We live in an increasingly polarised and politicised culture. It feels like competing cultural tribes are seeking to overpower and cancel each other out. How do we, as Christians, live in this time? How do we continue to make disciples without letting the Kingdom of God be reduced to one tribe among many?
I was pondering these questions when I read the story of Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4). He did not let his identity, as a Jewish religious leader, create a barrier between him and the woman. Instead, he was able to have a conversation about physical needs that led to spiritual reality. The turning point is verse 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.”
Jesus said that the woman's problem was her ignorance. She didn't know "the gift of God" or Jesus' true identity. In our culture today most people are stunningly ignorant about the gospel. They know about the latest controversies associated with Christianity (the equivalent of "which mountain we should worship on") but they know nothing about Jesus and his real identity.
As I read the Bible commentaries, there were at least nine options for what Jesus meant by "the gift of God". Some scholars thought he meant "faith" or "grace" or "eternal life" or "generosity".
In my opinion, the "gift of God" points to the identity of Jesus so it refers to both the work of the Spirit and to the Word of God. In other words, Jesus is saying that if the woman knew the Scriptures and the work of the Spirit in her life, she would have known who Jesus was and would have asked him for eternal life. This is captured in the often-quoted saying:
"The Spirit of God works through the Word of God to bring life to the people of God."
Whenever I share God's Word with people, whether that is through preaching, small groups or one-to-one, whether that is in a church or on campus, it is the Spirit of God that opens people's eyes, softens people's hearts, and moves people's wills to respond to his truth.
Let’s bring life to others -- through the Word and the Spirit.