Pastor David B. Curtis

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Christian or Disciple?

John 8:30-32

Delivered 04/02/17

We are in the eighth chapter of John where Yeshua is teaching in Jerusalem at the Tempe on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. During the water libation ceremony Yeshua shouted, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink." Yeshua is claiming to be the true Rock of the wilderness, wondering who can provide eternal life to all who come to Him. Then during the Fire Ceremony Yeshua claims, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." Yeshua is claiming to be the Light of the glory of God. Then the Pharisees question Him, and they get into an extended dialogue while the crowd at large listens in. Then in verse 30 we read:

As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. John 8:30 NASB

Who is saying this? This is the author of the Gospel, Lazarus. Writing under the inspiration of the Spirit, he says in light of Yeshua's teaching, "Many came to believe in Him." What does that say to you about their spiritual condition? Before you answer that, let me remind you of the purpose of this book:

but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31 NASB

So this gospel was written that people may believe and have life eternal. Notice what we have seen so far in this Gospel about those who believe:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, John 1:12 NASB

Those who believe in Him become children of God:

so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:15-16 NASB

What happens when you believe in Him? You receive eternal life:

"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36 NASB

Compare this with:

"He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18 NASB

According to John 3:18 and John 3:36, what is the outcome of believing or not believing in Yeshua? He who believes "is not condemned" (John 3:18) and "has everlasting life." (John 3:36) He who does not believe "is condemned" (John 3:18) and "the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36) It's one or the other. There is no third option.

The word translated "he who does not obey" in the NASB, and "believeth not" in the KJV is not the common word to not believe, which is apisteo, but the word used here is the verb apeitheo. The leading Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, by Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, and Danker, makes a very insightful comment about apeitheo, which sheds light on John 3:36: "Since in the view of the early Christians, the supreme disobedience was a refusal to believe their Gospel, apeitheo may be restricted in some passages to the meaning: "disbelieve, be an unbeliever" (BAGD, p.82).

Look at what Paul said in Romans:

through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name's sake, Romans 1:5 NASB

Paul was the apostle to the nations, and his calling was to "bring about the obedience of faith." The significance of the genitive pistis (of faith) is disputed. Some take it as a subjective genitive giving it the sense of obedience that comes from faith. It can also be taken as an appositional construction and should be translated as: "the obedience that is faith." Acceptance of the Gospel in faith can be described as an act of obedience:

However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, "LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?" Romans 10:16 NASB

The word "heed" is the Greek word hupakouo, which means: "to obey." Paul uses it four times in Romans, and the other three are all translated: "obey." The parallelism of the two lines reveals that disobedience consists in failure to believe:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 NASB

Eternal life is a result of believing. In a chapter where Yeshua continually says you can't believe unless you are called He says:

Yeshua said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:35 NASB
"For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." John 6:40 NASB
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. John 6:47 NASB
Yeshua answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." John 6:29 NASB
"He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified. John 7:38-39 NASB
As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. John 8:30 NASB

So when Lazarus here says, "many came to believe in Him"—what do you think he meant? If it doesn't mean that they trusted in Christ and received eternal life, the Holy Spirit, resurrection life, then Lazarus must be trying to confuse us. Many in the crowd to which Yeshua was speaking believed in Him as He was calling for them to do. And because they believe they received eternal life. Remember Yeshua is in the Temple, in the court of the Women, and there is a large crown listening to Him. He is at some points talking directly to the Pharisees, and at other points to the crowd in general. This verse is telling us that in spite of the confusion of many and the anger of others that resulted from Yeshua's teaching, "many" believed on Him. God opened their understanding with His illuminating and lifegiving words.

What is amazing to me is that in spite of the Scriptures that we just looked at the commentators are nearly united in the belief that these are not true believers. There is not textual discrepancy in these verses, the inspired Word of God says they "believed" which all through this Gospel is said to result in eternal life. And yet most Scholars and commentators say these were not true believers.

Their reason for thinking these are not real believers is not linguistic, the Greek in our text, "many believed in Him" is identical to John 3:16 which says that "whoever believes in Him" has everlasting life. If those in our text (v 30) don't have everlasting life Lazarus contradicts himself. The Greek phrase pisteuo plus the dative ("believed Him") in verse 31 is identical to the Greek in 5:24. So linguistically there is no reason to think these are not true believers. And textually there is no question about these verses. It appears that the faith of these people is questioned because of the context.

Hall Harris writes, "There is a major problem with the context of verse 31: Jesus apparently speaks to those who trusted Him in 8:30, yet it becomes apparent that these are not genuine believers in the Johannine sense. They seek to kill Jesus (8:37, 59); Jesus even says their father is Satan (8:44)"

Along the same line John MacArthur writes, "He refers to them as, 'Those who had believed,' in verse 31. And yet I want you to know how these people are referred to, these same people in verse 44. 'You are of your father, the devil.'"

Earlier in the Gospel Lazarus said:

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, John 1:12 NASB

Those who believe become sons of God! So when Yeshua says in verse 44, "You are of your father, the devil," He must be talking to a different group. Notice also, verse 45 and 46:

"But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? John 8:45-46 NASB

In verse 30 and 31 it says they "believed in Him," and here He say they don't believe. To me it is clear that the people in vv  33-47 are not the same as those in vv  30-32. You can't believe and not believe, so these must be two different groups.

John Piper commenting on this says, "Something is going to happen that makes Jesus say that some of these believers are not believing. Look at verse 45: 'But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.' If they are not believing, they are not believers."

If you follow the third person plurals (they, them) in the entire chapter, you find that there is a larger hostile group that runs through the whole chapter (see John 8:2, 4, 6, 7, 12, 14, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 33, 34, 39, 41, 42, 59) and there is a smaller group in vv 30-32 that believes in Yeshua. So I think we need to see vv  30-32 as parenthetical. Verse 33 resumes the discussion with the hostile group.

The problem with those who say these are not believers is Theological! The problem is that they don't see a difference between a Christian and a disciple. They incorrectly read "believer" for "disciple" in the text. But these are two different terms describing two different groups of people in relation to Yeshua.

A person becomes a Christian when they understand and believe the Gospel of Yeshua, who is the Christ. At that moment, they are placed into the body of Christ, given Christ's righteousness, indwelt by God, and are as sure of heaven as if they were already there. They are "in Christ."

The Scriptures make it quite clear that salvation is a free gift of God's grace, but the Scriptures also teach that discipleship is costly. Salvation is our birth in the Christian life, and discipleship is our education and maturity in the Christian life. Compare these two texts:

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 NASB

Eternal life is a gift of grace to all who believe—do you see any cost involved here? Do you see any labor or agony? But now notice:

"So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Luke 14:33 NASB

Discipleship is a call to forsake all and follow Christ. Can this be talking about the same thing as John 3:16? I don't see how. I see discipleship as a conditional relationship that can be interrupted or terminated after it has begun. All Christians are called to be disciples, but many will not pay the price. Discipleship is costly!

So Yeshua was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; John 8:31 NASB

Yeshua is talking to believers, "those Jews who had believed Him." And He says, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine." So these Christians can become disciples if they "continue in His word. '

John Piper writes, "Let's be really clear here: For Jesus 'true disciple' is the same as 'true Christian' or 'true believer…True disciple means true believer or true Christian.'

So Yeshua is telling believers if they abide in His word, they will be true believers?

Disciples may or may not be genuine believers, and believers may or may not be genuine disciples. Today we sometimes describe a believer who is also a disciple as a growing Christian, and a believer who is not a disciple as a backslidden Christian.

John MacArthur writes, "So here we meet some Jews who, according to verse 30 and 31, had believed in Jesus. They believed because initially it's kind of easy to believe."

No, it is not easy to believe. From what I see in the Scripture, it's not easy to believe, it's impossible to believe unless you are drawn by the Father! (6:44)

MacArthur writes, "How can you tell a true believer? Perseverance, endurance. That's the benchmark. If you continue in My Word." He goes on to say, "So where there's no perseverance, there's no salvation. So if you're asking yourself, What about so-and-so? They don't come to church. They don't show an interest in the things of Christ—pretty easy to answer the question."

Like I said, the problem here is not a linguistic one, and it's not a textual one, and it really isn't even a contextual one. The problem is theological. The problem here is the view of Lordship theology, which teaches that if a person is truly a Christian, they MUST live a righteous obedient life. Without this practical righteousness, there is no reason for a person to think that they are a Christian. No fruit, no root, would be their mantra.

The problem with the Lordship view is three fold and involves:

A) The Nature of Faith

What must a person do to be saved? What exactly is saving faith? Saving faith is: Understanding and assent to the propositions of the Gospel. It is not some special kind of faith in the sense that its quality or essence is different than other kinds of faith. There are not different kinds of faith, there are just different objects of faith.

Faith is believing a proposition is true. For example: If I said, "He told me the check is in the mail, and I believed him." Are you going to ask me if I believed with my head or my heart? Of course not! You understand what I mean when I say that I believed him. But when it comes to Christianity, we look for some other understanding of faith. Faith is faith whether it be in Christianity or mathematics. Saving faith is taking God at His Word. It is believing what God has said:

yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform. Romans 4:20-21 NASB

God made Abraham a promise, and Abraham believed Him—that is faith. He believed that God would do what He said He would. When we believe God's testimony about His son, we receive God's righteousness and have everlasting life.

I'm not saying that everyone who says they are a Christian is one. It seems like everybody in this country thinks they're a Christian. I was talking to a man who told me that he was a Christian. I asked him, "If you were to die right now and stand before God and He asked you 'Why should I let you into heaven' what would you tell Him? He said, "I'm not sure, I haven't been to confession lately." This man, thought he was a Christian, had no clue of what the Bible taught about salvation. I proceeded to share the Gospel with him. He was very interested in what I had to share.

The Lordship view has redefined saving faith, so it's more than just taking God at His word. To them, saving faith involves surrender, commitment, submission, repentance, and sacrifice. These additions are both linguistically invalid and biblically invalid. Faith is simply believing.

Augustine, who lived from A.D. 354-430 wrote, "Faith is nothing else than to think with assent." John Calvin wrote, "For as regards justification, faith is something merely passive, bringing nothing of ours to the recovering of God's favor but receiving from Christ what we lack."

Saving faith is accepting the testimony of God. Do you believe that Yeshua is the Christ? If you do, then on the testimony of Scripture, you are saved, you possess everlasting life.

Benjamin Warfield, the Presbyterian who probably would not have put himself in my camp, said, "The saving power resides exclusively, not in the act of faith, or the attitude of faith, or the nature of faith, but in the object of faith."

The truth is, technically, we're not saved by faith, but through faith. Faith is the instrumental means; grace is the efficient means of our salvation. We're saved by Yeshua. We're saved by His grace. We're saved through faith. You would understand what I meant if I said to you, "I put the fire out with the hose." Now hoses don't put out fires. But hoses are the channels for water that puts the fire out. The hose is the instrumental means; the water is the efficient means. Faith is the instrumental means by which we are able to access our salvation through Yeshua.

John Robbins, in the foreword of Gordon Clarks's book, Faith and Saving Faith, writes, "Belief of the truth, nothing more and nothing less, is what separates the saved from the damned. Those who maintain that there is something more than belief, are, quite literally, beyond belief."

Let me give you a test to see if you understand this.

Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. John 12:42-43 NASB

Were these individuals saved? Were they Christians? The Lordship view would say, "No," because they did not confess Him. But the Scripture says, "They believed in Him."

Mark A. Copeland, the author of the Executable Outlines, says, "There are some who teach that as long as one believes in Jesus, they will be saved. That salvation is by 'faith only.' But there is such a thing as 'an unsaved believer.' There were some who believed in Jesus, but were not saved—John 12:42-43. Let no one think that just because they 'believe' in Jesus, they have a free ticket into heaven!"

Lordship theology causes people to doubt the testimony of Scripture. Faith is believing, and believing alone makes you a Christian.

The first problem with the Lordship view is their view on the Nature of Faith. The second problem is:

B) The relationship between faith and assurance

What must a person do to know he is saved? The Lordship view teaches that assurance comes from obedience, from holy living, from your works. Martin Luther said, "For certainty does not come to me from any kind of reflection on myself and on my state. On the contrary it comes solely through hearing the word, solely because I cling to the word and its promises."

John Calvin wrote, "From one's work conscience feels more fear and consternation than assurance"(Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 3, 14,20). John Calvin taught that assurance was of the essence of faith.

If good works are the basis of assurance, then the believer's eyes are distracted from the sufficiency of Christ and His work to meet his eternal need. His eyes are focused on himself. If I seek assurance through examining my good works, one of two things must necessarily result: (1) I will minimize the depth of my sinfulness; (2) I will see my deep sinfulness as hopelessly contrary to any conviction that I am saved.

Our assurance is to be based upon God's Word; His promise that He would give eternal life to all who believe on His Son. Assurance does not come from our works.

The first problem with the Lordship view is their view on the Nature of Faith. The second problem is: the relationship between faith and assurance. And the Third problem is:

C) The effect of salvation

How will salvation show itself in one's life? The Lordship view teaches that Christians can't apostatize (fall away from God); they must and will produce fruit. If heaven can't be obtained apart from obedience to God, then, logically, that obedience is a condition for getting there.

One writer who holds the Lordship view says: "The life of God in man will always produce a righteous pattern, and if you have an unrighteous pattern in your life, you are fighting against the very nature God has created in you. It's like holding your breath, it's a lot harder than breathing."

Is unrighteousness like holding your breath? Or is it more like breathing? Living a holy life is not easy, it takes constant diligence. We must live in constant dependence on God.

The Lordship view teaches that in order to be a Christian, you must do more than believe the Gospel, you must live in obedience. I see this as adding to the Gospel; it is totally unbiblical!

Yeshua is the only Person who ever lived in complete obedience to the Father. All other men have sinned. The only reason that any body can get into heaven is because Yeshua's obedience is imputed to their account by faith:

For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. Romans 5:19 NASB

I am righteous because of Christ's obedience that becomes mine by faith! If you have to be 100% obedient to go to heaven I'm in. Because in Christ I am obedient.

Some Lordship theologians make it sound like good works come naturally and automatically to all who are "truly" saved. C. H. Spurgeon said, "We have been clear upon the fact that good works are not the cause of salvation; let us be equally clear upon the truth that they are the necessary fruit of it." (All Round Ministry; Banner of Truth,, p. 310)

John Stott makes this statement, "In spite of our newness in Christ … holiness is neither automatic nor inevitable."([Romans, p. 317) That is a very surprising statement from someone who is "Lordship." But it is true, our holiness is not automatic nor inevitable.

If living righteously came automatically, why are there so many commandments in Scripture? Why does Paul give so many instructions to believers? All he should be doing is telling them how to get saved, if the rest is automatic. No, Paul is constantly telling believers how to live because we need instruction on living holy lives.

Just as in our text God calls all believers to be disciples, but many will not pay the price. Salvation is a free gift of God's grace, but discipleship is costly. Salvation is our birth in the Christian life, and discipleship is our education and maturity in the Christian life.

Please hear this: Just because we are saved, this does not mean we can live as we please and do as we wish. Grace does not give us a license to sin or constitute an excuse for carelessness. Remember, "Who the Lord loves, He chastens." To live in sin will cost us temporally. Sin, any sin, all sin, will cost us in this life. In Matthew 18: 32-35 we see one who has been forgiven (a believer) being turned over to the torturers because of sin in his life. Verse 35 tells us that God will do the same to us if we live in sin.

What if I'm wrong? I'm well aware that that's a possibility. What if the Free Grace view that I am espousing is not correct? Let's think about this. If I'm wrong, what damage could this view possibly cause? If the Free Grace view is wrong, it could cause people to think that they are saved when they're really not. It could be giving false hope to unbelievers. So what? Do you believe in election? Will the elect of God ever be lost? No! Will the reprobate ever be saved? No! So, in my opinion, the worst that the "Free Grace" view will do is give false hope to the reprobate.

If the Lordship teaching is wrong, what harm can it do? It can cause a believer to think that he is not redeemed because of sin in his life. This view can bring the elect under guilt and condemnation. It can cause a believer to give up on Christianity by making him doubt that he really is saved. The Lordship view can hurt the Church of God by causing Christians to live in guilt and doubt. But the worst that the Free Grace view does is give the reprobate false hope. As I see it, only the Lordship view is harmful to the Church. We all must admit that neither of these views can change the destiny of the elect. Selah!

When we talk about salvation by grace alone, we don't deny that Christians are to live moral lives. We just say no one can live a life pleasing unto the Lord until he has been made alive by God, and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. We are not saved by works, but we are saved for works. Luther said, "It's not against works that we contend, it's against trust in works that we contend."

So Yeshua was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; John 8:31 NASB

How did Yeshua know that people believed in Him? You can't see it in the English, but in the Greek it implies that He gave an alter call. Just kidding, no alter call, no signing a card or joining the Church. Yeshua is God and He knew who believed in Him.

"If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine"—this is a third class conditional sentence, which means: "potential action." Maybe you will and maybe you won't continue.

The word translated "continue " here is from the Greek meno, which also means: to "remain" or to "dwell." Beasley-Murray declares that the word, "signifies a settled determination to live in the word of Christ and by it, and so entails a perpetual listening to it, reflection on it, holding fast to it, carrying out its bidding."

Who is Yeshua addressing here? He is talking to believers! So if believers continue in His word they will be His disciples. A disciple is by definition a learner. A disciple remains a disciple as long as he or she continues to follow the instruction of his or her teacher. When a person stops following faithfully, he or she ceases to be a disciple:

and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." John 8:32 NASB

If as a disciple we continue in the word we will know the truth. And knowing truth will set you free. As Americans, we value freedom. Our nation was founded on the principle of "liberty and justice for all." There are, of course, different kinds of freedoms. There is political or civil freedom. But a man may have civil freedom and political freedom and still be a slave. He may not have religious freedom. He may bow before a piece of wood. He may reverence a piece of bread in a religious ceremony. He may live in bondage to a lack of assurance. That's mental slavery, mental slavery of a religious kind. He may be a slave to religious superstition.

Those who believe in Yeshua are capable of being set free, but that freedom only emerges as the believer abides in Yeshua's teachings. Disciples abide in Christ's word, and they learn the truth and are set free, free from legalism, ritualism, and performance oriented, human religiosity. Abiding in His word frees us from all the false doctrines that the church has taught down through the years. As we abide in His word we learn and grow. One area that I have been set free in is that of Lordship theology. I used to be a real Pharisee judging every ones' life. When I came to understand the free grace position it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I was set free.

At this point, our Lord's enemies come unglued because of what they hear Him say and they respond:

They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, 'You will become free'?" John 8:33 NASB

Who are the "they"? That is an extremely important question to understanding this text. I am inclined toward the view that there are both believers and unbelievers in this crowd. Yeshua speaks the words of verses 31 and 32 to those who are believers, but the unbelievers who are present interrupt and seek once again to engage Yeshua in debate. So Yeshua begins by addressing Jews who have believed, and then the subject and audience shifts in verse 33. This view allows "many came to believe in Him" to mean exactly what it says. They trusted Christ and were given eternal life.

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