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John 5:38-47   

The Unbelief Of The Jews


John 5:38-47 MKJV   And you do not have His Word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He has sent.  (39) You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life. And they are the ones witnessing of Me,  (40) and you will not come to Me that you might have life.  (41) I do not receive honor from men.  (42) But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you.  (43) I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me. If another shall come in his own name, him you will receive.  (44) How can you believe, you who receive honor from one another and do not seek the honor that comes from God only?  (45) Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you, Moses, in whom you trust.  (46) For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me.  (47) But if you do not believe his writings, how shall you believe My Words?


There are two causes listed here for their unbelief:

  1. a)    Not listening to the Scriptures  (v. 39,40, 45-47)
  2. b)    Receiving honor from one another. (v. 41, 43,44)


These results in two spiritual conditions:

    1. 1)    You do not have His Word abiding in you. (v. 38)
    2. 2)    You do not have the love of God in you. (v.  42)


How to make you church go dead: Firstly, stop teaching the Bible, or teach only the bits you like. Secondly, create human honor systems of self-promotion and glorying in man. Have a Christianity-Life, not-too-heavy-on-the-bible, 3-ring circus of stages, entertainment, celebrities and honoring one another.


What is so wrong with honor systems? Honor systems create competition among believers, and result in politics, envy, strife and selfish ambition. As James says: James 3:16 MKJV   For where envying and strife are, there is confusion and every foul deed.


Honor systems also tend to reward only either the dull orthodoxy of the establishment, the so-called innovative theology of heresy, or the powerful personalities of religious hucksters. Few faith-filled missionaries or humble servants of God get much in the way pf human applause.


Jesus actually goes as far as to say: Luke 6:26 MKJV   Woe to you when all men shall speak well of you! For so their fathers did to the false prophets.


And in today’s passage: “I do not receive honor from men.” (v. 41)


Ministering to people in order to receive human approval is one of the oldest traps in the ministry. Little by little they are told “don’t preach on money” or “we like the Psalms” and the pastor complies for fear of losing his or her position.  Whole books of the Bible are ignored, and difficult passages skipped over, and less than the full counsel of God is taught. Yet I think Martin Luther once said: He who preaches the gospel in all points except where it applies to the present age, has not preached the gospel at all.”


So receiving honor and neglecting the message of the Scriptures are intertwined evils that lead surely to unbelief. The Jews refused to believe Moses’ testimony concerning Christ and the testimony of other Scriptures such as Isaiah 9 that were clearly being fulfilled in Jesus. They read the Scriptures according to human convention rather than according to the Spirit and they read them that way because that led to human honor from their peers. The erroneous conventional interpretation had become socially reinforced.


Today we are in a similar position on doctrines such as inerrancy, homosexuality, hell and the uniqueness of Jesus for salvation - all of which are now very unpopular. Non-one receives honor for saying homosexuality is wrong and the passages on it are neglected in many pulpits.


As Jesus said earlier in John - John 4:24 MKJV   God is a spirit, and they who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth. Truth is a basic requirement for true fellowship with God and love of God.


Thus, the neglect of inner spiritual message of the Bible and the raising up of human systems of honor may lead to a shriveling of fellowship with God. The Word is not in them, and the love of God is not in them. And in the end they refuse to believe in the Messiah and thus fail to enter into salvation.


They did “search the Scriptures” thinking that salvation was in a book, rather than in God. We should study the Bible but we must do so looking to God for approval and listening to the Holy Spirit as its interpreter. For the letter on its own kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:6 MKJV   Who also has made us able ministers of the new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit makes alive.


Ultimately, our doctrine must emerge from the sensitive conscience, informed by the Word, and quickened by the Spirit - and not from any human system of approval.

Blessings in Jesus,

John Edmiston