WHAT SEEK YE?
T. Pierce Brown
In John 1:37-38 we find an incident of two disciples of John who followed Jesus. In verse 38, we find, “And Jesus turned, and beheld them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? And they said unto him, Rabbi (which is to say, being interpreted, Teacher), where abidest thou?” We do not know why Jesus used the word “what” instead of “whom.” We do know that it appears that a large number connected with the Lord’s church have been seeking “what” instead of “whom.”
Some of you may remember a few years ago when an article entitled “The Plan or the Planner” was published. I do not remember who wrote it, and certainly do not remember the names of the large number of persons who became involved (or embroiled) in the controversy that was created because of it. I am not even sure what caused the controversy, but my faulty memory tells me it was that some person thought the author was implying or suggesting that if you just accept Jesus, you do not need to bother about the plan of salvation.
This article may cause the same sort of controversy. I hope not, for I deny that one can accept Jesus and disregard his plan. What I am trying to point out is that many apparently think they have accepted the plan of salvation but have not accepted the planner. Surely every experienced preacher of the gospel is aware that there are many connected with the Lord’s church that are never present for the activities of the church. If you should visit them and ask, “What is your religious connection?” they would reply, “I am aChurchofChrist.” If you should say, “I do not remember seeing you there for the last 5 years that I have been preaching there,” they would reply, “I have been baptized.”
Surely there can be no question that such a person has, in effect, sought the plan of salvation, but is not particularly concerned about the planner. He may even know a lot about Christ, but to have Christ dwell in his heart by faith that he may be rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17) is no part of his life.
This is one of many things wrong with the denominational plea to “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” It is possible to want Jesus as your savior without accepting him as Lord of your life. Thousands have tried to do that. Of course one cannot actually do that, for Christ will not be your savior without being your Lord. This is apparent when one reads Acts 2:36-38. When Peter was finishing part of his sermon, he pointed out that “this same Jesus whom ye crucified hath been made both Lord and Christ.” It was when they accepted the Lordship of Christ that they could properly be told, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins” (Acts2:38). This is not advocating the so-called “Lordship baptism” espoused and practiced by those in the Crossroads andBostonmovements. It is a strong affirmation that if you do not want Christ as Lord of your life, you need not expect him to be your savior. It is possible to want the gift of eternal life without really wanting the Giver. It is not possible to get it, but the point of my article is, “What seek ye?”
You need to be aware that if you get the proper relationship with the Giver, you will have the gift. If you accept the Planner properly, you must accept him according to the plan. If you have Christ dwell in your heart, it must be by faith. So you must know about Christ. Yet you surely must know that one can know about Christ and not have Christ. We can seek the “what” and not the “Whom.”
We could say it in several different ways. It is possible to know the words of Christ without really knowing the Word. “And this is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ” (John 17:3). It is possible for an atheist to know the words of God and Christ, but it is not possible for him to know Christ and remain an atheist.
We may seek to have wisdom without seeking the Source of wisdom. We may seek to have the power of the Spirit without having the Spirit of power. We may seek the remission of sins without really seeking the Remitter of sins. We may want peace without wanting the Prince of Peace. It should not be hard for any thoughtful person to realize that this sort of thing is the basis for many of our problems, both in the church and in the world. There are many nations and people that want peace. They do not realize that true peace can never come for any extended period as long as people are filled with their own selfish interests. It can only come when persons or groups put the principles of the Prince of Peace first.
The thing we need to know is that when we get the greater, we automatically get the lesser. The reverse is not always true. Each of us needs to examine the question, “What seek ye?” in terms of our activities. When you obeyed the gospel, were you primarily interested in what you thought you would get, or who would give it to you? If you were primarily interested in the former, and did not get beyond that stage, you have never done much for Christ nor for humanity. When you come to the church services, what seek ye? Do you come to visit, see friends and simply enjoy singing, or do you come to glorify and praise God, edify each other and become more Christlike? When you take the Lord’s Supper, what seek ye? Do you seek to discharge this duty so you can get out and get on the road to your vacation spot? Do you take it because you think it has some sacramental power to protect you from physical or spiritual harm? When you talk with your friends and neighbors, what seek ye? Do you seek to kill time by idle conversation, or do you seek to glorify God and convert a sinner from the error of his way?
It is proper to seek a “what” after you have sought a “whom”, but we always need to be aware of the proper priorities. When the Apostles asked in response to this question, “Where are you staying?” they may have been trying to suggest that they were not merely seeking “what” but they were seeking Jesus and wanted to abide with him.
Whether we are seeking “what” or “whom” it is vital that we do what Jesus said: “Come and see.” Is Christianity really worth living? Come and see. Will you have the strength to go on and live if you start? Come and see (1 Corinthians10:13). Can I lead others to Christ if I try? Come and see. Can I find a peace that passes understanding? Come and see.
Many years ago, at about4 a.m., after studying God’s word with a man until about that time, I said to him, “Try Christ for 30 days. If you are not completely satisfied, return the unused portion and your money will be cheerfully refunded.” I had tried every other way to get through to him, and that silly remark got through. It will either cost you nothing, or it will cost you everything. The wonderful truth about it is that although it may cost you everything, you will get back all you put into it and much more. “He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew10:39), and much more.