By Jack L. Holt
In answer to the question in the tide of this article many would say, “No.” They claim they love Jesus and would never be offended in Him. In Matthew 11:6, Jesus spoke a very thought provoking beatitude, “Blessed is he who shall not be offended in me.” The word “offend” means “to stumble.” So what Jesus is saying is, “Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over me” (NASV).
Today, in the religious world as well as in the church, there are many who stumble over Jesus. To the Jews, Jesus was a stone of stumbling because He didn’t fit in with their concepts of what they thought the Messiah was to be. They stumbled at Him for they stumbled over the Scriptures about Him. Paul said, “Because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him” (Acts 13:27).
Paul shows that the willful ignorance of and prejudice against the Scriptures caused the Jews to have “blind spots.” The Scriptures were read every Sabbath day. The Jews professed respect for the Scriptures, but while sitting under the sound of the blessed word of God the truth of the Scriptures never penetrated through their prejudices. So when Jesus came in fulfillment of the Scriptures the Jews stumbled over Him.
Now today, many who profess to respect and believe the Scriptures stumble over Jesus. They stumble because they refuse to believe what He says. Peter wrote, “And a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word being disobedient: whereunto they were appointed” (1 Pet. 2:8). What is the teaching here? Did God appoint certain ones to stumble? If so, they couldn’t help but stumble. What God appointed was that those who refuse to believe would stumble. When men do not believe the word; they will stumble over the word.
Unbelief causes men to stumble over Jesus today. They stumble over Him for they stumble over His words. The Jews didn’t stumble over all the Scriptures, but they stumbled over the Scriptures which Jesus said “concerned Me.” They respected the Scriptures in their selective fashion. They were happy to say, “Moses said,” as long as what Moses said fit in with their traditions and concepts. But when the writings of Moses didn’t agree with what they thought Moses should have said, they stumbled at Moses and refused to believe his words. Jesus told them, “Had ye believed Moses ye would have believed me, for he wrote of me” (John 8:46).
Jesus condemned these Jews for their unbelief. Why? Because they stumbled at all the Scriptures? Nol They were condemned as unbelievers because they didn’t believe all the Scriptures. If you do not believe all the Scriptures, you do not really believe the Scriptures at all. What you have is merely a pretended Bible foundation for your unbelief! When men use the Scriptures merely to build a basis for their own human systems they have faith in themselves not in God.
There are multitudes today who will accept what Jesus says as long as what Jesus says agrees with their concepts of what they think He should say. They will go around saying, “The Bible says,” and they expect hearers to believe what they say because “the Bible says it.” But when Scriptures are quoted to them that do not fit in with their creeds or practices they stumble over the word through unbelief.
For example, many who pride themselves on being what they call, “conservative, evangelical Christians,” and who swim in the mainstream of what they call “theological scholarship,” will sign an affirmation stating, “that the Bible and the Bible alone is the word of God written and that it is inerrant in the original autographs.” They will further proclaim their belief in the virgin birth, the atoning death of Jesus and His bodily resurrection. And they will quote Scripture proving these. But when the Scripture is quoted where the resurrected Lord said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved . . . ” (Mk. 16:16), they stumble. Now why do they stumble? Because of unbelief They accept the Scriptures about the resurrection, but reject the Scriptures on salvation from Him who was resurrected!
If we realty believe in Jesus as Lord then we will accept the words of the Lord. What words? All of them. When man truly believes in Jesus they will believe all He said, just as the-Jews. If they had believed Moses, they would have believed all he said. But men often make themselves “lords” and become selective in their unbelief. You either believe all He said, or you don’t really believe in Him as Lord at all. Jesus is your Lord in all or He is not your Lord at all (Lk. 6.46). We need His guidance every step of the way, or we do not need it any of the way. If I can guide myself in one step, I can guide myself in every step. Jeremiah declared, “0′ Lord the way of man is not in himself, it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). But according to the selective belief crowd, man can select the steps he likes. He doesn’t need to look to Jesus as Lord in every step.
In James 2:10, a very vital truth about our attitude toward “the law of Christ,” is set forth. “Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend (stumble) in one point is guilty of all.” The vital truth here is that belief in Christ is not just respect for one part of His law. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). All the Scriptures come from God’s mouth (2 Tim. 3:16-17). A If His words have authority and must be accepted.
The Lord is telling us in James 2: 10 that the same authority that is behind one verse of Scripture in the “law of liberty” is the same authority that is behind every verse of Scripture. The same obligation that you have to believe one verse of Scripture, you have to believe every verse of Scripture. The Law of Christ is indivisible. You are guilty of unbelief when you follow a “pick and choose,” method of belief.
The context illustrates the point James is making. Notice his line of reasoning: “For He who said do not commit adultery said also, do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (Jas. 2:12-13). The lesson is plain. The believer will not put himself above the law at any point for in putting himself above the law he puts himself above the Lawgiver. In becoming a judge of the law at any point, he becomes a judge of the Lawgiver at that point. To judge the Lawgiver is rank unbelief anyway you cut it.
Some in the assemblies (Jas. 2) were making distinctions among men. In doing that, they were making distinctions in the law of Christ. They were saying, in effect, “Now this is important truth, but the other isn’t. We can make allowances on this point, but not on other points. We should keep this, but no need to keep that.”
In making these distinctions in the “perfect law,” James tells them plainly what they were doing, “they were committing sin” (2:9), and stood condemned by the law as transgressors. Can one in sin be approved by God? Maybe James should have been told that there was no need to make an issue over this for we can just sweep the whole thing under the rug of God’s grace! As I said before, so say I now again, “there is not one criticism that can be made against a faithful preacher of the Gospel that is not in reality made against Christ and the apostles.” To criticize truth is to criticize God!
The lesson in James 2, stands clear. Approval with God doesn’t depend on our acceptance of some truth, but on our readiness to accept all the truth. To accept the authority of Christ isn’t accepting some truth but all of His truth. Partial belief is unbelief, just as partial obedience is no obedience. King Saul didn’t really obey at all because he didn’t obey God in all (1 Sam. 15:22). The Jews believed much of what Moses said, but they were unbelievers because they didn’t believe all he said. Selective belief is, in reality, unbelief.
In Matthew 23:23, we have an example of professed believers making distinctions in God’s law. They stumbled by unbelief over some of its teachings. Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
Now why did Jesus pronounce this woe? Was He just “picking” on the Pharisees? Were they not religious? Sincere? Didn’t they believe Moses? Was our Lord void of love? Or, why didn’t Jesus realize that these religious people were just children of God in another fellowship? According to the teaching and practice of some, Jesus should have said, “Well, you brethren may be wrong about this. But I can’t be sure since truth is not fixed and the last word has not been spoken. So let us have a dialogue about your practice and in addition, an in depth study and perhaps we can hammer out some rules for fellowship on this whole matter. Meanwhile my love will forbid me to say you’re wrong.”
But Our Lord didn’t do that, and “He left us an example.” He condemned the Pharisees because they stumbled over the law. They practiced selectivity in what they believed. They thought the keeping of the parts of the law they considered important would excuse them from keeping other parts of the law. They put an unequal emphasis on truth. They stumbled at the authority of God in some points. Jesus then gave them a lesson on “Divine oughts.” He said, “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Jesus was a “stickler” for respecting and keeping the law of God. In this teaching, was Jesus teaching salvation by law keeping? No, He was showing that respect for, and belief in God is demonstrated by our attitude toward all that God says.
The Pharisees showed partiality in the law and thus became “judges of the law,” and in becoming judges of the law they sat in judgment on the Lawgiver. No, they didn’t stumble at every point, but they stumbled at the point they didn’t think important and the Judge of all called them “hypocrites.” His judgment was based on their attitude toward the law as a whole.
The true believer is one who does not stumble over the law of Christ at any point. Why not? Because he has made the giver of the law the Lord of his life (Lk. 6:46; Isa. 66:2; 1 Pet. 3:15). David said, “O’ how I love thy law . . . .” Why did David love the law? He loved the law because he loved the Lawgiver! If you love the Lawgiver, you will love His law. What part of it? Every part of it! Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments (law).” Which commandments? All of them. The believer will say, “0′ how I love thy perfect law of liberty, I will continue therein for in doing this I shall be blessed in my doing” (Jas. 1:25). God blesses those who keep His law.
Now it may be asked, “Are you a law keeper?” I sure am. If I am not a law keeper I am a law breaker or lawless. To act without law in religion is to sin (1 John 3:4; Matt. 7:23). I preach that men can be saved only by obeying “the law” of conversion, and we can worship acceptably only by following the law of worship and we can please Him in our service only when we observe His law of service. No, I don’t trust in law keeping, I trust in Him who gave the “perfect law of liberty.” If I love the Lawgiver I will love His law. The attitude I have toward the law shows the attitude I have toward the Lawgiver. We do not keep His law perfectly so we are not justified by law. But we can have a perfect attitude toward the law by recognizing that every precept is to be believed and obeyed. We must “trust and obey for there’s no other way.” The old T & 0 railroad, is the only way to heaven. Now do you stumble at any of His laws? Remember, “Blessed is he who keeps from stumbling over me.”
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 15, pp. 449, 472-473
August 2, 1984