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If You Abide in My Word, You Are Truly My Disciples

20 March • Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Lent


John 8:31-42

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed 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.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”


34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”


39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.


Meditation

 

In this passage, Jesus was teaching the Jews the meaning of being true disciples who receive the truth that will set them free. However, the Jews (who seem to have believed in him) instead argued about their special status. To understand what it means to be an offspring of Abraham, we need to go back to the first children of Abraham. First, there was Ishmael who was born of the slave girl Hagar (Genesis 16:1-4), according to the flesh (Galatians 4:22-23). Then there was Isaac who was born of a free woman, Sarah, and he was born miraculously according to the promise of God (Genesis 21:1-3). Since the Jews descended from Isaac, they believed they were bestowed with divine favour compared to the offspring of slavery.


Despite their perceived special status, the Jews failed to see that they had a history of being in slavery because of their sins. First, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt from the beginning. They were set free by God through Moses, who gave them the Word, The Ten Commandments (Decalogue), at Mount Sinai. God's word through the Decalogue gave Israel a new identity as a free nation, on condition that they abided by it (see Deuteronomy 28), which they failed to do throughout their history. Hence, Israel did not remain a free nation, but was repeatedly subjugated by greater powers (Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and now the Romans).


Second, the Jews did not recognise that they had continued to live in sin. In an earlier passage in the same John 8, the Jews accused a woman of committing adultery. Ironically, through various prophets such as Jeremiah, God also accused Israel of committing adultery in their worship of idols and history of rejecting God and His commandments, just as how the Jews were rejecting Jesus in this passage. They remained trapped in an endless cycle of sin. The solution is found in another offspring of Abraham, the promised Seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:15-29), the spiritual offspring fulfilled in Jesus Christ. By putting our faith in Jesus, we also become children of Abraham, because Abraham is the Father of faith (Romans 4:16-18) whom we share the same faith with. Jesus Himself is the truth (John 14:6) who paid the ransom to set us free from our sins (1 Peter 1:18-20)—a human condition to which mankind has been enslaved since the beginning.


As we embark on this Lenten season, let us reflect on what it means to truly become Jesus’ disciples and to abide by His word. This passage teaches us that our relationship with God is not determined by physical bloodlines but only by the redeeming blood of Christ. While the Jews identified themselves as children of Abraham via physical bloodlines, becoming true disciples of Jesus Christ is by believing and putting your faith in Him, through abiding in His Word and be born again as children of God (John 1:12-13).


Abiding by His word means remaining faithful to the person of Jesus, the Living Word, and obeying every word that comes from Him. As we obey Him and submit ourselves to Him, we begin to be shaped and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, freeing us from the effects of sin. The good news is that everyone, regardless of their personal history, is invited to become true disciples of Jesus—whether slaves or free, Jews or Greek (Galatians 3:26-29). Whether outcasts, addicts, or even adulterers, all have the opportunity to believe in Jesus, be free from their sins and experience true spiritual freedom. Indeed, if the Son sets us free, we will be free indeed!


Prayer

 

Dear Lord, remind me that Jesus truly sets me free, and expose any conceit within me that draws me away from You. I thank You for offering salvation to me that I may be free from any sinful bondages. Help me to surrender completely to You, recognising You as my Lord and Saviour, and that only You can save. Continue to use me as You will, according to Your good purpose. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.


Action

 

Reflect about how you have not abided in Jesus but instead rejected Him through your thoughts, actions, and attitudes. Come to Jesus and surrender these things to Him. Rejoice that through the blood of Jesus, you have been set free from your bondages. True freedom comes not by bloodline, but the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ.


Rev Ezekiel Tan

General Secretary/CEO

The Bible Society of Singapore

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