And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And 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.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28)
Now in our day, we think of a lawyer as one who represents an accused in court, but that is not the role of this man coming to Jesus with a question about eternal life. In those days, a lawyer was synonymous with scribe – as in one who studied and interpreted the Law and would instruct youth in the Law. They were in essence scholars and teachers and quite literally their text of study and teaching from was the Law.
So when this lawyer came to ask Jesus this question of how to inherit eternal life, it was purely to put Jesus to the test. However, in response, Jesus didn’t give the lawyer the answer, He instead asked him two questions. These two questions – What is written in the Law? How do you read it? – were seemingly two fold. One aspect is directing the attention to what the Law says and the context of its meaning, and the other is in essence bringing to light that someone such as a lawyer who studies and teaches the Law should know the answer to the question they’re asking. This is similar in how Jesus responded to Nicodemus when speaking about being born again and Nicodemus said, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? (John 3:9-10)
Context Matters, Continuity Matters, Truth Matters.
For us, who may not be scholars of the Law, this line of questioning still leads us to understand that it’s not just a matter of knowing what is written in God’s word, but HOW we read it. If we don’t read the Bible in context, we can interpret all kinds of false things from it that’s not in continuity with the truth of the rest of God’s word.
Out of context, we see things written in the bible that can be completely twisted, such as an atheist claiming even the Bible says “There is no God.”; or when going through a rough time in life claiming that though “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” or that God won’t give us more than we can handle. But these aren’t true, they are misconstrued. In reality and in true context, those verses are:
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)
If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” (Malachi 1:4)
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
There are amazing truths and promises in the Bible that God has given to us, but if we start twisting context, there is no power or promise in those. This question that the lawyer asked in how to inherit eternal life is a super important one, but it’s by the truth of God’s word that we truly find the answer and can live.
Jesus is the Word, the Way, the Truth, and the Life – that is the true context, that is continuous throughout the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. He is the Name above all names and the only Name by which we are saved. Those truths matter!
And it’s those truths that we see in the answer to what is written in the Law - “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.” Of which we see that Jesus said in Matthew 22 that on these two commandments the whole Law and prophets depend.
Although the lawyer asked this question to test Jesus, the answer remains true and is profitable for us. Jesus told this lawyer, do this, and you will live and likewise, just as James admonishes us to be doers of the word and not hearers only, and that faith without works is dead, we need to not only read the Bible, but we need to read it in context and do it.
What should our takeaway be this week? Love God and love others, but don’t just read and know this – do it and live!