The statement “salvation is from the Jews” is found in John 4:22, spoken by Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well. This single verse has been the source of much discussion and debate over the centuries as to its exact meaning and implications.
To fully understand this verse, it’s important to look at the broader context of the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman recorded in John 4:1-26. Jesus was traveling through Samaria, where He stopped at Jacob’s well and encountered a Samaritan woman who had come to draw water. Jesus engaged her in a discussion about living water and revealed to her that He was the Messiah. The woman then declared that she knew the Messiah was coming and would “tell us all things” (John 4:25). It is at this point that Jesus responds, “I who speak to you am he” (John 4:26) and then states, “Salvation is from the Jews.”
The Samaritans and the Jews had a long history of animosity and disagreement. The Samaritans received only the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) as Scripture, while the Jews had the full Old Testament canon. Central to their disagreements was the proper place of worship – the Samaritans believed it was Mt. Gerizim, while the Jews maintained it was Jerusalem. But this encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman was a revelation that the divisions between Jew and Samaritan would be broken down through the Messiah, who would teach all people the full truth about God.
With this context in mind, here are several key points to understand the meaning of this significant statement by Jesus:
1. Salvation is from the Jews in that the Messiah would come from the Jews
Throughout the Old Testament, it was revealed that the Messiah – the anointed Savior – would descend from the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God initiated His covenant of redemption with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, promising that through his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3). The Messiah and Savior of the world would be born out of the Jewish race.
Jesus affirmed this truth, highlighting that “salvation is from the Jews.” As the Messiah, Jesus was born into the line of Abraham and David (Matt. 1:1, Luke 3:31-34). Salvation for both Jew and Gentile would come through the promised Messiah who physically descended from the Jews.
2. Salvation is from the Jews in that Jesus operated within the context of Jewish culture
During His earthly ministry, Jesus lived and ministered as a Jew. Though He encountered people from many cultures and backgrounds, Jesus’ primary audience was Jewish. He was born under the Mosaic Law (Gal. 4:4) and fulfilled the Law perfectly (Matt. 5:17). Jesus frequently taught in the Jewish synagogues (Matt. 4:23, 9:35) and He came first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). Salvation went forth from Israel, centered in Jesus’ Jewish context and spreading to the nations.
3. Salvation is from the Jews in that the doctrines of salvation are founded in Judaism
The New Testament teachings about atonement, redemption, forgiveness, and justification all have their roots in Old Testament Judaism. Jesus taught that He is the fulfillment of what the Jewish Scriptures promised and prophesied about the Messiah. The New Covenant did not create new doctrines, but built upon and clarified Jewish beliefs.
Concepts like blood sacrifice, substitutionary death, cleansing from sins, and God’s grace and mercy are integral to Old Testament Judaism. Salvation as taught by Jesus is founded on uniquely Jewish doctrines about the way sinful human beings can be reconciled to a holy God.
4. Salvation is from the Jews in that God’s redemptive plan went forth from Israel to all nations
God chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth and established His covenant with them. They were called to be a light to the Gentiles and attract the nations to the one true God (Is. 42:6, Is. 49:6). Salvation was not just for the Jews alone, but was intended to spread through them to the whole world.
The Jews were commissioned with taking God’s message of salvation to the ends of the earth (Is. 49:6). Though they failed in many ways, the witness of the Old Testament prophets, the ministry of Jesus, and the foundation of the early church were all centered around spreading the gospel of salvation from the Jews to the entire world.
5. Salvation is from the Jews in that the Scriptures and institutions were given to them
God entrusted His revelations and covenants to the Jewish people. They were given the Law through Moses to instruct them in God’s ways (Deut. 4:5-8). The Jews had the tabernacle and temple as a dwelling place for God’s presence. They received the leadership of the priests and prophets. God’s word and truth was brought forth through the Jews, establishing the foundation for salvation.
As Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman, salvation is of the Jewish race because of their stewardship over God’s instructions and promises which provide salvation. The Jews were blessed to be conduits of God’s redemptive plan for all people.
6. Salvation is from the Jews in that the New Covenant gospel arose from them
The followers of Jesus, who were the foundation of the New Testament church, were themselves Jewish. The apostles and early Christian leaders like Peter, James, John, Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and others were all Jewish. They spread the gospel and established churches based on teachings that Jesus Christ is the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world.
Christianity arose from a group of Jews who believed Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies and that salvation comes only through Him. The gospel message of salvation in Christ exploded forth from its Jewish origins in Jerusalem to spread across the Roman world.
7. Salvation is from the Jews in that Jews will play a key role in the end times
Though the Jewish nation rejected Jesus as Messiah, Scripture indicates there is a special future purpose for the Jewish people. God still has promises to fulfill specifically with the Jews during the end times before Jesus returns (Jer. 30:7, Dan. 12:1, Rom. 11:25-27).
The book of Revelation highlights the unique position of the Jews in the end times. Though salvation has spread to the Gentiles, the Jews will still be God’s instrument for both salvation and judgment in the last days.
So in a broad sense, “salvation is from the Jews” not just in the first coming of Jesus, but also in the events surrounding His second coming. God is not finished with the Jewish people and still has key redemptive purposes reserved for them.
8. Salvation is from the Jews in that all believers become spiritual Jews
All those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are considered “spiritual Jews”, whether they are physical Jews or Gentiles (Rom. 2:28-29). Followers of Christ have the law of God written on their hearts (Jer. 31:33), are children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7), and are part of the Jerusalem above (Gal. 4:26).
To be saved through Jesus is to be grafted into true Judaism spiritually (Rom. 11:17-18). Salvation in Scripture is equated with becoming an heir of Abraham, a member of God’s chosen people. Rather than salvation flowing out from the Jews, it more accurately flows into individuals making them spiritual Jews.
So salvation is both “from” the Jews in a historical sense, and salvation actually makes a person a Jew spiritually as they are adopted into God’s family. All believers identify with the rich heritage of the Jews as God’s covenant people.
Summary of the meaning
This profound statement by Jesus has great significance when properly understood. Jesus was highlighting several critical truths:
- The Messiah Savior came physically from the Jewish race
- God’s whole redemptive plan spans from its foundation within Judaism to encompass the whole world
- The Jews were appointed to be conduits of salvation to the nations
- To be saved is to spiritually become a Jew in connection to God’s chosen people
The statement succinctly encapsulates God’s sovereignty over history in bringing salvation through the Jews to all who believe. Salvation was foreshadowed, predicted, founded, accomplished, and spread through the Jewish context. All salvation is of Jewish origin, designed to flow out to the nations. The Samaritan woman came to realize that despite the divisions between Jews and Samaritans, they must unite around the gift of salvation provided for all through the Jewish Messiah.
This compact statement by Jesus has had monumental impact. It affirms the continuity of God’s redemptive plan from the Old Testament Jewish context to the salvation of the whole world. It succinctly summarizes a central theme of the entire Bible – God’s purpose and process to bring salvation to all people through the Jews. Though other theological questions still remain about Israel’s role in the end times, “salvation is from the Jews” stands as a vital truth about God’s work in providing redemption for both Jews and Gentiles in Jesus Christ.