John 4:15-18 (ESV)
The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.”
The Samaritan woman’s response was logical, but not spiritual. She was intrigued by Jesus’ offer—she wanted what it seemed to provide—but still could not grasp the spiritual reality this Jewish traveler was pointing her to. The so-called “Prosperity Gospel” that is widely preached across the world today follows the same path. In short, “If you believe enough, you will get a lot—health, wealth, and happiness.” The problem with both is the same:
Neither one of them actually deals with the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus abruptly changes the direction of the conversation and I’m sure it came as a shock to the woman at the well. In short, he sets her up. As Spurgeon says, “Up till now she has not imbibed a single idea from Christ. The Lord has spoken to her in parables, but she has not seen through the thin veil, so she has missed his meaning. Now he fires another shot and deals with her in another fashion. It was needful to arouse this woman to a sense of her sinfulness. It was no use putting on plasters where there was no knowledge of a sore, and no use attempting to fill the void where there was no feeling of emptiness.”
Living water means nothing to you unless you embrace the fact that you are spiritually dead and therefore need that “drink” in order to live (spiritually). Jesus has the authority to convict people of their sin (John 16:8) and we would do well to remember that fact. We can and should be willing to discuss sin with an unbeliever, but not with the intent of making them feel bad. That power lies solely with the Holy Spirit. In this famous exchange, you should note that Jesus brought the woman’s sin into the conversation, but he did not hammer her with it. He didn’t need to.
Spurgeon continues, “So first she must be brought low, she must be made to see herself in the glass of truth, and then she would begin to understand her need of salvation. Oftentimes, in seeking to bless people, the kindest way is not to build them up, but to pull them down; not to begin to encourage their hopes, but to let them see how hopeless their case is apart from sovereign grace.” We are called to preach the full counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and that includes the doctrine of sin. We must never be afraid to include it, while remembering it is never our role to ensure its impact.