Post image for 26 Jun 2009: John 5:39-40

26 Jun 2009: John 5:39-40

by Stephen Hebert on Friday - 26 June 2009

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

The latter portion of John 5 shows Jesus preaching on his own authority and who and what has witnessed or testified about him. This morning, I read John 5:39–40 and was struck by how it applies to my own thinking. Here is the text:

Hebert Translation Nestle-Aland 27
You examine the Scriptures because you think that in them you will have life eternal, but it is these these that are witnesses concerning me. And you do not wish to come to me so that you may have life. ἐραυνᾶτε τὰς γραφάς, ὅτι ὑμεῖς οὐ δοκεῖτε ἐν αὐταῖς ζωὴν αἰώνιον ἔχειν· καὶ ἐκεῖναί εἰσιν αἱ μαρτυροῦσαι περὶ ἐμοῦ· καὶ οὐ θέλετε ἐλθεῖν πρός με ἵνα ζωὴν ἔχητε.

Several times over the past few weeks I have been asked about the authority of Scripture. Why should we care what Scripture has to say? Isn’t the Bible just used as a proof-text by the ultra-conservative? Don’t certain groups just use it to oppress and produce hate?

That’s a fair point. Scripture is frequently misused. My take on the importance of Scripture has always been this:

Scripture is a rock solid revelation of God to humans. Therefore, God’s very heartbeat is somehow, mystically, contained within Scripture. It is a true witness of who He is and who we are with respect to him.

In this passage, Jesus tells us that some folks (and I am guilty of this from time to time) have set up Scripture as an idol. Let’s make this clear: The Bible is not God or a god. We should not worship the Bible, for on a certain level, it is merely a collection of ink and pages and glue or thread. There is nothing inherently divine about the book itself.

The words, however, do have the ability to work on the human heart. As we read Scripture and digest it, we become aware that it is a multi-layered text. Even the most insignificant of passages has the ability to transform our understanding.

Recently, I was working with a group on Paul’s epistle to Philemon. On the surface this seems like a rather simple text; Paul is making a business transaction. However, as we delved deeper and deeper into the letter we found God residing in there; the Spirit showing us more and more of Him. As we talked through it, I was truly moved by how much we were learning, the connections being made, the insight that was being brought to the fore.

This, in my view, is the power of Scripture. It is the highest art — it holds a mirror up to our nature (in the parlance of Shakespeare), but then reflects back God’s love, God’s wrath, God’s justice, God’s personality — God’s nature. Scripture cuts into us and shows us who we are with respect to the image of God (in which we were created!).

Does the Bible contain life everlasting? No. Jesus tells us this straight-up in John 5:39. However, it does contain a revelation of God. On account of this we should treat these words carefully and with a great deal of respect.

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