If Ye Continue in My Word
© 2022 C. O. Bishop
John 8:30-32, 36
We can see that, in the previous verses, there was a division forming amongst the Jews. The “better educated” (and proud) Pharisees, along with the Scribes, the Levites, and the Priesthood all tended to reject Jesus: He wasn’t one of them!
The less-educated, usually less prosperous people, because of the miracles, were increasingly aware that He was actually doing something. There was substance to His ministry! The other leaders “talked a good fight,” but mainly excelled in taking the money and the flocks of the poor.
Jesus was actually teaching people to know God. The Priests, the Scribes, and the Pharisees said that was what they were doing, but in fact only laid heavier and heavier burdens of Law-keeping on the people. That only left them further away than ever, knowing their inability to walk in the Holiness of God. But Jesus pointed out, in front of all the people, that the Scribes and Pharisees made no attempt to lift that load themselves. (Matthew 23:4 “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”)
As a result of this division growing among them, many of the people had begun to truly believe in Jesus (verse 30.)
30 As he spake these words, many believed on him.
But notice the change in verse 31.
Speaking to Believers
Jesus is no longer speaking to unbelievers: He is speaking to believers! This is an important shift: To the unbelievers, He had just warned, “Ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins.”
But to these new, baby believers, He had a different admonition: He did not warn of a coming judgment, but rather exhorted them to move forward from being just believers, and to become disciples.
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
Being born again does not guarantee that a person will become a disciple; a follower of Jesus. We are called to follow Jesus. We are called to be obedient to His Word. We are called to feed on His Word, as newborn babies nurse hungrily to obtain their mother’s milk. (1st Peter 2:2)
We are called to continue in His Word: press on to maturity, following Him as dear children, but growing as we feed on His Word, to become the mature believers He calls us to become, teaching others, functioning as ambassadors, and shining as lights in this dark world.
What happened when they believed? What changed?
Back in John 1:12, we saw that people who believed on His name became children of God. In John 3:3, and John 3:14-16, Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he (Nicodemus) was born again, he was not going to enter into the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus was confused by that, so Jesus reminded him of the account of Moses making the bronze serpent in the desert. (You can read all about it in Numbers 21:5-9.)
He was told to hang it up high on a pole, so everyone could see it. God’s promise was that if anyone was bitten by one of the thousands of deadly snakes He had sent to punish them for sin, they were to look to that serpent on the pole and they would not die. They were still sinners; they still had the bite marks on their leg, but they were not going to die of that bite. Jesus explained to Nicodemus that, in the same manner, those who looked to Him in faith, would escape the eternal judgment of God.
When we first believed, the judgment of eternal separation from God in the lake of fire was permanently lifted and we became children of God. That has permanently put you into the family of God. But if you want to be a working part of the “Family Business,” reaching out to see precious souls rescued from that final judgment on sin, then it requires that you get out of your “comfort zone” and follow Jesus!
Peter was called several times, before he finally broke free from his old life and faithfully served Jesus. John Mark was rejected for service by Paul, because of an uncommitted life: Because of unreliability. But “Uncle Barnabas” stepped in, took John Mark under his wing, so to speak, and made a disciple of him. (You can read all about that in Acts 15:36-39. Incidentally, John Mark is the fellow we know as Mark, the writer of the Gospel according to Mark.) You see, people have to grow into being a mature disciple. They aren’t “born that way,” as a rule.
Position versus Condition
The position of these believers changed forever, the moment they placed their faith in Jesus as their Messiah. They were permanently saved, just like the thief on the Cross. But once that position has been secured, the focus changes.
Throughout a pregnancy, all of the mother’s family and friends are solicitous for the health of the mother and baby, and a safe delivery. Once the child is born, however,the focus begins to change! Now they are watching the child grow and develop into a walking, talking, strong and mature human being. They feel joy to see that child increasing in size, strength and ability.
Jesus was refocusing their attention on the next step: Becoming disciples. Their position in His family was secure forever, but in order to see and understand that security, they needed to begin feeding on the Word and walking in the Word and Growing in the Word. That would change their condition.
They would grow into a knowledge of Christ that was more and more full. Then they could know the freedom from fear and the confidence that comes with a stable walk with God. They could become free of the entangling sins that once tormented them. Your condition can change, for better or for worse. Your position in Christ is secure forever, from the moment you trusted Him as your Savior.
Knowing the Truth
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
This verse has been misused by believers and unbelievers alike, for different reasons. The believers claim that if you know (as a fact), that the Bible is true, then you will be free (from the ravages of sin.) The unbelievers say the opposite, that if you know (as a fact) that the Bible is a collection of myths and fairytales, then you will be free from the slavery to a mythical God.
The issue, in both cases, is that the word in this verse, which has been translated as “know,” is a form of the Greek word “gnosko.” It specifically means a relational, growing, experiential knowledge of a person or a concept…not simply “accepting something as a fact.”
Jesus was inviting the people to get to know Him! Verse 36 confirms this, saying “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Later on, Jesus will confirm that He, Himself is the Truth (John 14:6.)
How can we relationally know Jesus well enough to be “Free?”
The Christian experience is called “walking” for several reasons, but primarily because it is not “gliding, or coasting.” We have to “march along,” one step at a time, every day, in order to “walk with Jesus.” Sometimes it may feel as though all we are doing is “plodding.” It is not always exciting, nor will it always feel “fun.” It requires effort on our part, if for no other reason, just because it is hard to maintain faith when we are under constant attacks on our faith.
The World Hates Jesus
I find it interesting that the World does not attack the cults in this way. It doesn’t care about them. It does not attack myths, or superstitions in this way: it doesn’t care about them.
It attacks the Gospel and the Person of Christ: because the Gospel is true, and the Jesus Christ we serve is not only our Savior, but is also the Judge of all the Universe! The World hated Jesus and it hates us along with Him.
No one is attacking Islam, or constantly mocking it. They are afraid to do so. Look what happened to Salman Rushdie! 33 years after he was foolish enough to publish a book of satire, mocking Mohammed, and 33 years after some Imam wrote a “Fatwah” against him (putting a contract out on him) he was attacked in public by a Muslim man with a knife…and has at least lost an eye…and still may die of his other wounds.
No one is going out of their way to attack the many “Swamis and Gurus” coming out of India to claim an “inside connection to God” and get rich off of foolish Americans. Unless they break some law and can be prosecuted for that, the fact is, no one cares!
No one is going out of their way to attack the Hari Krishnas…why? Because they are part of the “comfortable darkness of this world” and the world simply doesn’t care about them.
Called to Walk
We are called to “walk by faith.” We are also told that “If we walk in the light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, cleanseth us from All Sin.” (1st John 1:7) We are called to shine as lights in the darkness…and the darkness does not appreciate it!
We are called to Walk with Jesus! And, as we do so persistently, in that, after the world has tripped us, or dragged us down, we keep on “getting up and walking again,” we “get to know Jesus.” As we walk with Him, we gain experiential, relational knowledge of the Person of Christ, of His Love, His Forgiveness, His Faithfulness, and His Truth.
We get to see, personally, how Jesus keeps His promises. And as our faith grows, we become increasingly free of the baggage of our old sins, and free from the “twin, yapping dogs” of self-condemnation and guilt. We learn to set aside our old sin nature, and to rejoice that Jesus has lifted the Curse of the Law, taking it off of our shoulders completely, and bearing it all on Himself at the Cross. We find that we are truly made Free. We are free to serve Him out of Love and gratitude.
Not a “Self-Help Scheme”
This is not something we can “plan out and accomplish on our own:” In John 15:5, Jesus said, “…apart from Me ye can do nothing.” It was the simple truth: We are facing invisible enemies in a universe we do not understand, and attempting to function in what is effectively a “maze,” most of which we cannot see at all. The only thing we can do is walk by faith!
We can’t decide for ourselves to “become wise:” We can obediently study and meditate upon God’s Word and He can begin to change our foolish hearts so that we become wise: but God’s Word accomplished the change, not us!.
When we choose to walk with Jesus, we begin to discover what He has chosen for us to do. As we continue walking with Him, we discover the Joy of being part of His work, in the fellowship of the Gospel.
Only to Believers
The promise in John 8:32 is only to believers. To unbelievers, the invitation remains: “Whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish.” And “Whosoever will, let Him come!”
Once you have been born again, the call is to immerse yourself in His Word, and continue in His Word, so as to become true disciples, and to be set free from your old slavery to Sin and fear. An unbeliever cannot receive that, without first being Born again into God’s family. That is when spiritual life begins, from God’s perspective. But believers are called to Feed, to Walk, and to Grow.
Lord Jesus, we ask for Your Grace to be poured out upon us. Transform our hearts through Your Word. Change us into Your likeness, and allow us to be Your representatives, here on Earth. Change our hearts so that we may shine as lights in the World.