John 4:4-42 and 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 record evangelistic encounters in two widely differing settings: Jesus’ evangelizing a sinful woman in Samaria versus an unbelieving person who enters a local church and receives prophesying from a congregation of worshiping believers. Despite their differing settings, these passages reveal a striking correlation that illumines a key element of genuine salvation.
Jesus conversed about living water with a Samaritan woman who came to draw water from the well where He was sitting (John 4:5-14). The woman responded by saying to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw” (John 4:15).
Instead of immediately giving her that gift of God (John 4:10) when she seemed eager to receive it, Jesus supernaturally confronted her with her sinfulness by telling her how she was currently living in sin (John 4:16-18). Recognizing that He had exposed sinful details of her life that she would have thought that He would have had no way of knowing about her, the woman related that she perceived that He was a prophet (John 4:19).
Through His exposing her secret sinfulness and His further dealings with her (John 4:20-27), the woman became convinced that He was the Christ whom she knew would come and tell them “all things” (John 4:25). Leaving Him and going into the city, she testified to men repeatedly that she had encountered the Christ who told her all things that she had ever done (John 4:29, 39).
By correlating these three statements (John 4:25, 29, 39), we see clearly that her persistent testimony to that specific truth shows that His supernaturally convincing her of the sinfulness of secret aspects of her life was a crucial facet of her coming to genuine faith in Him. In particular, the final statement about her testifying to that truth shows that many others also came to believe because of her testimony to that truth (John 4:39).
1 Corinthians 14:23-25
In the only New Testament passage that explicitly recounts worship taking place in a local church (1 Cor. 14:23-25), Paul provides strikingly similar revelation to what was crucial in Jesus’ evangelism of the Samaritan woman:
1Co 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?
24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:
25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
This passage shows that true worship of God by an unbelieving sinner who comes into a local church results from God’s making manifest “the secrets of his heart” (1 Cor. 14:25) and convincing him of his sinfulness (1 Cor. 14:24) through the collective ministry of all who minister to him in that service (see The Consummation of Public Worship for a fuller explanation of this passage).
Both John 4:4-42 and 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 teach us about the importance of a sinner having his secret sins exposed supernaturally. To understand further the evangelistic importance of this striking correlation between these two passages, we need to correlate them with key Pauline teaching about his gospel ministry:
In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel (Rom. 2:16).
A careful handling of Romans 2:16 shows that Paul is teaching that a key truth that he testified as part of his gospel was that God “in the day” would judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (see this post for a detailed explanation concerning this vital point).
We learn from this statement that Paul evangelized sinners by telling that them that God will one day judge their secret sins and that He will do so through Jesus Christ. Paul thus evangelized sinners with testimony that closely correlates with the Samaritan woman’s testimony to others that Jesus as the Christ had exposed her secret sinfulness and convinced her of that sinfulness by telling her all things that she had ever done.
Furthermore, because Paul tells us that part of his gospel testimony was to tell people about how God will one day judge their secrets through Jesus Christ, we are justified in inferring that this truth was one of the truths that was prophesied to the unbeliever who came into the local church service recorded in 1 Corinthians 14:23-25.
John 4:4-42 and 1 Corinthians 14:23-25 correlate strongly with each other and with Romans 2:16 to reveal the vital evangelistic importance of testifying to sinners that God will one day judge their secrets through Jesus Christ. We who evangelize sinners in our day should testify to this key gospel truth and allow God to use it to expose to them their secrets and to convince them of their sinfulness.
Doing so, we will provide them with vital testimony that God will use to bring those who repent and believe to fall on their faces and worship Him!