John 08:31-47, “Children of God, or Sons of Satan?”

 

Genealogy window, Canterbury Cathedral

Genealogy window, Canterbury Cathedral (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)

Whose child are you?

We recognize that fathers are important. There are but two men on all of human history who had no father: the first Adam and the last Adam. The first man, Adam, who was formed by God from the dust of the ground, and Jesus of Nazareth, who is called the last Adam in 1 Corinthians, who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Every other man in the history of humanity had an earthly father.

Whose child are you? The Bible puts great stress on genealogy. The opening chapters of the Book of Genesis trace the generations from Adam to Noah, from the Creation to the Flood. After the Flood, the genealogical record is picked up again from the three sons of Noah down through the Tower of Babel to the calling of Abraham in Genesis 12.

From there the line is traced from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Jacob’s 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes of Israel. From the Exodus from Egypt, to the establishment of the kingdom of Israel, to the exile in Babylon, to the return from exile, close genealogical records were kept. The records were kept because God had promised a Messiah through the line of Judah and the line of David, a King who would forever sit upon the throne of his father David.

Coming to the New Testament, Matthew and Luke pick up the genealogical line from Adam and from Abraham and show that Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne, the One who had been promised by God.

Today, inheritance is often determined by genealogical records. The father passes his inheritance to his sons. Land is inherited from the father.

Character Traits

It is not only rights to reign or land or inheritance that is passed from father to son. Character and mannerisms and other traits are often passed from father to son. As the son of my father, I will sometimes do something or feel something, and say to myself, “Wow! That was just like Dad!”

I imagine that most of know who our father is. Many of us grew up in a home where the father was present and exercised a great deal of influence on the family and on the children. The presence of a father helps us to find our identity, to know who we are. We have a saying in English, “Like father, like son.” Or in French, “Tel père, tel fils.” We say that a child is a “chip off the old block.” When you chop wood, the chips of wood that fly are of the same nature as the block that you are chopping.

The earlier form of this phrase is ‘chip of the same block’. The block in question may have been stone or wood. It dates back to at least 1621, when it appears in that form in Bishop (of Lincoln) Robert Sanderson’s Sermons:

“Am not I a child of the same Adam … a chip of the same block, with him?”

The phrase “a chip of the old block” means that the son behaves in the same way as his father or resembles his father.”

The influence of fathers on sons is great. So when I ask, “Whose child are you?” I am asking about the influence on your life. I am asking about your identity, who you identify as having the most important influence on your character.

In John 8, three fathers are mentioned, and none of them without importance. In fact, of the three fathers that are mentioned, only one of them was a human father. Besides our human father, every one of us is the child of another father. Every one of us has another father whose character we reflect. So when we try to answer the question, “Whose child are you?” we need to look beyond mere human genealogy. Whose child are you?

John 8:31-47

Our text today is John 8:31-47. Jesus is debating with the Jewish authorities. He has claimed to be the Light of the World (8:12). He has told the Jews, “Unless you believe that I am (he) you will die in your sins” (8:24). Beginning in verse 31, we hear him speaking in the strongest of terms, confronting the Jewish authorities for their sin. This Jesus is not some weakling. He is not intimidated by these men who are determined to kill him. He does not back down one bit. He confronts them, and yet he does so in love, but make no mistake: this is not a friendly dialogue. This is a debate that is full of manly energy. Here is the text:

John 8:31-47 ESV So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 

33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 

39 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, 40 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. 41 You are doing the works your father did.”

They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father– even God.” 

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. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 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. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

Children of Abraham

This passage speaks of three fathers. First there is Abraham. He is the man whom the Jews considered to be their father. The Jews took great pride in their descent from Abraham, and they are greatly offended that Jesus would imply that they were slaves.

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him,

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

But they were greatly offended.

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘you will become free’?” (8:33).

Many privileges came with being the children of Abraham. This is how Paul expresses it in…

Romans 9:4-8 NLT They (the Jews) are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. 5 Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 

There were great privileges as well as responsibilities for the children of Abraham. They had received the Word of God, the promises and the blessing of the covenant that God had made with them.

Romans 3:2 NLT Yes, there are great benefits! First of all, the Jews were entrusted with the whole revelation of God.

They also had the responsibility to share God’s Word with the nations. While the nation as a whole was not faithful to the task of evangelizing the nations, the prophets continually addressed their works not only to Israel but also to the surrounding nations, kingdoms, and empires.

As great as the privileges were, Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 9,

6 Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! 7 Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted,” though Abraham had other children, too. 8 This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children.

Being the children of Abraham was not simply a matter of biology. Descent from Abraham was no guarantee that one was right with God or that one was a child of God or that he would have a share in the kingdom of God.

Romans 2:28-29 NLT For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.

Being a child of God means having a new heart. God had promised in Ezekiel

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Eze 36:25-27 ESV).

The proof of the gospel is a new heart.

In verse 37, Jesus recognizes that the Jews are the offspring of Abraham, but in verse 39 he says, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works Abraham did.” Jesus may be making a distinction between offspring and children. In fact, in the original Greek text, the word is σπρμα (Joh 8:33, 37 BNT). They had claimed to be the sperm or the seed of Abraham (8:33), and Jesus says, “I know that you are the seed of Abraham (8:37), but if you were the true children of Abraham you would act like your father (8:39).

They are doing what Abraham would never do: “you are seeking to kill me because my word finds no place in you” (8:37). Again in verses 39 and 40,

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.”

“Like father, like son”? Well, they were not acting like the man whom they claimed as their father.

Human Ancestry is Nothing

The Jews put their confidence in their ancestry. They were the offspring of Abraham, and they believed that that was all that mattered.

Are we any different today? We look at our ancestry and think we are okay with God. This is a Christian nation, so we are okay with God. It doesn’t matter how we live or what we do or what we think, long God yumi stanup. Just like the Jews who trusted in their descent from Abraham many people put their trust in their Christian heritage.

Heritage is a great thing and can be a great blessing. We think of people who laid down their lives to bring us the gospel. God moved in these islands and many people came to know the Lord. Some of us have descended from a significant line of Christians. But that has no value if we have not been saved from our sins.

I can trace back several generations of preachers in my family: my grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandfather. But that has no value unless I am born again, unless I become a new creation in Christ Jesus.

Nicodemus was a very religious man, a chef of the Pharisees. He would pray and fast and tithe on everything, but Jesus told him that even he had to be born again. There must be a new birth, a birth into the family of God. Whose child are you?

Violence toward Christ

Jesus pushes this issue with the Jews. They claim to be the offspring of Abraham.

John 8:37-41 NLT Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because there’s no room in your hearts for my message. 38 I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father. 39 Our father is Abraham!” they declared. “No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were really the children of Abraham, you would follow his example. 40 Instead, you are trying to kill me because I told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham never did such a thing. 41 No, you are imitating your real father.”

Here Jesus is claiming once again that God is his own Father. It is good for us to remember what John told us in John 5:18, that every time Jesus says “my father,” he claiming that “God is his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

Jesus is saying, “I am like my Father, and you are like your father. You claim to be the children of Abraham, but you are not acting like Abraham. You are trying to kill me. You are following the advice of your real father. I am telling you the truth that I heard from my Father, but you not acting like Abraham. You are acting like your real father.”

Who is their real father?

 They replied, “We aren’t illegitimate children! God himself is our true Father.”

Is that true? Is God really their Father?

Fatherhood of God

Some speak of the fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. It is true that we are all brothers and sisters in the sense that we all descended from one man, Adam.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth… (Act 17:24-26 ESV)

God has made us all. He is the Creator of us all. But Jesus clearly makes a distinction that the Jews are not ready to receive. The Jews claim that Abraham is their father. Jesus says that they are not acting like Abraham. Instead, they are acting like their true father.

“We are not illegitimate children,” they reply.

The Jews may have been implying that Jesus was illegitimate. In verse 19, they ask, “Where is your father?” Now in verse 41, they say, “We were not born of sexual immorality.” They may have been implying something about Mary. We know from the biblical record that she was still a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. Joseph did not know her physically until she brought forth her firstborn son. But the Jews did not know all this. There had been questions about Mary and Joseph.

But they still don’t get it. Jesus says that they are not acting like Abraham; they are acting like their real father. Who is that?

“We have one Father—even God,” they say.

But no, Jesus categorically denies that: “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came no of m own accord, but he sent me.”

“If God were your Father,” Jesus says, “you would love me.” Do they love him? No. They want to kill him.

Who wants to kill Jesus? Most people are not openly hostile to Jesus. He is said to be one of the world’s greatest teachers. Some will say that he was a prophet. And if you say these things to most people, there will be little or no objection.

So why did the Jewish authorities want to kill Jesus? They wanted to kill him because he claimed to be much more than a great teacher or a great prophet. He claimed to be equal with God:

This was why the Jews were seeking al the more to kill him… he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (5:18).

Again in chapter 7:2, “He would not go about in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill him.”

Jesus asks in 7:19, “Why do you seek to kill me?” In 7:25, “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, “Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?” The Jewish authorities tried to arrest him in 7:30 and 44, but they could not because his hour had not yet come and because no one could take his life from him.

MUSIC: MICHAEL W. SMITH: SECRET AMBITION – 3:41

The Jewish authorities were violent toward Christ. Is it not the same today? When we begin to lay out the claims of Christ, some people get upset. People don’t like what Jesus said about himself. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said, “no man comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). Jesus said that he was the only way to God. People don’t like that. They want to keep their options open. They want to believe that there are many ways to God and that God is obligated to accept them however they come, whether through Islam or Hinduism or Buddhism or some other way. They don’t want to believe that Jesus is the only true God who is at the Father’s side as John tells us in John 1:18. They don’t want to believe that seeing Jesus is seeing God as Jesus told Philip in 14:9. They don’t want to believe that Jesus is “Lord and God” as Thomas declared in John 20:28.

But Jesus told the Jewish authorities, “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.”

“I came from God.” No mere mortal could make such a statement. Jesus is pointing to his divine origin. Unlike us, he came from God.

“Why do you not understand what I say?” he asks. Then he answers his own question: “It is because you cannot bear to hear my word” (8:43).

Again, we see the importance of the word of Christ. In verse 31, Jesus has said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

John 8:37 ESV I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.

John 8:43 ESV Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.

Finally, Jesus tells them what they do not understand. They have claimed to be the children of Abraham, but twice Jesus told them that rather than acting like the children of Abraham, they were acting like their father.

They claimed that God was their father. Jesus said that if God were their Father, they would love the Father’s Son.

So they are neither the children of Abraham nor the children of God. Then whose children are they?

Jesus finally drops the bomb in verse 44: “You are of your father the devil.”

We must understand that Jesus is not insulting them. He is simply telling them that they are acting like their father. “Like father, like son.” “Tel père, tel fils.”

John 8:44 ESV 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.

Satan was a murderer from the beginning. It was Satan who inspired Cain to kill his brother Abel. Now the Jewish authorities want to kill Jesus. They are resisting the truth about Christ, the truth that He is God in the flesh. They are resisting because the truth has no place in them. They are resisting because they cannot bear to hear his word. They are resisting because they are acting like their father, the devil.

This is true, not only of the Jewish authorities; it is true of us. The Bible says of us in…

Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

We were following the course of this world. We were going with the flow. We were living like everyone else. We were living like the world, just doing what culture and society expected of us.

But we were not only following the course of the world; we were following the prince of the power of the air: Satan. He is the spirit that is now working in those who are disobedient to the gospel. We were living according to the passions of our flesh, doing whatever our body and mind desired. We were by nature children of wrath.

That is exactly what Jesus is saying when he says, “You are of your father the devil.” “Like father, like son.”

Whose child are you?

Who is your father? Physical descent has no importance when it comes to spiritual things. My father’s faith will not get me into heaven. God has no grandsons. I do not become a child of God by virtue of the faith of my parents.

There is only one way into God’s family: receiving Christ as your Lord and Savior.

John 1:12-13, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again” by the Spirit of God.

So what is the solution?

We come back to the word of verses 31-32,

John 8:31-32 ESV Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

See also “Gospel of John”:

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