Just Visiting or Abiding in the House?


I don’t know if you are anything like me or not, but I have to believe there’s at least one other person out there that reads the Bible like I do. Here’s what I mean. Have you ever been reading along in the Bible and come to a verse that seems misplaced? You don’t really get how it fits with the rest of the section you are reading, but you just sort of shrug your shoulders and keep going? Way back in your subconscious thoughts you think maybe you should check it out further, but for the sake of moving forward in your reading you just kind of ignore it?

If you are like me, your tendency is to never check it out. Over the years you’ve read that passage many times, and you still don’t understand it. “Oh well, maybe I’ll take time to study it someday”, you repeat to yourself.

Well today is “someday”. We are going to look at a verse I was tempted to skip over. Let’s see if we can come to understand how it fits in with the surrounding verses.

Let’s look at five consecutive verses in an attempt to honor context. I’ve bolded the verse we will put under the microscope.

John 8:31-35,

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.”

33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.

35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.

36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (NKJV)

The passage seems pretty straight forward. We see that Jesus is addressing a group of Jews who are new believers. The Jews who have been debating Jesus insert themselves into the conversation with the objection, “hang on a second Jesus! We are not in bondage!” Jesus responds by explaining He isn’t referring to a physical bondage, but a spiritual one.

But then Jesus says what appears to be the strangest thing in verse 35, “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.” (NKJV)

As I read this sentence two questions surfaced.

  1. Why all of the sudden is He talking about a house?
  2. What does it mean that a slave doesn’t abide in the house forever, but a son does?

They talked about being children of Abraham, is Jesus referring to the house of Abraham, in other words the linage of Abraham? Maybe, but look back at verse 31.

In this collection of verses Jesus first used the word “abide” in verse 31. The Greek word abide is μένω (meno) which has the range of meaning to stay; remain; abide. (The Lexham Analytical Lexicon to the Septuagint 2012 : n. pag. Print.).

It seems Jesus is demonstrating a parallel between abiding in His word, and dwelling in a house. A slave might come in and out of a house, but he does not remain there. You might say these argumentative Jews were “in the house” while they were conversing with Jesus, but not being sons, they won’t stay long.

A house offers protection from the elements. Remaining in the words of Jesus protects one from the harmful temptations and distractions of the world.

A house is a place of commonality or fellowship among family members. Abiding in the words of Jesus offers a sweet fellowship among like minded believers as if they were family. We enjoy the strength and encouragement that such a fellowship affords.

A house offers the rights and privileges extended by the owner to those who dwell within. Staying in the words of Jesus we experience the blessing of God the Father.

Sounds good right? But there is a problem here. The Jews contesting the teaching of Jesus in this passage are slaves bound by the cruel taskmaster called sin. They may occasionally visit God’s word, but it has no lasting affect on their lives. The solution? Jesus Christ the Son. He is the only one able to set them free, to deliver them from the bondage of sin. Jesus extends the right of sonship to those He sets free.

Consider Romans 8:15. In writing to believers Paul says,

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”  (NKJV)

Only the believer in Jesus Christ the son of God, can claim with the Psalmist,

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Forever. (Psalm 23:6 NKJV)

Believe in Jesus, abide in His word, be His disciple, be set free, and dwell forever in the house of the Lord our God.

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