I recently read the compelling testimony of Rosaria Butterfield. Once an outspoken liberal lesbian intellectual, she put her trust in Jesus Christ and her life was transformed. She cites a passage in John 7 that made a deep impression on her as she listened to a sermon on this text:
“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” John 7.17
During the feast of Sukkot, Jesus was in Jerusalem and teaching in the temple. His wisdom and grasp of the Old Testament Scriptures astounded the Jews, and they asked themselves how He could be so learned without having had any formal education. On what authority could He say such things?
Jesus’ response in verse 17 has huge implications. As Rosaria Butterfield recalls her own experience,
“But God’s promises rolled in like sets of waves into my world. One Lord’s Day, [the pastor] preached on John 7:17: “If anyone wills to do [God’s] will, he shall know concerning the doctrine” (NKJV). This verse exposed the quicksand in which my feet were stuck. I was a thinker. I was paid to read books and write about them. I expected that in all areas of life, understanding came before obedience…But the verse promised understanding after obedience.” ~ Rosaria Butterfield
To many, especially those who fancy themselves intellectuals, the Bible seems illogical, unreasonable, untrustworthy, and even nonsensical. (Many of those who would level such charges have never actually read the Bible, but that is another matter.) Others say that a gospel which requires nothing for one to do is too simplistic to be true.
Jesus tells us that the questioning of His authority–and, hence, the authority of Scripture–indicates an unwillingness to obey God. The human heart is set against God, so anything that seeks to correct and redirect it is viewed as false and unreasonable. In his personal testimony of coming to Christ at Princeton University, Dr. John Whitcomb observed that if we seek to argue for the authority of Scripture on an academic level, we put the skeptic on an intellectual pedestal from which he or she will never step down. This is so true.
The issue of Jesus’ authority or the Bible’s authority is not an academic or scientific issue. It is not principally a matter of the head, but of the heart. If a person is sincerely interested in pleasing God, he or she will accept the authority of the Scriptures. To many, the Bible appears to defy reason. But, on the other side of the gospel, the new believer immediately realizes that it is the only thing that is truly reasonable. So many things quickly start to make sense–even the evening news.
A will to obey brings the ability to understand.