John 8 is an amazing chapter.
In this passage, Jesus makes some of the most remarkable claims to His own divinity found anywhere in scripture. Although He stops short of explicitly stating “I am God,” it is difficult to reach any other conclusion about His intent. His audience certainly didn’t miss His meaning.
In the same passage, He also makes some of His strongest denunciations of the Jewish religious authorities. His message is simple: true sonship (ie. to be a son or daughter of God) has nothing to do with descending from Abraham or religious credentials, and everything to do with belief in the nature of Jesus Christ.
Here is Jesus on Himself, His father, and the true children of God:
- 12: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
- 19: They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
- 23-24: He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.
- 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.
- 31-38: So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 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’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
- 39-47: 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, 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. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God.The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
- 51-59: 51 “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
It’s hard to miss the doctrinal significance of this passage. Any serious study of Christ or the Trinity must consider this chapter foundational. But equal to the doctrinal significance of His words here is the depth and importance of the spiritual application.
In one deft swoop, Jesus categorically dismissed the lofty genealogical claims made by the Pharisees. He ignored their religious education, knowledge, and traditions. “You have not known Him.” Those words must have been enraging to the orthodox Jews of the time, but they should sober the modern disciple as well.
Are you a son or daughter of God? Your answer may take a variety of forms. But in John 8, Jesus makes it clear that family history is irrelevant. Church attendance and denominational affiliations are worthless. Modern forms of name-dropping amount to nothing.
Today, like 2,000 years ago, there is still only one question to be answered, one standard, one test.
“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.”