"Have You Not Read This Scripture?"
The scriptures comprise Godís means of communicating to man in this final dispensation (cp. Heb. 1: 1, 2, 2 John 9-11, John 12: 48). It is possible for man to err regarding his understanding of the scriptures (Mark 12: 24). To err has serious, attendant consequences that can involve one not having salvation (Jas. 5: 19, 20). While there are a number of ways in which man can err from the scriptures, one common way is for man to fail to take all that the scriptures say regarding a given subject. Man may know some relevant scriptures to a given subject, but fail to be conversant with other germane scriptures that impart important information. Many of the Jews contemporary with Jesus missed out on his Messiahship and his offered salvation because they failed to understand his mission and kingdom. While they were familiar with some scriptures pertaining to his coming, they were ignorant of others. In was in such a setting that Jesus asked the following question, the question that introduces and establishes the concept of and for our study:
"10: And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: 11: This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 12: And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way" (Mark 12).
The scripture that they had failed to read was Palms 118: 22. Hence, they had a flawed understanding of Jesus. In the case of these Jews of whom Jesus asked, "And have ye not read this scripture," they did not profit from Jesusí instruction, but were rebellious, rejecting the offer to consider the additional information residing in Palms 118: 22.
Let us now take the principle and concept mentioned by Jesus of, "And have ye not read this scripture" and apply it to common religious circumstances today, circumstances in which people err because they have failed to consider the information found in a contributing and augmenting scripture.
The matter of saving belief. Most of the religious world has fully accepted the teaching of salvation by "faith only." According to this theology, it is believed and taught that man is saved at the point of simply accepting that Jesus lived, died, was resurrected, and wants to by manís Savior. The so called "sinnerís prayer" was written by men to accommodate the belief of salvation by faith only. It is also taught that agreeing to Jesus being the Savior is all that is involved, there is not anything following this act that is necessary to manís justification. If Jesus were on earth today, teaching in the circumstances that he did in Mark 12, I am convinced that he would ask them, "And have ye not read this scripture." Consider one such pertinent scripture:
"24: Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.25: Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26: For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also" (Jas. 2).
While it is true that man is not saved by meritorious works, still man must reach out and accept Godís grace for it not to be in vain (Eph. 2: 8-10, 2 Cor. 6: 1). Passivity of faith only makes one equal to the demons who believe and tremble, but do not accept Godís teaching (Jas. 2: 19).
The case of repentance. In todayís religious climate of "do your own thingism," there is not much said about repentance. After all, belief plus repentance" makes salvation by faith only wrong. When "repentance" is mentioned, it is often passively presented, just as faith. Yet, repentance is an action word and concept. The church at Corinth needed to repent, this Paul told them on various occasions (2 Cor. 7). Repentance has its own attendant fruit, without which there is no repentance (cp. Matt. 3: 8). While repentance is not reformation of life, when there is repentance, there will be reformation. One such scripture that teaches this is the following:
"10: For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 11: For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (2 Cor. 7).
The circumstance of confession. There are different confessions observed in the scriptures. For instance, there was the confession associated with John the Baptistís teaching, a confession of sin (Matt. 3: 6). The Christian is taught to confess sin to God (I John 1: 7f.). Confession may involve the acknowledgement of sin committed against another and the request for their forgiveness (Luke 17: 3, 4). There is the ongoing confession of Jesus and allegiance to him (Matt. 10: 32, 33). Akin to and actually preceding this last mentioned confession is the confession make prior to baptism, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8: 35-40, KJV). In Romans 10, Paul is addressing the matter of his Jewish brethren being lost and his desire to have them saved. It is in this setting that Paul wrote:
"8: But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; 9: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10: For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11: For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed" (Rom. 10).
It is evident that many, especially those who teach salvation by faith only, have not read Romans 10: 9-11. This confession is "unto salvation" and the salvation here contemplated is initial salvation, not simply some "secondary sense of salvation." Paul presents this necessary confession as both evidence and a fruit of belief (vs. 11).
The matter of water baptism. Throughout the religious world, we hear the teaching that water baptism has absolutely no part to play in the lost obtaining salvation, but is rather a sign of one having already obtained salvation. Yet, there are many scriptures that it appears they have not read.
"37: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2). "16: And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22). "21: The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (I Pet. 3).
One religious belief system or faith. People have accepted hook, line, and sinker the belief that many different faiths are acceptable and pleasing to God. Such has been so absorbed in our age of toleration and diversity that most never question or think about such perhaps not being as it should be. Again, there are verses that they have not read. Paul was no hypocrite; he presented the truth where ever he was. Yet, Paul wrote the following:
"17: For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church" (I Cor. 4).
Paul was able to, "Öteach every where in every church" because there was "one faith" (Eph. 4: 5).
There is only one church. Just as there is "one faith" or belief system, there is also "one church." Consider Paulís statement to the Christians at Ephesus as he teaches and enjoins on them unity:
"3: Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6: One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4).
Beloved, denominationalism is the product of man and is not sanctioned in the scriptures.
We must realize that when we study Godís word, it is authoritative and constitutes the only belief system for the Christians, human creeds and dogmas are condemned (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17, Mark 7). We must also beware that one scripture may modify, qualify, and augment another. Hence, all that is said on a given subject must be considered. This is what Jesus meant when he said, "And have ye not read this scriptureÖ." (Mark 12: 10). "This scripture" points to a specific scripture that greatly influenced the subject. May we respectfully approach Godís word and ever be mindful of "this scripture" and unlike the Jews of Mark 12, be willing to consider the instruction to consider "this scripture," this is our sincere desire. (Related reading would be, "Hermeneutics, Handling Aright The Word" and, "Bible Authority, a Closer Look")