Friday’s Featured Sermon: “Getting the Gospel Right”

Galatians 1:6-9

Code: B180119

Sinful hearts know they are sinful. Sinners can’t appreciate the full depth of their depravity, nor can they understand the magnitude of God’s holiness. But every unrepentant man’s conscience cries out when he rebels against the Law of God written in his heart.

While our brazen culture refuses to acknowledge God or the authority of His Word, the pleading cry of the prophet Micah rings out through all of human history:

With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams, in ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? (Micah 6:6-7)

The unrepentant world has concocted countless false religious systems to stifle the cries of its conscience. But that plethora of deceptive false gospels—especially those that blasphemously resemble the truth of God’s Word—are why God’s people must be so careful to accurately and faithful represent the gospel of His Son.

That’s the case John MacArthur makes in his sermon “Getting the Gospel Right.” Tracing the glaring deficiencies of false religion through Scripture and church history, John makes a compelling case for biblical fidelity and theological precision.

The sermon centers on Paul’s words in Galatians 1:6-9.

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

Throughout his message, John MacArthur traces the dire condemnation that awaits anyone who corrupts or distorts the true gospel.

This was on the apostle’s mind in the eleventh chapter of 2 Corinthians, verse 2: “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin.” “I am afraid,” he says in 11:3, “that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.”

What an indictment! Somebody comes with a different Jesus, a different Holy Spirit, and a different gospel, and you bear it beautifully, you welcome them. This is frightening. Whatever form of corrupted gospel—the gospel of works, the prosperity gospel, gospel of natural theology, the gospel of wider mercy, the new perspective on Paul, whatever you want to call it—another gospel is not to be borne beautifully. Accursed is to be pronounced on another gospel.

Under the constant onslaught of doctrinal compromise, false religion, and demonic lies, God’s people must hold fast to His truth. “Getting the Gospel Right” is a powerful reminder of what is at stake, and all that can go wrong when the church falters in its biblical fidelity.

Click here to listen to or watch “Getting the Gospel Right.”

 


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What Did Early Christians Believe About Hell?

As we seek to understand what the Bible teaches about Hell, it may be helpful to understand what the earliest believers believed and taught. The teachings of some of these believers has been preserved for us in the writings of ancient church leaders (known as the Early Church Fathers). While their writings are neither canonical nor authoritative, they do help us to understand what those closest to the apostles first believed about Hell. As we assemble the teachings of these first church leaders, several patterns emerge related to the nature of Hell. The Early Church Fathers, with very few exceptions, agree with traditional views descriptions of Hell as a place of eternal, conscious torment:

1. Hell is a place of judgment for those who have rejected God and denied Jesus as their Savior
2. Hell is a place of separation from God
3. Hell is a place of torment in which the rebellious are in anguish and pain
4. Hell is a place where the rebellious are tormented forever and are conscious of this torment for all eternity (In fact, the eternal duration of their torment is often compared to the eternal duration of the reward of the saved)

At the same time, the earliest Church Fathers are ambiguous on those areas where the Bible is ALSO ambiguous.

1. The exact nature of the torment of the rebellious is unknown
2. The manner in which the rebellious are kept alive in spite of ‘deathly’ anguish is also un-described

The Early Church Fathers simply reflected the clearest teachings of the Bible. Here is a very brief assessment of several quotes made by early Christians about the nature of Hell:

From “The Epistle of Barnabas” (70-130AD)
The author of the Epistle of Barnabas is unknown, but many consider him to simply be who he said he was, Barnabas, the associate of Paul who is mentioned in the Book of Acts. The letter was written to new converts to Christianity:

The way of darkness is crooked, and it is full of cursing. It is the way of eternal death with punishment. (“Epistle of Barnabas”)

From Ignatius of Antioch (110AD)
Ignatius was a student of the Apostle John, and succeeded the Apostle Peter as the Bishop of Antioch. He wrote a number of important letters to believers in churches in the area:

Corrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death. how much more if a man corrupt by evil reaching the faith of God. for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire: and so will anyone who listens to him. (Letter to the Ephesians 16:1-2)

From Clement of Rome (150AD)
Clement was Bishop of Rome from 88 to 98AD, and his teaching reflects the early traditions of the Church. “Second Clement” reportedly a recorded sermon, and Clement discusses the nature of Hell:

If we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment (“Second Clement” 5:5)

But when they see how those who have sinned and who have denied Jesus by their words or by their deeds are punished with terrible torture in unquenchable fire, the righteous, who have done good, and who have endured tortures and have hated the luxuries of life, will give glory to their God saying, ‘There shall be hope for him that has served God with all his heart!’ (“Second Clement” 17:7)

From “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” (155AD)
This work was written by an Early Church Father (unknown author) and is dated very early in the history of Christianity. It describes the death of Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John, and also describes early teachings of the church:

Fixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire (“Martyrdom of Polycarp” 2:3)

From Tatian (160AD) 
Tatian was an early Assyrian believer who moved to Rome as a pagan and eventually became a Christian. Interestingly, he read the Jewish Scriptures and from these became convinced that other pagan ideas about the world were simply false. He was a student of Justin Martyr and wrote about the unreasonableness of paganism and the truth of Christianity:

 We who are now easily susceptible to death, will afterwards receive immortality with either enjoyment or with pain. (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1.71)

From Athenagoras of Athens (175AD)
Athenagoras was a philosopher and citizen of Athens who became a Christian (possibly from Platonism) and wrote two important apologetic works; “Apology” or “Embassy for the Christians”, and a “Treatise on the Resurrection”:

We are persuaded that when we are removed from the present life we will live another life, better than the present one…or, if they fall with the rest, they will endure a worse life, one in fire. For God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, who are mere by-products. For animals perish and are annihilated. On these grounds, it is not likely that we would wish to do evil. (“Apology”)

From Theophilus of Antioch (181AD)
Theophilus was the Patriarch of Antioch from 169 to 183AD. He was born a pagan and converted to Christianity after reading the scriptures. He was very zealous about protecting the orthodoxy of the earliest believers and he wrote a defense of the faith to a man named Autolycus:

Give studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God. . . . [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things. . . . For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous, and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire (“To Autolycus” 1:14)

From Irenaeus (189AD)
Irenaeus was bishop of Lugdunum in Gaul (now Lyon, France) at the end of the second century. He was a disciple of Polycarp and a notable early apologist for the faith. He wrote several volumes defending the faith against Gnosticism and other early heresies of the Church, and he often compared eternal punishment to eternal reward, drawing the conclusion that one endured as long as the other:

…Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ‘every knee should bow, of things in heaven,, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess’ to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send ‘spiritual wickednesses,’ and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning of their Christian course, and others from the date of their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory. (“Against Heresies” 1:10:10)

The penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . [I]t is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, ‘Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,’ they will be damned forever (“Against Heresies” 4:28:2)

From Clement of Alexandria (195AD)
Titus Flavius Clemens was the first significant and recorded Christian from the church of Alexandria, Egypt. His parents were Greek and he was raised with a solid, formal Greek education. While he had a tendency to blend Greek and Christian philosophies, his view on the issue of Hell was derived from the scriptures:

All souls are immortal, even those of the wicked. Yet, it would be better for them if they were not deathless. For they are punished with the endless vengeance of quenchless fire. Since they do not die, it is impossible for them to have an end put to their misery. (from a post-Nicene manuscript fragment)

From Tertullian (197AD)
Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus was a Romanized African citizen who was born in Carthage (now Tunisia). He became a Christian and was a powerful and influential apologist for the faith, writing prolifically in defense of the doctrines of orthodoxy:

These have further set before us the proofs He has given of His majesty in judgments by floods and fires, the rules appointed by Him for securing His favor, as well as the retribution in store for the ignoring, forsaking and keeping them, as being about at the end of all to adjudge His worshippers to everlasting life, and the wicked to the doom of fire at once without ending and without break, raising up again all the dead from the beginning, reforming and renewing them with the object of awarding either recompense. (“Apology” 18:3)

Then will the entire race of men be restored to receive its just deserts according to what it has merited in this period of good and evil, and thereafter to have these paid out in an immeasurable and unending eternity. Then there will be neither death again nor resurrection again, but we shall be always the same as we are now, without changing. The worshipers of God shall always be with God, clothed in the proper substance of eternity. But the godless and those who have not turned wholly to God will be punished in fire equally unending, and they shall have from the very nature of this fire, divine as it were, a supply of incorruptibility (“Apology” 44:12–13)

Therefore after this there is neither death nor repeated resurrections, but we shall be the same that we are now, and still unchanged–the servants of God, ever with God, clothed upon with the proper substance of eternity; but the profane, and all who are not true worshippers of God, in like manner shall be consigned to the punishment of everlasting fire–that fire which, from its very nature indeed, directly ministers to their incorruptibility. (“Apology” 48:12)

From Hippolytus of Rome (212AD)
Hippolytus was one of the most prolific writers of the early Church, and he was often at theological odds with the early Popes and church leaders of his time. He appears to have been a student of Irenaeus, and wrote MANY volumes of history, apologetics and Biblical teaching:

Standing before [Christ’s] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: ‘Just is your judgment!’ And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them (“Against the Greeks” 3)

From Felix Minucius (226AD)
Felix Marcus Minucius is perhaps the earliest known Latin apologist for the Christian faith. He wrote “Octavius”, a dialogue on Christianity between a non-believer named Caecilius Natalis and a Christian named Octavius Januarius (who was a lawyer, friend and student of Minucius Felix:

I am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment… Nor is there either measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them (“Octavius” 34:12–5:3)

From Cyprian of Carthage (252-253 AD)
Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus was bishop at Carthage. He had an excellent Greek education and wrote several key letters and treatises in which he discussed doctrines of the Church:

An ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies… The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life (“To Demetrian” 24)

Oh,what and how great will that day be at its coming, beloved brethren, when the Lord shall begin to count up His people, and to recognize the deservings of each one by the inspection of His divine knowledge, to send the guilty to Gehenna, and to set on fire our persecutors with the perpetual burning of a penal fire, but to pay to us the reward of our faith and devotion! (“To Thibaris” 55:10)

From Lactantius (307AD)
Lucius Caelius Firmianus Lactantius was a Latin speaking native of North Africa. He was an expert in rhetoric and he taught the subject in the city of Nicomedia at the request of Emperor Diocletian. He also wrote several apologetic and doctrinal works:

But, however, the sacred writings inform us in what manner the wicked are to undergo punishment. For because they have committed sins in their bodies, they will again be clothed with flesh, that they may make atonement in their bodies; and yet it will not be that flesh with which God clothed man, like this our earthly body, but indestructible, and abiding forever, that it may be able to hold out against tortures and everlasting fire…The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment …Then they whose piety shall have been approved of will receive the reward of immortality; but they whose sins and crimes shall have been brought to light will not rise again, but will be hidden in the same darkness with the wicked, being destined to certain punishment. (“Divine Institutes” 7:21)

From Cyril of Jerusalem (350AD)
Cyril was a well respected theologian of the early Church and a bishop of the church at Jerusalem. He wrote twenty three teaching lectures on the doctrines of the Church and delivered these lectures while he was a presbyter in Jerusalem:

We shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike: for if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed… (“Catechetical Lectures” 18:19)

The real and true life then is the Father, who through the Son in the Holy Spirit pours forth as from a fountain His heavenly gifts to all; and through His love to man, the blessings of the life eternal are promised without fail to us men also. We must not disbelieve the possibility of this, but having an eye not to our own weakness but to His power, we must believe; for with God all things are possible. And that this is possible, and that we may look for eternal life, Daniel declares, And of the many righteous shall they shine as the stars forever and ever. And Paul says, And so shall we be ever with the Lord: for the being forever with the lord implies the life eternal. But most plainly of all the Savior Himself says in the Gospel, And these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into life eternal. (“Catechetical Lectures” 18:28)

While this survey of early teachings on the nature of Hell may seem a bit long and laborious, it does help us to understand what the first believers learned and taught about the nature of the eternal conscious torment of those who reject Christ. Over and over again, we see that the Early Church Fathers believed that those who enter Hell are NOT annihilated or destroyed. In summary, these early believers understood the Scriptures to teach that:

1. Souls live on after the grave. Even those who are assigned to Hell are “immortal”, “indestructible” and “abide forever” Those assigned to Hell will be “detained in everlasting fire” for a period of time that is as “equally perpetual and unending” as the eternal life of those who are in Heaven.

2. The rebellious will exist in Hell with an “eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins”. They will “burn eternally in fire” and they will never “be consumed” Those tormented in Hell will never “have respite” and their torment will never “be at an end”. “Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies”

3. Souls in Hell will NOT be allowed to die or cease to exist. “They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment”, but this is simply not the case. The fire of Hell is an “unquenchable fire”. It is “clever” and “burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them.”

4. The torment suffered by those in Hell will be incredibly unbearable. It will feel as though “a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body” will continually burst forth from the body “with unceasing pain”.

This description of eternal conscious torment in Hell is certainly horrifying. It is hard to believe and even harder to accept. It is not something that we would wish on our worst enemy, and it is not something that we, as believers, can ignore. The Church Fathers affirm the Biblical truth related to the orthodox doctrine of Hell. It is a place of eternal conscious torment and a place that should motivate us to reach others with the truth, even as it motivates us to live a life that is worthy of the God who created us. C.S. Lewis encouraged us to view Hell not only from the eyes of those who don’t believe, but also from our own concerned and cautious position as believers:

“In all discussions of hell we should keep steadily before our eyes the possible damnation, not of our enemies nor our friends… but of ourselves” (C.S. Lewis in “The Problem of Pain”)

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case DetectiveChristian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case ChristianityCold-Case Christianity for KidsGod’s Crime SceneGod’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

Source: What Did Early Christians Believe About Hell?

JANUARY 19 OBEDIENCE: THE FINAL TEST OF LOVE FOR CHRIST

He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me…and I wilt love him, and will manifest myself to him.

JOHN 14:21

The final test of love is obedience, not sweet emotions, not willingness to sacrifice, not zeal, but obedience to the commandments of Christ!

Our Lord drew a line plain and tight for everyone to see. On one side He placed those who keep His commandments and said, “These love Me.” On the other side He put those who keep not His sayings, and said, “These love Me not.”

The commandments of Christ occupy in the New Testament a place of importance that they do not have in current evangelical thought. The idea that our relation to Christ is revealed by our attitude to His commandments is now considered legalistic by many influential Bible teachers, and the plain words of our Lord are rejected outright or interpreted in a manner to make them conform to religious theories ostensibly based upon the epistles of Paul.

The Christian cannot be certain of the reality and depth of his love until he comes face-to-face with the commandments of Christ and is forced to decide what to do about them. Then he will know!

I think we should turn for a while from finespun theological speculations about grace and faith and humbly read the New Testament with a mind to obey what we see there. Love for Christ is a love of willing, as well as a love of feeling, and it is psychologically impossible to love Him adequately unless we will to obey His words![1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

Forget the ‘Good Old Days’ and Press On!

Eradicate: Blotting Out God in America

It’s hard to run the race and press on to what lies ahead without forgetting the past. For some of us, it’s about time to let go of excess baggage – and that includes idealizing parts of our past. According to the Bible, our best days are yet to come! Do you believe this? We must not fall into a trap of dwelling on the past – good times or bad – or we might miss what God wants to do today (Is. 43:18-19).

Every day we’re alive is one day closer to Heaven and the return of Jesus Christ. But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

With all that’s going on in this country, things can appear darker than…

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January 19, 2018 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

12:5 the place which the Lord your God will choose. Cf. vv. 11, 18, 21. Various places of worship were chosen after the people settled in Canaan, such as Mt. Ebal (27:1–8; Jos 8:30–35), Shechem (Jos 24:1–28) and Shiloh (Jos 18:1), which was the center of worship through the period of Judges (Jdg 21:19). The tabernacle, the Lord’s dwelling place, was located in Canaan, where the Lord chose to dwell. The central importance of the tabernacle was in direct contrast to the multiple places (see v. 2) where the Canaanites practiced their worship of idols. Eventually, the tabernacle was brought to Jerusalem by David (cf. 2Sa 6:12–19).[1]


12:5 Access to God at a single location (Jerusalem, 1 Kings 8:16; Ps. 122:4) prefigures access through Christ alone (John 14:6).[2]


12:5the place that Yahweh your God will choose Deuteronomy regularly uses this phrase to refer to the central sanctuary (Deut 12:11, 14, 18, 21, 26). From the narrative perspective of Deuteronomy, the location had not yet been determined, but from the later perspective of the historical books, the only legitimate place to worship Yahweh was the Jerusalem temple (see 1 Kgs 12:25–31; 2 Kgs 17:9; compare John 4:19–26).

place his name there as his dwelling This phrase represents important formulaic language in Deuteronomy. The wording describes a place where God might choose to make His presence dwell. This is seen in other places in the ot where Yahweh’s “name” refers to Yahweh Himself and to His very presence.[3]


12:5 the place that the Lord your God will choose. This passage has been used to argue that Deuteronomy was written in the sixth century b.c. so as to support Josiah’s centralization of worship at Jerusalem in that period (Introduction: Date and Occasion). But that view, which presupposes an evolutionary theory of the development of Israelite religion, misreads this verse. The reference here to “the place” certainly need not imply that the location of the temple in Jerusalem was known when this text was written. In the course of Israel’s history, worship of the Lord was successively centered in several places: Shiloh (Josh. 18:1) and Gibeon (1 Chr. 16:39), as well as later in Jerusalem. The stress here is on the contrast between “the place … the Lord your God will choose” and “the places where the nations … served their gods” (v. 2). Purity of worship in obedience to divine command, rather than centralization, is primarily in view.[4]


12:5 Deuteronomy does not specify Jerusalem as the only place for a sanctuary. Shiloh and even Mt. Ebal would have altars (27:5ff.; cf. John 4:20). The overriding theme of this chapter concerning the sanctuary is a warning against unauthorized places of worship (vv. 2–4, 13, 14, 29–31).[5]


12:5 The command to worship God in only one place seems to be at variance with Ex 20:24–26, which permits altars at many places, and with later practice in which prophets who were loyal to God offered sacrifice at authorized high places (e.g. 1 Sm 9:11–14; 1 Kg 18:30). What this passage mandates, however, is community worship, especially in connection with the annual festivals. It does not address the matter of local worship in Israel’s towns and villages.[6]


12:5seek: Whatever one seeks is the object of one’s desire and devotion (Ps. 122:9). place where the Lord your God chooses: The central place of worship was God’s to choose (Ps. 132:13, 14). God blessed His people with His presence in the tabernacle in the wilderness and later at Shiloh, in the temple in Jerusalem, and finally through Jesus Christ (John 2:18–22). out of all your tribes: The presence of God was for the benefit of all of the people without preference for any one tribe. God’s name signifies His ownership. dwelling place: The Lord graciously agreed to live among His people.[7]


12:5 / Deuteronomy 12:5–12, dealing with the worship of Israel at the place God would choose, is the first of the two major central sections of the chapter. The other section is verses 13–28, dealing with the matter of “profane slaughter”—i.e., the nonsacrificial killing of animals for food. Both sections have a double-barreled form, with a kind of didactic parallelism between 5–7 and 8–12, and between 13–19 and 20–28. The reason for the repetitious nature of the material is more likely to be its teaching purpose rather than a literary history of successive redactions of separate laws. McConville’s careful analysis of the intricate stylistic features, vocabulary distribution, and balancing chiasms also points strongly toward the essential unity of the chapter (McConville, Law and Theology, pp. 59–67).

In contrast to the pagan sanctuaries of Canaanite gods and their names, the Israelites were to seek the place the Lord your God will choose. Their worship was to take place neither at the religious sites of the former inhabitants nor at any place they happened to fancy (v. 13, cf. Ezek. 20:28f.), but only at the place of Yahweh’s choice. The primary emphasis is on the distinguishing feature of the site as being chosen by Yahweh, not just on it being one place rather than many. The unity of Israel’s worship consisted in its being offered to only one God, Yahweh, rather than in its being offered at only one place. Yahweh would choose the place to put his Name there for his dwelling. This expression denotes the presence of the tabernacle and ark, the visible symbols of Yahweh’s presence in the midst of the people (cf. Exod. 29:43–46). It probably also has connotations of Yahweh’s ownership of the place, and judging from ancient Near Eastern parallels to the phrase, it may have overtones of possession by right of conquest. In other words, Yahweh’s placing of his name there was symbolic of his ownership of the whole land (cf. Wenham, “Central Sanctuary,” esp. pp. 112–14). The combined expression (the place of Yahweh’s choice; the place where he put his name), or either part of it, become the standard designation throughout the rest of Deuteronomy for the legitimate sanctuary at which various cultic functions were to be carried out (e.g., 14:23ff.; 15:20; 16 [passim]; 17:8ff.; 18:6; 26:2).

The place itself is not named. It would have been perfectly possible to identify a specific place-name in advance, since knowledge of the topography of the land was not lacking, as the references to Mts. Gerizim and Ebal show. The lack of a place-name thus serves only to underline the importance of the name installed there—Yahweh’s name. Scholars’ preoccupation with “the place” in geographical terms through linking it to a specific historical program of centralization in Jerusalem has inverted the priority of the text, which is concerned not so much with the location of the place as with its election by Yahweh. What matters is not “where?” but “who?” Likewise, the Canaanite sanctuaries were to be destroyed, not because of where they were or because they were many but because of their names, i.e., whose they were. Whatever human name the place may come to have will be less important than the name that God will have put there. And if the name of Yahweh was not being honored there in the way God required, then the place itself had neither sanctity nor ultimate security, whether it was Bethel being attacked in the tenth century by an unnamed prophet from Judah (1 Kgs. 13:1–3) and by Amos from Judah in the eighth (Amos 5:4–6; 7:10ff.), or Shiloh (Jer. 7:12–15), or even Jerusalem itself (Mic. 3:9–12; Jer. 7:1–15). On internal ot critical perspectives on the Jerusalem tradition, cf. McConville, “Jerusalem.”

In the wider canonical context, this valuing of a place because of Yahweh’s choice and presence, rather than because of its location, sows the seeds for the nt’s transference of the significance of the place of worship. The temple gives way to the person of Jesus Christ as the focus of worship in the messianic age (cf. John 4:19–26; Acts 7:44–50; and Davies, Land).

From the time of David onward, with the transfer of the ark and the building of the temple by Solomon, the place could be thought of only as Jerusalem. This identification is quite explicit in the later Deuteronomistic History (e.g., 1 Kgs. 8:44, 48; 11:13, 32, 36; 14:21; 2 Kgs. 21:7; 23:27) and is reflected in the Psalms (Pss. 87; 122; 132). But in the premonarchic period it is undeniable that other places served as “central sanctuaries” for shorter or longer periods. Shiloh is the most obvious such place (cf. 1 Sam. 1–4; Jer. 7:12), because of the known presence of the tabernacle and ark there. Shechem and Bethel are canvassed by some scholars as earlier such sites, but the evidence is more dubious. Nonetheless, the existence of a central sanctuary preceded the initial centralizing of the cult in Jerusalem by David or any of the subsequent reform movements of Davidic kings such as Asa in the ninth century bce (1 Kgs. 15:11–14; 2 Chron. 15), Hezekiah in the eighth (2 Kgs. 18:3–4; 2 Chron. 29–30) and Josiah in the seventh (2 Kgs. 23:4–25; 2 Chron. 34–35). As many scholars recognize, therefore, the “centralizing” law of Deuteronomy 12 cannot be reliably linked solely to the Josianic reform in the seventh century or indeed necessarily and originally to Jerusalem. That identification, according to von Rad, “was probably too hasty … The fact cannot indeed be disputed that later, during the course of Josiah’s reform, the law was applied to the sanctuary at Jerusalem, but this proves nothing at all about the origin of the requirement” (Deuteronomy, p. 94; cf. additional note).[8]


12:5seek: Whatever one seeks is the object of one’s desire and devotion (Ps. 122:9). place where the Lord your God chooses: The central place of worship was God’s to choose (Ps. 132:13, 14). God blessed His people with His presence in the tabernacle in the wilderness and later at Shiloh, in the temple in Jerusalem, and finally through Jesus Christ (John 2:18–). out of all your tribes: The presence of God was for the benefit of all of the people without preference for any one tribe. God’s name signifies His ownership. dwelling place: The Lord graciously agreed to live among His people.[9]


12:5. When Israel entered the Promised Land, God would choose a place … to put His name (cf. vv. 11, 21; 14:23–24; 16:2, 6, 11; 26:2) that is, He would choose a site for the tabernacle, the place where God and the people would meet (cf. Ex. 33:7–11). This command did not mean that the tabernacle would always stay in the same place, for it was moved at God’s command. The ultimate fulfillment of this command came centuries later when God let David move the tabernacle to Jerusalem where his son Solomon built the temple. The command for a single sanctuary promoted or emphasized three things: the unity of God (i.e., He is One, not many), the purity of the Israelites’ worship of the Lord, and the people’s political and spiritual unity.[10]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Dt 12:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 350). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Dt 12:5). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 262). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Dt 12:5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 285). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[7]The NKJV Study Bible. (2007). (Dt 12:5). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[8] Wright, C. J. H. (2012). Deuteronomy. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 162–164). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[9] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 248). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[10] Deere, J. S. (1985). Deuteronomy. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 284). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

JANUARY 19 SALVATION’S PRICE

But without faith it is impossible to please him.

Hebrews 11:6

Too many Christian leaders, acting like enthusiastic promoters, are teaching that the essence of faith is this: “Come to Jesus—it will cost you nothing!”

The price has all been paid—“it will cost you nothing!”

Brethren, that is a dangerous half-truth. There is always a price connected with salvation and with discipleship.

God’s grace is free, no doubt about that. No one in the wide world can make any human payment toward the plan of salvation or the forgiveness of sins.

I take issue on Bible grounds with the statement that “everyone in the world has faith—all you have to do is turn your faith loose.”

That is truly a misconception of what the Bible teaches about men and God and faith. Actually, faith is a rare and wonderful plant that lives and grows only in the penitent soul.

The teaching that everyone has faith is simply a form of humanism in the guise of Christianity. I warn you that any faith that belongs to everybody is not the faith that saves. It is not that faith which is a gift of God to the broken and contrite heart!

Lord, I praise You for extending Your grace so freely to me. I repent of any sins I have committed, both knowingly and unknowingly. Help my faith in You to grow today.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

January 19 Why Jesus Rejected Sensationalism

“On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”—Matt. 4:7

The Lord Jesus had two good reasons for not participating in a worldly spectacle such as jumping from the temple roof. First, such sensationalism is captive to the laws of diminishing returns. To generate and hold people’s allegiance to Him merely by stunning signs, Jesus would have needed to produce greater and greater signs. People would never have been satisfied and would always have demanded just one more miracle, one additional showy event. Real faith would not have been certain; they would have been lovers of sensation more than God, which similarly could happen to any of us who don’t trust God’s already revealed will.

Second, and more important, for Jesus to participate in sensational signs would have demonstrated a profound mistrust in His heavenly Father and a presumptuous, faithless testing of God. But that’s what the devil wanted so that Jesus’ sin would shatter His claim to divinity and ruin humanity’s hope of salvation. Such an action would have questioned the Father’s providence and love—and the wisdom of His redemptive plan.

If our sinless Savior and Lord shunned sensationalism, we as imperfect men and women ought never to live recklessly or carelessly, expecting God to rescue us when we get into earthly trouble or spiritual peril.

ASK YOURSELF

Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a risk-taker. But looking honestly at your own life, do you spot some behaviors that are spiritually risky, actions that presume on the grace of God? In humble repentance today, surrender these things to the Lord. Receive, but don’t force, His great mercy.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 27). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

January 19 Known by Obedience

According to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith.

Romans 16:26

Did you know it’s not faith plus obedience that equals salvation, but obedient faith that equals salvation? True faith is verified in your obedience to God.

Because Jesus is Lord, He demands obedience. There is no faith without obedience. Paul said to the Roman Christians, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Rom. 1:8). And why was their faith spoken of throughout the world? Romans 16:19 explains: “Your obedience has become known to all.” In the beginning, it is your faith that is spread abroad, but in the end it is your obedience.

Faith that excludes obedience won’t save anyone. The delusion that it will causes many people to take the broad road that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13–14). That’s like building a religious super–structure on sand (Matt. 7:21–29).

Build your life in obedience to Christ. Then you’ll know that you belong to Him.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 30). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

January 19, 2018 Morning Verse Of The Day

The Contact

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” (4:7–15)

As Jesus sat beside the well that evening, tired and thirsty from His journey, there came a woman of Samaria to draw water. The cool of the evening was the time when women customarily performed that chore (Gen. 24:11). This woman came at high noon, perhaps because of her desire to avoid public shame. What was also unusual was that this woman came such a long distance to this well when there were other sources of water closer to the village. But she, for reasons that will soon become evident, was an outcast. She would rather walk the extra distance in the hottest time of the day than face the hostility and scorn of the other women at the closer well earlier or later in the day.

The Lord’s simple request, “Give Me a drink,” was in that culture a shocking breach of social custom. Men did not speak with women in public—not even their wives. Nor did rabbis associate with immoral women (cf. Luke 7:39). Most significant of all in this situation, Jews customarily wanted nothing to do with Samaritans (cf. the discussion of v. 9 below). But Jesus shattered all of those barriers. The parenthetical note that the disciples had gone away into the city to buy food explains why Jesus was sitting at the well by Himself. It also indicates that our Lord did not pay attention to the taboos of the strict Jews, who would not eat food handled by Samaritans.

Taken aback that Jesus spoke to her, the Samaritan woman said in astonishment, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” As noted above, it was culturally incorrect for a man, especially a rabbi, to speak to any woman, particularly an immoral outcast. But her question reveals that what she found most surprising was that Jesus, being a Jew, would speak to her, a Samaritan woman since, as John explained in an understated way, Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Even more astounding was His willingness to ceremonially defile Himself by drinking from her water pot, since He had no vessel of His own from which to drink (v. 11). (The word translated dealings in John’s explanatory note literally means “to use the same utensils.”) But Jesus was the infinitely holy God in human flesh. He could not be defiled by a Samaritan water pot. Whatever He touched—even corpses (Luke 7:12–15) or lepers (Matt. 8:2–3)—did not taint Him, but instead became clean.

The bitter rivalry between the Jews and the Samaritans had been going on for centuries. After the fall of the northern kingdom to the Assyrians, the ten tribes of

Israel [were] carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria … [and] the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and Sephar-vaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities. (2 Kings 17:23–24).

The foreign non-Jews intermarried with the population of Jews who had not been deported, forming a mixed race known as the Samaritans (the name derives from the region and capital city, both called Samaria). The new settlers brought their idolatrous religion with them (2 Kings 17:29–31), which became intermingled with the worship of Yahweh (vv. 25–28, 32–33, 41). In time, however, the Samaritans abandoned their idols and worshiped Yahweh alone, after their own fashion (for example, they accepted only the Pentateuch as canonical Scripture, and worshiped God on Mount Gerizim, not at Jerusalem).

When the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nehemiah, their first priority was to rebuild the temple. Professing loyalty to Israel’s God, the Samaritans offered their assistance (Ezra 4:1–2). The Jews’ blunt refusal (Ezra 4:3) enraged the Samaritans, who then became their bitter enemies (Ezra 4:4ff.; Neh. 4:1–3, 7ff.). Rebuffed in their attempt to worship at Jerusalem, the Samaritans built their own temple on Mount Gerizim (c. 400 b.c.). The Jews later destroyed that temple during the intertestamental period, further worsening relations between the two groups.

After centuries of mistrust, there was a deep animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans. The writer of the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus expressed the scorn and contempt the Jews felt for the Samaritans. Claiming that God detested the Samaritan people, he derisively referred to them as “the stupid people living at Shechem” (50:25–26). The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day manifested this same prejudice. In fact, when they wanted to insult Jesus, the worst they could do was to call Him a Samaritan (8:48). The Samaritans, of course, reciprocated the Jews’ hostility—as was illustrated when one of their villages refused to receive Jesus because He was on His way to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51–53).

In response to the woman’s query, Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” The Lord’s reply turned the tables on her. When the conversation began, He was the thirsty one, and she the one with the water. Now He spoke as if she were the thirsty one and He the one with the water. The woman’s reply reflected her confusion. Still thinking in terms of physical water she asked, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep (cf. the discussion of v. 6 above); where then do You get that living water?” She did not understand that Jesus was talking about spiritual realities. The living water that He offered her was salvation in all its fullness, including forgiveness of sin and the ability and desire to live an obedient life that glorifies God.

The Old Testament uses the metaphor of living water to describe the spiritual cleansing and new life that comes at salvation through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Disobedient Israel was guilty of having foolishly “forsaken [God], the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Later Jeremiah warned that “all who forsake [the Lord] will be put to shame. Those who turn away on earth will be written down, because they have forsaken the fountain of living water, even the Lord” (17:13). Both passages emphasize that God is the only source of salvation; He alone is the “fountain of life” (Ps. 36:9), and in Him the redeemed “will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation” (Isa. 12:3; cf. Isa. 1:16–18). Isaiah 55:1 echoes God’s gracious offer of salvation: “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters,” and this invitation is reiterated in the book of Revelation (21:6; 22:17). As God Himself promised regarding the new covenant:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (Ezek. 36:25–27; cf. Isa. 44:3)

John applies these themes to Jesus as the living water, which symbolizes eternal life (v. 14; 6:35; 7:37–39).

The woman’s question, “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” expects a negative answer. She was skeptical of this stranger’s ability to provide the living water He offered. Even the revered patriarch Jacob could not provide water without expending the effort to dig this well. And in her mind this Jewish traveler certainly was not greater than Jacob. But as D. A. Carson notes, “Misunderstanding combines with irony to make the woman twice wrong: the ‘living water’ Jesus offers does not come from an ordinary well, and Jesus is in fact far greater than the patriarch Jacob” (The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991], 219).

Patiently, Jesus answered her skeptical question and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Jacob was rightly accorded a place of honor by both Jews and Samaritans. Yet, as Jesus pointed out, everyone who drank of the water from his well would thirst again. It is a measure of Jesus’ incomparable greatness that whoever drinks of the water that He will give him shall never thirst; but the water that He will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life (cf. Isa. 12:3). Here was the living water of spiritual life (cf. 7:38) that her parched soul desperately needed (cf. Ps. 143:6).

Still thinking primarily on the physical level, she replied eagerly, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” Her response parallels that of the Galilean crowd, who responded to Jesus’ teaching about the bread from heaven, “Lord, always give us this [physical] bread” (6:34; cf. v. 26). Whatever else the living water did, she was ready to receive it if it would eliminate her daily trip to the well and give her also eternal life.

At this point, the woman does not appear to have been clear on the matter of spiritual transformation. Jesus had spoken to her about the water of eternal life, and she seemed willing to accept it, but no conditions had been stated. As with any lost sinner, this woman needed to understand two crucial issues before she could receive the living water of eternal life—namely, the reality of her sin and His identity as Savior. In these last two points, Jesus addressed both of those issues.[1]


Living Water

John 4:7–14

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

In the city of Philadelphia, where I live, there is a beautiful drive that leads out of the city along the eastern bank of the Schuylkill River. Along the drive there is a section of the riverbank lined with boathouses, called Boathouse Row; and across from Boathouse Row there is a statue of a pilgrim with a Bible under his arm. Many who pass the statue by car never see more than the pilgrim. But if a person is on foot and is exploring the riverbank, he soon finds a stream that empties into the Schuylkill near the pilgrim, as well as a trail that winds along it. If he follows this trail up over Sedgley Hill toward Brewery Town, he comes upon the source of the spring. There, over the spring’s source, he sees an inscription once placed by the city government—“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again.”

The quotation over the source of Sedgley spring is true, so far as it goes. No one would think of denying it. But it is only half a quotation. For the other half of the quotation one must turn to Christ’s words to the woman of Samaria when she came to Jacob’s well to draw water.

As Jesus spoke to the woman about water he made the obvious statement—“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.” But then he also made a second statement, and in this statement there is a great promise. He offered a new kind of water, saying, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). This promise is the basis for our study in this chapter.

A Weary Christ

It is not often that I have been really thirsty—certainly not in this country—but of one thing about thirst I am convinced: most people understand very little about it until they spend time in a tropical land, particularly an arid and extremely warm land such as the Middle East. Several times when I have been traveling in the Middle East I have found myself in places where a traveler dared not drink the water. I remember vividly how uncomfortable and at times almost desperate one becomes until a place is reached where the water is drinkable and intense thirst can be quenched. People seldom experience this in America and other English-speaking lands. So in our literature water appears often as a symbol of beauty or perhaps (in great quantities) even of destruction but seldom as a symbol for life. It is entirely different in a culture where water is a symbol of that without which a person will surely die.

We must see this as we turn to Jesus’ conversation with the woman of Samaria, for the point there is that Jesus is as necessary for spiritual life as water is for physical life.

Jesus had been traveling with his disciples from the area of the lower Jordan to Galilee and had to go through Samaria, as the story tells us (v. 4). This was not entirely true in a purely geographical sense. From the area of the lower Jordan to Galilee there were two routes. One led through Perea on the eastern side of the Jordan to the northern end of the valley where it crossed over into Galilee. The other, the way Jesus took, went through Samaria, the country west of the Jordan. Normally, orthodox Jews would take the eastern route; it was longer but it avoided Samaria. They did this because of their hostility toward the Samaritans. When John tells us, then, that Jesus “must needs” go through Samaria, he obviously means Jesus had to go that way to meet the Samaritan woman.

So Jesus went through Samaria. About noon on the second day of travel he came to the vicinity of the Samaritan town of Sychar. Being tired from his journey, he sat at the foot of the hill leading up to Sychar, on the edge of Jacob’s well. The disciples were sent off to the city to buy something to eat while Jesus rested.

What a picture of Jesus! Here was a Jesus who was not wearied merely by the heat. He could have stayed in the cooler area of the Jordan. Here was a Jesus who was wearied in his search for sinners and who had become thirsty seeking those to whom he was to offer the water of life. On the same errand he would one day experience an even greater thirst on the cross. One of the great devotional writers of our time, Geoffrey T. Bull, a missionary the Chinese imprisoned on the Tibetan border from 1950 to 1953 but later released, remarks on this aspect of Jesus’ encounter with the woman: “If she could have seen just then what Jesus saw, she would have glimpsed another noonday when the sun would mourn in blackness and this same Stranger cry out from a Roman cross, ‘I thirst!’ She would have seen in him the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, the smitten Christ from whom the living waters flow. … He was thirstier than she knew. He was speaking for the very heart of God. He was moving in the travail of his soul and looked for satisfaction in the restoration of this sin scarred woman.”

Jesus became man and experienced all that we experience, but the point of the incarnation is that he did this to redeem men. So if he was weary, thirsty, hot, and on the road to even greater suffering, he was weary and hot for your sake and mine. Jesus suffered for the Nicodemuses, the women of Samaria, and the others whom this world holds. If you are already a believer, perhaps you should ask yourself whether you have ever wearied yourself in the pursuit of other men and women. Have you ever become hot or uncomfortable trying to communicate the gospel to others?

A Thirsty Woman

There is another picture in the first verses of John 4. The one picture is of a wearied Christ. The second is of the woman. She was a Samaritan, and she undoubtedly had had many opportunities to return the hatred of the Jews for the Samaritans by hating the Jews in return. Perhaps she had even had a taste of their hostility a few minutes before meeting Jesus, for she was coming down the hill at the same time that Peter and the other disciples had gone up, and we can be certain that at this stage of their lives, Peter and the others would never have moved off the path for any woman, much less a Samaritan and one with loose morals at that. Perhaps she had been pushed aside or made to wait while the body of Galileans marched by.

Probably she came to the bottom of the hill with this fresh reminder of the hatred of the Jews in her mind, and as soon as she got to the well the first thing that she discovered was another Jew. She could tell he was a Jew by his dress. She was silent. She wasn’t about to speak to him! While she was getting ready to lower her bucket into the well, however, Jesus made a request. He asked for a drink. When she remarked at the fact that he, a Jew, should do something as unheard of as to ask water of a Samaritan woman, he aroused her curiosity even further by offering her a new kind of water, “living water,” that would be a spring of water within her “welling up to eternal life.”

This is always the way it is in the spiritual realm. Jesus comes to us first. If we were left to ourselves, we would leave him sitting on the edge of the well forever. But he does not leave us to ourselves. Instead he comes to us. He asks the first question. He initiates the conversation. He uses all devices to break through to our hearts. Sometimes it is a question, sometimes a command, sometimes a chance remark made by someone else, but it is always from him.

Jesus offered the woman “living water.” But what does that mean? What does it mean when he offers it to us? The woman, of course, at first understood the words with crude literalness, just as Nicodemus had understood the words about being “born again” literally. In Jewish speech the phrase “living water” meant water that was flowing, like water in a river or stream, as opposed to water that was stagnant, as in a cistern or well. Living water was considered to be better. Therefore, when Jesus said that he could give her “living water” the woman quite naturally thought of a stream. She wanted to know where Jesus had found it. From the tone of her remarks it is evident that she even thought his claim a bit blasphemous, for it was a claim to have done something greater than her ancestor Jacob had been able to do. Had Jacob been able to find a stream he would certainly not have taken the trouble to dig a well that was roughly a hundred feet deep. This was the level on which the woman was thinking.

Still the phrase should have meant more than this to anyone who was accustomed to thinking biblically. It should have meant more than this to the woman. Many times in the Old Testament God is pictured as the One who alone can supply living water to satisfy the thirst for God that exists in man’s soul.

Isaiah wrote, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isa. 12:3). David said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1). God declared through Jeremiah, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13). In Isaiah 44 God makes the promise, “For I will pour water on the thirsty land” (Isa. 44:3). In chapter 55 he declares, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” (v. 1). Several times in the writings of Ezekiel and Zechariah there is a picture of a river of life flowing out from God’s presence in Jerusalem (Ezek. 47:1–12; Zech. 13:1; 14:8). In the New Testament, in the Book of Revelation, there is a reference to these themes in the promises for the end time, “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).

Much of the Old Testament is filled with this pictorial religious language revealing the thirst of the soul, a thirst that can be satisfied only by God. However, the woman chose to misunderstand Christ’s words by taking them literally. She was blind because she would not see.

Jesus was claiming to be the One who alone can satisfy human longing. Have you tested his claim? You may try to fill your life with the things of this world—money, fame, power, activity—but though these will satisfy for a time, they will not do so permanently. I have often said that they are like a Chinese dinner. They will fill you up well, but two or three hours later you will be hungry again. Only Jesus Christ is able to satisfy you fully.

A Springing Fountain

There is one more point that is of great importance to this study. Up to now we have been thinking mostly about the phrase “living water” from verse 10. Jesus said, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” This verse is important, but we must not overlook the point that four verses further on, in verse 14, Jesus repeats his offer with a significant variation. In verse 14 he says, “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

No one has ever seen a well of water springing up. Only the water in a spring springs up. The water in a well just lies there. So Jesus is not talking about a well. The woman had come to a well. Jesus has invited her to a spring. Now he adds that if she allows him to place this spring within her, the spring will never cease but will continue to bubble away forever.

Imagine, if you will, that you have just purchased a piece of property upon which you are going to build a house. There is water on the property. If the water is in a well, the water will give you no trouble. If you are there with your bulldozers to clear the ground for your house, all you have to do is push some dirt into the hole and the well will be gone forever so far as you are concerned. It is entirely different, however, if the source of the water on your property is a spring. Try to do the same as you did with the well. You push some dirt over a spring, and it seems to be gone. Five o’clock comes. The workmen go home. But the next morning, when the workmen come back, the stream will be there again, having simply pushed its way through the ground. A well can be covered. A spring seeps through anything you may place over it.

This is what the Lord Jesus Christ is saying. He is promising to place a spring within the life of anyone who will come to him. This spring will be eternal, free, joyous, and self-dependent. But he is also warning you that you will never be able to bulldoze anything over it!

We try, of course. I have done it myself. I know of many who have believed in Christ but who have come to a place in their lives where his way seems inconvenient and who have tried to stifle his presence by piling some foreign substance over the spring. Some have said, “I’m glad that I’m saved, but I’m going to go my way while I’m young. I paid too much attention to religion in my youth. Now I’m just going to cover it up.” So they try. But instead of succeeding they discover that God just comes bubbling through.

Let me ask another question: What happens when a spring comes bubbling through dirt? The answer is: It produces muddy water. Is it the spring’s fault? No! The fault lies in the dirt that has been pushed on top of it. Does this describe your life? Are you a Christian who has run from God, trying to cover over his presence, but instead only had your life filled with muddy water? If this does describe you, why don’t you allow the Lord Jesus Christ to remove the dirt and purify the spring of his life within you?

Let me warn you that you cannot go your own way indefinitely. You will never get away with that. God must be true to his character, and God says that in his holiness he is determined to perfect the image of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, within you. If God were to allow you to go any way you want and make a success of it, then he would be a liar when he says that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. God is no liar. So he will make a mess of your life, a ruin of your life, if he has to, until you come to the point where you will let him perfect that work in you he began when you first tasted of the Lord Jesus.

Will you yield to him? If you do, he will satisfy any longing that you may ever have had. He put it there in the first place. And he will do with you that which is pleasing in his sight and which will bless others.[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). John 1–11 (pp. 142–146). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Boice, J. M. (2005). The Gospel of John: an expositional commentary (pp. 276–281). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

JANUARY 19 WE BEGIN WITH GOD

By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible…and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

—Colossians 1:16-17

Now, I know that some have said about me: “That man is always talking about God!” I can only say in reply that if that is the only charge that anyone can properly bring against me, I will be quite a happy man. I know that I talk a lot about God—about the triune God, because I still believe in God. I believe in Him as God Almighty, the Father, and Jesus Christ, His Son and our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

We do begin with God here, where all truth begins, for God is the one true and absolute reality. Back of all, and underneath and supporting all things, He girds the universe and holds it up and guides it.

God does that. That is the only explanation for the universe and the only explanation of human life, for as Creator He gives to human life its meaning and significance.

He is the sacred meaning that gives validity to all meaning. Exclude God from your thinking and you will find yourself with no sense of moral values—you will have no standard of right or wrong. EFE040

Lord, may I also talk “too much” about You. May I keep You first in everything I do, think or say today. Enable me by Your Spirit, I pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.[1]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

January 19 Christ’s Gentle Example

“Walk … with all … gentleness.”

Ephesians 4:1–2

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Jesus is the greatest example of gentleness: He became angry when God the Father was dishonored, but not when He, the Son, was.

Jesus Christ is our supreme example of gentleness. Paul refers specifically to this in 2 Corinthians 10:1. Jesus Himself said, “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29).

Jesus showed righteous indignation when it was proper. When He found the Temple filled with people selling exorbitantly priced sacrificial animals, He drove them out, pouring out their money and overturning tables (Matt. 21:12). He told them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den” (v. 13). Jesus later said to the scribes and Pharisees, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?” (23:33). He did not stand idly by while the Temple was defiled. He spoke out in judgment against hypocrites who dishonored God.

Even though Jesus became angry when God was maligned, He neither retaliated against nor condemned those who attacked Him. “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21–23). When God’s Temple was defiled, Jesus cleaned it out. But when the temple of His body was defiled, enduring the agony of the cross, with mockers all around, all He said was, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). That’s supreme gentleness—total selflessness.

It’s so easy to strike back when someone criticizes or attacks us, but that’s not the way of the gentle Christian trying to walk worthy. The only time we should let the lion in us roar is when God’s honor is at stake. Jesus forgave those who crucified Him. How can we do any less to those who hurt us?

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Suggestions for Prayer: We all fall short of Christ’s example of gentleness. Pray that God would help you each day to reflect more and more the gentleness of Christ.

For Further Study: Read the account of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion in Matthew 26:47–27:50. Did He have the power to strike back (26:53)? ✧ Find all the instances you can in which Christ demonstrated His gentleness.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

January 18 Daily Help

NOTHING gives the believer so much joy as fellowship with Christ. He has enjoyment as others have in the common mercies of life, he can be glad both in God’s gifts and God’s works; but in all these separately, yea, and in all of them added together, he doth not find such substantial delight as in the matchless person of his Lord Jesus.

Where can such sweetness be found as we have tasted in communion with our Beloved?

If you know anything of the inner life, you will confess that our highest, purest, and most enduring joys must be the fruit of the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H. (1892). Daily Help (p. 22). Baltimore: R. H. Woodward & Company.