By Norman E. Sewell
It isn’t a bit unusual to hear someone say to a child, “You’re just like your father,” and frequently this is said more in criticism than in praise. Neither is it unusual to hear someone say that a certain child is “a chip off the old block.” With both of these statements it isn’t normally the looks of the child that is being considered, but the actions which show him or her to be like their father or mother. It was with this in mind that Jesus talked with the Jews as recorded in John 8. He ended the discussion with them by saying, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” On. 8:44). If the Jews were like their father the devil, who am I like? What do my actions tell about who I really act like? That is what the rest of this study is about.
As Jesus talked with these Jews he showed them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world” On. 8:23). We learn in verse 30 that some of them believed in him and he said to them, “If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” On. 8:31-32). But something about that statement made them reply to him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, you will be made free” (v. 33). Were they Abraham’s descendants? Yes indeed, they were. Had they been in bondage?
They were, in one sense, in bondage at that very time, being under the domination of the Roman Empire, and the Jewish nation had been under the domination of the Greeks, the Medo-Persians, and before that the Babylonians. But Jesus was more concerned with another kind of bondage for he said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (v. 34). These Jews, just like many today, were indeed in bondage to sin. Even if every man quit sinning today he would still be in bondage to sin until through the Son he was made free from sin (vv. 35-36). Only the blood of Jesus can make us free from bondage to sin. At this point Jesus acknowledged that these Jews were physically the descendants of Abraham for he said, “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill me, because my word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with my father, and you do what you have seen with your father” (Jn. 8:37-38). Then comes the real key to understanding Jesus’ teaching here. They replied to him, “Abraham is our father. Jesus said to them, If you were Abraham’s children, you would to the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man who had told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this” (vv. 39-40).
If they were Abraham’s children, why didn’t they act like the one they claimed as their father? Instead, as we noted earlier Jesus said to them, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” On. 8:44). Though most would not admit it, when we practice sin we are the servants of sin (Rom. 6:16; 1 Jn. 3:8). No matter that we may have at one time been baptized for the forgiveness of our sin, when we continue to practice sin our actions show who our real father is, and it is not God.
In these same verses, after Jesus had challenged their claim that Abraham was their father the Jews said, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father God” (v. 41). And to this Jesus replied, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of myself, but he sent me” (Jn. 8:42). There are certain actions that show that we are of God. Jesus shows this in one way in the Sermon on the Mount when he told his disciples and the multitudes, “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:43-45). Or as John records in 1 John 4, “If someone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from him: that he who loves God must love his brother also” (vv. 20-21).
Brethren, our actions tell on us. And while we, like the Jews there in John 8, may claim to have God as our Father, when we act like the devil it would indeed be appropriate for our Lord to say to us, “You are just like your father,” and in this case mean the devil. After whom do you pattern your life? Can friends and neighbors see your life (your good works) “and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16)? Are you just like your father?
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 14, p. 7
July 15, 1993