In John 4:22 Jesus says, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (NKJV). Those words are immediately followed by this beautiful truth: “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (verse 23).
Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman remains a favorite for many modern Bible readers, both for how it breaks cultural boundaries and for salvation truth. When a Samaritan woman left her house to fetch water alone, she never expected to encounter a Jewish man or for Him to initiate a conversation. What started as a simple request for water turned into Jesus revealing the salvation plan applicable to both Jews and Gentiles. The interaction reached its pinnacle when the wary woman turned into an enthusiastic evangelist: “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” (John 4:29). Within the discourse, Jesus stated that salvation is of the Jews in response to the woman’s statement in verse 20 pointing out that the Samaritans had a different holy site than the Jews.
In stating that salvation is of the Jews, Jesus asserted that the Jews hold a pivotal role in God’s redemptive plan. God chose them to be the people through whom the Messiah came to earth. He also entrusted them with His covenant, as Paul affirms in Romans 3:1–2, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God” (ESV; cf. Deuteronomy 4:8; Psalm 147:20). The Old Testament, often referred to as the Hebrew Scripture, reflects this deep-rooted connection.
As Christians, we can appreciate God’s intentionality and careful progress in orchestrating the Savior’s arrival through the Jews. Christ’s birth “in the fulness of time” (Galatians 4:4) and sacrifice on the cross were not an accident or a backup plan. Speaking of the people of Israel, Paul says, “Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen” (Romans 9:4–5). The simple fact is that God chose Israel—the people and the land—to set the stage for the Savior of the world. In this way, salvation is of the Jews.
However, while salvation is of the Jews, it is not for them alone. Jesus made this quite clear in His conversation at the well: “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24, NLT). We now live in an era where the gospel has gone far beyond Jewish borders, “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The time has arrived for genuine worshipers to worship God in spirit and truth, as Jesus declared. His conversation with the Samaritan woman and her enthusiastic response foreshadowed what we now experience today: true worshippers emerging from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds.
The propagation of the gospel commenced on the day of the Pentecost when over 3,000 Jews turned to Christ (Acts 2:41). Thereafter, the message moved to Gentiles, from the Ethiopian eunuch to the Roman Cornelius (Acts 8:26–40; 10—11). After the conversion of Paul, missionary activity to Gentiles took formal shape, and we continue to see the message spread to more Gentiles today.
To sum up, salvation is of the Jews because they had God’s covenant and were the custodians of the Scriptures and keepers of the temple. Physically, they were the Savior’s people. However, God’s blueprint always encompassed people of all nations. He promised Abraham, “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3), and that continues to be fulfilled today.