30. Searching the Scriptures (Jn 5:38-47)

John Chapter 5:38-47
And you do not have His Word abiding in you, for the One whom that One sent, this One you do not believe. (39) You search the Scriptures, for you think in them you have everlasting life. And they are the ones witnessing concerning Me. (40) And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (41) I do not receive glory from men; (42) but I have known you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. (43) I have come in the name of My Father, and you do not receive Me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive that one. (44) How are you able to believe, you who receive glory from one another, and the glory which is from the only God you do not seek? (45) Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father; there is one accusing you, Moses, in whom you have hoped. (46) For if you were believing Moses, you would then believe Me; for that one wrote concerning Me. (47) But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My Words?

Heaven and Hell 15.
In heaven there are two distinct loves, love to the Lord and love towards the neighbor, in the inmost or third heaven love to the Lord, in the second or middle heaven love towards the neighbor. They both go forth from the Lord, and they both make heaven. How these two loves are distinct and how they are conjoined is seen in heaven in clear light, but in the world only obscurely. In heaven loving the Lord does not mean loving Him in respect to His person, but it means loving the good that is from Him; and to love good is to will and do good from love; and to love the neighbor does not mean loving a companion in respect to his person, but loving the truth that is from the Word; and to love truth is to will and do it. This makes clear that these two loves are distinct as good and truth are distinct, and that they are conjoined as good is conjoined with truth. But this can scarcely be comprehended by men unless it is known what love is, what good is, and what the neighbor is.

Apocalypse Explained 815
“To believe in the Lord” signifies not only to adore and worship Him, but also to live from Him, and one lives from Him when he lives according to the Word which is from Him; therefore “to believe in Him” is to believe that He regenerates man, and gives eternal life to those who are regenerated by Him.

Apocalypse Explained 349.
“to believe in God” is to know, to will, and to do; but “to believe the things that are from God” is to know, and this is possible without willing and doing. Those who are truly Christians know, will, and do; but those who are not truly Christians only know;

Apocalypse Explained 805 .
What is religion except that man may so live that he may come into heaven, and that he may know how he should live? To know this is called doctrine; and to believe it and live according to it is called religion. From doctrine man will know not only what must be thought but also what must be done; for man must think that he may do, but not think what involves doing nothing.


If we read these words of the Gospel and see them as referring to others then we won’t be able to see much in them. But if we come to them from the perspective that all things contained within the Word are given for the sake of our salvation then we can begin to search the Scriptures in the right way. There are two ways we can approach the Scriptures, one is through natural reasoning and our own ideas and the other is to approach them from the Lord. Each will produce very different results. If we approach them from our natural reasoning then we will work from the appearances of the letter with a view to confirming in them self derived beliefs that promote the loves of self and the world clothed in the externals of religion to give them some form of credibly.

In this way the natural man takes the Scriptures and makes them subject to the judgement and authority of natural loves. If on the other hand we approach the Scriptures from the Lord then we approach them from what they testify concerning themselves, that they are the Divine truth within which is the Divine love and speak of that love in terms of how it appears to human and angelic consciousness, then we are empowered by the Word to have our natural self orientated mind made subject to the authority of the Word.

The Word seeks to lead us out of the hell of our selfishness. In order to achieve this He has to instruct us as to who the Lord is, that we live for ever, and that there is a heaven and a hell. The Word is the means by which these important concepts are implanted in people’s minds. At first they fall into the mind and develop into an external natural view of spiritual things. This is their foundation. The Lord is seen as existing somewhere up in a heaven outside of us and both heaven and hell are regarded as places people go to after they die. The Word is read in natural terms and seems to confirm this view on every page. We read of those who follow the Lord and are bound for heaven and we read of those, like “the Jews” being spoken to in our reading for today, who are apposed to the Lord and are bound for hell. People are seen as either good or evil.

But this is a natural understanding of spiritual things built on appearances from the letter of the Word. Its use is to give us some basic foundational concepts so that we can move to a spiritual understanding which takes a very different view of the Word. A spiritual understanding of these things only begins to develop when we begin to see that the Word doesn’t speak of others out there in the world but speaks of the world within our minds, our psychological and spiritual world. Slowly we come to see that the Lord is not off in some externalised heaven, but is in fact the Word itself and that heaven and hell are within us. Heaven is in those things of the Word we have had worked into our life through obedience to its commandments and hell is the love of self and the world that makes up the proprium. That the people in the Word that follow the Lord are those aspects within us that are willing to obey the Word and that those who oppose the Lord are those things within belong to the proprium.

So when the Word says things to the Jews, as in our reading today, we have an opportunity to be instructed about the proprium and its attitude towards the Divine Truth. It says of it…”you are not willing to come to me that you may have life”…”I have known you, that you do not have the love of God within yourself”…”I have come in the name of the Father, and you do not receive Me”…”you receive another who comes in his own name”…”you seek the glory of another but not the glory of the only God”. These statements are teaching given to instruct us concerning what stands in the way of the Lord being more fully present in our lives and it is given so that we might see the nature of what we are all to often identified with in the hope that we might take the initiative the Lord has given us and look to Him for a new life. It’s not about the Jews in history, it’s about the states of life the proprium has us bound up in.

To search the Scriptures in the “right way” is to look to the Lord to have them reveal what is required of us. In other words our search needs to be made with an aim to respond to what is revealed concerning ourselves. For this to happen when we come to the Scriptures we need to have firmly in mind that we are coming to the Lord. The Word is our teacher and we are its disciples if we are looking to be instructed from it so that we can live 0ur life in obedience to it. We need to learn to put our own agenda’s aside and with humility sit at the feet of the Word so that we might be led by it in the path of life. This is done by being conscious or spiritually awake when reading it and allowing it to instruct us concerning ourselves. It is helpful to read slowly and prayfully so that we remind ourselves constantly in our reading that it is addressing states in our own life.

At the centre of the New Church is the worship of the Lord God Jesus Christ. But we need to ask ourselves what do we understand by this name? It’s important because what we connect this name will have a major bearing on what we understand by worship and how we live our lives. Most peoples’ thought on hearing this name centres on a mental image of a person in history and goes no further. But the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity teach us that the words “Lord” and “Jesus” mean the Divine Love and that the words “God” and “Christ” mean the Divine Truth, and that by presenting them together in a single statement speaks to the marriage or Oneness of the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom.

We also learn from the Heavenly Doctrines that the Word itself is the marriage of the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom. Further to this, we learn that a human being is not a human being by virtue of them having a material body. That the material body people find themselves in actually contains the human being who is made up of loves and the thoughts that come from them. The material human form is how the spirit, that is our thoughts and affections, is represented on the material plane to our physical senses.

The same applies to the Word. Its letter is the means by which the Lord presents Himself to our physical senses and so in this sense continues to serve as His bodily representation on the material plane of creation. The letter is made up of natural ideas taken from the material world. It uses ideas of people and events set in a historical framework. It talks of rocks, and trees and mountains and rivers and seas, of journeys and geographical boundaries, of wars, times of famine and times of peace, it is filled with objects from the natural world and implements and structures that have be built by human hands, we see the rise and fall of nations and kingdoms, the letter speaks of evils committed, of sin and death, of courage and compassion.

The letter of the Word has a very ordinary human look and feel to it, and on its surface appears to contain many of the same flaws we find in our own human nature. It appears to be born of this world, even as the historical Jesus who represented the Word on the lowest plane of life by all external appearances seemed to be an ordinary human being no different to you and me. In being born into the world the Divine clothed Itself in human imperfections to represent the Word itself, to teach us concerning the nature of the Word and direct our thought little by little beyond its literal sense and into the glory that lies within. The factors and events around the Lord’s birth and life in the world points us to the higher spiritual reality of His birth into finite human minds as the Divine truth where He is clothed time and again within our own imperfect, very human, finite understanding of the Word.

We are instructed that the Word presents human consciousness in an imperfect form on the surface so that we don’t get caught up in judging it from natural human reasoning. This is why the teachings for Spiritual Christianity found in the Heavenly Doctrines are so important; for they enable us to put our own tendency to judge the Word from natural appearances on hold while allowing what is deeper within it, that speaks of those things concerned with living a spiritual life, shine forth from within its letter.

The letter is for the natural man and serves him by providing the basis for a natural religion. The natural man or understanding can’t see beyond the letter, but the spiritual man or understanding can. But to see from the spiritual man we need to be instructed in doctrines that can serve as the ground from which we can be born from above. Spiritual doctrine is given that we might have access to knowledge about the Word and what it is to live from it. As we put that knowledge into practise we come into an understanding of its application to the life of our thoughts and affections which opens the way for the wisdom to be born within us.

Of the natural man or what is of the proprium the Word says this…

v38 you do not have His Word abiding in you, for the One whom that One sent, this One you do not believe.

To be saved from our selfishness we need to have the Word abiding in us, and it can only abide in us if we believe what the Word or Moses testifies concerning itself, that God is the Word. If we believe this then we will approach the Word as our God, with humility in readiness to respond to what it brings up for us in our life. As we respond so the Word comes to be in us and we in the Word. “The Jews” who represent what is opposed to the Word within us, i.e. the love of self or proprium, can’t receive the Word because there is nothing within it that desires what is of heaven.

Thankfully there is more to us than just our proprium. The things of the Word are able to provide a higher sense of ourselves through which we can be separated from what is lower. The Word when it passes into our minds is able to awaken a deeper sense of ourselves founded on the remains of what is good and true that the Lord has carefully planted within us over the course of our lives. These form a remnant of spiritual awareness which, once awakened, open us up to the possibility of having our sense of self removed from what is of the loves of self and the world and joined to loves of a heavenly quality. Our awakening to what is higher though, can only occur as we affirm truths we are brought into contact with through living from them.

We have said many times before that having the Word doesn’t make us spiritual. What makes a person spiritual is living from it. The natural man can appear to be religious, but it’s a religion based on the loves of self and the world. In other words when the natural man is involved in religious things self interest is foremost in its motivations. Hence we see the Lord confronting “the Jews”, that is our proprium saying…

Joh 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures, for you think in them you have everlasting life. And they are the ones witnessing concerning Me. (40) And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

Searching the Scriptures without seeing the Lord within them is wasted effort. There is an important truth revealed here and it is this, the Lord and the Word are one. The natural man looks to separates them by holding to a mental image of the Lord as one thing and seeing the Word as another. The message of the gospel of John is one that seeks to bring us to the Word as God. By separating the two the natural man can conveniently hold to the image of the Lord it creates for itself to supports his own agenda and from this use natural reasoning to manipulate the Scriptures to support his self seeking actions and avoid examining himself in the light of truths.

If we are not willing to confront the hold our proprium has on us our identity will remain inextricably woven into its machinations and as the proprium is nothing but evil we remain subject to the influences of the hells. Divine revelation is not given to give us knowledge of others; it’s given so that we can know what is in us and how it can be dealt with. The proprium cannot but want to be exalted above all others; the love of self is a love of dominating others and it will, given the opportunity, work to falsify the Word to put itself in a better light. The Word must be approached as the Lord for it is the One thing that can set us free, for it is Divine truth and as the Lord of that truth…you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

Amen.

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