33 And with many such parables He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. 34 But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples. (Mark 4:33–34, NKJV)
Jesus was the Master Teacher. He used parables to teach the gospel of the kingdom to the multitudes that gathered to Him in Galilee (Mk. 4:1-2). Then, away from the crowds, He explained the parables to His disciples (Mk. 4:10-12). Jesus knew His audience. He spoke the word “as they were able to hear it” to the crowd (v. 33). He did not impress them with scholarship or eloquence (a healthy reminder to preachers and teachers today, 1 Cor. 2:1). He was not condescending toward His audience. His goal was to teach them by planting the seed of God’s word into their hearts (Matt. 13:34-35). A godly woman once told young preachers, “Put the hay down where the calves can reach it, and the cows will have no trouble getting their fill.” Good advice. The parables challenged the crowd to ponder and prioritize God’s will. How people responded to Christ’s teachings exposed their hearts, and it still does (Mk. 4:11-12, 13-20). Away from the crowd, Jesus also took the time to explain the parables to His disciples (v. 34). He unraveled the parables’ meanings to them as He prepared them to take the gospel to the world (Mk. 16:15-16). We benefit from Jesus’ teaching style as we listen to His words and the explanations of truth His apostles, in turn, gave to the world (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:8-13).
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:12–14, NKJV)
Jesus commanded His apostles to love one another as He had loved them. This commandment is equally given to every Christian (1 Jno. 4:21). We are to walk in love as Christ loved us (Eph. 5:2). We know love because He laid down His life for us. Therefore, “We also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jno. 3:16). Jesus Christ died for every person because we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23; 5:8; Col. 1:19-23). There is no greater love than His voluntary, sacrificial death. Jesus said we must do “whatever He commands” to be His friend (v. 14). That includes loving one another, but it does not stop there. Jesus taught much more than loving one another. He commissioned His apostles to teach disciples “to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). So, when we trust Jesus and do what His apostles command us, we are friends of Jesus. Abraham was “the friend of God” because he believed God and obeyed Him (Jas. 2:21-24). Faith in and friendship with Jesus means far more than a mental agreement of who He is and what He has done. Friendship with Jesus is far more than asking Him into your heart to be your Savior. Are you doing whatever He commands you? When you do, you are His friend, saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 5:9). Be a friend to Jesus. Obey whatever He commands.
21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:21–22, NKJV)
The gospel makes disciples. And, disciples need strengthening to “continue in the faith” (Col. 2:6-7). The reason for exhortation to continue in the faith is given in verse 22 – there are many tribulations through which disciples must pass to “enter the kingdom of God.” Would someone please explain why strengthening the souls of the disciples for these tribulations is necessary if their entrance into heaven is already settled? In other words, if the eternal inheritance of Christians cannot be jeopardized, then why exhort them to continue in the faith? Why the need for strength in the face of tribulations, if entrance into the eternal kingdom can never be endangered? The truth is we can become weak. It is possible for Christians to turn back to sin and no longer continue “in the faith” (2 Pet. 2:20-22; Gal. 5:7). Let us hear and heed the Spirit’s exhortation to “be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11). You will face pressures as a disciple of Christ. Be brave, be strong. Your entrance into the eternal kingdom is certain as you “continue in the faith.”
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34–35, NKJV)
God had commanded the children of Israel to love one another (Lev. 19:18). But Jesus commands a new (“fresh”) love, new in quality and nature, defined and exemplified by His love for His disciples. Christ’s love is always and ever active goodwill – complete, sacrificial, and unselfish. His love was not seen before, namely, the sinless Son of God giving His life for the redemption of sinners (John 15:13; Rom. 5:8). Christ “loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:25-26). Disciples of Jesus are commanded to love one another as He has loved us. We follow His command to love because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts (Rom. 5:5-8). Christ’s love is merciful and just, forgiving and forbearing, serving and sacrificial (Eph. 4:32-5:2; Phil. 2:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:18-25). God’s great love toward us in Christ compels us to imitate the Son’s love: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11). People will know we are disciples of Jesus when we love each other like Jesus loved us. So the question is, do people know we are disciples of Jesus when they see how we treat each other?
5 Do not trust in a friend; Do not put your confidence in a companion; Guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your bosom. 6 For son dishonors father, daughter rises against her mother, daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; A man’s enemies are the men of his own household. 7 Therefore I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; My God will hear me. (Micah 7:5–7, NKJV)
The sins of Israel had cause corruption throughout the land. Micah (and through him, the people) was counseled by God not to trust in a friend, a close companion, or even in his own family. There he would find enemies of truth and righteousness. Micah put His trust in God, who would hear his pleas, see his circumstances and save him in the evil day. Jesus drew from this passage in Matthew 10:34-39, teaches His disciples (and us) that to be worthy of Him we must love Him more than anyone, including our own lives. Family and friends are liable to forsake the right ways of the Lord and be opponents of God’s truth. But, Jesus never will. So, put your trust in Him and patiently endure the trials and temptations of life as you wait for His salvation (Rom. 13:11-14).
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31–32)
The words of Jesus could not be more plain. Believers who abide in His word are truly His disciples. (We correctly deduce that believers who do not abide in His word are not truly disciples.) Furthermore, disciples who abide in His word shall “know the truth” and by the truth, be made free from sin. How very different this is from many who think any kind of belief is enough to please Jesus, make them a Christian and free them from sin. How very different this is from those who say truth is not absolute, definite or knowable with certainty. Jesus calls on us to believe Him and to continue in His word by knowing and following the truth. The word of Christ is the Christian’s place of residency. We live by His word, and although we are in this world, we are not of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven. Discipleship is our calling; We learn and we live the word of Jesus, the New Testament of Christ. Knowledge of the truth is our expectation, for we cannot continue in what we do not know. And, freedom from sin is our blessing from the Son, who makes us free indeed (Jno. 8:36). Saving faith learns, obeys and continues in the truth of Jesus.