John 8:31, 32
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed;…
I. IN ITS CONDITIONS. These are:
1. The possession of Christ's Word.
(1) The possession of his Word is necessary to faith in him. The Word of Christ reveals him to faith - reveals his mind, his thoughts, his heart, his will, his character and mission. His Word is as an instrument - is the generator of faith. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing," etc. It is the great medium of communication between Christ and faith, and the means by which faith transforms Christ into the soul. It is the nutriment, strength, and the life of faith.
(2) Faith in Christ is necessary to discipleship. Christian discipleship begins with faith in Christ. This is its lowest condition and first grade. These Jews were disciples because they had a certain degree of faith in Christ; but they were weak disciples, their faith being weak and young - they were infant scholars. But they could not be even this without a degree of faith, and faith comes from the Word.
(3) His Word is the great disciplinary instrument of his school. It contains the lessons taught by him and learnt by the disciples. All illumination, knowledge, inspiration, moral and spiritual training, and progress, are attained through his Word. In his Word the disciples meet and find him.
(4) His Word must be possessed in its fulness and purity. "My Word." It must be Christ's Word, pure and simple, and the whole of his Word, without any addition, subtraction, or admixture. Any of these will affect the discipleship, make it incomplete or unreal
2. A vital possession of Christ's Word. The possession is not merely outward and intellectual, but inward and spiritual. The Word must be in the soul, and the soul in the Word. Christ is in the Christian, and the Christian is in Christ. Christ's Word is in his disciple, and the disciple is in his Word. Both mean the same, only in the latter prominence is given to the Word. This implies:
(1) The closest union between the soul and the Word. The Word is in the soul, and the soul is in the Word. The union between the body and soul is not as near, real, and lasting. It is like the union between the Divine Son and the Father,
(2) The Word as the subject of the most devoted study. The disciple, heart and soul, is in it. It is his meditation in the day and his song in the night; so attractive it is that it has stolen away all the thoughts and affections, and become their centre and the source of their most exquisite delight.
(3) The object of implicit faith. "In my Word." The whole soul, with its eternal concerns, rests upon it with childlike confidence, and trusts in it with more implicitness than even the farmer and the mariner trust the laws of nature.
(4) The object of absolute obedience. It is not merely the object of faith and trust, but of obedience. Its authority is fully recognized, its directions minutely followed, and its commands strictly and joyfully obeyed. It is the polar star of the soul and the absolute law of life, and the disciple is its willing and happy slave.
3. An abiding possession of Christ's Word. "If ye abide," etc.
(1) This is an essential condition of a permanent union with Christ. Without union with Christ, there can be no discipleship. Without abiding in his Word, there can be no true union with him. If the Word be forsaken or deviated from, the chief connecting chain between the disciple and the Master is broken.
(2) This is an essential condition of reality of discipleship. "If ye abide," etc. There may be discipleship without continuance in Christ's Word, but it is not real, only nominal. Such are temporary disciples, not disciples indeed. Abiding, firmness, and perseverance in Christ's Word are essential features and conditions of reality. What is real is abiding. The presence or absence of this abiding feature of faith is perceived by Christ from the first, but must be manifested by the conduct of the disciple.
(3) This is an essential condition of the perfection of Christian discipleship. It is progressive. The Word progresses in the soul, and the soul in the Word. As the soul abides in the Word, it is admitted from stage to stage to the society and confidence of Christ, and attains the perfection of discipleship by likeness to the Master.
(4) As a condition of true discipleship, it is certain. There is an "if" with regard to the condition - "if ye abide;" but there is no "if" with regard to the consequence, "Ye are my disciples indeed." Abiding in Christ's Word in the sense indicated is real discipleship. It is not perfect, but true. The soul in Christ's Word is like a good seed in a good soil, ever growing up in and unto him.
II. IN ITS BLESSED RESULTS. There are:
1. Knowledge of the truth.
(1) There is the highest knowledge - the truth. There are many truths, but this is the truth. This truth means the great facts of human redemption through Jesus Christ. We need not enumerate them; they will naturally occur to each in their magnitude, beauty, and order. They are various, yet one, constituting one Divine system of salvation. This is the truth made known by Christ, and to know this is the highest knowledge attainable by man, because it pertains to his spiritual nature, and involves his highest good. It is the most necessary and valuable.
(2) It is a most reliable knowledge. Taught by the highest authority, the Son of God, the source, the centre, the natural expression, and the fulness of all redemptive truths; in fact, the truth itself. It is communicated in the most direct, absolute, attractive, and convincing manner - in the life, example, teaching, testimony, and miracles of the Son of God in human nature.
(3) This knowledge of the truth is experimental. It is not merely outward and intellectual, but inward and spiritual; not as illustrated in others, but as experienced by the soul itself. Know the truth as the liberated captives know the blessings of freedom, as the restored sick know the benefit of health. Spiritual truth can only be absolutely known by the spiritual nature and experience. Its kingdom is within, and the true disciple has the witness in himself.
(4) This knowledge of the truth is the natural result of true Christian discipleship. "Ye are my disciples indeed, and ye shall," etc. The truth can only be known by the true disciple. Pilate asked, "What is truth?" He had no reply; he had not an eye to see it, nor a heart to receive it. Knowledge of the truth is alone the privilege of the disciple indeed.
2. Spiritual freedom.
(1) Freedom from sin. From its bondage, its control, its consequences, its guilt, and from sin itself. In the true disciple sin will be ultimately effaced, not a vestige of it will be left behind.
(2) Freedom from the Law. From its curse, penalties, terrors, its heavy and unbearable burdens. The known truth, or Christ, becomes the law of the disciple's life, written on his heart. Its letter becomes dead, while its spirit is preserved.
(3) Freedom from the tyranny of self. From the lower passions and appetites, from the captivity of self-seeking. The soul is brought out from itself into Christ, to breathe the natural and pure air of spiritual life, love, holiness, self-sacrifice, and willingness.
(4) This freedom is effected by the truth.
(a) The truth is the efficient means of spiritual freedom. It is based on and produced by the great facts of redemption.
(b) The truth is the efficient incentive to spiritual freedom. The revelation of sin, in its enormity, debasing effects, and ultimate consequences, and the revelation of God's loving, costly, and self-sacrificing provisions for sinners, are calculated to inspire the captive soul to struggle for and accept the offered liberty.
(c) The truth experimentally known brings the fact of spiritual freedom to the consciousness. No sooner the facts of redemption, such as justification, forgiveness, and reconciliation by faith, are experimentally known than the soul begins to realize in itself the blessings of spiritual freedom. Christ lives in the disciple's consciousness, and he feels that he is a subject of the spiritual empire and a free born citizen of the new Jerusalem.
1. The weakest faith has the sympathy and care of Jesus. The faith of these Jews was very weak and imperfect, hence this address to them. He despised not the day of small things - "A bruised reed shall he not break," etc.
2. The weakest faith by continuance in Christ's Word will reach perfection. "If ye abide," etc. The quality of faith at first is more important than quantity; quantity will follow. Spiritual millionaires commenced with a very little capital. The apostles properly addressed as, "Ye of little faith." Lean sheep thrive in green pastures. It is surprising how a weak faith is improved and strengthened in the society and under the tuition of Jesus.
3. The weakest faith by abiding in Christ's Word shall enjoy the richest blessings. We say - Know all first, and then believe. But the Christian order is rather - Believe first, and then know. The little knowledge required to precede faith is nothing to that which follows. It leads to true discipleship, and to the highest knowledge - the knowledge of the truth. It opens the door of the temple of redemptive truth, and thus opens the portals of eternal freedom. Ignorance is captivity, knowledge is liberty. Let the scientific facts of the world be known, and men will be intellectually free; let the Divine facts of redemption be experimentally realized, and men shall walk in the glorious liberty of the sons of God. - B.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
WEB: Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him, "If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples.