The text for this homily is John 8:31,32: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
A disciple is a learner. The Jews who were taught by John the Baptist were called John's disciples (Jn. 3:25). The people who believed in Jesus and followed him were called disciples of Jesus (Jn. 18:1; 19:38). The Jews who were clinging to the law of Moses but refused to believe in Jesus considered themselves to be Moses' disciples On. 9:28).
There is a pronounced difference between a disciple and a disciple indeed. The people who learned enough to believe in Jesus were considered his disciples, but the Lord said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples in-deed" The word "indeed" means "truly,' "in reality," or "most certainly." One may be called a disciple without being that in reality.
- To be a disciple indeed one must continue in the word of Christ. Some take the word of Christ lightly. They are not willing to be bound by the Lord's teaching. They are determined to believe what seems good in their own eyes. They rely more on human wisdom than on the divine word. They follow Christ's word only when it happens to coincide with their own preconceptions, notions, and thoughts. Paul taught that every thought is to be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). He urged, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom" (Col. 3:16). Whether we respect and continue in the word of Christ or not, it will judge us in the last day (Jn. 12:48).
- To be a disciple indeed one must love the Lord more than all else. Jesus said, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever cloth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Lk. 14:26,27). Immediately after these statements, our Master illustrated how we must be willing to count the cost. Many people are unwilling to pay the price required in true discipleship. They want to be disciples on their own terms, not the Lord's terms. They are unwilling to take a stand for Christ and the truth if it means being criticized and ridiculed by friends, business associates, or relatives. No one is a true disciple unless he stands ready to part with anything or anyone that may come between him and the Savior. "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Lk. 14:33).
- To be a disciple indeed one must bear fruit. Jesus spoke of himself as the true vine, the Father as the husbandman (vinedresser), and the disciples as branches growing in the vine. "1 am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." He also said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (Jn. 15:1-8). To abide in Christ requires that his words abide in us. If we ignore his words and practice what he has not authorized in religion, we make ourselves unfruitful. We must keep his commandments to abide in his love On. 15:10).
- To be a disciple indeed one must love others who are true disciples. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" On. 13:34,35). John wrote, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also" (I Jn. 4:20,21) Love prompts true disciples to help each other. We do not help each other by condoning error, by sanctioning sin, and by defending unscriptural concepts. Paul strongly rebuked the brethren in Corinth for their sins because he loved them.
- To be a disciple indeed one must persevere. The word of truth is misunderstood sometimes. People think we are being too hard when we preach the word just as it is writ-ten. In John 6:60, some thought what Jesus said was too hard to accept. "Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can bear it?" In verse 66 we read, "From that time many of this disciples went back, and walked no more with him." They were finished with Jesus! This happens often today. Some cannot endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3). They are unwilling to do as did the disciples in Jerusalem who "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). In some cases they feel so uncomfortable among true disciples that they take their leave and never return. Concerning such, John said, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us" (1 Jn. 2:19).
It is not enough for us to be called disciples of Jesus Christ. Let us demonstrate before others that we are his disciples indeed.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 9, p. 23
May 20, 1993