John 8:31 – So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,…”
Jesus now reveals a very important truth to those who had just believed on him (see verse 30).
The true litmus test of Christian faith is obedience to God’s commands (John 14:21, I John 2:4). Obedience comes as a result of being firmly rooted in his word/doctrine and growing in faith.
By contrast, many will profess to be his disciples, however, mere profession is not enough:
Matthew 7:21 – Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
In other words, it is not enough to simply receive God’s truth – we must retain it and walk in it; we must live it out in our own lives. Only then are we true disciples of Christ.
John 8:32 – “… and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
In this verse, ‘truth’ refers to the doctrines of Jesus, which we collectively refer to as the gospel (Galatians 3:1, Colossians1:6). Those who believe in and live out the precepts found in the gospel know the truth, which sets them free.
But what are we freed from?
First and foremost, we are freed from sin. The bible often describes sin as a form of slavery. Obviously, this is why the scriptures give us such vivid detail about the period of Jewish slavery under the Egypt.
The Egyptians had the Jews tightly enslaved; they had no way of breaking free from that bondage. They had no hope of having their own nation. They had no hope of personal well being or peace. They had nothing for their children to inherit but heartache and suffering.
But then I AM intervened! He sent his people a deliverer (Moses) who led them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. There, they became a great nation. As they adhered to the just laws of God, they lived in peace and prosperity. They had hope for themselves and they had a wonderful inheritance to leave their children.
This picture in the natural realm closely mimics what happened in the spiritual realm. Satan had us all tightly enslaved in sin; we had absolutely no way to break free from that bondage. No amount of good works would settle our debt of sin.
But then, I AM intervened! He sent mankind a deliverer (Jesus) who led us out of spiritual slavery to sin and into the Kingdom of God. As we live according to the gospel doctrines, we will live victorious lives of power and peace. Introducing our children to Christ is the best inheritance we could ever give them!
Satan has perpetrated the ugly lie that true religion is a form of oppression when in reality it is true freedom. The yoke of Christ is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Therefore, nothing is more desirable than knowledge of the gospel.
Second, the gospel freed mankind from the burden of the law. The law required blood to constantly be applied as a cover for sin, while the blood of Christ was shed once for complete cleansing/removal of sin (Hebrews 9:12-14). The law allowed one man the chance to come directly into God’s presence – once a year! But under grace, all of us have the opportunity to come into the presence of God 24/7!
The law pointed out our sin and placed us under the penalty of death for it, but it could not save us from it. Only Jesus our Redeemer is capable of saving/freeing us from the penalty of death and giving us spiritual life.
Third, Jesus frees us from the effects of sin. Through him, we can have healing, deliverance, peace, joy, and many other benefits. Are you taking advantage of these benefits? He has already made provision for you to have them.
John 8:33 – 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?”
Remember, there is a mixed crowd here in the temple. While some Jews believed/acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, many still did not. The Pharisees and other religious leaders were standing by, contradicting everything that Jesus said.
They, of course, are fixated on the natural realm. But even in the natural/physical realm, their rebuttal to the teaching of Christ is simply absurd! Their fathers had been slaves in Egypt, and their entire nation had been enslaved by Babylon. Even as they spoke the Jews were groaning under the grievous bondage of the Romans. To say they had never been slaves in the natural realm was an outright lie.
It is funny how sinners are willing to say or claim anything, no matter how ridiculous or false, to avoid/oppose the truth! What examples of this can you find in the news today? (Hint – there are plenty.)
Of course, we know the Jewish leaders were well acquainted with the history of their people. They knew their forefathers were slaves in Egypt and they remembered the painful captivity the Jews suffered under Babylon. So why do they say they have never been enslaved?
Their claim is based on being a direct descendant of Isaac, son of Sarah.
Abraham was the man whom God called to start the Hebrew nation (Genesis 12:1-3). It is true that Abraham was never was a slave. However, he had two sons: Ishmael, the son of Hagar (a bond woman/slave) and Isaac, the son of Sarah (a free woman).
Because the Jews were descendants of Abraham and Isaac, they considered themselves free men who were not in bondage to anyone. Of course, they were referring to the physical realm. And again, they were completely wrong in their assertions.
The fact that this was not true in the physical realm should have led them to search for a spiritual answer/principle. But because they were spiritually blind, they missed the significance of what Jesus was telling them.
John 8:34 – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”
Jesus is not speaking about political bondage, but the spiritual slavery of our souls to evil passions and desires.
In the spiritual realm, ALL men were born with a corrupted nature and are slaves to sin from birth. Whether habitual or occasional, deliberate or accidental, ALL of us practice sin. And anyone who sins is bound to it as a slave is bound to his master. Therefore, to practice sin is to live in slavery.
Furthermore, freedom from sin cannot be found under the law (represented by Ishmael – Galatians 4:21-26), because the law cannot save. It can reveal what it takes to live righteously before God, and it can show you where you failed, but it cannot redeem you. The only way to be saved under the law is to obey every single law, every single day, in every single way. One slip-up, and you are guilty of breaking the entire law (James 2:10) and you are subject to the penalty contained therein, which is spiritual death.
John 8:35-36 – “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
It was well known that slaves had no lasting place in the house of their masters; nothing is guaranteed to them (case in point – Hagar and Ishmael are cast out of Abraham’s house, Genesis 21:10-12). As chattel, they could be bought or sold at any time for any number of reasons; they were not considered a true/permanent part of the family. Neither did they have any rights of inheritance in the family they served.
By contrast, the son has the master’s blood running through his veins. He is a permanent part of the family and he is the heir of all things. If he grants/guarantees freedom for a slave, they are truly free because he has the authority to make that happen.
The ‘Son’ Jesus refers to in these verses is himself – Jesus the Redeemer/Messiah. He has the authority to guarantee freedom for any sinner who places faith in him. As we trust in him, he ensures we are adopted by his Father into the Kingdom of Heaven. This makes us co-heirs with Christ.
At that point, we are indeed truly free – free from slavery to sin, free to do good works, free to worship and serve God and free to inherit all the possessions, privileges and blessings of Father God.
John 8:37 – “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.”
So while the Jews are the true descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, they are NOT his genuine children according to the spirit.
This is evidenced by the fact that they do not follow in the footsteps of their forefather. Abraham revered, honored and served God in both his speech and his actions. When God appeared unto Abraham and gave him unimagined promises, Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).
But the same group of Jews who are claiming to be the offspring of Abraham are not acting at all like him. They are certainly not honoring God. When God sent them the Messiah with the good news of the gospel they did not believe it – they rejected it! In fact, they planned to shed innocent blood by murdering the very Son of God!
Their hearts were full of envy, pride, hatred, murder, greed and lots of other wickedness. A heart filled with earthly passions has no room for the word of God; hearing they do not hear and seeing they do not see (Matthew 13:15). The word of God literally goes ‘in one ear and out the other’ and never takes root within their hearts and minds.
So, although they are the fleshly/earthly descendants of Abraham, they are morally and spiritually the children of the evil one.
John 8:38 – “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
The doctrine of Christ was from heaven. It sprang from the infinite wisdom and love of Father God. Jesus knew it because he had seen, heard and witnessed it when he was with the Father. His doctrine is not based on speculation; it is not a hypothesis supported by plausible arguments. It is undoubtedly the exact and perfect truth of God.
The actions of the Jews came straight from the pit of hell, springing from the heart of their father, Satan. Just as a small child imitates what he sees his father doing and mimics what his father says, so the Jews demonstrated what was in the heart and mind of their father by actively opposing Christ and the gospel message.
John 8:39 – 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, …”
In response to the rebuke of Christ, the Jews hotly declare that Abraham is their father, not the devil. While that was technically true – they were his physical descendants – in reality they showed none of the characteristics that made Abraham a true friend of God.
Back when God called Abraham to be the father of the Hebrew nation, he had this to say about him:
Genesis 18:19 – For I [God] know him [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he has spoken of him.
What does this verse say about the true offspring of Abraham? That’s right – they will follow in the footsteps of their forefather by keeping the ways of the Lord or, in other words, by practicing righteousness and justice. Because they walk in the ways of the Lord, they are entitled to all of the promises and blessings that God gave to Abraham.
Stated another way, those who walk in righteousness and follow the ways of the Lord are the true descendants of Abraham. By default those who practice wickedness and live in sin are NOT the true descendants of Abraham.
Jesus gives us this same spiritual principal in the gospel of Matthew, where he says a good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces evil fruit. Jesus then goes on to declare that you can know what kind of tree you have by examining the fruit (Matthew 7:17-19).
John 8:40 – “… 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.”
Using the criteria we just mentioned, it is plain to see that the religious leaders were NOT true children of Abraham, because the fruits produced in their lives were evil.
Jesus even provides a specific example. The corruption and wickedness in their hearts grew and blossomed into a plot to kill Jesus, an innocent man!
Think about that for a moment. The Jews were willing to kill Jesus, who was one of their own (a fellow Jew) even though he had done them no harm. He had not cheated them, defrauded them, physically hurt them or given them any other reason to hate him, but they were diligently seeking a reason to kill him.
Furthermore, they were immensely ungrateful. Jesus came to earth to give them the greatest gift possible (forgiveness of sin) and to tell them the truth. Yet, they branded him as an enemy and did everything in their power to subvert his mission.
They also rejected him as a messenger of God, despite the many miracles that testified to God’s approval of him and his message.
Abraham believed God; the religious leaders obstinately clung to unbelief. Abraham obeyed and followed God; the religious leaders fought against him.
John 8:41 – “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.”
It seems that they now have an inkling that Jesus is speaking of a spiritual father, not a physical/carnal one. In that case, they adamantly declare that God is their father.
But why do they mention sexual immorality?
In the scriptures, a marriage relationship is often used as an allegory for the relationship between God and his people. God is the husband who provides and cares for his bride (the Jews). When Israel forsakes God and serves idols or false gods, it is frequently described as spiritual adultery or whoredom (Hosea 2:4, Isaiah 57:3-5).
So by claiming they were not born of sexual immorality, they are claiming that they were true worshipers of God.
John 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 has already proven that these Jews are not children of Abraham, because they do not walk in his footsteps. This was evidenced by their desire to kill Jesus.
Now Jesus proves that they are not the children of God either, because they do not honor God’s Son. Because Jesus was sent to the world by God, no one can be a child of God unless he is a faithful friend and follower of Christ.
The true children of God love and highly esteem Jesus. They are grateful for his sacrifice and demonstrate a love for his kingdom by working for its good (I John 5:1). They are also obedient to his commands (John 14:21).
John 8:43 – “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.”
In this verse, ‘bear’ should be understood in the sense of ‘tolerate’. The meaning is that the doctrine of Jesus was offensive to the religious leaders. They hated his doctrine, so they perverted its meaning and were obstinately resolved not to understand it.
They couldn’t stand his teaching because their pride, vanity and wickedness opposed it. As a result, they chose darkness over light and error over truth.
John 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.”
Here is the heart of the matter. The religious leaders are children of Satan. They have his disposition and spirit. They are influenced by him and they imitate him. They know his desires and they purposely do what pleases him.
This is not mere speculation. Jesus offers specific examples which point to their wickedness:
They demonstrate a murderous disposition; they want to kill Jesus. Satan was a murderer from the beginning – he introduced sin and death into the whole human race (Genesis 2:17).
In addition, they reject the truth and embrace error and lies. Satan not only lies, he is the originator of falsehood (the father of lies). All liars possess his spirit and are under his influence. Since the Jews refused to receive the truth Jesus spoke, it proved that they had the character of their father, Satan.
Let me offer you some encouragement:
In this lesson, we noted the differences between a slave and a son. The slave has no permanent place in the family, has no rights and inherits nothing. By contrast, the son is an heir of all things and all things will one day be under his authority. So if he makes you free, you are really free!
Jesus has given us freedom from sin. He adopted us into his kingdom, making us co-heirs with him. He has given us power and authority. In his name, we can bind and loose, speak to mountains, heal the sick, cast out demons and even raise the dead.
So my question is this: Are you living, thinking, believing and praying like the free man or woman you really are? Or are you still operating under a slave mentality?
I encourage you to examine your own attitudes, thoughts and motives. If you are not living out the freedom Jesus purchased for you, make some changes in your life today!
Let me offer you some relief and some strength:
Could it be that you have not fully accepted the freedom Christ died to give you? Have you been running from him? Were you once close to Jesus, but you walked away from him?
He is waiting and longing for you to come back, just as the father of the prodigal son was watching and waiting for his child to return to him (Luke 15:13). Would you like to return to him today? If so, just go to him in prayer and confess all that is in your heart. Ask him to forgive and cleanse you.
If you are having trouble because you don’t know what to say, you can pray this prayer:
I confess to you that I am a sinner. I am sorry for all the wrong things I have done and I ask you to forgive me. I believe that you are the Son of God, that you died on the cross and rose again, and that your blood paid the price for my sin. I invite you to come into my heart and life and to be my Lord and Savior. I commit myself to you right now. Thank you for saving me from death and giving me the gift of eternal life. Amen.