It seems like a strange question at first: do you trust the text of scripture? If you are a believer the answer is of course, yes – and I’m sure this study is going to raise a few eyebrows. However I want to to share with you something that God has recently shared with me… and it is precisely the difference between trusting in the text of scripture versus trusting in the person that the text is speaking about. It seems almost like semantics or hair-splitting at first, however I believe that as you begin to see this difference and what it means, it will open-up new levels of belief on Jesus Christ, and security in Him.
It may surprise you to also learn that this idea did not originate with me… This distinction is not my invention, but it began with Jesus Himself. He was the one who first spoke of it, and with good reason… this is actually a fundamental issue of both faith and belief. And again it is my privilege to share this with you today.
So let’s not waste any time and get right to what Jesus said, in John 5:39-40:
“You search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
And you will not come to me, that you might have life.”
This is a very interesting dialog that Jesus was having with the Jews here, and notice what He said… You search the scriptures, because in them, you think you have eternal life: but the scriptures actually testify of Me!
And you will not come to me, so that you can have life.
Take a moment and see the fundamental distinction that Jesus is making here because it is very important. And this is going to open the eyes of some people here today: Life does not come from scripture text. You may think it does, you may have believed that your entire life. And if so, you will be glad that you are here today with me, to see what Jesus really said. Life does not come from scriptures, but life comes from Jesus! For some people, your world just exploded and got turned upside-down, but it is a wonderful thing that it did because this truth will change your entire life and really set you free.
There have been people I have talked to who believe that scripture is some kind of magic, as if they were magic spells or abracadabra words… oh, if I could only find the right scripture, it will solve my problem! My friend, I want you to see the subtle error in that kind of thinking. Believing in the text itself, making the text itself your foundation is just another form of idolatry. It is not the text that can save you, it is the One that the text is speaking of, it is the Person of Jesus Christ that saves you.
Please understand that I am not discounting scripture. I am not saying that we need to throw our Bibles away, absolutely not! What I am saying is exactly what Jesus said: There are people who search the scriptures and study the scriptures, because they think that knowledge of scripture will give them life. They have reduced salvation to intellectualism; and they have missed the point.
And there are others who see scripture as some kind of magic spells, that if I just use the right verse for my situation, the problem will be solved, and these people too have missed the point.
Jesus said that the scriptures themselves are not where you find life. What scriptures do is speak of the One who does give life, and that is Jesus Christ. Are you beginning to see the distinction here? It’s vitally important.
Again Jesus says in verse 39, that you search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. However, the scriptures actually speak of Me. Then Jesus continues in verse 40:
And you will not come to Me, that you might have life.
Sad but true, some people will do anything except actually come to Jesus. They will get all of the knowledge in the world, they will search high and low, and scour the very depths of human intelligence, and even as mentioned, will memorize all kinds of scripture, but all of that will not accomplish anything in the end – only coming to Jesus matters!
Again, this is not my idea or my opinion. This is stated plainly all throughout the Bible, including by Jesus Himself. One example is found in 1st Corinthians 13:1-3:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing.”
You see, all of these things, all of this knowledge and all of these works; we assign them value, and indeed these are considered to be “good works” but they do not profit us in the end because they don’t solve the eternal problem.
Knowledge of the scripture will not save you. Good works will not save you. Keeping tradition will not save you. And as we even read here, having great faith – even total faith to remove mountains – will not save you. There is only one thing that matters here. What is the thing that matters? If you have love. And some legalistic and works-driven leaders in the church buildings have latched onto this and said “See! You need to love! You need to love God and love people with all of your being!” and they have turned the whole thing into a self-effort and work of man’s strength.
The problem with this is that loving God with all of your heart, soul and strength and loving your neighbor as yourself was already a part of the Old Law, and no-one can truly perform it. If they could, there would’ve been no need for Jesus to come in the flesh and sacrifice Himself… remember if there was any other way, He would not have needed to do it. (Matthew 26:39)
The thing is this: 1st Corinthians 13:1-3, doesn’t say “If you do not love it profits nothing”, nope, it does not say that. Instead it says “If you have not love it profits nothing”. Do you see? The focus is not on doing love, but having love. Of course if you have love, the doing will be a natural effortless outpouring from it; but the doing isn’t even the focus here. It’s the having of love that is the point! And there is only one way to have love, and that comes from and through Jesus Christ! God is love! (1st John 4:8) If you have God, you have His love. If you do not have God, you do not have love. It’s that simple.
So is it possible to have all of the things listed in these verses but still not have Jesus? Absolutely. Turn over to Matthew 7:21-23:
“Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”
My friends, this is Jesus speaking; and look at what He is saying. There will be those who prophesy in the Name of Jesus. There will be those who cast out demons in the Name of Jesus. There will be those who do many wonderful works in the Name of Jesus. And in verse 23 we see that Jesus calls all of those things works of iniquity for one simple reason: He never knew them! There was no personal relationship there.
Please understand this. It is entirely possible to put all your belief and trust in the text itself, but not the person of Jesus that the text is speaking of! This is what the Jews were doing in John chapter 5, and this is what works-centered people still do today. Their foundation is words on a page, instead of the finished work of Jesus on the cross, and while it can take subtle forms, that is a huge distinction at its core.
I want to close this study with this thought: Scripture cannot save you. What it can do is show you your Savior. It is trust in Jesus and what He has done, that can set you free and break every chain… not reading words, but belief on the Living Word made flesh: which is Jesus Christ. For some of you today, this will be a complete paradigm shift, that may shake the way you have believed your entire life… but you will be eternally grateful for it.
So I encourage you today, place your faith, your belief, and your trust where it truly belongs, not on yourself, and not on the text itself, but on the One that the text speaks of: Jesus.