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John 8:31-59 (web)

The Devil's Household

Free from Slavery to Sin

31  Jesus therefore said to those Jews who had believed him,
"If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples.
32  You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."

33  They answered him,
"We are Abrahamís seed, and have never been in bondage to anyone.
How do you say, ĎYou will be made free?í"

34  Jesus answered them,
"Most assuredly I tell you, everyone who commits sin is the bondservant of sin.
35  A bondservant doesnít live in the house forever. A son remains forever.
36  If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

Your Father is the Devil

37  I know that you are Abrahamís seed, yet you seek to kill me,
because my word finds no place in you.
38  I say the things which I have seen with my Father;
and you also do the things which you have seen with your father."

39  They answered him, "Our father is Abraham."

Jesus said to them,
"If you were Abrahamís children, you would do the works of Abraham.
40  But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth,
which I heard from God. Abraham didnít do this.
41  You do the works of your father."

They said to him, "We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father, God."
42  Therefore Jesus said to them,
"If God were your Father, you would love me,
for I came out and have come from God.
For I havenít come of myself, but he sent me.
43  Why donít you understand my speech? Because you canít hear my word.
44  You are of your Father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father.
He was a murderer from the beginning, and doesnít stand in the truth,
because there is no truth in him.
When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it.
45  But because I tell the truth, you donít believe me.
46  Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?
47  He who is of God hears the words of God.
For this cause you donít hear, because you are not of God."


48  Then the Jews answered him,
"Donít we say well that you are a Samaritan, and have a demon?"
49  Jesus answered,
"I donít have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me.
50  But I donít seek my own glory. There is one who seeks and judges.
51  Most assuredly, I tell you, if a person keeps my word, he will never see death."

52  Then the Jews said to him,
"Now we know that you have a demon.
Abraham died, and the prophets; and you say,
ĎIf a man keeps my word, he will never taste of death.í
53  Are you greater than our father, Abraham, who died?
The prophets died. Who do you make yourself out to be?"

54  Jesus answered,
"If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing.
It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is our God.
55  You have not known him, but I know him.
If I said, ĎI donít know him,í I would be like you, a liar.
But I know him, and keep his word.
56  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it, and was glad."

57  The Jews therefore said to him,
"You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"

58  Jesus said to them,
"Most assuredly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM."
59  Therefore they took up stones to throw at him, but Jesus was hidden,
and went out of the temple, having gone through the midst of them, and so passed by.

Discussion Questions

What does it mean to continue in his word (or hold to his teachings)?
What does vs 31 imply about those who don't continue in his word?
In what ways were we slaves of the devil?
And in what ways has Jesus free those of us who are believers from such slavery?
But what is the difference between being a slave of the devil and being a son of the devil?
How were the Jews behaving like the devil?
It seems that many times in this section and previously that the unbelievers misinterpret what Jesus says. Why doesn't Jesus clarify what he really means?
Should we strive to seek honor for ourselves? (Contrast Rom 2:7 with Prov 25:27)
In verse 58 what is Jesus saying about himself and why did the Jews react the way they did?


vs 31-36
In John 6 we saw disciples fall away from following Jesus. They were not true disciples. True disciples continue in the faith with a views towards applying his word. It says that Jesus was speaking to a crowd mixed with believers and unbelievers. His first statement was meant only for those who believed in him. But it seems the unbelievers in the crowd responded, and as is the case commonly with unbelievers, they just don't get it. In verse 47 Jesus says, "The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."

Jesus speaks of offering freedom, but freedom from what? Typical of the natural mind to think of freedom from human slavery. Jesus was speaking of something much bigger than this. Though societies may proudly boast of eliminating slavery, yet they haven't. Slave still exists and always has. All who live a lifestyle of sin are slaves to sin.  But those who have been born of God are now sons of God and freed from the slavery to sin.

1John 3:
5  You know that he was revealed to take away our sins, and in him is no sin.
6  Whoever remains in him doesnít sin.
Whoever sins hasnít seen him, neither knows him.
7  Little children, let no one lead you astray.
He who does righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
8  He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
To this end the Son of God was revealed, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
9  Whoever is born of God doesnít commit sin,
because his seed remains in him; and he canít sin, because he is born of God.
That is an effect of being born of God, of which Paul also writes in Romans 6-8

vs 35 A bondservant doesnít live in the house forever. A son remains forever.
An issue here is what "house" is he referring to? For his immediate reference is being enslaved to sin and thus this would represent the household of the devil. Although the principle could apply to any household. But is the difference between being a slave to the devil and being a son of the devil? Later in the chapter in verse 44 he does call them sons of the devil. I would infer that sons of the devil are those who live a lifestyle of sin willfully. Slaves of the devil are those who live a lifestyle of sin reluctantly.

Sons of the Devil Live a lifestyle of sin willfully
Slaves of the Devil Live a lifestyle of sin reluctantly

Thus these may be two categories of unredeemed. I could imagine Calivinists applying their fatalistic pre-salvation theology to this model and further categorize these as the elect and non-elect among the unredeemed. But I wouldn't go so far as to make that assumption. For example the apostle Paul clearly demonstrated behavior which would have been characteristic of a son of the devil. And in fact he labels himself the chief of all sinners, referencing his former behavior, and yet he got saved. Thus I would infer that it's possible to change categories if one repents.

As a digression I wonder if the converse is also true. That is that sons of God live a righteous lifestyle willfully and slaves of God live a righteous lifestyle reluctantly. But a problem with this model is those who have been born of God are not uniquely sons or slaves of God, but rather are both.
Romans 6:22  But now, being made free from sin,
and having become servants of God
Galatians 4:7  So you are no longer a bondservant (to the law), but a son;
and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
And similarly Paul calls himself a servant of God, but also a son of God. But perhaps the difference lies in the attitude towards the Christian life. For though we have both status of son and slave, yet our attitude can also be categorized thusly. Having been born of God, it's inevitable that we will live a righteous life, but at times we will do so willfully and at other times reluctantly. At times somethings come quite naturally. Paul writes of the Thessalonians, "But concerning brotherly love, you have no need that one write to you. For you yourselves are taught by God to love one another." 1Th 4:9  And "this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. His commandments are not grievous. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world" 1John 5:3,4 But then there arise particular circumstances which test our faith and obedience. I can imagine Jesus' prayer "not my will be yours be done" reflects such challenges.

But generally speaking try as they might, those in God's household find that they just cannot live a lifestyle of sin. And try as they might, those of the devil find that they just cannot live a righteous lifestyle.

Your Father is the Devil

vs 37-47
In verse 37 Jesus acknowledges that they are Abraham's seed, but in verse 40 he denies it. How can we resolve this paradox? Abraham had two sons, one of Sarah, the free woman, and one of Hagar, the slave woman. Paul uses this point in Galatians 4 to say that unbelieving Jews, though sons of Abraham, were really sons of the slave woman, and thus having no part in the promise which was fulfilled in Isaac. And we can see in this chapter what Paul spoke of when he said, "Now we, brothers, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as then, he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now." Gal 4:28,29 For Jesus was persecuted by those who were only Jews in the flesh and not in spirit.

But then the same goes for "Christians" who are only so in flesh and not in spirit, who may have  grown up in a Christian household, gotten wet in baptism, going to church, partaking in the ceremonies associated with Christianity, and who reckon themselves righteous upon the basis of fleshly things. It is these kind of people that are often a source of hostility against those who have been born of God.

What are characteristics of children of the devil which Jesus references here?

vs 41 Their reference to not being born of fornication may have been directed at Jesus who, from the society's viewpoint, was conceived under questionable circumstances. But regardless, in verse 46 Jesus challenges them to point out sin in him in a sense saying, "I pointed out your sinfulness. Now go ahead and try to point out mine." For Jesus was sinless, though despised by many. So let us also who intend to preach as Jesus did, to first examine ourselves to see if there be hypocrisy in us and let us be open to criticism. And furthermore the most important principle of preaching is simply TO TELL THE TRUTH. This in contrast to the priority of many today of not turning people off or offending people. It certainly cannot be said of Jesus' preaching that he didn't offend people. In fact given Jesus' sermons it can almost be said that if our preaching doesn't offend people then we must be doing something wrong.

In verse 47 he says that those who are of God hear the words of God. John also writes, "We are of God. He who knows God listens to us. He who is not of God doesnít listen to us. " 1John 4:6 And this is true of us as Christians. As we preach the Word, those who are of God listen to us. But those who are not of God don't.

Jesus' Rhetoric

Jesus rhetoric is inflammatory. The tone resonant in his message is hostile, insulting. But what he says is true. Jesus sets the precedent for Christian rhetoric.

vs 51 Jesus' comeback is like throwing pearls to swine. He tells them something spiritual which they would not understand and which they could easily misinterpret. He does this all the time. He invites them to slander him. It's like he's playing basketball and draws the foul to get the three point shot.


vs 48-51
Nazareth of Galilee where Jesus was from was north of Samaria and as Nathanael said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" Jews, especially those in Judea, were prejudice and racist. They looked down even upon other Jews who were not from Judea.

As it was, insulting the Lord was bad enough. For it is written, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment." Ps 2:12 But declaring that Jesus was demon possessed was a serious charge. For they were speaking against the Holy Spirit. This may have sealed their fate in that it is written,"whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come." Mat 12:32

vs 54
Pr 25:27  "It is not good to eat too much honey,
nor is it honorable to seek oneís own honor."
Pr 27:2  "Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips."

vs 55
It may seem arrogant for the Christian to say "I know God", but to say otherwise may be a lie. Under the New Covenant it is written that, "They will not teach every man his fellow citizen, Every man his brother, saying, ĎKnow the Lord,í For all will know me, From the least of them to the greatest of them." Heb 8:11 And it is also commanded in Jeremiah, "let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD" Jer 9:24

vs 56 What did he mean that Abraham saw it? He could mean that Abraham foresaw it, or perceived it coming in the promise given to him concerning Isaac.

vs 58 "I AM"  God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: íI AM has sent me to you.í" Exodus 3:14 And it is for this reason that the Jews intended to stone Jesus. Jesus of course preexisted his incarnation, for through him all things were made and without him nothing was made that has been made.


But notice how many times these people misinterpret what he says. And yet it is also interesting that Jesus doesn't clarify. This is an important point when it comes to teaching the Bible. In the secular world the objective in teaching is to get people to understand. If they misinterpret what you say then you clarify in a way in which they will understand. But that is not what Jesus does here. And remember what he said to his disciples:
The disciples came, and said to him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"
He answered them, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesnít have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they donít see, and hearing, they donít hear, neither do they understand. In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says,  ĎBy hearing you will hear, And will in no way understand; Seeing you will see, And will in no way perceive:  For this peopleís heart has grown callous, Their ears are dull of hearing, They have closed their eyes; Or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their heart, And should turn again; And I would heal them.í" Mat 13:10-15
Just as unbelievers turn a deaf ear to God, so God turns a mute tongue to them. What is our message to the unbelieving cynics who simply question Christianity not to obtain truth but simply to slander? Our message is one of condemnation. When they approach us with stupid questions concerning their distorted interpretations of the Bible we need not answer them. For Jesus didn't. And what would be the point. It isn't their misinterpretations which hinder them. It is their unrepentant heart which has led to their corrupt mind and conscience and which has made them deaf and blind. But on the other hand there are honest skeptics - Berean types - who have questions and honestly seek answers. Those are the ones we should focus on teaching.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Aug 15,2020