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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
May 21, 2000
Children Of God & Children Of The Devil
Parenting issues are of a keen interest to Diane and me. Not only because we are in the middle of raising our three children, but because we see the centrality of the family to a healthy church and society. In a discussion I had a short time ago a man who had raised an adopted child as well as his own told me that he had become convinced that the character of a person was largely due to genetics. This man’s reason for saying this is that his children became quite decent adults, but this adopted child got into trouble. In one sense I agree with him whole heartedly that there is a genetic problem determining character. Every one of us here is a descendant of Adam and has inherited his sin nature!
I also agree in another sense. The Lord God states in Exodus 20:5 concerning idols, "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me. . .". Whether adopted or direct offspring, a child that grow up in an evil home is going to be affected by that as will the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. However, this is not an absolute and genetic heritage or parentage is not determinate in a person’s ultimate character. Why? Simply because God is merciful and intervenes. The Lord goes on to say in verse 6, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
There is a flip side to this idea of genetic determinism. If evil parents produce evil offspring, then good parents produce good offspring. Therefore, if you can separate the evil people from the good, then society itself will become good. In the 18th century, England acted upon this idea and banished those convicted of crimes to the penal colony of Geogia and then after the American Revolution to Australia. It should not surprise us that England continued to produce both civil people and criminals and Georgia and Australia did the same.
The idea that a genetic or a parental heritage is deterministic was also present at the time of Christ. In our study of John 8 this morning we are going to see Jesus confront some of Jews who placed their pride and hope in their heritage as descendants of Abraham. They were convinced that their destiny was determined by this. They were good people and would go to heaven because Abraham was their ancestor. But before we go any father, be warned that a similar idea is prevalent among Christians. They believe that they are good people and are okay with God simply because the were raised in a "Christian" home.
This is something I have commonly noticed, especially in the "Bible belt" where the Christian subculture is still dominant. People can go to church and do good things and think themselves to be fine upstanding Christians, yet, too often as you talk with them in depth you find they are void of any personal relationship with the living God. They are living on second and third hand faith and that is tragic. Can there be anything worse than to think you have served Christ throughout your life and then hear Jesus say, as He does in Matthew 7:23 – "I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."
What Jesus says to these Jews in this morning’s text had direct application in our own time. Perhaps it may even be addressing you directly.
Turn to John 8. It is just after the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. Jesus has made several proclamations during this feast concerning His deity and fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. Many of the religious leaders have rejected Jesus as the Christ and had become very antagonistic toward Him and even sought to arrest Him for the purpose of putting Him to death (7:25, 44,45). Others have also rejected Jesus as the Christ, but are not so antagonistic (7:41,42), and others are wondering if Jesus is the promised prophet of Deut. 18 (7:40) and there were also some that were wondering if Jesus could be the promised Messiah (7:40). It is to a group of these people that Jesus is specifically speaking to starting in verse 31.
Jesus addresses them strongly in calling them to a true belief in who He is and what He is offering. He is not going to allow them to entertain the idea of His being a political messiah which is what they were thinking. Jesus came to free them from sin, not Roman oppression. He calls them to discipleship.
John 8:31 (NASB) Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, [then] you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. " 33 They answered Him, "We are Abraham’s offspring, and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You shall become free’?"
Jesus had already stated that unless they believed that He was the Messiah, they would die in their sins (vs. 24), so they understood to some degree what He was talking about, but not fully. They were well aware of their current political oppression under Rome and the many other nations that had enslaved the nation during its history going back to their bondage in Egypt. The feast they had just completed was in celebration of being freed from Egypt. They understood Jesus was not talking about some sort of political freedom, but rather some type of spiritual freedom.
Their contention with Jesus statement that they would have to abide in His word in order to know the truth and then be free is that they did not recognize themselves to be in any sort of bondage from which to be freed. As descendants of Abraham, they were heirs to his spiritual freedom and relationship with God and not in spiritual bondage as were the pagan ideas of the nations that surrounded them. They considered themselves to be spiritually free. They failed to recognize their own sinfulness, which Jesus points out to them in verse 34.
John 8:34 (NASB) Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. If you sin, you are its slave. Paul states this directly in Romans 6:16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone [as] slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?
If you have broken any of God’s commands – lie about anything, steal anything, have any wrong view of God, value anything more than God, etc. – then you a committing sin and you are its slave. These people should have been well aware of their sinfulness because of their knowledge of God law, but they were not. The same is often true today even with those that grow up in a church. They should recognize their own sinfulness through their constant exposure to God’s word, but often they either ignore their personal sin, or they compare themselves with others and think themselves to be okay, or they rely on their Christian heritage to the extent that they don’t think their personal sin is really any big deal. In their minds they do more good stuff than bad stuff so they should be okay with God.
Jesus went on to point out to these Jews that they could not rely on their heritage. John 8:35 (NASB) "And the slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 "If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
If they are slaves to sin, then they should not expect to enjoy the benefits of being in God’s house forever. It is the son that inherits, not the slave. The slave has no such right. But if the Son sets you free from sin, then there is true freedom. As already stated in John 1:12 – But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, [even] to those who believe in His name. If the son sets you free, you become an adopted child of God. You do remain in the house as an heir.
In verse 37, 38 Jesus contrasts their heritage as physical descendants of Abraham with their actions. The insinuation is that they are not following the heritage they received.
John 8:37 (NASB) "I know that you are Abraham’s offspring; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 "I speak the things which I have seen with [My] Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from [your] father."
The emphasis in verse 38 is the contrast between what Jesus was speaking and what they were doing. Jesus was revealing what He had seen with the Father. They were not receiving His word and therefore would continue in their effort to find a way to kill Jesus. They were doing what they were hearing from their father. The direct point, which they understood, is that there was a great contrast between Jesus’ Father and their father. They were listening to and doing what their father told them and not what Jesus was revealing to them that the Father was saying. Jesus does not directly state who their father is at this point, but it would soon become apparent.
Some have said that these people could not be "those Jews who had believed in Him" that Jesus was speaking to mentioned in verse 31. Yet, there is no place in the text in which any other group is introduced or addressed. This is the only group in the context to which the "they" of verse 33 can refer to. There is not a problem in the Greek text or the English translation. The difficulty is that this text shows that a belief in Jesus that only lasts a short time is not saving faith. As Jesus has been speaking, some came to a belief in Jesus that was nothing more than a mental assent for the moment. They continued to believe in Jesus until Jesus addressed what it really meant to believe in Him – discipleship. The transition that occurs in this text is not from one group to another, but the attitude of one group from accepting Jesus as the Messiah of their dreams at one moment to an utter rejection of Him only a few minutes later. Brief belief is a fickle faith that sinks salvation and heads to hell.
In verse 39 they respond defensively, They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." By this they not only mean in the physical sense, but also in the spiritual sense. Remember that they already stated back in verse 33 that they were not enslaved because they were Abraham’s children offspring. They resent Jesus’ insinuation.
Note that they make no denial of Jesus’ accusation that they were seeking to kill Him. The quickest way for them to have countered Jesus’ statements against them was to assert that it was not true. But Jesus does know the hearts of men and it was true.
How fickle people are. The same ones that applaud you one moment can turn against you the next. Some of you may not have experienced this, but many of us have. Those involved in politics or any position of leadership probably have. You can see it in the crowds at sporting events. I saw it happen at a concert at the Hollywood Bowl once. The people applauded and cheered the conductor resulting in two encores, but when the conductor finally walked off the stage without performing a third encore, the people booed him.
It really should not be surprising to us that people who might at one moment be attracted to Jesus and start to believe in Him can very quickly change and become so antagonistic toward Him that they would seek to kill him. The crowd that welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with shouts of "Hosanna" were shouting "Crucify Him" only five days later.
In verse 39, Jesus responds even more directly, yet still without telling them who their father is. Jesus said to them, "If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40 "But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 "You are doing the deeds of your father."
This is the same argument that Jesus made in verse 37, 38, but now more direct. They were indeed physical descendants of Abraham, but they were not spiritual descendants. They were not doing the deeds Abraham did, but they are doing the deeds of a different father. Jesus had told them the truth from God the Father, yet they were still seeking to kill Him.
They are extremely offended at this and respond with accusation and an even greater claim.
(Vs. 41b) They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, [even] God." The sense could be here a denial of Jesus’ insinuation that there was a question as to their father is. Their statement stresses that there is no question as to who their father is since they are not illegitimate, and they claim to be the children of God. However, I find that the common response of people when caught by truth is to attack their opponent. I believe the insinuation here is plain and that they are seeking to compare who they think their father is with Jesus’ father. They accuse Jesus of being illegitimate. Later Jewish writings would commonly slander Jesus as the bastard son of Mary. I think Jesus’ response in its stress on His origin in God the Father demonstrates that He took their statement as an accusation.
Their True Father
In verse 42 Jesus directly challenges their assertion to have God as their father.
42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me.
This statement is both a positive assertion by Jesus of His own origin and a direct challenge to their claim to be children of God. First, Jesus proceeded forth from God. This speaks of His divine nature in the incarnation. Mary was His mother, but He had no human father. He did not proceed from a man, but from God the Father Himself. Second, Jesus came from God the Father. This speaks to His mission as the Messiah. As Jesus Himself said, "I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me." Jesus had already made this point that He was sent by God the Father many times in the previous few days. 7:16 – "My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me." 7:28 – "I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me . . .". 7:33 – For a little while longer I am with you, then I go to Him who sent Me." 8:16 – "I am He who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.". 8:26 – "He who sent Me is true." 8:29 – "He who sent Me is with Me."
Jesus point then is a clear contrast between their claim and the reality. They claimed God as their Father, but if that claim were true they would love the One whom the Father had sent. But they did not. Jesus goes on in verse 43 to tell them why they did not do so.
43 "Why do you not understand what I am saying? [It is] because you cannot hear My word.
Jesus was not talking about physical hearing, but the spiritual understanding and accepting of what He was saying. But as the prophets had predicted, these people would not heed what the Messiah would tell them. This was why Jesus spoke in parables to them. Jesus explained this in Matthew 13:13-15: 13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear , nor do they understand. 14 "And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; And you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 15 For the heart of this people has become dull, And with their ears they scarcely hear , And they have closed their eyes Lest they should see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart and return, And I should heal them.’
In verse 44 Jesus confronts them very directly with who their father really was. 44 "You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature;] for he is a liar, and the father of lies.
They were physically the descendants of Abraham, but the were spiritually the children of the devil. Their desires were not those of Abraham. Their deeds were no those of God. They were of Satan and demonstrated his qualities two of which Jesus specifically pointed out here – murder and lying. Murder, because they were seeking to kill Jesus. Lying, because that was characteristic of their own lives. They rejected the truth and believed their own lies. Jesus points this out further in verse 45.
45 "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear [them,] because you are not of God."
Jesus opened the door for them to counter His argument very easily, but since what Jesus was saying was true they could not take advantage of it. All they had to do was prove that Jesus was a sinner which would make all that He said suspect. Yet, follow the rest of the dialogue through to end of the chapter, and bring no charge of sin against Jesus. That should have been simple to do if their claim for themselves was true. Jesus had accused them of seeking to kill him, something a godly person would not do. All they had to do was refute the charge and Jesus would be a liar. But the charge was true.
This only added to Jesus’ assertion that they were of the devil. They were seeking to murder Him in accordance with the devil’s desire and they were liars just like the devil. They had no interest in the truth. If they were of God they would hear Jesus’ words for what they were – the truth. They did not accept His words because they were not from God.
The antagonism between Jesus and these Jews continues to increase throughout the rest of the chapter. We will look at that next week including Jesus’ great claim to deity that occurs in verse 58. But before we go on we need to make sure we understand and apply what Jesus has said here to our own lives.
The sad truth is that there are many people that things themselves to be believers in Jesus Christ, but the reality is that they are no different from these Jews. For some, their rejection of Christ will become apparent even to themselves even during their life. For others, they may never realize their false belief until they enter eternity and are turned away by Jesus because He never knew them. The reason for this is because of a false idea that exists about what it means to "believe" in Jesus. As I mentioned earlier, there are those that insist that these Jews who reject Christ in verses 33 and following cannot be those Jesus is speaking to in verse 31 who "had believed" in Him. For them, belief equals salvation without qualification. What they fail to understand is the nature of saving faith.
Jesus is clear that salvation is based in God’s grace given to those who have faith, i.e. "believe," in Him. Jesus said in John 5:24 (NASB) "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." Similar statements are made throughout the Scriptures. Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:8,9 being one of the more defining passages. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, [it is] the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast."
What needs to be made clear is that this saving faith not only must be in the true Christ (and not a false idea of Him as exists in the cults), and in His work of atonement as sufficient for salvation (in contrast to Roman Catholicism and other religions that add works of some sort to gain salvation), but the faith must also be an abiding faith causes the individual to obey Jesus. The Jews in this passage had a brief faith that did not change their disobedience to Christ.
Those who believe in Jesus for a short time and later turn against Him are properly called apostates and the scriptures warn about apostasy in many places (Mt. 24:24; 2 Peter 2:20; Jude, etc.). John warned us about them in 1 John 2:19 saying, "Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not [really] of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but [they went out,] in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us." A person with true faith in Jesus abides in Him, that is, their belief in Jesus will remain even when shaken by testing (James 1:2-4). The antagonism between Jesus and these Jews began when He called them to have that kind of faith in verses 31,32 – "If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Truth faith in Jesus Christ also results in the individual seeking a new way of life in which they obey Jesus. That was Jesus’ message to Nicodemus in John 3. Those who believe are saved by God and that salvation becomes evident in their seeking after the light as contrasted with those who continue in disbelief evidence by their evil deeds and avoidance of the light. That is John the Baptist’s summary statement about salvation from sin in Jesus in John 3:36 – "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."
An individual with true faith in Jesus Christ will be adopted and God’s child (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 3:26, etc.). An individual without such true faith remains a child of the devil. There are children of God and children of the devil. Jesus contrasts the two here in John 8 by comparing these actions of these Jews to the deeds of Abraham (vs. 39,40). What then is the difference between the two?
Children of God & Children of the Devil
The children of God follow the example of Abraham, the father of the faithful. Abraham was far from perfect, but his life was marked by a continuing faith in God and His promises to him.
Abraham was given a promise by God in Gen. 12:1-3 to inherit a different land. Abraham immediately believed and acted upon that promise (vs. 4) and left for that land. In Gen. 17 God established a covenant with Abraham with circumcision as its sign. Abraham immediately obeyed. In first part of Gen. 18, when the Lord and two angels appeared to Abraham, he immediately received them. In the second part of Gen. 18, Abraham seeks to preserve life and intercedes with the Lord on behalf of Sodom. In faith, Abraham believed God’s promise of a son and then in Gen. 22 when the Lord calls on Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise, Abraham immediately seeks to obey believing, as Heb. 11:19 states, that God is able to raise even from the dead.
The children of the devil follow the example of the devil. They do not believe the truth and so they do not act upon. They hear the promises of God and reject them relying upon their own schemes instead. They believe their own lies instead of the truth. They do not seek to preserve life, but are willing to murder those who get in the way of their plans.
The apostle John took this lesson Jesus gave here to heart and expanded on in his first Epistle. In 1 John 3 the apostle marvels at God’s love which brought about our adoption as His children through Jesus Christ. See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and [such] we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope [fixed] on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Stop there for a second for this is key to understanding what John will say in verses 4-10. The true believer in Jesus Christ is a child of God and by that has a changed nature. He also has a new hope in Christ’s return and because of that belief he strives to be pure. That is the process of sanctification. The Christian will sin, but will no longer be characterized by sin. What John says in the rest of this passage is the contrast between being characterized by sin or purifying oneself in a righteous walk with Christ.
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
The importance of love is so central to John that he goes on in verse 15 to explain that those who are the opposite and hate their brothers are murderers – which is in keeping with Jesus statements in Matthew 5:21,22.
The conclusion is this. There are children of God and children of the devil. The children of God have an abiding faith in Jesus Christ and have lives that are marked by obedience to Christ. They are striving to purify themselves even and Jesus Himself is pure.
There are children of the devil. Some have deceived themselves in thinking that they actually belong to God. But their hope is not in Christ Himself. It is something else, often their heritage or their own work to be self-righteous. Their faith in Christ does not hold up when tested and they are not characterized by obedience to Christ. They may appear to be good people, for the devil himself is a deceiver and appears as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:4). But when push comes to shove, they chose their own way instead of God’s.
Whose child are you? If you belong to God the Father, praise Him for His mercy and grace to you. If you do not, then seek Him out for Jesus said in John 6:37, "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out." Talk with my self or one of the other church leaders and we would be happy to help you place your faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that no one here will be deceiving themselves in to thinking the are something they are not. These Jews did that and it became an eternal tragedy.
Sermon Study Sheets
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the word "belief" or "faith" is said. 2) Discuss with your parents the nature of true belief in Jesus. What demonstrates your belief?
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Does genetic heritage determine character? What are the fallacies of genetic determinism? What events preceded the dialogue of today’s passage? What does the truth free you from? How does the Son set a person free? Who, specifically, is Jesus talking to throughout this passage? Why does their attitude change so drastically? What is the significance that they do not deny Jesus’ accusation of seeking to kill Him? How have you seen people be fickle? Have you ever been fickle? Why did they make it a point to say they "were not born of fornication"? What does Jesus claim about His own origin? About His purpose on earth? Why couldn’t they understand Jesus’ claims? What two characteristics of the devil were they displaying? Why where they so self-deceived? Does that still happen today? What is the basis for salvation? What are the characteristics of truth faith in Jesus? What characterizes an apostate? What were some of the deeds of Abraham that demonstrated his faith? What characterizes a child of the devil? What characterizes a child of God? Whose child are you? What characteristics in your life demonstrate who your father is? Do you hear the words of God?
Sermon Notes – 5/21/2000 a.m.
Children of God & Children of the Devil – John 8:31-47
Introduction – Genetic Heritage and Determinism
Context: John 7 & 8
Truth and Freedom (8:31-36)
Jesus’ Challenge (8:37,38)
Children of Abraham (8:39-41)
Who is from God? (41,42)
John 7:16,28,33; 8:16,26,29
Ears, but No Hearing (43)
Children of the Devil (44-47)
True Saving Faith
Children of God & Children of the Devil
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