[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Saturday, July 15, 2006

John 8:30, 31

by Antonio da Rosa

There has been a controversy over at Jonathan Moorhead's blog Did Judas Receive 'Free Grace'. In the comment thread there has been an extended discussion on so-called "spurious" faith. I have commented extensively over there and have made posts concerning this topic on my blog:

Here Here and most recently Calvinism and its House of Cards

The Following is part of an article by Charlie Bing that can be found in the journal section of http://www.faithalone.org

Sorry Matthew for posting on the same day as you, but, I am going on a vacation tomorrow to go beach camping with my family and I wanted to post this.

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Abide in His Word (John 8:30-31)

This passage will be considered because it is usually thought to be a condition of discipleship spoken to unbelievers. Speaking of Jesus’ ministry, John writes, "As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed." Many commentators assign Jesus’ words to those who had a counterfeit or spurious faith. For example, Morris states,

This section of discourse is addressed to those who believe, and yet do not believe. Clearly they are inclined to think that what Jesus said was true. But they were not prepared to yield Him the far-reaching allegiance that real trust in Him implies.48

However, the passage is best understood as a condition of discipleship directed to true believers, as can be shown.

It is argued that "believed Him" in v 31 indicates inadequate faith by the use of pisteuo ("believe") without the preposition eis ("in"). But it is obvious that those addressed in v 31 are the same as those in v 30 who "believed in Him" (pisteuo eis auton), which is a strong term denoting salvation.49 Also, there is overwhelming evidence that pisteuo without the preposition does not prove that faith is inadequate for salvation.50 Salvation is clearly meant in v 24 where pisteuo with no preposition is used when Jesus states, "If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins."

It is also argued that the hostility of these believers continues (vv 33ff.), and Jesus calls them children of the devil (v 44). This continuing hostility reflects the opposition of the Jews, which is a major motif of this section.

In light of what has been argued thus far, vv 31-32 show Jesus briefly directing His attention to those Jews who were saved as He taught in the temple. John’s commentary in v 30 is inserted before Jesus’ remarks to direct the reader to a change of focus by Christ before the opposition resumes in v 33 as a reaction to Christ’s remarks.51 As soon as He finishes His remarks to these believers, the Jews raise another objection, just as they have been doing from the start of the dialogue (cf. 8:13, 19,22,25). The objection of v 33, being totally out of character with the inclination of those mentioned in vv 31 and 32, shows that the identity of those in v 33 is assumed to be the antagonistic unbelieving Jews, not the new believers.52

This interpretation is most reasonable because it prevents Christ, who says in v 45 "you do not believe Me," from contradicting John, who said they "believed in Him" and "believed Him" (vv 30-31). It also has greater exegetical and theological consistency than that view which would say these are "believers who did not really believe."

The condition for becoming disciples in v 31 should not be construed as an admonition to unbelievers. In fact, the opposite is indicated by the emphatic plural pronoun "you" (hymeis) which distinguishes the new believers from the rest of the Jews.53 Also, Jesus’ admonition is not to enter His word, but to abide (meno) or continue in it. The assumption that they are already in His word indicates that abiding is a condition for further knowledge of the truth and freedom in Christ. Discipleship, as abiding in intimacy with Christ, is elsewhere in John made conditional on love and obedience (e.g., 13:35; 14:15, 21, 23; 15:4, 7, 10, 14).
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