I am struck by how seemingly poor a job Christians do at abiding in Jesus’ word. In fact, to most men in the church R-E-A-D is not a suggestion from Jesus but an offensive 4-letter word. The following is a fleshing out of an outline I did a few weeks ago. The topic is so important I felt I had to address it again.
John 8:31–32 (ESV) — 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What is abiding in Jesus’ word?
D.A. Carson simply says:
• “A genuine believer remains in Jesus’ ‘word’,[and] his teaching: i.e. [the believer] obeys it, seeks to understand it better, and finds it more precious, more controlling, precisely when other forces flatly oppose it” – D.A. Carson.
What are Jesus’ Words or some topics Jesus’ teaches on?
My Sunday School class is in the Gospel of John and is about to finish John 8.
• In the first 8 chapters of John, some highlights of Jesus’ teachings are:
o His relationship to the Father.
o Depravity of man.
o Nature of the work of God in salvation.
o His identity with Yahweh as found in His “I am” statements.
o His looking forward to being “lifted up” to the Cross.
Can we consider the entire NT to be Jesus’ words?
If you think it is, why?
The Chain of Custody:
• The following verses make clear that there was a “chain of custody” in the revelation of God’s word.
• As you will see, this chain of custody confirms that the NT writers spoke the Words of God and thus Jesus!
• Just as crime scene evidence is tagged and bagged so that it is not contaminated.
• God provided a way to transmit His word through the NT writers so that it was still His and not “contaminated”.
(1) First Link in the Chain of Custody – God the Father.
• John 14:10 (ESV) — 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
• John 12:49 (ESV) — 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.
o Jesus identifies that the authority and source of His words comes from the Father.
(2) Second Link in the Chain of Custody – Jesus Christ.
• John 17:8 (ESV) — 8 For I [Jesus] have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
o Jesus reveals that he gave the words he received to the disciples.
o Therefore the authority and source rooted in the Father remain uncorrupted as Jesus Himself transmits the words to the disciples.
(3) Third Link in the Chain of Custody – Holy Spirit
• John 14:26 (ESV) — 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
• John 16:13–14 (ESV) — 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
So the “Chain of Custody” of God’s Word looks like this:
• Father – Source and Authority of His Word and Gave it to Jesus
• Jesus – Given the Words and Authority by the Father and Passed them on to NT writers
• Holy Spirit – Protected and Gave the words spoken by Jesus to the NT writers
• NT writers – Received both their Words and Authority from Jesus with the aid of the Holy Spirit
So all of it is Jesus’ Words!
Why abide in Jesus’ Word?
• Genuine faith “perseveres [and] holds tight to Jesus’ teaching, with some glorious consequences” – D.A. Carson.
Glorious Consequences of Abiding in Jesus’ Word:
(1) God’s word contains eternal life
• John 5:24 (ESV) — 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
(2) God’s word produces knowledge that averts destruction.
• Hosea 4:6 (ESV) — 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
(3) God’s word testifies to truth of Jesus Christ.
• John 5:39–40 (ESV) — 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
(4) God’s word contributes to our sanctification.
• Acts 20:32 (ESV) — 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
(5) God’s word exposes where we cling to the flesh in our heart and mind.
• Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) — 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(6) God’s word produces joy and delight.
• Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV) — 16 “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”
(7) God’s word gives a proper spiritual perspective to a material world.
• Psalm 119:72 (ESV) — 72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
(8) God’s word exposes deception and worldliness.
• Colossians 2:8 (ESV) — 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
• Ephesians 4:14 (ESV) — 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
(9) God’s word protects us from ourselves.
• Mark 7:8-9 (ESV) — 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!
This is by no means an exhaustive list.
• But it makes clear why faith in Jesus and abiding in His word are an inseparable indication of authenticity.
Did the NT writers set an example of abiding in God’s word?
OT use in the NT:
• The NT contains roughly 312 direct OT citations and thousands of OT allusions – Walter Kaiser.
• The only books of the NT without any direct quote or allusion to OT texts are Philemon and 2 & 3 John.
Examples of NT writer’s abiding:
It informed their theology:
• Romans 4:2–3 (ESV) — 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
It informed their painful circumstances:
• Romans 15:4 (ESV) — 4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
It informed their understanding that the Gospel is present in the OT:
• Galatians 3:8 (ESV) — 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”
It informed their view of salvation:
• Romans 10:11–13 (ESV) — 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
It informed their view of the relationship between the OT and NT:
• Acts 24:14 (ESV) — 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets,
It informed their evangelism:
• Romans 10:15 (ESV) — 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
It informed their view of worldly wisdom:
• 1 Corinthians 1:19 (ESV) — 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
It informed their view of economic issues:
• 1 Corinthians 9:8–10 (ESV) — 8 Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? 9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.
It informed their view of Jesus:
• Romans 1:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
It informed their apologetics:
• Acts 18:28 (ESV) — 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.
It informed their view of mans’ condition before God:
• Romans 3:9–12 (ESV) — 9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
Concerning the example set by the NT writers:
• “The point is clear by now: the interweaving of phrases and lines from the Old Testament by the New Testament writers with their own words and literary styles shows how the very fabric of their thought was immersed in the language and teaching of the earlier Testament” – Walter Kaiser.
Challenge For Us:
So we must ask ourselves, is the very fabric of our thoughts immersed in Scripture like the NT writers?
Do we treat Scripture as it demands to be treated?
If we agree with Jeremiah (15:16) that “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart”, does our relationship with God’s word demonstrate this?
If we agree with Hosea (4:6) that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”, do we seek to grown in our knowledge of God’s word in a deep and abiding way or just devotionally and/or not at all?
A final thought:
“The Bible tethers us to reality. We are not free to think and speak whatever might enter our minds or what might be pleasing to any given audience—except God” – John Piper.