Dispensational: The Son, Rejected by Israel, is Sole Hope of Blessing
John 8 – 12
John 8 – 12
Dispensational (John 8 – 12). As we already remarked, this great section of John 3 – 12 can be further divided into two smaller divisions. First, the Lord Jesus is presented as the surpassing replacement for Judaism in John 3 – 7. Then, in John 8 – 12 we have a tremendous dispensational outline in which we get the Lord rejected by the nation, a remnant called out, the resurrection of Israel, and the Gentiles blessed in the Millennium. The following chapters (John 8 – 12) do not cease to be profoundly doctrinal, but while they continue to develop the doctrine, they also take on dispensational overtones.
- John 8 – Lesson: the Son had come as the light of the world, but was rejected by the religious leaders in Jerusalem.
- John 9 – Lesson: the Son undertakes to open the eyes of the remnant, who are cast out by the corrupt system.
- John 10 – Lesson: the Son becomes the gathering center for that faithful remnant, which would later become the assembly!
- John 11 – Lesson: the Son has the resurrection power to raise Israel up from national death! This is something the Law could never do.
- John 12 – Lesson: the kingdom will be established, the Gentiles will be blessed, and the Son will see the fruit of His travail!
An Adulterous Woman: Jesus as Light of the World Rejected by Israel
John 8. In a certain sense, John 7 and 8 really go together as they are both the Lord’s words in the temple at the Feast of Tabernacles. However, the best expositors agree that John 7 concludes the first portion of the book; which is the presentation of the Son of God to man as the solution where Judaism – the greatest of earthly religions – has failed. John 8 – 10:33 takes up the rejection of Christ by that nation; first His words are rejected (ch. 8), and then His works are rejected (ch. 9 – 10:33).
The Light of the world vs. the law. In John 8 we find the Lord is displaying the true light in His Person, as contrasted with others who boasted in the law.
- A Woman caught in Adultery: The Law vs. the Light of Life (8:1-11)
- Jesus Presented & Rejected as the True Light of the World (8:12-20)
- Unwillingness to Receive Jesus as God: The “I AM” & “The Truth” (8:21-29)
- Knowledge of The Truth is Freedom: Rejection of it is Bondage (8:30-36)
- The Jews Identified as Satan’s Children by Rejecting His Word (8:37-47)
- Glory and Honor: The Motives of the Jews and Jesus Exposed (8:48-59)
A Woman caught in Adultery: The Law vs. the Light of Life (8:1-11)
Why a woman caught in adultery? The last miracle He had done in Jerusalem was to heal the infirm man on the Sabbath. They thought they could incriminate the Lord for breaking the Sabbath, but He had showed that the grace of God superseded the Sabbath law. They had seen and heard Jesus, but refusing the grace and truth which came by Him, and instead decide to pull at the “thread” of grace to trap Him. They attempt to put the Lord in a corner, putting His ministry of grace up against a moral commandment, not merely a ceremonial one. This is why they brought a woman worthy of death (in need of grace) to the gracious Lord. The trap was carefully laid. On one hand, if He only confirmed the decree of the law, he would nullify his ministry of grace and truth. On the other hand, if He let her off the hook, it would seem to set Him in opposition not only to Moses, but to Jehovah. It seemed to be the perfect trap.
Claims that John 7:53 – 8:11 does not belong in the text. These claims are made on account of the paragraph being either left out, transported to another place in John, transported to the end of Luke 21, or simply just marked as doubtful. It is true the the passage is omitted in some of the best manuscripts.1 In spite of the conflicts in manuscript evidence, we can have a high level of confidence that the passage in question does belong in the text.2 We find as early as Augustine (354 – 430), the testimony of honest scholars as to the reason the story was left out. William Kelly remarked that Augustine “gives the clear, simple, and satisfactory key to the shiftings of place, the fluctuations of shape, the stigma of distrust, and the non-recognition in Origen, Chrysostom, Tertullian, and many more, where a notice might have been looked for. Enmity to the true faith, according to Augustine, was the cause of its retrenchment.”3 Some early copyists viewed this story as supporting looseness on the issue of adultery. Rather than submit to scripture, they chose to leave these verses out. It was for this same reason that some excluded John 5:4 or Luke 22:42-43 from the canon because it struck them wrong doctrinally. These claims are utter nonsense. To further substantiate these claims, those who label the account spurious point to the fact that the word “judge” (κατακρίνω) is found twice in the passage, and nowhere else in John. However this proves nothing, because the particular word applies to the character of judgment in the passage.4 In fact, there is very much internal evidence in support of passage, and none for its exclusion. In v.12 we have the fact that Jesus was the true light of the world. Preceding that statement is a perfect (you couldn’t ask for a better fit) story that demonstrates the Person of Jesus as the true Light, exposing man for what he really is, in contrast with the law which can condemn the guilty, yet allow those who boast in it to maintain their hypocritical pride. It fits perfectly in the context of the chapter, and bears all the marks of inspiration.5
¶ 1 But Jesus went to the mount of Olives. v.1 Jesus was rejected, and really had no home until He went back to heaven. Instead He “went to the Mount of Olives”, as was His habit (Luke 21:37, 38; Luke 22:39), to enjoy communion with His Father. In that place Jesus was separated from His unbelieving countrymen.
¶ 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and he sat down and taught them. v.2 Ever the Perfect Servant, Jesus rose “early in the morning”, and came down to do the Father’s bidding. There were many from around Israel that had remained in Jerusalem after the Feast of Tabernacles. Taking the seated position of authority, He began to teach.
An Adulterous Woman brought in by the Sanhedrin (vv.3-6a)
3 And the scribes and the Pharisees bring to him a woman taken in adultery, and having set her in the midst, v.3 An interruption. The Lord was teaching and the Pharisees interrupt. One simple lesson we can take from this is that the Lord received all things from the Father’s hand, and took the interruption in stride. This “interruption” became a fitting object lesson for the teaching of this chapter! As we already remarked, the Pharisees were attempting to put the Lord in a corner, but putting His ministry of grace up against a moral commandment. This is why they brought a woman worthy of death (in need of grace) to the gracious Lord. They placed here “in the midst”… all the law can do is bring sin into focus. God’s mind is for Christ to be in the midst.
4 they say to him, Teacher, this woman has been taken in the very act, committing adultery. v.4 Think of the scheming that must have been involved to catch this woman “in the very act”. This was not a routine case, but a carefully planned one. How could they catch her in the act, and not also the man? (Deut. 22:22). By law the man and woman were guilty.
5 Now in the law Moses has commanded us to stone such; thou therefore, what sayest thou? v.5 These finger-pointing hypocrites wanted to see the fire of God’s judgment fall on this woman because she had broken the law, yet they were guilty of the same things (Matt. 5:27-28; 31-32; 19:8-9). In a greater sense, Israel was an adulterous woman (Hos. 1-2), guilty of death… and these Pharisees were its rulers.
6a But this they said proving him, that they might have something to accuse him of. v.6a When the Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus, they were NOT motivated by: (1) a hatred for the sin she was engaged in, nor (2) love for the sinner, nor (3) respect for the law of Moses. The reason they had set this situation up was to condemn the Lord Jesus. It seemed like a trap with no way out.
The Lord Deals with the Trap (vv.6b-9)
6b But Jesus, having stooped down, wrote with his finger on the ground. v.6b The Lord wrote on the ground – not as if He hadn’t heard them – but to give them time to think about their question, and evil motive. “With his finger” – the same finger that wrote the ten commandments. We are not told exactly what He wrote, but it seems likely that the writing either confirmed the law, or perhaps implicated them in some way. Perhaps He wrote their names (Jer. 17:13)!
7 But when they continued asking him, he lifted himself up and said to them, Let him that is without sin among you first cast the stone at her. v.7 Their intense desire to trap the Lord caused them to continue asking, which only further committed them to this course of action. They were deaf to the voice of conscience. The writing on the ground and the time given them to think was not having its proper effect. At last, Jesus stood up and said what they had refused to think. The result was totally unexpected. The Lord turned the law around like a searchlight upon their hardened consciences… they were as guilty as she (John 7:19)! “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Every man knows “the plague of his own heart” (1 Kings 8:38).
8 And again stooping down he wrote on the ground. v.8 If the full penalty of the law was applied, these accusers would have been consumed along with the guilty woman. Once again, Jesus stooped to write, and gave these wicked men another opportunity to either repent, or retire from the beams of His light.
9 But they, having heard that, went out one by one beginning from the elder ones until the last; and Jesus was left alone and the woman standing there. v.9 The phrase “convicted by their conscience” isn’t in the better texts, but that is what happened here. They were convicted by their consciences – although not repentant – and wanted to flee before Jesus finished writing, ashamed to see His face. The Light was too bright! God judges all sin, not only gross sins. The Lord showed Himself to be the true Light which, “coming into the world, lightens every man” (John 1:9). They hid from the Lord. What a contrast with David who hid “in” God, not “from” Him (Psa. 32:7). The accusers went out, “beginning at the eldest”. We are not told why, but perhaps the eldest left first because they had more to lose by way of scandal. There was only One could stand there with a perfect right to condemn the woman; He who was without sin! The Sanhedrin left, leaving the two in “the midst”, but the crowd (and some Pharisees, v.13) remained around watching (v.12).
The Lord Deals with the Woman (vv.10-11)
10 And Jesus, lifting himself up and seeing no one but the woman, said to her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Has no one condemned thee? v.10 Her accusers had retreated from the Light which convicted their consciences. The law had utterly failed to reach their conscience, but the True Light did. They could not condemn the adulterous woman because they were sinners like her. No one had condemned her.
11 And she said, No one, sir. And Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. v.11 There was no need for the Lord to expose this woman; she had been caught in the very act. He was not now acting as a king, punishing evil doers, but as a teacher. Yet there is no declaration of repentance or faith in the woman, so we have no words from the Lord as, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” etc. as with other souls. When the soul has not been awakened to a sense of need, all that can be said is “Go and sin no more” (see John 5:14). It was light, not the grace of salvation that the Lord exhibited here. He calls it what it is… “sin”. He does not treat it lightly either. We do not know if this woman was converted, and yet it is remarkable that she did not flee with the Sanhedrin. Perhaps the power of grace was drawing her soul (John 6:44)?
Light. There are two aspects of light, and we see them in John 8 and John 9. When you compare two chapters, you begin to see this dual character of light. (1) The first character of light is that of exposing man’s condition. This is the primary character of light; it “lightens” or illuminates every man (John 1:9; 3:20-21, Eph. 5:13). The Lord exposed the Pharisees hearts in John 8, and they could not bear it. (2) The second character of light is the knowledge of God’s character revealed in the Person of the Son. It is a knowledge that opens the spiritual eyes of a person to see the truth (2 Cor. 4:6). The Lord opened eyes, both physically and spiritually, in John 9.
Jesus Presented & Rejected as the True Light of the World (8:12-20)
Eight attacks by the Jews against the Son’s credibility. It is striking to see the Pharisees’ reaction to the Lord demonstrating (vv.1-11) and stating (v.12) that He was the true Light. They made eight attempts to discredit His word!
- You are lying (v.13)
- You cannot produce a second witness (v.19)
- You are suicidal (v.22)
- You are born of fornication (v.41)
- You are from a bad section of town (v.48)
- You are possessed by a demon (vv.48, 52)
- You are nobody compared to the prophets (v.53)
- You are inexperienced because of age (v.57)
All were lies (see. v.48). Finally, when all attacks had failed to discredit Him, they picked up stones to murder Him.
Jesus as the Light of World & the Results of Following Him (v.12)
12a Again therefore Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world; v.12a This is one of the great “I am” statements of John’s gospel. Jesus is the “light of the world” in that He is the One who morally illuminates the true condition of the world, and reveals the character of God to the souls of men. The expression “of the world” brings out that the sphere of blessing was not confined to Israel. Very often, the Lord’s rejection by the Jews resulted in Him coming out with a yet broader character of blessing and glory to a wider sphere.
12b he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. v.12b The twofold result of following the Light of the world: (1) the negative result is separation from evil, and (2) the positive result is that we enjoy the “light of life”. The Light of Life is the possession of Christ Himself, who is the manifestation of eternal life, as light for our path. It is the Lord Jesus Himself, who is Eternal Life (1 John 5:20), here on earth making the character of God known. The Light of Life is contrasted with the law of Moses in John 8. The law was being used by corrupt men for an evil purpose. The Divine Person who is “the light of life” exposes all motives, and reveals God to man.
The Credibility of the Son’s Witness (vv.13-15)
13 The Pharisees therefore said to him, Thou bearest witness concerning thyself; thy witness is not true. v.13 The Lord’s testimony made the Pharisees feel that He spoke of a sphere of blessing (life) which they did not enjoy. It brought their pride and enmity to the surface. Unable to contest His words, they sought to undermine the Lord’s credibility. See note above on “eight attacks”. They attempt to use His own words against Him (from John 5:31), but they were twisting them unrighteously. In John 5, Jesus was speaking of a solitary human testimony. Here He speaks as a Divine Person.
14 Jesus answered and said to them, Even if I bear witness concerning myself, my witness is true, because I know whence I came and whither I go: but ye know not whence I come and whither I go. v.14 The Son’s record was true, and to support this statement, the Lord speaks of heaven, “whence I came, and whither I go”. The Jews were totally ignorant of all that concerned the Father, and that is why they would not acknowledge His witness. By contrast, the Son could say “I know”… He had the constant consciousness of heaven, the place He had come from, and the place to which He was going. His testimony was not that of a casual observer, but that of an active participant.
15 Ye judge according to the flesh, I judge no one. v.15 These Pharisees judged with a spirit of selfishness, which is the motive of all the activity of the flesh. It showed that they were in utter darkness, though the Light was shining upon them. By contrast, the Son was on a mission of love, and as such He would “judge no man”. One day He will judge (John 5:27), but not at His first coming.
The Added Witness of the Father (vv.16-18)
16 And if also I judge, my judgment is true, because I am not alone, but I and the Father who has sent me. v.16 The Son’s witness was true, and He was a competent judge. His witness did not stand “alone” in testimony, but with the Father’s testimony as well. He has the very highest support in God Himself!
17 And in your law too it is written that the testimony of two men is true: v.17 The Lord here references Deut. 17:6 for the principle that two human witnesses are sufficient to establish legal testimony. Then how much more reliable the testimony of the Father and the Son!
18 I am one who bear witness concerning myself, and the Father who has sent me bears witness concerning me. v.18 The Son Himself and the Father were competent witnesses upon whose testimony Israel could depend. How was the Father’s witness known? First of all, the Father’s voice had been heard at the Lord’s baptism (Matt. 3:17). But mainly, the Son is the one that reveals the Father (see vv.19-20; Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22). The Father’s witness comes through the Son.
The Father’s witness ‘Unlocked’ by knowing the Son (vv.19-20)
19 They said to him therefore, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye know neither me nor my Father. If ye had known me, ye would have known also my Father. v.19 Here they demanded to see His second witness. His answer was for their consciences… their ignorance of the Father was because of their ignorance of the Son. The Son is ever the hinge-point, the doorway, the key that unlocks the knowledge of the true God.
20 These words spoke he in the treasury, teaching in the temple; and no one took him, for his hour was not yet come. v.20 He had been speaking in the very center of Judaism, not only “in the temple” but in “the treasury”. The treasury had thirteen chests with openings for coins, etc. All that the religious man values cannot give the knowledge of the true God. If they had been able to arrest Him, that would have been the place and time. The true Treasury stood in their midst! And He was about to open the door of that treasury and present the truth of His Person. But it would fall on ears unwilling to hear.
Unwillingness to Receive Jesus as God: The “I AM” & “The Truth” (8:21-29)
His Return to the Father and Israel’s Vain Search (vv.21-22)
21 He said therefore again to them, I go away, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sin; where I go ye cannot come. v.21 Compare this verse with John 7:32-36. Jesus again speaks of His departure after they had sought but were unable to take Him. His death on the cross would conclude the testing of the first man, and the end of Judaism in God’s sight. When He ascended, He would be hid from the eyes of man, not only physically, but morally. Christianity would begin when Christ “went away”; when He took His seat in heaven. The Jews would seek for a Messiah to gratify their ambition and worldly lusts; and God had no such Messiah to offer. They would not be able to find their Messiah in a moral sense. They would die in their “sin”; i.e. their condition… their nature being afar from God. “Whither I go” is back to heaven, to the Father. “Ye cannot come” to heaven because they had rejected the only One who could take away their sin, and fit them for heaven.
22 The Jews therefore said, Will he kill himself, that he says, Where I go ye cannot come? v.22 Here they accuse Him of being suicidal. This is the third of eight attacks made against the Lord’s Person in this chapter. This was not said by the Jews in the spirit of honest inquiry. It was bitter frustration.
His Heavenly Origin and Identity as Jehovah (“I AM”) (vv.23-24)
23 And he said to them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above. Ye are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I said therefore to you, that ye shall die in your sins; for unless ye shall believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. vv.23-24 The Lord now reveals the great moral difference between Himself and the Jews who were rejecting Him. There were three great moral differences. (1) Origin: they were “from beneath”; He was “from above”. (2) Character: they were “of this world”; He was “not of this world”. (3) End: they were about to die in their sins and be excluded from God; He was going to the Father. Now it is not “sin” (as in v.24) but “sins”. Not only were they far from God by nature, but also by practice! Unless they acknowledged His Deity, His identity as “I AM”, or the self-existent One, Jehovah (see v.58), they would die in the guilt of their sins. This is the plainest statement of the Deity of Christ (Ex. 3:13-14, c.p. Col 1:17). Jesus, the Son of God on earth, was laying claim to the name of Jehovah, the One who IS, and IS absolutely on account Himself.
His Perfect Consistency in Testimony (“The Truth”) (vv.25-27)
25 They said therefore to him, Who art thou? And Jesus said to them, Altogether that which I also say to you. v.25 “Who art thou?” is a question that shows the Jews did not see Him as “I AM”. The Lord’s response is beautiful. The force of it is: “I am altogether and absolutely what I say to you”. Every word that the Son spoke was the expression of Himself. Jesus is stating that He is “The Truth”. Truth is the declaration of what is. The Lord’s words perfectly declared who He was. What a comfort to know that while the Personal Logos has returned to heaven, we can still know Him through the Written Logos! The world doesn’t know how to deal with a Person that is absolutely consistent with what they say. For example, see Pilate’s reaction (John 18:38).
26 I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but he that has sent me is true, and I, what I have heard from him, these things I say to the world. v.26 He had many things to say, but though He was the Son, He was the Perfect Servant. God the Father Himself is “true” (reality itself – what is), but the Sent One is the declaration of that reality, thus He alone is “the truth”. This is precisely why “the truth” is “in Jesus”. This verse gives us wonderful assurance that, in the Gospels, by the recorded words of Jesus alone we can truly know Him, although we never saw Jesus in the days of His flesh. That is amazing!
The Truth in Jesus. We only have “the truth” in its full character when we view it in connection with the person of Christ (John 14:6). If you look at creation to learn God’s heart, you will see His power and wisdom in a limited way, but the creation has fallen under the reign of sin… full of weakness, decay, suffering, death, etc. If you look at your fellow man you will see nothing but the ugly old man. If you look at history you will see injustice; e.g. Abel suffering while Cain prospers. If you look within yourself to conscience, you may see the “moral law” that C.S. Lewis spoke of, the work of God’s law written on your heart (Rom. 2:15), but it will only condemn you. If you look to the Mosaic law you will find the exposure of the flesh to an even higher degree, but still no knowledge of God’s heart. Even if you read the entire Bible apart from Christ, and never really see Jesus, you will not find truth (John 5:39). It is only when you know Jesus that you know the full truth of God reflected in His Person. Jesus was the perfect display of God’s heart. In the life of Jesus we learn what man really is, but we also learn what God really is; both light and love. We learn the depth to which God would go to have us with Him. As God’s creatures, when we submit to Him we find perfect happiness. In entrusting our souls to Him we find perfect peace. Through the truth as it is in Jesus we can have eternal life, and can actually know the God of the universe. Truth is the declaration of what is. God is not “The Truth”, because He is What Is (hence His name, “I AM”)… He is not an expression of anything. The Spirit is truth subjectively (1 John 5:6), because the Spirit makes the truth good to us, but the Spirit is not “The Truth”. Only the Son is “The Truth” objectively, because He alone is both fully God and fully man. He alone is the perfect “Image” and “Word” of God by which all can be measured.
27 They knew not that he spoke to them of the Father. v.27 The Jews had no concept of the Father. It is impossible to know the Father apart from receiving the Son. The Jews were using the Old Testament revelation of “one God” to deny the Son and the Father. The had stumbled at the stumbling-stone.
The Death of the Son of Man as the Final Proof of His Deity (v.28)
28 Jesus therefore said to them, When ye shall have lifted up the Son of man, then ye shall know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father has taught me I speak these things. v.28 When the crucifixion took place, they would have their final proof that what He said was true. The solemn irony of it is that when they would finally have their proof, it would be too late. His death was attended by earthquakes, three hours of darkness, the rending of the temple-veil, and the raising of many sleeping saints. It had a startling effect on everyone present, and the truth as to His Person was clearly declared by the centurion who said, “Truly this man was Son of God” (Matt. 27:54, Mark 15:39). Perhaps this even goes beyond the crucifixion to include the resurrection, for there the ultimate proof was given as to the Deity of Christ; He was “declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead” (Rom. 1:3). Their consciences could not escape it, but their hearts were hardened to reject even this proof. “Then shall ye know” two things… the same two things that He alleged in this chapter: (1) that He is Jehovah, the self-existent “I AM” and (2) that He is “The Truth”, the sent representative of the Father. But whenever we have the Son lifted up in death, it is as Son of Man. His title “Son of Man” is what He was given in special connection with mankind:
- Rejected as sufferer on behalf of man, rejected by all.
- Exalted as heir of all that God destines for man (see Heb. 2:6-8, and 1 Cor. 15:27).
The connection between the two is beautiful. “Son of Man” is His title in rejection, and it will be the title under which He comes again in power and glory (Psa. 8).
The Father’s Full Complacency in His Perfect Servant (v.29)
29 And he that has sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, because I do always the things that are pleasing to him. v.29 The Father had not sent the Son only to abandon Him on the mission. He was always with Him (except in the three hours). How could the Father abandon the One what did “always those things that please Him”? Each of us knows the joy of communion with the Father, we “walk with the Lord, in the light of his Word”… how much more the Perfect Servant! This is perfect humanity!
Knowledge of The Truth is Freedom: Rejection of it is Bondage (8:30-36)
Two Things that Mark a “Disciple Indeed” (vv.30-32)
30 As he spoke these things many believed on him. v.30 Many believed. This is the first step toward freedom, but with these ones Jesus exposed in the following verses that it was merely an external belief. They had believed on Him in an external way, but they were not “disciples indeed” (v.31). There is such a thing as external, human belief in Jesus, but it isn’t true faith (see John 2:23-25). The conditional “if you continue” is inserted in v.31, because whether they had true faith was not evident, and would be tested by obedience to His word. In John 3:16, “believing on the Son” is real faith, a gift from God (Eph. 2:8-9), and it is through this faith we are justified. In John 3:16 there is no condition; he that believes “shall not perish”… period. When real faith is present, there are no conditions. However, true faith is accompanied by works.
Disciples and disciples indeed. A disciple is a follower. The word comes from the same root as discipline, or training. To be someone’s disciple is to be trained by that person. There are two kinds of disciples… mere professors, and real disciples, or “disciples indeed”. The mark of real disciples is that they continue in His Word, while mere professors walk away (John 6:66). In v.30, many that heard Him believed, but it was only outward. Then in v.31 He addresses Himself to those who had that profession, and states the test of true discipleship: faithfulness to His Word, and the result: freedom.
31 Jesus therefore said to the Jews who believed him, If ye abide in my word, ye are truly my disciples; 32 and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. vv.31-32 Next we have the test of true discipleship followed by the result of true discipleship. Many stumble at this because of human wisdom. It seems illogical that implicit obedience to the Word of God will result in freedom. Instead, many cling to their sinful lifestyle, thinking that they are living free. But they are really in bondage. True freedom can only be enjoyed by being a “disciple indeed”.
- Faithfulness: To abide in His word (v.31). Only those who are truly Christ’s disciples will continue in His Word. Immediately he tests their profession of faith (v.30). Others may display a great deal of interest, but they soon grow tired of the Word, and turn after other pursuits. But a “disciple indeed” will cling to the word of God.
- Freedom: as a result of knowing the truth (v.32). If we continue in His Word we will progressively know the truth. The word “shall“ is future, it is a process, specifically it would come to pass when the Spirit came, who makes the truth good to us. We will be set “free“ from every type of bondage (Gal. 5:1). This is something the law could never do.
Truth. The truth communicates the knowledge of God as revealed in His word, fully in the Person of the Son. Truth is the declaration of what is. God is not the truth, because He is What Is. The Son is the declaration of God, therefore He is The Truth.
Two Things that Mark the Natural Man (v.33)
33 They answered him, We are Abraham’s seed, and have never been under bondage to any one; how sayest thou, Ye shall become free? v.33 It was those who outwardly believed without a deep work of faith (v.30) that reply to the Lord, who wisely exposed their true condition of moral darkness. Two things are coupled together when the truth is rejected:
- Ignorance: as to their condition of bondage. “We be Abraham’s seed“, but natural descent from Abraham did not make them free. Only The Truth can do that. Man thinks he has a free will, but he really doesn’t. He is a slave, and his actions prove it (v.34).
- Hatred: for the grace of God. “How sayest thou“… they scoffed at His offer for deliverance.
The True Nature of Bondage and Freedom (vv.34-36)
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say to you, Every one that practises sin is the bondman of sin. v.34 Their actions (practicing sin) betrayed that they were slaves to sin. Naturally, they were in bondage to the Romans, and had been subject to the Gentiles since the captivity (see Ezra 9:7, Neh. 9:36)! How blind they were… but He goes on to bring out a much deeper thing than political bondage – bondage to sin. This is the most important kind to be freed from (see Rom. 6).
35 Now the bondman abides not in the house for ever: the son abides for ever. v.35 The slave inhabits the house on a temporary basis, and can never truly feel at home or free in the house. The Jews were slaves to sin, but they occupied an outward place of favor in the house of God. They boasted that they belonged, yet the Lord warns them that their tenure in the house of God was about to expire (Matt. 23:38, then A.D. 70). But one who is a son has inalienable rights that never diminish with time. Jesus is the Son, having come into His own house in the full rights of His Person, and v.36 shows what He does with those rights!
36 If therefore the Son shall set you free, ye shall be really free. v.36 The Son is able to free one who is in bondage to sin, and to place them in the “Son’s place” before God. He frees after a Divine sort, bringing us into perfect liberty. So, a “disciple indeed” (v.31) becomes “free indeed” (v.36).
The Jews Identified as Satan’s Children by Rejecting His Word (8:37-47)
Children of the Devil. It is very important to see that not every unsaved person is a child of the Devil. All are children of Adam, in bondage to sin, children of disobedience, and children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), meaning that we are all born sinners, and heading down the road that leads to destruction. But a child of the Devil is an apostate who has hardened himself against the truth, and thus given himself up to the service of Satan. This is manifested when they accuse the Lord of having a demon (v.48), which Matthew refers to as the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:32). there is no possibility of repentance for someone like that (Heb. 6:4). But for us, not knowing the heart, we could never say for sure if someone is a child of the Devil. In scripture we only find the Lord Himself identifying those who are the Devil’s children, or those with apostolic authority, like Paul in Acts 13:10. In this section the Lord shows that the Jews were Satan’s children by rejecting His word. He proves this in three steps:
- The Jews were not Abraham’s Children… proved by their learned behavior (vv.37-40)
- The Jews were not God’s Children………. proved by their lack of family sentiment (vv.41-43)
- The Jews were the Devil’s children………. proved by their inherited nature (vv.44-47)
The Jews were not Abraham’s Children (Learned Behavior) (vv.37-40)
37 I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word has no entrance in you. v.37 The Lord distinguishes between “Abraham’s seed” and “Abraham’s children”. Abraham’s “seed” were his natural descendants, and his “children” were his spiritual descendants who have his faith (Rom. 9:6-8, Matt. 3:9). They manifested that they were not Abraham’s children by refusing to receive His Word.
38 I speak what I have seen with my Father, and ye then do what ye have seen with your father. v.38 Children in a family model their behavior after their parents, especially their father. This is what we call “learned behavior“. Notice that while the Jews “did” what they had seen with their father (the Devil), the Son “spoke” what He had seen, etc. (c.p. John 5:19). The focus in John 8 is His words.
39 They answered and said to him, Abraham is our father. Jesus says to them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham; v.39 The Jews claimed to be Abraham’s children, and claimed the moral status that goes along with it. But the Lord is clear that Abraham’s blood isn’t enough to make a person his child, you have to have Abraham’s faith (Gal. 3:7), which is displayed by Abraham’s works. What a solemn position… they did not bear the family likeness. They were descendants from “the friend of God” (James 2:23), and yet they were enemies of God.
40 but now ye seek to kill me, a man who has spoken the truth to you, which I have heard from God: this did not Abraham. v.40 Abraham had believed God… these Jews were rejecting the One who spoke the truth of God and were seeking to kill the man who was the Son of God. He has clearly established that they were not Abraham’s children (morally and spiritually), although they were Abraham’s seed.
The Jews were not God’s Children (Family Sentiment) (vv.41-43)
41 Ye do the works of your father. They said therefore to him, We are not born of fornication; we have one father, God. v.41 He presses the point again, using the expression “your father”. He is referring to the Devil, but doesn’t come out and say that until v.44. The true Light is in action here, exposing layer-by-layer man’s true moral condition. In one sentence they attack the Holy virgin birth of the Son, and also claim God as their father. What sanctimonious blasphemy! This is another of the eight attacks made against the Lord in this chapter by the Jews.
42 Jesus said to them, If God were your father ye would have loved me, for I came forth from God and am come from him; for neither am I come of myself, but “he” has sent me. v.42 The proof that these Jews were not children of God was that they hated the One that had come out from God. The expression “came forth from God” indicates His essential Godhead. Generally speaking, when Jesus speaks as coming forth from “God”, it indicates that it is a matter of nature, while “Father” indicates that it is a matter of relationship. Here it is “God”. The Lord Jesus is one with God in the Divine essence. See also John 16:28. He could say “and am come”… the Divine essence had come into their midst. He was “not come of himself” in the character of independency, nor had He come for selfish reasons. He came in love, and at God’s sending. The fact that they hated this One showed that they could not be God’s family.
43 Why do ye not know my speech? Because ye cannot hear my word. v.43 A second proof is given that they were not God’s children. They did not understand His terminology (‘lalia’), because they did not take in His thought (‘logos’). In divine things one does not learn the definitions of words and then the things; rather one learns the things, and then the definitions. For example, a person who does not know the meaning of “new birth” cannot understand the Lord’s terminology in the Gospel of John. This is why the Holy Spirit is the only true revealer and interpreter of scripture (1 Cor. 2:10). He alone can reveal the thought to the soul, and then the terminology will make sense. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly [or, stupidity] to him; and he cannot know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). It is through understanding the thought and mind of the person who is speaking that one learns the phraseology; not the other way around. See notes on the Word and Words of God. The soul must receive the thing itself (the truth about God and the truth about man) and then he will understand the outward form (e.g. v.52). But their will was in bondage to the Devil.
The Jews were the Devil’s Children (Inherited Nature) (vv.44-47)
44 Ye are of the devil, as your father, and ye desire to do the lusts of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks falsehood, he speaks of what is his own; for he is a liar and its father: 45 and because I speak the truth, ye do not believe me. vv.44-45 Indications of the Devil’s nature. . He presses the point for the third time… still not expressly identifying their father as the devil. Two “lusts” of the Devil are exposed:
- A murderer. This was the Devil’s condition “from the beginning” – not from the time of his creation, but the time when “iniquity was found in him” (Ezek. 28:15). He displayed this murderous spirit when he stirred up Cain to kill his brother Abel. See Acts 7:52.
- A liar. Also, the Devil did not stand in the truth, but showed his true character by lying to Eve. “He speaks of what is his own” – falsehood stems from looking to self. Truth stems from being fully devoted to God.
In v.45 the Lord gives the proof that the Devil was their father. The proof was in their rejection of the One who spoke the truth. There were times when men “wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth”… but these were righteous words.
46 Which of you convinces me of sin? If I speak truth, why do ye not believe me? 47 He that is of God hears the words of God: therefore ye hear them not, because ye are not of God. vv.46-47 Indications of God’s nature. Both seen perfectly in the Lord Jesus:
- Holiness. He declares Himself to be not only the truth, but the Holy One of God. He was in Himself the very opposite of these religious hypocrites. there was not one shred of evidence that could identify Him with sin.
- Faith in the Word of God. All those who have God’s nature (His children) believe His Word. They were refusing God’s Word as declared by Jesus, and it proved that they were not God’s children (“of God”).
Glory and Honor: The Motives of the Jews and Jesus Exposed (8:48-59)
In this section we have the motives of the Jews and of the Lord Jesus exposed, through a series of accusations:
- Accusation that Jesus was unclean socially & spiritually (vv.48-51)
- Accusation that Jesus was insignificant (vv.52-56)
- Accusation that Jesus was inexperienced (vv.57-59)
Accusation that Jesus was Unclean Socially & Spiritually (vv.48-51)
48 The Jews answered and said to him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan and hast a demon? v.48 Next, the Jews deal what we might call a “low blow”… they accuse Him of being from a defiled race, which wasn’t true. This is an example of railing. They knew that He had visited the Samaritans in ch.4, and suggested that He really belonged there. How bold these insults were! Such contradiction of sinners against Himself (Heb. 12:3). He passed over this insult, as with the accusation that His parents were fornicators (v.41). It shows His grace; for “the discretion of a man maketh him slow to anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Prov. 19:11). But they also accuse the Lord of being possessed with a demon, and this He cannot pass over, because it touched the glory of His Person. And yet He answers so very calmly… there was no flesh in Him to rise to the occasion. We can learn of Him Who was meek and lowly.
A Samaritan and hast a demon. It is after the Lord has proven that they were not of Abraham that they accuse Him of being outside Israel, of being a Samaritan. It is after He has shown that these Jews were children of the Devil that they accuse Him of having a demon.
49 Jesus answered, I have not a demon; but I honour my Father, and ye dishonour me. v.49 This accusation, the Lord could not pass over, because it touched the glory of His Person. We know from Matt. 12:32 that only an apostate would say this. His response: their accusation of Him was not only groundless, but it was dishonoring to the Father, whom the Lord was honoring.
50 But I do not seek my own glory: there is he that seeks and judges. v.50 The reason why the Lord had no personal resentment was He had abandoned all for the glory of His Father. Only those who seek their own glory feel the need to lash out in retaliation. The scorned and dishonored Son was content to leave all up to the judgment of His Father who sees all.
51 Verily, verily, I say unto you, If any one shall keep my word, he shall never see death. v.51 The connection between v.50 and v.51 is very solemn, but very beautiful. He, the scorned and rejected One, was still holding out the offer of salvation to the very ones that rejected Him! This was proof that He did not harbor personal resentment. The promise to the true disciple is that they “shall never see death”, referring to the second death.
Accusation that Jesus was Insignificant (vv.52-56)
By Misinterpreting His Words, the Jews Insult His Greatness (vv.52-53)
52 The Jews therefore said to him, Now we know that thou hast a demon. Abraham has died, and the prophets, and thou sayest, If any one keep my word, he shall never taste death. v.52 The Jews totally ignore and spurn the offer of salvation (v.51) and latch onto a perceived weakness… they attack by insulting His greatness! He had been clearly referring to the second death in v.51, but their unbelief made them insensible to His speech (a perfect example of v.43) and they interpret it as the first death!
53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who has died? and the prophets have died: whom makest thou thyself? v.53 Through their fumbling misinterpretation of the Lord’s words, these wicked Jews triumphantly wave this as proof that Jesus was nothing in comparison with Abraham and the prophets, to whom this religious class claimed exclusive rights. In their minds they were the exclusive people of God, and the despised Prophet from Nazareth was nothing in their sight.
The highest form of hypocrisy exposed (vv.54-55)
54 Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing: it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom ye say, He is our God. v.54 They claimed to be the exclusive people of God, saying of the Father, “He is our God”. And yet they were refusing to honor the One whom the Father was glorifying. What inconsistency this revealed!
55 And ye know him not; but I know him; and if I said, I know him not, I should be like you, a liar. But I know him, and I keep his word. v.55 The communion of Father and Son owned by the Son. The Lord’s earthly path was one of unbroken fellowship with the Father, as He was here not to do His own will or to glorify Himself. In this He is the perfect example for the believer (1 Pet. 2:21). It is equally wrong for the enemy of God to claim a knowledge of God as it is for the child of God to deny knowing Him.
56 Your father Abraham exulted in that he should see my day, and he saw and rejoiced. v.56 A proof that Christ was far greater than Abraham, and that the Jews did not have exclusive rights to the patriarch. Abraham saw in his lifetime, by faith, the day of Christ’s glory. “My day” refers to the appearing and manifestation of Christ in glory to the world, the time when the promises given to Abraham will be made good in Christ. The result of looking forward to the day of Christ’s glory by faith is “joy”.
Accusation that Jesus was Inexperienced (vv.57-59)
57 The Jews therefore said to him, Thou hast not yet fifty years, and hast thou seen Abraham? v.57 The Jews once again make a misinterpretive blunder in not understanding the Lord’s speech (v.43, v.52)… they take what the Lord said about Abraham “seeing” as physical sight! Now they argue from His comparative youth, insulting His “limited life experience”.
58 Jesus said to them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. v.58 The Lord gives His final, resounding declaration. Abraham came into being (Abraham “was”). Jesus is God, and God “is”. This is one of the great “I am” statements of John’s gospel. “I AM” is the very meaning of the name Jehovah: “I AM THAT I AM” (Ex. 3:14). He is the eternally self-existent One. He has no beginning and no end. His existence has no cause (He is the Absolute)… He exists eternally because of who He is. To deny Him is to become completely unmoored from the only moral anchor available to the human soul, to be dead men walking, and then to die in their sins… and finally, the second death.
59 They took up therefore stones that they might cast them at him; but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and thus passed on. v.59 The rays of that “true light” (John 1:9; 8:12) have now penetrated to the depths of their evil hearts. Exposed as the Devil’s children, they are here presented with the very “I AM”, and their reaction is violence and murder, proving the truth of His words. Had this claim been false, they would have been right to stone Him… but it was true. Yet His time was not come, and He slips away.
- Manuscripts that retain the passage are: Codex Bezae, Codex Boreeli, Codex Harleianus, Codex Cyprius, Codex Petropolitanus, Codex Nanianus, and Codex Tischendorfianus. Manuscripts that note the passage as doubtful are: Codex Basileensis, Codex Campianus, Codex Vaticanus 354, Codex Oxoiensis, and Codex Petropolitanus. Manuscripts that omit the passage are: Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, Codex Vaticanus 1209, Codex Ephraemi, Codex Sangallensis, Codex Regius, Codex Borgianus, and Codex Monacensis.
- …Mature as well as minute consideration of [the evidence] fails to raise the slightest doubt in my own mind, and therefore to me it seems so much the more a duty to defend it… — Kelly, William. Introductory Lectures on the Gospel of John.
- Kelly, William. Criticism on the Text of the New Testament. Bible Treasury, 2nd Edition, Volume 1, November 1857.
- Kelly, William. Introductory Lectures on the Gospel of John.
- Choose for me in all Scripture a preface of fact so suited to the doctrine of the chapter that follows. The whole chapter, from first to last, beams with light — the light of God and of His word in the person of Jesus. Is not this undeniably what comes out in the opening incident? Does not Christ present Himself in discourse just after as the light of the world (so continually in John), as God’s light by His word in Himself, infinitely superior even to law, and yet at the same time giving the law its fullest authority? Only a divine person could thus put and keep everything in its due place; only a divine person could act in perfect grace, but at the same time maintain immaculate holiness, and so much the more because it was in One full of grace. This is just what the Lord does. — Kelly, William. Introductory Lectures on the Gospel of John.