John 8:38-40 – What Abraham Did

Last week Jesus contrasted the difference between abiding in His word versus relying on one’s ancestral relationship with Abraham.
• In the first case one is free and in the second one remains a slave to sin.
• Clearly the inference made is that the free man abides in Jesus’ word and anyone else is enslaved to sin.
• As usual, there is no neutral ground.

In today’s text we continue Jesus’ conversation with the Jews.
• In their conversation we see a theme that will continue for the remainder of John 8.
• The theme is father Abraham.
• Abraham is brought up 11 times in a 25 verse span in John 8.
• We will see shortly why this is significant.

John 8:38–40 (ESV) — 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.


John 8:38–47 (ESV) — 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.

In our text today, Abraham is brought up in a conversation about Fathers.
• Jesus distinguishes between (2) fathers – His and theirs.
• The Jews argue that, presumably like Jesus, Abraham is their father.
• “The Jews are advancing the argument by saying, in effect, that even in the moral and ethical realm, they measure up well enough to be considered the descendants of Abraham” – D.A. Carson.
• In other words, they were following Abraham’s “pattern of faith in God” – MacArthur.
• Jesus disagrees.
• He makes the astute observation that if this were so, “you would be doing the works Abraham did” (vs.39).

But, as it stands, they are rejecting the truth they are hearing from God.
• They even “seek to kill” the truth giver.
• And Jesus says again, “This is not what Abraham did” (vs. 40).

At this point we need to find out what Abraham did.
• We will hang out here for the duration because this topic has significant theological implications.

What Abraham Did:
(1) He did not follow Mosaic Law.
• It seems odd to start with what Abraham didn’t do when asking what he did do.
• However, this is an extremely important point.
• Abraham’s election by God and his remaining in God was not founded on works – the Levitical Laws God handed down to Moses.
Why was this so? – He didn’t have them!
• And Paul devotes Romans 4 to explaining that Abraham was not made righteous by works.
• We will see shortly what his relationship with God was founded on.

Why is our first observation this significant?
• Because the Jews Jesus was talking to and the Jews of today reject this fundamental teaching of both the OT and Jesus.
• They believe that righteousness (salvation) comes by works.
• And when Jesus argued over and over that if you believed Abraham, Moses and the Prophets you would believe in Him, He is being literal and dead serious (John 5:42; Luke 16:27-31).
• If you believe righteousness (salvation) is by works, you are rejecting what Abraham, Moses and the Prophets taught.

This rejection always has (3) parts to it as seen here by a current example of this rejection from Rabbi Shmuley – “America’s Rabbi”:
• (a) Reject the Father’s Jesus – “…I will be engaging in a debate as to whether belief in the divinity of Jesus is compatible with Judaism. It is not. Period. It never was, and it never will be” – Rabbi Shmuley.
• (b) Makeup the World’s Jesus – “The time has come for them [Christians] to once and for all declare their reciprocity by refraining from ever directly targeting Jews for conversion. This is what Jesus would want…” – Rabbi Shmuley.
o “Jesus’ mission was to renew Jewish attachment to the Torah in a time when the threads of tradition were being unwoven due to the oppressive hand of the occupying Roman beast” – Rabbi Shmuley.
• (c) Finally, Reject Faith for Works – “For instance, Christianity says that faith trumps action. What you believe is more important than what you do [straw man and plainly false]. And that’s why they want us to believe in Jesus. But is that really the problem in the world today, that people don’t have the right beliefs, OR that they don’t have the right actions?” – Rabbi Shmuley.
    o “We Jews believe in righteous action. We don’t care what you believe; it’s what you do” – Rabbi Shmuley (Unbelievable Radio).

POI – As we discussed last week, action that satisfies God is linked to belief – the glorious consequences of abiding in Jesus’ Word.
• But this action begins with the new heart of Ezekiel 36 and John 3.
• And as we will see shortly, Abraham’s belief led to action and glorious consequences.

(2) He converted.
Genesis 15:6 (ESV) — 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
• Abraham converted from “idolatry to monotheism” – Bauckham.
• The story of his conversion does not appear in the Bible, however it is clearly inferred.
• Yahweh spoke to Abraham in His own country and called him out of it physically, spiritually and culturally.

Abraham’s conversion was evidenced by the fact that he:
• Left Ur in Haran of Upper Mesopotamia for Caanan.
• Left his polytheistic pagan roots and at least 13 gods.
• Left his urban pagan culture for a semi-nomadic one.
• “Abraham exchanged an urban-based life for the semi-nomadic style of the pastoralist with no permanent home, living in tents (Gen 12:8, 9; 13:18; 18:1; cf. Heb 11:9)” – AYBD.
    o This cultural upheaval he put himself and family through means that he didn’t count the cost of following Yahweh.

Interestingly, the story of his conversion does appear in the “Jubilees, Philo, Josephus, and the Apocalypse of Abraham” - Bauckham.
• All the stories agree on one crucial point about his conversion, “Abraham’s crucial recognition…that the only true God is the Creator of all things, himself uncreated” – Bauckham.

(3) He Worshipped
Genesis 17:1–4 (ESV) — 1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
• Abraham also built altars to the Lord to worship Him and memorialize the encounters he had with God.

(4) He Obeyed
Genesis 12:1 & 4 (ESV) — 1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 4 So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
Genesis 22:1–3 (ESV) — 1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.
Genesis 22:18 (ESV) — 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

Summary of what Abraham Did:
• Left his gods – Marduk and the lot
• Left his home – Northern Mesopotamia
• Left his culture – Urban Pagan lifestyle
• He did all this because he believed the “truth that he heard from God” (John 8:40).

And as a result of his belief He:
• Followed the one true God – Yahweh
• Obeyed and Worshiped Him
• Made a new home - Canaan
• Embraced a cultural upheaval (didn’t count the cost) – Semi-Nomadic Monotheistic lifestyle

One final comment about Abraham’s righteousness:
• “… Yahweh pronounces Abraham to have fulfilled righteousness, to share righteousness, ṣĕdāqâ, not by an act or a work, ritual or otherwise, but by faith. Von Rad understands the verse…as a revolutionary statement. Faith sets one right with God, and it is God who reckons this internal act to Abraham as ṣĕdāqâ” – AYBD.

So Abraham did everything that Jesus’ Jewish audience would not do.
• They feared corrupting and maligning the very Judaism that they in fact were corrupting and maligning by rejecting the “truth that they heard from God” (John 8:40).
• That truth being the Father’s (Father God and Father Abraham’s) Jesus.

So when Jesus says, “but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did” (John 8:40), He is equating His words with the words that Abraham recognized as coming from Yahweh.
• He is saying that the Jews are rejecting Yahweh’s words by rejecting Jesus.
• He is saying that Abraham would not reject His words because He did not reject Yahweh’s words.

A related rabbit trail – Does the OT mistakenly lead the Jew to believe that righteousness comes by obeying God’s commands?

If the OT taught that humanity’s sin problem was entirely a matter of obedience to God’s commands, one could make the argument.
• However, the OT does not teach this.
• It teaches, like the NT, that the fundamental problem is a heart problem.
• And it demands a direct correlation between the state of one’s heart and the nature of one’s actions.
• Jeremiah 17:9–10 (ESV) —9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
• Ezekiel 36:23, 26 & 27 (ESV) — 23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
• Jeremiah 4:14 (ESV) — 14 O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you?
• Jeremiah 11:8 (ESV) — 8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”

Nor does the OT teach that obedience to the law atones for sins.
• Only the shedding of blood atoned for sin (unless one couldn’t afford a blood sacrifice – Lev. 14:21).
• Leviticus 17:11 (ESV) — 11 …for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

So what did obedience do and why did God demand it?
• Obedience, especially in Israel’s corporate context, made a way for God to bless through prosperity, rain and abundant crops, peace, removal of harmful beasts, victory in battle, increase in population, protection, preservation of a remnant, life, etc. (Lev. 26:3-9; Deut. 6:24; Lev. 18:4-5).

BTW – Because of the nature of God’s nation building project with Israel, there does appear to be some differences between the roles of obedience for the nation as opposed to the individual.
• On an individual level, obedience to God’s law did not mean one was righteous (same as NT) because the nature of the individual’s heart was determinative in that regard.
• On a national level, it seems that if the general trend of the nation under this or that king was obedience, God would bless the nation.
• This topic would be a great book and it would take a book to give this topic justice.

Lessons for Us:
• Nothing has changed.
• Abraham was chosen by God and responded with belief and obedience.
• As a result, he was deemed righteous.
• The Jews Jesus was talking to were also chosen by God to be part of the people through which God would bless the nations.
• They responded with disbelief and disobedience and were deemed children of Satan by Jesus.
• In the OT and the NT it comes down to how you respond to the Word of God’s truth – not your works or ancestry.
• This is how it was, is and will be until Christ’s return.
• People have and always will try to circumvent this by reinventing works, faith, righteousness and even Jesus.
• Nothing has changed.


How Do Unbelievers Simultaneously Both Perceive God and Reject/Suppress God with Their Hearts and Minds?

Romans 1:18–21 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Most are very familiar with this passage and refer to it when asked to explain why a person who has never heard the Gospel is "without excuse" before God. In other words, why the default position for humanity is to exist in a state of accountability before a holy and just God.

Certainly Paul's words address this, but they can also be seen to address at least (2) other things: humanity's clear perception and knowledge of God; and humanity's unbelief in spite of this clear perception and knowledge. As the title of this article suggests, it is the relationship between these last two that I want to explore.

What is so interesting is that Paul explicitly puts the "perceiving" of "what can be known about God" in one's "thinking" and "heart". In other words, a fallen humanity can perceive God's "eternal power" and "divine nature" within their hearts and minds from "the things that have been made". A reason they are "without excuse". And yet, Paul also reveals that the heart and mind are also a barrier to "clearly perceiving" because they operate in "futile" and "foolish" ways.
    So, why does a fallen humanity, who nevertheless can still perceive God's "eternal power" and "divine nature" in their hearts and minds, also fail "to acknowledge God" in their hearts and minds?

    Of course, the answer can be found in the nature of depravity - the hardness of the heart and the noetic effects of sin that Paul speaks of in Romans 1. But is there an answer that fleshes out the way depravity interacts with the unbeliever's will that explains why they choose to be "futile in their thinking" and act with "foolish hearts"?

    Enter J. Budziszewski's book What We Can't Not Know. In Part II and Chapter 4, "Explaining the Lost World - The First and Second Witnesses", he introduces a useful way to view the conscience, the location of moral knowledge. He states that the "older natural law thinkers" differentiated between the "deep conscience" and the "surface conscience". He laments that these are "two aspects of the moral intellect...that we have forgotten".

    I use conscience as an example because it is here that we interact with the moral knowledge of God; part of His "divine nature".

    Now, deep conscience "is the interior witness to the foundational principles of moral law". In it resides "the knowledge of basic goods, of formal norms, and of everyday moral rules." It is not a feeling but an innate knowledge of morality. In fact, it was "designed as a witness to moral truth" by God. Therefore, it "cannot be erased, cannot be mistaken, and is the same in every human being." And knowledge of moral truth obligates us with duties to self, neighbor and God. In relation to our discussion thus far, it seems possible that the deep conscience is, as Paul says, where all humanity can "clearly perceive" God's nature from "the things that have been made."

    Surface conscience, on the other hand, is more subjective. Budziszewski says that surface conscience "presents greater possibilities for going wrong. It can be erased, it can be mistaken, and it can vary from person to person." In relation to our discussion thus far, if deep conscience is where clear perception of God's nature occurs, it seems possible that it is at the level of the surface conscience that "futile thinking" and "the foolish heart" corrupt the testimony of moral truth that the deep conscience provides. This corruption then warps our desire to fulfill, in the way God ordains, duties to self, neighbor and God and results in a personal, subjective and relative moral framework.

    By way of example, Budziszewski cites (9) ways that the surface conscience can go wrong. And because it is here, the surface conscience, that we find a possible answer to our question asked above, I think it is worth quoting Budziszewski at length.
    Surface conscience "can blur and err in at least nine different ways: (1) one way is insufficient experience, where I don't know enough to reach sound conclusions; (2) another is insufficient skill, where I have never learned the art of reasoning well. Then come (3) sloth, where I am too lazy to reason, and (4) corrupt custom, where it has never occurred to me to do so. Next come (5) passion, where I am distracted by strong feeling from reasoning carefully, and (6) fear, where I am afraid to reason because I might find out that I am wrong. Bringing up the rear are (7) wishful thinking, where I include in my reasoning only what I am willing to notice; (8) depraved ideology, where I interpret known principles crookedly; and (9) malice, where I refuse to reason because I am determined to do what I want."

    These provide, it seems to me, a fairly articulate description of how the depravity of humanity finds expression on a day to day basis. And as suggested, provide an answer to the question we asked earlier.

    One can easily see, for example, someone who abides within a naturalistic framework invoke #8 and claim that moral knowledge is only a subjective, cultural convention. Or an atheist invoke #9 because they refuse to admit that they have any moral accountability before a holy God. Or someone invoke #1 or #3 simply because in a world where "to each his own" is a guiding principal, who cares about moral knowledge. And finally, the person who lives under the illusion that feelings, and not a divinely informed moral knowledge, are the grounding for morality, would surely invoke #5.

    Each is an act of a corrupt and depraved will in rebellion to the deep conscience convictions that Paul argues we all have in our Romans 1 text. But of our own choosing, we follow the desires of our heart and corrupt the revelation of God by one or all of the examples given. And because this corruption is an act of our fallen will, we "are without excuse" before God.

    At the end of the day, humanity's "futile thinking" and "foolishness of heart" with respect to God's moral knowledge, is, as Paul suggests, a dishonoring of God as God and an exaltation of man as god. Budziszewski puts it this way, "we don't want the freedom of the creature but the freedom of the Creator - not freedom to be good but freedom to determine the good."

    And so this dynamic between the deep conscience and the surface conscience perhaps explains how the unbeliever can both perceive in their heart and mind and yet also reject in their heart and mind the revelation of God - whether that revelation be of the general variety or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Finally, I must share a personal and significant implication of this discussion. I always find it helpful to understand the extent of my depravity before my salvation. It seems that my unbelief was a bottomless pit of "futile thinking". What I mean is that I often embraced one if not all of these surface conscience errors before I trusted in Jesus as Lord and Savior. In fact, these errors articulate virtually every phase of unbelief I went through as I matured intellectually (by that I mean as I was indoctrinated into the liberal secularism of college). The "smarter" I became, the more clever was my corruption of God's moral knowledge. I left behind the errors #1 to #3 and "progressed" to errors #7 through #9. And in my own power, there was no escape.

    And yet, on my behalf and by His grace, God smashed all the errors to oblivion and called me to believe in Him. Amen.


    John 8:30-37 – Freedom – Found in Abiding or Abraham

    In our text today Jesus contrasts freedom and slavery.
    • However, this is the kind of freedom and slavery that concerned Jesus the most – spiritual freedom and slavery.
    • Jesus makes clear humanity either abides in His word and is free OR is enslaved to sin.
    • Today we will try and understand the contrast Jesus is making.

    John 8:30–38 (ESV) — 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.


    John 8:30–32 (ESV) — 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    A few obvious questions arise from Jesus’ words.
    • What is it to abide?
    • What is His word?
    • What is the truth?

    Using what John’s Gospel has shown us thus far, our context, we can track down the answers to these questions.

    The “laboratory” definition conveys the idea of to Continue, Live, Dwell, or Lodge within a “certain realm or sphere” – BDAG.
    • The “realm or sphere” was made clear last week when Jesus differentiated between the realm of God and the realm of a fallen and rebellious creation.
    • John 8:23 (ESV) — 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
    • And in our text today, the “realm of God” is specifically represented by Jesus’ Word.
    • So Jesus is teaching that a believer (disciple vs. 31) is to Continue, Live, Dwell, or Lodge within God’s realm as represented, in this case, by Jesus’ Word.

    And the importance of abiding is underscored by Jesus’ and John’s repeated use of the concept.
    • John 6:56 (ESV) — 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
    • John 15:4 (ESV) — 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
    • 1 John 2:6 (ESV) — 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
    • 2 John 9 (ESV) — 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

    We get a sense from these verses that we are to abide in more than just Jesus’ words.
    • And it is interesting that, like our text today, these other examples appear in contexts that contrast the difference between authentic belief and spurious belief.
    • In other words, abiding in Jesus’ Word (vs. John 8:31), His Vine (vs. John 15:4) and in Him (1 John 2:60) demonstrates authenticity of belief – fruit.
    • As James makes so clear, belief is not void of action.
    • James 2:26 (ESV) — 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

    But, it is necessary to point out that our abiding and the “works” or “fruit” it produces is fueled and empowered by God’s grace, not our will.
    • “the branch cannot bear fruit by itself” – John 15:4.

    D.A. Carson fleshes out abiding nicely when he says:
    • “A genuine believer remains in Jesus’ ‘word’ (logos), his teaching (cf. notes on 1:1): i.e. such a person obeys it, seeks to understand it better, and finds it more precious, more controlling, precisely when other forces flatly oppose it” – D.A. Carson.

    So we have explored the idea of what it is to abide and why it is important.
    • Now to answer the 2nd question concerning the object of our abiding in our text today – Jesus’ Word.
    • What is it?

    Jesus’ Word:
    One need only look back at the last 8 chapters of John to see Jesus’ Words and some highlights are His teaching on:
    • His relationship to the Father.
    • The depravity of man.
    • The nature of the work of God in salvation.
    • His identity with Yahweh as found in His “I am” statements.
    • His looking forward to being “lifted up” to the Cross.

    BTW – the words of the rest of the NT writers are also Jesus’ words (unless they say otherwise).
    • John 17:8 (ESV) — 8 For I [Jesus] have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
    • John 14:26 (ESV) — 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

    So why Jesus Word?
    • “To the Jews who have professed faith in him, Jesus, understandably enough, indicates what genuine faith does: it perseveres, it holds tight to Jesus’ teaching, with some glorious consequences” – D.A. Carson.
    • In other words, the capacity to abide in Jesus’ words demonstrates a born again heart, eyes that see, ears that hear – i.e., salvation.
    • John 5:24 (ESV) — 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

    Salvation is not the only Glorious Consequences of Abiding in Jesus’ Word – a few more:
    (1) God’s word produces knowledge that averts spiritual destruction.
    • Hebrews 5:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
    • Hosea 4:6 (ESV) — 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

    (2) God’s word testifies to truth of Jesus Christ.
    • John 5:39–40 (ESV) — 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

    (3) God’s word produces spiritual maturity and the benefits thereof.
    • Acts 20:32 (ESV) — 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

    (4) God’s word exposes where we cling to the flesh in our heart and mind.
    • Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) — 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

    (5) God’s word produces joy and delight.
    • Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV) — 16 "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”

    (6) God’s word gives a proper spiritual perspective to a material world.
    • Psalm 119:72 (ESV) — 72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

    (7) God’s word exposes deception and worldliness.
    • Colossians 2:8 (ESV) — 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
    • Ephesians 4:14 (ESV) — 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

    (8) God’s word protects us from ourselves.
    • Mark 7:8-9 (ESV) — 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

    This is by no means an exhaustive list.
    • Nonetheless, it has aptly revealed why Jesus would associates belief (“truly my disciples”) and abiding in His word.
    • And incidentally, the list also answers the 3rd question we asked at the beginning.
    • What is the truth that abiding in Jesus’ Words makes known to us?
    • And more than that, it also demonstrates why the truth that comes from abiding in Jesus’ words sets us free from the slavery of sin.

    This relationship between abiding and freedom from sin brings us to our next section, the response of the supposed believers.


    John 8:33–37 (ESV) — 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.

    Strikingly, we see here (2) significant developments.
    • (1) Those who “believed” were not authentic (vss. 37-38).
        o As is so often the case in John, they had a spurious faith.
        o And Jesus’ desire is always to expose a spurious faith as he did here.
        o It is not about numbers but about authenticity.
    • (2) The Jews curiously ignored Jesus’ significant statement about abiding in His Word and latched on to the use of His word “freedom”.
        o It is the slavery/freedom discussion I want to unpack.

    Interestingly, the Jews finally got the spiritual gist of what Jesus was saying to them.
    • Usually they miss Jesus’ spiritual point and dwell on a literal view of His words.
    • We know they got it this time because historically speaking the Jews had been slaves or captives – of the Egyptians, the Assyrians and the Babylonians.

    So what was their point when they said, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone”?

    As the Jews have so often assumed, being Jewish was to be free; to be saved.
    • But nothing in the Old Testament Scripture teaches this.
    • The OT does not teach that salvation is by birth or works.
    • Habakkuk 2:4 (ESV) — 4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
    • In fact, Paul actually preached the Gospel from the O.T. in Acts 13 when he spoke of the promised offspring, the begotten one, the uncorrupted one, etc.

    And in Romans, Paul, a Jew, states clearly the problem with this Jewish line of thinking.
    • Romans 2:28–29 (ESV) — 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

    But the Jews in our text today were telling Jesus that in fact their “praise”, salvation and freedom were from man…Abraham.
    • Jesus disagreed.

    No Freedom in Abraham’s house:
    Living in the “house” of Abraham (Israel) does not bestow on its occupants freedom.
    • Especially when ones position in the house is a slave to sin.
    • So irrespective of their relationship to Abraham, the Jew lives in this enslaved condition.
    • And as a slave, there is no right to the righteousness of the God of Abraham.
        o Slaves have no inheritance rights
    • As Wiersbe says, “The servant may live in the house, but he is not a part of the family; and he cannot be guaranteed a future” – Wiersbe.
    • This is what Jesus means when He says, “The slave does not remain in the house forever”.
        o The Jew benefits from their covenantal relationship with God, but they are not, by default, spiritually free because of this relationship.

    John MacArthur puts it like this:
    • “His statement that the slave does not remain in the house forever, but the son does remain forever was a warning. The son has permanent rights in the household; the slave does not. Even though the Jews were Abraham’s descendants (and thus part of God’s chosen nation), they were like slaves, not sons, and in danger of eternally forfeiting the privileges they had received” – John MacArthur.

    Jesus, on the other hand, is the Son and as such remains forever.
    • In other words, as God/Man without sin He both is and gives the salvation of the Father.
    • It is His rightful inheritance given His relationship with the Father.
    • Therefore to be saved is to be in Jesus (to abide in His word), not to be in Abraham (a slave to sin).

    Jesus is making the following contrast to teach us and the Jews:
    • “The contrast is between a son, who is the inheritor of the father’s property and whose rights cannot be denied or taken away, and a slave who, although he may enjoy some of the privileges of being in the same house as the son, nevertheless can be sold at any time and thus lose his privileges. Obviously this applied to Christ’s hearers, who were Jews but who were not God’s sons by the new birth. They had all the privileges of being Jews, but unless they came to Christ for salvation the privileges would not last forever. The day would come when even Jerusalem would be destroyed and the Jews would be scattered” – James Boice.

    And as alluded to earlier:
    • “By sketching genuine faith in such stark terms, Jesus is standing true to a pattern we find elsewhere: he is never interested in multiplying numbers of converts if they are not genuine believers, and therefore he insists on forcing would-be disciples to count the cost (cf. Lk. 9:57–62; 14:25–33)” – D.A. Carson.
    • What is the cost in our text today?

    Lesson for Us:
    • Jesus’ warning to the Jews is a warning to us.
    • In whom or what do we trust?
    • And we can answer this question by examining in what we abide.
    • Do we abide in Jesus’ words?
    Do our lives display the glorious consequences of this abiding?
    • If our lives do not display theses glorious consequences, then are we abiding in something we shouldn’t be (at least for a season).
    • Jesus words to the Jews, His truth, were more often than not incredibly offensive to the Jews.
    • How is Jesus offensive to this day?


    John 8:21-29 – All Will Know

    Last week we learned why the “where” of Jesus’ origin and destination was so important to establishing His identity.
    • If fact, it was so essential that Jesus told the Pharisees that if they simply knew the “where” they would know Him.

    Today, Jesus presses His point further by discussing the implications of not knowing His identity – I am He.
    • He bluntly states that to die in this condition is to die in your sins.
    • We will explore Jesus’ words and His conversation with the Jews about this type of death.

    John 8:21–30 (ESV) — 21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”


    John 8:21–23 (ESV) — 21 So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

    Seek me” but “you will die in your sin”:
    This doesn’t make sense unless we take into account a couple of things.
    • (1) Father’s Jesus vs. World’s Jesus
    • (2) What Jesus means by “seek me

    We have seen in numerous lessons that most of the Jews did not see Jesus as the Father saw Him but as something altogether different – fraud, charlatan, demon-possessed, miracle worker, political king, etc. (World’s Jesus).
    • As a result they rejected any claims He made as to His identity and His relationship with the Father.
    • However, this meant that they would still be left searching for the Messiah.
    • Jesus understands that they will continue to “seek” the Messiah in a general sense.
    • So, “What is meant…is that they will go on looking for the Messiah” – D.A. Carson.
    • But of course their search will be fruitless because they have rejected the true Messiah.

    Jesus then addresses the result of rejecting Him and seeking their false Messiah.
    • They will die in their sins.
    • In fact, Jesus goes on to teach that to “die in your sin” means they will be unable to go where Jesus is going.
    • When they die in their sin they lose all hope of fellowship with the Messiah they rejected!
    • And it is telling that the revelation of such a profound truth is mocked – “will he kill himself”.

    BTW – Jesus’ pronouncement has a double meaning (cross & Father) which is made clear when we look at John 13.
    • John 13:33 & 36 (ESV) — 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”

    Two Realms:
    • Jesus responds to their mocking by heaping it on them even more.
    • He describes just how great the divide is between believers and unbelievers.
    • He explains and thereby implies that one lives within one of two possible realms.
    • “The realm of God himself” OR “the realm of his fallen and rebellious creation” – John MacArthur.
    • So, “The contrast is not between a spiritual world and a material world, but between the realm of God himself and the realm of his fallen and rebellious creation” – D.A. Carson.

    John MacArthur sums up the fallen realm this way:
    • “Those engulfed in the world “[love] the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds [are] evil” (John 3:19). As a result, they are utterly blind to spiritual truth (2 Cor. 4:4; cf. Matt. 13:11; John 12:39–40; Rom. 8:5; 1 Cor. 2:14)—having filled themselves with hatred toward Jesus (and His followers; John 15:18–19; 17:14; 1 John 3:13) for confronting their sin (John 7:7; 15:18)” – John MacArthur.
    • Those in this realm actually rejoice at the death of Jesus.

    But with respect to the realm of God, Jesus gives this encouragement and caution to the believer:
    • John 15:19 (ESV) — 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
    • We are not of this world because Christ has laid claim to us (not doubt at the Fathers direction)!

    2) WHO ARE YOU?

    John 8:24–27 (ESV) — 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.

    Jesus repeats the unbeliever’s condition underscoring how desperate it is.
    • And then tells the Jews that the only remedy for dying in sin is to “believe that I am he”.
    What does Jesus mean “believe that I am he”?
    Would its meaning be as plain to the Jews as it is to us?

    The answers to these questions will be found in the OT – where Jesus is alluding to.
    • Deuteronomy 32:39 (ESV) — 39 “ ‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
    • Isaiah 41:4 (ESV) — 4 Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.
    • Isaiah 43:10 (ESV) — 10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.
    • Isaiah 48:12 (ESV) — 12 “Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called! I am he; I am the first, and I am the last.

    The Greek phrases from the Septuagint and Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John, egō eimi, are identical.
    • Jesus’ use of this phrase is two things:
    • (1) “A claim to diety” – D.A. Carson.
    • (2) Blasphemy and an “invitation to face the wrath of God” – D.A. Carson.
        o Unless His claim is true

    So the answer to our two questions:
    • “The Jews of Jesus’ day understood perfectly that He was claiming to be God. In fact, they were so shocked by His use of that name, in reference to Himself (cf. vv. 28, 58), that they attempted to stone Him for blasphemy (v. 59)” – MacArthur.

    What this tells us is that their response, “Who are you?”, is further evidence that they are “from below” and are “of this world” .
    • Inhabitants of these realms have clear limitations on their ability (a moral inability/depravity) to know and believe in the Father’s Jesus.
    • This, “is the fundamental reason why Jesus’ opponents can neither recognize who he is nor understand his teaching. Nothing will suffice to remove such blindness but being ‘taught by God’ (6:45), being born again (3:3, 5), finding the one who is himself the way, the truth and the life (14:6)” – D.A. Carson.


    John 8:28–30 (ESV) — 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

    But wait, is Jesus now contradicting Himself.
    Will those “of this world” know Jesus when they see Him on the cross?
    • Jesus seems to be saying that all his listeners (not just a select few) will “know that I am he” when He is crucified.

    To answer this question, we have to consider a couple of things.
    • 1) Last week’s lesson on the “where” – the significance of the Cross to Jesus’ identity.
    • 2) What He means by “know”.

    (1) Identity and the Cross (from last week):
    So in John’s Gospel, “the exaltation of the Servant of which this verse speaks [Isaiah 52:13] is the whole sequence of humiliation, suffering, death and vindication beyond death which [Isaiah] 53 describes” – Richard Bauckham.
    • The “where” is not just the exalted right hand of God, but also the cross.
    • It is amazing to think that even the cross was (and will be) a “where” where Jesus demonstrated His divinity and His relationship with the Father.
    • Profoundly, “the witness, the humiliation, the death and the exaltation of the Servant of the Lord is the way in which God reveals his glory and demonstrates his deity to the world” – Richard Bauchkham.
    • The Place of God is both:
        o 1) Exalted and on the Throne – Ruler and Creator
        o 2) Lifted up and on the Cross – Servant and Savior

    Understanding the significance of being “lifted up” we need to look at the 2nd consideration.

    2) What does Jesus mean by “know”:
    Maybe Jesus doesn’t really mean “know”.
    • Ginosko – “to grasp the significance or meaning of someth., understand, comprehend” – BDAG.
    • It is a perception of things as they really are, “not an opinion about them” – TDNT.
    • And in John’s Gospel, this knowledge is, “specifically about the relationship between the Father and the Son” – TDNT.
    • In other words, “a knowledge of his unity with the Father (10:38), of his obedience and love as the one whom God has sent (14:31 etc.)” – TDNT.

    So in our text Jesus’ words are not metaphorical or cryptic.
    • He means exactly what it looks like He means – all will know His identity because of the Cross.
    • Philippians 2:9–11 (ESV) — 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    If as a result of the Cross all will know, yet we see in Acts that most still did not know when confronted with the Cross, what is going on here?
    When will all know as Jesus and Paul tell us?
    How is it even possible for them to know Jesus?
    Can you actually have knowledge of Jesus’ identity on this level and not be saved?

    The only answer that makes sense is that this must be a reference to coming to this knowledge after they die in their sins.
    • “By this John is not saying that all of Jesus’ opponents will be converted in the wake of the cross. But if they do come to know who Jesus is, they will know it most surely because of the cross. And even those who do not believe stand at the last day condemned by him whom they ‘lifted up’ on the cross, blinded to the glory that shone around them, yet one day forced to kneel and confess that Jesus is Lord (cf. Phil. 2:10–11)” – D.A. Carson.
    • So all mankind will come to this knowledge, but it will be a knowledge that comes from judgment and not from belief.

    In other words, and especially in light of vs. 26, Jesus seems to be declaring that knowledge of Him for those who die in their sins is a form of judgment.
    • “There is great irony in the fact that the Jews, by having Jesus crucified, are actually “lifting” Jesus up (Bultmann 1971: 350, followed by Witherington 1995: 176)…so “at the very moment when they think they are passing judgment on him, he becomes their judge” (Bultmann 1971: 350)” – Kostenberger.

    All who reject Christ, who are “of this world”, will be confronted with the truth of Jesus’ testimony concerning Himself, His identity, via the Cross of Calvary.
    • It is striking to me that the nature of Jesus’ identity will not be made known to them through His supernatural power – His healing powers, His miraculous signs, His virgin birth, His wisdom, etc.
    • Condemnation comes because the God of the Cross was rejected.
    • What a shock this will be!
    • We often hear the unbeliever say that at judgment God will know something good in them, but in fact they will know something of Jesus.
    • For the first time they will know Jesus as God because of the Cross…but it will be too late.

    Lesson for Us:
    • I pray that all of us have come to knowledge of Christ’s identity through belief and are “not of this world”.
    • To know Jesus through judgment would have to be one of the worst things that a person could ever experience.