Berean Bible Study Notes

John 4:1-23



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OK, we're finally into a new chapter! You remember how we left off:

John 3:22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptized. 24(This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew (some manuscripts say "Jews" - probably the same ones who were asking John if he was the Messiah) over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan — the one you testified about — well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him."

John 3:27 To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.

John 3:30 He must become greater; I must become less.

This was the third of the "musts" that we covered last time. Each one was a big deal. We must be born again. Jesus must be lifted up. And, now this one: He must become greater; I must become less. We talked about how important it is in our Christian walk that we stop looking to ourselves and instead, focus on Jesus. Yet, the key to doing that is not to try to stop thinking about ourselves (which inevitably leads to thinking about ourselves), but to simply concentrate on Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Seek Him with all your heart, and the I must become less just happens automatically.

Here is an article from Jon Courson on the "musts" of John 3 (Courson, J. 2003. Jon Courson's Application Commentary . Thomas Nelson: Nashville, TN):

Three Major Musts

John 3 ended this way:

John 3:31 "The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands.

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

Remember who John is speaking to. He's speaking to a Jew - or Jews - which is or are in leadership. When John the Apostle uses that kind of language in this Gospel, he always means the Jewish leadership. The "no one accepts his testimony" of earlier certainly applies to this person or people that John is speaking to, so John is making more than a general statement. He is telling these people to their faces that they face God's wrath. These people are accepted throughout Israel as the spiritual heads of the people. Again, in our situation, it would be as shocking as the heads of our church bodies being told that they face the wrath of God. Definitely not politically correct.

This is how we ended last time. Let's forge ahead:

John 4:1 The Pharisees heard that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, 2 although in fact it was not Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. 3 When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now, either the Jew from the previous section has gone back and reported the situation, or we're looking at the same group of people again from a different angle. As much of a stink as John the Baptist had become in the eyes of the Pharisees, this Jesus character was worse. John had clearly said that he was not the Christ, not the Messiah. Jesus, on the other hand, having been proclaimed as Messiah by John, was gaining enough followers to be a bigger threat to the Jewish leadership. Jesus had already said that they were in darkness and hated the light.

Everything that happens to Jesus is fully under His control, however, and here, He controls timing again. The time had not yet come for the Jewish leadership to get too upset with Him, so He proceeds to take Himself out of the picture. He's leaving Judea, the southern area near Jerusalem, and going back to Galilee in the north.

John 4:4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

You can't tell very well in the NIV, but that "had to" in verse 4 is the same Greek word for the imperative "must" that we had in the last chapter. It's clearer in the King James:

John 4:4 (KJV) And he must needs go through Samaria.

This is our fourth "must." It's the same word used previously - Must be born again. Must be lifted up. He must increase. This implies that it is just as important. Why?

First, what is Samaria? Who are the Samaritans? Remember that after Solomon died, his son Rehoboam listened to bad advice and his people rebelled. Ten tribes aligned themselves with Jeroboam and the kingdom was split. Only Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to the House of David. The northern tribes called themselves the "House of Israel" and had the city of Samaria as their capitol. Their whole land became known as "Samaria" or "the Northern Kingdom." They had a series of kings, all bad, and didn't even attempt to keep God's law. They immediately went into idolatry. God sent prophet after prophet, but the Northern Kingdom wouldn't listen. Finally, God had had enough, and this is what happened:

2 Kings 17:5 The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes.

7 All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8 and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. 9 The Israelites secretly did things against the LORD their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. 10 They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 11 At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the LORD had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that provoked the LORD to anger. 12 They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, "You shall not do this." 13 The LORD warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: "Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets."

14 But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the LORD their God. 15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, "Do not do as they do," and they did the things the LORD had forbidden them to do.

16 They forsook all the commands of the LORD their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger.

18 So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, 19 and even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. 20 Therefore the LORD rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.

21 When he tore Israel away from the house of David, they made Jeroboam son of Nebat their king. Jeroboam enticed Israel away from following the LORD and caused them to commit a great sin. 22 The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them 23 until the LORD removed them from his presence, as he had warned through all his servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there.

24 The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns. 25 When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. 26 It was reported to the king of Assyria: "The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires."

27 Then the king of Assyria gave this order: "Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires." 28 So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the LORD.

29 Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. 30 The men from Babylon made Succoth Benoth, the men from Cuthah made Nergal, and the men from Hamath made Ashima; 31 the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They worshiped the LORD, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. 33 They worshiped the LORD, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.

34 To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the LORD nor adhere to the decrees and ordinances, the laws and commands that the LORD gave the descendants of Jacob, whom he named Israel.

Here are two articles from Nelson's Bible Dictionary:

Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1995. Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville

Now, just an aside. Don't let anyone confuse you with the idea that the "ten lost tribes" migrated somewhere else and kept their identity. Cults have been built around the idea that the tribes went to Europe or elsewhere. For example, the tribe of Dan became the Danish, etc. You'd be surprised who buys into that nonsense. There is no such thing as "British Israelism" and other similar ideas. The tribes did not keep their identity. They had already set the true God aside while they were still in the promised land. When the Assyrians moved them, they lost their identity entirely. Those who wanted to worship God properly had long since moved to the Southern Kingdom:

2 Chronicles 11:13 The priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel sided with him. 14 The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property, and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the LORD. 16 Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their fathers. 17 They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon three years, walking in the ways of David and Solomon during this time.

Throughout the New Testament you'll see that all twelve tribes are present in Judea and Jerusalem. If you read or hear someone saying that he is part of the "lost tribes of Israel," you need to go into "false prophet" mode. Here is one article on that: Mystery of the Myth: The Ten Lost Tribes.

Back to our story. The Jews detested the Samaritans. They detested all Gentiles, and they especially detested the Samaritan Gentiles who had some Jewish blood and "sort of" worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As the article above states, they did it out of desperation, not out of any kind of calling. They had some Scripture, so they knew of the promised Messiah:

Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1995. Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville

Try to imagine someone that fills you with distaste, someone that you consider crude, unethical, pagan, corrupt. That's how the Jews felt about the Samaritans. They didn't consider them just beneath them, but so far below as to be disgusting. To go through their territory would be like you choosing to walk down a street at night where men dress as women and offer themselves for prostitution, or maybe walking along with a Gay Pride parade, seeing couples show themselves off (I'm not saying that's what the Samaritans did - just that how you'd feel would be similar).

Now, Samaria did lie between Judea and Galilee, but Jesus didn't HAVE to go through. There were other ways to go:

Baumler, Gary. John: The People's Bible, Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, 1997.

Why was it imperative that Jesus go through Samaria? One reason is that there was someone there He needed to talk to.

John 4:4 Now he had to go through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Or (For Jews do not use dishes Samaritans have used)

It's either noon or six in the evening, depending on whether this is Jewish or Roman time. Most commentators believe it's noon, because the well was deserted. Women came to draw water during the early morning or in the early evening. This was at Jacob's well, a place you can still visit in the West Bank (bring your helmet and body armor). It's where Joseph's bones were taken after the exodus from Egypt. Jesus is tired. The Gospel of John emphasizes that Jesus is the Son of God, but this is one place where it comes through that Jesus was also fully human. If you need to review that, you can look over our study of that: Fully Human.

Jesus is following the same evangelistic pattern as set out in Acts:

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

First He was in Jerusalem with Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. Then, He was in Judea, where He gained followers and His disciples were baptizing people. Now, He moves into Samaria. Again, why "must?" Is the pattern so important? Sometimes it is. Look what happened to Moses when he messed up God's pattern; he was forbidden from entering the promised land. Is it the pattern so important now? I don't really know. I know that Jesus always does as His Father desired, so maybe it was that important.

At the very least, His Father has set up an appointment and Jesus must keep it. Did the woman know that Jesus would be there? No. Jesus works things out so that she is there at the exact time that He is. Everything is under God's control. There are no accidents. Those divine appointments continue today. They continue THIS day. You are where you are, doing what you're doing, learning what you're learning - all for a reason. God the Father set up an appointment for you to meet His Son, and just as with the Samaritan woman, Jesus HAD to keep it. You didn't do it. God did.

John 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, "Will you give me a drink?" 8(His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Or (For Jews do not use dishes Samaritans have used)

OK, the Samaritan woman comes to draw water at noon, when the well is normally deserted. The reason why becomes evident later - she's had five husbands and is living with another who is not her husband. So, the women of Sychar want nothing to do with her. In the words of J. Vernon McGee, "One of the reasons she was not so popular with the women of the town was because she was too popular with the men of the town." So, this unnamed woman comes to the well at a time when the other women wouldn't be there.

In our day and age, you might picture someone with tight pants, clingy top with lots of cleavage, lots of make-up, not much character. Cheap. Loose. Smart-mouthed. Looking for someone to take her home with him at closing time. Again, I'm not saying that's what she was like then - but that might be what she'd be like in our day. THIS is Jesus' appointment that He MUST keep. To THIS woman, He says, "Will you give me a drink?" Now, all she has is her water jug that she uses for herself, so she is very surprised at Him. Again, to get the feeling she thought Jesus should have had, you might picture asking to drink directly from the cup of someone with AIDS or hepatitis. She knows that the Jews hate Samaritans, detest Samaritans. She responds:

John 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Or (For Jews do not use dishes Samaritans have used)

OK, now you have to picture a smart aleck woman who is used to giving it right back to the men - not a timid, shy thing, but a brazen hussy. This is who Jesus chooses to converse with.

John 4:10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water."

Now, at the moment, her mind is not on spiritual things. To her, "living water" simply means fresh, running water - like from a spring - vastly preferable to well water. So, she continues with her smart talk, trying to size this Jew up. She answers back sarcastically (but notice that she's gone from "Jew" to "Sir." She may be thinking that this Jew has something to sell and she wants to know if it's worth her time):

John 4:11 "Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?"

The Samaritans are not even "half" Jews, but they considered themselves descended from Jacob, through Joseph. The woman is still thinking spring water here. Jesus responds:

John 4:13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

"This water" is, of course, referring to the well water or to any natural water. You can also apply that idea to anything in our world that we attempt to quench our "thirst" with. If our thirst is for pleasure, any quenching we do is just temporary. We will thirst again, in even greater amounts. Whatever earthly thing you attempt to quench that thirst, that "emptiness" with, you will be thirsty again. Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. What kind of water is that? That's the Holy Spirit, as John the Apostle includes later in his Gospel:

John 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

That "never" of "will never thirst" is the strongest negative you can have in Greek. It means never, never, ever! He is saying that that living water cannot fail. "Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." If you have the Holy Spirit inside you, you HAVE eternal life, as has been said twice before in the previous section. This is a favorite theme of John:

John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

Revelation 7:15 Therefore, "they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them. 16 Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

What does it mean that the living water will "well up?" It probably means several things. Here are a couple. First, it is a seal, a guarantee of our future inheritance:

Romans 8:23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

2 Corinthians 1:21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Second, the Spirit works within us to sanctify us and prepare us for service and ultimately for eternity:

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:

That work, once begun, will not end until we are united with Jesus:

Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Let's look at the verse again:

John 4:13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

There are so many things we can note here. For example, a spring does not run dry. This is not a temporary filling but a never-ending spring. One that cannot fail, as we mentioned earlier. In fact, the "once-saved, always saved" folks sometimes point to this verse to support that doctrine. You remember last time we went over this verse:

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The "believes" is active, present tense, so the "once-saved, not always saved" folks could point to that verse to support their doctrine. How can both be true? I don't know. Somehow it is! The OSAS folks continue to fight it out with the OSnAS people, with each side claiming tons of verses to support their case. What that says to me is that there is more to be learned here than I currently understand.

John 4:13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

John 4:15 The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

She's still thinking physical, but note how her demeanor has changed. She believes Him! The Word that Jesus spoke to her is causing her to go from smart-aleck skeptic to honest belief. She still doesn't get it that Jesus is talking about something spiritual, but she has somehow gotten to the point of believing that He can provide this "living water." Why doesn't she want to keep coming to the well? Because it's humiliating for her to come out into public. Her sin has been brought to mind. Does Jesus sweep it under the rug?

John 4:16 He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back."

Oops! She answers truthfully, but incompletely:

John 4:17 "I have no husband," she replied.

Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. 18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."

What's going on here? Jesus offers her living water, and she believes Him, although she still doesn't understand what it means. Jesus knows, however, that He is offering salvation from sin. The first thing that must happen is that sin must be acknowledged. What good is a Savior from sin if you claim to have no sin?

Jesus brings her sin out into the open. Notice how He doesn't drag her through it. He has said enough for her to admit her sinfulness to herself. Notice also that only God could have known what she held in her heart. See how she answers:

John 4:19 "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet.

She doesn't say, "Who have you been talking to?" He's apparently told her something that NO ONE knows, something that only she, herself knows. Perhaps she has moved from town to town to keep her shame hidden. In any case, she has gone from "Jew" to "sir" and now to "prophet" in her responses to Jesus. She goes on:

John 4:20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

"This mountain" is Mount Gerizim—where the Samaritan temple was built. Here is what Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary says (Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1995. Nelson's new illustrated Bible dictionary. T. Nelson: Nashville):

This seems like a complete change of subject. Is it? She may be taking advantage of the opportunity to speak to a true prophet and settle the raging question of the day between Jews and Samaritans. I think it's deeper than that, though. Her heart has been softened by Jesus' words, and she has just been convicted of great sin in her life. Can you hear longing in her words?

This is a woman who has been living little better than a prostitute, who doesn't dare to come to the well at the usual time. Perhaps she longs to worship God, but would she have dared to worship even at Mount Gerizim? Perhaps behind her words is simply the longing to worship somewhere.

John 4:21 Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Note that she had said, " Our fathers worshiped on this mountain" without any mention of who or what they were worshipping. Jesus is very specific: you will worship the Father. Many of the Samaritans WILL worship the Father, as we'll see as we go on. There are a bunch of things going on here. First, the Samaritans truly believed they were worshipping God in the right place. Remember, they only had the first five books of the Bible. This online commentary tells more about that:

Pastor Drew Worthen, Calvary Chapel Port Charlotte, Fl.

It also will not be long before worship at the temple in Jerusalem will be impossible. By 70 AD, the sacrifices will have stopped and the temple will have been destroyed. Jesus is telling her, "things are going to change from the way they have been."

John 4:22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Remember that the Samaritans had just adopted the worship of the Jews' God because they were desperate (they were being killed by lions). They had only the first five books of the Bible, and those had been changed to reflect the Samaritan bias. It was kind of like in Acts, where Paul tells the men of Athens, "You are very religious. . . . I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you." (Acts 17:23) The people of Athens were covering all their bases and worshipping even what was unknown to them. The Samaritans were sort of doing the same thing.

I've done the same thing, I'm ashamed to say. The first times that I attended a Lutheran church, I had no idea what was going on. They stood up, sat down, responded with particular words at particular times. I didn't know what they were doing, and it was meaningless to me. I was just going along with the crowd. It took time before it became MY worship rather than something I had just adopted. It can happen with people who go to church because they grow up going to church. It may have been meaningful to their parents, but now the children are just going through the motions. It's really their parents' worship that they adopted.

What makes the difference is not the worship itself, but what is going on inside the person. Two people can be side by side. One might be truly worshipping. The other might be just saying words.

The Jews had the Scriptures. They knew God as He had revealed Himself. Those that truly kept the Scriptures were able to truly worship. Notice the "we." Jesus is blatantly identifying Himself as a Jew.

John 4:22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Salvation is from the Jews (or "of" the Jews). What does that mean? I'm going to keep this as simple as I can.

Most importantly, the Messiah would come through the Jews.

God told Abraham that "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." We could spend a whole study just on that. We could spend a whole year on that! The simplest thing to get out of it is that the Messiah would come from the seed of Abraham:

Genesis 12:1 The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. 2 "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

That was further refined to include Isaac, Jacob, Judah and King David. The Messiah, the Savior, would be a Jew. Jesus was a Jew. Of course, we know that, but sometimes it gets compartmentalized in our brains. Why is salvation of the Jews? Most simply put, because our Savior was a Jew.

Romans 9:5 Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

A few other things:

They were God's chosen people.

Deuteronomy 14:2 for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.

Amos 3:2 "You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins."

(That last bit of the last verse is why Jews will often jokingly say, "Choose someone else for a change.")

They were entrusted with the Word of God.

Romans 3:1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

The promises of God were to the Jews.

Romans 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.

 

The rejection of the Jews allowed the redemption of the Gentiles.

I know this is a tough one, difficult to understand. Please don't worry if you don't get it right away. I know lots of pastors that still struggle with this one. I'm not saying that I fully get it, either, but the Scripture clearly says it, and I'm not going to ignore it. Let's start with that last verse:

Romans 9:3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, 4 the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.

What does it say? Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. The promises were originally to the Jews. That doesn't mean that God ever planned to leave out the Gentiles. No, He also promised:

Isaiah 49:6 "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

Yet, there was a particular way that had to happen. First, Jesus went to the Jews:

Matthew 15:24 (Jesus) He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

Acts 3:17 "Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus. 21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.'

24 "Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

When the Gospel message went out, it had to go first to the Jews:

Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first . Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.

God knew the Jews would, on the whole, reject their Savior, but God accounted for that in His plan:

Isaiah 6:9 He said, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' 10 Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."

This is most clearly spelled out in Romans 11. Here are selected verses, but I recommend that you study Romans 11 carefully:

Romans 11:11 Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12 But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring! 

Romans 11:15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

Romans 11:28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.

That last verse means they are enemies of the gospel for our sake, for our benefit. It's clearer in the King James:

Romans 11:28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.

This is another one of those "wrestling with God" things. If you want to understand it better, He WILL teach you. Just ask Him to. I didn't go over it in our Bible study because it's not an easy concept. It requires prayer and study and time - and a good familiarity with the whole of Scripture. This is just a taste, so that you know that there's more to know. I'm still learning, too! Here are a few articles that may help some:

To the Jew First and Also to the Greek

The Salvation of the Gentiles--Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

One of the Purposes of The Church: To Provoke Israel To Jealousy

Salvation is of the Jews - just another thing that it's clear there is more to understand than we currently do. The most important thing to remember is what we said first. Salvation is of the Jews because the only way to heaven - the only way to stand before the Father - is through Jesus, who came to earth as a Jew. And now, we, as Gentiles, have been grafted in, brought near, made heirs also:

Ephesians 2:12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.



Let's go on:

John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

The trouble with the Gospel of John is that every verse is so huge! There are entire books written on these two verses. We're only going to be able to hit a few of the highlights.

John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

"Yet a time is coming and has now come" is actually all in the present tense. It basically means, "the time has come, right now," and yet "will worship" is future tense. "Time" is hora {ho'-rah} and while it can mean "hour" as in a point in time, such as the 9th hour, it often means "season." So, it seems this is saying that a change has occurred, and beginning from that point, true worshippers will not be tied to a particular place. Before, they were required to worship at the temple. Worshipping at other places, such as the "high places," was forbidden.

Deuteronomy 12:4 You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you.

8 You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit, 9 since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the LORD your God is giving you.



Do you see the change? Previously, the woman had said, Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

That was another one of those "musts," same word as used previously: MUST be born again; Jesus MUST be lifted up; Jesus MUST increase - we must decrease. And, what the woman said the Jews claim was absolutely true, according to Deuteronomy (at the time Deuteronomy was written, the location for the temple had not yet been chosen). Yet, how did Jesus respond ? "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem."

He was telling her, that no, it's not another "must," not anymore. It used to be a "must," but now the time had come for true worshippers to worship differently:

John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Here is a replacement "must." The hour had come for a change. Now, we MUST worship in spirit and truth. What does that mean? Whole church bodies have gotten off on weird tangents because of that verse. They think it means that true worship will include manifestations of the Holy Spirit, and so you've got overemphasis on speaking in tongues, being "slain" in the Spirit, barking like dogs and on and on. Here is one article on that:

The History of the Charismatic Movement by Gary E. Gilley

Other people think it means that worship must be spirited, as in lively. There's certainly nothing wrong with lively worship, but that's not what is meant here.

Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. 9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Do you get that? Without the Holy Spirit, you cannot please God. If you want to truly worship, you must have the Holy Spirit within you. You must worship in Spirit. The Spirit helps us pray and truly worship.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."

Romans 8:26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Romans 7:6 But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Galatians 4:6 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

Galatians 5:24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit , let us keep in step with the Spirit .

Philippians 3:3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—

We must also worship in TRUTH. If you have some false idea of God, you cannot truly worship. He wants to be known as He has revealed Himself to us through His word - not as some kind of God of our own imagining. We may be confused about some things, but there are things that we cannot reject. We cannot reject that Jesus is fully man. We cannot reject that Jesus is fully God. We cannot believe that we can somehow work our way into God's good graces. We cannot worship anything other than the true God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. He is ONE God in three persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are not three Gods, but one. Hear , O Israel : The LORD our God, the LORD is one!

The testimony of a former Jehovah Witness

Worship in Spirit and Truth

WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH by Gayle Erwin (not completely applicable, but I like Gayle Erwin)

John MacArthur Worship Articles

Complete in Christ, Spiritual Intimidation--Part 1

Complete in Christ, Spiritual Intimidation--Part 2



The Berean Bible Study of the Gospel of John




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Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. - Acts 17:11

© 2012 This study was written by Jacqui Komschlies and last updated 2/1/2012. If you have questions, comments, corrections or concerns, please write me.

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