John 5:39-40, “Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me. And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life.” A contrast is, in this important passage, presented between the national life to which we are referring, and the spiritual and eternal life which is the gift of God to His people. The Jews, to whom Jesus was speaking, were under no apprehension concerning their spiritual safety. They thought that, as the possessors of the Scriptures, they had eternal life; although they were rejecting Christ who alone could give them national life.
The Lord, however, points out their delusion, and makes them a public offer of safety under the term “life,” in the sense with which they were familiar, which national “life” (and He drops the term “eternal” in referring to it) they might have on receiving Him.
It is to be observed that He never represented spiritual and eternal life as obtainable in this manner. Verse 40, “Ye will not come unto Me, that ye might have life,” does not, therefore, refer to sinners, but to Jews as Jews—the coming was a reception of Christ as the Messiah in the days of His flesh, and does not intend the approach of a lost sinner to Christ for salvation; and the life is not that spiritual life which is the gift of God through Christ, but the life of the Jewish nation as such.