My Thoughts. . .
“Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” (John 8:31-32).
We sometimes read a passage like John 8, preach it to a crowd, and assume they know exactly what is expected of them. Is that expectation from (1) God, (2) the preacher, or (3) what each listener thinks it is? Is Jesus saying one is a true disciple ONLY if he continues to PERFECTLY keep his word WITHOUT fault? Is that freedom dependent upon knowing the truth, and if so, how much must one know before that freedom is granted?
According to the apostle Peter, there is a “newborn babe” stage in all of us (1 Peter 2:2). How quickly are we required to go through that stage? Some of the Hebrew Christians were not teachers because they continued to need milk (Hebrews 5:12-14). Why were they so slow in their transition? Were they without truth because they were slow in continuing in Jesus’ word? Did this negate them in “truly” being Jesus’ “disciples”? Did their lack of growth mean they were not “free”? Brethren today might classify such congregations as “unsound” or “digressive.” However, neither Peter nor God did. They were God’s elect (1 Peter 1:1). They were the Lord’s chosen people, royal priesthood, holy nation, and they belonged to God (1 Peter 2:9). If you lived in any of those locales that Peter was writing to, you would be a member of that “kind” of imperfect assembly!
The Hebrew writer, speaking to Jewish members accuses them of being “dull of hearing and unskilled in the word of righteousness.” How much scripture must one know before he can lose that label of “dull” and “unskilled”? The church at Corinth had Holy Spirit filled men called prophets, yet they experienced a four-way split which questioned the depth of that filling. Does their need to be corrected reveal their bankruptcy of “freedom”? Were they guilty of not continuing in Jesus’ word because they were void of perfection?
If that were their condition, how could they be “free”? Yet, the Holy Spirit continued to operate through them in those gifts and God continued his indwelling (1 Corinthians 3:16). Those two facts proved they were “free.” But how could God indwell folks who were off course? Why would He stick with them? God’s glue is of a better quality than what we possess. Despite the corruption of first century assemblies like Corinth, God continued to dwell in them even with their error and practices (2 Corinthians 13:5-10). Due to our perfectionist’s ideas, no one is sound other than our assembly. Today’s “sound” congregations would not fellowship a modern-day Corinth.
When the Corinthian brethren assembled with the fruit of the vine and unleavened bread, and they ate and drank it upon the first day of the week, THEY THOUGHT they were worshiping “in spirit and in truth.” Yet, Paul informs them what they were partaking of was NOT the Lord’s supper! They were going through the motions, but Jesus was missing! In that letter to the Corinthians you have a church of Christ preacher telling the membership to forsake the assembly!? Surprise, surprise! Paul told them they needed to stay home. How about that? Despite all the correction Corinth needed, God had not left them as vacant property. He continued to own them. Some today would have already torn their church sign down and written The Jerusalem Advocate that they were a digressive church! 1 Corinthians is one of 27 letters showing God’s fellowship with a church which was going in all the wrong direction. But He stayed with them. This “stick-to-itiveness” on God’s part is a foreign concept to grasp since it does not sound like the Gospel we preach!
One has to wonder if we have missed something which is included in John 8:31-32 that we have refused to consider? It does not fit the idea held by some that heaven’s doors are open ONLY to one who is a member of a perfect congregation? So, how does the following passage apply to the church in Corinth? Were they saved, but NOT free?
“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
If being “free” is available only to perfect individuals who are members of a perfect congregation, then who is “free”? We preach it and assume!