Read John 5:31-40 here.
In this passage we find Jesus arguing that people should have recognized him because of all the different things/people testifying to his identity. In verses 39-40 he criticizes his listeners because they spend a lot of time studying the Scriptures (OT) which talk about him, but now he’s here in front of him they don’t recognise him. They were worshiping the Scripture, not the Saviour. Their study of words was more important than the Word. In fact, according to v39 they believed that studying the Scripture could give them eternal life.
I believe that it’s possible for us to fall into this same trap. Why do most churches have a midweek Bible study instead of a midweek benevolence project, or visitation night? Do we emphasise study over action? Are churches better at telling people what to do than they are at demonstrating it? Do our actions imply that “we study Scriptures diligently because we think that in them we possess eternal life?” The following is a paragraph from my sermon:
What if our understanding of the weekly Lord’s Supper is correct, but there’s not enough peace in our family to sit down and have a meal together? What if we can explain the difference between”agape” and “phileo ” love in the NT, but we’re constantly having conflicts at work? What if we solve the question of Calvinism and free will, but we choose to spend more money than we earn and only give God a couple of bucks each week? What if we teach correctly the importance of baptism but never take time to encourage those who’ve been baptized?
Honestly, the emphasis on Bible study is easy for me. I can sit around all day and talk about the Bible, interpretations of various passages, current hot button issues, or Church of Christ debates. But somehow I don’t think that’s what Jesus had in mind when he called his followers to live as light and salt in the world! As much as I love God, actually living for Him, being the man God wants me to be, remains a constant challenge.
Verse 40 makes a very clear point: Life comes from Jesus, not the Scriptures. It’s only by following Jesus, living for Him, that we obtain true life. Yes, the Scriptures tell us about Jesus, and yes, we need to study them diligently. Yes, correct doctrine gives us a correct understanding of Jesus. But let’s make sure we don’t overlook the Word for the words.
You can get another take on these verses at a friend’s blog, by clicking here.
Do you have any experiences of how we may overlook Jesus sometimes – even as we express our faith?Songs & Scripture:
I will continue to sing songs about the Bible I suppose, but when I think I’ll keep John 5:39. Do some of the songs we sing actually sound like they’re worshiping the Bible? Can you think of any other songs about the Bible?
- Ancient Words (Zoe Group album Ancient Future – 2003)
- Give Me the Bible
- Sing Them Over Again to Me
- Thy Word (SFP – originally recorded by Amy Grant – 1984)