Setting

Jesus declared that He was the light of the world, but the Pharisees could not accept His message. Jesus thus warned them of the deadly consequence of refusing to believe the One sent by God. Many, however, believed Jesus because of His words. The focus of this study is Jesus’ discourse with this particular group. Sadly, these people also rejected Jesus in the end despite their initial acceptance. This chapter concludes with the murderous resistance of Jesus’ audience as well as the height of Jesus’ self-revelation.

Key Verse

(8:32, 8:58)

Did You Know...?

1. “You are a Samaritan” (8:48): The Jews despised the Samaritans because of their mixed ancestry.

2. “You are not yet fifty years old” (8:57): The age of fifty was viewed as the end of a man’s working life and attainment to full maturity (cf. Num 4:3, 39, 8:24, 25). [ref]

Outline

  • True Freedom
  • Descendants of Abraham, Children of the Devil
  • Unity with the Father and Precedence over Abraham

Keywords/Phrases

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General Analysis

  • 1.

    Record the things Jesus said about “His word” in this passage.

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    “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (8:31). “…My word has no place in you” (8:37). “I speak what I have seen with My Father” (8:38). “… a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God” (8:40). “You are not able to listen to My word” (8:43). “… I tell the truth…” (8:45, 46). “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death” (8:51).

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Segment Analysis

  • 8:31–36

    1.

    What does the Lord expect of a believer?

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    He wants us to truly be His disciple by abiding in His word. This means that being a disciple of Christ is not simply a matter of momentary conviction, but a lasting commitment.

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  • 2.

    What does it mean to abide in Jesus’ word?

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    The word for “abide” is also translated “remain.” It connotes permanence. Therefore, abiding in Jesus’ word means to remain true to what He tells us. According to this passage, it includes giving Jesus’ word a place in us (cf. 37), listening to His word (cf. 43, 47), believing His word (cf. 45), and keeping His word (cf. 52). Simon Peter set an example for us of what it means to abide in Jesus’ words when he chose to remain with Jesus because he held firmly to Jesus’ words of eternal life (Jn 6:66–68).

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  • 3.

    How does the popular concept of “truth” today differ from the Biblical concept of truth?

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    In the academic world, Jesus’ statement, “the truth shall set you free,” has been used in quite a different sense from what Jesus intended. “Truth” is thus often viewed as knowledge of various subject matters as a result of study and education. Morally speaking, “truth” in today’s society has also become relative: “What is true for you may not be true for me.” However, the truth according to Jesus is absolute, and it is not merely knowledge of things in this created world. God’s word is truth (Jn 17:17). Since Jesus speaks whatever He has heard and seen from His Father, and He is from the Father, Jesus’ word is also truth (Jn 8:38, 45, 46). Apart from Jesus Christ, we cannot possibly obtain the truth (Jn 14:6). Therefore, the biblical concept of “truth” is essentially the revelation of God through Jesus Christ, which shows us the way to the Father.

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  • 4.

    Explain the meaning of slavery and freedom in this passage, in contrast to a secular notion of slavery and freedom.

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    While freedom in a secular sense means not having to answer to anyone else, freedom and slavery according to Jesus pertain to sin. Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin (8:34). On the surface, a sinner seems to enjoy freedom because he can choose to do as he pleases without the burden of God’s commandments. In reality, the person who sins has sold himself to sin to be under its power, making sin his master (Rom 7:14–17). That is why we are often powerless to put an end to our sinful behavior. The final outcome of being a slave to sin is death (Rom 6:23). This is certainly not freedom. True freedom is to be free from the sway of sin and its deadly consequence, and only the Lord Jesus can grant us this freedom (Jn 8:36).

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  • 5.

    In practical terms, what is it like to live as a slave? As a son? (see v. 35)

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    A slave must obey his master. Likewise, a sinner is subject to sin’s control, even when he wishes to stop sinning. A believer who does not abide in Jesus’ word is like a slave, who cannot abide in the house. Without enduring faith in Christ, he will not remain in God but will die in his sins (cf. Rom 8:13). On the contrary, he who is a true disciple of Christ is like a son who abides forever because he always has Christ in Him as the light of life. He has been transferred into the kingdom of God and therefore does not fear the power of darkness. He is able to live a life according to what pleases God rather than according to the demands of sin.

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  • 6.

    How does Jesus make us free?

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    Jesus makes us free through the word of truth He speaks (8:32). His word shows us the way out of death and carries life-giving power (cf. 6:63). By trusting and submitting to His word, we abide in God and are no longer obligated to obey sin and its desires (8:51).

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  • 8:37–47

    7.

    Jesus both conceded to and denied the claim of His hearers as descendants of Abraham (37, 39). What was Jesus’ point?

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    Jesus used two different words to refer to His hearers’ relation to Abraham. In verse 37, he called them Abraham’s “descendants” (literally “seeds”). He was speaking of their physical descent from Abraham. In verse 39, however, He chose the word “children,” and implied that they were not Abraham’s children. Here, He was referring to a spiritual lineage. Only those who follow the footsteps of Abraham are considered his children. Thus the Bible repeatedly makes a distinction between a true Israelite and one who is an Israelite only outwardly (Rom 2:28–29; Jer 4:4, 9:25; Ezek 36:26–27).

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  • 8.

    Why did Jesus’ listeners respond with the words “We were not born of fornication?”

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    The claim “we were not born of fornication,” which was followed by “we have one Father—God,” was the listeners’ reply to Jesus’ words that they were doing the deeds of their father. In this context, “fornication” is figurative of unfaithfulness towards God, and being born of fornication means having a father other than the true God. The language of marital infidelity is prominent in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament where God accused His people of committing fornication by following other gods (Jer 2:20, 3:2, 9, 13:27; Ezek 16:15–43, 23:1–35; Hos 2:1–4, 4:12; Mic 1:7). In response to Jesus, the Jews borrowed this language to argue that they were faithful to no one but God.

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  • 9a.

    What characterizes: a child of the devil?

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    1. Jesus’ word has no place in him (8:37, 43, 45–47). 2. He lies and opposes the truth, even to the point of murder (8:37–41, 44, 45). 3. He wants to do the desires of the devil (8:44). 4. He dishonors Jesus (8:49). 5. He does not know God (8:55).

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  • 9b.

    a child of God?

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    1. He loves Jesus (8:42). 2. He hears God’s words (8:47).

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  • 10.

    What does it mean to be “of God” (47)?

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    To be “of God” means to belong wholly to God and to bear His nature. This status begins with receiving Christ (Jn 1:12, 13). The outward manifestation of this includes hearing the word of God (Jn 8:47; 1 Jn 4:6), practicing righteousness (1 Jn 3:10), and being free from the sway of the evil one (1 Jn 5:18, 19).

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  • 8:48–59

    11a.

    How does keeping of Jesus’ word save us from death?

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    Jesus is the light of life, and His words are spirit and life (Jn 8:12, 6:63). Whoever follows this light by trusting in Him as His word teaches is saved from the darkness of spiritual death (Jn 8:12).

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  • 11b.

    What does it mean to “keep” His word?

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    The word for “keep” can be translated as “guard” or “hold.” It carries the idea of faithful perseverance. Keeping Jesus’ word means continuing to trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior no matter what obstacles may come along in our Christian walk.

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  • 12.

    What can we learn from Jesus to be a true child of God (54, 55)?

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    Jesus the Son of God is the model for those who want to be children of God. Although Jesus was God, He humbled Himself and kept God’s word to the end (Jn 8:55; Php 2:5–8; Heb 5:8, 9). We ought to imitate our Lord by also keeping God’s word (Jn 8:51).

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  • 13.

    What did Jesus mean by “Abraham rejoiced to see My day”?

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    Even Abraham, who lived long before Jesus came in the flesh, gladly looked forward to Jesus’ coming into the world. Although no account in the Bible mentions explicitly Abraham’s rejoicing at seeing the day of Christ, we are told that Abraham embraced God’s promise, which he did not yet receive but could only see from afar (Heb 11:13–15; cf. Rom 4:19, 20). This promise is about the “seed,” the promise that Jesus would fulfill (cf. Gal 3:16–19; Gen 12:7, 13:15, 24:7).

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  • 14.

    What claim was Jesus making with the “I AM” statement in verse 58?

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    “I AM” was the Lord’s self-revelation in the Old Testament. It was a declaration of God’s eternal existence, His uniqueness, and His salvation (Ex 3:14; Isa 43:10–11, 25, 45:18, 19, 46:4, 9, 48:12, 51:12, 52:6). By saying, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” Jesus was not only implying that He was greater than Abraham, but was proclaiming to be the only everlasting God who had once revealed Himself to His people. As He had promised in the past, God Himself has now come into the world to save His people through Jesus the incarnate word. The Jews, realizing that Jesus was claiming to be God, wanted to stone Jesus (8:59).

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