John Chapters 5 to 8, Part 9
by Karl Kemp
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We continue this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 5-8 here in Part 9, starting with John 8:37.
(37) I know that you are Abraham's descendants [See John 8:33. The unbelieving Jewish opponents of Jesus (at least those who continued in that state) were descendants of Abraham only in an external, physical sense.]; yet you seek to kill Me [cf. John 5:18; 7:1, 19, 25; and 8:40, 44, 59], because My word has no place in you. [They rejected Him and His word in their hearts (cf., e.g., John 8:13, 19, 21).] (38) I speak the things which I have seen with My Father [["Or, in the presence of" (margin of NASB); "in the Father's presence" NIV; "with My Father" KJV; NKJV; the Greek preposition "para" with the dative case can be translated "with," or "in the presence of." Compare, for example, John 5:28; 12:49; and 14:10.]]; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.' [Jesus goes on to tell His opponents that their father is the devil (verses 40-44). They were children of the devil doing the works of the devil (cf. 1 John 3:8, 10, 12; we'll discuss these verses later).] (39) They answered and said to Him, 'Abraham is our father.' [[See John 8:33, 37. As I mentioned, Jesus' opponents were children of Abraham in an external, physical sense only. They were not believers like Abraham. They (at least most of them) were not part the elect of God, who will submit to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith (cf. John 6:35-51). They thought they were prime examples of the people of God's Israel, but Jesus, who knows what He is talking about, said they weren't.]] Jesus said to them, 'If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds [or "works"] of Abraham. [[" 'If you were Abraham's children,' said Jesus, 'then you would do the things Abraham did' " NIV. Abraham was a man of faith (he had faith in God and His word), and his works (attitudes, priorities, life, actions) manifested his faith (cf., e.g., James 2:14-26). Abraham, unlike Jesus' Jewish opponents, who were seeking to kill Him (verse 40), rejoiced in the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 56) - he certainly didn't want to kill Him.]] (40) But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me [cf. John 5:18; 7:1, 19, 25; and 8:37, 44, 59], a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God [See John 8:26, 28, 38.]; this Abraham did not do. (41) You are doing the deeds [works] of your father.' [[For one thing, as Jesus goes on to say in verse 44, their father, the devil, "was a murderer from the beginning." They were the devil's children in a spiritual (actually unspiritual), moral (actually immoral), family sense; they had the same desires he had (verse 44), and they acted like him. It can also be said that he was the spirit working in them (see Eph. 2:2) and through them (they were doing his works). This means a lot more than that the devil's children imitate him. They were not, however, created by, or born of, the devil. (For more on this important topic, see under verse 44.)]] They said to Him, 'We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God [cf. Ex. 4:22; Deut. 32:6; and Jer. 31:9].' [Their claim was that they were legitimate children of God - He was their Father; they were His people (and they were legitimate children of Abraham; He was their father). The truth was that they were not of God (cf. John 8:42, 44, 47); they did not really know Him or love Him (cf., e.g., John 8:19, 55; 5:38, 42; and 7:28) - they proved this, for one thing, by rejecting (and wanting to kill) His unique Son and salvation from sin through Him.]] (42) Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love Me [As it was, they hated Him like their father (the devil) hated Him.], for I proceeded forth and have come from God [cf., e.g., John 8:16, 18, 23, 26-29; 13:3; 15:23; and 16:28, 30], for I have not even come on My own initiative [see under John 7:28], but He sent Me [see under John 8:16]. [[It isn't possible to love God the Father and reject (not love) His unique Son, who is like Him in every way: He was sent by Him; He is deity with Him; His coming was prophesied in some detail in the Old Testament; He speaks the words of the Father and does the works of the Father that He was sent to do. Rejecting Him and His salvation showed all too clearly where the hearts of His opponents were. For one thing, those who love God and truly want to do His will will know that Jesus and His teaching came from the Father (John 7:17; cf. John 3:19-21).]] (43) Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. [[His opponents did not know God or love God and they were not open to His word (His word of truth) - they were living in a different dimension (the kingdom of darkness and lies); they were of a different family; their father, as the next verse shows, was the devil. This doesn't mean that they were all demon possessed, but their hearts were in tune with the devil and his thoughts - they were greatly influenced by him (cf., e.g., Eph. 2:1-3), and they (at least most of them) were not open to change (to repent).]] (44) You are of your father the devil [They were part of his family; they had his nature; they had his evil desires; they did his evil works.], and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer [["Man-slayer/killer"; Greek "anthropoktonos." "Old and rare word...from 'anthropos,' man, and 'kteino,' to kill. In N.T. only here and 1 John 3:15." (A. T. Robertson, "Word Pictures in the New Testament," Vol. 5 [Broadman, 1932], page 154). The Greek noun "anthropos" is used of Jesus in verse 40, translated "man." Jesus was a man, but He was a whole lot more than just a man; He was the God-man, deity with God the Father. The fact that Jesus called Satan a man-killer here helps demonstrate that He was not speaking of sins that Satan committed before man was created.]] from the beginning [[(This double bracket goes on for three pages.) I'll quote 1 JOHN 3:8, 10, 12 (1 John 2:28-3:12 are discussed verse-by-verse on pages 208-213 of my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin."): "the one who practices [who is doing sin] sin is OF THE DEVIL [my emphasis] ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: I'll quote part of what A. E. Brooke says on the meaning of these words, "He whose whole course of action is the expression of 'sin,' belongs to the Devil, from whom the life which animates him is derived..." ("Johannine Epistles" [T&T Clark, 1980 reprint], page 88). I should point out that most children of the devil do not appear to be sinning all the time, and that includes Jesus' opponents spoken of in John chapter 8 - the whole course of their action was not an expression of sin (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 11:13-15). The devil can use religious people (and not just religious people) more if they have a facade of righteousness.
I'll also quote part of what Brooke says under 1 John 3:12 (on page 92). "Every man must draw his life and power from one source or the other. His deeds show to whom he belongs and has attached himself. The writer never denies the individual freedom of choice. He only traces back...to their ultimate spiritual sources.")); for THE DEVIL HAS SINNED FROM THE BEGINNING [my emphasis]. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL [my emphasis]. (10) By this the children of God and the CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL [my emphasis] are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (12) not as CAIN, WHO WAS OF THE EVIL ONE AND SLEW HIS BROTHER [my emphasis]. And for what reason did he slay him? Because HIS DEEDS [WORKS] WERE EVIL [my emphasis], and his brother's were righteous."
The high-level angelic being (apparently a cherub) who became Satan/the devil was created good, like everything else that God ever created (cf. Gen. 1:31), but the time came that he initiated an angelic rebellion against God (through pride); it is clear that he had already fallen before he tempted Eve in the garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 3:1-15; Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:11-17; 1 Tim. 3:6; and Rev. 12:4, 7-10). ((I had a footnote: Genesis chapter 3 and Ezekiel 28:1-19 are discussed verse-by-verse in my paper on Genesis chapters 1-3. Revelation chapter 12 is discussed verse-by-verse in my book "The Mid-Week Rapture." I cited Rev. 12:4, 7-10 here mostly because of the first sentence of Rev. 12:4, "And his [the devil's] tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth." Satan and these "stars" (evil angels; cf. Rev. 12:4 with 12:7-9) will not be cast down to the earth until Christ returns in the middle of Daniel's 70th week, but this verse gives us the important information that a third of the angels followed the devil in his rebellion against God. Much of the devil's work (very much including his work in and through men) is carried out through evil angels and demons.)) The words "he was a murderer [man-slayer/killer] from the beginning" (John 8:44) apparently refer to the time (the time very early in the history of man) that Cain murdered his brother (Gen. 4:1-10) - the devil was working through Cain; it can be said that Cain was doing a work of the devil - all sins can be considered works of the devil. ((I had a six-paragraph footnote: The devil was a man-killer (John 8:44) in his heart before it manifested itself in Cain's hatred for and murder of his brother. (Satan undoubtedly hated man from the time of man's creation, and especially from the time that he was informed that he would eventually be defeated and overthrown by man.) It must be understood, of course, that although the sins of man can be considered works of the devil (and that he is working in them and through them), we are responsible for our sins. On judgment day we will not be able to use the excuse that the devil did it, or that he made us do it. For one thing, Adam and Eve had a free will before the fall (they were not spiritually dead; they were not in bondage to sin or Satan); after the fall we still have some freedom of the will; we have some capacity to respond to God, His word, and His grace. Note that 1 John 3:12 speaks of Cain's works being evil. Cain was responsible for his works; he will have to answer to God for his works.
1 John 3:8, 12 (like John 8:39-47) inform us that Cain (and all people who are characterized by sin) was of the evil one/the devil. He was a child of the devil (1 John 3:10). Cain, unlike Abel (cf. Heb. 11:4), did not have faith in God; his heart was with the devil; he was aligned with the devil; he listened to the devil; he yielded to the devil; he let the devil work through him and use him. God's people have no right to listen to the devil. For one thing, his lies typically go against God and His word. God's people must not relate to the devil in any way; they must resist him, his lies, his influences.
Most commentators believe that what Jesus said about the devil's being a murderer (man-killer) from the beginning (John 8:44) refers to his murdering mankind (when he enticed Adam and Eve to sin in the beginning) in Genesis chapter 3. I rather strongly prefer the view that Jesus was referring to the murder of Abel (and all subsequent murders) in John 8:44. (His murder was the first of very many literal man-killings throughout the history of man.) Cain's murder of Abel (as the devil was working through him; as Cain did a work of the devil; cf. 1 John 3:12 with 3:8, 10) was a much more effective foreshadowing of Jesus' Jewish opponents murdering Him (as they were doing a work of the devil [cf. John 8:40, 41, 44]) than the devil's "murder" of the human race.
It is true, of course, that the devil was behind the death of Adam and Eve (and their offspring). He lied to Eve (cf. Gen. 3:3-6; John 8:44) and tempted Adam and Eve to do what God had commanded them not to do. God had made it clear to Adam that if man ate of the forbidden fruit he would surely die (Gen. 2:17). When they ate of the forbidden fruit, they died spiritually, and the physical death process was initiated. The devil hated God, and he was envious of what man had with God. In Gen. 3:15 the devil learned that he would eventually be totally defeated (destroyed) by man, the seed of the woman. (That prophecy is fulfilled especially through the Lord Jesus Christ, who is a man, but who is much more than just a man. That prophecy undoubtedly greatly enhanced the devil's hatred of man, especially those people who had a heart for God and were motivated to live for Him.) Cain was jealous of the fact that God had accepted Abel's offering (and Abel himself), but not his offering (Gen. 4:2-8). God doesn't accept offerings from rebels, and Cain certainly proved he was a rebel. For one thing, rather than repent when God warned him, he killed his brother (Gen. 4:5-8). Cain also hated Abel for being different (for having faith and being righteous).
It could be said that the devil murdered Adam and Eve in that he tempted them (he gave them the poison that killed them, so to speak), but it is much more in line with the Bible's overall teaching to say that God judged Adam and Eve for their sin with the death penalty that He had promised. God is The Judge! He is the One with the authority to put to death and to make alive (cf., e.g., 1 Sam. 2:6; John 5:21-30; Rev. 19:20, 21; and 20:9-15). God judged Adam and Eve because of their sin, for which they were responsible (they had no right to listen to, yield to, and follow the devil, and especially when it involved rebelling against God and His word). God was the One who drove Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden, in which they had enjoyed a life-flowing relationship with Him, and He stationed the cherubim to guard the way back into the garden/His presence (Gen. 3:24). God was the One who condemned mankind to death (spiritual and physical death) because of Adam's sin (see Rom. 5:12-21). Mankind was sold into spiritual death and bondage to sin (cf. Rom. 7:14) by Adam's rebellion. Creation was (temporarily) subjected to futility (by God) because of Adam's sin (see Rom. 8:20). Much of Romans chapters 5-8 are discussed verse-by-verse in my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." Romans 8:16-23 are discussed in a paper on this Christian article site.
I'll quote a sentence from what Rudolph Schnackenberg says under 1 John 3:12 ("Johannine Epistles" [Crossroad, 1992], page 179). "This interpretation of Cain's deed as the work of the devil in a human act is in agreement with the judgment passed on Judas in the Gospel of John (cf. John 13:2, 27 [cf. Luke 22:3])." [this is the end of the six paragraph footnote])) That murder (Cain killing Abel) was the first in a very long line of murders, murders that are still going on today, but they won't go on forever. It should be obvious that Christians shouldn't have any works of the devil, which includes all sin (cf., e.g., Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; Acts 13:8-10; 26:18; Eph. 4:27; 1 Tim. 5:15; and 2 Tim. 2:26).
The words "the devil has sinned from the beginning" of 1 John 3:8 (cf. "he was a murderer from the beginning" John 8:44) should apparently also be explained of the works of the devil done through men (as they yield to him and his spirit works in them [cf. Eph. 2:2]) that started in the beginning (very early in the history of man) when Eve listened to the lies of the devil and Adam and Eve joined the devil in his rebellion against God and began to sin. ((I had a footnote: The devil was a sinner from the time of his initial rebellion against God (which clearly took place before he tempted Eve in the garden of Eden), but he could not sin through men or be a man-killer until after man was created.)) He began to sin through them; they began to do his works.
When the apostle John said in 1 John 3:8 that the Son of God came "to destroy the works of the devil," his primary point (in that context) was that Christians are enabled (and required) to stop doing the works of the devil; that is, to stop sinning. ((I had a two-paragraph footnote: See pages 210-213 of my book "Holiness and Victory Over Sin." I'll quote a small part of what F. F. Bruce says under 1 John 3:7, 8 ("Epistles of John" [Eerdmans, 1970], page 91). "... The very purpose of the Son of God's appearance on earth was 'to destroy the works of the devil'.... Chief of the devil's works is sin, which the Son of God came to take away (cf. verse 5)."
I'll also quote part of what Donald W. Burdick says under 1 John 3:8 ("Letters of John the Apostle" [Moody Press, 1985], page 243). "The devil's works are all the sinful attitudes and activities of which he is the source, whether directly or indirectly. Everything that the devil has done was potentially destroyed at the cross and will be destroyed in actuality at the final judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). However, in this context destroying the works of the devil is parallel to taking away sins (see on 3:5). That is to say that Christ is here and now destroying or removing sins. He came to give believers victory over sin, and thus to destroy the sins that otherwise would fill people's lives.")) Isn't that good news? The fact that Christians are enabled and required to stop sinning is a dominant theme of 1 John. (See pages 200-213 of my book, "Holiness and Victory Over Sin.") When Christ's works of saving and judging are finished, there won't be any more works of the devil (any more sinning) by anyone in God's kingdom - the devil and all who continue to follow him will have been removed and will have no place in God's kingdom. During this present age Christians are enabled to walk in victory over sin; in the future age we will be glorified and the tempter won't even be there.
When born-again, new-covenant believers do righteous works their works are, in a very real sense, the works of God by His grace/Spirit (cf., e.g., 1 John 2:29; 3:5-12; and Gal. 5:16, 22-25). God must receive all the glory for our righteousness, because it came from Him (at a high cost to Him in the incarnation and atoning death of His Son) by grace through faith. (Now we continue with John 8:44 after the three-page discussion that deals mostly with 1 John 3:8, 10, and 12, which is a very important cross reference.)]], and [the devil] does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature for he is a liar and the father of lies. [[((I had a footnote: The KJV: NKJV translation is more literal from the Greek, "and the father of it." In the margin the NASB has a note, "Lit. it," instead of "lies." The translation "it" assumes that the Greek pronoun ("autou") is neuter in gender and refers to the word "lie." The NIV also makes this assumption with its translation "father of lies." This Greek pronoun (autou) could also be understood as masculine gender. Then it would refer back to the word "liar" instead of "lie." I agree with the NASB; KJV; NKJV; and NIV that it is probably better to understand the Greek pronoun to be neuter here, and that what John was saying is that the devil is the father of lies, but it is also true that he is the father of liars.)) Whenever the devil commits any sin (including lying), he acts from his own fallen, corrupt, sinful, rebellious nature, for he is a sinner and the father of sins and sinners. Compare Matt. 12:34; 1 John 3:8, 10, 12.]]
We will finish this verse-by-verse study of John chapters 5-8 in Part 10, starting with John 8:45.
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