Calvary Road Baptist Church

“WHAT YOU WILL DO WHEN YOU REALLY

BELIEVE THAT YOU WILL DIE IN YOUR SINS”

John 8.21-30 

About six months before His crucifixion the Lord Jesus Christ attended the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. That is recorded in John chapter 7. It is in John chapter 8 that we learn, the day after the feast, while He was teaching in the Court of Gentiles, that a woman was presented to Him with the claim she had been caught in the act of adultery. After the Lord dealt with that situation, a discussion with Pharisees began.[1]

His discussion with the Pharisees, the Lord Jesus Christ declared that He was the Light of the world and that men should follow Him. Of course, the Pharisees disputed the Lord’s claim, after that He pointed out that, adhering to the well-known Biblical principle of two or three witnesses attesting to the fact, He had the requisite number of witnesses to His claim of being the Light of the world.

It is in John 8.21-30 that we learn about a subsequent discussion our Lord had with the Pharisees at the same location, perhaps on a subsequent day. In this passage, we will note that He pressed upon them a profoundly important point that they seem to have completely missed, though onlookers who observed the exchange that took place did grasp the point the Savior was making.

My text is John 8.21-30: 

21 Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.

22 Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.

23 And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.

24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.

26 I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.

27 They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.

28 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

30 As he spake these words, many believed on him. 

The late A. T. Robertson, a famous Baptist Greek scholar, wrote that the word “again,” translating the word palin in the first part of verse 21, suggests a subsequent day had transpired just as when the word was used in John 8.12. That would place this account two days after the final Feast of Tabernacles day. It would also indicate that the Pharisees have returned to confront the Savior yet again in their attempts to challenge Him and delegitimize Him in the eyes of the common people who generally favored Him.

It also adds some context to His declaration that “I go my way, and ye shall seek me.” The Lord’s adversaries were perpetually trying to find out where He was, so they could confront Him in their vain attempts to discredit Him. Did they ever learn that such confrontations inevitably ended poorly for them? No, they did not. Their opposition to Him continued unabated. It was what they lived for. Eventually, however, He would go to a place they could not follow.

Verse 22 records an illustration of their utter lack of comprehension. Was their problem due to spiritual deadness, spiritual blindness, or was it simply a stubborn refusal even to try to comprehend what He meant by what He said? I would suggest that the answer is all of the above. Not only were the Pharisees death to His life, but they also perceived Him to be the greatest of all threats to their way of life. They were religious and posturing, while He was the Light of the world. They had reached a status quo dynamic with the Sadducees and Herodians for the affections and loyalty of the people that the Lord Jesus Christ threatened to dismantle. For being different, for being real, for being genuine, for being holy, they hated Him.

When He contrasted Himself with them in verse 23, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world,” He might have meant more than readers immediately grasp, but that all who heard Him would have quickly understood. As He spoke, they were all in the Court of Gentiles in the Temple atop Mount Moriah in Jerusalem. To the South-Southwest of that location was the Valley of Hinnom, which the Savior used to speak about Gehenna. A place of perpetually burning trash and refuse, it provided the mental image that one thought of when speaking of Hell. So, when the Savior said “Ye are from beneath,” He might have been alluding to the Pharisees being from the burning trash pile where the vermin live. By way of contrast to them, He said of Himself, “I am not of this world.”

In verse 24 He reiterated: 

“I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” 

Notice how the Lord Jesus Christ warned the Pharisees that they should die in their sins, twice in this verse. Notice, also, that He qualifies His warnings to them with “for if ye believe not that I am.” Thus, though they are from beneath, the reason they will die in their sins is primarily because they believe not His claim “I am.” This was His claim of deity. This was His reminder of Exodus 3.14, in which the LORD spoke to Moses from the burning bush: 

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” 

Rather than seeking to comprehend what the Lord Jesus Christ said to them, the Pharisees instead engaged in push back by asking Him, “Who art thou?” They were essentially defiantly asking Him, “Who do you think you are to speak to us in this way?” He responded by saying, “Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.” He essentially said, “I am the same person saying the same things I have said to you all along.”

In verses 26-29 our Lord expanded on His comments. In verse 26 He reminded them of what He had said to them the day before, that He was sent by His Father, Who is true, and that He said to them what He had heard from His Father. Thus, He described Himself as the Father’s Son functioning as a messenger, conveying His Father’s truth, implying that He functioned as a prophet, while being more than a prophet, in that He is the Father’s Son.

In verse 27 the Apostle John relates to his readers that the Pharisees to whom our Lord was speaking did not grasp that He was speaking about His Father. In verse 28 He speaks in connection to His Father once more, this time concerning His crucifixion as He identified Himself as “the son of man.” In verse 29 He declared the solidarity that exists between Him and the Father. Will He be crucified? Yes, but He who sent Him is still with Him: 

“The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” 

Though we are informed by the Apostle in verse 27 that the Pharisees did not understand the Lord Jesus Christ as He spoke of His Father, it is likely the same could not be said about the onlookers who witnessed this exchange the Savior had with the Pharisees. And when He elaborated about His relationship with the Father, the Father not leaving Him alone, that He always does what pleases the Father, and His allusion to His crucifixion, there seems to have been a breakthrough in some onlooker’s understanding.

I say this because of verse 30: 

“As he spake these words, many believed on him.” 

When the Savior told the Pharisees that they were from below, the bystanders looking on understood that what the Lord Jesus said about the Pharisees applied to them, as well. And when He reminded the Pharisees that they would die in their sins if they did not believe that He is the I am, the bystanders who overheard Him would once more appreciate that they, too, had a responsibility to exercise faith or perish. Their response? 

“As he spake these words, many believed on him.” 

These are interesting and important realities to get a hold of and contemplate. While the Lord Jesus Christ certainly spoke exclusively to the Pharisees, His statements were not made exclusively for the Pharisees. Understanding that, I want us to take a step back from today’s text so that we are careful to avoid missing the forest for the trees. There is a thread that runs throughout the passage that the Pharisees, in their determined opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ, completely missed. However, a number of those onlookers who listened to the Lord and the Pharisees noticed what the Lord was saying, came to understand the implications of what the Lord was saying, and responded accordingly.

They did what people do when they believe that they will die in their sins. You may know someone who admits that he is a sinner. He may even placate Christians in his family or at work by acknowledging that he will die in his sins. But a sinner who leaves matters at that doesn’t really and truly believe that he will die in his sins. Not really. Not really. He is just saying that to make people quiet.

See if you don’t agree with me as we consider three things in our text: 

First, THE CONTRAST OUR LORD EMPHASIZES 

I have already pointed this out in passing, but now we will drill down on it a bit.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of the living God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity. At the same time, let us also acknowledge that the Bible teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ left heaven’s glory to take upon Himself a human nature by means of the virgin birth. The result is that He is both God and Man, yet without sin in either His nature or in His conduct.[2]

This understood to be foundational to the Christian faith; we recognize that on different occasions during His earthly ministry, as well as in different places in the New Testament epistles, attention is drawn first to His deity and on other occasions to His humanity. He is God because only God conquers sin, death, Hell, and the grave. He is also Man because only a man can suffer the penalty for man’s sins, the Just for the unjust that He might bring us to God. Being both God and Man, the Lord Jesus Christ could pay the penalty on the cross of Calvary to reconcile sinful individuals to God.

This also understood, we notice that in our text the Lord Jesus Christ is not so much comparing Himself to those with whom He has engaged in conversation as He is contrasting Himself to them; highlighting how different He is from them in certain respects. In verse 21 He announces that He is going somewhere, and that while they will seek Him they shall die in their sins, because where He goes they cannot come. In verse 23 He declared 

“Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.” 

In verse 24 He twice reminds them that “ye shall die in your sins.” Of course, the implication is that He will not die in sins because, as He said in verse 23, 

“I am from above” ... “I am not of this world.” 

In verse 25 they said, “Who art thou?” meaning, “Who do you think you are?” Here they are admitting that the Lord Jesus is profoundly different from them because they are astonished anyone would speak to them as He did. Thus, He is nothing like anyone they know. In verse 26 His contrast of Himself to them turns on two things; 

“he that sent me is true” ... “I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him” 

They, on the other hand, were not sent by anyone, much less by someone who is true. Neither did they speak those things which they had heard of Him. More points of contrast. Verse 27 points out that they did not understand His references to the Father. Verse 28 mentions them lifting Him up, a reference to them crucifying Him. In verse 29 He claims to do always those things that please God, the final contrast with their wicked conduct.

The contrast between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Pharisees in this passage is not so much a contrast of their two natures, the divine versus the human, as it is a contrast of their origins and their behavior. Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ has no origin, being from above, with their origin being from beneath. Then there is the contrast between their respective conduct. One does always God’s will, while the Pharisees plot, scheme, connive, conspire, and oppose all that is right and holy. 

Next, THE CONDEMNATION OUR LORD REPEATS 

Did you notice what runs through the passage that the Pharisees caught no sight of? Please don’t give it away, but it is something that is, in my opinion, the single most important consideration lost people need to grapple with but seem almost always to ignore. Three times in this portion of the conversation that the Apostle John recorded the Lord Jesus Christ very pointedly announced to the Pharisees that they “shall die in your sins,” verse 21, “shall die in your sins,” verse 24, and “ye shall die in your sins,” again in verse 24.

In my opinion as a pastor of forty years, this single reality is the truth most non-Christians fail to grasp, and without a handle, on this reality, one understands little else that is taught in the Bible. If you have no comprehension that you shall die in your sins, you have no grasp of why the Savior would leave heaven’s glory in the first place. If you have no comprehension that you shall die in your sins, you have no grasp of why your life is the unfolding and never-ending tragedy that it is. If you have no comprehension that you shall die in your sins, you have no grip on the danger that not only you but your loved ones are in every minute of every hour of every day. If you have no comprehension that you shall die in your sins, you must always blame others for your failed relationships, for your failed endeavors, and for your life of misery that is without direction or meaning. If you have no comprehension that you shall die in your sins you have no awareness of your destiny when you die, which will be Hell in the beginning of your eternity on the way to the lake of fire, where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. Worst of all, if you have no comprehension that you shall die in your sins you have no grasp of your profound need of the Savior who is unique in His ability and willingness to do for you what neither you nor anyone else can do for you, save you from your sins.

Three times in mere minutes the Lord Jesus Christ pointedly declared to them they would die in their sins. Clearly, He explained to them that the issue can only be responded to with faith believing. However, for the most part, they seem to have paid no attention. 

Finally, THE CONVERSIONS OF SOME WHO BELIEVED 

Of course, the Lord Jesus Christ goes on to elaborate on what the Apostle John records for us in verse 30, where he wrote, 

“As he spake these words, many believed on him.” 

Lord willing, we will spend time in the next sermon in this series, coming to grips with how the Lord Jesus Christ taught one could discern saving faith from what James describes as dead faith.[3] But for now, let us assume verse 30 is a record of saving faith in Jesus Christ.[4]

How does it come to be that some of the onlookers who witnessed this conversation between the Lord Jesus Christ and His antagonists came to believe on Him? I would suggest to you that the onlookers took to heart what the Savior said to the Pharisees, that they would die in their sins. If the strict religionists were from beneath, so too were the onlookers. If the Pharisees were sinners in danger of perishing, so too were the onlookers. Believing they were sinners, they also accepted as true the penalty for their sins, which God had promised to Adam in the Garden of Eden would be death. And facing a penalty they could not escape, they had no alternative but to consider the claims of Jesus Christ. So, what did He claim in their hearing? He claimed to be from above. He claimed to be God’s Son. He claimed He would return to where He came from. Implicit in that is that He is without beginning or end, which is to say, eternal. These are claims of deity, friends. And then He claimed that deliverance could only come by means of faith. But there is a factual content upon which genuine faith is built, which the Lord Jesus Christ points out in addition to everything else He had said when He declared, “for if ye believe not that I am.” That is, He is the God of Israel. He spoke to Moses from the burning bush. These truths must be embraced and then acted on.

That is what happened to them from the human perspective. Now let me briefly mention to you what happened to them from God’s perspective: 

James 1.18:

“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” 

God always uses the Word of truth to deal with people’s spiritual needs. But the words of the Savior were the Word of truth, were they not? In Second Corinthians 4.13 the Apostle Paul identifies the Holy Spirit as “the spirit of faith.” Thus, the Holy Spirit of God, Who authors the Word of God, is involved when God deals with the sinner’s soul. Of course, Romans 10.17 comes into play: 

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” 

Then, if these individuals did come to faith in Christ, John 6.44 tells us the end to which these various means were used by God: 

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” 

If God draws a sinner to Christ, He will do so using the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the presentation of God’s Word in some way. All of that was present in our text for today, the result being “many believed on him.” 

Have you taken note of what sinners will do when they believe they will die in their sins? When they really and truly believe they will die in their sins? They will believe on Jesus Christ to the saving of their eternal and undying souls. They will believe on Jesus Christ as the only remedy for their sin predicament. They will believe on Jesus Christ as the One sent from heaven. They will believe on Jesus Christ as the One lifted up, which is to say crucified for sins. They will believe on Jesus Christ as the One who returned to heaven.

Three times in a matter of moments the Lord Jesus told His audience, “ye shall die in your sins.” But the evidence reveals that they did not listen. Or, if they listened, they did not believe it. And they went on their merry way to Hell and the lake of fire.

Will you do that? Will you continue to live out your catastrophic life of doom and destruction, while convincing yourself that you are enjoying some success in this life with no thought for the next life? Or will you pay attention to what the Lord Jesus Christ said three times, “ye shall die in your sins,” and come to believe on Him to the saving of your eternal and undying soul?

__________

[1] Pharisees were at various times members of a political party, a social movement, a school of thought, and bitter opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thought to have begun about 165 B. C., Pharisees were strict in their beliefs and practices, opposing both the Sadducees and the Herodians in their quest for influence. During the Lord Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry, the three groups of bitter enemies joined to oppose the Savior. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A. D., Pharisaic beliefs became the foundational, liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism. Modern day Orthodox Judaism traces from first century Pharisaism.

[2] Hebrews 4.15; 9.28

[3] James 2.14-20

[4] Unlike John 2.23-25; 6.60-66; Acts 8.9-24

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