Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” (John 1:45–46, NKJV)
Prejudice keeps souls from believing Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Bias toward Nazareth almost prevented Nathanael from investigating the evidence that Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. To be called a Nazarene was a slur of reproachful disdain (Matt. 2:23). Nathanael had this bias against Nazareth. Fortunately, he accepted Philip’s advice to “come and see” for himself before concluding Jesus was not worth his time and trouble. We must not prejudge people on their skin color, economic status, gender, ethnicity, etc. (Jas. 3:1-9). Neither should we prejudge the gospel of Christ without giving it a fair, unbiased hearing. The people who saw and heard Jesus had abundant evidence to examine that is the Christ, the Son of God (Jno. 5:36). The Bereans verified the gospel was true by examining the Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11-12). “Come and see” the evidence the Bible is the word of God and not the word of men (1 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Free of prejudice, we should examine the Scriptural evidence that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God” so that “believing you have life in His name” (Jno. 20:30-31).
37 Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, when the Lord has not commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed? 39 Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” (Lamentations 3:37–39, NKJV)
Jeremiah’s Lamentations may seem an unlikely place to teach respect for God’s silence, but this passage powerfully describes the futility and falsity of speaking when the Lord has not spoken. God had brought His righteous wrath upon Jerusalem to punish her sins (Lam. 1:3-5, 8-11; 2:1-8). He announced judgment against Zion and brought it to pass at the hands of the Babylonian army. Many false prophets said Jerusalem would not fall, but its fall showed they spoke when the Lord had not commanded it (cf. Jer. 28; 2 Chron. 36:15-21). They preached a message of “peace, peace” when there was no peace, only impending doom (Jer. 6:13-15). We have no right to complain against God when He punishes our sins according to His word (v. 39). Both “woe and well-being proceed” from Him, not us. We must submit to His word humbly and faithfully. Jerusalem and Judah refused to do that, and the Lord punished them. In the New Testament, honoring the silence of the Scriptures (of God) is not going beyond what is written but instead, abiding in Christ’s doctrine (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Jno. 9). We must follow what the Scriptures say, not speak where God has not spoken. To teach and practice things God’s word does not speak of will not have God’s approval, but is a transgression of the doctrine of Christ. Let us speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent.
37 And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. 38 But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (John 5:37–40, NKJV)
Those who rejected Jesus as the Son of God did not do so for a scarcity of evidence. John had testified of Jesus, but they did not receive his testimony (Jno. 5:31-35; 1:29-34). The miraculous works of Jesus testified the Father had sent Him, but they would not believe (Jno. 5:36). The Father who sent Him testified Jesus is His Son, and still, they refused the truth (Jno. 5:37). The Father had testified of Jesus at His baptism (Jno. 1:33-34; Matt. 3:16-17). The Father also bore this testimony of Jesus in the Old Testament Scriptures (Jno. 5:39; Lk. 24:44-45). Why wouldn’t they believe the evidence? Because God’s word did not abide in them (John 5:38). The Scriptures contain the message of eternal life in the Son of God. Although searched the Scriptures for that life, but were unwilling to come to the very One they spoke of for that life. We must be willing to receive the evidence that Jesus truly is the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 27:54). Do not close your heart to the word of God. Spend time with the Scriptures with a willing heart to accept the truth they teach. Let God’s word abide in you, and you in it (Jno. 8:31-32).
44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,” (Luke 24:44–46, NKJV)
The Old Testament prophecies concerning the Christ were fulfilled in Jesus. The Lord Himself explained those prophecies to His apostles, opening their minds (understanding) to comprehend their meaning. Here is a key to understanding the OT prophecy: The New Testament explains the OT prophecies about Christ. The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles and prophets of Jesus to tell us what the OT prophecies meant (see examples in Acts 2:25-31; 13:32-41; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). We cannot lay a pre-conceived template over the inspired Scriptures and demand they conform to what we have already decided. Such an approach twists the Scriptures and destroys souls (2 Pet. 3:16). We must come with open hearts to comprehend the Scriptures (Acts 17:11-12).
12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. (Hebrews 7:12–14, NKJV)
Properly handling God’s word includes respecting the silence of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). At times God says, “thou shalt not,” but that is not the only way He reveals His will. The double negative, “It doesn’t say not to,” fails to prove God’s approval. Yet, many use it to justify moral and religious decisions. We must search for what God says on a matter, content that it is sufficient for us to know and to follow (cf. Deut. 29:29). The Hebrew writer used the silence of the Scriptures in today’s passage. He arrived at the unavoidable conclusion (a necessary inference) that the law had to change because the priesthood had changed (v. 11; Heb. 6:20). He explained that only Levites could be priests under the Law of Moses (Num. 3:10). Yet, Moses never directly said, “You shall not have priests from the tribes of Judah, Ephraim, Benjamin, etc.” He did not need to. Moses said what God wanted, priests from Levi. All other tribes were necessarily excluded. Even though Moses did not leave a “thou shalt not” list, Israel knew the correct application. There was no authority for priests from other tribes. Thus, the law itself had to be changed for Christ to be High Priest. God’s silence restrains, it does not free us to act. Let us find what God says, for that is what He approves. Then, “hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
97 Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me. (Psalm 119:97–98, NKJV)
It is self-evident from a casual reading of Psalm 119 that this psalmist had a deep relationship with the word of God. He magnifies and extols its virtues and benefits, its blessings and advantages, its supreme authority, and its unwavering reliability. Like the psalmist, we must love God by loving His law (Matt. 7:21-23; Lk. 6:46). At a time when many say “law” and “commandments” are hindrances to grace and liberty, respect for and obedience to the law and commandments of God is the very foundation of loving God and being favored by Him (Jno. 14:15; Acts 10:34-35; 1 John 2:3-6). God’s law is on the mind of the person who loves Him – “all the day.” Let God’s word be your constant companion by reading it, learning it, and pondering it. Without knowing God’s law, we cannot keep it or be made wiser from it. The inspired word of God teaches us, reproves us, corrects us, and instructs us in righteousness, completely furnishing us to do God’s work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God’s word surpasses the vain wisdom of men, giving insight, discernment, and understanding to withstand sin’s temptations (1 Cor. 1:25). When, O when, will we so love God’s law and commandments that they are our constant meditation? When we do, we will love Jesus the way He says we must, by keeping His commands (John 14:15).
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations— 21 “Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,” 22 which all concern things which perish with the using—according to the commandments and doctrines of men?” (Colossians 2:20–22, NKJV)
The gospel of God calls sinners out of the world’s darkness into the light of fellowship with Christ (1 Pet. 2:9; 1 Cor. 1:9). The gospel calls us to no longer live according to the wisdom and will of the world, but by the truth of Christ (Jno. 8:31-32). Yet, just as in the first century, Christians must continue to be warned not to be ruled by the religious regulations of men. It is not God’s will that humanly devised expectations are bound upon people as if they were God’s will (1 Tim. 4:1-3). The “commandments and doctrines of men” have often taken the form of creeds and confessions through the ages, resulting in Protestant denominations. The inspired Scriptures are sufficient to define and regulate our lives (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). Yet, literally billions of souls religiously obligate themselves to things that “perish with the using.” Instead of this, obligate yourself to God’s word. It purifies the soul, it is incorruptible, and it abides forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25).
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 7:14–16, NKJV)
We can understand the teachings of Jesus by listening to them. It concerns us when Christians take exception with that simple statement of trust in the inspired word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 5:17). When we reduce the teachings of Christ and His apostles (who taught His commands, 1 Cor. 14:37) to personal and relative “interpretation,” we have elevated ourselves above the Lord and surrendered our allegiance to His authority (Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 3:17). In today’s passage, Jesus taught that spiritual corruption does not occur because of what one eats, but is due to what comes out of the heart (Mk. 7:17-23). Understanding that evil proceeds from the heart and is identifiable is not a personal, relative, or so-called traditional interpretation of the Scriptures – it is what Jesus said (read Mark 7:20-23). We ought to ask ourselves, “Do I have ‘ears to hear’ Jesus?” If so, you will understand Him. Do not be deceived by attempts to persuade you that understanding God’s word amounts to accepting a tradition about the Scriptures. Truth is not open to different interpretations or opinions. Therefore, neither is understanding it. We open our hearts to the devil when we close our ears to the word of God by reducing an understanding of it to “our tradition.”
30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:30–31, NKJV)
It is the devil’s deception that suggests only an extraordinary experience can persuade a sinner to repent. The rich man thought it would take a miraculous visitation from the dead of Lazarus to convince his brothers to repent and thus avoid the torment in which he was engulfed. But, Abraham reminded him they had Moses and the prophets to persuade them. The person who will not believe God’s message in the inspired Scriptures will not be persuaded to repent even if one arises from the dead. After all, that is exactly what Jesus would later do. Yet still, in spite of His empty tomb, most people refuse to believe in Him. Why? Because they do not love the truth, and prefer the pleasures of sin (2 Thess. 2:10-12). The word of God amply persuades the person with a good and honest heart to repent (Lk. 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). The hindrance to repentance and salvation is not for lack of a miraculous visitation. The problem is a hardened, closed heart that refuses to receive God’s truth (read Acts 28:23-28). And so, the question comes to each of us. Will we be persuaded by the gospel of Christ to repent, so we can join Lazarus after death? Or, will we refuse to be persuaded, keep living in sin, and find ourselves in torment with the rich man? We answer that question every day.
“Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (1 Timothy 4:13, NKJV)
William Tyndale had already been on the run for five years by the start of the third decade of the 16th century. The king of England, Henry VIII, had declared him a felon. Fleeing Roman Catholic authorities of London (never to return to England), he first went to Cologne, France, and then Worms, Germany. What crime had this “evil” man committed? Of what rebellious act of treason was he guilty? He dared to translate and print the New Testament in the English language! Yes, it was a crime to read the Bible (William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire, 204-205)! Tyndale was eventually arrested and imprisoned in a castle near Brussels. In 1536, after being tried and convicted for heresy, he was publicly executed (tied to a stake, he was strangled to death and his corpse burned). Reflecting on Tyndale’s struggles and sacrifices to provide Englishmen with the word of God in their own language cause us to thank God for the accessibility of the Bible today. It has been translated into many hundreds of languages. Men died to give us the opportunity to read God’s word, the Bible. We really have no excuse for not giving attention to reading it and obeying it (Ephesians 3:3-4; 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 3:18).