Calvary Road Baptist Church


John 5.39 

The last eight weeks in John’s Gospel have not really been spent in John’s Gospel at all. Rather, I have used John 5.22 as a jumping off point. In that verse the Savior declares His authority to judge on behalf of God the Father: 

“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” 

Departing from that text, I then dealt with eight future judgments the Lord Jesus Christ will preside over, beginning with the Judgment Seat of Christ following the Rapture of Church Age believers in Christ and ending with the Great White Throne judgment of the unsaved that will occur at the end of the millennium and immediately preceding the onset of eternity.

This morning I want to resume our consideration of John’s Gospel by directing your attention to John 5.39, where the Lord Jesus Christ, while still in Jerusalem, addressed His pointed remarks to those arrayed against Him. I invite you to stand with me for the reading of God’s Word: 

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” 

Of course, history and context are profoundly important. However, without any preliminary remarks, let me dive right into to this simple, powerful, and beneficial Bible verse that you would do well to commit to memory and then hide in your heart by meditating on it at length: 


At that time in human history, no religious faith system that existed anywhere in the world even claimed to possess revealed truth, as did the Jewish system that came to be known as Judaism. Only the Jewish people with their Hebrew Scriptures given to them through their infallible prophets had objective truth provided for them by God. After the coming of Christ, the Hebrew Scriptures would be augmented by the New Testament.

The Scriptures to which the Lord Jesus Christ refers in this verse were the Hebrew Scriptures, what is contained in our Old Testament, 39 books that are history, poetry, and prophecy. It is about those holy books that our Lord Jesus Christ referred while speaking to His Jewish adversaries who were for the most part scribes and Pharisees. However, what did He mean by the phrase “search the scriptures”?

The question, of course, is what exactly did the Lord Jesus Christ mean when He said, 

Search the scriptures”? 

The opinions of good men have varied over the years, generally swinging between two understandings of what the Savior might have meant. The credible Matthew Poole writes, 

Search the Scriptures; the words may be read either imperatively (as our translation readeth them) or indicatively, You do search the Scriptures; that is, of the Old Testament, for the books of the New Testament were not at that time written; but as they had the books of the Old Testament, so they made use of them: Moses was read in the synagogues every sabbath day; and they (the Pharisees especially) were very well versed both in the law and the prophets.”[1] 

Thus, Matthew Poole suggests two alternatives: The Lord Jesus Christ is commanding His adversaries to search the Scriptures in a way they were to this point not doing, which would be to read this as an imperative, a command He urged upon them. Or the Lord Jesus is stating reality, that His adversaries do, in fact, search the Scriptures. Arthur W. Pink admits to the same two views being held, but strongly advocates for one over the other. I read two paragraphs written by the wonderful Pink: 

“Search the Scriptures” was both an appeal and a command. It is to be read, as in our A.V., in the imperative mood. The proof for this is as follows: First, the usage of the word. The Bible is its own interpreter. If scripture be compared with scripture its meaning will be plain. In John 7:52 we find the only other occurrence of the Greek word (ereunao) in John’s Gospel, here translated “search”; “They answered and said unto him, Art thou also of Galilee? Search, and look: for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.” When the Pharisees said to Nicodemus “Search and look,” they were bidding him search the Scriptures. Thus, in both instances, the word has the imperative and not the indicative force. Again; to give the verb here the indicative force in John 5:39 is to make the first half of the verse pointless; but to render it in the imperative gives it a meaning in full accord with what precedes and what follows...

“Search the Scriptures.” Here is a command from the Lord. The authority of His Godhood is behind it. “Search,” He says; not merely “read.” The Greek word is one that was used in connection with hunting. It referred to the hunter stalking game. When he discovered the tracks of an animal, he concentrated all his attention on the ground before him, diligently searching for other marks which would lead him to his quarry. In a similar way, we are to study God’s Word, minutely examining each expression, tracing every occurrence of it, and ascertaining its meaning from its usage. The grand motive for such earnest study is, that the Scriptures “testify” of Christ.[2] 

You can tell that I am inclined to read the phrase “search the scriptures” as a command by which the Lord Jesus Christ directed His adversaries, who were known for their scholarship and devotion to studying the Hebrew Scriptures, back to God’s Word. Perhaps He was suggesting that they set aside their devotion to reading and understanding the Talmud, the comments about the Hebrew Scriptures that were written down by scholars, and return to studying God’s Word.[3] 


“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life.” 

The Jewish people, especially the scribes and Pharisees whose entire lives turned on their possession of and observance of the Law of Moses, thought that the Scriptures they so highly prized provided for them eternal life. “The word ‘think’ does not imply a doubt, but affirms an assurance.”[4] It translates the Greek word dokeoo, and has reference to a considered opinion.[5]

The problem, of course, is that what the Jewish people thought, what they considered to be true, was not true at all. And this gives rise to a serious problem that existed not only among the Jewish adversaries of the Lord Jesus Christ back in the day but which is also very much alive in our day. It has to do with what I would call “self-authentication.” A self-authenticating document, under the law of evidence in the United States, is any document that can be admitted into evidence at a trial without proof being submitted to support the claim that the document is what it appears to be. However, I am not referring to a legal document, but to a person who thinks he has the right to believe what he believes just because he wants to believe it. Such a person usually says, “Well, I have a right to my own opinion,” or “To each his own.”

That is not at all true. You do not have a right to your own opinion, at least not logically. To be sure, no one will arrest you for having your own opinion. However, you may be fired from your job for having your own opinion. But I refer to logic as the basis for reasonable and accurate human thought. My reference point is Isaiah 1.18, where we read the words recorded by the prophet that were spoken to him by the God of Israel: 

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” 

Logicians get complex in their descriptions of the principle, but for my purposes allow me to state the Law of Sufficient Reason as follows: 

“One does not have the logical justification to hold an opinion that is not an opinion whose basis is not built upon reasonable and sufficient facts to support that opinion.” 

Thus, you do not have the right to your own opinion. You have the freedom to your own opinion. You have the liberty under law to your own opinion. You can have any goofy opinion about anything you want, but you have not the logical rationale for that opinion unless your opinion is supported by facts, and facts are stubborn things.

Why is this so important? It is important, profoundly important, for two reasons: First, it is important because the God of all glory, the God of Israel, has established that He deals with people only by truth in a reasonable and rational way. That, of course, eliminates you and me having any right to our own opinions about anything. Not when God says, “Come now, and let us reason together.” We are obligated actually to think and form opinions that reflect the truth. Second, it is important because the cost of being wrong is so very, very high. The Jewish people, particularly the intelligentsia, were convinced they were right. They were so sure that in the Scriptures they had life. But they were wrong. Very, very wrong. Eternal damnation wrong. Lake of fire wrong. When it comes to your eternal and undying soul’s everlasting punishment, you have no moral right to be wrong. You have no right to your own opinion. Not when the stakes are that high. Not when so many other people’s lives are affected and influenced by you having your own opinion. 


“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” 

He speaks to His adversaries about the Hebrew Scriptures, the Word of God and the Old Testament portion of the Bible before the New Testament was given at the hands of the apostles of Jesus Christ. But, He points out to them, the subject of the Bible that they prized so highly, the theme of the Scripture that set them apart from all other peoples on earth was Him.

Do you see what the Savior was doing for His adversaries? They were irritated with Him. They held a grudge against Him. They were embittered with Him. They felt threatened by Him. To them, He was an outsider who sought to encroach upon their positions, their privileges, and their standing in the religious community of the Jewish people. And they were right. But they were wrong about the Scriptures. And they did not recognize that He only sought to bless them despite their hostility toward Him.

It was not as if He was attempting to take God’s Word away from them. It was not as if He was in any way attacking either the value or the credibility of the Bible. On another occasion, He said to an audience that likely included such as these, 

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”[6] 

Thus, if you picture a Jewish scholar with a portion of God’s Word in his hands, the Lord Jesus Christ is not attempting, either literally or figuratively, to wrench the Bible from his grip. Rather, He offers to the Jewish antagonist the key to really and truly understanding what he has devoted his life to studying. And what is the key to grasping the thrust of Bible truth, the code that brings it all together to make sense? It is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself!

Want to know who the seed of the woman who will bruise the head of the serpent is? The Lord Jesus Christ.[7] Want to know the significance of the animal skins God provided to clothe Adam and Eve’s nakedness?[8] It foreshadowed the substitution of Christ and His righteousness. Want to grasp the spiritual significance of Noah’s ark and the salvation of eight souls from God’s judgment? The Apostle Peter tells us it prefigured the Lord Jesus Christ.[9]

How can you understand Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac without seeing on Mount Moriah God the Father offering His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross? How do you grasp Joseph being despised and rejected by his brethren finding a Gentile bride and later delivering his people, but in the fulfillment of that picture by the Lord Jesus Christ? What is the tabernacle in the wilderness wherein dwelt the glory of God but a picture of the Savior’s humanity from which burst forth His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration?

The manna which fed the children of Israel in the wilderness for forty years was the bread of life, Jesus Christ. The water that gushed forth to satisfy Israel’s thirst was Jesus Christ, the living water. Then, of course, John the Baptist identified Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Every innocent animal sacrificed for the sins of the Jewish people was, in type, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I could go on and on and on, but you get the idea. There is simply no understanding of God’s Word apart from the Lord Jesus Christ as the central figure being described, being prefigured, being typified, or being prepared. The Bible is God’s gift to His people about God’s gift to His people, who is Jesus Christ, the Lord. 

I well remember the beginning of my Christian life and my exposure to different people who emphasized the Person and Work of Jesus Christ and His central position in every aspect of the Bible. I also remember admitting His importance to God, to God’s plan, and to God’s people in my thinking, but constantly wondered if they were, perhaps, going overboard a bit, exaggerating just a bit.

My friends, I am now forty-three years downstream from that thinking, and admit to you that few days have passed from then until now that I do not realize how wrong I was about the importance of the Savior to correctly understanding God’s Word. In a spiritual sense, the Lord Jesus Christ is deeper than the deepest ocean, wider than any vast expanse, higher than the highest mountain, and more majestic than any glorious scene. The Apostle Paul runs out of expressions as he attempts to extol the virtues of our Savior, just like the psalmist did.

So I will leave you with a single verse that sets forth in a most simple way why God’s holy Word has Jesus Christ as its subject, for its primarily topic, and for its key to understanding. When I tell you what it is you will not be astonished, or surprised because it is so obvious. 

John 1.1:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 

No wonder the Scriptures testify of Him. The Scriptures are, in a mysterious sense, Him. So when you open your Bible, look for Him on the pages. When you read the Bible, look for Him in anticipation, in explanation, in fulfillment, or in description.

He will be found on the pages of this book if you look for Him. And even if you do not see Him here, He is still here. You just do not see Him. Cry out to God in that case, because you are blind to reality.


[1] Matthew Poole, A Commentary On The Whole Bible, Volume 3, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), page 306.

[2] Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1-vol. edition 1968), Vol 1, page 280-281.

[3] 10/14/17

[4] Pink, page 280.

[5] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 254-255.

[6] Matthew 5.17

[7] Genesis 3.15

[8] Genesis 3.21

[9] 1 Peter 3.18-22

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.