about how anyone who has obtained such freedom and privilege could want to return to their former ways of spiritual bondage (represented in this verse by observing ‘days and months’, etc).   To make this choice is pure madness!

Galatians 4:11 – I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

The actions of the Galatians have crushed Paul.  He spent a lot of time, labor and expense in bringing them the true gospel of Christ.  He preached the true word, he trained them in righteousness and he surely introduced them to Holy Spirit.  As a laborer in the kingdom, Paul had the right to expect a spiritual harvest from the Galatians.

Instead, they have changed course, leaving him to wonder if his efforts had been in vain.

This lesson gives us a reason to examine ourselves.  Is it possible that we too began by living spiritual lives, but later traded an exciting life in the Spirit for a set of mere rules and regulations? 

Christianity is so much more than that!  It is a true relationship with the God of the universe!  It should never be dull or stifling.  It should never be dead or dry.  If your Christian walk is not constantly evolving and presenting you with new and exciting opportunities, then I encourage you to take a second look at it.  Perhaps you need to return to your first love/first works.

Galatians 4:12 – Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are.  You did me no wrong.

Paul now reaches out to them on a personal level, addressing them as brothers, even though they had been alienated from him by the false teachers.  Paul wants to lay aside any and all resentment and he desires that the relationship between himself and the Galatians be restored.  This was a very noble gesture by Paul, considering he had done absolutely nothing wrong!

Though he must point out their sin, Paul still loves the Galatians tenderly as members of his own family; he expresses concern for their happiness and well-being.  Paul attempts to call them back into relationship with him, so they might more easily respond to the reproof he was forced to give them. 

Thus, we see that Paul’s motives were pure.  He does not want to show them their error simply to prove that he is correct.  He is motivated by a desire for them to know Christ. 

Before we chastise someone else for their choices or behavior, it would be a good idea for us to examine our motives for doing so.

Galatians 4:13-14 – You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.

Paul does not hesitate to put the Galatians in mind of their past relationship with him.  Clearly, he had some type of sickness or infirmity that affected his body.  We have no way to know what this infirmity was, though many opinions have been given.

Some scholars believe Paul’s eyesight was affected when Jesus appeared to him as a bright light on his way to Damascus, and this might be the ailment referred to.  Others point out that Paul suffered horrific public beatings which must have affected his health and scarred him terribly.  There are other possibilities as well, however, since the Galatians were already familiar with the situation, Paul does not specifically identify his ailment. 

But the point is this – the infirmity (which might have caused people to reject him and his message), made no difference to the Galatians.  They did not despise or reject Paul because of it.  On the contrary, they received him, assisted him and revered him as one would an angel or even Christ himself!

Galatians 4:15 – What then has become of your blessedness?  For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me.

As we said in our introduction, the Galatians as a whole were very fickle people. 

At first, they so loved and respected Paul, that they would even have given him their very own eyes, if it would have helped him. 

At first, they were so pleased and enraptured with the gospel message, that they embraced it whole-heartedly.  They were satisfied and at peace being justified by grace and communing with God. 

What happened?? What caused such a reversal in their thinking?  Paul implores them to search their hearts and examine the reason for their sudden change in belief.

Galatians 4:16 – Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?

The person who tells you the truth is the one you should love and respect.  Only a true friend or brother would tell you the truth in love, especially when it hurts!  Beware of those who are ‘yes men’, tickling your ears with what you want to hear, rather than what you need to hear. 

This is the trap the Galatians have fallen into – they now treat Paul as an enemy, despite the fact that he has dealt truthfully and faithfully with them in matters relating to their eternal salvation.

As we will see in our next post, Paul does not just give up on them, despite this awful treatment.  He continues to exhort and encourage them, hoping to restore them to their place in God’s kingdom.

Let me offer you some encouragement:

Relationships sure can be difficult (just ask Paul!). Having a good one requires a lot of time and energy.  This is true in friendships, marriages and even employer/employee relationships.

One way we can help keep our relationships on track is by doing what Jesus told us to do – love our neighbors as ourselves.  Part of that includes telling one another the truth in love.  That can sometimes be a daunting task which we would rather avoid, but I encourage you to do so, when it’s necessary.  I believe that eventually, this will strengthen your relationship, not hurt it.

Let me offer you some relief:

Here is a sad truth:  Some relationships are toxic.  There are people who would love to consume all of your joy, resources and strength.  They constantly try to drag you down into the pit that has them trapped. But let me offer you some relief:  You don’t have to allow that.  Set some boundaries for the relationship, and stick to them!

If that too fails or does not solve the problem, and the relationship is damaging to you and those you love, you need to end it.  Don’t feel bad about doing so!

Let me offer you some strength:

In general, relationships are worth the effort needed to maintain them.  All that hard work pays off when you find yourself in need of some support, encouragement, strength or advice. 

Does God give us strength?  Absolutely!  But many times he works through others to give it to us.  So pay attention to your relationships; set proper boundaries and enjoy those that God had placed in your life.

II Peter, Chapter 2, Part 2

II Peter 2:10 – and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones,

Here in chapter 2, Peter is warning true believers against false teachers. 

As we noted in our last post, it is likely that Peter is referring to a heretical sect known as the Nicolaitans:

  • These people claimed to be Christians, but they abused the laws of grace, even to the point of denying that Jesus was the Messiah who died on the cross. 
  • They also claimed to have ‘secret’ spiritual wisdom which they received through mystic revelation.  This was supposedly given to them, and no one else.  Their actions caused divisions within the church body.
  • They introduced false doctrines into the church.  This was not done blatantly; instead they introduced their own opinions here and there until they succeeded in twisting the truth.
  • Peter describes them as greedy.  They gave smooth convincing sermons designed to take money from honest believers who wanted to support the gospel.
  • Peter describes them as licentious.  Their behavior was unrestrained by law or morality and characterized by abuse of freedom.  Their sin had no boundaries and basically taught that ‘anything goes’.  (I can see where that would be a popular doctrine!)

In short, they intentionally perverted religious truth in order to open doors of licentiousness and sin for themselves and anyone they could convince to join them.  Sadly, there are still false teachers in the world today!

Our last post ended with Peter assuring us that God has punishment in store for these wicked people.

Peter now builds upon that topic.  Not only does God punish the wicked in general, he especially punishes heretics and seducers, who add the ‘lust of defiling passion’ to their corrupt doctrines and false teachings.  Not only are they teaching evil, they are living it for all the world to see, while still identifying themselves Christians.

They live for the indulgence of their carnal appetites, following the desires and inclinations of their own minds.  Since their minds are filled with thoughts of sin and worldly pleasure, they will relentlessly pursue those things without restraint. 

This is the opposite of the true believer, who renews his mind in righteousness (Romans 12:2) and keeps a diligent guard on the thoughts that enter his mind. 

2 Corinthians 10:5 – Casting down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;  

You are the gate keeper of your own mind – God allows each one of us to choose what we will allow our minds to dwell on.  As you are deciding what to think about, keep this in mind – the seeds you plant in your mind will come to fruition in your actions (James 1:13-15).  So be careful what you think about!

As if that were not enough, false teachers also hate authority.  In our study of I Peter chapter 2, Peter admonished believers to submit to those that God has placed in authority over us, such as kings, magistrates, governors, etc.  God has placed them there for our good – to punish evil and maintain order.  As we respect and obey them, it brings glory to God and removes any reason that the heathen have for slandering Christianity.    

However, these vain false teachers do not respect authority of any kind.  Because they desire unbridled freedom of all kinds, they rebel against authority in the government, the church, the family and ultimately against God himself.  Their ultimate goal is anarchy.

I can’t help but compare this passage of scripture to some of the events taking place in our nation today.  We seem to have areas where people have thrown off the restraints of government, society and police, resulting in pockets of anarchy.  One thing we can do is to pray, asking God to send revival into these areas.  If these rebellious people will accept Christ as Lord, he will change their hearts and minds.  

II Peter 2:11 – whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.

This verse is actually the second half of the thought expressed in verse 10, which describes the false teachers as people who rebel against all authority, especially that of the civil government.  In their bold and scornful rebellion, they curse, imprecate and judge the government officials in authority over them.

Peter now contrasts their actions with those of the angels:

There is evidence in scripture to show that angels do not mock, blaspheme, reproach, judge or otherwise rail against others, even when they are zealously engaged in the work of God. 

An example of this is referenced in Jude 9-10 as well as in Jewish tradition, where the archangel Michael contended with Satan for the body of Moses.  During their encounter, the only words spoken by the angel were simple, truthful and straightforward – ‘The Lord rebuke you’.   There was no use of harsh or violent language.  The angels did not presume to judge or condemn their adversaries.

Here is the point Peter is making: Angels are higher in knowledge, dignity and power than human beings.  Therefore, it would be more appropriate for angels to speak judgmentally against the magistrates/rulers of this world than it would be for men to do so.  Yet, angels don’t do that.  They always show respect and dignity toward those God has placed in positions of civil authority.  Angels recognize that God has sanctioned that authority and they, as servants of God, respect it.

But these false teachers are senseless brutes – they speak blasphemy and judgment against those who have their authority from God.  We might say they rush in where angels fear to tread, and they rail against things they don’t understand (the purposes of God in granting authority to certain people). 

Scripture does not give us a full account of what was said by these foolish men.  We only know that they spoke presumptuously and wickedly against authority.  Our assumption is that the people of Peter’s day knew the specifics of the situation.  We can also assume that Holy Spirit wanted to call our attention to the bigger picture here – that false teachers exhibit a lack of respect for authority, always leaning towards anarchy. 

II Peter 2:12-13a – But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. 

Let’s stop and talk about wild boars for a minute.  Except for older males, wild boars travel in groups.  They are swift, nocturnal, unpredictable and aggressive.  They are omnivorous (they’ll eat anything – plants, meat, garbage, etc).  The males average around 200 pounds, although many larger animals have been documented. 

These animals are extremely destructive.  They love to root, trample and wallow.  In the process of doing so, they destroy crops, forests and property.  They prey on or compete with native species such as rodents, deer, birds, snakes, frogs and lizards. 

They also spread disease to both animals and humans.  There are more than 24 diseases that people can get form wild boars including hepatitis E and tuberculosis. 

Now, suppose that a large wild boar was loose in your neighborhood.  What would that be like?  Remember, that animal is wild and aggressive.  You can’t tame it.  You can’t train it.  You can’t reason with it.  It’s unpredictable and aggressive.  It’s only goal in life is to fulfill its desires – eat, destroy and reproduce. 

It will attack and destroy wildlife and pets.  It will ruin your lawn/garden, your landscaping, your fruit trees and any crops the farmers are growing.  Not only would it be dangerous because it is aggressive, it carries disease.  If an animal like that was wreaking havoc in your town, it wouldn’t be long before animal control was called in to capture and kill it. 

Peter is saying that licentious false teachers/prophets are like wild boar.  They ignore their God given ability to restrain their behavior and desires.  They want to be wild, throwing off all restraint or authority in pursuit of their base fleshly desires (money, sex, power, drunkenness, entertainment, etc).  They don’t care who they hurt or destroy in the process.  They infect unsuspecting believers with their diseased doctrine and practices.  In the end, they will be destroyed – their behavior will eventually lead to both moral and spiritual death.   

The ironic thing is this – these people are all about casting off authority because they don’t want to be restrained or bound by law and society.  But by rebelling against the authority sanctioned by God, they place themselves under the bondage of their own evil passions.  So either way, they wind up being ‘captured’ – they will serve a master of some kind. 

Those who serve a master earn wages. 

We are all familiar with ‘wages’ – money earned by performing work.  In a sense, all people are earning eternal wages.  Those who serve God are laying up treasures in heaven, while those who serve Satan (or themselves) are laying up torment/punishment in hell. Recompense may or may not come in this life, but it is guaranteed in the next.  The justice of God guarantees it. 

II Peter 2:13b –They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.  They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you.

Most sinners wait for the cover of secrecy or night to indulge in sinful pleasures.  But these false teachers are so bad, they have cast off even that light fetter.  They defy all decency by openly and shamefully practicing wickedness in a place and manner that all can see.   

These vile sinners are like blots or blemishes.  Picture it this way:  You are wearing a brand new, pure white, silk shirt to a party.  Turns out, the host of the party is serving BBQ wings.  You pick up a really saucy wing and – oops – your shirt isn’t white anymore!  What a shame; the spot ruins the shirt.

In the same way, the actions and beliefs of false teachers are a scandal and a disgrace to the true spiritual church of Christ, which should be (and one day will be) without spot or wrinkle.

Furthermore, our translation says they revel in their deceptions, while the King James Version says they ‘sport themselves with their own deceivings’.  Not surprisingly, the Greek word means to live delicately or luxuriously.  In other words, they take advantage of their views/doctrines to live in rebellion and luxury.  They indulge in their most corrupt passions under the guise of Christianity.  In fact, they even look forward to the Christian feasts as an occasion to indulge (1 Corinthians 11:17-22).

What could be worse?  They clearly blaspheme God and slander salvation by their words and deeds.

II Peter 2:14 – They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.  They entice unsteady souls.  They have hearts trained in greed.  Accursed children!

‘Eyes’ is a figurative expression often used in scripture.  In this case, it refers to the mind/disposition of man.  For example: 

  • Bountiful eye refers to a person of kindly disposition (Proverbs 22:9). 
  • Haughty or lofty eyes refer to a spirit of pride (Psalms 131:1). 
  • Lowly eyes refers to a person who is humble (Luke 18:13). 
  • Sharpening of the eyes refers to anger (Job 16:9). 

In this case, eyes full of adultery refers to idolatrous inclinations.  Peter tells us their desires are insatiable.  Your translation may say ‘cannot cease from sin’.  This does not mean that they do not have the natural mental ability to stop sinning.  Neither does it mean that they are physically incapable of ceasing to sin.  Rather, it means that they are so corrupt that they will certainly always sin. 

And they don’t like to sin alone.  They try to involve as many people as possible in their false doctrines which promise carnal pleasures and liberties.  Christians who are not deeply rooted in their commitment to Christ are in danger of being beguiled (baited or entrapped) by these deceivers.

Peter refers to these wicked people as accursed children.  This either means they brought a curse with them wherever they went, or that they deserved to be cursed.

I Peter 2:15-16 – Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.  They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

The right way refers to the narrow path of righteousness that Christians tread in this life (Matthew 7:13-14).  This path leads to peace, blessing and eternal life.  False teachers and prophets have left the narrow path and proceeded to follow Balaam down the wide road.  This road leads to sin, torment and eternal death.

Remember Balaam son of Beor (or Bozor)?  He is most famous for having a conversation with his own donkey, but there is a whole lot more to his story.  You can read the whole account of Balaam in Numbers 22-25. 

Without explaining the entire story of Balaam (we don’t have time), let’s look at how he compares to the false teachers/prophets that Peter is warning his flock about.

One – Balaam professed to be a religious leader or servant of God, but that is very questionable.  He was planning to do great harm to the nation of Israel by accepting a lot of money to curse them.  So too, false teachers were professing to be Christians, but causing great harm in the church.

Two – Balaam was greedy and covetous.  He knew full well that God did not want him to go with the Moabites to curse Israel, but he went anyway because he wanted the honor and fortune that King Balak was going to give him.  (Balaam’s tendency to avarice is clearly evident throughout the entire narrative.  You will see it if you go back and read the account in Numbers).  He preferred rewards of this life over the blessing of God.  The false teachers of Peter’s day were also willing to disobey God in order to receive earthly rewards.

Three – Inciting others to licentiousness.  The culmination of Balaam’s story is this:  Although he desperately wanted to curse Israel so he could get paid, God would literally not allow him to do it.  (In fact, he verbally blesses them instead.)  So he does the next best thing –he reveals to the King of Moab how to get Israel to curse itself.  And – you guessed it- he did it through licentiousness. 

Balaam instructed the Moabites to throw a great feast and invite Israel.  There was plenty of alcohol, food and false idols.  The beautiful young women of Moab came to the feast ready to party and soon the whole affair turned into a great orgy in which the false gods of Moab were worshipped by the Israelites.  As a result of their actions, God severely punished them. 

This brings up an interesting question:  Have we avoided the snares of false teachers only to curse ourselves?  Are we doing things contrary to the word of God?  Are these things blocking the Lord’s blessing from our lives? 

For instance, are you harboring unforgiveness towards someone?  Are you with holding tithe and offerings from the Lord?  Has Holy Spirit clearly spoken to you to do something for him, but you refuse like an obstinate child?  All of these things can block God’s blessings from you.  

II Peter 2:17 – These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm.  For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.

Imagine for a moment that you are in the midst of a desert.  You are out of water.  It is extremely hot.  There is no relief from the relentless sun.  You are sweaty and exhausted.  Your mouth is like sandpaper and your lips taste like salt.  As time passes by, you are getting closer and closer to death.

But suddenly, you crest a sand dune and way off in the distance you see a well!  Relief and joy flood your spirit because that well promises relief and life to you.  You struggle to get through that last mile and reach the well.

Now suppose you uncap the well, only to find that it is dry.  Imagine what that would feel like.  You would despair and give up hope.  You are closer to death than you have ever been because the well did not deliver what it promised – water.

In the same way, sinners are seeking relief from sin.  They are in a desert of death and despair.  They are looking for life, and they turn to the church to find it.  But what if they are not met with a true Christian teacher or pastor?  A false teacher is like that dry desert well – they promise relief from spiritual death, but they can’t deliver (Jude 12-13).  Those seeking the refreshing truth of the gospel are disappointed.  Their spiritual journey has just gotten more difficult, instead of easier.

Here is Peter’s point: False teachers offer doctrines that seem wonderful.  According to them, you can have your cake and eat it too.  You can be a Christian but live as sinful a life as you like.  But that is not true.  Their vain, empty promises are like wells without water or rain clouds without rain.

Peter also assures his readers once again that God is going to punish these wicked people.  Utter darkness denotes a place of future punishment (Matthew 8:12) which God has prepared for those who choose this path. 

So here’s the really important question:  If a sinner came to you as a well of spiritual life, would you be able to give them the water of salvation?

John 7:38 – He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.

In the gospel of John chapter 4, Jesus speaks to the woman at the well about the living waters of salvation.  In John chapter 7, Jesus says that if we are believers, the precious Holy Spirit lives within us and is like a mighty river of water that brings healing and salvation to those who need it. 

If you are a Christian, you have this water.  What you need to do is learn how to use your bucket to draw out that water and present it to others by sharing the gospel message.

II Peter 2:18-19 – For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

‘Those who are barely escaping from error’ refers to new Christians.  Having turned to Christ, they have just recently escaped from sin and death.  This puts them in a very dangerous place – they have probably only recently broken off many of their old habits and there may be a strong desire to relapse into old ways. 

At this point, if they receive sound doctrine to help them grow in grace, they will become rooted and grounded in Christ and go on to bring forth a spiritual harvest for the kingdom of heaven.

But if they come across a false teacher speaking words of folly and boasting, they could be in real trouble.  These teachers deliberately present their erroneous doctrines with fancy words in a pompous manner, hoping to allure or ensnare unsuspecting believers into their false beliefs.  Specifically, they promise Christianity with unlimited indulgence in carnal appetites and unrestrained freedom/liberty.  

Let’s talk about freedom for a moment.  Sin makes you a slave to darkness and evil.  You have no way of breaking out of the cycle of servitude to it.  Every person under the bondage of sin will reap the same reward – death. 

However, true Christianity promises and delivers freedom from sin.  Hallelujah!  By breaking the yoke of darkness from your life, it gives you the freedom to choose Christ; you can choose to live a holy life as a son or daughter of God.  You can choose to become a steward in the kingdom of heaven, reaping rewards of life.  This is true freedom:

John 8:35-36 – The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The freedom of the false teachers is different.   They define freedom as the absence of needless restraint and/or the strict/narrow limits of religion.  But this is not freedom – it is licentiousness which in reality, is slavery. 

Here’s why:  Whatever a person submits to (greed, lust, desire for power, etc) is truly his master – he is enslaved to it.  So in casting off restraints, they place themselves back under the chains of their passions and desires.  Thus, the promise of freedom from false teachers results in bondage again to sin; all sin results in servitude and slavery.

Here is some good news:  Christians can prevent falling prey to their tactics by seriously attending to their own personal holiness and working to add Christian graces to their lives.

II Peter 2:20 – For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

The unstable souls (verse 14) who come under the destructive influence of false doctrines will find themselves in a worse position than before they were saved. 

By coming to Christ, they gained additional wisdom and knowledge of God that sinners do not have; they have first hand experience of the true saving grace of Christ. 

Knowledge always carries the burden of responsibility.  Each person is responsible for the level of knowledge of God that they have.   By again becoming entangled in the things of the world, they will now be judged on an increased level of knowledge, which will result in a more severe judgment that what the ignorant will receive (Luke 12:47).

II Peter 2:21 – For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

When the apostle uses the word ‘better’ here, he is making a comparison.

On the one hand, we have sinners who have always been heathens, being in ignorance of the gospel message, and being ignorant of the law of sin. 

But on the other hand we have sinners who were once heathens, but then came to a knowledge of the grace of Christ Jesus.  They knew what it was like to have the freedom to choose Christ.  They heard the gospel message, understood sin, and knew they were saved by grace. 

To have a knowledge of the truth and then turn away from it is considered the greater evil.  Those who were always ignorant of the truth have less culpability than those who knew the truth and yet sinned against it.

II Peter 2:22 – What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

Here Peter calls upon the wisdom found in Proverbs (26:11) and Jewish tradition.

This is a proverb we recognize and easily understand.  Pigs don’t change their natures.  They have a desire to wallow in the mud.  Even if they clean themselves, it is only a temporary measure.  They will soon return to wallowing in the mud because their nature has not changed. 

So far, so good.  This makes perfect sense in the case of the pig.  But when we seek to apply this proverb to the spiritual realm, we get major difference of opinion amongst scholars. 

The debate centers around this: 

Did the person in question ever really have a true change of heart/conversion experience? 

Those who believe the person really DID have a change of heart/conversion (became a Christian) must, by default, believe that people can fall away from the faith.  They can ‘back slide’ or lose their salvation if they willfully choose the ways of sin.

Those who believe the person DID NOT really have a true change of heart/conversion must, by default, believe that the person was never saved (became a Christian) to begin with.  Therefore, like the pig, they will return to sin.  The logical conclusion to this belief is that those who do truly accept Christ will never ‘back slide’.  Therefore, you can never lose your salvation, once you truly accept it. 

This issue is a divisive one, which scholars in our generation continue to hotly debate.  You can decide for yourself which opinion you think is correct. 

But the real bottom line is this:  No church is completely pure.  No church is without people and thus no church is without sin or faulty doctrine of some kind.  It is the duty of each individual Christian to guard against false beliefs that lead to unrestrained behavior (licentiousness).  As we work towards personal holiness (I Peter 1:15-16), and purposefully add Christian graces to our lives, we can rest assured that Holy Spirit will keep us safe from falling away from grace.  There is no need to fear. 

But woe to those who lead others astray for their own gratification! 

Let me offer you some encouragement:

As we mentioned earlier, God gives each one of us the ability to control our minds.  You can’t stop random thoughts of sin from popping into your mind.  But you can control what you allow to stay there! 

What should the minds of holy people be dwelling on?  The apostle Paul gives us the answer here:

Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I encourage you to dwell on these things, because if you do, you will avoid a lot of sin and temptation!

Let me offer you some relief and strength:

As we mentioned earlier, all Christians have the ‘living water’ of God in our lives.  In other words, you have the same gospel message that Billy Graham, Charles Finney and others had. You have access to the same Holy Spirit power they had.  

All you need to do is get comfortable sharing that water with thirsty souls.  It’s not a matter of having a PhD in divinity.  It’s not a matter of getting a bullhorn and standing on the corner condemning random people to hell.  It doesn’t have to include every book of the bible and take an entire day.  It does not have to be confrontational.

It’s simply a matter of being ready to share what God has done for you with people who are hurting.  Is one of your coworkers going through an illness or a marriage problem?  Offer them support and prayer.  Just a little kindness can open the door for you to share what a difference Christ has made in your life. 

Sharing the gospel can be a gentle, peaceful, well received experience.  You don’t have to fear it!  Just look for ways to mention Jesus in your daily conversations.  You might be surprised how easy it is to share your faith!