SPIRITUAL GIFTS CRUCIAL FOR EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM
By: Frank Tunstall
The story of the Samaritan woman is a marvelous illustration of the ministry gifts the Lord used to win her, and that the Apostle Paul identified as gifts of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-17; Ephesians 4:11-13).
The setting is the ancient city of Sychar, located some forty miles north of Jerusalem. Sychar dates back to the time of Jacob who dug a well there, and has survived for the two millennia since the time of Christ. The city today of 126,000 people is the site of the Palestinian West Bank town of Nablus, it’s Arabic name. Jacob’s Well still flows water nearby Nablus.
Jesus felt compelled to make the forty-mile walk to the town; in fact, “He had to go through Samaria” (John 4:4). Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit without measure (John 3:34). We should never lose sight of how hard Jesus would work to win one soul. His goal was apostolic – to win this Samaritan woman and open-up a people group for the gospel. Jesus’ apostolic strategy for doing this, guided by the Holy Spirit, was first to redeem one individual, the city’s outcast. The Lord knew she was the key to the city.
The Samaritans had begun to intermarry with the pagan population the Assyrian government moved into the area after the conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel in 732 B.C., some six centuries earlier (see 2 Kings 17). Because of this intermarriage, Jews did not recognize Samaritans as true sons of Abraham. Because the blood line was mixed, Jews looked down on them as half-breeds. The Samaritans responded to the rejection with construction of their own temple on Mount Gerizim, and they developed their version of the Torah, the five books of Moses. The chasm between the Samaritans and the Jews at the time of Jesus’ ministry had become so enormous social communication between the two people groups was effectively cut off.
Prejudice is very deceitful. The disciples could go into town to buy bread (John 4:8) – business dealings with Samaritans were acceptable – but they could not hold a casual conversation. This was all-the-more-true if it meant talking with a Samaritan woman.
Jesus, the Apostle who came from God, was sitting at Jacob’s Well, waiting for a particular Samaritan woman to come draw water (Hebrews 3:1). When she arrived, the Lord was not bound by these ancient rivalries. Instead, He blazed a new trail that cut through more than six centuries of religious tradition and intolerance. Jesus loves all people, including those who are ostracized. To Jesus, there are no half breeds; instead, all people have the same need for a Savior. No ethnic group is beyond hope in Jesus’ eyes. Jesus made a huge change when He defined ‘sons of Abraham’ as those who choose to live with Abraham’s faith in God, not Abraham’s blood line (Matthew 3:9; Luke 3:8; John 8:39-58; Galatians 3:6-9). One of the distinguishing marks of apostolic ministry is this bold willingness to call out and correct misinterpretations of Holy Scripture. Jesus did just that in this story.
After the Lord’s resurrection, He bequeathed this same ability to His apostles (Luke 24:45-49). This included the anointing of the Holy Spirit to write the New Testament. Ministers with apostolic gifts today correct misinterpretations of Holy Scripture too, but they cannot write new Scripture. Instead, they must build solely on the foundation laid by the Lord’s apostles and prophets with “Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).
This story also shows Jesus as an evangelist whose mission was to bring people into the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus was the first person to whom Jesus taught the message of a New Birth, but he rejected it. Jesus was straightforward with Nicodemus: “I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony” (John 3:11 NIV).
The Samarian woman was different. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,” Jesus-the-evangelist said to her, “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 4-13-14).
“Sir, give me this water,” she responded, “so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15). Her statement summarizes the cry of her heart for a new beginning that starts with a new birth. It is also true for millions like her, people whom so many in the church have given up as unreachable.
The Apostle John further presents Jesus in this story as a prophet. He said to the woman, “Go call your husband and come back.” Her response was, “I don’t have a husband.”
“You are right when you say you have no husband,” Jesus-the-prophet said to her. “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” (John 4:16-18).
In addition to foretelling the future, prophecy can also focus on one person with a goal to bring healing and correction. If Jesus had said to her, “you have had four husbands,” the woman would have probably written Jesus off and listened no further. When Jesus commended her for telling the truth, she would also have written Him off if she had known in her heart she had not spoken truthfully.
The woman’s response was, “I can see you are a prophet.” Prophecy is very valuable indeed in soul winning, and often is necessary. A congregation that does not give place for prophetic ministry is spiritually anemic. It will routinely miss reaching people like this woman even though they are crying out for help. Instead, they will write them off as scum who are beyond help.
Jesus was also her teacher. With five failed relationships over the years, she had tried time and again to be her own physician and heal herself. he had made the decision several times to forget and move on, but she never could quite achieve it; the noose called sin held her too tightly. She was a trapped woman. But she had developed a defense mechanism for moments like this and had no doubt used it many times. When someone got too close to her painful core she would change the subject, even if that meant she would start a theological argument.
“Our fathers worshipped on this mountain,” she said to Jesus as she threw up her defenses, “but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem” (John 4:20). She was most probably thinking, “Please! No more discussion about my personal life because I’m a failure and of no value anyway.” Her emotional pain was very real; this nerve was all too raw. “Let’s talk about things of importance to the world. Tell me, why is it you Jews insist Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim.”
The Master Teacher did not take the bait. Her soul was too priceless. She was far more important to Jesus than the combination of all the expertly cut stones, and the gold, and the precious gems in both temples. Jesus had even walked forty miles just to reach her. The Lord was focused for the moment on healing her in a rich new start in life, a birth from above. This new birth would change her forever. It would make her a new person and give her eternal life.
“Believe me, woman,” Jesus declared, “a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21).
The worship God seeks is not about a place, but springs from the condition of the heart. Worship is gratitude offered to God in spirit and in truth. The day was coming, in fact, when both temples would be torn down. The ‘place’ paradigm would soon be completely replaced by a new covenant of worship that celebrates with gratitude the immeasurable worth of Jesus. Messiah Himself is the Lamb of the new order (John 1:29, 36). Because God is Spirit, the new temple would be in the hearts of believers, and the presence of Jesus would be with them wherever they went around the world (Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Corinthians 6:19). Heartfelt gratitude for the Heavenly Father’s gift of Jesus Christ is the worship God seeks.
If Jesus had not made this paradigm shift from place to heart relationship with God, the Gospel would have never been able to go around the world.
“I know that Messiah [called Christ] is coming,” she responded to Jesus’ teaching. “When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am he.’” She did not have to wait any longer or dream of the day any more; she was looking at her Messiah face to face.
I wish I could have been there with a movie camera to record her facial expression as the truth sank in she was talking with her Messiah! She had held the desire for years that Messiah would come one day and save her, even if her lifestyle did not show her longing. Everyone else had given up on her; she knew Messiah was her only hope.
Yes, Jesus looked past the clothes she wore and her mannerisms, and correctly discerned her heart. In brief seconds the load of her sins rolled away. She showed it in her obvious excitement as she forgot about her water jar and headed for town to share the good news. “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did,” she told them, “Is not this the Christ [the Messiah]?”
Her water jar by the well said it all.
This woman became an evangelist on the spot; a witness to her people of what Jesus had done for her. Jesus was right. She was the key to the city.
The people came out to Jesus. They were so impressed by the change in her and her testimony that they accepted Jesus as their Messiah too. They also asked Jesus to spend time with them. Jesus accepted the invitation and became a pastor to the people, sharing the gospel with them for two days before heading north again for Galilee. What a privilege these Samaritans enjoyed!
Some months later, after the resurrection of Jesus and as the gospel began to spread after Pentecost, a man named Philip was chosen as one of the first seven deacons. He went down to Samaria and became an evangelist who shared the good news that Jesus is the Messiah in a ministry characterized by many miracles (Acts 6:3-6; 8:5). The Samaritans accepted Jesus “left and right;” it was a great revival (Acts 8:12 Msg). The disciples heard the news and sent Peter and John to aid Philip. The apostles laid their hands on the Samaritans and the “half-breeds” received the Holy Spirit too (Acts 8:17). But they were not half-breeds to Jesus. In fact, they not only reflected perfectly Jesus’ redefinition of Abraham’s seed, but they also showed the worship God seeks.
It meant the gospel was moving outside its Jewish birthplace, as it headed to the nations.
It all started when Jesus reached out to one very hurting, outcast-of-a-woman, and with the five-fold ministry gifts of the Holy Spirit led her to drink living water in a glorious new birth.
How important that the gifts of the Spirit operate in our churches today!