This post will initiate a series about when scripture is used against scripture. An Example:
Jesus addressed the Pharisees in John 5:39,40 when he said, – “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.”
This verse is often used as:
- A warning about too much bible study.
- An exhortation against bible idolatry.
- A condemnation for not relying on the Spirit.
- Proof against Sola Scriptura
- An attack on the concept of absolute truth
- A rebuttal of propositional truth
- A manner to question the reliability of the cannon
- A means to question the bible’s authority
While this is not an exhaustive list, it should suffice for now. Used incorrectly, John 5:39,40 can seemingly unwind any of the concepts listed, but it can also be used to confirm their opposites. What do I mean? For example, if we’re going to use this verse to question the authority of the scriptures, we’ve already given them authority by quoting it in a defense against them. It’s an untenable position.
I would admit that bible idolatry is possible, that we can use the bible as an end instead of a means to and end (Christ), that we can seek to gain knowledge, influence, and superiority over others by using the bible, and that we can mistake bible knowledge for spiritual maturity, or even worse, righteousness. I would further admit, that there are those who tend towards self-atonement by reading the scriptures. We pat ourselves on the back for the hours of “sacrifice” that we spend reading the bible. Granted, many of those things can be, and are true.
But, to use John 5:39,40 as a knock against scripture itself is to commit many of the same errors cited above. Further, to accuse someone of bible idolatry is tantamount to committing a grievous sin in the process.
There was another religious group called the “Sadducees,” that Jesus also rebuked regarding their use of the scriptures.
But, to them, he said virtually the opposite – “But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”
So, please stop using John 5:39,40 to tell me and others that the bible is anything less than it is. The Bible is the written Word of God, and YES, I capitalized my “W.” Please stop telling me that the bible is only a book or collection of books using John 5:39,40 as your proof text. Please stop worrying that I might be committing idolatry by loving, reading, meditating, and searching the scriptures. Please stop telling me that I’m putting the Spirit on the back burner by my love for God’s Word. Please stop telling me that I’m stuck in a “Western” mind-set for my thinking that the scriptures are absolute in their truth. My mind is being transformed by the Spirit’s renewing. He’s got this! Instead, if you’re so concerned, let’s break bread together and crack open those scriptures (the bible) together and show me that we actually have a common frame of reference to dialogue. Without that, our talk is useless. Isn’t it?
Tell me one thing you know about God that is not found in the scriptures.
In part II of this series we’ll consider John 14:26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”