The Savior of the World
“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’ ” (v. 42).- John 4:39–42
For generations before the coming of Christ, the Samaritans had been separated from the covenant people of God because of their peculiar and corrupted religious beliefs and practices. All that began to change on the day that the Samaritan woman talked with Jesus at the well near Sychar. As we have seen, Jesus revealed His messianic identity to the woman, and that, coupled with His supernatural insight into her past, convinced her that He was the Christ. This, in turn, moved her to stop caring about the rejection that she had endured from her fellow citizens and to go and tell them that she had found the Messiah (John 4:1–30).
Today’s passage reveals the effectiveness of her testimony. Many Samaritans went out to meet Jesus on account of her words, and they were so impressed by Him that they asked Jesus to stay two days and continue to teach them (vv. 39–40). He did so, and many came to believe in Christ as Savior because they heard the word He preached. The Samaritan woman’s testimony to Jesus’ work in her life was important, but it was insufficient to bring people to faith. We must learn from this example. Our testimony to how Jesus has worked in us plays a role in our work to make disciples of all nations, but our testimonies are not themselves the Word preached. Today, we hear from Jesus through the preaching of the Word and the proclamation of the biblical gospel, which is the only message that saves (1 Cor. 1:21).
From Jesus the Samaritans learned that He is the “Savior of the world” (John 4:42). This title had a rich background in the first-century culture. The ancient Greeks referred to their gods as saviors, and the Romans applied the title to the emperors. Such claims—and others like them—are declared false when Jesus is proclaimed as Savior of the world. In proclaiming Jesus as Savior of the world, we are claiming that He is the only possible avenue of salvation for sinners and that He is the fulfillment of the promise of the God of Israel—the one true creator God—to save both Jews and Gentiles (Isa. 45:22). To recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world is not to promote universalism—the teaching that all people will be saved regardless of whether they have faith in Christ—for John’s gospel recognizes that some, in fact, will be condemned, not saved (John 3:18). Instead, to recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world is to recognize that if anyone in the world is saved, it is only in and through Him.
Jesus is the Savior not only of one nationality; rather, He is the Savior of the world. No one in the world can be saved apart from His work, and only through faith in Him will anyone be saved. We must be clear that Christ is the Savior of the world and that no one who denies Him will be saved. To offer the possibility of salvation apart from Christ is to offer false hope.
Passages for Further Study
1 Timothy 4:10
1 John 4:14