John 5:39 says, “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is these that testify concerning Me.” The Scriptures are the holy Word of God. But even the Word of God can be taken as a replacement of Christ. This was the reason the Lord told the Jews that they searched the Scriptures, thinking that in them they could find eternal life, but they were not willing to come to Him for life. Apart from Christ, the living Son of God, not even the Scriptures can give us life.
If it is true that not even the Scriptures can give us life apart from Christ, it is all the more true that the Life-study Messages cannot give life apart from Him. I am somewhat concerned that those who have received much help from these messages may, at least to some extent, put their trust in these messages instead of in the Lord Himself. Certain ones may read the Life-study Messages without directly contacting the Lord. In such a case, these messages would be taken as a replacement of Christ. But not even the Scriptures, and certainly not the Life-study Messages, should ever be used to replace Christ.
In 5:45 and 46 the Lord Jesus spoke to the Jews concerning Moses: “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you trust. For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote concerning Me.” The person of Moses is also a sign, a sign of a constant religious trust. John the Baptist was a temporary religious trust, but Moses was a constant religious trust. In principle, we may have our own religious trusts today, both temporary and constant. For example, someone may have a temporary trust in the Life-study Messages and a constant trust in the writings of Paul. But neither the Life-studies nor Paul’s writings are Christ Himself, and they should not ever replace Him.
SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES
The last sign in chapter five of John is that of the searching of the Scriptures. This is a sign of the religious way to find eternal life. All Christians agree that we need to search the Scriptures in order to receive the supply of life. However, many read the Bible without obtaining any life supply, because they study the Bible apart from the living Son of God.
ALL THE SIGNS POINTING TO THE LIVING SON OF GOD
In addition to the sign of the multitude of sick, blind, lame, and withered people, we have eleven signs in this chapter: the feast of the Jews, the sheepgate, the pool of Bethesda, the five porches, an angel of the Lord, the stirring up of the water, the Sabbath, John the Baptist, the Scriptures, Moses, and the searching of the Scriptures. All these signs point to the living Son of God. We need Christ, the Son of God, to be the reality for the supply of life. The signs in this chapter are typical, genuine, and pure. None of them is a mixture or related to anything heathen. But none of these matters should replace the Son of God. Only He can give us life. He works together with the Father as one (5:17-20), He gives life to people, and He judges (vv. 21-30, 40).
I am deeply concerned that many of us still have replacements of Christ. We may trust in the church life, we may trust in certain ways or practices, and we may trust in messages. I am burdened that we all realize that nothing apart from Christ can give us life. Only He who is the living Son of God, the One sent by God, is the life-giver. Because only He can give us life, we must contact Him.
Christ is everything to us. He is not only our feast of Passover, Pentecost, and tabernacles; He is also our feast of Purim, the feast of our lot and destiny. Our destiny is Christ. If we have Him, we pass out of death into life. But if we do not have Him, we remain in death. Christ is also our gate, our city, and our pool. He is the real stirring up of the water. John the Baptist cannot compare with Him. Because Christ is the real Word of God, we must come to Him when we read the Bible, instead of coming to the Scriptures apart from Him. If we do this, then as the Word of life, He will give us life. Christ is also our real Moses, the One sent to us by God. He speaks for God, and He speaks forth God. This means that He speaks God into us. We should not put our trust in anything or anyone apart from Christ. Only Christ can give us life.
Because Christ is the unique One who can give us life, we need to contact Him day by day and even moment by moment. He is not far from us, for he is in our mouth, in our heart, and in our spirit (Rom. 10:8). We simply need to open from the depths of our being and call on His name. Whenever we open to the Lord and call on Him in this way, we contact Him and receive Him.
According to John 20:22, Christ is the holy breath, the life-giving Spirit. Because He is this breath, we can breathe Him in at any time. But contacting the Lord in this way depends upon our breathing of Him. If we do not breathe Him into us, we shall not be able to contact Him and receive Him. Our need is to contact Christ, receive Christ, and live by Christ.
We should not allow even the best spiritual things to replace Christ. This principle applies to the church life and to any practices we have. Why do we come to the meetings? We should come not for the sake of the meetings themselves, but for the sake of the living One who is ministered to us through the meetings, the only One who is able to enliven us again and again. It is of vital importance that we see that no holy thing, no religious thing, no spiritual thing, no traditional thing, can replace Christ. Not even the most up-to-date practices or the most spiritual matters can replace Christ. Only the present Christ, the living Christ, the Christ we are enjoying and experiencing at this very moment, can be our genuine help. This, I believe, is the significance of all the signs in this chapter of John’s Gospel.
John 5 reveals that only Christ, the living Son of God, is the real fulfillment of the tabernacle and the offerings. The tabernacle and the offerings are not fulfilled by such things as the feast, the Sabbath, the gate, the city, the pool, the angel, the stirring up of the water, the Scriptures, or the searching of the Scriptures. Nor are they fulfilled by such persons as John the Baptist and Moses. The fulfillment of the tabernacle and the offerings is only by the living Son of God, the One who is now the life-giving Spirit, the holy breath for us to breathe in so that we may receive Him as our life supply.
In chapter three of the Gospel of John we see Christ as the brass serpent, as the Bridegroom, and as the all-inclusive One. In chapter four we see Christ as the fountain of living water and as the reality with which we render genuine worship to God. Now in chapter five we see that Christ is everything. Because Christ is everything, nothing in the sphere of religion should ever replace Him.
(The Fulfillment of the Tabernacle and the Offerings in the Writings of John, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)