Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
He’s got you ‘n me, brother, in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands….” Such are words of a song popular years ago. The words betray a religion. It is the religion of the universal brotherhood of man. It is the religion of the universal fatherhood of God.
But Jesus does not sing that song. This we-are-all-one-family religion was never His.
Jesus’ denial of the universal brotherhood of man, and His denial that God is the Father of all, are seen clearly in His clash with the Jews in John 8:37ff.
The Jews claim a pedigree, a blood-line, which entitles them to the greatest honor among men, and even to the salvation of God. Jesus acknowledges that the Jews have a noble natural line. Of course! There were great advantages to being of the natural seed of Abraham (cf. Rom. 3:1, 2; 9:1-5). But Jesus refutes the Jews’ claim to be true children of Abraham. For if they were true children of Abraham, they would do Abraham’s works (v. 39). And this means they would have Abraham’s faith. And this means they would believe on the promises of God which are fulfilled in the Christ whom Jesus is! The Jews, in other words, if they were Abraham’s true children, would rejoice to see Jesus’ day, just as Abraham did (v. 56).
Jews who do not believe in the Lord Jesus are not true children of Abraham. They are not, therefore, true children of God! They have another father, even the devil (v. 44)!
Such is Jesus’ word about the sonship of some of the most religious people in the world – of some, even, who ardently claim Jehovah God to be their God and Father. This too is Jesus’ word about the sonship of all who refuse to believe on, Him: they are sons of the devil .
About the Father? Jesus sings this: “He has the whole Church in His hands!” To the praise of Father’s electing grace!
1. The Jews thought that being of the natural seed of Abraham was being the true, seed of Abraham. What do the following texts say are the source and characteristics of a true son of Abraham, a true Jew, and therefore a true child of God: Romans 3:28, 29; 4:11, 12; 9:6ff.; Galatians 3:7, 28, 29; 4:21-31? In this passage in John 8, what does Jesus say characterizes true Jews?
2. The Jews went so far as to say that they had God as their father (v. 41); Scripture indeed does teach that God is the Father of Israel: Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9; Deuteronomy 14:1, 2; Malachi 2:10. Explain how God could call an entire nation His “child” or “son” when not all, but in fact only a small remnant, were truly His own?
3. What the Jews were teaching was that, through things and rites “natural” (blood, circumcision), spiritual blessings were communicated. Roman Catholics teach a similar error. There is, according to them, grace worked in the sacraments, regardless of faith. HOW can this myth be perpetuated among us today, that salvation is rather an “automatic” or “natural” thing, due to outward relationships and ceremonies? What about the good gifts of God’s providence? Is having these an evidence that God is your Father? Think, in this connection, on what Asaph discovered when he went into the sanctuary (Ps. 73)!
4. Clear proof of the Jews’ not being Abraham’s true seed was their relation to Jesus. They did not truly believe Jesus (vv. 30, 31), for Jesus’ word had no place in their hearts (v. 37). Besides that, rather than rejoicing to see Jesus’ day (cf. v. 56 and my comments on the same in the article prior to this), they sought to kill Jesus (vv. 37, 59)! True sons of Abraham and of God would continue in Jesus’ words (v. 31), would love Jesus (v. 42), and rejoice in His day (v. 56) – just as Abraham did! Why is loving attachment to Jesus necessary for one to be a child of God (cf. John 3:16, 17; 5:36, 37; 8:18, 27, 29; 10:36; 11:42; 12:49; 14:6, 10; 123, 8; I John 5:1)?
5. In verse 43 Jesus gives the reason for the Jews’ failure to understand Jesus’ speech: it was because they could not hear His word? Explain this inability to hear.
6. In verse 47 Jesus explains that the fundamental reason for one hearing or not hearing God’s words, and therefore being a child of God or not is whether that person is “of God” or not. What does it mean to be “of God”? When is one “of” God? How and for what reason does this occur (cf. texts such as John3:3, 5; 5:44; 644; 8:47; 10:26)? How does this exclude boasting for those of us who believe? Does being “of God” mean that God’s elect were never children of the devil, even before they were converted? What of Ephesians 2:3 which speaks of us as being by nature children of wrath, even as others?
7. The father of the unbelieving Jews is the devil. Jesus minces no words. “Ye are of your father the devil,” He says. “And the lust of your father ye will do” (v. 44)! Here, among other things, Jesus establishes the truth of the existence of the devil! The devil is real! He is the prince of this world, the prince of darkness! Using a concordance and good Bible dictionary list the names the Bible gives to the devil. What is the history of the devil? What are some of the things he does? What three occupations of the devil does Jesus mention here? Give some examples of the devil “in action” from the record of Scripture; from our own experience in the world today. How are the devil’s characteristics and purposes seen in his children?
1. Jesus’ mission is to give life (v. 51). In Him is life (John 1:4). He is given that whosoever believeth on Him might have everlasting life (3:16). He promises life, for He has the words of life (6:63, 68). He is .the way, the truth, and the life (14:6). Think on this life: its source, its nature, its length, and our knowledge and enjoyment of it. Here in John 8:51 Jesus promises that one who keeps His saying shall never see death. How is this to be explained, seeing that all but a few of God’s ‘people die ‘in their bodies? (In this connection, think on the few who did not and will not die in their bodies. What are the purposes of God in having some never see bodily death?)
2. Jesus promises that the life He gives is enjoyed by those who “keep” His saying (v. 51). What is the “saying” one is to keep? How does one keep it? How does Jesus’ promise here of life through (and only through) obedience harmonize with the gospel that we are saved by grace only, and not by our works?
3. There is urgency here! Jesus is speaking to people who were pretenders to true religion. They who went about seeking to establish their own righteousness were in fact lost in sins, slaves of the devil, bound for hell. If they did not repent, woe to them! So we must be warned, lest we be found to be sons of the devil (cf. P.s. 2:12; I Cor. 9:27)! In this connection, think of five fruits of being a true child of God! Are they evident in your life? Is your life and is my life a rejoicing in Jesus’ day? How?
4. In this age of “tolerance,” and amid the prevailing religion of the universal brotherhood of man, how do we show our distinction from the sons of the devil? Is there any place for cooperation between the church and the world in “common causes”?
5. Church! True sons of Abraham! Sons of God, through faith in Jesus Christ the eternal Son! Preach! Rejoice: God has the whole world, and all history, in His hands! To execute destruction upon the devil and his children! To save and to preserve His own by sovereign grace! Live the life of Father’s true sons! Blessed sons. Holy sons. Praising sons!