“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” John 8:31
Christ is saying, ‘Many hear the gospel and stick with it because it’s useful to them. They gain money, possessions, and honor from it. Yes, dear friends, who wouldn’t want that? That is why I teach that if you live by what I say, you are truly my disciples. There are only a few who hold tightly to the Word when there is a cross to carry. Where can I find those who will stand firm? Therefore, I say, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.’
As I read this verse and Martin Luther’s thoughts about what Christ is saying, the idea of “holding on” really captured my attention. When I think of that phrase, images come to my mind of people clinging to tree trunks in violent storms, of climbers clinging to a rock face for dear life during a challenging climb, or a toddler who feels threatened embracing the leg of his parent.
“Hold on” assumes something precious is at stake and would be forfeited if intentional clinging was forfeited. When I read John 8:31 with those vivid images in my mind I understand why the winds of suffering blow so hard against us in this life. I sense that our sufferings are coming as the merciful wind of the Spirit pressing us to cling to what is eternally precious. Beyond that, the winds that cause us to hold on are the same winds that reveal which followers are true and which are false.
People would gladly believe in Christ if it meant becoming rich and acquiring a kingdom. But if it involves suffering, then their faith is finished. So Christ knows many of them won’t keep on following His teaching. Remaining true to His teaching is rare, especially when evil winds blow. Many become Christians and hold to the gospel in the beginning. Afterward they fall away just as the believers in this passage did. It’s similar to the parable about the seed that fell on the rock. When the heat of the sun beat down on it, it withered and dried up (Luke 8:6). But those who stick with the gospel are true disciples of Christ.” ((Martin Luther, Faith Alone, Zondervan, 1998, May 14 Devotion))