John 4:1–26 recounts the experience of Jesus talking with a Samaritan woman. After a long walk, Jesus sat to rest by a well when a Samaritan woman came to draw water. He opened the conversation by asking her, “Please give me a drink” (verse 7, NLT). The woman was shocked, responding, “How can you ask me for a drink?” (verse 9). It was considered improper for a Jewish male to have social dealings with a woman, especially a Samaritan whom the Jews had long despised. Brushing aside tradition and prejudice, Jesus answered, “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” (John 4:10).
Bible commentators observe that the phrase the gift of God appears only once in the Gospels, here in John 4:10. However, the word (dōrea in Greek) occurs four times in Acts, each time referring to “the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38; 8:20; 10:45; 11:17). The gift of God that Jesus speaks of in John 4:10 is the living water of eternal life that flows to believers through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
God gives many good gifts (James 1:17). In the arid climate of Samaria, water was valued as a precious gift of God. But Jesus offered an even better gift from God to the woman, something no earthly fountain could supply.
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received a promised gift from the Father: “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven” (Luke 24:49, NLT; see also Acts 1:1–5).
God is the “fountain of living water” (Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13). When we drink of God’s Spirit, we receive a soul-satisfying, supernatural supply “welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
A little later, in John 7:37–39, Jesus spoke further about the promised gift of God: “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart’” (verses 37–38, NLT). Then John explained: “When he said ‘living water,’ he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory” (verse 39, NLT).
The gift of God is salvation in Jesus Christ (John 11:25–26; 1 John 5:11–12). It is a gift because we can’t earn it, nor do we deserve it (Ephesians 2:8–9). The gift of God is a new life sourced and supplied by the Holy Spirit (John 3:5–8; 6:63; Romans 8:10; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 2 Corinthians 3:6). This gift is for everyone (John 3:16), and it is free (Romans 5:15; 6:23; Revelation 22:17). The apostle Paul said this gracious gift of God is too wonderful for words (2 Corinthians 9:14–15).
God’s gift of the Holy Spirit equips and empowers believers to be ambassadors for Christ and to triumph over dark forces in this world (John 14:16; Romans 8:26–27; Acts 1:8; 2:16–17; 6:9–10; 10:44; 1 Corinthians 12; 14: Hebrews 2:4; 1 Peter 1:12). Believers are led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14) and sanctified through the Spirit’s work (Romans 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13). This gift of God also inspired the writing of Scripture (2 Peter 1:20–21). The gift of God is the soul-sustaining living water of eternal life, and it is ours in Jesus Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit. What an indescribable gift!