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(16)  Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. (17)  If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (18)  He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. – John 7:16-18
Why do you study the Bible? There may be many reasons people study, not all of which are for godly purposes.
  • During the War in Vietnam, many young men entered “ministerial training” so they could receive an “exempt” draft classification. There, at least a portion of their studies involved study of the Scriptures.
  • Many dogmatists study the Scriptures, not to find what God actually says, but to find justification for positions they already hold. This “method” of interpreting is everywhere spoken against, and few (if any) will admit to using it. Nevertheless, many still practice it, often without realizing it.
  • Others read the Bible only as a matter of historic curiosity. After all, the documents in the Bible are among the oldest that have come to us from the ancient world. Hence, they are among the primary sources for historians, even among historians who do not believe in a supernatural origin of the Bible.
  • Some read to see the odd, the strange, and the curious. They look for unusual Bible trivia – and nothing more.
  • Often unbelievers will read the Bible to prove it wrong. At times, some of these have been “captivated” by its ring of truth and have become avid believers. But not always. Madelin Murry O’Hair never became a believer, though she read the Bible. Today, Stephen Hawking falls into this category, along with many others.
  • Some read the Bible for spiritual comfort, with no particular interest in understanding the “difficult” passages or in developing a systematic understanding of God’s plan for man’s redemption. For their purposes, knowing that God is there and that He cares is enough for them. Truth be told, most devout believers sometimes read for this reason. We do not always read with our “theological spectacles.” Sometimes we read to feed on the wonder of His love and grace!
  • Some read the Bible to try to develop a systematic theology (study of God), soteriology (study of salvation), Christology (study of Christ), pneumatology (study of the Spirit), ecclesiology (study of the church), missiology (study of missions), etc. There is value in each of these – but they can often be “ivory tower” studies with little practical worth. One of the most boring books I ever read was on The Person of Christ. Maybe it was because of my own ignorance when I read it as a young man – but I waded through it, without adding to my knowledge of or love for our Lord.

It may well be that the bold-faced part of the quotation above is the key to understanding the meaning of the Scriptures.

If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. – John 7:17

Unless we really want to do God’s will, we are not likely to understand what Jesus is saying when He tells us what He wants of us. Jesus speaks in words that people who have no burning desire to please God are not likely to understand. To them, His words seem to be riddles or senseless.

However, the person who has come to love God and wants to please Him will easily understand what the person in bondage to the things of the flesh cannot discern. This is not a matter of intelligence – but of faith and love.

Is there a place for intelligence in the study of the Scripture? Of course there is. Yet, we must also remember these words of our Lord when He prayed:

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Matthew 11:25

Why can little children see and receive what wise and learned ones cannot discern? It is simply that little children are humble enough to simply take Jesus at His word – and accept it as truth, whereas the wise and learned feel they have to dissect everything, analyze it to death, and then be able to raise ‘umpteen questions about what is clearly said.

It was such a man who came to Jesus asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

The man was a lawyer. That is, he was skilled and learned in the Law Moses received from God. Jesus asked him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

The lawyer answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Jesus replied, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

For a child, that would have settled the matter. This man, however, had no real desire to do what God wanted him to do. He had more interest in intellectual debate. He would rather parry arguments than obey Jesus’ teaching! Consequently, he asked another question that casts doubt on the clarity of what Jesus told him. Perhaps he thought that if he could muddy the waters a little, it would excuse him from needing to do what Jesus said do. At least, Luke says that he wanted “to justify himself” presumably in not doing what Jesus said do: love God and love your neighbor. So, he asked:

And who is my neighbor?

This question prompted Jesus’ famous story of the Good Samaritan who befriended a man beaten by thieves, while a priest and a Levite passed by on the other side. After telling the story, Jesus asked,

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers? – Luke 10:36

When the lawyer replied that it was the one who showed mercy to him, Jesus nailed it down: “Go and do likewise.”

Friend, it is not hard to understand what Jesus says – if we are willing to do what God wills. The problem comes when we want to quibble about what He has said instead of doing it.



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