In this particular segment of our study of the Bible, we are working our way through Biblical concepts of the Local Church. From those concepts, we are attempting to establish the whys for the existence of MBF, our purpose, goals, form of Government, and how each of us can be an active part in making these things a reality. Our primary focus, to acquire this understanding, is the body concept of the Church as presented in the Word of God. Even though the body concept of the church is the major and most extensive illustration used by the Holy Spirit to bring understanding concerning the Church, it is not the only illustration used. To prevent us from becoming lopsided in our view of the church, we need to keep the body concept within the framework of the complete teaching of the Word of God concerning the church. To help us see the overview of the church, we have interrupted our concentration on the body concept to see some of the teachings of Christ concerning the church while He was here on earth. These teachings of Christ are not different or in conflict with the body concept, they enhance it and expand it. Any teaching of Christ concerning the church would have to be prophetic in nature, because the church was not in existence during the earthly life of Christ. We must remember that:

No prophetic statement can be fully understood 
until after its complete fulfillment.

While the disciples were with Christ, they understood very little of what He taught, prophetic or not. The disciples did not understand many of the prophetic teachings of Christ until after the giving of the Holy Spirit. This is certainly true of the teachings concerning the Church.

In our study thus far, we have looked briefly at the two cleansings of the Temple by Christ, and some of the reasons He did so. In the account by Mark, there is included a little phrase that is vital to our understanding of why Christ cleansed the Temple, and the implications that cleansing has to the church.

Mark 11:15-17 So they came to Jerusalem. And Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations'? But you have made it a 'den of thieves.' "

Mark tells us that the House (or temple) of God was to be a place of prayer for all nations. We saw that, at the time of Christ, the Temple was not a house of prayer even for the Jews. The only ones who could enter the Temple for prayer were the priests. In reality, the only one who could enter into the presence of God was the High Priest once a year.

We also took a quick look at the different courts of temple. We often use the phrase, “the cleansing of the Temple”. That actual phrase is somewhat of a misnomer. In actuality, Christ cleansed the Outer or Gentile Court of the Temple. I know it has a symbolic significance as to the whole, but for now, we want to see the fact of the act. The Court of the Priests was the closest to the temple. Yet, it was still outside the temple itself. The only time a priest could enter the temple was when certain services required him to do so. Even then, they did not have open access to the temple, but could only freely enter when their rotation for service came around. This fact is illustrated in the account of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist.

Luke 1:5-9, 23 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. 8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. ...1:23 And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.

You remember the story. While Zacharias was serving in the temple, the angel made the announcement that they would have a child, and that child would be the forerunner of Christ. That is vital information, but the other information is also vital to our understanding of the temple of God past, present and future. Notice that Zacharias was part of a division of priests. The priests served in the temple according to the rotation of these divisions. There were far more priests in each division than were needed for temple duty at any given time. As a result, not every priest had the opportunity to serve in the temple every day, or even every year. Some priests never served in the temple.

There were various methods used to determine which priests from the division would be allowed to serve in the temple during the rotation of that division. In the case of Zacharias, this opportunity was determined by the casting of lots. An individual priest might only serve in the temple a few times in his lifetime, or not at all depending on circumstances. Notice v.23. When his “days of service were completed”, he went home. He didn’t stay at the temple to pray or anything else. The biggest portion of his prayer life had to take place somewhere other than in the temple. Only rarely did even the priests have the opportunity to pray in the temple, or the “house of God”. So, we would be hard pressed to say that the temple was a “house of prayer” even for the priests.

The next court of meeting place around the temple was the Court of the Israelites (men only). This court was next in proximity to the temple, yet it was still outside the Temple itself, and no Israelite could approach any closer, except when bringing a sacrifice. However, for the simple act of personal prayer and praise, this court was the finish line. Very few Jewish men had seen or even had a glance inside the temple. No, the temple was not a “house of prayer” for the Jewish men. Next in distance from the temple were the court of the Women of Israel and then finally the court of the Gentiles in that order. These courts certainly could not qualify as the “house of God” for prayer. All these facts are important as we put together the information concerning the church, both universal and local.

The phrase on which we want to concentrate our attention is "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations." As you rummage through your mind for other Scriptures with which to compare this passage, please call to your attention the Abrahamic Covenant and the Blessing aspect of that covenant. God promised Abraham a personal blessing, a national blessing to the Jews, and a blessing to “all families of the earth”. Remember, neither the tabernacle or the temple was the real thing. These were to be made after the pattern of the real thing in the heavenlies. Please store those bits of information, and we will have a look at them again, after we look at two other teachings of Christ.

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. 22 "You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 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. 24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Twice, in this passage, the Lord used the phrase “the hour is coming”. The second time, He added “and now is”. In the first use of this phrase, Christ tells this woman and us that there is a time coming when true worship of God does not need to be, and will not be in either Jerusalem or the mountain to which the Samaritans came for worship. Christ, in the second use of this phrase not only adds “and now is”, He says worship will have a different form. True worship will be in “spirit and truth”, only. Christ establishes that true worship of God will have a different location, and there will be a different mode or form used. In the last lesson, we started picking up the general context of this statement, so we can have a clearer understanding of this truth.

John 4:1-8 Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. 7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 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.

About 720 B.C., the Assyrians invaded Israel and took many of those living in Samaria carrying them off to Assyria. Then Assyria transported to Samaria a good number of people from Babylon, Cuthan, Ava, etc. to help repopulate the land. This brought about an inter-marrying referred to by the strict Jew as, a race of half-breeds. After the Babylon captivity, and during the return and rebuilding under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Samaritans offered their help in performing this sacred task. They were refused the privilege. The Samaritans also established a rival temple or place of worship on Mount Gerizim. This added more fuel to the fire, and this feud was still raging at the time of Christ.

Especially to a Jew, this account of John 4 was shocking. The One claiming to be the Son of God was listening with understanding to a woman of Samaria, and responding in compassion and forgiveness, without accepting or condoning the sin of the sinner.

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

In the account of John 4, we have the reality of John 3:16-18 in more than theory, but also in actions. Aside from the subject we are looking at in this session, there are many lessons here and some interesting observations. When these things took place, the disciples had not been with Jesus all that long, even without deliberate reform on their part, their actions and attitudes were beginning to change, ever so slowly. Watch for those changes as we move through this passage. I’ll point out some of those changes, but we don’t have the time to really study this portion from that aspect.

Christ continues his exchange with this woman. Remember as we read this account, it is probably only a summary of the high points of the total conversation. John tells us that he did not write everything that Christ said or did, because such an accounting would fill the libraries of the known world of that day. John says that he recorded actions and words which will help us to believe.

John 4:10-15 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." 11 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? 12 "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?" 13 Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 "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." 15 The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."

There is so much here! I hate to just run over these truths so quickly without at least leaving a road marker so we can come back and have a longer look. Here and in John 3, we see the teaching style of Christ presented so clearly. He was not overpowering or oppressive. He neither condescended, or was high and lofty. Christ starts with things that were known by the hearer, and then builds bridges to the areas of the unknown. Christ allows the hearer to grapple with the truth until the hearer realizes they do not understand, then the hearer will ask for further clarification. Far better to present material in such a way as to spawn honest questions, than to overpower the hearer with guilt and fear so that they never reach out for answers. True teaching will provide answers for the questioning heart and mind, even if the teacher must first create the questions within the heart and mind of the hearer. Too often, teachers present answers for questions that no one has ever ask.

Spiritual truth should not simply be dispersed, 
it should be given in such a manner that it is discovered by the hearer 

This is a truth of communication that all budding teachers should take to heart. It’s a truth that would also be good for the teachers who are in full bloom. Those are the ones who are better known as blooming idiots. Well, that should be enough for your lesson in homiletics and hermeneutics for the day.

We will dispense with why the woman came to this well for water, and why she was coming at this time of day, and let’s jump right into the message that Christ was trying to get across to her. The conversation naturally turned to water, and the well. They tell me that this well was about 100 feet deep and not spring fed. Instead, the water of this well came through percolation or seepage, and pooled in the bottom of this open well. These facts are important if you are to follow the flow of this conversation.

Christ started with an item of physical nature that the woman understood, and used that known factor to build a bridge to an unknown spiritual truth. Christ said, “If you knew the gift of God and Who I am, you could ask of me and receive ‘living water’ ”. In the language of that day living water was running water, usually from a spring. This was in contrast to the stagnant water of a cistern or pool. This well, did not have living or spring water, nor was there any spring close at hand. She took the expression quite literally, while Christ meant it to be spiritual. That’s OK, because Christ will lead her from the physical, which she knows, to the spiritual, of which she has not a clue at this point. The woman asked, “You’re offering me pure living spring water? Where are you going to get it?” Now, the Lord can answer her question, rather than lecture concerning a subject of no interest to her. We listen to answers to our own questions. Not only does she question the information, she shows her skepticism of both the information and the Person.

Most people, when personally sharing the truth of the gospel to someone, fall apart at this point. Skepticism and ridicule are two great enemies to personal testimony of the Gospel. (Personal sin is even a greater enemy!) However, skepticism and ridicule are very natural responses, and we need to use them to properly and further teach the truths of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18-23 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." 20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,

If a person is skeptical or ridicules the truth, it shows they heard the facts well enough to affect their emotions. If a person is totally passive to the Gospel truth, that information probably has not gone any further than the auditory nerve.

Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Too often, when we receive ridicule while speaking or living the gospel, we begin to defend ourselves, or even worse we try to prove that the Bible is true. We try to overpower the skeptic with our superior knowledge and debating skills. In effect, we try to out-ridicule the skeptic. Of course, we do it in a spiritual manner. No, we hold in our hands and hearts the Sword of Spirit. It is our weapon. We need to use it, and use it properly with skill, but we don’t need to defend the Word. (Interestingly enough we are told to defend the Word against Legalism.) Our weapon is not for the destruction or condemnation of the other person, but for breaking down of barriers to the light of the Gospel, and for the defeat of the enemy the world, the flesh and the devil.

This woman at the well went down the normal path of ridicule, and said in effect:

I’ve read between the lines, but these things were implied by what the woman said. Most of us, at that point, would have either slithered away into the shadows, or come out with both guns blazing in our own defense. Christ by His actions, has so much to teach us concerning situations like this. Christ stayed with the issues. He was not detoured by defending his self-pride, nor did He run from the situation because of the fear of man.

The woman took Christ’s mention of living water quite literally. However, Christ was not using a term simply to create a mysterious spiritual setting. This term living water had real significance to those of that time and area. These people used this term water, and especially living water in another way. They often spoke of the thirst of the soul, and the quenching of that thirst by living water. These terms were common in the literature and speeches of the day, and also in Biblical writings. Christ was not using an expression just to create confusion and misunderstanding so He could hide behind some smoke-screen. This was a term that anyone with a little spiritual insight would have understood. It will be interesting to watch the spiritual light dawn in heart and mind of this woman as she compares these truths with what she already knows of the World of God. Hey! That sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? That is still the way the Holy Spirit teaches today.

This truth of the living water is seen in Scripture as an everlasting truth, for we also see this truth in:

Revelation 7:17 "for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Revelation 21:6 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.

Oh yes, I know this lady. Well, maybe she wasn’t much of a lady at this point, but none the less she didn’t have the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ on her shelf, as yet. She hadn’t received the latest discount sale catalogue from the Christian Book Store, or surely she would have had it. However, this truth was taught in the Scripture long before the this gal was even a gleam in her father’s eye.

Psalms 42:1-2 As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Isaiah35:1-7 The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; 2 It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the excellency of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. 4 Say to those who are fearful-hearted, "Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you." 5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6 Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. 7 The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; in the habitation of jackals, where each lay, there shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
Isaiah 44:1-4 "Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. 2 Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: 'Fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring; 4 They will spring up among the grass like willows by the watercourses.'
Isaiah 55:1-3 "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. 3 Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you-- the sure mercies of David.
Jeremiah 17:13 O LORD, the hope of Israel, all who forsake You shall be ashamed. "Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters."
Ezekiel 47:1-12 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar. 2 He brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gateway that faces east; and there was water, running out on the right side. 3 Then, when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. 4 Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. 5 Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. 6 He said to me, "Son of man, have you seen this?" Then he brought me and returned me to the bank of the river. 7 When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. 8 Then he said to me: "This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. 9 "And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes. 10 "It shall be that fishermen will stand by it from En Gedi to En Eglaim; they will be places for spreading their nets. Their fish will be of the same kinds as the fish of the Great Sea, exceedingly many. 11 "But its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be given over to salt. 12 "Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine."
Zechariah 13:1 "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.
Zechariah 14:6-9 It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish. 7 It shall be one day which is known to the LORD--neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light. 8 And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. 9 And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be--" the LORD is one," and His name one.

Shall we continue, or do you want lunch today? The Scriptures are full of truth concerning this symbol used by Christ here at the well. As you probably noticed, most of these references have to do with salvation, the Messiah or the coming messianic reign. This fact did not escape the woman at the well, either. For as we will see, her thoughts and questions turned to “Are You the Messiah that the Scriptures predict?” and away from, “Who do You think Your are anyway? Do You think You are greater than Jacob?”

I know we didn’t move very far in our study of local church facts. When I started writing this lesson, I was going to skip over these great truths, when I came to these truths, I just couldn’t bring myself to skip over them. I needed these truths! I suspect you needed them, also. The woman at the well cried out, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty again.” At the root of every human life is the fundamental truth that the human heart is dry, parched and thirsty for something. This poor woman thought she could satisfy her thirst with the sexual pleasure of many husbands. I don’t know what you are using in a effort to quench your heart’s thirst, nothing but the Living Water from God can even come close to satisfying the thirst of your heart.

On the outward appearance, we are all quite different, but down deep in the soul, every human is fundamentally the same. Every human from Adam until today is desperately searching for something, and most do not know what they are searching for, or even where to start looking for what they are searching for. Some, perish the thought, start their search on 6th street, others before the TV, others on the new car showroom, etc. Physical things cannot extinguish the desire for eternal things. That desire was placed within the soul when it was created in the image of God. There is a thirst of the soul that only Jesus Christ can satisfy. May I recommend that you stop trying to satisfy that thirst in your soul with things, and turn to the only One Who can more than fill the emptiness that drives you to try everything and anything that comes along.

Jeremiah 2:13 For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns--broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Isaiah 12:2-3 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; 'For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation.' " 3 Therefore with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
© Clyde White, Austin TX, 1998