Jesus has set forward to the crowd who are true disciples. Though people are believing in him, Jesus is clearly trying to show who are truly disciples. In John 8:31 Jesus declared that those who live in his words are truly his disciples. Only they will know the truth and the truth will set them free. Telling them that they need to be set free from sin has stunned them. They looked at their own righteousness and their own lineage to Abraham believing that they were free from sin. However, only the Son can set people free from sin’s slavery. Jesus must expose the problem in their hearts. Jesus will make another attempt to explain who are truly disciples and are truly in a relationship with the Father.
The True Son (8:37-38)
Jesus nullifies their defense. Yes, they are children of Abraham in physical lineage. They can certainly trace their family roots all the way back to Abraham. But here is the problem: you are trying to kill me. This response goes all the way back to John 7:19 where Jesus questions them as to why they want to kill him for healing the paralytic on the Sabbath. How are you the offspring of Abraham, heirs of the promise and in covenant relationship with the Father, when you are trying to kill the Son? How can you be Abraham’s offspring when the words of Son have no place within them. The words of the Son of God do not reside in their hearts. They are not living on his words. It is not possible for them to be God’s chosen people when there is no place within them for his words. Jesus pushes this even further in verse 38 by declaring that he has seen the Father. Once again he is pressing that he is divine and he is the Son. He is not speaking what he has heard from the Father, like they do. He is speaking what he has seen with my Father. It is an important reminder to consider if the words of Jesus possess our hearts or if there is no room at all for them. Do we listen to Jesus or not?
They have a physical ancestry to Abraham, but where is their spiritual heritage? Jesus insinuates that their spiritual heritage is not to Abraham. Notice verse 38 again. Not only is there a contrast between Jesus speaking what he has seen with the Father and what they have heard from their father, but it is also a contrast of fathers. I believe the translators are right to make the second “father” in verse 38 a lowercase “f.” Jesus is declaring that he belongs to his Father, which is God, and they belong to their father, which is not God.
Defining Spiritual Family (8:39-41)
This really upsets the Jewish audience. They immediately retort that Abraham is their father. Don’t tell us that we do not have a relationship with God. Abraham is our father. But listen to Jesus: “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.” Jesus defines our spiritual heritage. If someone is your father, then you do the same things that your father does. We understand this is our family relationships. We have sayings like, “He is a chip off the old block” and “Like father, like son.” I had an interesting compliment when the last time I preached in San Diego, where my father preached for 17 years. Members of the church came up to me afterward and said that they could see and hear my father in me. I can’t help it. I do not plan to do that. It simply is who I am. Children act like their parents. So Jesus says to them if they were Abraham’s children, then they would be doing the works of Abraham.
However, they are not acting like Abraham because they are trying to kill Jesus (8:40). Jesus says that he has come declaring the truth, yet they are trying to kill him. Abraham did not go around trying to kill people sent by the Father who was telling him the truth. Abraham was receptive to divine revelation and acted in obedience to it. They are not acting like Abraham at all. Instead, they are following a different father. Their father is not Abraham and their father is not God. There is a simple way to know that we are children of God: act like your Father. Christ has been appointed to be our model so we know what it looks like to act like our Father because Jesus perfectly kept the Father’s will (cf. 1 John 2:6).
Of course, the people again do not respond well to this. They degenerate into a personal attack. They were not born of sexual immorality, implying that Jesus was (which was the general attitude about Jesus). They claim God himself to be their true Father.
If God Were Your Father: Tests of True Discipleship (8:42-47)
So Jesus puts forward five proofs to know if God is truly your Father. These proofs will show if we are truly disciples or not.
(1) If God were your Father, you will love Jesus (8:42).
What an important test for us to consider! Do you love Jesus? Do you love Jesus above all else? There are lots of things we love in life. I love chocolate chip cookies. I love pizza. I love to watch football. I love my children. I love my wife. With each of these statements, it invokes a degree of emotions, feelings, urgency, and desire. But do you love Jesus? The fact that I love pizza and football and my children means that they hold a place in my heart to some degree and I want to spend time in those things. In fact, when given the choice, these are things that I enjoy in life. So do we love Jesus? Does Jesus hold the most important place in your life? Does Jesus mean a great deal to you? Do you want to spend time with Jesus? Is Jesus someone you enjoy in life? If God is your Father, you will love Jesus.
(2) If God were your Father, you will understand the will of God (8:43).
Children understand the will of the parents. Parents communicate their will and the children must understand that will to be in favor with the family and to receive the family’s blessings. If God is your Father, then you will care to know and understand what he is saying to you. The reason these people did not understand is because they did not have spiritual ears. They were dull in their hearing and darkened in their hearts. Therefore, they failed to understand God’s desire. This becomes the joy of Bible reading. It is our opportunity to learn the will of the Father. If God is our Father, we will want to understand what he has to say to us. We will not pass his words off. We will let his words penetrate our minds and hearts in such a way so as to learn from the Father. This is what Jesus said in John 6:45. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” If God is your Father, you will desire to learn more and understand more about him.
(3) If God were your Father, your will would be to do as the Father desires (8:44).
What you do shows to whom you belong. Jesus tells these people that their father is the devil and their will is to do their father’s desires. In particular, the devil wants nothing to do with the truth and neither do these people. I want us to consider the meaning to our lives. Jesus says I know who your father is because your desires match the desires of your father. Is our will God’s will? Or is our will to figure out a way to get God’s will to be our will? This is always an interesting pursuit that humans take. We try to make ways for God to approve what we are doing. We try to read his words and manipulate his will so that his will becomes our will. But this is not the direction of conformity. God’s will does not change. The goal is to change our will to become his will. We do not try to justify our will in the eyes of God. We are not going to be like the lawyer that confronted Jesus and was trying to justify himself once the law of God was declared (Luke 10:29). We can know who our father is by looking at how we approach God. Do we desire the will the Father or desire to make God’s will be our will? If we are following our own will then the devil is our father. We are obeying his desire which is to get us to disregard the will of God. Jesus proves that his Father is God because he always does what is pleasing to the Father (8:29).
(4) If God were your Father, you will believe the truth (8:45-46).
Not believing the truth shows that we belong to the wrong family. We have the wrong father when the truth is rejected. When God is not our true Father, then we are left in darkness and ignorance. We cannot know the truth unless we have the right father. The problem is that we delude ourselves concerning our sins. Notice that Jesus says that the root of their unbelief is their subjection to and belief of the lies of Satan. The truth of Jesus cannot affect us when we are wrapped in the lies of darkness. Jesus presses further, challenging the people to explain why else they would not believe him. They cannot convict of sin. There is nothing false in Jesus. So there is no reason to not believe him. Jesus has not lied and does not lie. Therefore we should and must believe him.
What an amazing declaration to proclaim in the midst of Jerusalem! You cannot convict me of sin. If there was any way for them to lay a charge at Jesus, this would have been the moment! This would have been the perfect opportunity to discredit Jesus and send him away as an impostor. But they couldn’t do it. And this becomes the basis for faith for us. We must believe what he is telling us. He is the only person who has ever spoken the truth! All people have lied, but not Jesus. He is telling you the truth. Will you believe in him? If God is your Father, then you will believe in Jesus.
(5) If God were your Father, you will listen to the words of God (8:47).
Finally, if God is your Father, then you will listen to the words of God. “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.” If you belong to God, then you will listen to him. Now listen to the other side of the coin. “The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” Your deadness shows you do not belong to God. Your dullness shows you do not belong to God. The lack of responsiveness and life change shows that you do not belong to God. Jesus is clearly spelling out who are disciples of his and who are not.
Listen to these tests that Jesus gives for true discipleship. Do not use false measurements to see if you are truly a follower of God. By being here for worship you are claiming that God is your Father. But here is the true test, administered by Jesus.
- Do you love Jesus?
- Do you seek to understand God’s will?
- Is your desire to do as the Father desires?
- Do you believe the truth, as revealed by Jesus?
- Do you listen and respond to the words of God?