A true disciple is one who abides in Jesus’ word, knows the truth, and has been set free.
Abide and remain are the same word in the Greek. To abide in Jesus’ word is to remain in Jesus’ word—it’s to remain in God’s Word and the Word who is God (John 1:1-5). And like the word practices, the word abide is an ongoing active word—it continues on and on… It is an ongoing trusting and obeying Jesus… It’s the daily routine of picking up our cross and following Jesus—fighting sin and pursuing holiness… It’s surrendering to, trusting in, relying upon, depending upon, loving, and following Jesus.
To know the truth is much more than just understanding or mental ascent. First Jesus says that true disciples are set free by the truth, then in verse 36 He says that it is the Son (Himself) that sets His disciples free. In the Gospel of John the word truth means a couple of things. On the one hand Jesus says God’s Word is truth (John 17:17), but He also says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). To know the truth then is to know and believe the gospel (the good news about the person and work of Jesus Christ—the story of redemption that unfolds from Genesis to Revelation in God’s Word), but it’s also to know Jesus Himself—to know the Son who sets His disciples free indeed. Throughout the Bible to know is the language of intimate, committed love—covenantal love. Adam knew his wife and she conceived (Genesis 4:1). God’s Word applies this language to how He feels about His children. “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:3). He knows His people, meaning He loves them and is committed to them. Paul reminds the Galatians, “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God” (Galatians 4:9). If we know God, if we love God we can be assured that this is only because God knows us and loves us.
To know the truth is to be known by the Truth—Jesus; it’s to experience the love that God has for us in Christ, to know and experience gospel-love. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4-5). “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). And that is where the experience of knowing the truth begins—being made alive in Christ—God causing us to be born again and releasing us from our bondage to sin. And then it is being loved by God in Christ in an active ongoing covenantal love—an adopting love, where we are brought into the household of God as a son because we are united to the Son by faith.
When we are born again we are set free from our bondage to sin. We are freed from the penalty of sin (justification), we are set free from the power of sin (sanctification)—though this is a life-long work of the Holy Spirit in and through us, and we will one day be set free from the very presence of sin (glorification) when we see our Lord and Savior face to face and we’re made like Him. For now our freedom from the penalty and the power of sin is what frees us to abide in Christ. True disciples are no longer slaves to sin; they’ve been set free. And they are those who know the truth, and as such are known and loved by God. They have been adopted into the family of God and are now sons because they are united to the Son by faith; and that union gives them all the benefits of the One True Son of God, and therefore they will remain in God’s house—His family—forever. So true disciples abide in the Word because the Word abides in them. True disciples are committed in love to following Jesus because Jesus is committed to them. And they will abide because He abides with them. They will remain forever—it’s a promise based on God and His commitment to His people, not on His people’s commitment to Him.
So true disciples are those who know and are known by the Truth, have been and will be set free, and because they are free indeed they are those who abide in Jesus and His Word. And they will abide, they will remain forever because God abides with them. He knows them, loves them, and has adopted them into His household and they are now sons because they are united to His Son. True disciples know the truth, are set free by the truth, and they abide in the truth. And knowing and abiding in Christ—who is the Truth—is what it means to be free indeed. To be free indeed is to be free to do what we ought, and to delight in doing it. To be free indeed is to be free to do what we please and not regret it for all eternity. When we have been set free we are freed up to glorify God and enjoy Him forever by pouring out our lives for the fame of Jesus. In our slavery to sin we only live for ourselves, but in our freedom we live for Jesus; and that—in Him—is where true joy is found. Only those who live for Jesus are truly free. All outside of Christ are in bondage to sin—they are slaves. But all in Christ are free indeed. Free to live for Christ, to abide in Christ, to make much of Christ, and to delight in Christ for all eternity. Who the Son sets free is free indeed. Only true disciples know the Truth, only true disciples abide, because only true disciple are free. The Lord is with His true disciples; He abides with them. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).
By Nick Esch
You can listen to my sermon on this text below…