To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. (John 8:31 NIV)
In his book “The Reason for God” Timothy Keller wrote “A faith without some doubts is like a human body without antibodies in it.” There isn’t one person of faith who at some point in their spiritual journey hasn’t wrestled with doubt. If you don’t believe me, it’s in the Bible. When Jesus asked a man who brought his demon possessed son to him if he had faith, here’s his response:
“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV)
Here in John 8, Jesus addresses a group of Jews who believed. I guess you could say they were people of faith, but then He challenges them to put their faith into action and proving their discipleship by holding to His teaching. This leads to a lengthy conversation about whose children they really were – God’s or Abraham’s. It’s a fascinating conversation that deserves more space than a short devotional piece like this, but by the end of the conversation, the tide had turned. Watch this:
At this, they picked up stones to stone him…. (John 8:59 NIV)
This literally made my head spin when I read it. I’ve probably read it 10 times today. My head is still spinning.
Here we have people who believed, but something Jesus said to them exposed their hidden doubt and in a few short minutes they’ve gone from belief to taking up stones. Why? I have a gut feeling it has something to do with what the NIV translates “hold to my teachings.” I like the NKJV better here: “If you abide in my word.”
So it’s not just belief that indicates discipleship, it’s abiding in, continuing in, living in, holding to…the teaching of Christ. That is a whole new level. This idea challenged their pre-conceived notions and fueled doubt. In this instance, their faith lost out because they couldn’t hear what Jesus was really saying and, as Paul tells us, faith comes by hearing the word.
Had these “followers” continued to hear, perhaps their doubt would have been squashed. Had they started to abide, perhaps their faith would have increased. Instead, they refused to listen and ultimately decided they needed to stone him. We believe….but stone him. Selah….