Summary: Jesus explaining to the religious crowd that their religion isn’t working with God.
Arguing with the devil’s crowd John 8:36-47
We begin by looking at Jesus’ statement in verse 36 where He says, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.” Jesus was talking to a few believers in the crowd about spiritual freedom when the Pharisees who were listening and keeping an eye on Him totally misunderstood what He was saying because they respond as though He was referring to political freedom. And the very mention of any kind of slavery moves them to make a declaration that they were the free sons of Abraham when in reality Jesus was trying to point out that they were slaves to sin. And He refers to Himself as the Son who can and will set the slaves free from sin. And He says that those He frees are free indeed.
Listen, He’s not talking about political freedom. This goes way beyond time or any social movement. I mean, there have been those who have enjoyed the freedom of the Lord while still enslaved in prison camps or by totalitarian regimes and all kinds of other horrible situations. But they were free nonetheless. They were free from sin. And sin is why Jesus came from heaven to earth.
They object to what He’s saying, mostly because they don’t understand the freedom He’s offering and they do this by claiming that they had never been the slaves of anyone. Now, the Jews had a hard time even understanding the concept of slavery being applied to them for the simple reason that they never even recognized it when they were slaves. And as I pointed out last week there were several times in their history when they were captured and enslaved and yet, they don’t even acknowledge that it happened.
And what we pick up in this passage is that they relate their spiritual freedom or salvation with their relationship to Abraham. And for the Jew Abraham was the greatest figure in religious history and so they considered themselves safe and secure in the sight of God because they could all trace their heritage back to him. You see, they actually believed that any Jew would be welcomed into heaven because Abraham was their forefather.
Their admiration for Abraham was commendable because he was a giant in Jewish history but their faith in him was somewhat misguided. You see, they believed that he had gained such favor with God that they could somehow piggyback on the rewards that he had earned. It’s like the idea that some people have of their parents having served God and now they’re going to ride on their coat tails all the way to heaven.
The Jews taught that they received part of Abraham’s rewards for being faithful. And this promise of reward made their prayers acceptable, helped them in times of war, took away their sins, appeased the wrath of God and assured them a place in the eternal kingdom. And it’s only when you understand all this that this passage really makes sense.
And their reasoning went like this, if Abraham was the friend of God and we are his children, then it stands to reason that we too are acceptable in the sight of God. I mean, God is not going to bless Abraham and let him into heaven and then say, I’m sorry but your children aren’t welcome here. And in the conversation that follows they keep referring to Abraham as the authority for their faith while totally rejecting not only Jesus Christ but the very teachings of God’s word.
In verse 37 He said, “I know you are Abraham’s offspring; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.” He didn’t dispute that they were the physical dependants of Abraham but because of their unbelief He said they certainly weren’t his spiritual descendents because they had no faith.
Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children you would do the works of Abraham.” And the works Jesus was referring to are found in Genesis 14 and 18 and they include not only being obedient to the word of God but also paying honor to those who spoke in the name of God. And of course we remember Abraham was obedient even when God told him to sacrifice his son. And later on we see him honoring Melchizedek who appeared to him in chapter 14 and then the Lord Himself who also appeared in chapter 18.
By claiming the fatherhood of Abraham they were saying, his salvation is our salvation and not because we’ve trusted God but because we’ve inherited it. And there are Baptists and people from every other denomination who think the same way. They’re members of a church, they’re baptized, they take part in the Lord’s table and they might even tithe but that’s the end of their faith. They do all of these things but they have never repented of their sin and come to know the Lord. It’s like someone said, “The devil has the immoral and drug addicted people of the streets and I’m sure he has a few of the deacons and pastors of evangelical churches as well.”