4 Non-Negotiable Marks of a True Disciple of Jesus (Part 2)
In John 8:31-59, Jesus provides us with 4 non-negotiable marks of a true disciple of Jesus. In the last post we engaged with the first 2 and in this one we’ll look at the final 2 marks. Let me say again that these are things that should mark the life of every true believer. While our standing before God is always based on faith, not works; a true, living faith should produce certain fruit (like these marks), and when we come to passages like John 8:31-59, it is good to take the time to do some honest, self-examination to ensure we are walking worthy of the faith to which we’ve been called (Eph 4:1). With that, let’s look at the last 2 marks a true disciple of Jesus found in John 8:31-59.
3. A true disciple of Jesus sees Jesus as eternally God
The third non-negotiable mark of a true disciple of Jesus that we get from this text is: a true disciple of Jesus sees Jesus as eternally God.
The key text for this mark is found in verse 58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
This isn’t true of the Pharisees mentioned in this passage.Remember, the most important question they asked, (“Who do you make yourself out to be?”) revealed that they didn’t know who Jesus really was. At one point they thought he was a demon possessed Samaritan, but in the end, they thought he was a blasphemer.
We read in verse 24,“unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”Eternity hinges on who we believe Jesus to be. This was so important to John that his gospel starts with, “In the beginning was the Word…”. So, who do we believe Jesus is?
Is Jesus truly our Lord and Savior that we submit our whole lives to, or is He more like a genie who we expect to grant our wishes every time we rub our bibles? Maybe Jesus is just the guy we go to to make penance to but don’t really enjoy as eternally God and Redeemer. Maybe Jesus is the guy we blame when things aren’t going like we think they should, as if He owes us something and isn’t holding up His end of the deal.
John, again leaning on Jesus, says in 1 John 4:15, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.”
Listen, if we see Jesus as anything other than eternally God, Jesus would confront us and ask, “are you really my disciple?” A true disciple of Jesus sees Jesus as eternally God and submits to His authority.
4. A true disciple of Jesus remains a disciple of Jesus to the end
The fourth non-negotiable mark of a true disciple of Jesus that we get from this text is: a true disciple of Jesus remains a disciple of Jesus to the end.
The key text for this mark is found in verse 35, “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.”
Often, this mark is categorized under the heading of, “perseverance”; that is, all true disciples of Jesus will persevere to the end in saving faith.
John speaks of this truth from Jesus in 1 John 2:19, “They [speaking of those who left the church] went out from us [speaking of those who remained], but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
In other words, their lack of perseverance gave evidence that they were never genuine believers to begin with. Why do I say, “they were never genuine believers to begin with”? Because the Bible speaks clearly, “that God who began salvation in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”(Philippians 1:6). Or, Jesus says in John 10:28-29, “I give [my sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”
But this doesn’t mark the Pharisees in this passage either. At the beginning of our passage, they’re articulated as “believers”, but by the end of the passage they don’t believe in Jesus, they want to kill Jesus.
Now, let’s be clear, this is a mark that’s ultimately seen at the end of a life. But Jesus knows what’s in their hearts, so He doesn’t need a life to be lived out, and John’s words are inspired from this very Jesus.
That said, “perseverance” is a mark of a true disciple of Jesus, so if we see ourselves, or our brothers and sisters in Christ, straying away from the faith, we should be concerned; and in love we should pursue our brothers and sisters and care for them with grace and the gospel and call them to walk in the light of repentance.
A true disciple of Jesus remains a disciple of Jesus to the end.
As you’ve read through the last two posts, maybe you are experiencing the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction. Listen, if there is any sin that’s been exposed, I have good news for you, in love Jesus shown light into the darkness and now, in love ,Jesus is calling you to receive and obey his word; Jesus is calling you to love him and to truly see him as Lord and Savior; and Jesus is calling you to come to him and find forgiveness for your sins. If you feel the prick of conviction as you have read through these marks, don’t be discouraged but be encouraged. Feeling God’s conviction is also a mark of a true disciple of Jesus; and so is experiencing the gift of repentance. If you see areas that you need to grow in, rest in, or trust more, do not squash that prompting of the Holy Spirit with a quick “Well, nobody’s perfect”. Spend some time in confession and ask God (persistently) to help you grow in that area. God wants to give more grace for growth.
Lastly, and this is crucial, hear me now, do not look at these marks as a checklist to earn right standing before God. In other words, these marks do not make someone a disciple, these marks give evidence that God has already made a person a disciple…his child. A true disciple of Jesus will display these marks because they have already been united to the perfect disciple of God, Jesus. Jesus perfectly reflected these marks.
- Jesus perfectly received and obeyed God’s word (I keep His word; John 8:55)
- Jesus perfectly loved the Father (I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father; John 14:31)
- Jesus perfectly saw God for who He is (I speak of what I have seen with my Father; John 8:38)
- Jesus perfectly remained faithful to God to the end (I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do; John 17:4; “It is finished” Jesus cried on the cross)
Ultimately, a true disciple of Jesus is one who by faith is united to Jesus, the perfect disciple of God. But listen, Jesus has been telling us that “talk is cheap”. These marks we have talked about are absolutely non-negotiable marks that give evidence that a person is a true disciple of Jesus…a child of God.