Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE PROUD CONTENDING AGAINST THE SON OF GOD”

John 8.38-47 

Beginning with His arrival in Jerusalem to attend the Feast of Tabernacles, the Lord Jesus Christ was opposed by His adversaries with more intensity and hostility than had previously been the case. Blind to His sinlessness and utterly disregarding the miracles He performed to raise the dead, feed thousands with the makings of a single meal, cleanse lepers of leprosy, give sight to the blind, heal the lame, and claim to forgive sins, the Pharisees were ruthlessly committed to their opposition of Him. Ultimately, of course, their animosity and conspiracy to murder Him as a disrupter of the social order would lead to His crucifixion, which is why God the Father sent Him and why He left heaven’s glory.[1] He came to seek and to save that which was lost.[2]

In our text, John 8.38-47, the Lord Jesus Christ and certain of the Jewish leaders are seen to still be at odds in the public arena. Nevertheless, He sets Himself to convince and convert them, while they still set themselves to contradict and oppose Him.

It makes one wonder. Though the prominent aspect of our ministry of proclaiming the Gospel and making Christ’s name known among the nations is most frequently on display in the New Testament, as a fulfillment of what is predicted in the Old Testament, there is another consequence of our efforts that remains in the background and hidden to most. It is God’s use of us, and the Savior’s use of His own, to provide vindication. Yes, we do minister grace to those we speak to and seek to be God’s instruments of mercy to the undeserving. That said, there will come a day when the Judge of all, who does what is right, will sit in judgment of those we told the truth but who refused and rejected our message. On that occasion, God will have His vengeance and be vindicated.[3]

Therefore, as we review this latest episode in the ongoing conflict between the King of all glory and His rebellious subjects, think of what it will be like for them, maybe for you, when they stand before His great and glorious throne for the final disposition of their sins before they are cast into the lake of fire:[4] 

38  I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.

39  They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

40  But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.

41  Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

42  Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

43  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.

44  Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

45  And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

46  Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?

47  He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. 

This record of conflict between the Son of the living God and arrogant religionists is easily divided into four parts: 

First, OUR LORD ADDRESSED THEM 

The passage begins with the Savior’s description of the difference between Him and His adversaries. Notice how He contrasts what He says and what they say, attributing the contrast to a difference in their sources. Verse 38 records our Lord’s declaration: 

“I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” 

He spoke of two fathers, according to the two families into which people are divided; God and the devil, and without controversy, these are contrary the one to the other.

Christ’s doctrine was from God the Father. He spoke that which He saw. The content of Christ’s communications with people was not grounded upon guesswork and speculation but upon His witness of His Father. It was what He had seen with His Father. Thus, the doctrine of Christ is not some plausible hypothesis supported by probable arguments, but it is a counterpart of the incontestable truths forever resident in the mind of God. What He both said and did was not only what He had heard from His Father, but what He had seen with Him when They communed in the council chambers in the throne room of eternity. Moses spoke what he heard from God, but he did not see the face of God.[5] Paul had been in the third heaven, but what he had seen there he could not, he must not, utter.[6] It was Christ’s prerogative to have seen what He spoke, and to speak what He had seen.

The doings of the adversaries, on the other hand, arose from a different source. Our Lord said to them, 

“ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” 

In moments the Lord Jesus Christ will identify their father. 

Next, OUR LORD ANSWERED THEM 

39  They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

40  But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.

41  Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

42  Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

43  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 

Here our Lord answered their boasts that Abraham was their father and that God was their father, by showing the vanity and falsehood of their pretensions:

First, their plea that Abraham was their father, and our Lord’s reply to their claim: Their aim, of course, was to pretend honor for themselves and to make themselves look great. Had they forgotten how God had directed them to think of themselves, in Deuteronomy 26.5? 

“A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous.” 

Then, in Ezekiel 16.3 the inhabitants of Jerusalem were given this message by God: 

“Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite.” 

It is obvious that God did not want His chosen people to think too highly of themselves, but to remember their roots and be grateful that God had sovereignly and graciously blessed them. Notice how our Lord overthrew their claim and exposed the vanity of it: 

39  They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.

40  But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. 

How can someone claim a man to be his father who he in no way resembles? Sons typically resemble their fathers in conduct and persuasion. However, Christ’s foes claim to be Abraham’s children without any conduct that was like Abraham’s conduct. Instead, they sought to kill the Lord, who had done nothing but tell them the truth that came from God. Abraham never sought to kill anyone. And if you ask, “What about his son?” I would point out that God told him to slay Isaac and stopped him before he did. So, Abraham never actually took anyone’s life.

However, that is not all. They also claimed God as their father, just as they claimed Abraham: 

41  Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.

42  Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.

43  Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. 

There are two ways to take this accusation leveled at our Lord Jesus Christ: If you take this accusation figuratively, you might understand Christ’s adversaries to be differentiating between Sarah and Hagar without mentioning their names and insisting that they were the legitimate heirs of Sarah and not the illegitimate heirs of Hagar. Sarah, of course, was Abraham’s wife and the mother of Isaac and Hagar was not Abraham’s wife, but the mother of his son Ishmael. Considered differently, I have always taken their statement, “We be not born of fornication,” together with their challenge in verse 19 when they said “Where is thy Father?”, to be an allusion to the circumstances of our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth and the fact that Mary was discovered to be pregnant before her actual marriage to Joseph. If understood this way, they were accusing Christ of being illegitimate and born out of wedlock, while insisting, on the other hand, that God is their Father. The problem with that claim, of course, is that if God really was their Father, they would have loved the Lord Jesus Christ and not conspired to murder Him. 

Third, OUR LORD IDENTIFIED THEM 

Having disproved their relation both to Abraham and to God, our Lord told them plainly whose children they were.  Verse 44: 

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” 

He finally came right out and said it. If they were not God’s children, they were the devil’s, since every human being is in one camp or the other. The devil’s are children of disobedience (Ephesians 2.2). All wicked people are the devil’s children, children of Belial (Second Corinthians 6.15), the serpent’s seed (Genesis 3.15), and the children of the wicked one (Matthew 13.38).

The unsaved partake of Satan’s nature, bear his image, obey his commands, and follow his example. Our Lord has made a very serious charge, and to some it sounds overly harsh that any human being, especially if they are well-behaved Church-attenders, should be called children of the devil, so our Lord sets out to prove that His accusation was true in two ways:

First, by advancing a general argument: The lusts of your father you will do. The devil tempts people with fleshly lusts and worldly enticements because, being a spirit, he cannot do those things himself. The peculiar lusts of the devil are spiritual wickednesses, such as the lusts of inappropriate thoughts and their corrupt contemplations, such as pride and envy, wrath and malice, and such as enmity against that which is good and enticing others to that which is evil. Such are lusts which the devil fulfills, and those who are under the dominion of these lusts resemble the devil in conduct, as the child imitates the parent. The more contemplation and contrivance are involved in sinful behavior the more it resembles the lusts of the devil. If you are unsaved, you will succumb to the devil’s lusts. Matthew Henry insists that the more there is of the will in lusts, the more there is of the devil in them. When sin is committed by choice and not by impulse, with pleasure and not with reluctance, when it is persisted in with a daring presumption and a desperate determination, then the sinner will do the devil’s lusts: 

“the lusts of your father ye will do.” 

Second, by arguing two particular sins: The two specific instances our Lord used to prove His point was their murder and lying. Their father, the devil, is an enemy of life because God is the God of life and life is the delight of man. Their father, the devil, is also an enemy of truth because God is the God of truth and truth is the glue holding human society together. Consider them separately with me:

The devil was a murderer from the beginning. This is because he hates mankind, and so seeks to murder people. He also hates God and for that reason seeks to destroy those God loves. But why? Perhaps because Satan, once known as Lucifer and the crown of God’s creatures, was relegated to secondary status when Adam was created. When he came to understand that humanity and not angels were at the center of God’s gracious, merciful, and saving intentions, he rebelled. He was man’s tempter to that sin which brought death into the world, and so he was effectively the murderer of all mankind. He is a murderer of souls, deceiving people into sin, and by it slaying them (Romans 7.11), poisoning man with the forbidden fruit, and, to aggravate the matter, making Adam, his own murderer. He was the unmentioned instigator of the first murder that ever was committed by Cain, who was of that wicked one and slew his brother (First John 3.12). If the devil had not greatly influenced Cain, he could not have done such an unnatural thing as to kill his brother. Cain killing his brother by the instigation of the devil, the devil is seen to be the murderer.

What good reason we must stand guard against the wiles of the devil, and never to listen to him, and to wonder that he who is the murderer of the children of men should yet be, by their own consent, their master. Those Jews opposing Christ were followers of the devil, and were murderers, like him; sworn enemies of Christ, and now ready to be His betrayers and murderers, for the same reason that Cain killed Abel. And now they seek to kill the Savior.

In addition to being a murderer, the devil is also a liar, verse 44 once more: 

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” 

A lie is opposed to truth, we see in First John 2.21, and accordingly, the devil is here described to be, an enemy to truth, and therefore an enemy of Christ.

First, the devil is a deserter from the truth. When you remember that Lucifer was created pure and then rebelled against God, he is therefore recognized to be the first apostate. He was the author of the heavenly rebellion of the fallen angels against their Creator and Lord.[7] He was also the author of the Jewish rebellion against God, against God’s Word, against God’s Spirit, and against God’s promised Messiah. Secondly, the devil is destitute of the truth. There is no truth in him. Nothing about him can be trusted, not in anything he says or does. And so, you will understand his tactics; he will tell ninety-nine truths to advance one lie. The information he advances concerning good and evil are false and erroneous, his proofs are lying wonders, and his temptations are all corrosive. He has great knowledge of the truth, but having no affection for the truth, but on the contrary being a sworn enemy to it, he is said to have no truth in him.

Then there is his lying. Three things are here said of the devil concerning the sin of lying: First, that he is a liar. His prophets are lying prophets, and the images in which he was worshipped are teachers of lies. He tempted our first parents with a downright lie. All his temptations are carried on by lies, calling evil good and good evil. He knows them to be lies and suggests them with an intention to deceive, and so to destroy. When he contradicted the Gospel using the scribes and Pharisees, it was by lies. Secondly, that when he speaks a lie he speaks of his own. In Acts 5.3 the Apostle Peter asked, “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?” God never gave the devil a lie. He devised lies all on his own and promotes lies through his spiritual children. Thus, did Satan fill his heart to lie. Thirdly, he is the father of lies. He is the father of every lie; not only of the lies which he himself suggests, but of those which others speak; he is the author and founder of all lies. When men speak lies, they speak from him, and as his mouth; lies come originally from him and bear his image. He is the father of every liar. 

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son,” 

First John 2.22. God originally made men with an inclination toward truth. It is reasonable, rational, and natural that we should speak the truth. But the devil, the author of sin, the spirit that works in the children of disobedience, has so corrupted the nature of man that the wicked are said to be estranged from the womb, speaking lies, Psalm 58.3.

I hate to say that to you ladies who are mothers and are carrying babies to deliver soon into this world, but you will give birth to a liar. Sweet, precious, important; but you will give birth to a liar. To be a good mom, you need to know that you are giving birth to a liar; a liar that God loves, a liar that Jesus Christ seeks to save. But you are never going to do it right, mom, if you take what they say as always being true. “Oh, no, mom. It was him.”

Satan has also taught men to use deceit, Romans 3.13. He is the father of liars, who begat them, who trained them up in the way of lying, whom they resemble and obey, and with whom all liars shall have their portion forever.[8] 

Finally, OUR LORD ACCUSED THEM 

Having proved that those men who lied and conspired to murder Him were the devil’s children, our Lord left it to the consciences of his hearers to say, “Thou art the man.” He then drove the painful truth of their spiritual deficiency home to them, not by calling them liars, but by showing them that they were no friends to truth.

In Second Corinthians 10.4-5 Paul writes about people erecting barriers in their mind. They would have expected, and they would have been ready for Christ to accuse them of being liars. However, He didn’t. Rather, He pointed out that they were no friends of the truth. So, He goes around the mental barriers and objections, which is something we need to learn to do as ministers of the Gospel.

Notice the two ways in which He turned His accusation to bear upon them:

First, He reduced the conflict between Him and His adversaries to a simple matter of faith: 

45  And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.

46  Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? 

In verse 45 our Lord reminded those men challenging Him that they did not believe Him precisely because He told them the truth. Thus, following their father the devil they were fundamentally opposed to the truth. And their faith response to Christ’s truth? “Ye believe me not.” They had no faith response to Christ. It really boils down to that in the end, does it not? In verse 46 He took a slightly different tack, by asking them two questions which likely threw them off balance because they were not expecting questions from Him. “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” uses the Greek verb elenkoo. Had they accused our Lord of wrongdoing? Yes, but they could not convince, they could not provide evidence, which is what this word refers to.[9] Then, asking a second question in the verse, He once more addressed this matter of faith: “why do ye not believe me?” The writer of Hebrews shows us that without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11.6. As well, without faith it is impossible to lay hold of Christ in a saving way, Romans 5.1. Do spiritual matters seem complex to you? They are not all that complex when fully understood. It is a matter of faith. It is always and ever a matter of faith in Christ.

And in verse 47 He clarified exactly why His adversaries came up short in the faith department: 

“He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” 

Notice the doctrine the Lord laid down: 

“He that is of God heareth God’s words.” 

Do you know someone who is inattentive to God’s Word? Do you know someone who places little value on the ministry of the Word? Our Lord clearly stated that the person who is of God hears God’s Word.

The verse ends with the application of the doctrine: 

“ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.” 

It is in His Word that God manifests Himself and is present among us. We are therefore reckoned to be well or ill-affected to God according as we are well or ill-affected to His Word.[10] Your relationship to the Word, and your willingness to sit under the ministry of the Word is the direct indication of your relationship with God. Or, their not being of God was the reason why they did not profitably hear the words of God, which Christ spoke. They did not understand and believe Him, not because the things themselves were obscure or wanted evidence, but because they were not of God, were not born again. If the words of the kingdom do not bring forth fruit, the blame is to be laid upon the soil, not upon the seed, not the Bible and not me but you, as are seen in the Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13.3. 

They were so smart. They were so sure of themselves. They were so utterly convinced. But they were so completely wrong. They had such an elevated opinion of themselves, and their ability to decide about such things while having such a condescending opinion of the Lord Jesus Christ. They imagined that Abraham was their father. They also imagined God was their father. But the reality was that the devil was their father. What blindness. What perversion of reason and reality. What a soul-damning catastrophe for the opponents of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. But it always turns out bad for you when you are on the wrong side and not on the Lord’s side.

When you are not on the Lord’s side, you have everything figured out without having anything figured out, and it turns out very poorly indeed. But when you are on the Lord’s side you do not need to figure out much of anything, beyond the facts that the eternal Son of the living God died for my sins, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day. He is enthroned at God’s right hand. Did you know that? And He is coming again. Did you know that?

My recommendation? Stop disagreeing with Him. Stop challenging the truthfulness of His Word. Learn from Saul of Tarsus when the glorified Savior appeared to him on the road to Damascus and asked, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” Acts 9.4. In the next verse, we are told that Saul asked, “Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” What does it mean to kick against the pricks?

Saul was asked about his resistance to the pangs of his conscience, jabbing him with the painful realization that his opposition to the Gospel message and the cause of Christ was wrong. To come to Christ, you must understand something about yourself. You’re wrong. You’re wrong about everything. And He’s right. He’s right about everything.

Are you dealing with similar pangs of conscience? Do you find yourself arguing against the truth? If you argue against the truth, if you resist the Gospel mandate to trust Christ, understand that you stand in direct opposition to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the truth. You are standing against God.

I urge you to give it up, my friend. Abandon your resistance to God’s will for your life and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Be no longer an unbeliever in Jesus Christ but a believer, to the saving of your eternal and undying soul, because you can’t win if you are not one of His.

__________

[1] Acts 2.23-24

[2] Luke 19.10

[3] Romans 12.19

[4] Revelation 20.11-15

[5] Exodus 33.14-23

[6] 2 Corinthians 12.4

[7] Revelation 12.4

[8] Revelation 21.8

[9] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 315.

[10] 2 Corinthians 4.4; 1 John 4.6

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