Two weeks we began our study in the Epistle to Titus. In the introduction I asked three questions… The first week I asked and answered the questions can churches be led effectively in a day and age where so many spiritual leaders/Pastors of churches have fallen into sin by either abusing their power and authority, living secretive and sinful lives, or depending solely on their abilities, personalities, and gimmicks? Can good churches exist in a culture that so clearly and willingly embraces and celebrates all things ungodly and anti-Christian? And can Christians who live in a highly secularized and sexualized world that is continually vying for you affection, minds, and loyalty do good? I answered these questions in the previous two sermons. Today, I will address the third question as we look at Titus chapter 3.
Titus 3:1 – 11
Vs 1: Keeping the context of the Epistle of Titus in mind, we now can address the question that deals with Christians doing good in a secular and sexualized society. Paul was instructing Titus on how he was to develop and raise up leaders/leaders in the churches of Crete. Crete, much like modern society, was a place who had few morals, but unlike today, was a highly religious culture. There is an unwritten rule, that some call conversation taboo, that suggests two topics people should never talk about if they want to remain friends… Religion and politics. This rule was clearly written after the first century because the Apostle Paul breaks this rule in the first part of Titus chapter 3. In the first century Cretan culture there was a religious dimension to all governmental authority, the modern secular state did not exist. So, it is not surprising that in verse 1 Paul addresses and exhorts Titus to remind the believers of the command to submit to the government and its officers. Note, Paul tells Titus to “remind” the people of Crete to “submit to the governments and its officers.” This “reminder” would imply that there were already teachings regarding religion and politics. In fact, the topic of politics and religion was addressed by Jesus when he was asked by Jewish religious authorities about taxes and allegiance to Rome, to which he responds, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what belongs to God.”
These “governments and its officers” are those who create and implement government. The believers under Titus’s spiritual care are encouraged to live their lives in line with properly formed governing powers, “ready to do what is good.” But not only are they to be submitted, but Paul tells him to instruct them to be obedient as well. Cretans were known for their lack of restraint. Thus, Christian witness, integrity, and the reputation of the church would suffer if believers lived their lives in rebellion to the law. Paul’s command entails that “governments and its officers” are not imposing insurgence against God but generally fulfilling their God-ordained duties. It is important to note that Paul is not indiscriminately ordering Titus to enforce close adherence to civil law no matter what. He is confirming that, under conditions like those in Crete at that time, Christians should be excellent citizens, even in a pagan society. However, sometimes it was necessary to go against earthly authorities when their will goes against the will of God. Christians are called to uphold the divine will of God first and then adhere to earthly leaders. We see this this portrayed in the prophet Daniel on numerous occasions, the Hebrew midwives who hid the children and going against the command of Pharaoh, Paul and Peter refusing to stop preaching the Gospel, and many others.
Vs 2: Now Paul turns to the personal aspects that describes the traits of a Christ-follower. He discourages two negative aspects of how not to live while encouraging two positive traits of a Christ-follower. The negatives deal with how we talk and how we live together in Christian community. He says believers must not be slanderous, which is a word derived from the Greek word blasphēmeō which means to speak against someone or speaking maliciously. He speaks about this conviction in reminding Titus how a transformed is evident in a believer in how we talk and speak to others. The second negative talks about avoiding quarrels. This derives from the Greek word amachos, which is a word that in the New Testament means not disposed to fight, quarrel, or be contentious. A slanderous person is often joined with a hot-tempered spirit and combative conduct. These traits are inconsistent with one who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
The positives talk about gentleness and humility. Paul is calling for individuals to have behavior that is free of arrogance and proud haughtiness. He reminds Titus that the godly character of a believer called for in v. 2 should be continually existent in the lives of those Jesus has redeemed and communicated in ways that are situationally and interpersonally fitting, as well as emotionally and collectively genuine.
Vs 3: In light of how people ought to live Titus is instructed to remind the believers to live civilly and selflessly toward others in view of their own spotty, if not varied, past. Paul characterizes the unsavory side of his and his readers’ pre-gospel lives with seven words or descriptive phrases. “The purpose for pointing this out, however, is not to portray unbelievers in unappealing terms but to remind believers of who they were before God’s saving faith on their behalf.
Paul reminds the believers they were once…
Vs 4 – 8: The believers, like all of us who were once unredeemed lived according to the flesh and sin, BUT… This is one of many big “buts” found in the Bible… Once Jesus redeemed us through his kindness, love, and mercy we were saved. He made us clean, and He washed us from our sins and made us new creations and gave us new life in Christ through the Holy Spirit. He gave us the Holy Spirit through his generosity. By His grace he made us righteous and so that we can have confidence in knowing that since we belong to Him, we will inherit eternal life. Since this is a trustworthy saying given by a trustworthy God, Paul insists that Titus teach these things so that those who do belong to God will “do good”. This means the believers should have an interest in or to prioritizing the act of doing of good. In this we see that Paul is not shy about repeating the need for active participation in the obligations of faith to be taken seriously as keepers of faith
Vs 9: Paul now returns to the issues from chapter one, by telling Titus to “avoid foolish discussions about spiritual pedigrees.” Paul is not ordering Titus to avoid all conflict and disagreement, because this is nearly impossible to avoid in ministry. Conflict is ever present in all ministries and cannot always be avoided. However, Paul does warn against “foolish discussions” and quarrels regarding obedience to the Jewish laws. It is these things that go against the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. There is no need to entertain discussions that may refute or contradict the Gospel message and the grace of Jesus Christ. The truth of grace, salvation, God’s mercy, the Gospel, and various biblically sound doctrines must remain the main thing. He is told to stay away from foolish discussion and disputes over genealogies. Ancestral genealogy is no doubt important in a religion that follows its origins back to the first man and woman, Adam, and Eve. One that values the covenant to Abraham, and the giving of the law through Moses. Christians are the children of Abraham, and some in the church insisted that devotion to circumcision and the law of Moses were necessary for salvation. Paul tells Titus to not engage in these foolish arguments. These things are useless and a waste of time. There was a whole world out there that needed to hear about the grace of Jesus Christ, so Paul tells Titus to avoid these quarrels and discussions because ultimately, they do not direct people to Jesus, in fact they often detract people from him.
Vs 10 - 11: However, Paul does instruct Titus that if there are people in the church who are divisive and quarrelsome that he is to give two warnings to stop, and if they choose not to heed the warnings, he is not to entertain these individuals from that moment on. In many respects He is given a way to resolve conflict and institute church discipline. Divisive people cause division, and the church has no place for people who love to divide and quarrel. A stagnant body of believers focuses on fighting, allows division, and engage in foolish debate because they do not care about the sharing the Gospel thus, they have nothing better to do than to criticize, divide, and argue.
Titus 3:12 – 15
The final four verses include closing directions.
Vs 12 – 13: When Artemas and Tychicus arrive, make his best effort to meet Paul in Nicopolis because this is where Paul is staying for the winter. It is here that they can regroup and enjoy their fellowship. He also adamantly encourages him to support both Zenas and Appollos on their trip. It is possible that Zenas and Apollos are couriers of the letter to Titus. When they reach Crete, Titus and the Christian community are not only to receive the letter from them but also to be proactive about helping them to their next destinations
Vs 14: He restates the purpose of the letter. The people must learn to do good by being generous and supporting one another in their needs. When Titus teaches the people to do good, the end-result should be Christ-centered leadership, sound doctrine that produces churches that are transforming, and people do good by being generous, faithful, unified, grounded in sound doctrine, and Christian witnesses who faithfully proclaim and living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Vs 15: Paul concludes by and passing along greetings and concluding the letter on the same note of grace with which the letter began.
So, the question remains Christians who live in a highly secularized and sexualized world that is continually vying for you affection, minds, and loyalty do good? As you can guess the answer is a resounding yes! How? Well, this is how we take the passage we just read and studied and apply it to our everyday life.
Revelation 17:7 -18
The “interpretation” of the remainder of chapter 17 leaves a lot of room for further discussion. In a simplistic sense we understand that this is a vision of the fitting end of “Babylon,” who is the cruel tyrant of God’s people.
Vs 7: The angel who took John to the wilderness to see the vision the woman and the beast responds to John’s amazement by explaining the mystery of the woman and the beast on which she rides. This is a single mystery that involves both characters. They cannot be understood apart from the other. But what we see in chapter 17 is widely concerned with the clarification of the beast, but chapter 18 details the judgment of the woman/prostitute.
Vs 8: The portrayal of the beast is a deliberate contrast to the picture of Jesus found in chapter 1 and Ch. 4. He is the One “who is, and who was, and who is to come”. In the widest sense the beast is understood to be the satanically inspired being or force that, even though he died, returns to launch himself with renewed rage against the powers of God.
He is the beast of chapter 13 who was fatally wounded in one of his heads and yet survived. Down through history he repeatedly “comes up out of the Abyss” to harass and, if it were possible, to destroy the people of God. The beast was; at the moment he is not. John wrote under the shadow of an impending persecution. The beast is about to come again.
The Beast had exercised a controlling influence in the consecutive supremacies of the emperors of Rome, but in this final attack he is to be revealed for what he really is—the incarnation of evil in its deep-seated hatred and violent opposition to God and all that is just and good. It is the reappearance of the beast that causes the astonishment on the part of the unbelieving world.
Vs. 9: The interpretation of the beast’s seven heads and identity of the ten horns as the forces that will join with the Antichrist in his last fierce assault upon the Lamb. The interpretation of the seven heads is not obvious as there is much debate on the precise meaning but, it may be understood by those who ponder the riddle with care and wisdom
The seven heads of the beast are first identified as seven hills upon which the woman is sitting. There is little doubt that a first-century reader would see this reference as a reference to Rome, the city built upon seven hills. In John’s day Rome embodied all the bitterness and opposition to the Christian faith. The beast is about to come from the Abyss and become embodied in this hostile world order of which the city on seven hills is the governing center.
Vs 10: The seven heads of the beast are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, and one has not yet come. The most satisfactory explanation of the seven kings is that the number seven is symbolic and stands for the power of the Roman Empire as a historic whole. In Revelation the seven kings represent the entire period of Roman domination regardless of the exact number of emperors. The important point is that the end is drawing near
Vs 11: The beast himself is an eighth king who is at the same time one of the seven. He is an eighth in the sense that he is distinct from the other seven. He is Antichrist, not simply another Roman emperor. He is not a human ruler through whom the power of evil finds expression—he is that evil power itself. He belongs to the cosmic struggle between God and Satan that lies behind the scenes of human history. A somewhat different approach holds that the beast is Antichrist in but two of his heads (successive worldly kingdoms at enmity with God).52 He was embodied in Antiochus Epiphanes, he does not now exist in the same malevolent form, but will in the future arise from the Abyss in the person of the eschatological Antichrist.
Vs 12 – 13: The ten horns are interpreted as the ten kings who are ten kings who have not yet risen to power. When they do receive power, they will willingly turn it over to the beast and join him in war against the Lamb. Ultimately the ten kings are “purely eschatological figures representing the totality of the powers of all nations on the earth which are to be made subservient to Antichrist.”54 As we have already learned the number ten is symbolic and indicates completeness. It does not, however, point to ten specific kings or ten European kingdoms of a revitalized Roman empire.
Vs 14: This war that the 10 kings and the beast will wage on the Lamb will end with the Lamb being victorious. They will be defeated because the Lord is sovereign, and none is greater than Him. The beast will be defeated because he has faced the One to whom everyone and everything will ultimately be outranked. The armies or people of heaven will share in his victory as well. Those who overcome will exercise the authority of the Lamb over the nations of the earth and will rule them with an iron scepter. The idea of the upright taking part in the annihilation of the wicked is a customary apocalyptic theme.
Vs 15: The angel continues his interpretation of the vison by labeling the waters that the woman sits upon as peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. This fourfold grouping stresses universality. For John and the readers of this letter this symbol emphasizes the enormity of the power of Rome, which was the capital city of the entire Mediterranean civilization.
Vs 16: The beast and the ten kings hate the woman/prostitute, and they turn on her in hatred. This ]account describes the self-destroying power of evil. The evil nations and beast are not a loyal and happy band of brothers, but they are wicked, jealous, and hate-filled, so ultimately their mutual hatred will result in mutual destruction. This one well-dressed woman is now devoured by her enemies as the eating of her flesh suggests wild beasts tearing at the body of their prey and portrays the fierceness with which the prostitute is attacked by her assailants
Vs 17: John is told that it was God who brought about the slaughter of the prostitute by putting it into the hearts of the ten kings to do his will. They were of one mind in relinquishing their sovereignty to the beast and joining in his assault upon the prostitute and in his final campaign against the Lamb.
Vs 18: the woman is “the great city that rules over the kings of the world.” For John and his readers, the city is Rome. She is the wicked seducer whose malevolent influence has infiltrated the whole of the Mediterranean world. Yet Babylon the Great, who is the basis of universal harlotry and repugnance (v. 5), is more than first-century Rome. Every great center of power that has prostituted its wealth and influence restores to life the spirit of ancient Babylon. It can be described as the final spiritual Babylon, which will provide the social, religious, and political base for the last attempt of Antichrist to establish his kingdom.
Last week we began our journey through the Epistle to Titus. In the introduction I asked three questions… Can churches be led effectively in a day and age where so many spiritual leaders/Pastors of churches have fallen into sin by either abusing their power and authority, living secretive and sinful lives, or depending solely on their abilities, personalities, and gimmicks? Then I asked can a good church exist in a culture that so clearly and willingly embraces and celebrates all things ungodly and anti-Christian? Lastly, I asked is there such a thing as good Christians who live in a highly secularized and sexualized world that is continually vying for you affection, minds, and loyalty? I addressed the first question last week as we looked at Titus chapter 1. Today, I will address the second question as we look at Titus chapter 2.
The Apostle Paul addresses these questions in his letter to Titus. Now it is important for us to keep the context of this letter at the forefront because we need to be continually reminded who Paul is addressing when writing to Titus. At some point Titus was chosen to appoint elders to the churches in Crete. This was a challenge because Christian followers on the Island Crete were having difficulty living Christ- honoring lives. Their commitment to Christ meant changing the way they lived as they transformed into the image of Christ and this was not the case. Unfortunately, Paul receives a report that the Cretan Christians were looking and acting more and more like the pagan god Zeus than they were Jesus. In addition, these young churches in Crete had come under the destructive teaching of some so-called Christian leaders—who were Jewish born Cretans. They claimed to follow Jesus, but they also demanded gentile Christians become circumcised in order to be true followers of Jesus Christ. These leaders were also engrossed in Cretan culture, and ended up endorsing the immoral values of Crete and ultimately creating and teaching bad doctrine which led to churches and their congregations looking more Pagan than Christian.
Titus 2:1 - 8
In Chapter 1 Paul talks about the qualifications of a leader in the church. He concludes by calling out and contrasting the bad leaders and false teachers in the Cretan Churches. Now, Paul turns his attention to Titus, the one chosen to appoint elders, and exhorts him to teach what is sound
Vs 1: Paul gets very personal in this verse and Titus cannot take this task very lightly. As a leader, if he is going to identify, appoint, and train elders, he must also be above reproach in his speech and teaching. Thus, Titus is commanded by Paul to promote living lives that reflect wholesome teaching or as some versions read, sound doctrine or sound teaching. What are these wholesome teachings and sound doctrine? They are teachings written and approved by the apostles. These teachings are intended to protect the church from heresy and point churches in the right direction as how they should function in Christ-honoring ways. Paul most likely refers to the teaching of Salvation by grace through faith and the importance of living God-honoring lives that reflect the gospel they proclaim.
Vs 2: Keep in mind that what we view as older men today, was probably not the same age group as we would consider old today. Life expectancy was much shorter in the Roman empire. So, there is evidence that Paul had in mind the age of about forty or fifty and upward.
Paul begins by telling Titus to teach older men to…
Vs 3: Titus must address the elderly women in the same pastoral manner that he does the men. So, he says, “Similarly” or “likewise” the older women are to display Christ in their behavior and character. In instructing, Paul points to the aspects of a Christian woman’s demeanor and presence, in both public and in private life. They must honor God in all they say and do. Thus, Titus is to instruct the women to honor God in their…
Vs 4 - 5: Paul declares the calling and purpose for the older women of the church as they are called to teach and instruct younger women in their congregations. This is a call to mentoring and discipleship. Elderly women are to train and teach the younger women. Now, some people may think that what they teach is out-of-date and archaic but let us remember who Paul is writing to. The women of Crete were not your typical submissive, quiet, and subservient women. They were “liberated”, carefree, and promiscuous. Paul is encouraging Titus to exhort the mature Christian women on how to teach to respect the institute of marriage, to love their husbands and children, to be faithful, and to honor God in all they do. When they do this, they are displaying a transformed Christian life to the outside world who does not and cannot fathom or understand why someone would choose to live this way in a “liberated” free society and culture.
Vs 6 - 8: In the same manner the older men are to encourage the young men to live wisely and with integrity. Titus is to teach and live in the truth. He is to let everything he does reflect the integrity of his teaching… practice what you preach. Titus is commanded to let the truth speak for itself, so that nobody can criticize him and call him a hypocrite.
Titus 2:9 - 15
Vs 9 - 10: It is important to note that Paul is not promoting slavery in verses 9 & 10. Keeping in context the commands are to be looked at in the setting of ordinary daily life in the first century. The reality was that slavery was a fact of life and there was no point pretending it wasn’t. According to theologian N.T. Wright, “You could no more abolish slavery overnight in the first century than you could invent space travel. The fact that you might hope it would happen one day, and wished it would, wouldn’t justify giving slaves the impression that now they were Christians they could disobey their masters—any more than a futuristic fantasy about space travel would have justified Paul in selling tickets to Mars. The early Christians worked within what was possible at the time, while constantly lodging protests against abuses within the system and, where they could, against the system itself.”
The reality was that slaves, even though Christians, should not consider themselves as above the law. Again N.T. Wright says, “Some might think, ‘Because my master isn’t a Christian, and I am, this gives me a right to tell him what’s what—after all, I’m a servant of the King of the World and he isn’t!’ What message would that send to the watching world of Crete or anywhere else? It would indicate that this new cult was simply making trouble and ought to be stamped out. No: Christian slaves, like Christians in every walk of life, must be good advertisements, good ambassadors, for the teaching of God our Savior.” I am not going to address the issue of slavery in the Bible, other than to say that slavery was not promoted in the NT as much as it was a reality of the time. We will look at the issues of race and racism in a few weeks.
Vs 11 – 15: Since the Cretan’s have heard the gospel of grace and have been saved, they are called to live changed lives. However, they are not called to disconnect from the world, but they are called to live in a culture and in a manner that is godly, wise, and in devotion to God. They are to influence culture, not be influenced by culture. They are to live in the hope for their future glory when Jesus is revealed. He gave his life so we can live our lives for his glory, he has cleansed us from all unrighteousness and he has made us his children, so we can live committed lives for Him and doing good deeds for His glory.
Paul concludes chapter 2 by reminding Titus that he MUST teach the truth and encourage the Cretan Christians to do them. He then tells him that he has the authority to discipline as necessary so do not let people take what he says lightly.
As we conclude today, I would like to touch on four qualities of a Church that does good according to Titus Chapter 2. A church who takes on these four qualities not only makes an impact in the community, but it also impacts the culture and all within it. So, I want to conclude by answering the question, “Can a good church exist in a culture that so clearly and willingly embraces and celebrates all things ungodly and anti-Christian?”
A Good Church is effective in a secular culture when…
My challenge today is twofold,
1. Elderly men and women, look around… There are many young people in this building. Pray about how you can invest in their lives and help disciple and mentor these young people to become grounded believers who live their lives for the glory of God.
2. Young people, look around… There are many elderly in this building who love you and pray for you. Pray about how you can be a recipient of the life experiences, values, wisdom of the elderly in our church.
Revelation 16:17 - 21
Vs: 17: There are several parallels between the last trumpet and the final bowl: they both bring history to a conclusion. As we look back at chapter 11 the seventh trumpet has loud voices in heaven proclaiming the awareness of the kingdom of God, we see the temple of God in heaven is opened. There are flickers of lightning, rolling thunder, a great earthquake, and a hailstorm. Equally the final and seventh bowl of chapter 16 is also followed by a mighty voice from the heavenly temple declaring God’s work is accomplished, judgment falls upon earth, and there are flashes of lightning, rolling thunder, along with the earthquakes of all earthquakes, concluding with a massive hailstorm.
The loud voice from the heavenly sanctuary proclaims, “It is done!”. The loud voice is the voice of God. Upon the pouring out of the seventh bowl the seven plagues are complete, and humanity stands on the brink of eternity.
Vs 18: An earthquake shakes the earth, and it is far greater than any earthquake since the creation of humanity. The brutality of the earthquake is emphasized by the statement, “(it is) the worst since people were placed on the earth.” This would have an intense impact upon the people living in a time where they had experienced several severe quakes.
Vs 19: We read the great city is split into three parts and this city is unquestionably identified as Rome. However, the subsequent reference in the same verse to Babylon does not suggest a different city. For John the insinuation would be to Rome as the center of evil and oppression against the young church. The division of the great city into three parts denotes the entirety of its destruction.
Vs 20: The great earthquake from the seventh bowl causes every island to disappear and the mountains leveled. This most likely represents the devastating effects of the tremendously violent earthquake.
Vs 21: The storm of God’s wrath reaches its apex with hundred-pound hailstones falling from the sky upon people. In the Old Testament we read that God often punishes the enemies of his people with hailstorms. Yet, this plague of hail produces no change in heart for those who dwell on the earth. We read that after each of the three final plagues people do not repent or turn to God but instead, they blaspheme God. Interestingly, the extraordinarily great hail fails to crush their confidence in the authority of Apollyon, the angel of the Abyss, and bring them to acknowledge the sovereignty of the God of heaven.
What follows in chapter 17 is an extended description of Rome as a luxurious prostitute who meets a gruesome death at the hands of the scarlet beast she commands.
With the judgments concluding we now turn our attention to Chapters 17 and 18 as they portray the judgment of God on the great prostitute, that sits in opposition to the cause of Christ. In chapter 17 the harlot appears in a boorish display of the snares of wealth, power and being drunk with the blood of martyrs. This vision can sometimes be seen as confusing but fortunately after the opening vision John learns from the angel the meaning of its symbolism.
We go from the description of the great harlot to the seven headed beast that she sits upon and protrudes from the waters. We will learn that the seven heads are both seven hills and seven kings, its ten horns are ten kings who ultimately join the beast in the war against the Lamb. We will learn what the waters and this prostitute represent in the scheme of the end time scenario.
Revelation 17:1 - 6
Vs 1: John is called by one of the seven angels to view the judgment of this notorious prostitute. Again, in Old Testament prophetic teaching the imagery of the prostitute is commonly shown to represent religious apostasy.
The prostitute of the Apocalypse is a pagan city, that is unquestionably Rome. She is decorated in luxury and is intoxicated with the blood of the saints. She stands for a dominant world system based on seduction for personal gain over against the righteous demands of a persecuted minority. The apocalyptic proclamation that the prostitute shall soon be stripped naked and destroyed comes as a necessary and welcome reminder that God is forever sovereign and continues to occupy the throne of the universe.
The prostitute is pictured as sitting upon a beast in many waters. The waters peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. Since the prostitute is later named Babylon the Great, it would appear that this part of the description, where Babylon is said to dwell “by many waters.”
Vs 2: The kings of the earth who have committed adultery with the great prostitute are the nations who are in illegitimate relations with Rome. They represent the apostate nations that Rome has enticed into idolatrous worship of herself and the beast.
Vs 3: John is now carried away into a desert to watch the coming judgment of the prostitute. Four times in the Apocalypse John is said to be in the Spirit or carried away in the Spirit. In the course of Jewish history, the desert had often been the setting for unusual and visionary experiences.
The scarlet-colored beast is the beast that rose out of the sea in chapter 13 (the Antichrist). This is the great persecuting power that rules by brute force and is the supreme enemy of Christ and the church.
The great red dragon of chapter 17, is horrifying to behold. Blasphemous names cover its entire body. The reference is to the blasphemous claims to deity made by Roman emperors, who employed such titles as divine, savior, and lord. The blasphemies are not so much directly spoken against God by the beast as they are implied by his self-deification.
Vs 4: Purple and scarlet signify the luxury and splendor of ancient Rome. Purple was often used for royal garments, and scarlet was a color of magnificence. The costly and spectacular garb of the prostitute should be contrasted with the “fine linen, bright and clean,” worn by the Bride of the Lamb in Chapter 21. Her cup is full of the “obscenities and the impurities of her immorality.” We come to understand that the moral corruption and all manner of ceremonial uncleanness are what she offers.
Vs 5: Placing the name upon the forehead (probably upon a headband) appears to have been a custom of Roman concubines. The prostitute is Babylon the Great, that great system of godlessness that leads people away from the worship of God and to their own destruction. Specifically, she is Rome, who, like Babylon of old, has gained a worldwide reputation for luxury, corruption, and power.
Vs 6: The woman John sees is drunk with the blood of righteous martyrs. Although the Neronian massacre after the great fire of a.d. 64 may have been in the back of John’s mind, the drunken prostitute pictures the final days of persecution at the end of the age. They are saints, that is, believers who have sacrificed their lives in faithful testimony to Jesus. When he was taken to the desert John had expected to see the judgment of the prostitute, but up to this point she appears triumphant.
What does a good church look like? Can churches be led effectively in a day and age where so many leaders/Pastors of the church have fallen into sin by either abusing their power and authority, living secretive and sinful lives, or depending solely on their abilities, personalities, and gimmicks? Can a good church exist in a culture that so clearly and willingly embraces and celebrates all things ungodly and anti-Christian? Is there such a thing as good Christians who live in a highly secularized and sexualized world that is continually vying for you affection, minds, and loyalty?
These are three questions we will look at today and, in the weeks, to come. The Apostle Paul was facing these same issues the church faces today regarding Christianity and culture. In fact, he describes and shows us in his letter to Titus that good leadership, and good churches can and do lead to the good life. By defining the good life, I am not talking about what many consider “the good life” today. It is not about having a life that is carefree, easy, and effortless. I am talking about the good Gospel-centered life. It is a life that is rooted in the hope of the Kingdom of Christ and the power of the transformed Gospel life in Christ. This life may not be easy, but it is good, and it is a fulfilling life.
For the next three-weeks we will be going through the book of Titus. This short letter is one of three Titus Pastoral Epistles in the New Testament written by the Apostle Paul. An epistle is simply a letter written by an Apostle to an individual. In this case Paul writes a letter to his travel companion, church planting partner and gentile Christian named Titus. Although this letter was a personal letter from Paul to Titus it was intended to be read to congregations on the island of Crete. In a few moments we will see Titus’ purpose in ministering on the island of Crete and we will see that the Apostle Paul defines Titus’ assignment as difficult because of the general brutishness of the Cretan people. With that said, I think it is important for us to gain a little understanding of the culture and people of the island of Crete.
Crete is a large island in the Mediterranean Sea approximately 100 miles southeast of the Greek mainland. It is a long and narrow island, spanning about 160 miles east to west. At its widest point, it is roughly 35 miles across north to south.
Cretan culture held firmly to the mythology of the Greek gods which held to the belief that most of the gods were born on their island, including the chief god Zeus, who was allegedly buried there. Cretans believed that their island was the central place of the worship of the gods.
Greek mythology was so much a part of society and culture that the churches in Paul’s day were mixing their understanding of the Christian God with their beliefs in the Greek gods, namely Zeus. They believed Zeus was a man who became god and this is significant as Paul addresses this in Titus. It’s recorded that Zeus loved to seduce women by any means necessary, even by assuming godlike characteristics to get what he wanted. There is a story that he took on the form of a husband to get a woman into bed with him and then resorted to lying and deception when seduction didn’t work. It was well-known that the god Zeus was a liar and a womanizer, and the Cretans celebrated him for this.
In writing to Titus Paul determined to refute idea that the Christian God had any likeness to Zeus whatsoever, or any other gods for that matter. He wanted to make clear that the God of Israel is totally different and unique from the scoundrel Zeus, and he did so by contradicting the Christian God of truth to the Greek mythological god Zeus, the liar. It would not surprise you to know that since their primary god was a liar, womanizer, and self-indulgent his followers took on these characteristics for themselves. Thus, the Cretans were known as a lying, self-indulgent, sexually promiscuous people that eventually led to the name Cretan being synonymous to a liar and cheat. This holds true today, if someone calls you a Cretan, you can be assured you are not being complimented.
The men of Crete often served as mercenary soldiers to the highest bidder and their women “enjoyed” a greater deal of privileges than their Greek counterparts, but this often led to the misuse of their freedoms to shirk off marriage, mothering and such in lieu of casual sex and chasing after worldly appetites.
The challenge for the Christian follower in Crete was that their commitment to Christ meant changing the way they lived as they transformed into the image of Christ. Unfortunately, Paul receives a report that the Cretan Christians were looking and acting more and more like Zeus than they were Jesus. Even worse, the young churches of Crete had come under the destructive teaching of some so-called Christian leaders—who were Jewish born Cretans. They claimed to follow Jesus, but they also demanded gentile Christians become circumcised in order to be true followers of Jesus Christ. These leaders were also engrossed in Cretan culture, and ended up endorsing the moral, or lack thereof, values of Crete thus creating bad doctrine.
In all this misrepresentation of Jesus and the church, the gospel didn’t look very attractive to many on the outside. It is a bit reminiscent of today. People were turned off from the church because of the actions of the church and inevitably the church did not look much different from the world around them. Why would people reject Zeus in favor of Jesus if there was no compelling evidence of transformation in the lives of Jesus-followers?
Titus 1:1 - 4
Vs 1: Paul begins his letter in determining why he is writing this letter and in establishing his authority for writing it. Paul first and foremost defines himself as a servant of Christ. This is significant because he states up front that he is not a great and mighty theologian or prophet who is to be revered and exalted, but instead he is a servant (his position) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Greek word for servant or slave is Duolous which means a slave or a bondman. A bondsman is one who is devoted to the disregard of one’s own interest. Paul was a servant or a slave to Christ and his desire was to please the master and not the masses. Jesus taught that those are considered leaders are to see themselves as the servants, even slaves, of others. In calling himself a slave he endorses Jesus’s leadership philosophy or servant leadership. Paul is a slave “of God,” who will uplift those who are humble for his sake.
Secondly, Paul is a called to be an Apostle (his authority). The word “Apostle” is defined as one who is divinely selected by the decree of God to be a delegate or messenger. Paul is not a self-appointed Apostle. He is a God appointed Apostle. Being called as an Apostle was essential to Paul’s ongoing service. He needed to establish his authority to affirm what he is doing is not by the appointment of man, but by the appointment of God.
Thirdly, we see his purpose (calling) which is “to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives.” Immediately, he describes and affirms his calling to preach the truth to God’s chosen ones and in teaching the truth it will guide and point those in the ways of how they should live God-honoring lives.
Vs 2 - 4: Paul starts by contrasting the Christian God to the Greek mythological Cretan god Zeus. The Christian God is one of honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness. He is not a cheater, liar, or self-indulgent God. He is a promise maker and a promise keeper. The faithful and truthful God of Israel has made promises of eternal life from the beginning of time, and we can have confidence that God will keep his promise, because He is not a liar. He is trustworthy and worthy of praise.
Titus 1:5 – 9
Vs 5: We do have any account in Acts that documents Paul and Titus establishing churches in Crete, but as we see here, they did, and here we read that Titus was left behind on the island to appoint elders for in each town. This was a big task. Titus is just one person and Crete is a large place with many towns, and we would assume, many congregations. Titus needs help. He is instructed by Paul to find, confirm, and train elders to assist him and lead their churches. This is necessary because if he does not establish good leadership the “rebellious people” will have their way. They will destroy faith, souls, and churches. The congregations’ daily existence and longer-term mission will run aground. We will look in more detail at verse 10 where Paul addresses the opposition and issues hindering the churches in Crete. Here Paul is giving Titus instructions on how to bring order to the church, but notice there is nothing on structures, processes or meetings. It is not that these things are unimportant, he just doesn’t mention them as essential to leading effectively.
The Qualifications of an Elder
Vs 6 – 9: In order to protect the churches from false prophets, sinful behaviors, and legalism there needed to be individuals or appointed elders who would oversee the churches. The job of an elder was not for any ole Cretan. In fact, the job had special qualifications to ensure the flock or church would be healthy and protected. Paul describes the qualifications for an elder for the church. Notice these qualities are opposing to the Greek god Zeus.
Titus 1:10 - 16
Vs 10: The reason for appointing elders was apparent; there were rebellious and deceitful people amid some of the congregations. There are rebellious teachings going around that go against the Apostles teaching. The is in reference to these opponents who insist on circumcision for salvation. Paul talks in other passages in the Bible where he identifies former Jews who joined the church with a gospel message that was not doctrinally sound. They taught faith plus for salvation. They said, “Faith saves you through the work of Christ plus special, religious knowledge, diets, rites, or practices that qualify you for Heaven.”
Vs 11: Paul declares that these teachers are dangerous, and they must be silenced. They must be silenced because they are turning people away from faith. The motivation behind these false teachers was not gospel centered or Christ oriented. Their motivation was money. They apparently made some decent money proclaiming their false message and Paul is exhorting Titus to raise up elders who would silence them and proclaim the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Vs 12 - 14: Paul indicts these leaders by capturing the saying of an ancient Cretan poet Epimenides, “Cretans are always liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons”. The problem in Crete is that these Christians do not want to be part of the flock under the shepherd. They want to be like solitary, wild animals. They want to think of themselves individually, not as part of faithful body of believers under the headship of Jesus Christ.
The people need to hear the truth and quit listening to the Jewish myths and the teachings of those who walked away from the truth.
Vs 15 – 16: The way you live your life gives evidence of the God you serve. Actions speak louder than words. These Cretans were living contrary to the way God calls them to live and in doing so they have become detestable, disobedient, and worthless when it comes to doing anything good.
To go back to the question, can good churches be led effectively in a day and age where so many leaders/Pastors of the church have fallen into sin by either abusing their power and authority, living secretive and sinful lives, or depending solely on their abilities, personalities, and gimmicks? The answer is yes it can. For a church to exist in this culture it needs good leadership. This leadership is not worldly the leadership that is prominent today. The church does not need more people to lead in worldly ways that consist of people who are confident in their abilities, self-assured, well-trained in business and financial matters, eloquent speakers, and highly motivated. The church today needs less of these kinds of leaders and more leaders who are people of good standing, humble, upstanding, Christ-confident, and dependent on the Holy Spirit servants. The Pastor and leadership of a church must govern and oversee the flock and help congregations become strong in the faith through sound doctrine and servant leadership.
It is important for church leaders to pray for their flocks and love them in Christian love and it is also important for the congregation to lift up the leadership regularly so we may lead effectively and in ways that bring honor to God and expands His kingdom. So, my challenge for today is a commitment to prayer. I am committing to praying for each of you personally for God’s protection, provision, and blessings upon your lives. I ask also that you would commit to praying for the leadership here at Southside and at West Bradenton 43rd Street. For us to lead effectively and in a God-honoring manner, we need and covet your prayers.
Next week we will tackle the question can a good church exist in a culture that so clearly and willingly embraces and celebrates all things ungodly? Make sure to come back as we look at a church that promotes sound doctrine and wholesome teaching.
This is the last of the three judgments of Revelation. They are the final series portraying the flood of God’s wrath. The chapter documents the carrying out of the concluding series of plagues. There are apparent similarities between these judgments and the trumpet-plagues of chapters 8 – 11. In both plagues the first four plagues are released upon the earth, sea, inland waters, and heavenly bodies correspondingly. The fifth comprises of darkness and pain and the sixth, introduces us to the enemy hosts that come from the area of the Euphrates Both sets of plagues draw heavily for their imagery on the ten Egyptian plagues of Exodus. However, there are distinct differences between the two sets of judgments.
Vs 1: John hears a loud voice from the temple ordering the angels of remuneration to pour out upon the earth the seven bowls of God’s wrath. The voice, seemingly, is the voice of God, for according to the previous verse (15:8) no one is allowed to enter the temple until the seven angels have completed their mission.
Vs 2: The first angel is sent out and carries out his astounding task of pouring out the wrath of God upon the followers of the beast. Those who once bore the mark of the beast are now visited by the “marks” of God.
Vs 3: This correspondence the first plague of Exodus where the waters of Egypt were turned to blood. It also correspondence the second trumpet in Revelation 8 where a burning mountain fell into the sea and turns it to blood. In all three instances it is water, one of humanity’s basic needs that is affected by divine judgment. The sea becomes like the blood of a corpse—that is, coagulated and rotten. The water is in such a state that it obviously cannot support life. All sea life dies.
Vs 4: In Revelation 8 the trumpet-plague affects a third part of the rivers and fountains of the waters as they were made bitter by a great burning star that fell from the sky. The correspondence that exists between the first four trumpets and the first four bowls shows an escalation of divine judgment in which the two series share the same imagery. When the sea turned to blood it brought forth death to all living in it, so also do the rivers and springs of water bring death when turned to blood.
Vs 5 - 6: In Jewish thought the fundamentals of nature were held to be under the authority of angels. We say In Rev 7:1 the angels who restrained the four winds of the earth, and in 14:18 of an angel who had the responsibility over fire. In the Jewish scriptures Enoch 66:2 speaks of angels of punishment who held the hidden waters in check. It is not certain that this the case in this instance. Regardless, the lyric exclamation of the angel closely resembles that of the overcomers in 15:2–4 who sang the song of Moses and the Lamb.
The judgment of God is neither vengeful nor impulsive. It is a manifestation of his just and holy nature. All pictures of God that ignore his hatred of sin reveal more about human nature than about God because in a moral universe God must oppose evil.
Because they had poured out the blood of the saints, God has given them blood to drink. The punishment is custom-made to fit the crime.
Vs 7: A second voice verifies the justice of God’s punitive act. The speaking altar is obviously a representation. It represents the mutual witness of the martyrs in Rev. 6 and the prayers of the saints in Rev. 8. It is noteworthy that throughout Revelation the altar is often connected with judgment.
Vs. 8: The fourth trumpet blast causes, a third of the sun, moon, and stars to be darkened for a third of the day and night (Rev.8:12). But now the fourth bowl is followed with extreme heat rather than a partial eclipse. The sun was so hot that it scorched the earth and everyone with fire. The heat is intensified, and fire happens. Fire is commonly connected with judgment in Scripture.
Vs 9: The heathen world does not respond to this great pain by repenting and giving glory to God. Instead, they blaspheme his name. Knowing full well that God is behind the judgment of plagues the people refuse to repent and instead resort to blasphemy. Their hearts have become hardened like Pharoah.
Vs 10: The throne of the beast would be his authority or dominion, and in John’s day Rome was the geographical focus of that power. The resulting darkness is similar to the darkness of the ninth plague in Exodus. The anguish is so great that the people grind their teeth.
Vs 11: The the followers of the beast curse God because of their pains and sores. They have become one in personality with their dark lord, whose most distinctive occupation is to blaspheme God and his followers.
Vs 12: When the sixth bowl is poured out upon the Euphrates, the river dries up, and opens a way for the kings from the East to enter. There is at least a literary equivalent between the sixth bowl and the sixth trumpet. When the sixth trumpet sounded, four angels bound at the Euphrates were released to lead a vast army of outlandish horses to the slaughter of one-third of the world’s population. The Euphrates marked the eastern boundary of the land given by covenant to Abraham and his seed. It also separated the Roman Empire on the east from the much-feared Parthians whose expert mounted troop bowmen had conquered the entire territory from the Euphrates to the Indus River. It is frequently pointed out that in the OT God’s great redemptive acts were often associated with the drying up of water. The Exodus and the entrance into Canaan (Josh 3:14–17) are the two major examples.
The kings from the East have been variously interpreted. Whatever the ultimate reference, the historical context of John’s imagery favors the interpretation of the kings as Parthian rulers.
Vs 13: John sees three evil spirits coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. The dragon is Satan, and the beast is the beast out of the sea as described in the first ten verses of chapter 13. The false prophet (appearing by that name for the first time) is surely the beast out of the earth. The evil spirits come out of the mouths of the unholy trio, suggesting the persuasive and deceiving propaganda that in the last days will lead people to an unconditional commitment to the cause of evil. That the three spirits looked like frogs emphasizes their uncleanness.
Vs 14: Jesus warned that in the last days false prophets would arise, and they would perform signs and wonders that would lead many awry. Paul wrote of the lawless one whose appearance would be with “all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders” and with “evil’s undiluted power to deceive”. The evil spirits in Revelation work their demonic influence on world rulers rather than ordinary people. Through their deception they gather the kings of the whole world for a great battle against God and the hosts of heaven.
Today is Mother’s Day and this morning I want to celebrate by talking to women, mothers and their families. Mothers are a blessing! There is no question about this. Unfortunately, mothers can often be underappreciated, do thankless jobs, be taken for granted, bossed around, and definitely underpaid for their work.
In a letter written to newspaper columnist Ann Landers a mother wrote, “I’m so tired of all those ignorant people who come up to my husband and ask him if his wife has a full-time job or if she's ‘just a house-wife.’ . . . Here's my job description. I'm a wife, mother, friend, confidant, personal advisor, lover, referee, peacemaker, housekeeper, laundress, chauffeur, interior decorator, gardener, painter, wall paperer, dog groomer, veterinarian, manicurist, barber, seamstress, appointment manager, financial planner, bookkeeper, money manager, personal secretary, teacher, disciplinarian, entertainer, psychoanalyst, nurse, diagnostician, public relations expert, dietitian and nutritionist, baker, chef, fashion coordinator and letter writer for both sides of the family.
I am also a travel agent, speech therapist, plumber and automobile maintenance and repair expert.”
According to the most recent salary.com figures (2018) that average stay home mother salary (if paid for her work) would be $162,581 a year if she were paid fair market value for the tasks she performs at home. That is up from 119,500 in 2009.
Needless to say, a mother is worth far more than she is actually credited for. Today I want to spend a little time looking at a few biblical statements on a few topics concerning motherhood. I am not a woman or a mother, so I am certainly not going to preach about how to be a mother or woman, I am just going to reflect on some passages that speak of the joys of motherhood and that celebrate you.
Men and children I do not want you tuning out because there will be some relevant scriptures for you as well.
THE BLESSINGS OF MOTHERHOOD
in Genesis 1:28 God tells the man and woman to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth. This was one of the first commands God gave to Adam and Eve. He delights in the multiplication of his children. Women you are privileged and blessed by God in this process. God has given you the unique blessing of childbirth. And it is only God could create such a miracle of life through a mother.
Psalm 113:9 says, “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!” It is here that we see that only God can bring about the miracle of life and mothering through the woman. Have you ever thought about the wondrous miracle of life? I have and I am taken back every time I think about it.
THE PAINS OF MOTHERHOOD
As much of a blessing childbearing is it is also a painful experience or so I have heard. According to Genesis 3:16 God says in response to Eve’s rebellion against God “I will certainly multiply your pain in childbearing.” Many of you women may say or have said, “Nice, thank you Eve!” you experience the pains of childbirth.
According to theologian D.A. Carson, “The sentence on Eve blighted her calling as mother. To be a joyful mother of children was the hope of every OT woman (Ps. 113:9), but the pain of childbirth was a constant reminder of the first mother’s sin.” As so it is today.
But not only is pain in childbirth the consequence of sin, it continues Genesis 3:16 continues to say, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” Some have suggested that this was the beginning of the “battle of the sexes”. Some interpret this to mean that the two will strive for control and neither will live in the best interest of the other. Thus the “pain” of motherhood is the physical pain of childbearing and in the spiritual and emotional disunity of the husband and wife resulting from the the fall.
MOTHERS WITHOUT CHILDREN
There are women, maybe even here today, that may have never experienced the joy of childbirth as a result of a miscarriage, the choice to remain childless or infertility. Even if you have no children this does not mean you cannot be or are not a mother. Of course, adoption is always an option, but I want to speak on a spiritual level. If you are childless, I would encourage you to know that you can still be a mother. In Romans 16:13 Paul greets Rufus and his mother and says, “Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well.” It seems to me that although Rufus’ mother was not Paul’s actual mother, she has treated him and loved him like he was her own child. We do not know anything about Paul’s mother, yet we do know that he had a spiritual mother in Rufus’ mom. She may have attended to him like a son, prayed for him as a mother does, and quite possibly taken him under her wing as a mother would to her own child.
So, childless mothers I want to encourage you to become a spiritual mother or grandmother to those who have been abandoned and left to fend for themselves, those who have had mothers who have passed away, or a girl young or woman who does not have a mother who is walking with the Lord (mentorship). Never ever think that since you are childless that you could never be a mother or grandmother.
RESPONSIBILITY OF FATHERS
OK men, it’s time to wake up! Men, we need to look at Eph. 5:25 – 33… What does that first sentence say? “HUSBANDS LOVE YOUR WIVES AS CHRIST LOVES THE CHURCH…”
I remember a quote on the pastor’s wall at the church I started my ministry in NY that read, “The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother.” Men, we have a responsibility to love our wives. How? As Christ loved the Church. This means to love sacrificially. This also means that You are willing to give your own life for her and I believe this means that you do the following… support her, protect her, hold her in high regards (respect) and work with her in raising your children.
John Piper writes about Proverb 6:20, It does not say, "Fathers instruct, and mothers change diapers." It does not say, ‘Fathers work at the office and so have no responsibility to teach their children.’ It says fathers instruct, and mothers teach. Parenting is a shared responsibility. Men love your wives, treat them with kindness, respect, and dignity. This is not a hard job, but it is what Jesus tells us to do.
RESPONSIBILITY OF CHILDREN
Ok children, it’s your turn. Exodus 20:12, the fifth commandment says, “Honor your father and mother, that your days will be long.” You are commanded to treat your mother with honor and respect and in so you will receive a blessed promise “That your days may be long” or a life that is filled with God’s presence and favor.
Children it not only makes your mothers happy when you obey and honor her, it also pleases God. Colossians 3:20 says,” Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. A child who dishonors his parents brings shame to them and causes great pain.
Throughout history parents were to be honored. According to Exodus 21:15 – 17 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death. “Whoever curses[a] his father or his mother shall be put to death. Children, note… if a child had the audacity to strike his parents he was to be put to death. Parents maybe you can remind your child that next time they dishonor you :)
HAPPY MOTHERS DAY
Mothers you are greatly appreciated and loved. Thank you for all you do. I pray that each of you takes the responsibility of mothering seriously and that you realize you may not see the rewards of all your hard work today, but if you are faithful to God and serve him in all things you are doing more for your child than you can ever imagine.
Moms pray for your children, love your children, be a godly role model to your children, and raise them to fear the Lord and worship Him. You have a unique calling and we (your children, husbands, and brothers will commit to praying for you and honoring you on this blessed day.
Men, love your wives as Christ loved the church.
Children, honor, respect, and love you mothers, because they deserve it and God commands it.
 Ann Landers, May 1988, quoted in Mom, You're Incredible, by Linda Weber, Focus on the Family, 1994, pp. 23-24
Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition. Rev. ed. of: The new Bible commentary. 3rd ed. / edited by D. Guthrie, J.A. Motyer. 1970. (4th ed.) (Ge 3:9). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
For the past few weeks, I have been going through our series titled On Fire which focuses on the Spirit-filled Christian life. This series has been designed to help us understand what a fully on fire believer who is walking in and experiencing the Spirit-filled life in Christ is like. So far, I have talked about how the process of the on-fire life is started through the resurrection from death to life, the crucifying of the old self and living in the new, and they who were once dead in their sins are now fully alive in Christ and last week, we talked about the necessity of transformation process, and what transformation does and does not look like.
This week we conclude, and we will see how the transformed life not only shows us how to live, but how to view and treat others with grace and compassion. Today we will look at the story of the Samaritan woman at the well (found in John 4:1 – 26) and how Jesus’ encounter with the woman shows us how Jesus dealt with issues of race, gender, morality and eternal life.
This encounter with Jesus this unnamed Samaritan woman had with Jesus rocked her world resulting in a life will that was to never be the same again. We can see how this encounter remains true for us today that when we truly meet with Jesus face to face (figuratively) we will and can never ever be the same, and we will never ever look the same at others whom God has placed in our lives.
John 4:1 - 26
Background to Samaria
Before we dive into the text, I think it is important to give some background information in regard to the land of Samaria and its inhabitants. The Samaritan history goes back to the time when Israel was divided into two kingdoms (specifically during the son of King Solomon; Rehoboam’s reign) the North and the South. The Northern Kingdom was called Israel and the Southern Kingdom was called Judah. Samaria was located in the Northern Kingdom and was the capital city. In 722 B.C. the Assyrian army defeated the Northern Kingdom and had many of its inhabitants deported from the North to the South. When the Assyrians took possession of the land Gentiles and Pagans moved into the Northern Kingdom and they intermarried with those who remained Israelites. The offspring of the interracial families were called Samaritans. They were half Israelite and half Gentile. Not only did the Assyrians intermarry but they also brought and merged their pagan religious practices. The Samaritans only observed the Pentateuch (the first five books of Moses) and they more specifically rejected anything that spoke of Jerusalem (Southern Kingdom). They disconnected from Jerusalem and did not go there to worship God in the Temple; in fact, they erected their own temple on Mount Gerizim.
Needless to say, Jews and Samaritans did not get along. The Jews saw them as second-class citizens. They were hostile towards them and when traveling Jewish people would go out of their way and travel around Samaria instead of going through it.
The Woman at the Well
All of this information is important because we will see how significant this conversation account is for us as non-Jewish believers. from the outset many think this is a conversation Jesus had with a woman but knowing the background of the hostility between Jews and Samaritans we know that much more is going on here than meets the eye.
One thing I noticed about this passage is the similarities of the encounter Jesus had earlier with Nicodemus.
Nicodemus was a Jewish male & follower of law thus he was a highly respected Jewish leader. He had everything going for him and still Jesus tells him he needs to be born again. Whereas the woman at the well, because of her status as a Samaritan woman with a shady background (five husbands and living with a man currently) she had the odds stacked against her and tells her, just like Nicodemus, she needed to be born again. What we can take from these two encounters is that Jesus is for everyone – He is for those who (seemingly) have it all together and he is for those who have been shunned or looked down upon from society.
Verses 1- 9: Once the Pharisees heard about Jesus’ popularity in Judea he decides to head north to Galilee. We are not sure what prompted him to go there but we do know that according to verse 4 “he had to pass through Samaria”. This can be interpreted two ways 1) Jesus went through Samaria out of logistical necessity (it was quicker and easier to go through than around) or 2) more probable it meant that it was God’s will or plan that he had to go.
Jesus was travelling around the noon hour and we are told that he was tired, hot and thirsty as he came upon Jacob’s well. It is traditionally believed this well is located on the land Jacob (Israel) gave to Joseph in Genesis 48:22. Interestingly it is still a functioning well/spring to this day. Since it was noon the sun was at its peak and Jesus was weary from his travels. He encounters a woman at this well and asks her for a drink. Once again, without the background information and understanding of the culture at this time we would think little of this encounter.
Water was drawn in the morning hours or the cool of the day by the women. Typically, the women came in groups so they could work together to draw the water and before it became too hot. Yet here we have a woman who comes later in the day and she alone. This tells us that she is most likely a shunned woman because she comes at the point of day when she knows no one will be around and she comes by herself. So, in this encounter Jesus is not only breaking tradition by talking to a woman and a Samaritan, but he is also talking with a shunned (immoral) woman which would make her a social outcast.
Jesus asks her for some water and the woman is surprised because here, a Jewish male, is asking her for a drink of water. He has no utensils to draw water or to drink out of so he would have to use her cup. According to Jews Samaritans were ceremonially unclean and a Jew who used a Samaritan’s cup would also be considered unclean as well. This is what the writer, John, meant when he wrote that Jews and Samaritans use nothing in common.
Verse 10 - 18: She apparently has no idea or reason to know that she is speaking to the Messiah. She was surprised that this tired Jewish traveler was talking to her but as Jesus said had she known who she was talking to she would not only be getting him water, but she would be asking him for the living water.
Living water is literally translated as flowing water or moving water. In the Bible water is symbolic for cleansing, refreshing and is also symbolic for the Holy Spirit. So, it is believed that here Jesus is speaking to this woman in spiritual terms. D.A. Carson writes, “(Living Water is) the satisfying eternal life mediated by the Spirit that only Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the world can provide.” As Jesus talks about this water the woman thinks he is speaking of some unknown water source (she believes Jesus is speaking literally) so she asks Jesus how he plans on giving her this water since he has no utensils. She, like Nicodemus, doesn’t understand Jesus is speaking in a spiritual sense.
Vs 13: Jesus takes the opportunity to further explain what he is talking about. He tells her that the physical water that we drink is a temporary thirst quencher and never TRULY satisfies (much like worldly possessions). We can drink all the water we want (even to the point of getting sick) but eventually we will get thirsty again. The living water he speaks of, which is not a liquid, is the everlasting life of God that is given through the Holy Spirit who satisfies and quenches our spiritual thirst. In our search for satisfaction and contentment in life we may seek to find fulfillment in physical things (cars, homes, electronics, substances, relationships, food, drink etc.) and we can never truly be satisfied by them. Satisfaction comes only when we have drunk of the living water of Jesus Christ. Not only does the water of life satisfy but it will spring up or gush up like an artesian well of eternal life and life here on earth through the Holy Spirit (the abundant life).
The woman hears Jesus’ description of this water and she now desires this water and asks the obvious question, “how can I get this living water?”. Jesus responds prophetically in regard to her life and the immoral life she is living which cuts to her heart and convicts her of her immorality. Jesus lovingly confronts her of her sinful lifestyle and tells her what she must do.
This shows us that when we desire to drink the living water of Jesus, we too will also have to confront or face our sins. Sure, it is easy to come to Jesus and drink of the living water, the hard part is realizing and coming to grips with our sins and handing them over to God.
Verse 19 - 26: This revelation certainly convinced the woman that Jesus was indeed an inspired man. In fact, her words could be translated as “I can see you are the prophet” (the one like Moses who will come).
Vs 20: The woman changes the subject (maybe to avoid the discussion about her immoral life choices) and starts talking theology (location of worshiping God). This is common when talking to someone about God or Jesus and when you start hitting home in your discussion about the need for a savior the person you are speaking to changes the subject (i.e., well how can a loving God…)
Jesus responds, “The hour is coming…and is here…” He says there is a day, and that day is here when God is no longer to be worshiped in the Temple only but will be worshiped in Spirit and in truth. Worship of God is not confined to a building, God can be worshiped anywhere. Through the Holy Spirit God is present everywhere and can be worshiped anywhere. He is omnipresent and can be worshiped at home, school, work, on the road, at church etc. God is not confined to a building, but he will be in hearts (this will be his dwelling place).
As we conclude today, I see many truths that we can take home with us. In this encounter Jesus the Samaritan woman at the well’s life changed forever and it can change our as well. Here is why…
If you continue reading the account of the Samaritan woman you will see that she goes back to her village and told everyone she met the Messiah. Upon hearing her testimony many came to see for themselves this Messiah and we are told that many believed because of her testimony. This unlikely encounter shows us what happens when God shows up and does the unexpected. When God encounters the on fire believer, he/she responds by sharing their encounter with others. This is what Jesus calls us to do. There is a world out there that is hopeless and in darkness and we have the light and hope the world is longing for. and we are called ro share it.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
Preview or purchase Jeff's Books