This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
We have already discussed how chapter 8 in the gospel of John is among the most intense confrontations between Jesus and the religious leaders of Israel recorded in this gospel. Notice how in this short passage, Jesus twice accuses the people of trying to kill him, calls them liars, and also says they are children of the devil – and they don’t deny it!
However, the real emphasis of this passage is found in verse 39 when Jesus notes that if they were children of Abraham, they would do what Abraham did. This begs the question, what is He referring to? What did Abraham do?
Simply put, Abraham heard, honored, and obeyed the Word of God. These people did not hear, did not honor, and did not honor the Word of God. Jesus is speaking it in their midst, and they are simply opposing Him on every front.
Incidentally, this passage makes clear that Jesus supported what Paul would later write in his epistles that the children of Abraham, the children of promise, were not the children who claimed a fleshly physical lineage but a spiritual lineage of faith. Those who heard, honored, and obeyed the Word of God could claim true spiritual heritage from Abraham as their father.
It is also worth noting that when Jesus refers to these people as children of the devil, there is more here than meets the eye. The word Satan in the Old Testament literally translates to opposer or adversary. Just like those who hear, honor, and obey the Word of God are true spiritual children of Abraham, those who oppose, resist, and deny the Word of God are true spiritual children of Satan.
Abraham’s Response to the Word
Now the LORD had said to Abram:
“Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.
Genesis 12:1-4 (NKJV)
We do not know How God spoke to Abraham. It may have been an audible voice, a whisper, a “sensing” in his heart, or simply a feeling. Abraham heard the Word of God, and he responded.
The old patriarch had no evidence to support his hearing the Word of God. He did not even have other believers around him to bounce his thoughts off and see what they thought about the voice that Abraham heard.
When God spoke to Abraham, the heart of the patriarch registered a new voice had spoken. He did not understand it. He did not know the voice. But he honored the voice with his obedience. He picked up and moved his household to a new land in trust to a God he did not yet know.
And the rest is history.
This is the standard Jesus expects of the spiritual children of Abraham. The Word of God holds priority and esteem above all else. His confrontation with the religious leaders in John 8 was intense because they were so far from the mark and standard that Abraham established from those who follow God.