The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
June 20, 2010


1) Healing the Syro-Phoenician Woman's Daughter (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30) (Mark Mayberry)
2) Undenominational Christianity (David Pratte)


Healing the Syro-Phoenician Woman's Daughter (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30)
by Mark Mayberry

Tyre and Sidon

Tyre was an ancient seaport city of Phoenicia, situated on the Mediterranean coast thirty-five miles north of Mt. Carmel. Sidon, oldest of the Phoenician cities, dominated the coastal plain in the area of the Lebanon Mountains, lying twenty-five miles north of Tyre. Objects of divine prophecy (Jer. 47:4; Zech. 9:2-4) and patience (Matt. 11:20-22; Luke 10:13-14), Tyre and Sidon are often mentioned together.

Through the Messiah's ministry, light came into "Galilee of the Gentiles" and regions beyond (Isa. 9:1-2; Matt. 4:12-17). Many from the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon followed Jesus (Mark 3:7-8; Luke 6:17-18).

Jew and Gentile

Withdrawing into this district, Jesus encountered a Canaanite woman, a Gentile of the Syro-Phoenician race, who cried out, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon possessed." No response was forthcoming. When she persisted in her pleading, Jesus answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Bowing down before him, she said, "Lord, help me!" Christ answered, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs."

Deep prejudice befouled the relationship of Jew and Gentile. Hostility flowed in both directions, from Jews toward Gentiles (John 7:33-35; Acts 22:19-24; 1 Thess. 2:14-16) and from Gentiles toward Jews (Ezra 4:8-16; Esth. 3:8-9; Acts 18:1-2). Bias may be evidenced in the disciples' impatient response to the Canaanite woman, "Send her away because she keeps shouting at us" (Matt. 15:23) and elsewhere, in their merciless reaction to the Samaritan's rebuff of Jesus (Luke 9:51-56). Based upon a superficial reading of this text, one might think that Jesus shared this bigotry. Such was not the case; instead, he was testing both the woman and the disciples.

Consider the statement, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Sending out the Twelve, Jesus gave similar instructions: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 10:5-6). This prohibition was rooted, not in prejudice, but in principle. Salvation was of the Jews (John 4:19-24, esp. v. 22). Spiritual blessing extended unto all mankind through the lineage of Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; Acts 2:38-39; Gal. 3:6-9). According to God's scheme, the gospel was preached in orderly progression: first to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, and finally to the Gentiles/Greeks (Acts 1:6-8; 3:25-26; 8:4-8, 25; 9:10-16; 10:44-48; 11:15-18; 13:44-49; Rom. 1:16-17; 2:9-11; 15:7-13).

Bread and Dogs

Reflect also upon his reply, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." In ancient Israel, the dog was not "man's best friend." In fact, according to Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, calling someone a dog was one of the most offensive ways of insulting that person (s.v. "Animals of the Bible: Dogs"). Most biblical references to dogs are derogatory. Used metaphorically, it is a term of contempt (1 Sam. 17:43; 2 Sam. 16:9) and self-abasement (1 Sam. 24:14; 2 Sam. 9:8). Male cult prostitutes and those who are sexually immoral are identified as "dogs" (Deut. 23:17-18; Rev. 22:14-15). So also are persons of low status, i.e., violent, vicious, and evil (Pss. 22:16-18; 59:5-8,13-15), along with those who are faithless and false (Matt. 7:6; Phil. 3:2).

Pride and Prejudice

In speaking to the Syro-Phoenician woman, Jesus was not manifesting bigotry, for he committed no sin (2 Cor. 5:20-21; 1 Pet. 2:21-22; Heb. 4:15-16; 1 John 3:4-5). Furthermore, he was not tempting her by evil to evil (Jas. 1:13-14). As a full-member of the Godhead (John 1:1-3, 14-18), the words of Jesus test and try the sons of men (Pss. 11:4-7; 139:23-24; Jer. 11:20; 17:10; Heb. 4:12-13; Rev. 2:23).

In the Old Testament, God tested Abraham (Heb. 11:17-19; Jas. 2:21-24; Gen. 22:1-3) and Israel (Deut. 8:1-3,15-16; 13:1-5). In like manner, Christ examined Philip (John 6:1-14, esp. v. 6). In the present context, he does the same to the Canaanite woman. Through testing and trial, her character is revealed.

Would she stoop to bigotry and bias? Would she respond with bile and bitterness? No, marvelously and wondrously, she rose above the prejudice and partiality. Her heart was not tainted with antipathy and aversion. Rather, it was filled with faith, fidelity, and full-assurance. Her reply was marked with humility and grace: "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."

Horror and Healing

Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." As a result, her daughter was healed at once. According to Mark's account, Jesus said, "Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter." And going back to her home, the Canaanite woman found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.

In the New Testament, demon-possessed persons were afflicted with various physical and mental diseases (epilepsy, paralysis, loss of hearing, sight and speech, lunacy, madness, etc.). Such maladies were caused by evil spirits who entered and controlled certain unfortunate individuals, afflicting the mind and body, debasing their lives, dominating their existence, destroying health, and dethroning reason.

In our present context, the Canaanite woman cried out, saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed." The Greek word daimonizomai, occurring here and twelve other times in the New Testament, means "to be possessed by a demon" (Thomas) or "be possessed by a hostile spirit" (BDAG). Besides general references (Matt. 4:24; 8:16; Mark 1:32), this word is used of the Gadarene/Gerasene Demoniac(s) (Matt. 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39), a man who was mute (Matt. 9:32-34), another who was blind and mute (Matt. 12:22-24), and also here (Matt. 15:21-28, esp. v. 22).          

While effecting physical disability (deafness, muteness, paralysis, etc.), demon possession was far more serious than the disorder itself. Often identified as "unclean spirits," demons are the malignant foes of truth and light, goodness and grace, health and happiness; they are the enemies of God and man. For the individual so accursed, their effect was debilitating, degenerative, and destructive. Ministers and minions of Satan, agents of the prince of darkness, servants of the god of this world, demons are subjects of Beelzebul, the lord of filth and flies (Matt. 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15).

Through miracles, signs and wonders, Jesus demonstrated his authority over the physical and spiritual realms (John 5:36; Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3-4). Life and death, misfortune and disease, distance, quality, quantity, the forces of nature, and evil spirits were all subject to his power (Matt. 9:33; 12:22-23; Mark 1:27; Luke 4:36).

On other occasions, when Jesus cast out demons, the crowds were amazed, saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel" (Matt. 9:32-33; cf. Luke 11:14). To honest and open minds, this evidence suggested that he was the Son of David, i.e., the Messiah foreshadowed in prophecy (Matt. 12:22-23).


The Syro-Phoenician woman's faith is evidenced in many ways. She sought out Jesus. She would not be dissuaded by his disciples. She would not take "no" for an answer. Humbling herself before the Master, she allowed an indecorous designation to be applied to her daughter, deferentially pleading for whatever crumbs of goodness that he might bestow.

Are we willing to pursue the Lord with the same fervor?  Do we look to him in time of trouble? Are we willing to humble ourselves? Do we trust in his goodness and grace?  These abiding lessons are beautifully illustrated by an otherwise obscure woman from the district of Tyre and Sidon.

-- Via Truth Magazine, March 2, 2006, Volume L, Number 5


Undenominational Christianity
by David Pratte

Peter, Paul, and other first-century disciples were Christians, but what denomination were they members of? None at all! Denominational division, as we know it, did not exist in the first century. All Christians were in one body -- the church which belongs to Jesus (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 4:3-6). First-century Christians were members of Jesus' church, but not members of any denomination. Why can't you and I do the same today?

In fact, is Jesus even pleased with the existence of so many different denominations? In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed concerning those who believe in Him, "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee." In denominationalism today, are all people one as the Father and Son are one? Surely not.

So, how can we be just Christians today without contributing to denominational division?  Well, how did people do it in the first century?  They obeyed the teachings of Jesus given in the gospel. Obedience to the gospel cleansed them from sin, and then the Lord added them to His church (Acts 2:36-41,47). If you and I follow the same gospel, won't the same thing happen to us (see Acts 2:39)?

But suppose instead we follow the creed book or church law of some denomination. What then would we become? We would become members of that denomination, right? Or if we followed the laws of some other denomination, we would become members of that denomination. However, following just the New Testament would make us simply children of God, just like it did in the first century (1 Peter 1:22,23; Gal. 3:26,27). Denominational doctrines make denominational members. The New Testament makes just Christians.

-- Via The Beacon, June 15, 2010

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

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Take the Denham Springs exit (exit 10) off of I-12.  At the end of the exit ramp, turn north.  Go about a stone's throw to Rushing Road.  (You'll see a Starbucks, Circle K, and two other gas stations; with each on each corner.)  Turn left on Rushing Road, and go less then 0.3 of a mile.  Hampton Inn will be on the right.  We assemble in its meeting room, which is very close to the reception counter.  Just walk pass the check-in counter; turn right at the hall.  The first and second doors on the left lead to where we meet.