SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES
A Series of Gospel Messages
by Frank James
1. THE BIBLE
"Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they that testify of Me" (John 5:39).
How wonderful and remarkable that God would give a record of Himself and of His will for mankind. This record is found in the Holy Bible or in the Scriptures. The term "Scriptures," literally means that which is written down. Therefore, the Bible is the very word of God written down. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (2 Timothy 3:16).
The religious Jews to whom Jesus was speaking greatly esteemed the Word of God, especially the books of Moses. They did not however truly search the Scriptures regarding matters of eternity. Their trust and hope was in their heritage; in the fact that they were Jews and the descendents of Abraham. Furthermore, they greatly esteemed their religious works and their "good" deeds and believed these would assist them in obtaining eternal life. The words of Christ: "for in them ye think ye have eternal life:" are a critical rebuke. Their flawed view regarding the Scriptures made them "think" that they had eternal life, while in reality they did not possess it. This is clearly manifested, not only by their ignorance as to who Jesus Christ was, but also by their open rejection of Him as the promised Messiah: the only Savior of sinners.
No doubt there are many today who have fallen into this same error. Perhaps they too are trusting in their relationship to a religion, or to someone or something religious. All the while hoping that in the end their good works will outweigh their bad, and thus eternal life will be gained.
Jesus Christ says of the Scriptures: "they are they that testify of Me." The word "testify" is a strong word that bears the idea of one giving testimony under oath in a court of law. In this case, God the Father, who cannot lie, bears witness to the truth of who Jesus Christ is and what He has come to accomplish. The central theme of the Bible is: "and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21b).
Thus, the Bible is not a testimony as to what men must do to be saved, but a declaration as to who Christ is and what He has done to accomplish the salvation of sinners. Dear Reader, do you know what your standing is before the God of heaven and earth? Have you searched the Scriptures for yourself? To leave such matters of eternity unattended is the greatest of folly. "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36).
2. WHO ART THOU
"Then said they unto him, Who art thou" (John 8:25a)? The question, “Who are thou (Jesus)” is eternally important. The confusion manifested by those who asked this question still exists today among multitudes of people. However, all is made clear when the Scriptures are searched or examined. For in them God has clearly identified the person of Jesus Christ. As His name Emmanuel indicates, He is God manifested in the flesh (Matthew. 1:23). In the books of Isaiah and John, He is described as the Everlasting Father, the Creator of all things that exist (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-3). He is the Almighty, the First and the Last, the Self-existent One, the Ever Present, All Powerful, and All Knowing God, the Ruler of Heaven and Earth (Isaiah 40:3; John 8:58, 10:30; Revelation 1:17-18). He is properly JEHOVAH Jesus (Isaiah 26:4). These are only a few of the many Scriptures that make known the person of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, His name Jesus, which means "Savior," declares that He is the true and promised Messiah, the only Savior of sinners. This truth manifests that Jehovah’s coming into this world in human form was for a specific reason. That is, to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Scripture further reveals that this great work has been secured by the sacrifice of Himself as an atonement for sin (Heb 9:12). Now having risen from the dead, He is ascended into heaven where He presently sits at the right hand of the Father, declared to be "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Acts 5:30-31; 1 Timothy 6:14-16).
His great work now involves the calling of sinners unto Himself through the message of the gospel. Because of who He is and what He has done, Jesus Christ now commands everyone, without exception, to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14-15). This is not a mere offer or request, but a direct command from the Ruler of the Universe. Ultimately, it is to Him that we must each give an account. "And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31).
Thou Art the God
Thou art the God, the great Divine,
Who created all, and all is Thine.
Thou art the God, whose wisdom and might,
Speaks of a glory, and a glory bright.
Thou art the God, whose works are known,
All praise to thee, and to thee alone.
Thou art the God, who reveals through grace,
The wonders of heaven, and a heavenly place.
Thou art the God, the great Divine,
Who created all, and all is Thine.
3. “UNCLEAN UNCLEAN”
"And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, Unclean, unclean" (Leviticus 13:45). Sin like a loathsome disease has corrupted every facet of our make-up as human beings. From the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet, there are only wounds, bruises, and putrifying sores (Isaiah 1:6). None are exempt from this terrible plague, and just as the plague of leprosy typifies sin in the Scriptures, we are all unclean in the sight of God. Furthermore, sin has affected our innermost being, so that even our mind, heart, and conscious are defiled. Indeed, nothing truly good or profitable can be produced by us that is acceptable in the sight of God. No matter how sincere our effort, our worship is vain, and our "good" works are as filthy rags before Him (Isaiah 64:6). As the leprous man was required to remain outside the camp of Israel, even so, sin renders us wholly unsuited for fellowship with God, and unfit for His habitation.
Yet, in the midst of this black reality, there is a great proclamation of good news. For the gospel declares that there is healing for sin in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, upon the merits of His precious blood.
"Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts" (Isaiah 6:5).
"Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise." (Jeremiah 17:14).
HOW IS OUR NATURE MARRED BY SIN!
NOR CAN IT EVER FIND
A WAY TO MAKE THE CONSCIENCE CLEAN,
OR HEAL THE WOUNDED MIND.
IN VAIN WE SEEK FOR PEACE WITH GOD,
BY METHODS OF OUR OWN;
JESUS, THERE’S NOTHING BUT THY BLOOD
CAN BRING US NEAR THE THRONE.
4. WELL WITH THEM THAT FEAR GOD
"Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:" (Ecclesiastes 8:12). Violence, dishonesty, theft, and covetousness are only a few of the many evils that can be named as prevalent characteristics of our time. Sinners seem to boldly trample upon the law of God as if it were completely irrelevant. It can even appear to some that God doesn't care and is unable or unwilling to do anything about it.
However it is a great mistake to make assumptions based only upon appearances. This is the message that is conveyed to us in the above text. Though it may seem to some that God doesn't observe or care what happens among men; the Scriptures declare otherwise. "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Proverbs 15:3). Likewise, while it may seem as though God allows people to "get away" with sins committed against Him and His law, the Scriptures once again teach otherwise. "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Hence in the end, it will not be well with the sinner seeing that none can escape the judgment of God.
On the other hand, a life lived in the fear of the Lord is one of wisdom and understanding. This is because a true fear of God is the acknowledgement of God Himself and of His authority over all things. "Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:5). This reverential fear directs sinners to flee to Christ as the only refuge for the guilty. It is only in Him that a sinner can find cleansing and pardon from sin. Thus both in this present life and in the life to come, it shall be well with them that fear God. "The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death" (Proverbs 14:27).
FEAR IS A GRACE WHICH EVER DWELLS
WITH ITS FAIR PARTNER, LOVE;
BLENDING THEIR BEAUTIES, BOTH PROCLAIM
THEIR SOURCE IS FROM ABOVE.
LET FEAR AND LOVE, MOST HOLY GOD,
POSSESS THIS SOUL OF MINE;
THEN SHALL I WORSHIP THEE ARIGHT,
AND TASTE THY JOYS DIVINE.
5. NONE GOOD BUT GOD
"And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God" (Mark 10:18). This reply of the Lord to the rich young ruler (in the form of a penetrating question) exposes a common misconception. That is the belief or opinion that all human beings are basically good. From our viewpoint, we might see ourselves as "a good person" or in general as "good people." However, God sees us as we really are. For the Scriptures declare concerning all people by nature: "They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12). This is due to the corruption of all mankind by sin, which has rendered us defiled in the sight of God (Romans 3:9-12). A polluted well cannot bring forth clean water. Likewise, it is impossible for any person by nature to do good, being corrupted by sin. "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil" (Jeremiah 13:23).
This truth then creates an unsurpassable problem for all of mankind. While efforts regarding religion and attempts at accomplishing "good" may be much appreciated by others or even ourselves, they are completely useless and vain in securing eternal life. This is because no matter how diligent and sincere the effort, we always come short of what God requires.
A perfect righteousness and a sure standing for the sinner before God can only be found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, through the righteousness of faith apart from all works. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
AMAZING GRACE! HOW SWEET THE SOUND,
THAT SAVED A WRETCH LIKE ME!
I ONCE WAS LOST, BUT NOW AM FOUND,
WAS BLIND, BUT NOW I SEE.
‘TWAS GRACE THAT TAUGHT MY HEART TO FEAR,
AND GRACE MY FEARS RELEAVED;
HOW PRECIOUS DID THAT GRACE APPEAR
THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED!
6. CHRIST LIFTED UP
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:" (John 3:14). The Lord Jesus Christ, by relating to a past incident in Israel's history, sets forth the absolute necessity of His own crucifixion. Indeed, it is the emphasis of the gospel message itself (1 Corinthians 2:2). If sinners are to be saved and their sins forgiven, then the matter of sin must be dealt with. For God in His perfect holiness and absolute righteousness cannot simply excuse sin. All sin and every sinner must be judged and punished. Righteousness and truth must prevail before mercy and grace can be bestowed to undeserving sinners.
How then does God accomplish these requirements? Through Christ and Him crucified! He "must" be lifted up to suffer and die, as there is no other means by which sin can be put away. Herein we learn that the crucifixion of Christ was no mere martyr's death, but a substitutionary one. Having no sin of His own, He bore the judgement for all of the sins of all of His people, thereby securing reconciliation for sinners unto God (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). The gloriousness of this precious truth is seen in the next verse following our text: "That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:15).
As Moses lifted up the brazen serpent upon a pole, likewise Christ was nailed to a tree and lifted up publicly and in full view at Calvary. Sinners that are burdened under the weight and guilt of sin, and find themselves under the sentence of death, need only to look by faith unto this crucified and risen Lord. He continues to be lifted up before the world, through the proclamation of the gospel, as the only Savior of sinners. Thus the true gospel message is one of glad tidings of great joy.
“LIFTED UP” WAS HE TO DIE,
“IT IS FINISHED,” WAS HIS CRY;
NOW IN HEAVEN EXALTED HIGH:
HALLELUJAH! WHAT A SAVIOUR!
7. NO MAN CAN COME
"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). The word "can" in this text has reference to ability and not permission. All men have permission to come to Christ; there to find pardon and peace (Revelation 22:17). However, the Lord emphasizes in the above statement that none (in and of themselves) have the ability or desire to come to Him. Thus the boast of the natural mind that says, "you can do anything if you just put your mind to it," is here exposed as error. Fallen man of his own free will and ability can no more come to Christ than he can jump over the moon or leap the Pacific Ocean in a single bound.
Therefore if sinners are ever to come to Christ, God the Father must draw them to Himself. He alone accomplishes this by His grace and power. Only God can change the heart of sinners and make them willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:3). He effectually calls sinners unto Christ, drawing them by the chords of love (Jeremiah 31:3).
This truth then effectively places salvation completely out of the reach of man and into the hands of God alone. "Salvation is of the LORD" is the proclamation of the gospel (Jonah 2:9). This indeed is a hard saying and few can bear the weight of this simple truth (John 6:65-69). However, it's practical effect should be to direct our attention away from our own self and our own ability to the risen Savior, who alone is able to save.
WITH MELTING HEART AND WEEPING EYES,
MY GUILTY SOUL FOR MERCY CRIES,
WHAT SHALL I DO, OR WHITHER FLEE,
TO ESCAPE THE VENGEANCE DUE TO ME?
DOES NOT THY SACRED WORD PROCLAIM,
SALVATION FREE IN ‘JESUS’ NAME?
TO HIM I LOOK, AND HUMBLY CRY,
“O SAVE A WRETCH CONDEMNED TO DIE!”
8. THE AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SINS
"And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone" (Luke 5:20-21)?
It is evident that the Scribes and Pharisees thought Jesus was a man like you or me, instead of who He really is: God manifested in the flesh. Yet in their criticism, they stated the Scriptural truth that God alone has the power to forgive sins. The reason this is so is that all sin is against God and against His law. Therefore, it is to Him that we are all individually accountable.
Moreover, the Scriptures reveal that this power or authority to forgive sins has never been delegated to anyone or anything else. No man, no matter how lofty his title or exalted his position, can forgive sins. Nor can any religious body, ceremony, rite, or sacrament accomplish this feat. Yet the forgiveness of sins remains our greatest need, in that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Furthermore, sin cannot be forgiven apart from its penalty having been paid to the fullest (Romans 6:23).
Hence the forgiveness of sins can only come about from one who is able to put away sin. Jesus Christ has accomplished this through the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26). This is surely good news for guilty sinners and is the central theme of the gospel message (Acts 13:38). "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins" (Luke 5:24a).
HE WAS SENT FROM THE HEAVENS ON HIGH,
LIVED PERFECTLY AND FOR SINS DID DIE.
WORTHY IS THE LAMB THAT WAS SLAIN,
DEATH'S OVERCOME AND FOREVER HE'LL REIGN.
9. SIN’S BONDAGE
"Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (John 8:34). The meaning here of "servant" is a bondservant or slave. We generally think of such a one as being bound to a master and required to work against his own will. Yet the institution of slavery is an ancient practice, and in some cultures there have been generations of people who have known no other way of life. To them, servitude is a normal and natural lifestyle.
Similarly, all of us by nature are in bondage to sin, because all of us practice sin in our lives. “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Since it is normal to do so, we do not fully recognize sin for what it is. In our society it does not surprise us when we see idolatry, lying, stealing, selfishness, greed, jealousy, hate, murder, adultery, etc., because this is who we are and how we live. It is our normal and natural way of life. Yet sin is a harsh taskmaster. While it promises pleasure, profit, and peace; it ends in misery, death, and destruction.
The Scriptures however proclaim deliverance for the captive through Christ's precious blood. It was shed as the ransom price for sin, so that sinners could be set free not only from the power of sin's bondage, but also from its guilt and punishment. "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36).
SAVED BY THE BLOOD OF THE CRUCIFIED ONE!
THE FATHER HE SPAKE, AND HIS WILL IT WAS DONE;
GREAT PRICE OF MY PARDON, HIS OWN PRECIOUS SON;
SAVED BY THE BLOOD OF THE CRUCIFIED ONE!
S. J. Henderson
10. WHO SHALL STAND?
"If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand" (Psalm 130:3)? If the Lord kept a record of all of our sins and iniquities, could any of us stand before Him guiltless? The very first commandment requires that we love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30), and if we are honest with ourselves, we have to confess that we have fallen far short of this requirement. Is there any among us who can say that we have never lied, stolen, hated, lusted, or coveted? And what of our sins that we have committed in ignorance? All of these heaped together form a mountain of offences against God and His law.
God sees and knows our every transgression (Hebrews 4:13), and the Scriptures teach that every single sin, no matter how small or great, cannot go unpunished (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36). Our sins therefore condemn us to a miserable and desperate condition before God.
Yet there is grace and hope for the guilty sinner. The verse following our text states: "But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" (Psalm 130:4). This forgiveness is based upon the fact that Jesus Christ suffered the due penalty for sin. On the tree of Calvary, God the Father spared not His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, but poured out judgment for sin upon Him, so that pardon and forgiveness might be bestowed to undeserving sinners (Isaiah 53:12).
This then should invoke a reverential fear in the hearts of men. For if God spared not His own Son who was incapable of sin, how much more sure is His judgment towards us who are guilty of a multitude of transgressions.
Therefore the gospel admonishes the guilty to flee to Christ, trusting in the merits of His grace alone. He is the only refuge for the soul, where God proclaims: "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more" (Hebrews 8:12).
MY HOPE IS IN THE LORD, WHO GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME,
AND PAID THE PRICE OF ALL MY SIN AT CALVARY.
NO MERIT OF MY OWN, HIS ANGER TO SUPPRESS.
MY ONLY HOPE IS FOUND IN JESUS’ RIGHTEOUSNESS.
AND NOW FOR ME HE STANDS, BEFORE THE FATHER’S THRONE.
HE SHOWS HIS WOUNDED HANDS AND NAMES ME AS HIS OWN.
HIS GRACE HAS PLANNED IT ALL, ‘TIS MINE BUT TO BELIEVE.
AND RECOGNIZE HIS WORK OF LOVE AND CHRIST RECEIVE.
Norman J. Clayton