John Chapters 5 to 8, Part 8
by Karl Kemp
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We continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 5-8 here in Part 8, starting with John 8:19.
(19) So they were saying to Him, 'Where is Your Father?' Jesus answered, 'You know neither Me nor My Father [cf. John 7:28; 8:55; and 16:3]; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also [cf. John 14:7, 9].' [[It is also true that if they had known God the Father, He would have led them to the knowledge of His unique Son (the God-man; Messiah/Christ). I'll quote a sentence from what Henry Alford says here ("New Testament for English Readers," Vol. 2 [Baker, 1983 reprint], page 539). "Augustine and others imagine that the Jews thought of a human Father, in thus speaking." This idea seems to be confirmed by verse 27.]] (20) These words He spoke in the treasury [["He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put" NIV. Compare Mark 12:41, 43; Luke 21:1. I'll quote part of what Gary M. Burge says here ("John" [Zondervan, 2000], page 257). "This interchange takes place in the 'temple area near the place where the offerings were put' (8:20a [NIV]), that is, in the Court of Women. There were thirteen money chests built in the shape of a shofar (a ram's horn....) in this court, each indicating how the money was to be spent (m. Shekalim 2:1; 6:1, 5). In Mark 12:41-44 these are the receptacles that the widow used to deposit two small copper coins." "Each of the thirteen trumpet-shaped receptacles had inscriptions indicating the intended use of the various offerings: 'gold for the mercy seat,' frankincense,' 'bird offerings,' 'wood,' 'freewill offerings,' and so on (m. Seqal. 6.5)" (Andreas J. Kostenberger, "John," page 257).]], as He taught in the temple [cf. John 7:14]; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come [cf., e.g., John 7:30, 32, 44, 45]. (21) Then He said again to them, 'I go away [Jesus was going back to the Father, after perfectly accomplishing His all-important atoning death and being resurrected.], and you will seek Me [cf. John 7:34; 13:33], and will die in your sin [[See under John 15:22 in Part 6 of my paper on John chapters 13-17 on this Christian article site. See verse 24; cf. Ezek. 3:18. They will die in their sin(s) (note the plural "sins" in verse 24) because they are rejecting the Messiah, the One sent to save His people from their sin(s) (cf., e.g., Matt. 1:21; John 1:29; and 3:14-18), the only Savior from sin(s) (cf., e.g., John 14:6; Acts 4:12). It is clear that those who "will die in [their] sin" will not "seek [Him]" in repentance and faith after He has gone away: Those who seek Him in repentance and faith will find Him, and they will find salvation from sin(s) through and in Him - they will not die in their sin(s).
Many commentators believe that the "sin" spoken of here is the sin of not believing in Christ Jesus. Rejecting Christ and not believing in Him is the ultimate sin. (Pride and unbelief are at the root of sin.) How can God forgive the sin of rejecting His Son and His only plan of salvation from sin? We condemn ourselves to die in our sin(s) if we reject the only One who can save us from our sin(s), and we show where our hearts are if we reject the Savior from sin(s) and remain in our sin(s) (cf., e.g., John 3:16-21). I agree with Alfred Plummer, "The singular [the word sin is singular in the Greek here in verse 21, but not in verse 24] means 'state of sin' " ("Gospel According to John" (Baker, 1981 reprint), page 189).]]; where I am going you cannot come.' [[In John 13:33 Jesus told His disciples that He would be with them a little while longer; they would seek for Him, but where He was going they could not come. Their case, however, was totally different than the people Jesus addressed here in verse 21. The separation from His disciples was only temporary. Before long they would be with Him in glory, because they had become His disciples and He had saved them from their sin(s). Jesus' call to repent and become His disciples was rejected by many of the Jews, including many of the Jews who heard Jesus that day, but some in the audience did "believe" in Him (cf. John 8:30). Hopefully, some of the Jews who opposed Christ Jesus that day later repented and submitted (in faith) to Him and to God's new-covenant plan of salvation (cf., e.g., Acts 2:14-42; 3:11-4:4).]] (22) So the Jews [cf. John 1:19; 2:18, 20; 5:10, 15-18; 6:41, 52; 7:1, 11, 13, 15, 35; 8:48, 52, 57-59; 9:18, 22; and 10:24, 31, 33] were saying, 'Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, "Where I am going, you cannot come"?' [Compare John 7:35. The Jews were on the right wavelength here, but He would not kill Himself - the Jews would turn Him over to the Romans and demand that He be crucified. He voluntarily submitted to His all-important atoning death (cf., e.g., John 10:11-18).] (23) And He was saying to them, 'You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world [The primary problem was that they were rejecting the only One who could raise them from being part of this fallen world to have a place in the kingdom of God and His Christ. That kingdom is here now in a preliminary form.], I am not of this world. [Compare John 3:13, 31; 8:14, 15; 17:5, 14, 16; and 1 John 4:4-6. What Jesus said about Himself here (and often) was a lot more than they were willing to accept; they made it clear that they considered such statements to be blasphemous.] (24) Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins [see John 8:21]; for unless you believe that I am He [[Compare Matt. 24:5; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8; John 4:26; 8:28, 58; and 13:19. The NASB has a marginal note here, "Most authorities associate this with Ex. 3:14, "I AM WHO I AM." I would translate BECAUSE, or FOR, instead of WHO. See the discussion under John 13:19, including the footnote, in my paper on John 13-17 on this Christian article site. Jesus was saying that unless they believe that He is who He claims to be, which includes believing that He came from above (being God the Son) to become the promised Messiah/Christ, they cannot be saved from their sins (that is, they will die in their sin/sins; cf., e.g., Luke 13:1-5).]] you will die in your sins.' (25) So they were saying to Him, 'Who are You?' Jesus said to them, 'What have I been saying to you from the beginning? [[In the margin the NASB has a note, "Or, That which I have been saying to you from the beginning." ((I had a footnote: The Greek can be translated other ways too, as the discussions in the commentaries and some other Bible translations demonstrate, but I believe either translation given by the NASB (including the one in the margin) communicates the right idea. The translations of the NIV; KJV; and NKJV are essentially the same as the NASB. One problem is that the Greek doesn't have the preposition "from" before the words translated "the beginning"; the NASB has "from" in italics. The Greek just has the two words translated "the beginning" in the accusative case. I believe, however, that the translation "from the beginning" effectively communicates what the Greek says here. On page 217 of "A New Short Grammar of the Greek Testament" (Baker, 1958), A. T. Robertson and W. Hersey Davis provide an example (Luke 15:29) that seems to effectively illustrate the use of the accusative case for "extent of time" here in John 8:25.)) Jesus was undoubtedly speaking of the beginning of His ministry in Jerusalem that started some one and one-half to two and one-half years earlier (cf. John 2:13-25; 15:27). (See under John 5:1 in this paper, and see under John 2:13 in my paper on John 1:19-4:54 on this Christian article site.) There is widespread agreement that Jesus spoke these words in the temple at Jerusalem (at the time of the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles [cf. John 7:2, 37]) some six months before He was crucified at Passover.]] (26) I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you [They thought they were judging Jesus, but He was the real Judge, as it would eventually be demonstrated.], but He who sent Me [On His being sent by the Father, see verses 16, 18.] is true ["is reliable" NIV; cf. John 3:33; 7:28]; and the things which I heard from Him [cf., e.g., John 5:30; 8:28, 38, 40; 12:49; and 15:15], these I speak to the world.' [Since the One who sent Him is true, we can (and we must) know that the things Jesus speaks to the world that He has heard from the Father are true/the truth.] (27) They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father. (28) So [The Greek "oun" could also be translated "then" here, instead of "so" (or "therefore)." The KJV; NKJV have "then." The NASB (and NKJV) translates "oun" "then" at the beginning of verse 21.] Jesus said, 'When you lift up the Son of Man [Jesus was lifted up on the cross, which led to His being lifted up to the Father's right hand (cf. John 3:14; 12:32, 33).], then you will know that I am He [On "I am He," see under verse 24, including the cross-reference to the discussion of John 13:19.] and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me [cf. John 5:19, 30; 6:38; 12:49; and 14:10]. [[Subsequent events demonstrate that the idea wasn't that Jesus would be crucified (and go back to the Father) and then all the Jews would immediately know that He was who He claimed to be (the Messiah/Christ who came/was sent from heaven) and that everything that He had said (and done) was from God the Father. But His crucifixion was a super-important aspect of God's plan of salvation, and it set in motion a chain of events that would eventually prove to all mankind who He was. Many Jews (and Gentiles) would be saved (with full new-covenant salvation) through His atoning death and His pouring forth the promised Spirit, starting on the day of Pentecost. And those who rejected Him and His salvation would ultimately be forced to admit that He was God the Son, the Messiah/Christ, the Saviour and the Judge, when He judges them (cf., e.g., Phil. 2:9-11).]] (29) And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone [cf. John 16:32], for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him [cf., e.g., John 4:34; 15:10].' (30) As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. [[Compare John 2:23-25; 7:31, 40, 41; 10:42; 11:45; and 12:11, 42, 43. What Jesus went on the say in the next two verses (cf. John 2:23-25; 6:60, 64, 66) made it clear that much of this believing was on a shallow level - they had not become disciples (true believers), and they would not become true disciples if they did not press on to learn and to do the truth (by grace through faith).]] (31) So [Greek "oun"; see under verse 28; the KJV; NKJV translate "then" here in verse 31; the NIV leaves "oun" untranslated here.] Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him [see verse 30], 'If you continue in My word [cf. John 15:7; 2 John 1:9], then you are truly disciples of Mine [[We cannot become true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ (true Christians) if we are not committed to learn and to live in line with the covenant that God has given us, to learn and to do what He requires of us (by grace through faith). ((I had a footnote: It is very important that prospective converts (including people answering altar calls) be informed of these things. Becoming true Christians involves a whole lot more than getting stirred up emotionally at an evangelistic service and praying the so-called sinner's prayer. Such people are often left with the very wrong impression that they have arrived and that God will take care of the details from now on. Praying the sinner's prayer can be a good beginning, but we must continue in God's word to the end (by grace through faith). Saving faith includes an attitude of the heart where we put God and His word first place in our hearts and lives (we make Him Lord), where we make righteousness and holiness top priority (by His grace), in accordance with His word, and where we trust and obey Him.)) I'll quote Matt. 28:18-20, "And Jesus came up and spoke to them [to the apostles, after His resurrection], saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL THE NATIONS, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THAT I COMMANDED YOU [my emphasis]; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' "]; (32) and you will know the truth [Compare John 1:14, 17; 14:6; and 18:37. The truth we must know centers in the gospel of full salvation through and in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the truth.], and the truth will make you free [cf. John 8:34, 36 (In John 8:34 Jesus spoke of our being slaves of sin; in 8:36 He spoke of His making us free.); Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:1, 13-17; James 2:8-12; and 1 Pet. 2:16].' [[If we know the truth of the gospel and walk in line with that truth (by grace through faith), with the emphasis on our living in the righteousness and holiness of God, in accordance with His will, we will be free from sin and spiritual death, and we will be ready to stand before God and to inherit eternal glory at the end of this age. Before becoming Christians we were in bondage to sin and spiritual death (cf., e.g., John 8:21, 24, 34; Rom. 3:9; 6:17-23 (with Rom. 6:1-14); 8:1-14; and Eph. 2:1-3).]] (33) They answered Him [[It is important to discern who answered/responded to Jesus here. Your first thought would probably be that it was the "believers" mentioned in verse 30, to whom Jesus spoke in verses 31, 32. (Some think that the believers of verse 30 are different than the believers of verse 31. I don't agree.) However, what these Jews went on to say to Jesus (starting in verse 33) and, more importantly, what Jesus went on to say to them as these verses continue to the end of this chapter, indicate that opponents of Jesus (not believers) were responding to Him here. ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: Many (even most) commentators believe that it was the ones who had "believed" that responded to Jesus in verse 33. R. C. H. Lenski is not one of those commentators. I'll quote part of what he says here ("St. John's Gospel" [Augsburg, 1943], pages 632, 633). "Those who assume that the believing Jews here speak against Jesus must assume also (and some actually do) that, believing in one instant, they lose their faith in the next and in a moment become more vicious than ever. ... If the believing Jews could thus pass over into passionate unbelief because of one simple word of Jesus [referring to what He said in John 8:31, 32. It is important to see that what Jesus had already said in 8:21, 24 was much harder to accept than what He said here in verses 31, 32.], he certainly made a mistake when he held out to them the sweet prospect of spiritual liberty. Had he here lost his power to see what is in men's hearts (2:25)?"
I'll also quote part of what J. H. Bernard says here ("Gospel According to John," Vol. 2 [T&T Clark, 1999 reprint], page 306). "Those who made the answer which follows were not the Jews who 'believed Him' (v. 31), but the Jewish objectors, with whom throughout the rest of this chapter Jesus is engaged in controversy. He could not have charged 'the Jews who believed Him' with seeking His life (vv. 37, 39).")) In verse 37 (and in verse 40; cf. verses 44, 59) Jesus said they sought to kill Him, and in verses 45, 46 He said that they did not believe in Him. At the end of the chapter they even picked up stones to throw at Jesus (to kill Him).
What Jesus said to the "believers" in verses 31, 32 was undoubtedly spoken in the presence of a much larger audience in the temple (the "believers" would have been a minority), an audience that included many strong opponents of Jesus, opponents who are mentioned in John 8:13-30, 33-59 (and often in the Gospel of John). His opponents in the audience realized that what Jesus said to the Jewish "believers" in verse 32 about their need to become His disciples to be set free would undoubtedly apply to them too, words which made them indignant. They must respond to His false words, they thought. His opponents rejected Jesus and His words in general.]], 'We are Abraham's descendants [cf. Matt. 3:9; Luke 3:8; John 8:37, 39, 53, 56; Rom. 9:7, 8; and Gal. 3:29] and have never yet been enslaved to anyone [It might be better to take the Greek "oudeni" as neuter (instead of masculine) and translate "anything," instead of "anyone." See the following discussion on the meaning of these words.]; how is it that You say, "You will become free"?' [[Apparently those Jews were thinking of their religious/spiritual freedom, being "Abraham's descendants" and the privileged people of God by covenant. ((I had a six paragraph footnote: The Jews certainly could not claim that they had never been in bondage to other nations. Even then they were under the heel of the Romans, and before that they were subject to the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and others. The Jews could have legitimately claimed that most of them had never literally been slaves, but it doesn't seem that that idea was an issue in verses 31-33. For one thing, it was understood that Jesus was not addressing His words in verses 31, 32 to those who were literal slaves.
I'll quote part of what Gerald L. Boschert says here ("John 1-11" [Broadman & Holman, 2002], pages 303, 304). "... It was...a religious statement rooted in their conviction that they were the spiritual children of God.... ...the Pharisees did not regard political liberty as the test of freedom. Being sons of God, a holy people, God's possessions, according to Deut. 14:1, 2, was for them the test of being free."
I'll quote a sentence from what R. H. Lightfoot says here ("St. John's Gospel" [Oxford reprint, 1966], page 192). "Rightly understood, there is no reference here, on either side [what Jesus said in verses 31, 32 or what His hearers said in verse 33], to political freedom or bondage, but only to a freedom dependent on man's relation to God." Gary M. Burge ("John" [Zondervan, 2000], page 260) says, "...Jesus' audience is likely referring to spiritual or inward freedom."
I'll quote part of what William Hendriksen says here ("Gospel of John" [Baker, 1953], page 53). "Their line of reasoning is on this order: heathen are in bondage; they serve idols; but surely we are not in bondage. We are no heathens; we are not even Samaritans (cf. 8:48). How, then, is it that Jesus can say, 'You will become free'?"
I'll quote part of what Herman Ridderbos says here ("Gospel of John" [Eerdmans, 1997], page 309). "Their protest...arose from a sense of spiritual superiority as children of Abraham chosen by God out of all the nations, and thus a sense of being exempt from any servant relationship to others (cf. Matt. 3:9; Rom. 2:17-20). They rightly sensed that, by the way Jesus made their freedom contingent on faith in him, he was calling into question this inalienable privilege."
I'll also quote part of what R. V. G. Tasker says here ("Gospel According to St. John" [Eerdmans, 1960], pages 117, 118). "It is apparent in this section that what prevents men and women from making the personal surrender to Christ, which is the essence of true belief, is their exclusive and intense reliance on other things, and a failure to understand that those other things are blinding them to the truth about themselves. It may be reliance on ancestry, or national privileges and traditions; it may be a blind trust in the rites and ceremonies of religion, or a slavish obedience to some external law or rule of life - but the result is always the same, a failure to grasp the truth about themselves. Man's greatest need, it has well been said, is to know what is his greatest need.")) For one thing, what Jesus had said in verses 31, 32 fit the idea of religious/spiritual freedom from bondage. They were not in bondage to the darkness and depravity of the idolatry and false religions of the Gentiles. They were, however (as Jesus made it clear in the following verses; also compare, for example, verses 21, 24; Luke 13:1-5) in bondage to sin (and spiritual death) and in desperate need of the salvation that they could receive only through the Lord Jesus Christ. ((I had a footnote: Most of Jesus' opponents would have admitted that they were not living without sin (cf., e.g., John 8:7-11), but they believed that their covenant with God (which included their having the truth of God's word and the temple with the sacrificial offerings) compensated for their sin. (They had some truth, but they desperately needed the promised new-covenant salvation that Jesus came to give.) They (like many "Christians" today) didn't begin to understand the seriousness of their sin problem. They were not prepared to accept what Jesus told them regarding their sinful status before God (cf., e.g., Luke 13:1-5; John 8:21, 24, 34-36; and Rom. 2:1-3:26).)) Even the most godly believers under the old covenant (and His opponents were not in that category) still needed the full, new-covenant salvation that had been promised/prophesied in the Old Testament (cf., e.g., Jer. 31:31-34 with Heb. 8:1-13; 10:11-18 [On these verses, see pages 156-163 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin."]).
Leon Morris (page 457) points out that people typically don't realize that they are in bondage to sin; they tend to "rest in some fancied position of privilege, national, social, or religious" and he comments that "these Jews, proud of their religion, did not even know their need to be free."]] (34) Jesus answered them, 'Truly [Amen], truly [amen], I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. [Compare, for example, Acts 2:40; Rom. 6:6, 7, 12-14, 16-23; Gal. 1:4; and 2 Pet. 2:19.] (35) The slave does not remain in the house [I assume that Jesus was speaking of the house of God here (referring to God's family), but it is possible that He was speaking of a house (family) on the earth.] forever; the son [["the Son" KJV; "a son" NKJV; NIV. The Greek has the definite article with the word for Son/son here, and I believe it is better to translate "the Son," referring to Christ. It is clear that verse 36 goes on to speak of "the Son," referring to Christ. The NASB; NIV; KJV; and NKJV all have "the Son" in verse 36. The only way Jews (or Gentiles) can become sons/children of God in the full sense is through Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God (see verses 31, 32, 36); only He can make them free (verse 36) and ready to stand before God at the end of this age; through Him they are born again/from above (cf., e.g., John 1:12, 13; 3:3-8). Through Christ Jesus, the Son, they become born-again sons of God and part of the house/family of God.
It is understood that those who are slaves of sin and not sons (whether Jews or Gentiles) do not have a real place or inheritance in God's kingdom, household, true Israel - they are not true sons of Abraham, the believer (cf. Gal. 3:29). ((I had a footnote: "Sin ruptures a relationship with God. The 'son' who is secure and permanent is likely Jesus himself" (Gary Burge, "John," page 261). In a footnote Burge says, "Greek reads 'the son,' not as in NIV, 'a son.' Throughout this Gospel 'the son' refers to Jesus. In the Johannine literature, Christians are described as 'children' of God.")) As verses 56-58 show, Abraham (unlike the Jewish opponents of Jesus, who were descendants of Abraham only in a physical, fleshly sense) rejoiced in the Lord Jesus Christ.]] does remain forever. [Compare Gen. 21:10; 1 Chron. 17:11-15; Gal. 4:30; and Heb. 3:6. In the natural world the slaves were the property of the house (family) that owned them; they didn't have a place in, or inheritance rights, in the house. The house was passed on to the children, not the slaves.] (36) So if the Son makes you free ["So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:32). See under verse 35.], you will be free indeed. [[Salvation in Christ includes forgiveness of sins, but the greater emphasis is placed on the fact that we are set free from sin and spiritual death, born again, and enabled (and required) to live in the righteousness and holiness of God. We are set free from (redeemed out of) the kingdom of sin, darkness, Satan, and death through the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning death. See my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin: Full Salvation Through the Atoning Death of the Lord Jesus Christ." The book is available on my website and on amazon.com.]]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 5-8 in Part 9, starting with John 8:37.
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