“Then said Jesus unto the Jews which believed in him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed, and ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31, 32
Jesus had an inner circle of disciples, called the twelve. They were not all real, spiritual learners. Even here there was one who is called the son of perdition by Christ. He was Judas Iscariot. He did not abide in the word of Jesus. He claimed to believe in Jesus, followed Him, even cast out devils in Christ’s Name once. But he could not rejoice that his name was written in heaven in the Book of Life.
There have been many who “believed” in Jesus, made profession of His name, but who did not continue in Jesus’ Word.
Jesus had been preaching in Jerusalem; He taught in the temple in the treasury building. He boldly proclaims Himself as the Son of God, the One who will be lifted up. And He encounters solid and confirmed unbelief. These people could not possibly believe Jesus, because they did not know the heavenly Father, who had sent Jesus to speak. If anyone knows the Father he will also know Jesus. He had done many wonderful works in the Father’s name. But all is to no avail in these unbelieving Jews. Hence, they will die in their sins. The only Savior they will not know. They will be their own Savior. Yes, when Jesus is lifted up on the tree, and when He is set down on the Father’s right hand, and will perform from heaven His great and might acts by the preaching of the Gospel, then these Jews will know that a prophet has been in their midst, who spoke nothing of Himself, but who spoke what He was told to say. The Word which Jesus has spoken will judge them!
Such will die in their sin. And they will die in their sin by which they add sin to sin. To the sin of their depravity in Adam they now will add the sins of total unbelief, and the rejection of the Christ, be ever more disobedient to His word, and perish everlasting in hell in their sins! These are not disciples at all! These are children of their father, the devil. He was the murderer of man from the beginning. To this liar, and murderer, these unbelieving Jews listen. They do the will of Satan, they are in bondage of sin, death and hell forever!
Now, there was some positive fruit on Jesus preaching here in the temple. The positive fruit was evident in those who heard Jesus preach to these unbelieving Jews and denounce them for their unbelief. They believed in Jesus. There were many who believed. However, their faith needs strengthening. And they need the warnings, threatenings, of the Word of Jesus. They must make their calling and election sure. They must know whether they are disciples indeed. They must know whether they are ingrafted into Christ Himself by a true and saving faith. It must be more than what is called temporary faith. They must not be like seed that is sown in shallow ground, and which springs up quickly, but, which, when the sun and heat arise, withers and dries because it has no depth of earth. And, therefore, Jesus immediately warns these many who professed faith in His Word that the proof of true discipleship is known from this earmark: Continuing in my word!
You have, dear reader, gone through another year of Catechism, Society and Bible Study. You have needed this study and this prayerful reading of the Scriptures. You have needed to do this believingly and not merely as some intellectual exercise. You have needed to eat and drink this word by faith and hear that it was Christ’s Word, which He speaks in the name of the Father who sent Him. You must have heard your heavenly Father speak to you, His children, His son and daughter. You must also have remembered what you studied and cherish it in your heart as a great treasure, the pearl of great price. Jesus says to you and me in the Bible: if ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed.
It is His warning finger!
But Jesus says more. He also says that those who continue in His Word shall “know the truth”. What truth? Any truth about some news event in history? The actual facts about a certain court case and the procedures of the courts? To have a head full of intellectual knowledge about the Bible? To be able to recite many passages of Scripture from memory? Jesus uses a verb in the Greek here translated “shall know” which means; experiential knowledge. It is the knowledge of God in Christ which spells eternal life, joy, peace, hope, victory. It means to know Christ who is the truth! He is all that He says He is, as the one who speaks in name of the Father. He is the very effulgence of God’s glory, the expressed image of His being. And to know the truth means that, when the gospel is preached, we experience by the operation of the Holy Spirit that we lay hold on this Christ consciously by faith.
That is to know the truth. Let us never allow this to be deluded into a mere motto to advocate our own pet peeves of what we consider to be the truth of a certain matter. That is not abiding in the Word of Jesus, who speaks what He hears the Father tell Him. We must bow to the word of the Gospel and good exegesis to abide in the Word and to be Christ’s disciples indeed and to know the truth!
Yes, the truth of the gospel makes the believer who abides in the Word free. It does not simply allow one to be free, or open the avenues to us of freedom. No, this knowing the truth in Christ by a true faith makes us free: it liberates us. We who are in the bondage of sin, and guilt, and evil desires are set free. We are liberated from the doing of sin. He that doeth sin is a slave of sin. Oh, the terrible slavery of sin. What bondage! But the Gospel by the Spirit liberates us. It liberates us legally. It sets us in the status of sons of God, who have the right to eternal life. But it also liberates us in that the actual shackles of sin are taken from our eyes, ears, hands and feet. It liberates us from the power of Satan.
Yes, this is an assuring word to us. It gives no comfort to those who reject the gospel, the Reformed faith which teaches the sovereign grace which is operative by the Spirit in the Gospel. It is only comforting to those who continue in the Word. These are beckoned on in the battle of faith against all unbelief, against Satan and all his demonic hosts. To these Jesus says: hold that thou hast, that no man take your crown!
Did you enjoy Catechism this year? Did you know that Jesus was teaching you the gospel there in that class by His minister and elder-servants? Did you go to God’s house to listen to God’s Word with joy and gladness in your soul? Did you read Beacon Lights as the setting forth of the Word of God as a lamp to your feet and as a light upon your path?
You are a disciple indeed?
A disciple of Jesus Christ, a learner of the Gospel at Jesus’ feet?
Blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear!