- 64th the Study of the Book of John
Below is a summary of the sermon
You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. “I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?
In the controversy the Lord Jesus Christ had with the Jewish leaders of his day concerning the Scriptures, there was at least one point of agreement and two points of disagreement. The point on which both Jesus and the Jewish rulers agreed was that the Scriptures had a divine origin. The points on which they disagreed were these: first, the purpose of the Scriptures and, second, the use of the Scriptures.
We must begin by asking the questions: How did the Jews misuse the Scriptures? Can we misuse them in the same way? The first answer, according to these words of Jesus, is obviously that the jews misused Scripture by treating the words of Scripture as an end in themselves rather than allowing them to do their primary work, which is to point to Jesus. They searched the Scriptures, but they did not come to Christ. We err along the same lines whenever we allow Bible study to become academic and, as a result, do not allow ourselves to be drawn closer to God because of it.
Let me give some examples. First, it happens in the world of biblical scholarship. Take the “historical Jesus” movement, which dates from 1768. Unfortunately, each scholar only succeeded in producing a Jesus in his own image. Rationalists saw him as a great teacher of morality. Socialists viewed him as a friend of the poor and a revolutionary. the most popular “lives od Jesus” volumes, those of David Friedrich Strauss, rejected most of the gospel as mythology, and Bruno Bauer ended his quest by denying that there ever was a historical Jesus. Bauer explained all the stories about Jesus as the products of the imagination of the primitive Christian community.
Let me give another example. Is it not true that the same thing happens in another way when a person buys a beautiful Bible to place in an important position in his or her home but fails to read it? Why do people do this? The answer is that in their minds the Bible is something special. They have a superstitious reverence for it. But their belief does not go beyond superstition. As a result, they never read it and, therefore, never come into contact with its author.
There was a second error also that of becoming so preoccupied with the details of Scripture that they missed the truths contained there. We have a contemporary example of this error in those who have a high degree of biblical knowledge but who have missed what the Scriptures have to teach about sin, justification, the Christian life, and obedience. Many others make this mistake in a preoccupation with prophecy.
Finally, the Jews also erred in considering the Scriptures rather than God as the source of life. Against this view, Jesus wished to point out that formal study of the Bible was not a guarantee of life to come, as the rabbis believed. Christ is the life, not the Scriptures considered in themselves. Only Christ can guarantee salvation.
What is needed then? The answer is that men and women need a new birth found in a new relationship with Jesus. The important story here is the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus recorded earlier in the Gospel. We may summarize this by saying that the Bible was given by God to point a man to the Savior and that he must come to the Savior if he is to find life. This is necessary, for unless the life of God takes possession of our hearts even the Word of God will incomprehensible.
One time in preparing a Christmas message I became impressed with a large number of men who missed Christmas even though there was no real need for them to have missed it. The innkeeper was one. He was too busy. Herod was another. But by far the most interesting of all those who missed the birth of Jesus were the religious leaders, the chief priests, and the scribes, who missed it even though they had the Old Testament and knew where Christ should be born. You remember the story. The wise men had come to Jerusalem. Herod inquired of the scribes. The scribes said that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. It was on their word that the wise men started out Bethlehem where they found him. These men had the Scriptures. they knew them well enough to have the right answers. but they did not leave their own homes or the palace to investigate the Savior’s arrival.
On the other hand, the Christmas story also tells of some who did find Christmas. They were not the kings of this world. they were not the religious leaders. They were not the thousands who were entirely engrossed in the countless minutia of materialistic lives. They were just poor folk who were looking to God and to whom God came.
Why did these people find Jesus when the important of the world, as the world judges the importance, so clearly missed him? There are two answers. First, they were honest enough to admit their need of a Savior. Second, they were humble enough to receive him personally when he came.
The Bible calls for this honest confession of sin and this humble commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. You can read the Bible as the leaders of Israel did. You can misuse it out of pride. Or you can use it properly and come yourself to the Savior. Will you come in a spirit of humility?