The word "abide" in verse 31 can also be translated as "continue," "dwell," "remain," "be present" and "endure." It gives the sense of staying in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy. It does not indicate one merely inactively standing still but suggests consistently moving within a pattern. Jesus clearly states that truth makes a disciple free. However, He also emphasizes that the truth and the freedom it produces do not come in a moment of time.
The truth of which He speaks indicates a broad and deep reality, a package containing many individual truths, not merely one. Thus, the package takes time to build, to accumulate, which is why a person must abide, pressing on, maintaining the freedom once it is given. The use of time is a costly investment that is not always easily made. Experience in Christian living proves that urgent needs arise in the defense of one's standing before God, and they cannot be dealt with leisurely. In addition, there is the everyday maintenance of discipline in one's life in securing our absolute need of study, prayer, and service to God and fellow man.
Truth and freedom go hand in hand, but truth will produce freedom only if it is used. This is why there must be a disciplined investment of time and energy by those who have truth and desire to protect and build their freedom. We might know something is true, but if we fail to use it, of what value is it? It would be like having money but never using it to buy or invest in anything. What good is it merely to possess it?
Truth and the freedom it produces accrue to those who press on, maintaining what they already have while simultaneously expanding and deepening it. The kind of freedom God is bringing us into comes progressively. We are to overcome, as Jesus admonishes us seven times in Revelation 2-3, and we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love