The creation of God is truly amazing. Not only did the Lord speak everything into existence, but He has chosen for creation to continually be replenished from generation to generation through birth, according to its kind. Who cannot marvel at the birth of a baby? Who can avoid the wonder at such a tiny creature who carries the same attributes of the first humans? Even more so, in addition to possessing the general traits that qualify it as human, God has ordained that it will also possess specific qualities of its mother and father. Eye color, hair, skin type, height (or the lack thereof) are all inherited traits according to the genetic makeup of a child’s family tree.
Sociologists would also tell us that beyond physical characteristics, behavioral traits are passed on from parent to child. Whether this transmission is from learned behavior, genetic disposition, or a combination of both, it is truly remarkable how children often are presented as duplicates of their parent’s personalities. If a parent has a rich sense of humor, more times than not their child will also possess a strong funny bone. If a parent has an analytical mind, often their child will also possess those same deep thinking skills.
The Word Divides
In the same way, Scripture points out that this principle is modeled in our spiritual lives as well. In the gospel according to John, Jesus finds Himself speaking to two different groups of Jewish people; those who had believed Him and those who claimed righteousness through Abraham. The first group are described as those who had believed in Him and were continually believing in Him, as the Greek articular perfect active participle explains (τούς πεπιστευκότας). To this group, Jesus qualifies their belief by saying:
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31b NASB
The key is the word of Jesus. It is through this word that those who had believed and were continuing to believe were able to be identified as true disciples. Furthermore, the word of Christ is truth and that truth will lead those who continue in it to be free. This is the great promise of God contained in His Scripture; Jesus Christ is truth, and He has come to set the captives free from the prison of sin. This group of Jewish people Jesus addresses first are truly blessed as they hear and know His word to be true. And to anyone else who has heard the Word of God and had the Holy Spirit illuminate it to them so as to recognize it as truth, you are also incredibly blessed. Please don’t take that for granted.
As exciting as this proclamation is from Jesus to the believing Jews, there is a group of bystanders who catch wind of what Jesus is saying and not surprisingly, they are perplexed by His words. They argue that as descendants of Abraham, they have never been enslaved to anyone. They point to the great patriarch of the nation of Israel as the father who’s heritage they have inherited. Abraham was never a slave, therefore, as his children, they claim they have never been slaves either. At this point one has to stop and wonder what the logic of their claim is. Politically, they had been enslaved many times by other nations in their history. In fact, in the current political climate in which John is written, the Jewish people are living under Roman rule and authority. A very strange thing for them to claim. But not to be distracted from the bigger picture at hand, Jesus sheds light on what He means by pointing to their spiritual condition. He explains that it is sin which enslaves everyone who practices it.
While it is true that sin enslaves everyone who practices it, it is equally true that the Son of God has come to set the captive of sin free. But unfortunately for this group who claim their heritage from Abraham, Jesus doesn’t hold out too much hope for them. In fact, their actions have set themselves up as His opponents.
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.”. John 8:37 NASB
Once again, the word of Christ becomes the central, dominate dividing point. Just as its embrace was the key ingredient for the believing Jews, so its rejection becomes the mark that condemns the unbelievers. What is it about the word of Christ that is so polarizing? What is it about the word of Christ that has such power and ability to separate and divide souls? The mark that enables these things and so much more is that it is the truth. And it is not just any truth, but it is truth that Jesus says comes from God the Father, who does not lie.
Two Spiritual Fathers
At this point, the descendants of Abraham decide in their debate with Jesus that it best to point beyond Abraham to another as their claim to fame. In a spirit of one-upmanship, they make the declaration that ultimately they are the offspring of God Himself. But Jesus challenges their heritage by pointing to one distinct quality that is missing, love. Just as earthly parents pass on certain traits to their children, so a spiritual Father would pass on the trait of love to His true children. Specifically, He points out that it would be a love for the Son that would be evident if they truly had God as their Father. Instead, they were seeking to put Him away by killing Him and His word. Therefore, Jesus points out they belong to a different father, the devil.
“Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.” John 8:43-44 NASB
The Point and The Test
These are very strong words from Jesus but also very illuminating. In our age of pluralism and subjectivism, people are constantly trying to silence the truth of the word of Christ through lies and murder. This disease has risen to such pandemic proportions that one can often look around in amazement and wonder if any are willing to stand for the truth of the Father. The answer of course is that only those who have believed and are continuing to believe through the word of Christ will be able to emulate the qualities of God the Father.
So who is your father? Take the test to find out…and the test is the word. How do you approach the word of Christ? What behavioral traits do you see yourself expressing toward God’s word? Are you seeking to kill Jesus by silencing His words and the righteousness He offers by faith? Or have you believed and are continuing to believe the words of truth?
Only one of those paths will set you free.
“Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”. 1 John 3:7-8 NASB