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True Disciples

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”


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31. If you continue in my word. Here Christ warns them, in the first place, that it is not enough for any one to have begun well, if their progress to the end do not correspond to it; and for this reason he exhorts to perseverance in the faith those who have tasted of his doctrine. When he says that they who are firmly rooted in his word, so as to continue in him, will truly be his disciples, he means that many profess to be disciples who yet are not so in reality, and have no right to be accounted such. He distinguishes his followers from hypocrites by this mark, that they who falsely boasted of faith give way as soon as they have entered into the course, or at least in the middle of it; but believers persevere constantly to the end. If, therefore, we wish that Christ should reckon us to be his disciples, we must endeavor to persevere.

32. And you shall know the truth. He says, that they who have arrived at some knowledge of it shall know the truth True, those whom Christ addresses were as yet uneducated, and scarcely knew the first elements, and therefore we need not wonder if he promises them a more full understanding of his doctrine. But the statement is general. Wherefore, whatever progress any of us have made in the Gospel, let him know that he needs new additions. This is the reward which Christ bestows on their perseverance, that he admits them to greater familiarity with him; though in this way he does nothing more than add another gift to the former, so that no man ought to think that he is entitled to any reward. For it is he who impresses his word on our hearts by his Spirit, and it is he who daily chases away from our minds the clouds of ignorance which obscure the brightness of the Gospel. In order that the truth may be fully revealed to us, we ought sincerely and earnestly to endeavor to attain it. It is the same unvarying truth which Christ teaches his followers from the beginning to the end, but on those who were at first enlightened by him, as it were with small sparks, he at length pours a full light. Thus believers, until they have been fully confirmed, are in some measure ignorant of what they know; and yet it is not so small or obscure a knowledge of faith as not to be efficacious for salvation.

The truth shall make you free. He commends the knowledge of the Gospel from the fruit which we derive from it, or — which is the same thing — from its effect, namely, that it restores us to freedom This is an invaluable blessing. Hence it follows, that nothing is more excellent or desirable than the knowledge of the Gospel. All men feel and acknowledge that slavery is a very wretched state; and since the Gospel delivers us from it, it follows that we derive from the Gospel the treasure of a blessed life.

We must now ascertain what kind of liberty is here described by Christ, namely, that which sets us free from the tyranny of Satan, sin, and death. And if we obtain it by means of the Gospel, it is evident from this that we are by nature the slaves of sin. Next, we must ascertain what is the method of our deliverance. For so long as we are governed by our sense and by our natural disposition, we are in bondage to sin; but when the Lord regenerates us by his Spirit, he likewise makes us free, so that, loosed from the snares of Satan, we willingly obey righteousness. But regeneration proceeds from faith, and hence it is evident that freedom proceeds from the Gospel.

Let Papists now go and proudly vaunt of their free-will, but let us, who are conscious of our own slavery, glory in none but Christ our Deliverer. For the reason why the Gospel ought to be reckoned to have achieved our deliverance is, that it offers and gives us to Christ to be freed from the yoke of sin. Lastly, we ought to observe, that freedom has its degrees according to the measure of their faith; and therefore Paul, though clearly made free, still groans and longs after perfect freedom, (Romans 7:24.)

33. We are Abraham’s seed. It is uncertain if the Evangelist here introduces the same persons who formerly spoke, 235235     “Ceux-la mesmes parlans, qui parloyent auparavant.” or others. My opinion is, that they replied to Christ in a confused manner, as usually happens in a promiscuous crowd; and that this reply was made rather by despisers than by those who believed. It is a mode of expression very customary in Scripture, whenever the body of a people is mentioned, to ascribe generally to all what belongs only to a part.

Those who object that they are Abrahams seed, and have always been free, easily inferred from the words of Christ that freedom was promised to them as to people who were slaves But they cannot endure to have it said that they, who are a holy and elect people, are reduced to slavery For of what avail was the adoption and the covenant, (Romans 9:4,) by which they were separated from other nations, but because they were accounted the children of God? They think, therefore, that they are insulted, when freedom is exhibited to them as a blessing which they do not yet possess. But it might be thought strange that they should maintain that they never were enslaved, since they had been so frequently oppressed by various tyrants, and at that time were subjected to the Roman yoke, and groaned under the heaviest burden of slavery; and hence it may be easily seen how foolish was their boasting.

Yet they had this plausible excuse, that the unjust sway of their enemies did not hinder them from continuing to be free by right. But they erred, first, in this respect, that they did not consider that the right of adoption was founded on the Mediator alone; for how comes it that Abraham’s seed is free, but because, by the extraordinary grace of the Redeemer, it is exempted from the general bondage of the human race? But there was another error less tolerable than the former, that, though they were altogether degenerate, yet they wished to be reckoned among the children of Abraham, and did not consider that it is nothing else than the regeneration of the Spirit that makes them lawful children of Abraham And indeed, it has been too common a vice in almost all ages, to refer to the origin of the flesh the extraordinary gifts of God, and to ascribe to nature those remedies which Christ bestows for correcting nature. Meanwhile, we see how all who, swelled with false confidence, flatter themselves on their condition drive away from them the grace of Christ. And yet this pride is spread over the whole world, so that there is scarcely one person in a hundred who feels that he needs the grace of God.




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