Jesus: The Sum and Substance of the Scriptures

They were people of the word. They believed the Scriptures to be the word of God without error. They loved the Scriptures. They memorized them. They zealously studied the Scriptures, and sought to live them and apply them to every aspect of their lives. And they were lost, unsaved and on their way to hell. Who am I talking about? The Pharisees. Listen to Jesus’ criticism of them.

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)

What a tragedy. Men so diligent to study the Scriptures and yet missing the main point.

In searching the Scriptures, the Pharisees were on a quest for eternal life. Jesus does not fault them for this. Wanting eternal life is good. We should seek for eternal life. Looking to the Scriptures for eternal life is also good. God gave the Scriptures so that we may have eternal life. The Pharisees got it partly right. So what did they get wrong? What did Jesus criticize them about?

In all their zealous study of the Scriptures, they missed the point. They read them as though they were about them. They read them as though they were telling them what they must do to be made right with God, so as to earn for themselves eternal life. Listen to what the Apostle Paul says about them.

“I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, [just like Jesus said. They are zealous. They study the Scriptures] but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”(Romans 10:2-4)

They didn’t understand what the Scriptures were all about. In their ignorance they sought to establish a righteousness of their own. They took the law to be a list of things they could do to demonstrate their righteousness, so that God would then give them eternal life. Do you remember the story of the rich young ruler? His question revealed this same mindset. He came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” What must I do?

This is not just an ancient error. It is always present in every generation. I heard the story of a man who turned up to church regularly and did little jobs, serving faithfully. The Pastor asked him why he was doing it. The man said he just wanted God to love him. This was the same error as the Pharisees'.

Is this error in you too? Let me ask you some questions. Are you right now acceptable to God? Do you feel fully confident right now to come into the presence of God? Why or why not? When you think about these questions where does your mind go? Is it focused on you? Did you think about whether or not you had a quiet time this morning? Did you think about a sin you have committed? Did you think about a good thing you have done? If your focus is on you and what you have or haven’t done, then you are in danger of sharing the error of the Pharisees. And this is no harmless little error. It means the difference between eternal life and eternal death. The Pharisees missed eternal life because they missed the point of the Scriptures. Be careful you don’t make the same mistake.

The Pharisees were partly right. The Scriptures are there to lead us to eternal life, but not as the Pharisees understood it. They read Scripture as though it was about them. Jesus says the Scriptures aren’t about you, they are about Him. They aren't about what you must do, but about what He has done for you. ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.’

Eternal life is found in Jesus. You get eternal life by coming to Him. The Scriptures bear witness of Jesus and the life that is to be found in Him. They are saying to us, "go to Jesus. He is the Christ. He is the one who died as a sacrifice for sins to appease the wrath of God and satisfy the justice of God. He is the one who obeyed God perfectly to fulfill the requirements of the law on your behalf. He is the one who rose from the dead and conquered the grave. He is the one who ascended to the right hand of the Father on high and reigns over all the universe. He is the one in whom there is life. Go to Him."

The Scriptures point us to Jesus. Do you want to be saved? Do you want eternal life? Then go to Jesus. Cast yourself on Him. Trust Him and Him alone to save you, and you will have it.


  1. The Pharisees don't read the Bible, they read the TORAH!

  2. Technically you are right. They didn't read the 'Bible' as we have it today. Although, they did read all that is contained in the Old Testament (not just the Torah), which last time I checked is part of the Bible.

    Actually, in my editing I had already changed 'Bible' to 'Scriptures' so as to guard against anachronism. I missed one reference, which you picked up on. Good spotting friend.

    Don't miss the point though. The Pharisees missed out on eternal life because they misinterpreted their Scriptures, which according to Paul were 'able to make [them] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus' (2 Timothy 3:15).


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