A single statement from Jesus says it all, if only we will listen to him:
John 5:39,40 You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.But men do not listen. The great tragedy of Christendom is that we have been so thoroughly indoctrinated by the churchmen -- with false beliefs -- that our minds simply become incapable of grasping this and many other simple and straightforward ideas of Jesus. Consequently, literally billions of Christians read these words repeatedly without ever recognizing the Truth.
So, I am going to expand on this statement of Jesus, not to add to it, but to help dispel the fog with which the churchmen have enveloped it, in hope that it will help someone see through the fog so as to find eternal life. But whatever you read below, please remember that the words from John 5:39,40 above constitute our basic text. We will not depart from it.
In their immediate context, this, our basic text, was addressed to very religious Jews who are characterized by the following features, all clearly implicit:
It is our contention here that this statement is fully applicable to all, in our own time and in any time, who have these same three characteristics. This includes most churchmen and church related scholars, ministers, and other self professed teachers of the Word. Exceptions will be more difficult to find among fundamental, Bible thumping preachers than anywhere else.
- They search the scriptures.
- They think they have, in the scriptures, eternal life.
- They refuse "to come to" Jesus that they may have life.
This statement also characterizes the scriptures, and from it we can affirm either by direct reference or inference, the following two characteristics:
- The scriptures bear witness to Jesus (bear witness to me).
- Eternal life is not in the scriptures.
. . . you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
I. The Scriptures
What Jesus designated as "the scriptures" consists entirely of the books of Moses (The Law), the Psalms, and the Prophets. He characterized other Hebrew texts, both written and oral, as "tradition of men" and harshly excoriated them, as in the following exchange:
Mark 7:1-13 Now when the Pharisees gathered together to him, with some of the scribes, who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions which they observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of bronze.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him,
And he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die'; but you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God) - then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you.
With this in mind, let us examine how Jesus evaluated "the scripture". First, while making no such characterization of the entirety of scripture, it is unquestionable that he considered at least some portions of it to be the Word of God. This is clear from Mark 7: above,
10,11,12,13 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die'; but you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God) -- then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.
Second, he affirmed the scriptures as "they that bear witness to me." We see this evaluation at work in many of his utterances, including the following:
John 5:46 If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me.
Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.
Mark 10:4-9 They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away." But Jesus said to them, For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.
Deuteronomy 20:16-18 But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Per'izzites, the Hivites and the Jeb'usites, as the LORD your God has commanded; that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices which they have done in the service of their gods, and so to sin against the LORD your God.
Deuteronomy 20:10-15 When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; and when the LORD your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword, but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourselves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you. Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here.
. . . you shall save alive nothing that breathes.
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.
John 5:39,40 You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Fifth, we also can conclude that "the scriptures" do not have eternal life in them. No one can find or receive eternal life by searching those words. It is only by going to Jesus -- listening to his Words -- that one can have life. Nevertheless, the masses of religious people throughout Christendom continue to
. . . refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Luke 16:16 The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently.
Matthew 4:23 And he went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people.
Matthew 5:17 Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.
What did Jesus intend by these words,
. . . come to me that you may have life?
24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Now we can hear, with renewed and magnified appreciation, such utterances as this:
John 8:52 'If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.'
III. Is it not all Scripture?
When he carefully distinguishing himself from the "scriptures" his words had not been written on parchment or paper. The voice of Jesus was their sole medium. But we have the same words (ideas) now written in the gospels that most consider also to be scriptures. So, is it correct to continue to make this distinction? Is it not all scripture?
To be technically correct, we must say that it is, yet there is a vital difference that makes the continued distinction imperative. That is the difference between life and death!
How is this?
Jesus indicated that one does not find life in the "scriptures". Hence there is no life in them. Therefore it is also correct to say that they are dead. Isn't It?
Jesus indicated that one does find life by coming to him and hearing his words, his voice. Therefore those words contain life. They are "living words". Thus it is that the words of Jesus are alive -- whereas the words of scripture are dead.
Is it not folly to seek the living
among the dead?
IV. A Parable from Geography
Jesus' native land, Palestine, is bounded on the East by two seas and a river. These two seas serve to remind us that, like the words of Jesus, they are the living waters of Galilee, or, like the words of scripture, they are the dead waters of the Dead Sea, for the latter contain little life apart from an occasional bather, hence its name. Jesus schooled his disciples with living words while near, by, or on the living waters of Galilee. There is no indication in the gospels of his teaching them on or near the dead waters of the Dead Sea. That sea speaks of the dead words of the "scriptures".
But I mentioned that there is also a river. This is the Jordan, which is fed by living waters from springs far to the north and the living waters of Galilee whence it flows into the Dead Sea. The river therefore also consists of living water, and it is in the living water that Jesus' and his disciples were surely baptized by John. It is living water because it is host to many kinds of aquatic life. Many of Jesus' disciples first had their "living" from it as fishermen.
But what happens to this water when it enters the Dead Sea and mingles with the dead water?
It dies, for the whole sea is dead
without regard to its being fed
continuously with living water from the Jordan.
Similarly, when one, in the quest of eternal life, mingles the living
of Jesus with the dead words of "scripture," the life departs and all
V. The Living Water
The preceding metaphor is fully consistent with Jesus' practice of comparing his words with water and characterizing them as "living." Jesus was once tired and thirsty on a journey through Samaria and he stopped at Jacob's well near Sychar for rest. The story runs as follows:
John 4:7-14 There came a woman of Samar'ia to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samar'ia?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.
The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?"
Jesus said to her, "Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
This expression has a dual significance in applying to both the Word of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We see the application of the Holy Spirit in the following utterance:
John 7:37, 39 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and proclaimed, "If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'"
Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.
Matthew 15:16,19 And he said, "Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and so passes on? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.
But the Spirit was long ago given, at the glorification of Jesus, so that now, in this time, we understand that the Spirit and the Word are one and inevitably go together, flowing out of the heart (through the mouth) of the speaker (or writer) of the Word and into the heart of the receiver of the Word -- whether the receipt is by hearing or reading.
Thus, Jesus joins the two, spirit and life, in this utterance:
John 6:63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him.
John 4:42 "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."
I then draw this firm conclusion -- when the living has come, the dead must be set aside. The living word of Jesus, which is the living word of the living Father, quickens the soul. It has come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and through his utterances. The dead word of the scriptures must now be set aside in the quest for Truth. If the dead do not go to make way for the living -- if we mingle them in our hears and minds -- the dead will prevail to produce a dead soul just as the dead water of the Dead Sea prevails over the living water of the Jordan River when they mingle.
VI. The New Testament Outside the Gospels
When Jesus uttered the words of our basic text, words that are among the Living Word uttered by Jesus as follows:John 5:39,40 You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life,the books of the New Testament, including the Gospels, had not been written. They therefore cannot be included in the scriptures that the Jews were searching. It remains to show, from the Living Word, that they are also excluded from it, as are the Old Testament texts. Here are the relevant words of Jesus, the Living Word:Luke 21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.The Word of Jesus -- that Word of Truth -- the Living Word that he uttered, is the sole source of eternal life according to John 5:24, which comes only to he who hears my word and believes him who sent me. This Living Word is The Eternal Word which will not pass away, therefore no other words will ever be needed as sources of eternal life.
John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
We see the wisdom, then, of those Samaritans who received his Living Word:John 4:42 They said to the woman, "It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world."We need only listen to him, and "hear for ourselves." In consequence, the words of the New Testament outside of the utterances of Jesus can be at best, like the testimony of the Samaritan woman to her fellow Samaritans, only a testimony about him, which is precisely his characterization of "the scriptures" of the Old Testament. They are also very deceptive, for many of them, in particular many of the words of Paul's epistles, promise eternal life by means that the Living Word of Jesus does not allow. In the final evaluation, therefore, these words must be classified as dead right alongside of the words of the law, the prophets and the psalms.
We are the unfortunate heritors of a centuries long tradition that seeks to classify the utterances of Jesus with the law, the prophets, and the epistles of the New Testament. Indeed, I also acknowledge that we learn much that is important from the consideration of the scriptures and I do not want to lay them aside completely, nor do I consider this to be proper. There are blessings in them for the living, but no life. What we must exercise great care to do is to keep them in their proper place, as dead words that, at best, only bear witness to me as Jesus stated, keeping always in mind that there is no life in them. Therefore the common practice among evangelists of directing prospective converts to certain texts of the scriptures apart from the words of Jesus is an heinous, abominable and deceitful practice.
Consider this widely utilized text from Paul, the very text that was tossed out to me by the Baptist evangelist who sought to win my soul:Romans 10:4-9 For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified. Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" (that is, to bring Christ down) or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead) But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.We have here one of the most deceptive dead words ever penned, for it promises salvation and eternal life on a basis completely alien to the Living Word of Jesus. Paul clearly knew nothing of the Great Principle according to which the Living Word constitutes the living water that alone wells up to eternal life. The Lord knows what agony of soul I endured to be rid of that dead water, which I at first eagerly imbibed.
How, then, shall we view the scriptures positively? I have labored to supply, in a few words, a proper characterization, and can come to no better than the following:The Bible is immensely valuable throughout as the historic record of the human quest for the divine and the simultaneously evolving revelation to human beings as our predecessors were able to receive it. The human motivation has been a quest for the true purpose and goal of our existence. The Father's motivation is to reveal that very thing to us in such a way as to win our devotion to him as his dear children.
The Father's revelation has therefore been a progressive one, evolving toward the full revelation of Truth as human beings have been able to receive it. I understand that it reveals the primitive to modern strata of a process of biological evolution of the spirit life, just as an archaeological dig unveils progressively more primitive eras in the biological evolution of the physical / mental life. The two evolutionary processes are coincident and interdependent because our perception of the Father's revelation has awaited our evolved capabilities for receiving it.
Thus, Moses allowed the Hebrews to divorce their wives, whereas Jesus explained that it was because of the hardness of their hearts but that from the beginning it was not so. Moses nevertheless presented this as by the authority of the Father. This does not mean that Moses' permit was the Father's will, or that it was a revelation of Truth. It was only a step in the right direction! Those who abide by it remain dead.
One would expect that, as human beings developed and as their spirituality developed, individual's would appear who were more receptive to Truth than their contemporaries. The Father chose them for the progressive revelation as they were able to receive it. Thus we have the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament and the apostolic testimony of the New Testament.
These Old Testament personages were, however, only servants, not children of the Father, and as Jesus explained, "the servant does not know what his master is doing, whereas the son knows all that the Father does." Their revelation was therefore a limited one.
The New Testament apostles and evangelists, the first human beings to be in the possession of Truth, often misunderstood and misinterpreted it because their thinking was yet too attuned to the dead words of the Law and the Prophets to comprehend its fullness. They were, however, fully persuaded that Jesus' revelation was Truth, and they were careful to record it accurately for all human beings to read and comprehend. We can learn from their errors and be grateful for their faithfulness in preserving the words of our Lord.
Paul, as a stranger to the apostolic group whose credentials, as near as we can tell, were never certified by the Father, is a special case -- a false prophet who muddled the doctrines of our Lord and provided the base upon which Christendom was founded, just as Muhammad, another false prophet, later founded Islam on muddled doctrines drawn from both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus warned us of the many false prophets who would appear after him, and I see these two and their followers as among the primary ones. One should view the testimony of Paul in his New Testament epistles in the same light as that of Muhammad in the Koran. They are all dead words, dead water.
Then came the churchmen and their canon of scripture. This set the stage for the modern evangelical view that "all scripture is inspired of God" in an inerrrant and perfect manner. This leads immediately to depressing the revelations of Jesus to the level of the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles and renders the perception of his Truth impossible for so long as we subscribe to that false doctrine. The living water mingled with the dead water yields only dead water! The churchmen consequently interpret Jesus through the foggy lenses of his predecessors and successors, which is to look through the wrong end of the telescope and render the Truth remote rather than near. We must, if we are to perceive Jesus in the light of Truth, interpret the others through his revelation -- just the reverse of the prevailing practice. That is what I am seeking to do here.
Finally, the Lord is ruling in such a manner as to protect the precious gift of free will that he has imparted to human beings, which is essential to all who qualify as his children. He therefore allows willful human beings to promote false doctrines, while carefully preserving the true revelation of his Son and warning of the consequences of failing to listen. We are without excuse if we refuse to hear him and believe.
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