In John 4 we see a shift in the mission of God. While the explanation of the need for saving grace is revealed to Nicodemus, a ruling Jew, in John 3, (“You must be born again”), God’s grace in the gospel is revealed to a Samaritan woman, an outsider, in John 4. John shows us in this account that his love and life-changing grace is not reserved for a few elite, but rather he shows that the love and grace of God in the gospel penetrates cultural, gender, and sin barriers. And since this glorious gospel of grace is a personal summons that has no bounds outside of the free will of God, those who receive it are compelled to share it. In short, what we see in John 4 is gospel hope that is global, personal, public, and relentless.
There are no cultural or linguistic barriers to the gospel. In John 4:4, the beloved disciple writes that Jesus “had to pass through Samaria.” But physically speaking, Jesus was not bound to pass through Samaria in order to get to Galilee. It is not as if he was in Tennessee and had to pass through Kentucky in order to get to Ohio. It would be like saying he was going to Ohio and had to go through Virginia. You would not physically have to go through Virginia in order to get to Ohio from Tennessee. In fact, you would be going out of your way. Likewise, Jesus was physically going out of his way to get to Galilee. Actually, Jews would do the exact opposite. They would go out of their way in order to avoid Samaria for cultural, religious, and racial prejudices. But Jesus does something radical. He goes through Samaria because he was bound by obedience to the will of the Father to go where the Spirit led him. Jesus had a purpose in going through Samaria.
What we see here is that God’s grace is not limited to certain races or cultural groups. The glorious gospel of God’s grace is extended to all peoples, cultures, races, and languages. This is so beautiful. This means that your acceptance by God and your salvation are not dependent on the color of your skin or the way you speak. Your salvation and the extension of God’s grace are totally dependent on the perfect will of God. Jesus extended love and grace to a Samaritan woman to show us that this gospel will be proclaimed throughout the whole world to all peoples in all nations regardless of race, culture, or linguistic differences (Matt. 24:14). God’s grace in the gospel is global.
Another aspect of the glory of God’s grace in the gospel is that it is revealed to individuals. Isn’t it simply amazing that God saves individuals? Individuals are elected, justified, adopted, sanctified, and glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). God is not distant from his people. He is close to them on a personal level because of the mediatorial work of Jesus. The gospel meets individuals where they are. God calls not just a group of people to himself, but individual people to himself. It is correct in one sense to say that Jesus died for you (singular), to be your propitiation, to be sin for you.
Jesus offers grace to a Samaritan woman personally. He knew her (John 4:16-18). And instead of revealing himself in a public mass setting, he speaks with this woman on a personal level as he tells her he is the Well of living water and the Messiah (vv. 10, 13-14, 26). The gospel confronts you in your sin personally and gives hope to you personally. This is good news. God’s grace in the gospel is personal.
Although the gospel is clearly seen in John 4 as personal, John is careful to show us that it is not private.
So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him…Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did…” And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (vv. 28-30, 39, 41-42).
This personal gospel is not to be kept secret. The delight that you find in your savoring the living water that Jesus gives should drive you to bring others to this satisfying and overflowing Well to drink. The gospel is to be proclaimed to all peoples (Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20). If you are keeping the gospel in which you have believed private to your own family, faith family, or self, you are missing the point of the gospel. Good news must be heralded for all to hear. John later records Jesus saying, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). The means that Jesus uses to “bring them also” is the proclamation of the gospel by those he has already brought in.
If there is one barrier that many of us think keeps us from God, it is a sin barrier. In one sense, it is right and good to think that your sin keeps you from God’s holy presence. That is absolutely true! However, the glory of God’s grace in the gospel is clearly seen in the fact that God’s grace is relentless in pursuing you despite your sin. The living water of God’s grace is only sweet to those who know the bitter taste of sin. We need the sovereign work of the Spirit to give us this particular taste. I do not believe there is a greater joy than the truth that your sin, no matter how deep, is deeper than God’s grace. “[A]s far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). Jesus brings the sin of this Samaritan woman into the light in the process of offering her living water. By no means does Jesus belittle her sinful lifestyle, but it is clear that this barrier is being overcome in the persona and work of Jesus, for he is the Messiah and the Savior of the world (vv. 25-26, 42). The grace of God in the gospel is relentless in pursuit of those whom the Father predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). The glory of God’s grace in the gospel is that it will not relent!
The gospel is global, personal, public, and relentless. This has innumerable implications for the way we evangelize and view our lives. Our worldview should be radically impacted by the radical grace of God in the gospel. Embrace the gospel knowing that it penetrates all cultural, racial, social, economical, and sin barriers. Proclaim the gospel knowing that the Christ who has personally saved you has sheep that are not of this fold.