Our Relationship with the Word of God.

The timing of this text is during the end of the week of the Feast of Tabernacle, about a half year before Jesus goes to the cross. Jesus is in a debate with religious unbelief, confronting their own sin. He identifies for them what true belief is and what saving faith looks like in the believer’s life. Jesus presents three tests of genuine saving faith for unbelief to consider: the test of fatherhood, the test of the use of God’s Word in a believer’s life, and the test of the works of God’s children.

John 8:31-59 focuses on the truth of the Word of God. The second test of genuine saving faith and of true discipleship is evidenced in our relationship with and responsibility to the Word of God in our lives.

Jesus, the Truth

The references to God’s Word are numerous in this passage. In verse 31, Jesus says to continue in His Word. In verse 32, His Word is made synonymous with truth, the truth which will set one free. This is the saving knowledge of the Word of God. Truth is mentioned six more times in this passage by Jesus who is trying to convey to religious unbelievers around Him that He is the Truth (John 1:14).

John 8 is a vivid illustration of Jesus being both grace and truth, as Jesus has presented Himself for all unbelievers to examine. The Jewish unbelievers surrounding Christ evidenced their lack of knowing Him, the truth, by their lack of freedom, for they were still slaves to sin, as seen in their lifestyle (v. 34). Though claiming both Abraham and God as their father, the lifestyle of Jewish unbelief did not yield righteousness. John describes their sinful way of life as murderous, hateful, and unlawful. Jesus makes clear that unbelief continues to do the lusts or desires of their father.

Religious unbelievers have God on their lips but sinful patterns in their hearts. It can be the habit of religious people, even those of Grace Church, to have God on their lips but unjudged, sinful habits in their hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).

What a believer does, thinks on, hopes, and desires when no one is around identifies the father one serves and whether the Word of God has been embraced. For the true believer, the bonds of sin no longer feel natural or comfortable, and when a believer falls back into a sinful pattern, the believer is miserable and grieved. The witness of the Holy Spirit within testifies that one is a child of the Truth, Jesus Christ, by the conviction of sin. Unbroken patterns of sin will lead a true believer to conviction and repentance.

In John 8:34, Jesus eliminates the difference between Jew and Gentile by stating that all who sin are slaves to sin (Romans 6:16, 11:32; 2 Peter 2:19). The person who has not understood the truth of Jesus Christ will never be free of the bondage of sin, and therefore, remain a slave.

The nature of the fullness of the Word of God is Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In John 8:36, Jesus tells us that if the Son sets us free, we will be free indeed. When we really understand Jesus, He sets us free from the bondage of sin and death. We know that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and the one who knows Him will know life (John 11).

God’s Word is truth. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. The Bible is the divinely inspired and preserved truth of God in Christ. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to lead us to Jesus, and it is God who saves in Christ. A great treasure and pleasure in our lives, the Bible is the cleansing agent of God for our souls towards Christlikeness after we are born-again, but it is the Son who is the Truth who has set us free. Jesus alone sets us free, and once free, we grow.

God’s Word Tests Discipleship

Active aspects of God’s Word in our lives are true tests of discipleship. If we are a true disciple of Jesus Christ, born-again, and have a relationship with the Living Word, Jesus Christ, and the written preserved Word, the Bible, then we will be speaking, hearing, and keeping the Word.

Speaking the Word

Speaking the truth is a way of life for Christ. Jesus speaks the Word given to Him from His Father (John 8:38, 45-46). His spoken words lead to the convicting and saving of many while confirming the unbelief of others. A clear aspect of speaking the Word is sharing the gospel as Jesus does in this text. A person cannot be saved until one understands being lost. We cannot speak of Christ and faith without speaking of sin, and we cannot speak of sin without speaking of faith in the work of Christ resurrected.

The mission of Jesus was to speak the gospel which includes repentance and faith. The burden of lost souls was always on Jesus’s heart. We see in the book of John the mercy of God giving multiple opportunities to murderous unbelief to bow the knee to Him. If we are seeking to live the mission of Jesus, we need to consider the last time we have spoken the gospel. We praise God for the opportunity to have redemptive relationships with unbelief, but may we understand our responsibility to obediently speak the gospel to those who need Jesus.

May the Word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3). This worship is to be enjoyed corporately and privately. This is a test of discipleship, our growing relationship with this great treasure, the divinely given and preserved Word of God. It should be a more valued treasure today than it was yesterday. If we are governed by the Spirit and walk according to the Word of God, then certainly we will have a lifestyle of speaking the Word of God to others (Deut. 6, Joshua 1:8). John teaches us in this passage that communicating the Word of God should be easy, happen often, and is a natural part of a spirit-filled life.

Hearing the Word

The Word of God is to be heard and attended to as modeled by Jesus (John 8:40, 47). Unbelief cannot hear because of who their father is (John 8:43-44) which is why they cannot understand what Jesus says. The Greek root of "hear" means to hear with discernment. At this time in history, the Jews would have understood this word "hear" as one in a jury in a court of law examining a case, arduously deliberating the facts. Jesus speaks His Word, and those who are truly His disciples hear it with discernment and are eager to live it obediently.

Keeping the Word

Jesus models that true disciples keep God’s Word. The grammar of "keep" means to guard (John 8:51-52). One who has been truly born-again and set free from an eternity without Christ guards or keeps the Word of God. This is reflected in a consistency of living established when the Word of God has been truly heard and understood and then guarded and kept. Believers who do this are proving themselves to be born-again (1 John 2:3-6). We are enabled to keep the Word of God by our Savior who did the same (John 8:55). Jesus perfectly lived that which we progressively guard and live. A genuine understanding of the Father always leads to a desire to guard His Word. True disciples guard the Word by living the Word, making it the rule and practice of their lives. If we remain in the Word, abide in the Word, continue speaking it, hearing it, and keeping it, then we are true disciples of Jesus.

Application Points

  • Do you have God on your lips but unjudged, sinful patterns in your heart?
  • Has your faithful church attendance become an outward practice that is missing the intentional inward motivation and desire to love and worship the Lord?
  • Are you embracing the Word of God? Is its value in your life increasing? Is speaking the Word of God a natural way of life for you?
  • Can you remember the last time you shared the complete gospel message with someone who needs Jesus?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Hebrews 12 – the Lord chastens
  • Romans 6:1-2 – a call back to fellowship
  • 1 John 2 – governed by the Spirit
A Quote to Ponder

D. A. Carson said, “True freedom is not the liberty to do anything we please, but the liberty to do what we ought; and it is genuine liberty because doing what we ought now pleases us.”