“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.” John 5:39–40 NIV
Diligence and faithfulness are laudable virtues, as far as they go. But when our diligence and faithfulness are pointed in an unhealthy direction which does not produce life, not only will our efforts prove to be in vain, but we may deceive ourselves into thinking that our diligence and faithfulness, in and of themselves, are a validation of that which we are striving after. In other words, it’s easy for us to take our hard work, our efforts, our zeal, our stridency as a confirmation that we must be on the right track, even when we are not. Studying Scripture is a good thing. As Jesus points out in his discourse with the Pharisees, doing a good thing with improper motives doesn’t make the “good thing” the right thing.
Jesus alone brings everlasting life. Again, the study of Scripture is good, but Bible study in and of itself does not bring everlasting life. We should indeed study the Scriptures, but the study of Scripture should never be an end to itself, nor as a means to curry favor with God. The Bible is the Word of God, not a substitute for God. The Scriptures are a gift given to us by God for the purpose of aiding in a relationship with Him.
The Scriptures testify about Jesus. Now in this passage it should be clear that Jesus is clear is referencing the Old Testament. Jesus’ own self-understanding is an ambiguous. He unmistakably sees himself as the Royal, prophetic, messianic figure come to redeem the world. He was, without doubt, a man on a mission. His open chastisement of the Hebraic intelligentsia of his day reveals that if they would’ve studied the Scriptures with a truly open heart, they would’ve seen that Jesus himself is alluded to and referenced to all throughout the Old Testament.
Some people will simply refuse to come to Jesus to have life. It is a sad but true fact that no matter what we say or do in our witnessing effort, many will reject the free offer of salvation in Jesus Christ. The nature of love requires that a person’s love of God be neither coerced nor forced in any way. Since God is Love (1 John 4:8). He will never coerce or force anyone to receive all He has to offer.
Word for the Way:
Study the Scriptures, but do so in order to encounter Jesus.