Abide in My Word (John 8)
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
Jesus makes a distinction between hearers, believers and disciples. A distinction that sadly still plagues us today.
Hearers are outside the Church. They know Jesus' name, even if it is only as an expletive. Believers have heard and accepted the Gospel, but they go no further with their faith in their life. Disciples are believers who put their faith into action in their lives. They abide in His Word.
What does it mean to abide in Jesus' Word? Abiding is stationary. Not a slowing down. Not a drive-by on Sunday mornings. A complete stop.
It is closely related to “dwell” in Revelation 14:6. Dwelling is also stationary. Literally, sitting. Setting up camp. Taking off your coat and staying awhile.
This is the essence of Jesus' abiding. Jesus wants everyone to abide in His Word. He does not want people to stay as hearers. He does not want people to stay as believers. He wants people to become disciples.
So He sends the “angel flying directly overhead” to proclaim His eternal Gospel “to those who dwell on earth.” To those outside and inside the Church. To Hearers, believers and disciples.
The hearers, abiding in the world, outside the Church, dismiss the Gospel outright with all its promises.
Even as a believer and a disciple, you protest against Jesus because you are a sinner. Enslaved by sin, you cannot BUT sin. Jesus said to believing Jews, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill Me because My Word finds no place in you.” A generic faith doesn't get you very far.
Jesus' doesn't doubt their faith. He's talking to believers. He tells them they don't accept Him because their father is not Abraham but Satan. They believed His Word, but they didn't want to do it. They wanted to remain enslaved to sin, while still believing God's Word.
But Jesus calls believers to abide in His Word. To be freed from enslavement to sin. Freed by His death and resurrection. Hearer only seek His death. But those who abide in His Word find salvation for their souls in His resurrection. They abide in His Word, which says, “You who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.”
Abiding in Jesus' Word places you in “the holy habitation of the Most High.” The habitation that is not only in Heaven. The habitation that came down from Heaven, “tabernacling” among us in the flesh. The habitation open to believers. Enjoyed by disciples. Those who seek refuge and strength from God the Father. Believers become offspring of Abraham through faith in Jesus. True offspring of the promise given to the patriarch thousands of years ago: “Look toward Heaven, and count the stars ... So shall your offspring be.”
Being a disciple, abiding in Jesus' Word, is the best way through the “short pilgrimage” in this fallen world. Disciples not only hear. Disciples not only believe. Disciples also confess their faith in word and deed.
Disciples see Law and Gospel lived out in their lives.
- “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it--the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. ... It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that HE might be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Martin Luther was the perennial “John Galt” Galt is the main male hero in Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged. A man who not only heard but did. Both men had the same issue: dealing with people who heard but did not do.
Galt was a philosopher and inventor. One of three great students of the greatest philosopher and the greatest scientist alive. He believes in the glory and power of man's mind. When the government took advantage of the great minds among its citizens, Galt organizes a strike. All of the greatest minds-- philosophers, inventors and businessmen-- join his strike. Hoping “to stop the motor of the world” so they could rebuild it in their captialistic image.
Luther was a theologian and professor. Member of one of the strictest orders of Augustinian monks. He believed in the glory and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When the Church took advantage of the simple faith of its citizens, Luther sought to bring about a reformation. Not overpowering nor arrogant like Galt. Humbly seeking discussion of the abuses to find the basis for worship and life in the Holy Scriptures. Seeking to raise up the simple faith of Christians to the level of a disciple.
While Galt abided in his own mind and the world he would recreate, Luther sought the voice of the Church. What the Bride of Christ taught and confessed in generations past. Luther abided in the Scriptures. Galt looked to the future he would create. Luther drew on the experience and the faith of the past.
At the Diet of Worms, Luther said, "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.”
Luther was Jesus' disciple. He not only heard the Word. He believed it. He lived it in His life and in His work.
Today, a new Reformation is needed. A Reformation to change Galt's world of the mind to Jesus' belief and confession of His Word. This Reformation has three steps. The same three steps that have served the Church for its entire history.
First, we must bring everyone to HEAR God's Word. St. Paul writes, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” In our world, filled with people who believe Galt's ideology of the mind, we need now, more than ever, to proclaim the everlasting truth of God's Word. We need to make God's Word the important book in our life. We need every conversation to be governed by Jesus' Word. Only when people see that the message is important to you will they hear what you have to say about Jesus. Then you can preach the basics of the Christian faith.
Once they hear and understand Jesus' importance to you, then you can help them to believe it as well. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Hearing the Word is not enough, but it is the beginning. Hearing Jesus' Word leads to more listening. That listening leads to faith. The more you listen, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you realize how much more there is to learn. How much more you realize that you will never learn it all. That there are things you must simply take by faith. A simple faith begins to grow. Begins to sprout towards discipleship.
The third step is the step many Christians today want to make the first step. But you cannot disciple someone in something that they don't believe. After all, Jesus calls us to discipleship, not brain-washing. The Christian Church is not an establishment of a human mind. The Christian Church is the establishment of the Holy Trinity. Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together to create, redeem and sanctify the entire human race. And they work together through you.
You are their means to reach your family, your friends, your neighbors. You continue to follow God's command to Moses: “Gather the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words, so that they may learn to fear Me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.'
Abiding in Jesus' Word makes you His disciple. A doer and not just a hearer. A Christian who doesn't stuff your faith in the closet except on Sundays. A Christian who lives out your faith twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year.
Jesus calls to you, “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples.” Are you abiding in His Word? Amen.
- Revelation 14:6
- John 8:37
- John 8:44
- Romans 6:18-19
- Psalm 46:4
- John 1:14
- Psalm 46:1
- John 8:33
- Genesis 15:5
- LSB #748.2
- Romans 3:21-26
- Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. Translated by James L. Schaaf. 1:460
- Romans 10:14
- Romans 10:16
- Deuteronomy 4:10
- James 1:22