Chapter 21


The Blessed Constraint of Grace


“When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) He left Judaea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with [his] journey, sat thus on the well: [and] it was about the sixth hour. There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” (John 4:1-9)


In these opening verses of John 4 there are several things that demand our attention. Here are seven lessons the Holy Spirit would have us lay to heart.


1.    The very first thing we see in this chapter is the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ, the man who lived and died upon this earth to save us from our sins, is Himself the omniscient God.


The primary purpose of John’s gospel is to show us that the man Christ Jesus is God, God manifest in the flesh. Therefore, he misses no opportunity to display our Savior’s Godhood. There is no hint of anyone having informed Him of what the Pharisees were saying and doing, but “the Lord knew.” There was no need for anyone to inform him of anything, because He is the God before whom nothing is hidden, before whom darkness is light.


That One who humbled Himself, who took the infinite stoop of taking into union with Himself our humanity, who came down here to dwell upon the earth in human flesh as Jehovah’s Servant, is here called “the Lord” because he is the Lord! This man, whom the Pharisees contemptuously regarded as the Nazarene carpenter, was none other than the Christ of God, in whom “dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily!”


He who brings in everlasting righteousness as a man for men must Himself be the everlasting God. He who obtains eternal redemption for sinners by the shedding of His blood as a man must Himself be the eternal God.


2.    The religious world is now, always has been, and, until time is no more, always shall be set in opposition to the God of glory, His Son, and the Gospel of His grace.


Mainstream religion has always been opposed to the worship of our God. I know that many talk of days gone by when “most people believed the things we do, when most people believed the gospel of the grace of God.” I defy anyone to show me such a time.


The fact is, from the days of Cain and Abel, through the days of Enoch, Noah, and Job, while Abraham walked in the earth with God, from the days of Moses, throughout the years of Old Testament history, the vast majority of the people in this world despised the worship of God, even those who professed to worship Him and claimed to be His people. — All men are idolaters by nature. — All men are will worshippers by nature. — All men vainly attempt to mix their works with God’s grace to find acceptance with God.


There is a way which seems right to all men. All men walk in that way, defend that way, and oppose anything and anyone who speaks against that way; but the ends thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).


This is exactly what we see in these Pharisees here in John 4. “The Pharisees heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.” Even at this early date in our Lord’s public ministry, the Pharisees were obviously plotting to get rid of Him.


      They were jealous of His following. It was bad enough that they had to put up with John; but here was a man, obviously in league with John, who was even more influential than John the Baptist. The Pharisees were threatened by the Master’s influence. They feared losing their position, power, and prestige as religious leaders.


      The Lord Jesus was looked upon by them as a man from a lower social class, (He was from Nazareth of Galilee!) from which they thought no prophet could come (John 7:52). They just knew that nothing good could come out of Nazareth.


      Primarily, they despised His doctrine. Our Lord openly exposed, reproved, and rebuked their hypocrisy, their tradition, their customs, their doctrine, and their empty religious ritualism.


3.    Here is a third lesson. Believer’s baptism is an ordinance of Divine worship, for which we are responsible, but only an ordinance of worship. – Baptism has nothing to do with salvation.


When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples)” (vv. 1-2). — Notice the order here. First, disciples were made. Then, they were baptized, not the other way around. You will search the Scriptures in vain to find anyone being baptized as an infant, or being baptized to obtain grace, or being baptized before conversion. Baptism is the believer’s public confession of faith in Christ, by which we identify ourselves with and make an avowed, public commitment to Christ, His people, and His Gospel (Romans 6:3-6).


      “Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.” Commenting on that statement, C. H. Spurgeon wisely observed, “Our Savior did not Himself baptize His followers. Now, if baptism depended upon the character or the office of the baptizer, Jesus would certainly have done it; but to show us that the person baptizing does not impart any grace to the person baptized, our Lord baptized not, but left that work to his disciples.”


4.    Here is another lesson, a lesson which is evident to almost everyone, except those who make it evident. Religion without Christ makes people even more proud, bigoted, and mean spirited than we are by nature.


“The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (v. 9). — The Jews looked upon the Samaritans as a lower class, an inferior race, and despised them. The Jews had the Word and oracles of God; but they would not think of sharing the knowledge and worship of God with the Samaritans. The Jews, particularly the Pharisees, were a heartless people, totally indifferent to the glory of God and the souls of men. They were only concerned for themselves, their appearance before men, and their religion. The proudest, meanest, most dishonest people I have ever known have been religious people, — not believers, religious people!


5.    Light despised will be withdrawn and turned into darkness.


What sad, sad words are those found in verse three: – “He left Judea!” Our Lord refused to cast his pearls before swine. “He left Judea!” What a warning those words give: — Light despised will be withdrawn and turned into darkness (John 12:35-46, 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2).


      I urge all to believe the Gospel. I call upon sinners everywhere, in God’s name, as God’s ambassador to their souls, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, I assure you that God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s grace, and God’s glory do not depend upon what men do, not in the least.


6.    The purpose of God is not and cannot be altered by man’s unbelief.


Far from it! If you go to hell, it will be your fault. There is no question about that. God would save you, if you would obey His voice, if you would trust his Son. If you go to hell, you will, as He says, “eat the fruit of your own way and be filled with your own devices!” But your unbelief, your rebellion, your despising the counsel of God will not alter the purpose of God, but only fulfil it (Romans 3:3-4).


      God cast off Israel because Israel cast off God. Yet, in their rejection of God’s Gospel, God’s kingdom, and God’s Son, the Jews, by bringing judgment upon themselves, became the very instruments by which grace was carried to the Gentiles, that the fulness of the Gentiles might be brought in by the grace of God (Romans 11:1, 25-26, 29, 33-36). Blessed be God, it is yet true, and forever shall be – “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Timothy 2:19).


      Though the Jews despised Him, though the Pharisees sought to destroy Him, though he left Judea…


7.    It is written in verse 4, “He must needs go through Samaria,” because there are some people in this world who must and shall be saved by the almighty grace and according to the sovereign, unalterable purpose of our great and glorious God.


Read the text as it stands. “He must.” It does not say He might, He wants to, He hopes to, He will if, or He is going to try. The text says, “He must!” That means – “He must needs go through Samaria!”


      This was not a thing He might or might not do, but a thing He must do. Why? Because there was a chosen, blood bought sinner there, for whom “the time of love” had come. In fact, there were a bunch of chosen, blood bought sinners[1] down in Samaria, for whom “the time of love” had now come; and they must now be saved by His almighty grace, every one of them!


            Though obliged to do nothing, yet, as our Surety, the Son of God obliged himself to perform specific deeds of mercy, love and grace for His elect, that he might bring us to glory. He obliged Himself to save His own (John 10:16-18).  That means that the salvation of chosen sinners is a thing as certain and as much a matter of necessity with God our Savior, as His own truth and faithfulness.


      “He must needs go through Samaria” to save His chosen, to seek and save His lost sheep. I know, many say, “He had to go through Samaria, because that was the nearest way to get from Judea to Galilee.” They are exactly right. The closest route from Judea to Galilee was to go through Samaria. But it was God who, in His wise and adorable providence, made it the closest way, because God in His providence put his elect there. As C.H. Spurgeon put it, “Providence directed man to build Samaria directly in the road, and grace constrained the Savior to move in that direction.”


      When the time of love comes for the objects of His mercy, love, and grace, the Lord Jesus will come to His chosen in almighty, omnipotent, irresistible, saving power. We bless and praise Him for the fact that His people shall be willing in the day of His power. When God says “must,” it must be! There is no standing against God’s omnipotent “must.” Let me give you four reasons for these words, “He must needs go through Samaria.”


A Divine Purpose


“He must needs go through Samaria,” because of a divine purpose. God purposed it before the world began, and so it came to pass. We believe and rejoice in the grand, glorious, God honoring doctrine of divine predestination. It is a doctrine plainly taught in Holy Scripture, and a doctrine full of comfort for the believer’s heart (Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11).


“Keep silence all created things,

And wait your Maker’s nod:

My soul stands trembling while she sings

The honors of her God


Life, death, and hell, and worlds unknown,

Hang on His firm decree:

He sits on no precarious throne,

Nor borrows leave to be.


Chained to His throne a volume lies,

With all the fates of men,

With every angel’s form and size,

Drawn by the eternal pen.


His providence unfolds the book,

And makes His counsels shine:

Each opening leaf and every stroke

Fulfils some bright design.”

                                     — Isaac Watts


A Divine Promise


“He must needs go through Samaria,” because of a divine promise. Divine predestination moves according to the promise God Himself made in eternity to give eternal life to His elect. Yes, the Bible does teach the doctrine of election. We are told plainly that God promised eternal life to chosen sinners before the world began (Titus 1:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; 2 Timothy 1:9-10).


“Father, `twas Thy love that knew us

Earth’s foundations long before:

That same love to Jesus drew us

By its sweet, constraining power,

And will keep us safely now and ever more.”

                                                 — J. G. Deck


      Divine predestination arranged all things from eternity, in the purpose of God, according to the divine promise of eternal life to chosen sinners in Christ. This promise of eternal life to God’s elect was made in…


A Divine Pact.


“He must needs go through Samaria,” because of a divine pact. We delight to trace everything back to that sovereign pact and blessed covenant of grace made on our behalf with Christ, our Surety, before the world began. There is nothing more delightful to my soul than covenant love (2 Samuel 23:5). It was in that covenant that our Savior put Himself in bondage, put Himself under obligation to save His people (John 10:16). “He must needs go through Samaria,” because some of those other sheep were there, whom He must bring into his fold. Once more, “he must needs go through Samaria,” because of…


A Divine Purchase.


The Lord Jesus came here to fetch this woman, and the others in the city whom He had chosen, because He bought them with His blood. How I rejoice to tell sinners everywhere that the cross of Christ shall never be discovered a miscarriage.


      The Lord Jesus must go through Samaria, because there were those in Samaria whom the Father had given Him from eternity to save, for whom He voluntarily assumed all responsibility, whom He purchased with His own precious blood, whom He must save.


      If you are one of God’s elect, there is a needs be for Christ to save you; and save you He will. Perhaps you are yet in your sins. You may have been fleeing from Him for years; but when He comes, He will overtake you. He will conquer you. He will have you. I am sent of God to tell you, He is already on His way, and He will have you. Blessed be God, there are some people in this world whom He must save, from whom He will not take “no” for an answer.


            When the Son of God comes to save, He will come to you like He did Zacchaeus of old (Luke 19:5, 9-10). “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:9).


      This is the blessed constraint of God’s grace. His people must be saved because He has purposed to save them. Therefore we read in John 4:4 that our Lord Jesus Christ “must needs go through Samaria.








Don Fortner



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[1] Yes, I do understand that Christ had not yet shed His blood at Calvary. I also understand that He is the Lamb of God who was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; 17:8). These Samaritans were, like all God’s elect, redeemed in the purpose of God from eternity, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, “who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world!”