Searching the Scriptures is a commendable work. Acts 17:11 praises the Bereans, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (NASU) We need to remember that there is a right way and a wrong way to search the Scriptures. The Bible is a book like no other. Rather than one book, it is a library of books. Each book stands alone as a complete literary work on its own. However, each book fits together marvelously to form a unified work. Remove any one of the books and what is left is an incomplete picture of God and His redemptive work. It is easy to fall into legalism, looking for some rules to follow that we think will earn God’s approval. It is also easy to think we can find a formula for a better earthly life. These miss the point.
Jesus gave a clear word on the right way and the wrong way to search the Scriptures in John 5:39-47, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. I do not receive glory from men; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (NASU) This is a portion of a lengthy response that Jesus gave to religious leaders who were seeking to kill Him because He was, in their opinion, breaking the Sabbath and also equating Himself with deity.
Jesus’ point goes right to the heart of the issue. It is possible for us to do exactly as the Pharisees did, going over the Scripture with a fine toothed comb, diligently looking for rules to keep, believing that this would make us righteous. Rather, Jesus calls on us to search the Scriptures looking for Him, because it is Him that all of the Scripture points to. Remember that Jesus is speaking specifically about the Old Testament. Certainly the New Testament speaks directly of Jesus, but the Old Testament also does so even if sometimes in shadowy types and pictures. The Old Testament historical narratives, laws, sacrifices, genealogies, poetic wisdom literature, and prophecy all testify about Jesus. If we read the Old Testament looking for anything other than the promised Messiah we will miss the main thing.
Jesus went on to say that the eternal life the Pharisees thought they could find in legalism could never be found there. Eternal life can only be found in coming in faith to the One the Scriptures testify about. The Pharisees thought that they believed Moses but they did not because they did not understand (or perhaps they did not want to understand) what Moses and others had written about in the Old Testament. The Bible is first and last a record of the Creative and Redemptive work of God. Please do not search it in vain.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.