8:37-38 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Who’s Your Daddy?
Now Jesus turns to address their confusion, and while He acknowledges that they are the physical offspring of Abraham, yet they are obviously missing the point, so He uses this as an opportunity to teach them something about Abraham, something about themselves, something about the Himself, and something about the Fatherhood of God.
First let’s address these Pharisees and their relation to Abraham. They may technically be descendants of Abraham by genealogy, but that is missing the point – and they are probably claiming much more. As Calvin explains:
What they continually claim and vaunt of is, that they are Abraham’s children; by which they do not simply mean that they are the lineal descendants of Abraham, but that they are a holy race, the heritage of God, and the children of God. And yet they rely on nothing but the confidence of the flesh. But carnal descent, without faith, is nothing more than a false pretense.
Furthermore, Paul points out that coming from the seed of Abraham was not necessarily the only qualification for being a spiritual (chosen) child of God (Gen. 21:9-10; Rom. 9:7; Gal. 4:21-31). Their sinfulness exhibits the very reason they cannot be rightfully called sons of Abraham.
Paul explains that there was a reason why Abraham received his promises prior to Israel even becoming a nation. These people are claiming that they are part of the genealogical nation of Israel – “we are Jews” they are saying. But they do not understand that the promise of Abraham being a Father to many nations came prior to the existence of Israel. Here is what Paul says in Galatians:
Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”  So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)
Calvin further illumines our minds as to what is at stake here:
The state of the question therefore is this: Ought they to be accounted Abraham’s children who reject the blessing offered to them in the word, so that, notwithstanding of this, they shall be a holy nation, the heritage of God, and a royal priesthood? (Exodus 19:6; Joel 3:2.) Christ denies this, and justly; for they who are the children of the promise must be born again by the Spirit, and all who desire to obtain a place in the kingdom of God ought to be new creatures. Carnal descent from Abraham was not indeed useless, and of no value, provided that the truth were added to it. For election dwells in the seed of Abraham, but it is free, so that all whom God sanctifies by his Spirit are accounted heirs of life.
Second, they miss this first point not because they weren’t as smart as Paul, but because His word “finds no place in (them).” This tells us something about them as a people. They are unregenerate haters of God. This is simply the inverse of what He said in verse 31 when He said that His disciples would be ones who “abided” in His word. These people are not His disciples, therefore His word (the very word of God) found no place in them.
Here is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Thirdly, He makes yet another astounding claim to deity. I explained earlier how He made a veiled claim at deity when He said in verse 14 “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.”
We had concluded that He was essentially saying that His word could be trusted because He was the Son of God. He had come from God, and was indeed God.
Here is more explicit and says that what He is stating is true because “I speak of what I have seen with my Father.” This is sort of an escalation in His dialogue from the implicit to the explicit. Now He is claiming outright to have seen God.
If their minds were able to move as quickly as Christ’s, the Pharisees would have seen that in this short saying Jesus was stating:
1. He has seen God with His own eyes – something no mere mortal can do. Only the Son can be pros ton theon (with/facing God) and live.
2. He is saying that God the Father is “my Father” – He is claiming divine sonship.
This reminds me of what the angel said to Zachariah in Luke 1:
And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” (Luke 1:18-20)
The main reason that the angel said he was to be believed was due to what he had seen and heard – where he had just come from, the throne of God. Jesus is saying the same thing here, He is saying that He is testifying to the truth of what He has seen and heard from the God of the Universe Himself, the great I AM. He has come down from the throne room of the Lord of heaven and earth and is therefore to be believed.
The last thing Christ says, and we’ll get into this a little further down in the chapter, is that there’s a difference between His father and their father.
Clarke cites Lightfoot and helps prime the topic:
From what is here said, it is manifest, says Dr. Lightfoot, that the whole tendency of our Savior’s discourse is to show the Jews, that they are the seed of that serpent which was to bruise the heel of the Messiah: else what could that mean, John 8:44: Ye are of your father the devil, i.e. ye are the seed of the serpent.
8:39-41a They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did,  but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.”
The trust of this passage is that the Pharisees are still completely baffled by what Jesus is getting at. They don’t quite know where He is going with this line of argument, but they don’t like it one bit. Jesus is also saying that while they might (rightfully even) claim to be descendents of Abraham, they are not behaving like children of Abraham. Christ excoriates them for their behavior – particularly their murderous intent.
Therefore, Christ is saying, “you might be physical descendents of Abraham but you are not acting like God’s people. You are trying to murder yet another man who has been sent from God – a man who has heard the very words of God. Abraham never would have behaved in this way.”
This reminds me of what Christ said to them at another time when in the temple:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous,  saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’  Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.  Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?  Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,  so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.  Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. (Matthew 23:29-36 ESV)
Adoption – A Wonderful Doctrine!
So contrary to the words of those who are under the control of the Devil, the sway of this world, and their flesh are the works of those who are God’s children.
There is a misconception in the world today among many practicing evangelical Christians, and also among many other religions leaders and followers of other religions. The misconception is this: that we are all “children of the same God.” You here this kind of language used a lot with the hopes of sounding ecumenical and peaceful and loving toward others. But we cannot love others if we lie to others.
J.I. Packer clears the air on this in his classic book ‘Knowing God’, he says:
The idea that all are children of God is not found in the Bible anywhere. The Old Testament shows God as the Father, not of all, but of his own people, the seed of Abraham. “Israel is my first born son,…Let my son go” (Ex. 4:22-23). The New Testament has a world vision, but it too shows God as the Father, not of all, but of those who, knowing themselves to be sinners, put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as their divine sin-bearer and master, and so become Abraham’s spiritual seed. “You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ…You are all one in Jesus Christ. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed” (Gal. 3:26-29). Sonship to God is not, therefore, a universal status into which everyone enters by natural birth, but a supernatural gift which one receives through receiving Jesus. (‘Knowing God’ – Chapter 19)
Furthermore, in his first epistle, John gives us more reason to believe Packer’s words:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)
God’s love, as described by the apostle John, would not be anything distinguishing or amazing if it were given to all mankind. In fact John makes a distinction between those of the world, and those who are children of God. That alone ought to dispel any lingering notion of the entirety of humanity being God’s children.
But far apart from what sonship is not, Packer reminds us of the awesome privilege of being called sons of God. What an amazing thing to meditate upon. It is certainly one of the Bible’s most wonderful truths!
8:41b They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.”
This is a nasty little hint that they are making – essentially some commentators say that they’re hinting that Jesus Himself was born of sexual immorality. I’m not sure if this is because of His unknown origins, or because of nasty rumors spread about Him. Either way, they are now dipping down past a real debate on the issues and into a nasty exchange of slurs against Jesus.
And this is pretty typical, if you think about it, in a debate when one is losing the high ground. In desperation the man slipping from his sure debate footing resorts to a personal attack instead of backing up his facts, or exposing his challenger’s premises as false etc. They have no more fact to resort to; they are completely empty of sound argument.
Lastly, we see that their hubris knows no bounds. In their stupidity, they go so far as to assert that they are children of the Most High. Thus, they have set themselves up for the final lesson of the discourse on the nature of the Fatherhood of God.
8:42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me.
Jesus reiterates that He came from God, and that God sent Him, which He has stated before. But He also addresses their claim at a familial relationship with the Most High.
John says this later in his first epistle:
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:9-11)
These men were still in darkness and therefore they hated Jesus. Can this be anymore plain? I think not. Those who are not saved, not born again, hate instead of love. They persecute instead of protect, they harbor darkness in their hearts instead of confessing their sins to God their Father. The contrast is clear and evident from their behavior – that is the essence of what Christ is saying to them here.
Application…this leads me to look inwardly and wonder at how often I have acted as one who is an unbeliever. How often, with coolness in my demeanor, have I slandered my brother? How often have I showed hatred instead of love? What about you? Do you find that you are not showing love to one another? There ought to be nothing but love for all who are believers. If someone is wrong, if someone has sinned, approach them in love with a sincere heard because you love them. I think so often we grow up cold. We need to never cease to find ways to shower one another in love. Let us think actively on how we can show each other love. Here is what Paul said in Romans:
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:10-13)
8:43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
This is a repetition of what he said earlier in verse 37 – namely that His word had found no place in them. Not only can they not understand what he is saying, they cannot even bear to hear what he is saying! It causes them revulsion inside. For what fellowship has light with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14)?
8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Now we come to it, Jesus makes it plane exactly who their father is, and you can bet that they aren’t going to like what He says. Sometimes I think it’s easy to gloss over this. We wince a little bit, and then move on. We think, “Wow Jesus, that’s pretty harsh! Did you really have to go that far? I mean you basically said it, you inferred it, but did you have to actually SAY it???” You bet He did! You see, when a great truth is being explained in the Bible, the way writers and teachers would make sure that the listener understood a topic’s importance would be to continually repeat the explanation or the key points over and over.
Teachers in Jesus’ day would repeat their key points because, chances are, their listeners weren’t taking notes – they were having to mentally memorize all that they said. So here we have something that, while it seems harsh (and indeed it is), is an important truth coming from the embodiment of truth Himself.
So Jesus is saying that far from simply living in darkness and not loving His words, they also love to do the will of the one who is the dominant force for evil in this world, namely, the Devil. In John 3 we read a little about this:
And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.  For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21)
The next important thing Jesus lets us in on here is a little history about the person we know as Satan. We learn two important things about Satan:
- He is a liar – it is in his very nature to be a liar
- He is a murderer – and has been from the beginning
Let me address each characteristic.
Satan is a Liar
Lying is Satan’s chief tool. We read about this all over the Bible, but since Christ pointed to “the beginning” here, let’s take a look at his first recorded (spoken) lie:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,  but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”  But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)
And so we see here that ever since the beginning of time, Satan has been lying to human beings. Why? Because it is in his character to do so, and because he has an end-goal…which we’ll talk about next…
Satan is a Murderer – and Christ Conquered Him at the Cross
As we continue on in Genesis 3 we read the following:
The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”(Genesis 3:14-15)
I have briefly talked about this passage in the past, this is what theologians call the protoevangelium because it is the “first Gospel” message in the Bible. In this passage we hear God cursing Satan, and we learn that Satan’s fate is sealed. One day he will receive a permanent blow to the head. This will come from the Son of Man – the Christ, Jesus Himself – and indeed this blow came at the cross.
But we also learn from this passage that there is enmity between mankind and between Satan. This word enmity is a war-like word, it is a murderous word, it means “hatred” and is the signaling of war between Satan and the mankind – specifically between Satan and those who are God’s elect here on earth.
As we see above Satan is a liar, but the reason he is a liar is because his intention is to kill all of the offspring of Adam, especially God’s elect. He is a murderer, Christ says, and he has been since he first deceived Adam and Even.
So make no mistake about this: Satan is not interested in simply tripping you up so that you won’t be a kind, gentle person who is nice to their neighbors. No, while that is certainly on his agenda, his goal is your death – especially your spiritual death.
However, when Christ came and died on the cross He dealt a fatal blow to Satan. He conquered sin and He conquered death as well. Satan, who had the power of death, no longer had that power. Spiritual death was no longer in the cards for everyone. In fact, low and behold, all who were the saints come before were also given the righteousness and life that Christ earned during His life and death here on earth!
This is important to understand. Christ fulfilled this promise on the cross. Satan’s power has been dramatically impugned. Listen to what Christ says:
Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. (John 12:31)
Elsewhere Christ explains in a parable that He has bound and curtailed Satan’s activity here on earth:
But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. (Matthew 12:28-29 ESV)
John explains this further in his first epistle, and also echoes Christ’s words on Satan’s character:
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
In fact, in both Revelation 12 and Revelation 20 Satan is seen as cast down from his lofty perch, as Christ has come at His first advent. Robert Strimple explains:
Revelation 12 describes a restraint placed on Satan at Christ’s first coming. Satan wanted to destroy the woman and her child, but could not. Accompanying these events was a heavenly battle in which Satan was cast down from heaven. Might Rev 20 be a recapitulation of his? In both places Satan is “cast down” by an angel or angels.
As a side note, some might wonder, “if Satan has been bound as Scripture says he is, then why are there so many trials and death and such still among the people of God, and in the world in general?” Strimple explains in outline form:
Evidence that Revelation 20:1 is a Figurative Representation of Christ’s Victory Over Satan at the Cross
- At the cross Satan was bound – but not absolutely. Similarly, Rev. 20 says that Satan is bound, but adds: that he might deceive the nations no longer. The word, ethn(“nations”) was used by the Jews to designate the Gentiles. Hence, Rev 20 links Satan’s binding with the arrival of salvation for the Gentiles in the present age.
- Jesus did commission the mission to the gentiles (Acts 26:17-18)
- Our struggle with evil powers (Eph 6:11-12) is not inconsistent with their being bound: Jude 6, 2 Pet 2:4, Rev 9:14 all speak of the fallen angels being bound, awaiting punishment. But this does not mean that they are not active.
Therefore the blow has been dealt, and the end of Satan will come at the close of the age, when Christ consummates his kingdom and destroys Satan forever.
Lastly, this may seem obvious, but listen to how Christ talks about “the beginning.” He is talking as one with authority. He is talking as if He has been their Himself! As so He was. I don’t know if this was lost on His listeners at the time, but its significant for what we’ll be reading next week, because Christ is leading up to an amazing statement in verses 56 and 58 that is about to blow their minds.
Side Note: One of the things that Jesus is doing here is layering His argument. He gives them a little something, and then a little more, and little by little as He peals back the layers on the onion you begin to realize that He is teaching several very profound truths here one on top of another, and each truth becoming clearer and clearer as He goes, all leading to the ultimate truth which we’ll read about next time in verse 58.
8:45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.  Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?  Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
In verse 47 we see a repetition of what Christ has said earlier, namely that because they are not from God they do not understand what He is saying. John later wrote in his epistle:
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22-23 ESV)
But there is more ground here that we haven’t covered. Namely, that He is claiming absolute sinlessness, and He is giving them a reason for why they don’t believe them in a way that we ought to meditate upon.
Look at verse 45, but especially the word “because” – if this word were omitted, then we would simply have two factual statements:
- That He is telling the truth
- That they don’t believe Him
Only when we consider the word “because” are we let into the stinging reason they don’t believe Him, and this reason ties in everything we have talked about earlier with regard to their nature, their not being born again, and the nature of Satan himself.
He says that the reason they don’t believe Him, is “because” He tells the truth! It isn’t that He’s saying that they don’t’ believe Him because they don’t like what He says, or because its antithetical to their behavior or their background or learning. No He is more acute than that. He is saying that simply on the basis of His telling the truth they weren’t going to believe Him.
Their minds would therefore only accept the antithesis of truth – thus explaining further why their father was the father of lies (Satan). They only accept that which is untruth and when they are encountered with the truth (the very truth incarnate in this case) they reject it outright because it is against all that they are, their mindset, their nature, their habit is against God’s truth, so far are they away from being children of God. They are, in fact, the very antithesis of what God wants for His children.
A Warning to Heed, and a Blessing to the Praise of God
These men could not hear the words of God because they were enemies of God, as you were once as well. If you have heard the words of God and have repented of your sins and become reconciled to God in Christ, you have also been adopted. That is the message of this passage. The promise of Christ is that for all who hear His words and believe on Him will be saved – and will also be brought into a glorious new family. Listen finally to the words of Packer:
This free gift of acquittal and peace, won for us at the cross of Calvary, is wonderful enough, in all conscience – but justification does not of itself imply any intimate for deep relationship with God the judge. In idea, at any rate, you could have the reality of justification without any close fellowship with God result.
But contrast this, now, with adoption. Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption God takes us into his family and fellowship – he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the father is a greater.
It’s coming up on Christmas time, and this always reminds me of the great gift that God gave the world in His Son. The doctrine of Adoption says that not only do we receive the gift of salvation, but also of brotherhood with Christ and the fatherhood of the Most High. Lastly, we know that because of this Christ receives us as a love gift from the Father. The elect of God are His gift to His son. We have been purchased and adopted by the Father. A gift planned for Jesus from the beginning of time! An amazing thought to meditate upon this Christmas season.