Monday, January 31, 2011

How Much We Need Need (part 3)

'Need' is a Significant Component to the Gospel Message
[Previous post:How Much We Need Need (part 2)]

The way of this world is crooked, yet finds hope in Christ to put on the incorruptible and immortal. Jesus' offer of eternal life to all those who trust in Him for it, is not divorced from His earthly ministry. Nor is it divorced from the Father's ministry. Even the Gospel written for the purpose of evangelism (the Gospel of John; 20:31) does not neglect to testify of the power and presence of God, come, through signs. The kingdom come is a historical event just as is the cross. No matter the Gospel, the reality is that the promise of God manifesting and working in our midst - God's glory - has come face to face with us through Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). The gift is available; for all to "receive" (Gal 3:14). It is clear; "revealed" (Gal 3:23, Gal 3:1, John 3:16). It is now; when "the fullness of the time had come" (Gal 4:4). Anyone who comes to the Father may drink Jesus, which is the indwelling of the Spirit (John 7:37-39). He wants us correspondingly to choose to remain in Christ and so also in the Father.

Lift up Your Face: The Woman at the Well's Assurance to Us

God-fearing Jews and Gentiles sought to be in Him, and when He came, they received Him with joy. In our case example, the woman at the well goes off to share the source of living water with the men of her city. While she is gone, Jesus teaches His disciples what they are missing since they were absent. He says in John 4:35,
Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
This is an insider's track, the strategy driving the exchange with the woman at the well. The disciples had been laboring to purchase food which perishes. Meanwhile she can see the Way. The harvest is white when the revelation of Jesus is proclaimed. When in the town she does not communicate with the language of living water, though she points to the same source. She is testifying to the town, the Way. Not so centrally the Truth (1 Cor. 15:1-4), not so centrally the Life (John 11:25-26). The whole town would be very familiar with Jacob's well. She was confident this familiar object would illuminate the relational understanding of their need of God, and show how to receive the Spirit. She reaps. She receives wages. She was excited to share in the everlasting work of the Kingdom with Jesus her Savior. Now she is part of the Jerusalem that is born above, the Jerusalem of prophesy. Gal. 4:24-25, 28

For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar--for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children--but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. ... Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of the promise.

Housing the source of living water, New Jerusalem is clad in precious gems which stand the fiery test of judgment (1 Cor 3:12). These materials are the sort which the Jerusalem of the bondwoman never got around to acquiring for themselves though given ample opportunity. They distanced themselves from God, they convinced few that their God was true, and were exiled. God hid his face from them for a time, because they believed they did not need God. Then in Isaiah chapters 40-66, God tells them He has not written a certificate of divorce. He will bring the remnant back by His Servant, the Kinsman-Redeemer, who will acquire everything Himself out of faithfulness to Jacob, out of His mercy and grace and strength. He will convince the watching world. The precious gems (reward/wages) are explained in Isaiah to be children, or the nations. Jerusalem will not be barren of disciples any longer. He will see to it personally. Isaiah 49:18,
Lift up your eyes, look around and see; all these gather together and come to you. "As I live," says the LORD, "You shall surely clothe yourselves with them all as an ornament, and bind them on you as a bride does."
This strength to convince people of our God confirms the Spirit having come, and certainly stood in contrast to the accomplishment of the Pharisees, who "travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, [they] make him twice as much a son of hell as [them]selves" (Matt 23:15).

Massive conversion to the faith is not the only "sign" that assures God's promise to Abraham has been made clear, available, and right now. I used the word "sign." It is a sign, and I use the word in a way a little less narrowly than a typical free grace person might.

Signs: Tangible Proof of The Power and The Presence of God

Elijah is a lesson that though God does amazing signs for one, God was still quietly at work in the lives of 7,000. Though He had spoken His presence through impressive fire on the altar, He also was not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but a still small voice. When doubting Thomas greeted the resurrected Jesus, Jesus said "blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29). Jesus also said it was a wicked and adulterous generation that seeks after signs when they are plenty already to be believed (Matt 16:4), but, having mercy on us He acknowledged, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe” (John 4:48). And so He uses signs; eight in John - eight miracles upon major prophecies of Christ's identity and accomplishment.

It is interesting that in God's opinion eight signs in the Gospel of John prove enough about Jesus that people may believe to everlasting life. But there are a multitude of other "signs" in John's Gospel. An example is John 6:2 which is not counted as one of the eight signs,
Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased.
All eight are not requisites for faith. When only one of John's eight signs in his Gospel had been performed in chapter 2, Nicodemus comes to Jesus in chapter 3 to learn how to become a citizen of redeemed Jerusalem because of a number of unidentified signs (plural, 3:2). What about all the other amazing happenings (signs) encompassing Christ? For instance John the Baptist was Jesus' cousin, yet John said he did not know who the Savior was till the alighting of the Spirit. What is he trying to do to us? John can't mean he doesn't know the cousin he recognized in utero! He means, he was looking for the signs, and they came from Isaiah (42:1). Scripture enmeshed with circumstances was his assurance. We can easily expound the work and identity of Christ when we look for the many signs of what His coming and Kingdom will be like. Are custom-fitted applications of God's Kingdom in our lives, an interference to the doctrine of 'faith-alone'? The woman at the well asked what some have considered 'deflecting questions' out of her pursuit of God's true place of worship. Both she and John the Baptist's belief in Jesus came in circumstantial need for God.

How Many Signs Do We Need?

Jesus said "If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true" (John 5:31). He reaps what the Father sowed. Some people might want to argue that "God is with Him" so that the world would believe in Him for everlasting life. But Jesus' oft repeated contention is for all to know the Father. His ministry was to glorify the Father, not Himself. This is why John is concerned that "the words of the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled" throughout the length of the book. If Jesus' "Emmanuel" ministry was to convince the whole world to become followers of the Father, that therefore proves Jesus is the Father's (suffering!) Servant. If Jesus' ministry is failing to convince the lost person to believe the Most High God, has He saved anyone?

John employs eight signs for one goal: to "know Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (20:31). But the passages in John of each sign employs itself for the manifesting of His glory, and, for believing. Believing what? Remember, believing in Jesus and believing in the promise to Abraham are, paradoxically, distinct and yet One. What is an acceptable handle on the nuance between the two covenants (I can barely describe it in a post, truly!)

In the same way that the truth is distinct and yet also One, let me ask if believing in Jesus for eternal life, and believing in Jesus, are at odds with one another? No! Jesus has life in Himself like the Father. Might we skip over the Father and receive the gift from Jesus separately? Not likely! Jesus' shared His heart for the Father. To believe in the Son is to believe in the Father, and to believe in the Father is to believe in the Son as well.

The Way You Know, You Know: Variegated Signs

In the free grace INDepth note on the signs of Jesus in the Gospel of John of my Bible, it says, "... each miracle was a concrete demonstration of Jesus' divinity and messiahship" [1]. This is true, and John 20:31 tells us the signs are meant so that we might believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing we might have eternal life. And that is excellent. But God's Word can be believed point-blank, in passive persuasion. Man is less willing to believe Him at His Word, and so God gave more; demonstration and power and the nearness of God. "Signs," "semeion" means a distinguishing mark or an indication. It means a portent, a miracle... bringing attention to the Trinity.

Signs prove the gospel of Jesus Christ is variegated in our approach to Christ and Christ's approach to us. Jesus' disciples believed in Him with a single sign that He turned water into wine. These Jews were aware of their own performance in the covenant having degraded since the exemplary faith-lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. "We have become like those of old, over whom You never ruled, those who were never called by Your name" (Is. 63:19). That Jesus had created the best wine at the end of the covenant, spoke scriptural, relational truth. Without Jesus there, it was just another wedding, just another day. But significance came to the wedding when Jesus made their need for God obvious according to the scriptures. They were not inhibited from believing Jesus because there was not yet a cross and resurrection or no audible promise of everlasting life. And they could also believe that the Servant would die according to other scriptures, because that is where the recollection of revelation leads them to conviction. This explains how Mary anointed Jesus before His death, when none of the apostles got that Jesus was going to the cross. She had spent a lot of time watching "the signs of the sky," sitting at His feet.

Nicodemus knows by sheer volume and kind of signs. He knew Jesus was a teacher come from God, for no one can do the signs that He did unless God is with Him. And if God is with Him, then the Kingdom has indeed come. Jesus did so many signs that the people wondered if their doctrinal Christ would be any more prolific than this man Jesus? John 7:31,
And many of the people believed in Him, and said, 'When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?'

Other "signs" in the Gospel of John are:
  • physical healings (Jn 6:2, Is 38:16)
  • the blind see (Jn 9, Is 35:5-6)
  • infants and children will not die young (Jn 4:50, Is 65:20)
  • the Father anoints Jesus (Jn 6:27, Is 61:1)
  • liberty to the captives (the Son makes you free Jn 8:36, Is 61:1)
  • the acceptable year of the Lord (the woman in adultery Jn 8:10, Is 61:2)
  • opening the prison of those who are bound ("loose" the bound Lazaraus Jn 11:44, Is 61:1)
  • comfort for the mourning (the Comforter comes when Jesus goes away, Jn 16:6, Is 61:2)
  • joy replaces mourning (Jn 15:11, Is 61:3)
  • the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Jn 14:27, Is 61:3)
  • the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified (Jn 15:7-8, Is 61:3)
This is just scratching the surface, mostly from just one passage in Isaiah as one may see. These do not include the many passages in Isaiah on light, or love and mercy of God has come, most importantly the suffering Servant, and there's more.

Entrance Sign: Those Who Are Making Straight the Way Are Grabbed by Those Seeking the Way

The Father and Son talk to each other about their motive in the gospel. The Father states His plan to gather true Israel, which includes God-fearers among the Gentiles. Where are God's "7,000 quiet God-fearing" unbelievers in our day? When we witness the gospel converting Gentiles we gain assurance that we know God and God knows us. Is. 49:5-6
And now the LORD says, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered back to Him (for I shall be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be My strength), indeed He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.'
The Gospel of John calls God-seeking Gentiles "children of God" in Caiaphas' prophecy, 11:51
Now this he did not say on his own authority, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
By this scriptural "sign" from John we know that Jesus is the Servant, and the Father is faithful to His promises.

Those coming into His Kingdom find the Way to anticipate redemption from human depravity and a fallen world. God's glory-with-us, is part of the New Covenant Way in which He plans to win the world through the church. We read salvation into our circumstances right off the pages of scripture, and we realize we "know" Jesus now. This is the mystery where we begin a relationship by faith with Him.

That Which Matters to Us Matters to Him -
Will We Respond the Same

From the scriptures, straight to the needs of our lives - only God-fearers see the Way to believe in Him. Both the gift and the supply of the Spirit is for anyone who asks the Father (Luke 11:13) and believes in His Son, Savior of the world. And, through Him we also have a firm hope for godly living.... the subject of the next post. Matt 22:1-14
And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”

How Much We Need Need (part 1)
How Much We Need Need (introduction)

[1] Thomas Nelson Inc., 1997. NKJV Study Bible, pg. 1781.

Friday, January 14, 2011

How Much We Need Need (part 2)

[Previous post: How Much We Need Need (part 1)]
'Need' is a Significant Component to the Gospel Message

The Woman of Samaria
by Harold Copping
In the last post I took a fresh look at John 4 and the gospel presented to the woman at the well. In this post I would like to ask some critical thinking questions.

Imagine a salvation where there was no redemptive works to be done, no thing for saints to accomplish by Christ's power, in this life or the resurrected one. What would the offer of eternal life in John chapter four look like if humanity only needed forgiveness of sins and a wage-less, rewardless, workless, and undistinguished experience of eternity in heaven? I might have to pull out a pen and (God forgive the concept) mark out portions, perhaps something like this:
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The Woman at the Well: Evaluate the "Homework"

This is a good point for discussion. What do you think of the stuff in the last post? I know I don't know a lot yet and I probably have some major holes in my understanding of what is happening in John 4.

Around town I head FG people say about our own gospel that it "makes no difference, it's only the convincing thing to do." Did Jesus share a "no difference" gospel in John or in the other Gospels?

What is the gospel according to the passage? Is the gospel precisely only one verse: "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"?

If that's all the gospel is, what's all the context for? Did the woman at the well need the context on husbands (Jesus' conversation piece) and places of worship (her conversation piece) in order to receive the gift of eternal life? Seriously, we just don't need all that do we? Even the study note in my bible says that she was deflecting the gospel issue by bringing up a theological hobby horse. Is the discussion on the proper place of worship in this gospel presentation just theological legalism? Is Jesus doing biblical synthesis? Of course the biblical backdrop is necessary. I believe Jesus needed those scriptures because it satisfies what this woman knows she needs of God. She need not repent here in this encounter; Jesus does not ask her to repent in this passage. She isn't pressing to perform good works for her salvation. What she needs is a New-Covenant grand integration with God; the kind that advances her abiding with God, and God abiding with her.

Jesus asked her, "If you knew..." To "know" God is to be intimately knowledgeable of Him through living with Him (John 14:7-9; 17:3). Sounds like a question of fellowship. We read gospel passages in the New Testament scriptures as always being a "yes/no" answer of whether or not people in His day were saved (justified/possessing eternal life). Why can't it be a "yeah-but wait"?

There are two typical ways a Free Grace person assesses Spiritual exchange with God. They do it by asking the question, "Is this person being saved/justified/receiving eternal life?" Or they assess by asking, "Is this person already a believer, but now is coming to a conviction regarding sanctification or fellowship with God?" Right? Both those questions are excellent for this passage. The woman at the well: is she being invited to return to fellowship with God, and therefore was already justified (saved)? If she was not saved before He presented this gospel, is He inviting her to just believe and therefore also receive the fulfillment of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, previously unavailable to believing Jew or anyone else for that matter, in Living Water now available to the world? But there is a third way to assess the Spiritual exchange, which is the essence of this post.

First be sure, this is a gospel for a Jew, a physical descendant of Abraham (she calls Jacob her father in verse 12). This may be a most inappropriate gospel to share with a Gentile to help them receive justification with God; that is, unless it's suitable for all people, which I believe it is, but I will explain that in another post. Before I explore some of the issues of salvation/fellowship for a Jew, let me share what a burden it has been to study this carefully. It is so difficult to understand her relationship to God, especially considering she is a half-breed Samaritan, with all the pondering I've been able to make of this passage.

There's a more paradoxical way of approaching a passage such as this, than just asking two diagnostic questions "Is she getting saved?" and "Is she returning into fellowship with God?" This third approach finds the most consistent support through scripture, and once I got it, it was simple to understand why Jesus was preaching the way He did, and why the Apostles preached the way they did in Acts and taught the gospel the way they did in Romans and Hebrews. Let me show you how I found what I have.

Abraham had Eternal Life and the Holy Spirit

First I asked myself, what about Abraham? Was he saved? And his sons, Isaac and Jacob? How about all his other offspring... were they saved? We know that "only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7). "That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as the seed" (Rom. 9:8). Therefore we know that whoever is a descendant of Abraham and who also had at any moment the faith of Abraham (faith in the promise first given in Genesis 12) are those who will inherit the promise. If the promise was most illustrated as guaranteed to anyone at all, it was illustrated as guaranteed to Abraham. Can anyone nullify the promises to these believers? No!

If Abraham were standing there with the woman at the well, would he need to hear the gospel Jesus told this Samaritan woman? Can you imagine Jesus telling Abraham, "Believe in Me and receive everlasting life!" The answer is yes, and no. First: the reason why the answer is no....

The promises made to Abraham already contained the saving work of Jesus Christ in His death, burial and resurrection: The Holy Spirit for, and the Resurrection of, believers. It is quite something that the gospel of Jesus Christ in 1 Cor 15:1-4 is caught up in Genesis 12... but thanks be to God that it was kept secret till the administration of grace began in Paul's preaching and teaching.

Proof text: Matthew 22:29-33
Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.
If Abraham is living thousands of years after his physical death, then hasn't he already received the gift of eternal life? Do Abraham's spiritual offspring (those who "believe in the LORD") also already possess eternal life? I think so. After all, Jacob and Isaac already have it too. If this woman already believed in the LORD before meeting the person of Jesus, she had already received the gift of eternal life before Jesus offered it at the well. Therefore she did not need the gospel of everlasting life preached to her to offer her justification. In fact the terminology Jesus uses may simply be formality and confirmation for the long-awaited promise. He says essentially, "Got some good news here!" John 4:13-15
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
Payment of goods promised, is the gospel ("good news") here? Yes indeed! But even this is not the most important issue going on here, because in a sense she still needed to believe this gospel to be saved. In this perspective, the answer is yes -- Abraham did need to believe the gospel Jesus was preaching here. Let's investigate the issue of the Holy Spirit and see if we find the same pattern (and we do).... When I read Genesis 12, or Genesis 15:6 where his faith was accounted for righteousness, I just don't see the promise of the Holy Spirit embedded in these promises. Nevertheless, that is what Paul tells us was latently there all along in the book of Galatians, all of chapter three. (Paul is the authority on this doctrine.)

Proof text: Galatians 3:2-9
This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
We also know the promise of blessing spoken to Abraham was a dim revelation of the Holy Spirit from another verse in Galatians, 3:14
that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Abraham did not possess the Holy Spirit. Not in the way we Gentiles do (in this 'time of the Gentiles' after Emmanuel has come). The Holy Spirit was not come to dwell in men till Pentecost happened. Before that, it was some kind of closeness with His Spirit yet without Him making His eternal dwelling in those who believe in Him. Abraham was most definitely looking forward to the day of Pentecost. He knew it was the means by which God would bless all the families of the earth. Here is the doctrine which contrasts the difference between Abraham's covenant and Jesus' covenant, John 4:13-15
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."  The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
She wants two things. She wants to not have to travel to draw water - implying distance. There would be no distance now between her and God anymore, since the fountain of water (the Holy Spirit) would make her connection to God a personal possession. Second, she wants to not thirst. She needs God's Spirit, in fact we could just say she needs God (Father, Son or Holy Spirit), period. She wants Him. She IS thirsty. She wants Him all the time. Thirst happens when you leave the side of the well, does it not? But we cannot escape the presence of God in the New Covenant. This is an upgrade in water-dispensing technology. It is in a grand sense, integrating God and man closer than they had been through the promises of Abraham. With Jacob's well, this much is sure: they had already received the gift of the Holy Spirit. They had received the promise of God. They had free access to God's presence, God's Spirit. Jacob's well proves that the usual Free Grace questioning of salvation and fellowship issues is stopping short of the most important question. It is not a "yes/no" but a "yeah, but wait" kind of answer.

Jesus says "You won't have to 'come here' (to Jacob) to draw God anymore. I'm changing (fulfilling and replacing) the covenant."

The Free Grace Gospel: What it has Been and What it can Become

John 4 is a gospel proving how the LORD uses human need for God to bring people into persuasion of the Truth and Work of Christ, to receive Him (the gift). It seems to me indisputable He did just that in this passage. And since it is so simple (as the GES say, one drink, one persuasion is all it takes), and must be doctrinally sound (as the FGA say, the Jesus of scripture is what must be identified), this gospel focusing on human need for receiving Jesus is the framework for both sides of this debate to be right when they preach.

John 4 is a great example of the weakness in both the GES's and the FGA's distinct philosophies on evangelism. The FGA wants to safeguard against universalism and false doctrine of the work and person of Christ; therefore they probably wouldn't use this passage to help someone come to Christ. The context is eschatological, and otherwise incredibly narrow and personal, and does not articulate 1 Cor 15:1-4.  It is sad they wouldn't use a passage from scripture of our own Savior offering living water to "anyone" ("And let him who thirsts, come" Rev. 22:17) who wants it. The GES wants to safeguard against false doctrines of works so believers can gain assurance of salvation and rest and grow in Christ. This passage does a great job at leading a lost person to assurance of salvation. Unfortunately the context is eschatological and incredibly narrow and personal, and in this woman's case her presence by Jacob's well suggests she already possessed eternal life.

Dave Anderson remarked at the Free Grace Alliance conference last spring, "I don't want to go on with this business of finding the minimalist gospel. I want to preach the maximum gospel." Minimums are wrong. But so are maximums. What we want is a way to navigate through gospel passages according to the way that most helps the lost person get saved. This passage can and should be used in evangelism in spite of its flaws in satisfying the noble goals of the FGA and GES. I want to explore the heart of the scriptures on salvation, perhaps by which we can assess the Spiritual exchange happening in New Testament gospel accounts.

[Please click the links below to other posts in this series:]
How Much We Need Need (introduction)

How Much We Need Need (part 1)

[Previous post: How Much We Need Need (introduction)]
'Need' is a Significant Component to the Gospel Message

In this post I would like to take a look at the gospel given to the woman at the well in the Gospel of John, Chapter 4. In the next post I plan to ask some critical questions.

The key to understanding the gospel content that saves the lost person coming to Christ, comes through the understanding that apart from God's presence with us our world is broken, and humanity, depraved.  The gospel given to the woman at the well in John 4 was tailored to her personal restoration and went beyond, fulfilling her in the promise given to Abraham and his offspring.  Take a new look at the gospel the Samaritan woman at the well heard, received, and for which she abandoned her jar to tell her countrymen.

The Woman at the Well: My Homework

John 7:4-15
A woman of 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.
Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, 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.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
The conversation has concerned water, both natural and Living. But there is more going on here, involving intimacy, husbands, and places of worship. And only when she's been restored in these things does she spring up and testify. John 4:16-18

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
Who are her five husbands? Being Samaritan, I can guess who they are. 2 Kings 17:24
Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities.
All five "possessed" Samaria, they all "dwelt," or entered, her. We don't know for sure which people-group and their false god represents the current man she currently is residing with as an unmarried woman. But I rejoice that at least she had not been married to the last one like she had the first five, exalting and officiating in high places for various sorts of false worship as it says in 2 Kings 17:32,
So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.
The woman at the well doesn't seem (at this point) to be the sinful woman she is usually characterized as being. Instead, theologically astute. It might be possible that the man she "now has" is the LORD Himself.  She has Him in the sense that the Samaritans somehow went on fearing God in spite of their adulterous service to false gods.  But the Samaritans no longer know Him since He no longer knows her.  John 4:19-20
The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
She perceives how He is aware of the sin of Samaria. Seizing the very heart of the issue, as any woman would who has waited a long time for salvation, she admits: I still fear you.  But I don't know you like I did once upon a time.  He shows her how to know Him.  John 4:21-22
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
As the Apostle John uses the word in his epistle, "know" means fellowship.  She divorced all her former false gods and was a 'single woman' so to speak, an unconvinced God-seeker. This is repentance over what Samaria did at first, and Jesus knew it. Her repentance must have already taken place before Jesus met her at the edge of the well. They agreed about the past of Samaria. The study-note in my bible says,
The Jews insisted that the exclusive place of worship was Jerusalem. But the Samaritans had set up a rival worship site on Mount Gerizim.... When the blessings and curses were read to the wilderness generation of Israel, the blessings were read from Mount Gerizim. Deuteronomy 27:4 instructed that an altar be erected on Mount Ebal, opposite Mount Gerizim. But the Samaritan scripture changed the verse to read "Mount Gerizim." The Samaritans altered history and tampered with the text of Scripture to glorify Mount Gerizim.  [1]
Samaria of old sounds like the false woman in Proverbs 9, who claims "stolen water is sweet" and causes men to worship false gods, because she "knows nothing" (Prov. 9:13). The woman at the well, however, knows a very few things about the God she and her territory abandoned and the Savior, more importantly, who is coming.

Worshiping now in Spirit, Later in "Truth"

How is Samaria to go on with Christ? Jesus explains the where and how worship will take place, and she is all ears. John 4:23,
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Old Testament prophecies about end-time events tell us what Jesus means. They will worship God, "In Truth" - the name given to a location on earth known as New Jerusalem. Zechariah 8:3,
“Thus says the LORD:

‘I will return to Zion,
And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth,
The Mountain of the LORD of hosts,
The Holy Mountain.’
Salvation has come through the Jews; Jesus Christ and the remnant of Israel. The Kingdom of God is at hand in Jesus Christ, and during His first coming it was present on earth. As Jesus sits there on the edge of the well in the heat of the day, His Kingdom is before any people of any nation. What does His kingdom look like today?  Today, there is no Temple in Jerusalem and so wherever the church is, there is the only dwelling.  But when Christ comes again, His Spirit will annex geographical location, possessing not only the souls of His people but also territory on earth.  During the millennial reign of Christ, the nations will seek Him by traveling to this geographical residence of His church. Zech. 8:20-23,
“Thus says the LORD of hosts:
‘Peoples shall yet come,
Inhabitants of many cities;
The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying,

Let us continue to go and pray before the LORD,
And seek the LORD of hosts.
I myself will go also.”
Yes, many peoples and strong nations
Shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem,
And to pray before the LORD.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”’”
Revelation 21 contextually puts into proximity both the fountain of Living Waters from which everyone is invited to drink, and the coming of the New Jerusalem, Christ's holy people.   The resurrected church is the dwelling of God in Jerusalem.  Rev 21:2-7
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”
And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.  He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.
Isaiah has exactly the same thing; the New Jerusalem (characterized as being clad with precious materials) is contextually in proximity to the offer of drinking from the fountain of Living Water (see Isaiah 54:10-55:9).  Indeed, the pure "water of life" has its ultimate source in New Jerusalem as depicted in Revelation 21 and into 22. Rev. 22:1,
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

The OT prophesies being fulfilled in both Jesus' first advent and in Revelation seem to be endless.  Earlier in Isaiah 54 God speaks to His covenant people as to a wife. Isaiah 54:5
For your Maker is your husband,
The LORD of hosts is His name;
And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
It seems very likely that the woman understood the significance of their location as they sat and conversed.  Living water would flow from the location of the New Jerusalem, a woman intended for the Holy One.

All Things 

The woman at the well is curious: is this man greater than Jacob?  John 4:11-12,
The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
What is she referring to when she confesses, "He will teach us all things?" John 4:25-29
The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”
Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”
The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?
A Prophet after Moses was to be known by noting the thing they say will come to pass (deut 18:15-22).  If they speak correctly... then they ought to be feared.  Jesus had told her what would come to pass saying, "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him (John 4:23)."  All of a sudden location did not impede worship.  The presence of Jesus was affective!  In the gospel accounts many people were prepared to worship Jesus while being in His presence even before the Spirit had covenantally been poured out on the church.  She "knew" Him now.  Imagine her surprise to be experiencing the presence of God by being in the presence of Jesus.  She need not travel to Jerusalem because she was able to worship God right here at the well!  His words about the future were coming true during their conversation.  It was this very experience, this very foretold truth, that caused her to leave her jar behind and run off to tell them, 'This is the Prophet!"

Jesus' Messiah-status would mean He would teach all things on behalf of God "I will put My Words in His mouth" (Deut. 18:18).  According to the revealed mystery we know now in the gospel, this would be fulfilled through the promise of the ministry of the Holy Spirit God.

Formerly I focused my theology on the Holy Spirit's Living Water deposited as a one-moment event. John 7:37-39
On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”  (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)
His Spirit leads men into all Truth. John 16:13,
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
He will tell the church the "things to come"?  This leading of the Spirit into all truth is not only for now, not only an experience for this age. It is also for the Millennial reign, a thousand years of God's ministry to the world from His throne in the New Jerusalem! Unlike this age, in the next age knowledge of the LORD will be simple to access, but understanding Him will take an eternity. Quickly she gained intimacy with Christ by a first drink of living water.  But: He was not a one-moment husband, was He?  That had been their original error.  Indeed; He was and is a husband into eternity.  Projecting forward, God's truth and righteousness will not be manifest in the millennium in every corner of the planet.  This will be the work to be accomplished by Jesus under His thousand year rule. Isaiah 2:2-3
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the LORD’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,

Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
The Samaritan woman and her people were looking forward to this Spiritual quality of the Christ's coming, not only for this age with Jesus before her, but also the age to come.  The men in the city also knew after hearing Him that they were invited to be incorporated into the Holy City in true worship of God, the treasured Wife of the Lamb (and also see the end of enmity between Israel and Judah).
Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
"Come, hear Him for yourself," is the message for the Samaritan and for the faithful Old Testament believer.  It is the message for all the nations.


The earthly Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  This is why Jesus teaches the woman, "the time is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father."  We are sojourners and pilgrims on earth (1 Pet. 2:11), yet "our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself" (phil. 3:20-21).

Until His second coming, we only have the opportunity to worship the Father in the Temple that dwells inside us.  It does not matter yet what location we worship from, because wherever we are, we are with Christ and in His Kingdom.  Jesus used the truth about the program of the church age to show Himself to be a prophet to the woman.  But the Father still "desires" all "true" worshipers to worship Him in spirit and in truth; the City of Truth (Zech. 8:3).  In the resurrection, we all must do so.  By acknowledging her very important question about the future location of worship, He satisfies Samaria's desperate thirst for God's presence.  His kingdom is "now, but not yet."  John 4:21-24,
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
The fountain of Living Waters is given to serve Christ and manifest righteousness into eternity, and we already know we need every drop, every day.

[Continue to the next post:]
How Much We Need Need (part 2)

[1]  Thomas Nelson Inc., 1997.  NKJV Study Bible, pg. 1766.

How Much We Need Need (introduction)

Salvation of any kind is not for any one who does not personally interact inwardly with scripture. Every other gospel is an insufficient or front-loaded gospel.

The key to the free grace gospel debate, and the key to salvation and reigning in joy with Christ is caught up in one truth:  Man needs God.

The only consistent and genuine thing about man is that he has needs. With these God makes transactions of His life in us.

I humbly introduce a multi-part series of the best I can do to share scriptures which point to a comprehensive and fair Content of Saving Faith interpretation of the gospel message.

[Please click the links below to begin this series:]
How Much We Need Need (part 1)
How Much We Need Need (part 2)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lybrand's Parenting Course

Dr. Lybrand's Parenting Course is titled, The Absolute Quickest Way to Help Your Child's Behavior Change. It is available as an audio download and as paperback.
This is the parenting course I would want my friends to own. I would particularly give it to those friends who are worried that they cannot be a success. I know I struggle with it also from time to time. I get surprised when I feel frustration. My children come up with new ways to break principles I want them to possess! Recently my most obedient, oldest child (a nine-year-old) began a habit of whining when I tell her to go do something. I was shocked since she stopped whining when she was two (why is this behavior coming back from the grave?).

I really feel great after listening to the audio version of Lybrand's book. Perhaps I knew inwardly some of these ideas, and then after hearing them and meditating on them over these months I feel more free than ever to be a success as a parent! The 4 questions Fred taught have been there to help me move fluidly through the difficult moments without getting bogged down with the frustration phase. This material restores moms and dads with the capacity to parent and the ability to influence their children. I am convinced it is the right message, one that delivers solutions.

My biggest failing as a parent is that I am not as close to our three kids as I want to be. I have loved the training aspect of being a mom. They are very good children and so it's easy to just let them do their own thing. It is a rut I fall back into. Once upon a time it was a hard heart on my part. I struggled to want to be around them. Now I do, but I find that life creeps in and steals my intention to get them to open up and share more of themselves. If I can get what I want from them (obedience) then everything else is extra credit, I guess I operate as if. Does that sound awful? I think it does! I use Lybrand's course to motivate myself as parent to follow-through with my children. I have started taking my older girls out for "Mommy-Daughter Dates." We have great and memorable times that reinforce our relationship in the rest of our normal routine. It is relieving some of the pressure of what I know I am missing.

If you are interested in this course for you or a friend, visit Lybrand's website (Joy 2 Parent) linked above. Right now he is running a promotional price of $47.00 if the enrollee will commit to tell 5 friends about the course... "ONLY AFTER you are convinced the material has helped your parenting talent," it says. This is a great deal (if you have five parent-friends!) and is available until January 31, 2011.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mourning Revilers

Paul told the Corinthians that he was a few steps ahead of them, and he intended to patiently wait for them to catch up. 1 Corinthians 5:1-2

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife.
You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.

What does Paul mean when he says that they were arrogant?

"Your glorying is not good," it says in 5:6. This church fellowshipped with sexual immorality. They had already been warned by Paul not to keep company with sexually immoral people (1 Cor 5:9). Later, when tested with a man who debuted an unnamed perversion, they held fellowship still, and boasted in their hearts by extending tolerance amidst epic battles over men's souls. The Corinthians used the church as the grounds to entertain one faction as pitted against another and it was widespread. They had also pitted God's workers against one another in 4:6. Arrogantly, they were cheering for Apollos and Paul as a sport; one against another. Also while eating they did not listen to their stomach for discernment on when to stop, pitting their own appetites against nourishment's benefit (6:13). And they fellowshipped with brethren engaged in lawsuits against one another (6:6).

It was an innocent disobedience, in a general sense. 1 Cor 3:1-2

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people, but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able...

Paul saw these believers' inexperience with godliness. He could have followed the same example they were showing the world - tolerance - returning likewise, with the excuse that they were still not able to receive spiritual instruction. God's mercy and patience is laced throughout the book. With longsuffering compasssion He expands their understanding to see sin from His perspective in 6:18-20,

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Established in grace, God commands them to mourn this stronghold, to not tolerate it. Mourning over this one sin - how much a difference can regret over one sin make for the congregation? He continues on with verses 3-5 of chapter five explaining that though he hopes for the church to be convinced, he isn't waiting on any of them. He cannot delay spiritual warfare even if that means he is alone. Before the ink of his pen dries and the letter is packed for the Aegean Peninsula, Paul has long since exposed the man's sin to the light.

For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

For some odd reason, Paul's instruction for restoration of the man calls baptism to mind. "Destruction of the flesh" reminds the Greek word "baptizo" for baptism, a "wash of destruction" but of washing of what? Of the outward body? No: "There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God)" (1 Pet. 3:21). Baptism is part "1,a" of the Covenant Christ makes with us in the New, and, with circumcision in the Old Covenant we recall that God commanded Abraham and his descendants to "circumcise their hearts" so that they would be sensitive to love the LORD and experience His life for them. With both baptism and circumcision, they are covenants where God says to those He has just declared His own, "I willingly chose you, and yes unconditionally; now - make a covenant in this covenant by willingly choosing me in return." What a perfect solution for the man who has a fleshly heart full of sin: circumcise your heart, and come alive to God so that you may be spared harsh judgment at the coming of Jesus our Lord.

As if the verdict has already taken place when it has not yet taken place, as if he were present when he might not be, Paul has already delivered this man to Satan in the heavenly realms. To delay would be wrong, denying the deliverance of God by first being purged of leaven. In the book of Exodus, seven days were commanded to be observed before God's saving of Israel from Egypt. They were told to sweep all leaven out of their homes and eat no leavened bread. We are still feasting on unleavened bread - Christ - and God commands the Corinthians to keep on partaking of fellowship without the old leaven (1 Cor 5:7-8).

The Corinthian church now receives the command not to keep company with anyone named a brother who practices one of six categories of sin, 1 Cor. 5:11

But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.
  • Fornication  A person who practices sex outside of marriage
  • Covetousness   A person eager to have more esp. what belongs to others
  • Idolater   To serve some thing in the place of God
  • Railer   To criticize harshly or abusively, berate
  • Drunkard   A person who practices drunkenness 
  • Extortioner   A person who charges exorbitantly

Both outside and inside the Protestant church, we hear a lot about God's standard to not commit fornication. Idolatry we hear very often at church to be sin. And depending on how official we make it to worship a god of another identity, and whether others can really know unless we tell them, it may be more difficult to detect. Covetousness is also somewhat well known - but how serious does God expect the church to respond when it says to separate from those who want what others have. How about revilers? I haven't heard too much about that. Turn on the radio however and most deejays make a living on railing others.

Proverbs 22:24-25 tells us railing others is leaven in the Body,

Make no friendship with an angry man,
And with a furious man do not go,
Lest you learn his ways
And set a snare for your soul.

And isn't a short fuse spread just like that? As soon as someone has lost their cool, doesn't it immediately make you feel totally dropped down to nothing in hotness and anger too? Yes it does. The verbally abusive draw on that power to make you fight dirty so you look just as guilty. They use it to shift blame around equally so they may continue doing as they've done. Paul's letter was an appeal to wisdom in fellowship.

The unsaved people of this world are hopelessly caught in these six strongholds. And so are believers sometimes when they first come into the faith. But as God patiently teaches the Corinthians about godliness, He simultaneously commands that those people who perpetually seek to one-up on life through these habits be betrayed and delivered to Satan. You need not lead them in desperate hope for change. They must individually engage the will, to be set free to serve Christ. This goes for not just those six strongholds, but every kind of intentional disobedience. 1 Cor 5:8,

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Sincere people are proper fellowship. However, the Greek word "malice" is defined as "malignity, ill-will, and desire to injure" and "wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws;" that which this man with unnamed perversion demonstrated.

God's promise is: do not say the flesh is all we've known, and what we are is just fine, and take pride. Rather, mourn. And if we mourn these sins, the dwelling place for them will be removed from the fellowship. Sin will not spread throughout the whole batch if it is swept from the house all seven days of the week.

Paul immediately delivered that man who named himself a brother, who also chose the stronghold of sin over freedom in Christ. As the letter was on its way, do you think Paul hoped and prayed that the church would gather together in Jesus Christ and deliver that man to Satan too? Did they?

May the members of the Body encourage one another to do as God commands.

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