"You Search the Scriptures"
There is a crying need today for people to seek out the wisdom of God as revealed in His Scriptures and make application of it in their lives. But the key phrase is "seek out the wisdom of God" because some have come to excel at misusing the Scriptures. How tiresome it is to hear people quote the Savior completely out of context to condone sinful behavior or to criticize those who would speak out against sin. They will exclaim, "Judge not that you be not judged" or "Let him that is without sin cast the first stone." They surmise that Jesus taught us not to speak out against immorality. He did no such thing and such use of these statements is simply a twisting the Scripture, sometimes in ignorance and sometimes willful distortion, but distortion just the same.
Jesus said it was an error on one's part not to know what the Scriptures teach (Matthew 22:29). Peter pointed out that twisting the Scriptures is also a grievous error which leads to destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
To Jesus, the Scriptures were to be treated with the utmost
respect and dignity. One must maintain honesty and integrity of heart as he
searches the Scripture.
Jesus' View of the Scriptures
"You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life." (John 5:39,40).
Jesus taught that the Scriptures were nothing less than the word of God. They were not just Moses' opinion or Isaiah's perspective.
At the beginning of John 5 Jesus had miraculously healed a man on the Sabbath day. He was reproached for doing so by His enemies (vs. 16). Jesus answered their charges by expounding on His claim to be working in collaboration with God the Father "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." (vs. 17). He went on to explain that His work was twofold: giving life (vs 21) and judgment (vs. 22). He then declares that those who believe will recieve eternal life and avoid judgment; "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." (John 5:24).
Having made these astounding claims, He then makes them again with even more force. He said that even at that very instant those in spiritual graves were being made alive (again, spiritually) through His word (vs. 25). Further, in the last day, He would stand as judge over everyone (vs. 28,29).
He also pointed out that witnesses were collaborating His claims. God bore witness through John the Baptizer (vs. 33) and the miracles or works Jesus did (vs. 36) and God's own word (vs. 37-38).
That last aspect of God's witness, the word, has reference to
the Scripture. Jesus often referred to the Scripture (the Law, the Prophets and
the Psalms) as evidence for His Messiahship. He taught that they would all be
fulfilled in Him (John 10:35; Matthew 5:18). The Old Testament Scriptures spoke
of Jesus, pointing us to him.
Wrongly Using the Scripture
Again, notice Jesus' words in John 5:38,39; "You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life."
First, Jesus did not condemn their view of the Scripture. They viewed it as God's word, and they were correct. It was and is. But rather, He condemns their use of it.
Neither did He condemn their searching of the Scriptures. Jesus always commended noble minded searching on the part of seekers everywhere, and promised good results when such was undertaken (Matthew 7:8). To persevere in such is good (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15).
What was the problem then? They regarded their search as an end
in and of itself. Scribes would copy, memorize, count words and count letters.
Who could tell them that they did not have eternal life? They knew the
Scriptures so well!!
The Correct Use of the Scriptures
Jesus point was, "The Scriptures do not give life, I do! They testify of Me!"
In much the same way, people today may have a precious family Bible sitting someplace in the house. Does that Bible sitting there make them holier people? Of course not. Neither does counting words or letters. Neither does memorizing passages or learning Greek and reading it in the original language in which it was written. All of us; the ones to whom Jesus spoke in the first century as well as us today, must come to Him to have life. We must obey Jesus to be saved.
Jesus told them, "And you do not have His word abiding in you,
for you do not believe Him whom He sent." (John 5:38). They knew what the
Scriptures said, but they did not allow it to "abide in them." If they had, they
would have received Jesus gladly.
They would counter, "We receive Moses, but we reject you!" Jesus said, "Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" (John 5:45-47).
Handling the Scriptures correctly means believing and applying
what they say. That is what it meant then, and what it means today.
Summarizing the Point
It is not enough to quote a verse and be satisfied. Satan can quote verses. The Bible must be applied in the way God intended. When it is, one will obey the gospel of Jesus Christ and order his or her life according to His teachings. Knowing the Scriptures is necessary, but of little use unless applied to one's life. Only when one obeys will the Giver of Life by grace bestow the hope of eternal life on the obedient. "And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation," (Hebrews 5:9).
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 10.10; October, 2003