John 5:39-47 THE VAIN RELIGION OF THE PHARISEES
The Jewish leaders had charged Jesus with breaking the
law of the sabbath. A guilty verdict to this charge would
bring the death penalty by stoning.
In our previous message, He called several witnesses to
His defense. He did not call upon anyone to appear before
the court, but He called attention to several matters of
public knowledge which had the same effect as calling them
to the witness stand.
First He called attention to the fact that John the
Baptist had announced publicly that Jesus is the Christ, the
Son of God.
If the people had believed John the Baptist, they would
have known that Jesus is the Christ and had not broken the
law of the sabbath or any of God's laws. However, Jesus
said, in effect, "Since John the Baptist is a man, I will
not ask you to take his testimony."
Jesus then called to His defense the works that He had
done. He had healed the sick, given sight to the blind,
caused the lame to walk, the dumb to speak and called the
dead to life again.
Furthermore, He called to His defense the testimony of
God the Father Himself. He reminded them that God the
Father, Himself had spoken from heaven saying, "This is my
beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
Finally, Jesus called to His defense the writings of the
Old Testament Scripture. He said in verse 39 that the Old
Testament Scriptures testify of Him. In our previous
message I read verse 39, but I want to take up with that
verse in this message today. The thing that I want you to
take notice of is that Jesus points out to those religious
leaders that even though they are very religious, their
religion is in vain. This is a lesson that a lot of people
in our world today need to learn. A lot of people need to
learn that merely being religious is not going to keep them
out of hell and get them into heaven. It takes a personal
faith and trust in the Savior whom God the Father has sent
into the world.
I. The charges which Jesus leveled against the Pharisees
Jesus charged them with not believing the Scriptures.
V. 39, "Search the scriptures..." This was not to imply
that they did not already read the Scriptures. They did.
They spent many hours reading and studying the Scriptures.
They had all memorized long passages of Scripture. They
took great pride in the long hours they spent studying the
(V. 39), "...for in them ye think ye have eternal
life..." The problem is that these men thought that their
zeal in the study of the Scriptures helped to ensure them a
place in heaven. They were quite confident that they had
eternal life, but they didn't. They thought that the more
they would study and the more they would learn, the better
their life would be in the great beyond. They simply did
not have any idea that they were still lost and hell-bound.
They thought surely that they were on their way to heaven.
(V. 39), "...and they are they which testify of me."
Jesus stated that the very Scriptures which they thought
they knew so well all testify of Him. How in the world
could they know the Scriptures so well and yet not know that
Jesus is the Christ!
I think Jesus was saying to them, in effect, "You
fellows need to go back to square one. You need to start
all over again and search the Scriptures. Ye need to search
them with a view toward seeing what they say about me and
how they identify me as the Christ. I call the Old
Testament Scriptures to my defense."
He charged them of not being willing to come to Him for
everlasting life. V. 40, "And ye will not come to me, that
ye might have life." Note that Jesus did not say, "Ye
cannot come to me," but "Ye will not come to me..." There
is a big difference. They could come to Him if they would.
They could believe in Him if they would. But they
deliberately chose not to believe in Him. They deliberately
chose to ignore all the evidence that He is the Christ and
to reject Him as the Christ.
These men were religious leaders. They were
knowledgeable of the testimony of John the Baptist. They
were knowledgeable of the works that Jesus had been doing.
They were knowledgeable that a voice from heaven had
proclaimed Jesus to be His Son. They were knowledgeable
that the family lineage, the place of birth, the message and
miracles of Jesus were identical to what Old Testament
Scriptures had predicted for the Christ. They simply would
not come to Him that they might have life.
II. Jesus not seeking their endorsement
V. 41, "I receive not honour from men." Jesus had not
said these things to these men in an effort to gain their
favor and their endorsement. He was not depending on them
to recommend Him to the people. He did not need their help.
He counted on the God the Father and not upon men to make
His ministry successful. In due time, He would be exalted
and placed upon the throne to rule the world, but it will
not be men who exalt Him. God the Father will exalt Him.
V. 42, "But I know you, that ye have not the love of
God in you." Jesus again levels charges against them. He
said that they did have the love of God in them. They made
a great show of religion, but Jesus said, "I know you. I am
not fooled by your hypocrisy. I know that you do not have
the love of God in you. What you love is the praises of
III. What Jesus predicted about these men
V. 43, "I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive
me not..." Jesus told the Jews that He had come in the name
of God the heavenly Father. Note that He was again claiming
to be the Son of God. He was claiming that He had come by
the authority of God the Father. He had come because He was
sent by God the Father. He had come doing the work of God
the Father. He had come to bring honor and glory to God the
Father. He had come with the full endorsement of God the
Yet the Jewish religious leaders had rejected Him.
They rejected all the evidence that God had sent Him and
that God was blessing Him and that God was pleased Him.
(V. 43), "...if another shall come in his own name, him
ye will receive." Jesus was speaking here of false prophets
and false Christs." These men were looking for the coming
of the Christ. Since they rejected the real Christ, they
will be easy prey for those who are false Christs. They had
rejected the real Christ who came to bring honor and glory
to God, but they will gladly accept one who seeks only his
own glory and his own material wealth. Many false prophets
and false Christs would come following the ministry of
Jesus. Many more would come down through the years. Some
have come in our own lifetime. The Anti-Christ is yet to
come and the same kind men like those Jewish leaders will
accept the Anti-Christ as the though he were the real
Christ. The New Age leaders today boldly tell us that Jesus
was not the Christ and that the real Christ is yet to come.
They will gladly accept the Anti-Christ.
IV. The real reason those Jewish leaders would not accept
V. 44, "How can ye believe, which receive honour one
of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God
only?" Jesus here tells those men why they have rejected
Him. They reject Him because they wanted the people to
follow them and to honor them. They did not want the people
to follow Jesus, they wanted that honor for themselves.
They were fearful that the popularity of Jesus would take
away their own following among the people. Jesus did not
agree with of their thinking and their teaching and He did
not hesitate to say so publicly. They feared that He would
turn the people away from them. Therefore, they became His
V. Moses as a witness against them
V. 45, "Do not think that I will accuse you to the
Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom
ye trust." Jesus said that He would not bring accusation
against them in the time of Judgment for rejecting Him as
the Christ. Jesus will not be the prosecuting attorney in
the time of judgment. Neither will He be a witness.
Rather, He will be the Judge and Moses will be the witness
who will testify against the Jewish leaders.
I can imagine Moses on the witness stand. I can hear
an angel ask Moses, "Are you an expert in the field of Old
Testament prophecies concerning the Christ?" His answer
would be, "Yes."
"Would you state for the court how you qualify?" I can
imagine Moses saying, "I wrote the first five books of the
Bible. I wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and
"Would you point out for the court some of the
prophecies concerning the Christ which were written in the
books which you wrote?" "Well, first, there was the
prophecy in Genesis stating that the Seed of Woman would
come forth and that He would bruise the head of that old
Serpent, the Devil. Then there was also in Genesis the
prophecy that the Seed of Abraham would be a source of
blessing to all of the Gentile nations. Through Jacob there
was the prophecy that the Christ would be the Shiloh unto
whom the gathering of the people would be. I wrote also
about the Christ being the Star of Jacob and that He would
rise out of Israel. I personally said that the Christ would
be a prophet like unto myself. I penned the regulations
concerning the blood sacrifices which all pictured the
shed-blood of the Christ. Those leaders should have
understood exactly what John the Baptist meant when he
called Jesus the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the
world. Furthermore, I was the one who wrote about the
Serpent in the wilderness being lifted up and placed on a
pole in the camp of Israel so that if anyone was bitten by a
serpent he could lift up his eyes and look at the serpent of
brass and live. These were some of the chief prophecies of
the Christ which I wrote by inspiration of God."
VI. The necessity of believing the Scriptures
V. 46, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have
believed me: for he wrote of me." If you had asked any of
those men what they think of Moses, they would answer, "We
have great respect for Moses." They spoke about Moses with
great admiration. But the problem was that in spite of
their great respect for Moses, they did not believe what
Moses said about the Christ. They did not believe in the
Christ about whom Moses wrote.
V. 47, "But if ye believe not his writings, how shall
ye believe my words?" The truth of this statement applies
not only to the writings of Moses, but to all of the Holy
Scriptures. It applies also to all of the Old Testament and
it applies also to all of the New Testament. All of the Old
and New Testaments speak of Jesus.
No one who understands the Bible can deny that Jesus is
the chief character of the whole Bible. The salvation that
Jesus has provided by His sacrificial death on the cross of
Calvary is the theme of the whole Bible. the Bible portrays
Jesus as a risen Savior. He arose and ascended to the
throne of God in heaven, where He now sits at the right hand
of God the Father. The Bible declares that in order for a
man to be saved, he must repent of his sin and trust in
Jesus Christ as his Savior. The Bible promises that if one
trusts in Jesus Christ he will be saved, and will never come
It all boils down to whether or not men, women, boys
and girls will believe the Bible. If they really believe
the Bible they will trust in Jesus as Savior and have
eternal life. If they will not trust in Jesus it is because
they do not really believe the Bible.
VII. The necessity of having more than just religion
Yet there are many today who have never trusted in
Jesus who feel that their religion will get them into
heaven. Some believe that just because they have their
names on some particular church role that this will get them
into heaven. Others believe that certain religious
ceremonies will get them in, such as baptism and the Lord's
Supper. Others count on their faithful church attendance.
Heaven knows, I certainly do not want to discourage faithful
church attendance in any way, but, listen, brethren, even
the most faithful attendance at church will not get one into
heaven. No matter what brand of religion it is and no
matter how zealous one may be in his religion, it is going
to take more than that to get him into heaven. Nor will
Bible study get one into heaven. Even Bible preaching
and teaching will not get one into heaven. Jesus said,
"Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not
prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out
devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart
from me, ye that work iniquity." It is going to take a
personal repentance of sin and a personal trust in Jesus
Christ to get one into heaven. Otherwise, like the
Pharisees, all their religion will be in vain.
Won't you come today and place your faith and trust
completely in Jesus Christ to save your soul? Won't you who
have trusted Him as Savior give yourself in service to Him
who has saved your soul?