John 5:38 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

John 5:38, NIV: "nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent."

John 5:38, ESV: "and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent."

John 5:38, KJV: "And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not."

John 5:38, NASB: "Also you do not have His word remaining in you, because you do not believe Him whom He sent."

John 5:38, NLT: "and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me--the one he sent to you."

John 5:38, CSB: "You don't have his word residing in you, because you don't believe the one he sent."

What does John 5:38 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jesus has been explaining three forms of evidence to support His claims, in accordance with Jewish law (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6). The first two of these were human testimony from John the Baptist (John 5:33) and direct observations from His own miracles (John 5:36). Seeing miracles is a much more powerful evidence than human testimony. However, to the Jewish religious leaders, nothing should have been as effective as the evidence of God's written Word (John 5:37). And yet, these men are rejecting Jesus. According to the prior verse, they have not heard the voice of God, so they don't recognize the One God sent as His living message (John 1:18).

This verse explains part of how that is possible. It's a simple thought that human beings often try to ignore: those who refuse to believe will not believe, evidence or not. Jesus will point this out in a later discussion: a person cannot understand the gospel unless they are first obedient enough to hear from God (John 7:17). James, one of the earliest-written books of the New Testament, makes it clear that "knowing" is not the same as "trusting" (James 2:19), and so mere "knowledge" is not the same as saving faith (James 2:14).

This, as Jesus will prove, is the core problem facing people such as the Pharisees. They are more interested in their own traditions (Matthew 15:6), power (John 11:48), and prestige (John 9:34) than the truth. So, even though they've been given all the evidence they need (John 9:41), they do not—they will not—believe (John 5:40). As upcoming verses will note, this is not a matter of knowledge, it is a question of will.