Knowing the Bible Without Knowing Jesus

Luke 10 gives us the privilege of listening in on an intimate conversation between the Father and the Son. As we listen, we learn that Jesus rejoices as He prays. He praises the Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for something very specific in verse 21:

“…I praise You…that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight.”

It may seem unusual to us that Jesus would pray such a thing. How can it be that God would ever hide his truth from some while only to reveal it to others?

As we are wondering, Jesus turns to his disciples and tells them how blessed their eyes are for what they see. “Many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them,” (v. 24) Jesus explains. Yet these men were not just his disciples. These are the infants who had God’s truth revealed to them. Some were unlearned fishermen. All were average guys who were nothing special. Yet these are the very infants to whom God chose to reveal himself.

But then the conversation turns to one who is wise and intelligent. A lawyer, one who is an expert in knowing what the Bible says, stands up in order to put Jesus to the test. He apparently had enough of listening to these non-scholars discuss theology. The expert had determined to put Jesus in his place. So he asks a simple question in verse 25,

“Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus gives a simple answer, “And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (v. 26). Being the Bible expert the man was, he gave a good answer. He knew exactly what to say and even combined verses from Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19. This guy was good. He answered, 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (v. 27). Jesus commended him for his answer, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live” (v. 28).

That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? I mean, how many of you reading this love God? How many of you love your neighbor? Hopefully all of you.

But how many of you have always loved God and your neighbor perfectly, without fail? 

I haven’t either. And that’s a problem since this is what Jesus told us to do to inherit eternal life.

There are two approaches we can take at this point. We can do what the lawyer did. He pressed Jesus a little more and wanted to know more of the details of what this love was supposed to look like. He wanted to know who it was that must be loved in that way. So he asks, “Who is my neighbor?”

That may sound innocent enough until we get a glimpse into his heart at the beginning of verse 29, “But wishing to justify himself.” Did you catch that? The lawyer’s intention is to find a way to justify himself. He knows that he needs to be in right standing before God and he is determined to find a way to accomplish it on his own. The problem is he can’t do it. There is nothing he can do to put himself in good standing before God. This lawyer was one of the “wise and intelligent” Jesus spoke of who did not understand even the basic things from God’s Word.

We make this same mistake when we believe that God must be pleased with us because of our church attendance, baptism, Sunday School record, service, giving, or position. We try to convince ourselves that we must be on God’s good side because of what we do for Him.

But it doesn’t work that way. It’s not about what we do for Him. It never has been. It never will be.

It’s about what He has done for us.

Instead of trying to justify ourselves, let us take the second approach. Let us confess to God that we are unable and often unwilling to love Him and love our neighbor. We can’t do it. We fail. We fall short. Then, let us cry out to Him for mercy. Let us know him.

It is a dangerous thing to think we know the Bible if we don’t know the God of the Bible. We can be quick to quote verses and remember stories that we’ve heard. But if we come out of our studying somehow thinking that eternal life is about what we are able to offer to God, we have missed the point completely.

It is only Jesus who can justify. It is only Jesus who can stand in our place. It is only Jesus who can give us what we need. It is only Jesus who has loved God and man with a perfect love; a love that was on full display on the cross of Calvary.

Look to him and live.