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“I that speak unto thee am he.”
“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.” (John 4:25-30)
There is a day appointed by God for the salvation of his elect, a day fixed from eternity when grace will come to the chosen sinner, an hour determined before the world began when the Good Shepherd will seek out and find his lost sheep. There is a time fixed before time began called “the time of love,” when the predestined child, the elect sinner, redeemed by the blood of Christ, must be saved. At that hour, salvation must and shall come to the soul loved of God with an everlasting love. The story of the Samaritan woman’s conversion portrays this fact vividly.
“Once as the Friend of sinners dear,
A man of sorrows sojourned here;
Eternal love ordained it so,
That through Samaria He must go.
But what could His dear feet incline,
Unless compelled by love divine,
From whence salvation’s blessings flow,
That He must through Samaria go?
There wand’ring from the fold of God,
He saw the purchase of His blood;
And o'er this wretch to lust a slave,
Did sovereign grace her banner wave.
Herein discriminating grace
Shone with a bright, refulgent blaze:
While dead in sin ten thousands lie,
Grace brought this rebel harlot nigh!
Roused from her fond, delusive dream,
As Israel’s God she worshipped Him,
Drank of that living water pure,
That shall to endless years endure.
This object of eternal love,
Ordained to fill a throne above,
Shall in the gospel annals shine,
And prove election all divine.
Jesus our Shepherd, God and King,
Thy guardian care and love we sing;
And hail that grace both rich and free,
That brings Thy wand'ring sheep to Thee.
Glory to God, till this takes place,
Bulwarks of fire and walls of grace,
Keep all His blood bought flock secure,
Till calling proves election sure!”
— John Kent
Perhaps some who read these lines are in such a state of mind that you ask, perhaps you have been asking for some time, — “If God is pleased to save me, if he is pleased to grant me life and grace in Christ, how will I know? How will I know when the Lord has saved me? How will I know that God has performed his work of grace in me?”
A Word of Caution
While there is clearly a pattern of grace revealed in Holy Scripture; it is only a pattern. There are several specific things God does in and for sinners when he saves them by his grace; but our experience of grace differs widely. With some of God’s elect, conversion is a climatic, revolutionary experience. With others, it is a very gradual thing. We must never attempt to judge the validity of a person’s faith by the yardstick of our experience, or the validity of our faith by the yardstick of another’s experience. We examine our faith by the Word of God alone.
It is also a mistake to make the order in which we experience the various aspects of God’s grace a matter of great concern. Our perception of things in the experience of them is often very different from reality. For example: There is no question that the new birth is the cause of faith; but we know we are born again only after we believe. Repentance and faith are so closely mingled that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other, though they are separate graces.
God’s Method of Grace
So, as I show you what happens when God saves a sinner, while I will give you five distinct things, do not concern yourself with the order of these things, just with the reality of them. And you can be certain that whenever the Lord Jesus Christ comes to save a sinner by the power and grace of his Spirit, he does for that sinner exactly what he did for the Samaritan woman in John 4.
If ever you are saved, you must and shall be saved by God’s work, not your own, by God’s will, not your own, by God’s doing, not your own (Romans 9:16). And if God almighty ever saves you by his grace, he will do these five things for you and in you.
1. If the Lord Jesus Christ ever saves you by his grace, he will cross your path.
“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.” (John 4:3-7)
What a wonder! – The Son of God came to Samaria to seek out a fallen woman from Sychar! This woman could not and would not come to Christ. He came to her! The name of God’s church is “Sought Out” (Isaiah 62:11-12). Salvation does not begin with man seeking God, but with God seeking man. You will never be saved, unless and until God almighty steps in your way, crosses your path, and stops you in your mad rush for hell.
2. You will never have an interest in the salvation of your soul and the things of God unless the Lord God creates an interest in you.
That is what our Lord did for this Samaritan woman. When she came out to Jacob’s well, she had no interest in him, in the glory of God, or in eternal life. Oh, she was interested in religion, and in staying out of hell; but she had no interest in the things of God, until the Lord Jesus made her interested.
In verses 7-15, the Master got her interested in water. No doubt, she was at first only interested in water for selfish, carnal reasons. Yet, there was such spiritual truth in what the Master said that she could not put it out of her mind. I can almost hear her thinking — “Who is this man? What is this living water? Where does he have this water? How can he give it to me? I sure would like to have whatever it is he is talking about.”
3. Still, something else must be done. If God ever saves you, if the Lord ever has mercy on your soul, if ever the grace of God that brings salvation comes to you, the Lord God will expose your sin to you, just as he exposed this woman’s sin to her.
“Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” (John 4:16-19)
Painful as it is (And it is painful!), you are going to have to face, deal with, and honestly confess your sin before the holy Lord God. It is painful business for God to stick his finger in your heart and rip it open; but if he never rips it open, he will never bind it up. He wounds first. Then he heals. He strips. Then he clothes. He slays. Then he makes alive. He takes away. Then he gives. He creates a thirst. Then he quenches it. He makes you hungry. Then he feeds you. He empties. Then he fills. He never does things the other way around.
4. I do not know whether you will ever flee to Christ for refuge or not; but I do know this – You will never flee to him for refuge, until he destroys your false refuge.
I do not know what your refuge of lies is; but I know you have one; and you will never forsake it until God destroys it (Isaiah 28:14-20). Before the Lord saved this Samaritan harlot, he destroyed her religious refuge (vv. 19-24). Then…
“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him.” (John 4:25-30).
5. If ever the Lord God saves you, if ever you come to know and trust the Son of God, he must reveal himself to you and in you.
Salvation comes by revelation. You cannot trust an unknown Christ. And you can never know him until he makes himself known to you (2 Corinthians 4:4-6; Galatians 1:15-16). — “The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.”
“I am he”
Never did the Lord Jesus, while he walked upon the earth, make himself known to anyone more clearly and fully than he did here to this Samaritan sinner. Here, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled. The Master declares to this woman his great name (Isaiah 52:6). When the Savior said, “I AM HE,” he was saying to this woman, “I am he of whom the Scriptures speak.”
We must never underestimate the faith and knowledge of God’s saints in the Old Testament. God’s elect were saved in the Old Testament in exactly the same way they are today. God has only one way of saving sinners. That way is Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. Christ was the Object of all true faith in the Old Testament, just as he is today. What amount of knowledge those Old Testament believers had, I cannot tell. It is not clearly revealed. Yet, we do know that Eve understood the promise that the Redeemer would be a man of the woman’s seed (Genesis 3:15). Abel knew about blood atonement (Genesis 4). Abraham knew that the Redeemer would be God incarnate (Genesis 22:8). David clearly understood that forgiveness is sure through the blood atonement of a crucified Substitute (Psalms 22; 32, 51). Enoch even spoke plainly about the Lord’s Second Advent (Jude 14). Even Job, in that which is probably the first book written in the Inspired Volume, describes Christ as our Redeemer and speaks of the resurrection at the last day (Job 19:25-27). Isaiah understood that the sinner’s Substitute is both God and man in one person, whose work of redemption and grace must be effectual to the salvation of chosen sinners (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-9; 52:13-53:12).
Numerous other references could be given. These are, truly, only a few; and they were randomly selected. Yet, they will suffice to make my point irrefutable. Old Testament saints knew and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as their effectual, almighty, crucified, risen, reigning Savior.
It is also clear, to even a casual reader of Holy Scripture, that the saints of the Mosaic era clearly understood and rejoiced in the gospel doctrines of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ.
Š Divine Sovereignty (Psalms 115:3; 135:6; Daniel 4:35-37; Isaiah 46:9-11)
Š Total Depravity (Psalms 14)
Š Unconditional Election (Psalms 65:4; 2 Samuel 23:5)
Š Limited Atonement (Isaiah 53:8-11)
Š Irresistible Grace (Psalms 65:4; 110:3)
Š Perseverance of the Saints (Psalms 23:6)
In a word, God gave those saints in the Old Testament faith just as he gives us faith, by supernatural revelation, by revealing Christ to and in chosen sinners. Obviously, the Revelation of God in Scripture was not as full in Job’s day as it was in Moses’, or in Moses’ day as it was in Malachi’s, or in Malachi’s day as it was in John the Baptist’s, or in John the Baptist’s day as it was in Paul’s. Yet, I must personally acknowledge that I have never begun to experience the quality of faith that Noah exhibited in building the ark, Abraham exhibited on Mt. Moriah, or Moses exhibited in dealing with Pharaoh and Israel. Those men believed God! They knew, worshipped, and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the Scriptures of the Old Testament speak (John 5:39). — The Book of God is all about the Son of God.
When the Lord Jesus said to this Samaritan woman, “I AM HE,” he was declaring himself to be God incarnate, the great “I AM” in human flesh. We lose much in our English translation of this 26th verse. It would be far more accurate to translate the Master’s words, “I AM.” Young’s Literal Translation translates John 4:26, “Jesus saith to her, ‘I am he, who am speaking to thee.’” “I AM” was the Old Testament name by which the one true and living God, the Triune Jehovah revealed himself to Moses. This was a name no Scribe would write without first bathing himself. Yet, here is a man, standing in front of a sinner in need of mercy, declaring himself to be the “I AM!”
Our Lord Jesus Christ made this claim no less than fourteen times in John’s Gospel. Fourteen times he publicly took to himself this title which belongs to none but God (4:26; 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5). He said “I AM the Bread of Life” (6:35), “I AM the Light of the World” (8:12; 9:5), “I AM the Door” (10:7, 9), “I AM the Good Shepherd” (10:11, 14), “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” (11:25), “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (14:6), “I AM the Vine” (15:1, 5).
This name, “I AM,” is our Savior’s declaration that he is God come to save! He made himself known to this sinner as the One of whom the Scriptures speak, and as God in human flesh.
And when our Master said, “I AM HE,” he was declaring to this woman that he is the Messiah promised long before. The word Messiah means “Anointed.” It means exactly the same thing as the word “Christ.” Both the Jews and the Samaritans expected the Messiah to be a man, anointed, chosen, set apart, consecrated by God and to God, in whom all the divinely appointed offices of the Old Testament would be fulfilled: Prophet, Priest, and King. — The Lord Jesus declared to this woman that he is that man, and that he is God, the God-man: the Prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18) who shows us all things, the Priest Like Melchizedek who brings us to God, and the King Like David who delivers us from all our enemies, rules us, protects us, and provides for us.
“The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”
This man, the man who died at Calvary, the man who is the Christ, the man who now sits in glory, this man who is the Savior of the world, says to you and me — “I AM HE!” — He of whom the Scriptures speak. — God incarnate. — The I AM. — The Christ. — The Messiah. — The Salvation of Israel!
“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)