Inspired Scripture Under Attack
By Earl Trimble
Some say that the revelation of God's will for man today is not
exclusively in inspired scripture. Others wrest our Lord's words,
spoken to the Jews in John 5:39-40, to discredit inspired writing
as God's way of revealing Jesus Christ and salvation to the world.
"Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me; and ye will not come to me, that ye may have life" (John 5:39-40).
Some false teachers use these two verses to teach eternal life results from people's having a personal encounter with Jesus instead of from searching the scriptures. This erroneous idea has Jesus saying:
You people search the scriptures, because you mistakenly think that in them you have eternal life. However, the scriptures merely bear witness of me. You are seeking life through the scriptures, and therefore you will not come to me that you may have life.
This teaching is a corruption of the text and an effective denial of many other passages. It is a perverted gospel.
Formerly, destructive biblical criticism was heard only from infidels and some denominationalists who did not want to accept certain requirements of Bible teaching. Today some of our own brethren teach this perversion of the Lord's words. This view is a denial of the crucial role of scripture in man's salvation.
We are hearing it said in our own fellowship that we need to have a "personal relationship" or "encounter" with God or Jesus. Some mistakenly say we are to know Jesus directly outside the inspired written revelation. Some explain that Jesus assailed the Pharisees for seeking eternal life through scripture instead of having a personal relationship with the Savior. We hear that we are to "see Jesus personally revealed to us in our Christian walk."
The Bible speaks of Jesus as the "Savior of the world" (I John 4:14). Saving lost humanity was our Lord's earthly mission (Luke 19:10). The question is: How does Jesus save mankind? The assertion of false teachers proclaiming a perverted gospel is that God is a "transcendent" God, and therefore his full truth transcends his revealed word.
The question arises: If God could better and more fully transmit his will by impressing it directly upon the human heart, why did he choose to impart any part of his will by using the inferior means of scripture? If God does choose to reveal knowledge of deeper truth directly to all mankind, why did he not also do so with less important truth? If he conveys some truth by appealing to man's sense of hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting, and thinking, why could God not convey all truth in the same way? The Holy Spirit speaks expressly on this point. "For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe" (I Cor. 1:21). One well-worn passage says:
Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The context of John 5:39-40 shows Jesus attacked those Jews for their failure to accept what the scriptures said about him. He did not say look for some proof outside the written record. The Lord accused these Jews of reading the Bible but not believing what it said and accepting him as the Messiah. The scriptures pointed to Jesus as the Christ of Jehovah, and that was sufficient.
The Savior was not downplaying the importance of scripture as it bears upon eternal life. The very opposite is true. Jesus continually pointed people toward the scriptures (Matt. 21:42; Luke 10:26). Had the Jewish people believed Moses and accepted his teaching concerning the Messiah, they would have believed and accepted Jesus because, as Jesus said, "If ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:46-47).
Jesus called his spoken message spirit and life (John 6:63). Later Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Our Savior associated eternal life with the message-his words. Jesus taught that we are to know him by the written record instead of by personal encounter and confrontation. "These are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name" (John 20:31). We believe on Jesus through the words of the apostles (John 17:20).