Summary: The true disciple (student) of Jesus Christ abides (lives) in God’s Word.

The Bible: Living In The Word

(John 8:31-32)

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If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, then you’ve probably heard lots of sermons about how important it is to read the Bible. So I don’t want today’s lesson to be just another rehash of things you’ve already heard over and over before.

Instead, I’d like to focus today on some things about studying the Bible that I don’t hear pastors teach very often, if at all. These are things that God has clearly put in His Word for us to know. However, these are also things that are easy to read over and miss if we don’t take the time to look at them carefully.

The Bible has a lot to say about itself, and I can’t think of a better place to start than to look at what Jesus Himself had to say on this subject. In John Chapter 8, Verses 31-32, we read,

John 8:31-32

31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, {then} you are truly disciples of Mine;

32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (NAS)

The first thing I notice in Verse 31 is that Jesus was talking to "those Jews who had believed Him". That’s important because Jesus was about to say something that is only for believers. Jesus is not going to say something to everyone, only to persons who are saved, only to born-again believers.

This is because Jesus is about to speak about the Bible, and Bible study is not for everybody. God’s Word can only be spiritually understood by believers. We are told this in:

1 Cor. 2:14: But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (NAS)

This verse tells us that a "natural" or unsaved man can’t understand spiritual things. Unbelievers are spiritually dead. Every human being is born that way, and doesn’t have a living spirit inside of them until they are saved by believing in Jesus Christ. That’s why the salvation experience is called being "born again". The dead spirit within a person is made alive by the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation. This is what the term "regeneration" means. So only a spiritual person can fully understand spiritual things, and only born-again believers are spiritual.

To an unbeliever, the Bible is just like any other book. They can study it academically, but they don’t fully understand the spiritual meanings to it like we do as Christians. That’s why we shouldn’t argue about the Bible with unsaved persons. We need to stay with the message of the gospel, about how Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. This will be understood by unbelievers because the Holy Spirit will make the gospel message clear to them.

But all of that is not the most precious part of what 1 Cor. 2:14 is teaching us as believers. Again, we are told in that verse that things in God’s Word are spiritually understood. What this means is that learning the Bible is not a matter of human intelligence. And that is the first point I want to make today from these verses.

While on the one hand, 1 Cor. 2:14 tells us that unbelievers can’t understand the spiritual aspects of God’s Word, on the other hand, this also means that all believers have the same ability and chance to learn it and grow spiritually.

Learning the Bible is a spiritual process. God the Holy Spirit takes the Bible, and makes it understandable to our own human spirits. This means that anyone can learn it, because human ability has nothing to do with it. A believer with a high IQ has no advantage over a Christian with a lower one. A pastor, evangelist, or seminary student has no advantage over any other believer.

God makes learning the Bible a spiritual process for many reasons. One reason is because He is perfectly fair, so He gives all Christians the same ability to learn His Word. Another reason is that it is God who gives us a living spirit at salvation, and God who teaches the Bible to that same spirit. Therefore, God gets all of the glory when we understand and learn the Bible because He makes the entire process work.

So in summary, 1 Cor. 2:14 teaches us that learning the Word of God is a spiritual process, and has nothing to do with human abilities. This means that all Christians have the same chance to grow in wisdom spiritually. It’s simply a matter of our free will. We can choose to live in the Word on a regular basis and do things through God’s power, or instead, we can choose to live in the world and do things in our own power.

Jesus goes on to say in John 8:31, "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine". The word "abide" in the original Greek text means "to live in something continually". Another way of saying it would be "to continually be at home in." We all know how it is, to be so welcome in a place, that we feel at home there. We can be our true selves, let down our guards, and spend us much time as we want there, just enjoying all of the things the place has to offer.

If anyone here ever watches the TV show Seinfeld, you know that Jerry’s next door neighbor, Kramer, is very much at home in Jerry’s apartment. He probably spends more time there than in his own apartment. He has his own set of keys, and lets himself in whenever he wants. He eats whatever is in the refrigerator, and takes anything else he wants from Jerry’s apartment, usually returning it broken or not at all.

In a way, that’s the way Jesus wants us to feel about His Word, the Bible. He wants us to spend a lot of time there, and has given us His Holy Spirit as the key. God wants us to be "at home" in His Word, to be ourselves there, and to make use of all that it has to offer. The blessings in the Scriptures are ours to take freely without having to repay. So my second point is that Jesus wants us to use His Word as our home.

Jesus also says in John 8:31 that if we are continually at home in His Word, then we are "truly" His disciples. I think Jesus uses the word "truly" because He knows that many Christians will falsely claim to be His disciples. However, only those who spend time at home in the Bible are "truly" disciples. The very word "disciple" in the Greek is often taught to mean a "follower", but it actually means more than that. The word "disciple" means to be a "student". A student of the Word reads it regularly, and wants to learn all the things the Bible has to teach.

So my third point is that only Christians who spend time in the Bible on a regular basis are true disciples or students of Jesus Christ. Other believers are saved and going to heaven, but they are not going to enjoy the blessings to be found here, and in eternity, that will only belong to students of the Word, to true disciples.

Jesus goes on in John 8, verse 32, to promise that if we choose to live in His Word, then "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free". This quote is used by colleges and universities, some having it up over the doorways to their libraries and other academic buildings. It is used sometimes by politicians and activists in the civil rights movement. But Jesus was not talking about some kind of academic knowledge, and He was not referring to any kind of political or social changes.

We as Christians know that there is absolute truth in life, that there are things that are right and wrong. So much of what people believe today is relative. They think that truth is what each person thinks it is. But in the Bible, God shows us absolute spiritual truth. The Bible is our source for all spiritual truth, and tells us this in:

Heb. 4:12

12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (NAS)

2 Tim. 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (NAS)

2 Tim. 2:15

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. (NAS)

Jesus promises us that as students of His Word, we will know the truth that is in it, and that it will make us free. So my fourth point is that the Bible is our only source of real spiritual truth and freedom, the kind of truth and freedom Jesus was referring to in John 8:32. As you learn God’s truth, you become free from the rules and judgments of religion, which come from men, not from God. You are free from the criticisms of unsaved people as you know God’s plan for your life, and you follow that plan.

The Bible is actually a beautiful "love letter" from God, and the writer of Psalm 119 tells us to delight in its message and to meditate upon its contents. How sad that many Christians neglect it!! Sadder still is the fact that so many lost souls have never heard the gospel message of this book at all.

When the now-famous poet Elizabeth Barrett became the wife of Robert Browning, her parents disowned her because they disapproved of the marriage. Their daughter Elizabeth, however, wrote almost every week, telling them that she loved them and longed for a reconciliation. After 10 years, she received a huge box in the mail that contained all the notes she had sent. Not one had been opened! Although these "love letters" have now become a precious part of classical English literature, it’s really sad to think that they were never read by Elizabeth Barrett’s own parents. Had they looked at just one, the broken relationship with their daughter might have been healed.

All of us are alienated from God because of sin, but God has provided a way of reconciliation. In the Bible, He tells about it, and also expresses His earnest desire for fellowship with us. For the unbeliever, the way back to God is by believing the gospel message. For the Christian who is separated from God by sin, the way back to God is told to us in 1 John 1:9, by confessing our sins regularly to Him.

If you are a born-again child of God, His love message from Heaven ought to be precious to you! But are you reading it often? If not, then you are depriving yourself of the many blessings it can give you, both now and in eternity. God’s Word in our hearts is the only thing that we will be able to take with us when we die and go to heaven.

If you are not a believer and pay no attention to the gospel message of the Bible, you’re no different from Elizabeth Barrett’s parents. You’re cheating yourself, and someday you’ll stand before God condemned and lost forever. Then you’ll wish you had opened and read His "love letter" to you. Why not believe in Jesus Christ right now, that He died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and that you have forgiveness and salvation through Him? If you choose to place your faith in Jesus Christ, it will be the best decision you ever made.

Copyright © 2000, Frank J. Gallagher,

Abiding In The Word,

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