“Read your Bible!”
Good advice, right? I’ve said it. You might’ve said it. It’s good, right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated.
Reading your Bible is built on the idea of knowing stuff. Read and learn something—that’s the intent. But what if we’re not supposed to only know stuff? What if we’re supposed to actually do something with what we’ve learned?
After all, we can read all the books of a library, but that doesn’t mean we know how to apply it. We may understand all about rain and getting wet, but we may not know anything about actually getting out the rain–we may not know what to do with it , even though we know it.
In today’s passage, John 8:31-32, Jesus is continuing the conversation with the Jewish people about this very difference. The question isn’t just “Are you reading your Bible?”.
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:31-32
New International Version
The first phrase of verse 31 is very interesting (“To the Jews who had believed him…”). Was this belief leading to salvation (a theme of the Gospel of John) or belief leading to agreement? The context of this phrase and these verses (John 8) seems to indicate John is helping us see the danger of fickle faith.
The people who believed in Jesus’ identity were impressed by the miracles He performed. Their belief in Jesus was based on what they saw, not what they experienced.
This kind of “belief” is bound to be short-lived.
Thus, Jesus tells them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (John 8:31b). The word “hold” means to abide or remain. The issue is not only belief. The issue is also perseverance. Truth faith—saving faith—obeys what Jesus commanded. His words and ways are enacted by those who follow Him.
That kind of faith is genuine, real, authentic, and powerful. Verse 32 informs us when we embrace the truth of the Lord with our lives, it is authenticated in our spiritual freedom. If people are to truly experience freedom from the slavery of sin, it’s not going to be an intellectual exercise.
Instead, people experience freedom from the slavery of sin when they live out the words they claim to believe.
Have you embraced the truth of Jesus with your life? It’s so easy to try to approach the Lord through intellectual ascent—especially in the Western World. Here, we’ve inherited this idea that we need to know more about the Bible.
The thinking is this: if we just know more about the teachings of Scripture, then we’ll be better disciples of Jesus. The accumulation of spiritual knowledge, then, is the goal. But there’s a problem.
The problem is we can know all there is to know about the Lord, the Bible, and the theology of the Old and New Testament, but still not have enough to get into Heaven.
Because Jesus didn’t say, “If you know my teaching”, did He? No. He said, “If you hold to my teaching…”. If you retain, hold on, remain, live in His teaching, then we are proving we are His disciples. We don’t gain enough knowledge to be made spiritually alive. We are made spiritually alive and then desire to gain spiritual knowledge.
I beg you: don’t be so impressed with the information about Jesus that you actually miss knowing Him.
So as you read your Bible (and you should), don’t just focus on knowing it; focus on living it.