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Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.
The last sentence in chapter 7 properly belongs to the first verse in chapter 8. We should recognize at the very beginning that in the minds of many people, many Bible critics, many Christian scholars, this entire passage is considered questionable because in some of the older manuscripts you will not find these eleven verses. On the other hand, it is rather an interesting fact that in a number of very ancient manuscripts, while these verses are omitted, there is a blank space left on the page, showing that evidently the scribe meant to indicate that in some other manuscripts something came in between verse 52 of chapter 7 and verse 12 of chapter 8. In other manuscripts this section is omitted altogether. Others again give us the passage, but do not place it here. They put it at the end of John’s gospel as a kind of postscript. On the other hand, we have very good authority for regarding it as genuine, for it is found in many old Greek manuscripts, and it seems very evident that it is part of this gospel.
The reason that it is omitted in many instances, I take it, is because some of the early Christians apparently felt that a story such as this, which seemed to suggest a lenient attitude toward immoral behavior, might be misunderstood, and particularly by a people just emerging from heathenism, with all its vile and impure practices, which were often connected even with the worship of their gods. It might have looked to some of these as though this passage implies that, after all, the sin spoken of here is nothing very heinous in the sight of God. But one only needs to read the rest of the gospel to see how false such an assumption would be.
As we read on in this chapter we find many definite references to this very incident. There are passages that could not be clearly and properly understood if this story were missing. Personally, I think the translators did exactly right in including it as part of the sacred text without any marks of any kind to differentiate it from the rest of the gospel. In the Revised Version it is set off by parentheses, and many do not consider it genuine. However, anyone who knows the grace of God as revealed in Christ, it seems to me, must recognize it as genuine, for it is so like Jesus to do what He is represented as doing here. And, after all, the sin of this poor woman is no worse than the sins of every one of us: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). The first clause there speaks of the sin of the race-the entire human race has gone astray. It has gone away from God. But then the second clause indicates our individual iniquities: “We have turned every one to his own way.”
There are people who have been kept from fleshly indulgences such as this, and yet are guilty in God’s sight of sins of the mind and of the heart that are just as vile, unholy, and unclean in His sight as sins of the flesh. “Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Pride is that abominable thing that God says He hates-jealousy, covetousness, the love of money, extortion, a wicked tongue that says unkind and untruthful things and spreads scandalous stories. All of these are numbered among the things that are wicked and hateful in His eyes. “We have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Here we contemplate the grace of God to one sinner and that same grace is extended to all sinners who will avail themselves of it. Now notice the passage somewhat carefully.
“Every man went unto his own house, [but-]” (John 7:53). How much we lose without that little word but. The afternoon had passed away. The evening shadows were falling. The company broke up and every man went unto his own house, “but Jesus”-Jesus, the Creator of all things-had no house to which to go. He went out to the mount of Olives. His hearers had their comfortable beds. His hearers could go back to their families and their homes, but Jesus, a stranger in the world His own hands had made, sought repose on the slopes of Mount Olivet. Possibly He went, as He frequently did, to the Garden of Gethsemane. Oh, that blessed holy Stranger, the One who could say, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). How close He had come to poor wandering, troubled, distressed men and women. Think of the homeless men and women in this world today. Remember that Jesus was one like them-with no place to lay His head. He went to the mount of Olives, and after spending the night out there on the mountainside beneath the shelter of the olive trees, arising in the morning He returned to the temple. Some of the people came to Him and He sat down and taught them.
I have mentioned before that it was customary for teachers to go to the outer courts of the temple by one of the pillars, and there their disciples gathered about to hear them. So Jesus took His place by one of the pillars of the temple and began to teach the people. He was unfolding the truth concerning the kingdom of God when suddenly there was a disturbance, and the Pharisees came dragging a poor woman into the midst of the assembled group. She is struggling and trying to hide her face. Indifferent to her shame and to the ignominy they are heaping upon her, they are bent upon putting the Lord Jesus Christ into a position where He will have to take His stand against the law of Moses, or else He will have definitely to condemn a poor sinner who needs His help. So they drag this woman before Him-a woman taken in adultery.
Where was the man? Had he, as such paramours generally do, fled away, leaving her to face the shame alone? It happens thousands of times in this world. The double standard that existed then, exists today. They brought her in to hold her up to the scorn of those who had gathered around, but the man, guiltier by far, is not there to face that crowd. He is not there to stand by the victim of his own sensual lust and to say, “It is by my wickedness that she has come to this terrible place.” Poor, foolish women down through the ages have had to know that bitter experience, over and over and over again.
They said, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” (John 8:4-5). What did Moses in the law command? Did he command that in the case of two falling into sin like this the woman alone was to be stoned? No, nothing like it. He commanded that both should be stoned. He commanded that the guilty man as well as the woman should be punished.
But they came bringing her, the weaker of the two. Now what will Jesus do? Suppose He turns to them and says, “Why, yes. Moses commanded that such should be stoned, and the law is God’s holy Word. The only thing to do is to take this woman out and stone her. Then, if you can ever find the man, arrest him and stone him, too.” Had He said that, oh, never again would a poor sinner, like the one in the seventh chapter of Luke, come weeping to His feet! She would say, “Oh, no, He would have no mercy on such as I.” Never again would a poor wretch, overpowered by temptation and sorrow, ever dare to go to Him for help. They would say, “No, He only condemns such as I am. He will give me up to judgment.”
But, on the other hand, suppose He says, “Well, Moses said that, and of course it was God’s Word, but I say unto you, let the woman go free. I am releasing you from obedience to the law.” Why, they would have said at once, “He professes to be sent from God, a prophet of Jehovah, and He is teaching things contrary to the law of Moses. Therefore, His teaching cannot be depended upon.” They thought they had trapped Him, but oh, how wonderfully the Lord met them! They said, “Well, here she is. What do You say? There is no question about her guilt. The law says, Stone her. Now what shall we do?” Those self-righteous men! And what does He answer them? We read that Jesus stooped down and wrote upon the ground, as though He heard them not. Why did He do that? These men were familiar with the Scriptures, but it is sadly possible to be familiar with the Scriptures and have a heart as hard as the nether millstone, ever ready to heap condemnation upon other people, forgetting that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Now because they knew their Bibles, they must have known of the passage in the book of Jeremiah, which says, “O LORD, the Hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters” (17:13). It might be translated, “written on the ground.” See them there gathered about Him, and He stoops down and writes on the ground. They turn one to the other, saying, “What is He doing, writing on the ground? Writing on the ground! Isn’t there something like that in our Bibles?” Yes, there is. They will come down to the dust of death eventually because of their sins.
The Lord was acting out a message from God that should have gone home to every one of their hearts, but instead of that, they continue pressing Him, asking, “W/hat are we going to do with her? No use of your stooping down there writing on the ground. We want to know what we are to do.” So hypocritical are they in their pretense of being so zealous, when, after all, they are only trying to put Him in a place where they can discredit Him!
He lifted up Himself and faced that little group of hypocritical leaders of the people, who had never had to do with God about their sins in all their lives, but were trying to hide their own wickedness by zeal in condemning others. Looking them in the eyes, first one and then another, He said very quietly, but very decisively, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). He did not say, “Do not carry out the law of Moses.” He did not say, “I have come to repeal the law of Moses,” but He put it up to them to carry out that law, if they dared. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” They were utterly discomfited. He turned away, and again He wrote upon the ground. I wonder if that second writing might have suggested to them that verse in Psalms 22:0, “Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death” (v. 15). In a little while, He was going down to the dust of death, when all the transgressions and iniquity of sinners such as this woman would be charged against Him as He offered Himself a sacrifice for a world’s redemption.
So He stooped down again and wrote on the ground, and while He was writing there was a movement going on among the accusers. They looked one at another, and then at Him and at the sinful woman, and before the oldest man there arose the memory of the sins that he had been trying to forget for years. Finally, he dropped his stone and went out, saying, “I don’t dare cast a stone at her.” And then the next, and the next, and finally the youngest of them all had slunk away. They had all gone; every one alike guilty before God. “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). We read, “They…, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last” (John 8:9).
And Jesus was left alone (that is, the throng was still there), but Jesus was left alone in the midst of His disciples and those whom He had been teaching. There was the woman down on her knees, bowed in shame, doubtless her scalding tears falling down to the earth. Jesus turned to her. Oh, I should like to have heard Him speak that day. I am sure there was a tenderness, compassion, and pity such as that poor woman had never heard in the voice of any man with whom she had held conversation. Jesus said, “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” (v. 10). And she looked up and said, “No man, Lord” (v. 11a). Notice how she addresses Him. She recognized something so superior about Jesus, something so different from any man she, poor, hunted creature, had ever met-Jesus, the Holy One of God. “No man, Lord, has ventured to stone me.” Then Jesus answered and said unto her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (v. lib). This is doubtless why some of the older scribes kept this passage out of the Bible. They said, “What! Jesus, the Holy One! Does He not condemn a sin like that? Does not He anathematize adultery?” Oh, yes, He has spoken out very strongly against adultery. But He knew that poor woman recognized her sinfulness. She realized her uncleanness and pollution. He knew all that was going on in her heart of hearts, and He spoke to her heart and conscience as He said, “Neither do I condemn thee.” And then He added, “Go, and sin no more.”
I do not know the story of that woman’s life afterward. I do not know where she dwelt nor how she behaved after this episode, but I dare to believe she was never again taken in the same form of sin, for she had been brought into the presence of Christ. I feel sure something had taken place within her soul that day. I think He saw her going away from the temple that morning with the light of heaven in her countenance. I can imagine her friends saying to her, “What makes you look so glad today?” and she says, “Oh, I have been to the feet of Jesus and He has said, ‘Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.’“
But how could He say, “Neither do I condemn thee?” Because of the fact that He was on His way to the cross, where in only a little while He was to take her sin upon Himself and to be dealt with as though He were the guilty one, to endure the wrath of God and to suffer, the Pure One for the impure, the Holy One to suffer for the unholy, He, the Righteous One, to suffer for the unrighteous. In view of the cross, He could say to that woman, “Neither do I condemn thee.” He is ready to say that today. He does say it to any poor sinner who comes trusting His grace, who comes repentant and brokenhearted and dares to sue for mercy. In Romans 8:31-34 we read, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God s elect? It is God that justifleth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
How much we would lose if this story were left out of our Bibles. To how many poor sinners, to how many adulterers and adulteresses, has it brought a message of hope and peace and blessing when they came to the feet of Jesus and trusted Him as Savior. And it seems to me it would speak to every sinner, for we are all alike, stained and polluted.
Tell me what to do to be pure
In the sight of all-seeing eyes;
Tell me, is there no thorough cure,
No escape from the sins I despise?
Will my Saviour only pass by,
Only show how faulty I’ve been?
Will He not attend to my cry,
May I not this moment be clean?
Yes, He who cleansed and saved this poor woman of the eighth chapter of John waits to save you if you will come and trust Him. “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true. Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me. It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.
You will notice how definitely this portion of the gospel links with that which we have been considering. I mentioned that in certain ancient manuscripts the story of our Lord’s dealing with the adulterous woman and delivering her from condemnation is not found, but if we should omit it, we should do violence to the text that follows.
These words, with which verse 12 begins, connect definitely with what has gone before. “Then spake Jesus again unto them,” that is, immediately following some incident, which is clearly the story of verses 1-11. As we close chapter 7, “And every man went unto his own house” (v. 53), then verse 1 of chapter 8 begins, “Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.” Now if this twelfth verse were the beginning of chapter 8, it would leave the Lord Jesus out on the mountain with no one to whom He was ministering. But it is clear that He is in the temple court where some striking event has just taken place, which indicated that a light shone from Himself into the hearts of men. He follows that up by saying, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (v. 12).
When they brought that poor woman to Him and said, “Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest Thou?” (v. 5). He stooped down and wrote on the ground, and then lifting up Himself, He said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (v. 7). The light was shining out from His own blessed, holy personality, shining upon them and into their hearts, and making manifest all the hidden wickedness and corruption and hypocrisy. That was why not one of them dared to stone the poor, sinful woman, but beginning with the eldest one they all went out, one after the other, and the woman was left alone with the Lord Jesus, who spoke those wonderful words, “Neither do I condemn thee” (v. 11).
And so He says, “I am the light of the world.” Light reveals, light makes manifest, and that is the first way in which we must all know the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other like Him. His very presence among men was the condemnation of all other men, for here, at last, was one Man absolutely holy, utterly true, perfectly righteous. Every other man was shown up alongside of Him as sinful and full of iniquity. “The light of the world,” and yet He was in the world and the world knew Him not. “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5). Men turned away from Him, fearing the illumination that His presence brings. But nevertheless He is the light of the world, and all men are going to be judged by the light that the Lord Jesus Christ brought into this scene. He says, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” It is through the knowledge of Christ and subjection to Him that deliverance is given from darkness and its awful power.
People talk about the problem of Jesus, and we have had author after author writing books to try to explain the problem of Jesus. But Jesus is not a problem, Jesus is the unraveler of all problems and all the perplexities that face us. Trust Him and receive Him as He is, God and Man in one glorious person, and your problems are met. And so He says, “Follow Me, and you will not walk in darkness. You will have the light of life.” But remember, it is only as the Divine One that Jesus can say, “I am the light of the world.”
In this gospel, on many occasions, we hear Him using that divine name “I AM.” Long ago, when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and sent him to Egypt to deliver His people, Moses asked, “Whom shall I tell them has sent me? What name shall I give to Thy people Israel when I appear before Pharaoh to tell him that Thou hast sent me to deliver them?” God said, “Tell them that ‘I AM’ hath sent you. I AM THAT I AM” (see Exodus 3:13-14). That is really an explanation of the name Jehovah-“The eternally existing One,” “I AM THAT I AM.” And so “I AM” is a divine title, and Jesus takes it on His lips again and again in His walk on earth. He says, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35); “I am the good Shepherd” (10:11, 14), that is, the Shepherd of Israel; “I am the door” (10:7, 9); and here, “I am the light of the world” (8:12). If Jesus Christ had been anything less than God, it would be blasphemy to speak like this.
Think of any servant of God you know. Think of the very best man you have ever met or heard, the greatest preacher, the truest follower of Christ, and imagine him standing up before men and saying, “Look at me, I am the light of the world. Follow me, and you will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” Why, you would say, “Who does he think he is that he has grown so great, calling himself the light of the world?” You would put him down as a paranoiac. But there is no evidence of paranoia here. When Jesus contemplates the millions of people who have come into the world and says, “I am the light of the world,” He is practically saying, “Look unto me and be ye saved,… for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). We read elsewhere, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). You take every faithful servant of Christ-they point you to Christ the Light. They say, “He is the light, look to Him, and you shall find the light of life.” But Jesus says, “Come to Me and believe in Me, for I am the light of the world.” And notice the universality of it. He was not only the light of Israel, but a light to lighten the Gentiles also.
So Jesus moved among them there and they recognized Him not, because of their blinded hearts. So it is today. People say to us, “I do not see anything in it.
I do not understand what you are talking about. I cannot comprehend all these things that you tell us about sin and salvation, about men’s lost condition, and God’s provision for meeting their every need. I cannot understand it.” Well, that is just what the Word says: “The natural man [understands] not the things of the Spirit of God: for… they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). It is like a blind man to whom you are trying to explain a sunset in all its glory in the western sky, and he turns his sightless eyes to you and says, “I cannot make it out.” He needs sight to understand the sunset. O Christless soul, if I am addressing you today, you need to have your eyes opened by divine power in order that you may see the beauty and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if you will come to Him, He will open your eyes, illumine your mind, and you will understand the deep things of God. Think of the untold millions in the nineteen hundred years since Jesus uttered these words who have found in Him the light of life.
Do you want to be delivered from the darkness? Do you want to know the light? Then go to Him, or you will never find it. Sometime ago a lady wrote me and she said, “I have been for years seeking after light. I am a searcher after truth, and if you can help me I will be glad.” She said, “I have investigated Theosophy, Spiritism, New Thought, and other cults. I have studied all kinds of religions, and I am in the dark still.” I wrote her and said, “My dear friend, you have been looking down blind alleys for years. Come back to your Bible, read the gospel of John, and see the wonderful revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him you will find all your questions answered. Your soul will be satisfied when you receive Him as your Savior.” We do not need all these other things.
Do you remember that incident that took place here in Chicago during the World’s Fair of 1893? They had a great congress of religions, with the representatives of most of the religions of the world there, each one crying up the virtues of the particular system with which he was connected. One day Joseph Cook, the great Boston preacher, gave his testimony. He was to give an address setting forth the biblical view of salvation. He took his text, not from the Bible, however, but from Shakespeare’s tragedy of Macbeth, for he knew that those thousands were not interested in the Bible but probably had all read Shakespeare.
He said, “See, here is Lady Macbeth. It is after the death of Duncan, you remember. See how she rubs her hands, saying, ‘Out, damned spot! Will these hands ne’er be clean? All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.’ And here is her husband, Macbeth, looking on and he cries out, ‘Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red!’ There they rub and they rub, trying to wash out the stains of Duncan’s blood, but it is impossible.” And Joseph Cook said, “I will place Lady Macbeth on my right arm and her husband upon my left, and as I walk down the aisle of this great Congress of Religions I have only one question to put to you, ‘Who will cleanse our red right hands? Our hands and hearts are stained with sin. Tell us how we may get rid of our sins!’“ No religious system on earth could give a satisfactory answer, but, he cried, “When I turn from all of these I hear the words rising from the Scriptures, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin’” (1 John 1:7).
Oh, that is the answer to all your spiritual problems and perplexities: Jesus the Light of the world, the divine Savior of sinners. But when men are determined to reject the truth of God and their hearts are filled with self-righteousness, they will go to any length to discredit the messenger. There is nothing more blinding than religious prejudice.
And so the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true” (John 8:13), or, “Thy record is not valid.” They were referring to what He had said Himself, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true” (5:31). But after telling them of John the Baptist and of His mighty works, He said, “The Father Himself which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me” (v. 37). The law tells us, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1; see also Matthew 18:16). The testimony of one man was not valid. So the Pharisees are quick to take Him up on that. But He answered by declaring that He was not alone, but the Father was with Him, and so the witness was true.
“And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me” (John 8:16). “The law demands more than one to prove a testimony true. Very well, I am one that bears witness of Myself, and the Father that sent Me, He beareth witness of Me.” How did the Father bear witness? When our blessed Lord was baptized there came a voice from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I have found all My delight.” And then the works that Jesus did-they were the works of the Father by the Holy Spirit through the Son-all these bore testimony to the fact that He was indeed the light of the world. And so God has given abundant witness to the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, if men are willing to receive it, if they are not filled with prejudice, if they are not determined to reject the message of God.
“Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father?” (v. 19a). I do not know how to put into that question the scorn and contempt that I am sure they put into it. Do you see what is implied there? It is said sometimes that John never referred definitely to the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. So some have gone so far as to say that John knew nothing about it, that it is only mentioned in Matthew and in Luke, and, therefore, it may not be true. John deals with the full Deity of Christ. He traces Him back to the eternities (John 1:1), but you notice here that you have an intimation of the truth of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ and His virgin birth. What was back of that scornful question of theirs? He had said, “I am one that bears witness of myself, and the Father… beareth witness of me.” And they said, “Where is thy father?” Do you get the point of that? Do you see the cruelty of it? Do you see the malice of it? Oh, they knew that it was reported that He had no human father. They are intimating that He was born of fornication-conceived out of wedlock-and, therefore, it was absolutely false for Him to talk as though He knew His father. In verse 41 they said, “We be not born of fornication: we have one Father, even God.” See what they meant. Oh, yes, they had heard the story of the virgin birth, and that is the way they treated it.
But His Father was God. God was the Father of His humanity as truly as of His divine nature. And Jesus answered and said, “Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also” (v. 19b). Oh, weigh those words well. People sometimes say, “I wish I knew God and understood God. I wish I could know how God looks at things, how He feels about things, and what His attitude toward men really is. But God seems so far away and to me He is the Unknowable. Back of this universe, I take it, there must be some First Cause. He that formed the ear must be able to hear, and He that formed the lips must be able to speak. He that formed the brain must be able to think. Back of this universe there must be a personal God. But oh, He seems so far away! I wish I knew Him.” Like Job, maybe you say, “Oh that I knew where I might find him!” (23:3). Listen to me! You may find Him in Jesus. Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). If you want to know God, get acquainted with Jesus. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). In the face of Jesus you will find the face of God; in the character of Jesus you will find the character of God.
But Jesus says sadly, “Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye would have known my Father also.” Then we read “These words spoke Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come” (John 8:20). See again, it is absolutely necessary that you recognize verses 1-11 as part of the gospel, otherwise there would be no record of His entering the treasury.
“And no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.” As we have seen before in looking at some of the earlier passages, it was impossible that any harm should come to Jesus, that He should be injured in any way, or that He should die, until the hour struck for which He came into the world. Before He left the Father’s glory, it had been settled in the counsels of eternity that on the Passover Day, one particular, definite day, the Lord Jesus, the Passover Lamb, was to be offered up. And until His hour was come, men could not take Him. But when that hour came, He put Himself into their hands and allowed them to spit upon His blessed face, to beat Him with their cruel rods, and, at last, nail Him upon a cross of shame. There He made reconciliation for iniquity, and the light never shone brighter than in the darkness of Calvary.
And now, because the sin question has been there settled, God offers salvation to every soul in all the world who will receive His Son and trust in Him as Savior. Those of us who have trusted Him have found Him to be far more than we ever dreamed He could be, and because of what He means to us we long to have you know Him too. And so we plead with any of you here who are out of Christ to come to Him and take Him as your Savior.
Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come. And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning. I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. They understood not that he spake to them of the Father. Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
The question, “Is there a second chance for salvation after death?” is a very serious one. It is raised at times even by real Christians when some of their own loved ones close their eyes in death without giving any evidence of repentance or of personal saving faith in the Lord Jesus. No matter how orthodox one may be or how thoroughly one may be indoctrinated in respect to the hopelessness of the state of the unsaved dead, this question will come to the surface. People who have never thought of it before think seriously of it when one of their own has gone out into eternity in this hopeless condition. And their hearts cry out, “May it not be true that after all, when men live and die out of Christ, there may be some way by which God will save men on the other shore after He has failed to reach them on this side?” The only way we can get a true answer to this question is by turning directly to the Word of God itself. And here we have the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is very solemn and serious. “Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come” (v. 21).
He was addressing men who had seen His works of power, who had heard His marvelous teaching, who had been urged to receive Him in faith, the Living Bread, that they might find life eternal. And now He says to them, “I am not going to be here forever. I have come for an appointed service. The hour of My crucifixion is just before Me. I go My way back to the presence of the Father. I go My way through the gates of death into resurrection and up to the glory, and after I have left you, after I have gone, many of you will begin to be concerned. You will seek Me and want to listen to My message, but you will not be able to find Me. You will not be able to hear Me. You shall seek Me, but you shall die in your sins.” And He adds, “And whither I go, ye cannot come.” There is something very, very tragic about that. I have often said that every time I am asked to speak at a funeral service where the deceased has given no evidence of knowing Christ, I would like to believe that there is something so purifying about death, so wonderful about dissolution, that when men pass from this life into the next they will immediately have their eyes opened and will see how foolish they have been in rejecting Christ. Then they will gaze upon His face and will trust Him. I would like to believe that. I would like to believe that no one will be lost. So would any compassionate person.
We can enter into and sympathize with the thoughts of Richard Baxter, who used to pray, “O God, for a full heaven and an empty hell!” We would it might be, but when we turn to this blessed Book and are prepared to bring our thoughts to the test of “Thus saith the Lord,” we do not find that this Word diffuses any ray of hope for the one who dies unsaved. Nothing could be clearer than our Lord’s words here. He says, “Ye shall die in your sins.”
There are two ways to die. In the book of the Revelation we read, “Blessed are [they] which die in the Lord… They [shall] rest from their labours and their works do follow them” (14:13). It will be a blessed thing to die in the Lord. Millions have died in the Lord and are resting from their labors, and their works shall follow them. Their works did not save them; they were saved by the Lord Jesus Christ. But when they stand at the judgment seat of Christ they will be rewarded for their works by the One who has saved them. But here is the awful contrast, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” See verse 24, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” And to all those who die in their sins Jesus says, “Whither I go, ye cannot come.” He was speaking of going back into heaven. It is just another way of saying, if you die in your sins you will never enter heaven.
I do not think you can find a clearer passage than this. There are many others. It was the Lord Jesus Himself who said, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:46). And it was Jesus who said, “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire” (18:8). Jesus said that, and when He used language like that He meant us to understand there is a possibility of being eternally lost. In the epistle to the Hebrews we read, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Search this Book throughout. Read it carefully, and you will find that it does not offer the slightest hope of eventual blessing for anyone who leaves this world impenitent.
But now having said that, I want to say something to comfort the hearts of some of you who may be saying in your hearts, “Well, that may be the truth. It must be the truth if Jesus said it, but even so, it hurts my heart to think of loved ones for whom I prayed for years and they died unsaved.” Let me say this to you: Do not jump at conclusions. Who put it into your hearts to pray for that loved one? Who laid the burden for that soul upon your heart? It was the blessed Holy Spirit of God. It was Christ Himself. Often when God is going to do something for us, He puts it on our hearts to pray for that very thing. It is a great thing for anyone who has a praying mother or praying friends. It is a great thing for an unsaved wife to have a praying husband, or vice versa, “For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shaft save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife?” (1 Corinthians 7:16). If we bring our loved ones to God in prayer, we can count on Him to work in His own way upon their hearts and consciences. Even though we may not get the evidence that our prayers have been answered, let us never give up, but let us believe that the God who taught us to pray for our dear ones has found a way of answering our prayers.
Have you ever thought of the mother of the penitent thief, that one who hung by the side of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross? I wonder if he had a praying mother, a mother who had again and again brought her son before God, and I wonder if by any chance she was in the crowd that day when Jesus was on that center cross and her son and another hung on either side of Him. What anxiety must have been hers if she was there, and if she was, I wonder if she got close enough to hear the colloquy that went on between her boy and that One who was “in the same condemnation” (Luke 23:40). I wonder if she was off there somewhere in the crowd and doing her best to look over the heads of the others and saying, “Oh, there he is, my poor, lost boy, and I prayed for him and counted on God to save him. There he is, dying a malefactor’s death.” I wonder if she might have been close enough to have heard both of those robbers railing on Jesus, and said, “Oh, there he is dying with curses on his lips.” But he did not die that way!
I wonder if she was so far away that she did not hear what went on during those last moments. “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this Man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shah thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43). It was as though He said, “You will not have to wait until I come in My kingdom. You will be with Me in Paradise today.” I wonder if his mother heard that. If she did not hear she might have cried, “Oh, my boy! Lost!” No, he was saved, though she may have known nothing about what took place at that last moment. God’s ways are past finding out. So I say to you who are praying: do not let your faith waver. Count on God to work in His own wonderful way. Sometime, somewhere, He will answer you.
But to you who are Christless, I would say this: Do not count too much on the patience of a holy God. There is such a thing as sinning against His mercy, goodness, and grace to such an extent that the conscience becomes seared as with a hot iron. It is that against which Jesus warns us here. “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.”
The Jews did not understand Him and said, “Where is He going? Will He commit suicide?” He said, “You reason as men of the earth. I am from above and not of this world. I said to you, ‘If ye believe not, ye shall die in your sins’” (see vv. 22-24). “Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning” (v. 25). He was the Eternal Son who came down into this world to be our Redeemer. He added, “I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. They understood not that he spake to them of the Father. Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things” (vv. 26-28). They lifted Him up on the cross, where He died for our redemption, and it was that to which He referred as He said to Nicodemus, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (3:14). He has been lifted up.
Lifted up was He to die,
It is finished, was His cry;
Now in heav’n exalted high,
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
He concludes this address with these words, “He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.” No one else ever lived who could use such language as that in its entirety. God’s most devoted servants have failed in something. We are all poor sinners saved by grace. But Jesus failed in nothing. He could say, “I do always those things that please him” (8:29). “As He spake these words, many believed on him” (v. 30). Then Jesus put a test to them by saying something like this, “Now it is not enough that you simply believe intellectually. You must prove the reality of your faith by obedience to My word.” “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (vv. 31-32). And so we know Him who is the truth, from His lips we receive the truth, through His word that truth is opened up to us, and by the Spirit we are able to walk in that truth.
My sins laid open to the rod
The back which from the law was free;
And the Eternal Son of God
Received the stripes once due to me.
They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
This portion of John’s gospel both suggests and answers the question, “Is there a personal devil?” Our Lord was still in controversy with the ritualistic and legalistic element of the Jewish people who were opposing His teaching in the courts of the temple, where He was ministering at this time. He had brought truth after truth to bear upon them, but on every occasion they had sought to argue Him down instead of opening their hearts to receive the message. And now in answer to what He had previously said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (v. 32). They replied, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” (v. 33).
It is a striking instance of how men will bolster themselves up, even though their entire history proves far different conclusions. Imagine these men in Jewry saying, “We were never in bondage to any man!” Even as they spoke, the Romans had them in subjection, and ever since the captivity of Babylon they had been in bondage to one power after another. They may have meant, “While we have been subject to Gentile governments, yet our spirits are free. Therefore, we have never been in bondage or been subject religiously to any system of man’s devising.”
But the Lord Jesus sought to show them that this is not enough. There must be the impartation of divine life, and works accompanying it. And He knew, and they knew, that they were actually slaves to sin. So He answered and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (v. 34). Whosoever is given to the practice of sin is the slave of sin. “And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (vv. 35-36). That is, He told them that it was not enough that they were literally descended from Abraham, but that they must know that deliverance from the power of sin that Abraham knew if they were to be recognized as the children of God.
In contrast to their own condition, He dares to present Himself as the One who never came under the bondage of sin. He says, “The Son abideth ever.” He was, in very truth, that promised Seed of Abraham through whom all nations were to be blessed. And though the nation as a whole had broken down, and in many cases the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles because of their sins and failures, yet He remained the one promised Deliverer of Abraham’s lineage who was to bring salvation near. He offers freedom to us today: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
Let me turn aside for the moment from the exposition of the passage to apply this to the many slaves of sin that are all about us-men and women struggling against evil habits, passions, and desires that hold them in absolute bondage. Again and again they have cried out,
Oh, for a man to arise in me,
That the man that I am might cease to be!
My dear friends, it is possible to be saved from sin, not only from the guilt of sin, but it is possible to be saved from the power of sin through regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” The truth of which He spoke is the blessed program of regeneration given us in His holy Word. When men believe this message, they are set at liberty because of the new birth. As they go on in fellowship with God, walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, they are not dominated by the lust of the flesh, but they walk in the freedom of the children of God.
The ritualists and the self-righteous never understand this, but are always looking within for deliverance. But deliverance comes from without.
Now the Lord continues to speak to these controversialists. He says, “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed” (v. 37a). Naturally, they came from that particular line. “But ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you” (v. 37b). And yet He was the One for whom Abraham looked, and all down through the centuries the people of Israel had been waiting for the promised Seed. “And in thy seed shall all the nations… be blessed” (Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4Genesis 26:4). He was present, and they knew Him not.
He had proven that He was indeed the promised One by the mighty works that He had wrought. Yet here were these self-righteous hypocrites, and they did not recognize Him and so refused to put their trust in Him, the One who had come according to the promise. “But ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father” (vv. 37-38). He came down here to earth as the Son of the Father, and day by day the Father opened up His Word to Him to do and say the things which He willed. “The words that I speak are not Mine, but His that sent Me.” “I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” Ah, that was rather stinging, that was sharp indeed! He was driving the truth home now-your father: My Father. He puts the two in contrast.
Men speak very glibly today of the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man. This Book does not speak that way. Some people perhaps will take exception to that, but read the Book and see if you can find such expressions in it. Here are two families indicated: Jesus says, “I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.” His Father was God; their father was-He will tell them in a moment- not God, but the great enemy of God and man. Here were two families then. His own redeemed ones constitute one family, and those who refuse His grace constitute another family, so we do not have either universal Fatherhood or universal brotherhood. It is perfectly true that one God is the Creator of all men, and God has made all of one blood. But, alas, sin has come in and alienated man from God, and that is why men need to be born again in order that we may be brought into the family of God, that we may look up into His face and say, “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9; Luke 11:2). Do you know the blessedness of this? Do you know what it is to be born of God?
“Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44), He said, and oh, how that stirred their indignation! He knew it would, but it was the truth. Sometimes it is necessary to say the thing that will stir the indignation of men and women. Some say we should be very careful never to hurt people’s feelings about their sins. For instance, we should be careful about mentioning divorce, for perhaps some of our listeners have been remarried a half-dozen times, and so their feelings are very easily stirred! We should be very careful not to refer to any differences in doctrine or anything of that kind! There would not be much to mention if one took note of all the prejudices people have.
You have heard of the evangelist who went to a town in Nevada to have some meetings. The minister said to him, “Now, my good man, there are certain sins about which you will have to be very careful here. For instance, it would never do to talk about divorce or anything of that kind, for you know this is the great divorce center. You won’t dare mention the liquor question, for some of our best paying members are in the liquor business. A great many of our people earn their living by furnishing worldly amusements, so be careful about that.” The poor evangelist looked at him and said, “Well, of whose sins may I speak?” “Go for the Piute Indians and their sins,” was the reply. “They never go to church anyway.” It would not do much good, would it, turning loose on people who never hear you? The Lord realized that the people had to be spoken to faithfully about their sins. Some of the greatest Christians I have ever known were first terribly stirred by the messages they heard from the platform, but they came back and heard more until God spoke to them and brought them to Himself.
Jesus said to these objectors, “Ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (vv. 38-39). That is, morally and spiritually, they would do the works of Abraham. Abraham was justified by faith before God and by works before men. They claimed to be the children of Abraham, but were not characterized by righteous living. “Now, ye seek to kill me… Ye do the deeds of your father” (vv. 40-41). That gave them their opportunity. A second time He had spoken in this way. They said to Him, “We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God” (v. 41). What did they mean by that? They meant to imply that He was the illegitimate son of Mary of Nazareth. It was their way of throwing back at Him their vile insinuation because they had heard of the virgin birth, and they used it to taunt Him, God’s holy Son.
People say to me that the doctrine of the virgin birth is not touched on in John. Well, you have it there. They were practically throwing it into His face: “We were not born of fornication.” But the Lord Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, ye would love me” (v. 42a). There is a wonderful test: if men love God, they love His Son, or vice versa. “If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word” (vv. 42-43). That is, you cannot hear, in the sense that you will not hear. You are allowing sin to come in, and so you cannot hear.
Then He comes right out and speaks of that which He had previously indicated, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (v. 44).
Now notice how much our Lord has put into one verse in regard to the great doctrine of Satanology. Is there a personal devil, or is the Devil simply the personification of evil? We are often told nowadays that the belief in a personal devil is a relic of the dark ages, and that it is absurd to believe there is such a being. But here is the testimony of Holy Scripture-please carefully consider these verses. He says, “I come forth from God.” He declares Himself to be the Son of God. “Ye are of your father the devil.” But might He not have meant, “Ye are overcome of evil”? Ah, but He goes further. He uses the personal pronoun and says, “He was a murderer.” He is speaking of a person, and of a person who was not always what he is now. In other words, Jesus is telling us that in this universe there is a foul, malevolent spirit who actuates and moves upon those who do not acknowledge the authority of God. And this evil, malevolent spirit was not always such. He was not always what he is now. “He… abode not in the truth.”
People often ask, “If there is a devil, why would a good God create him?” A good God did not create a devil. The being that God created was a pure and innocent angel. In Isaiah 14:12 we read how this angel fell. Who is the one spoken of here? He is called “Lucifer, son of the morning.” Lucifer means “the day star,” a glorious being who dwelt in the presence of God. We read of only one archangel, that is, Michael. Lucifer seems to have had a similar place before he fell. How did he fall? Through self-will. Five times he said, “I will.” “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High” (vv. 13-14). This created angel dared to aspire to a place of equality with God, if not to crowd God Himself from His throne. And in answer to that fivefold “I will,” the answer comes ringing down from the skies, “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (v. 15). So a glorious angel was changed into the Devil. It all began when he abode not in the truth.
In the book of Ezekiel we have another remarkable Scripture. In chapter 28 God is speaking of the prince of Tyre, but back of the prince of Tyre is one whom He calls the king of Tyre, one who dominated the heart of this earthly prince but who himself was more than man. “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created” (v. 13). “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God.” This was something that never could be said of any earthly ruler. These precious stones were used to represent the various aspects of his character. Here was the leader of the heavenly choir. This glorious being piped in the presence of God until sin came in. “Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (vv. 14-15). And what that iniquity is, is told us in verse 17, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.”
Lucifer fell through pride. Self-will was the first expression of that pride, and so an angel became the Devil. He is called the Devil, and he is called Satan. Devil means “the slanderer” and Satan means “the adversary,” and he combines both in himself. He accuses man to God and God to man. But he is the adversary particularly of God Himself and His blessed Son, and then in a more general way of everything that is of God here on earth. He is not simply here to tempt men. There is that within their own hearts which leads them to sin, but the great work in which he is engaged is in throwing evil reflections upon that which is of God. He is called “the accuser of [the] brethren” (Revelation 12:10). Let us be sure that we are not found in his company. When I hear people making unkind reflections on the people of God, I say to myself, “They are doing the Devil’s work.” That is the work he has been engaged in all down through the centuries. Let us seek to take a definite stand against all such evil behavior.
The Devil then is an apostate. He abode not in the truth. He turned away from it. And he is a murderer from the beginning. The word translated “murderer” here really is “manslayer.” It is not that his malice is directed against men as such, but he knows that God is a lover of men, and it hurts God to see men turned away from Himself.
There is no truth in him, we are told. When he speaks of a lie, he speaks of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it. In the first epistle of Peter we hear the apostle saying, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world” (5:8-9). If we walk in the truth, we need not fear the power of Satan. If we put on the whole armor of God, we can resist him successfully.
But let us not underestimate the power of the enemy. There is a personal devil, he is the prince of this world, and men and women in their unsaved state are subject to his control. Christians are warned not to listen to his suggestions or to walk in his way. To be delivered from his power means to stand against him, faithfully battling for the truth that God has committed to us. When men and women are awakened about their sins, they realize the power of Satan, but, thank God, our Lord Jesus Christ died that He might destroy him that had the power of death and might deliver those who put their trust in Him from the fear of death. Satan tempted man to sin, and by sin came death. Now Satan uses death to terrify and frighten the victims of his own wiles, who, in their folly, have turned away from the path of obedience to God. But the Lord Jesus Christ has abolished death by going through it and coming up in triumph. Now He delivers those who will trust Him from the fear of death. Does the thought of death strike terror to your heart? Do you say, “Oh, if I only did not have to face that last great ordeal!” Listen to me: if you will put your faith in the One who died and rose again, you will know that death is just the door to life. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (8:12).
A mighty fortress is our God!
A bulwark never-failing:
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe:
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate;
On earth is not his equal.
And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.
We have noticed that all these conversations took place in the temple following the wonderful words to that poor, sinful woman who was brought to Jesus by her accusers. “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more” (8:11). Phase after phase of truth has been set forth for the enlightenment of the Jewish leaders. Many and various claims had been put before the people, and one by one they had been questioned by the majority who had listened to Him.
Now in the closing part of this chapter there are really two outstanding themes. First, the sinlessness of Jesus, and then, second, His preexistence. Both of these testify to His Deity. He is God. On earth He was God manifest in the flesh, and because He was God in flesh, He was an absolutely sinless Man. He was the One who had existed from all eternity. He was the Son of the Father before He came into this world through the gates of birth. He says, “Because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not” (v. 45). The truth was so utterly beyond anything that they had known that they would not accept it. It was a reminder that the natural man understands not the things of God. This explains why men have so much difficulty with the teaching of the Word of God. They are bereft of spiritual discernment. What men need is a second birth.
You remember the story of the man who was denying that God answers prayer. He said, “There is no such thing as God-answered prayer in this world.” An old Quaker was standing there and asked, “Does thee not believe that God answers prayer?” “No,” said the man, “I don’t.” “Did thee ever pray to God?” “No, I never did.” “Well then, friend, what does thee know about it? Had thee not better be silent till thee has tested it?” We need to test it for ourselves. We need the reality of the second birth, for except a man be born again he cannot see (that is, he cannot understand) the things of the kingdom of God.
Here was Truth incarnate moving among men. They listened and turned away incredulous. They could not believe because their minds were blinded on account of their sins. And so the Lord Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, [but] ye believe me not.” Then He puts this question, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (v. 46). They would not believe what He was telling them. Had they ever known Him to commit a sin or any kind? That question comes as a challenge to all the world still, “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” Men have searched these records and have tried to find some fault or flaw in His character or something wrong in His behavior, but they have not been able to find one. He stands before us as the only sinless character in all history and in all literature, and that in itself declares that He is more than man. Of all men it is written, they have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But here was One who came to earth as man, and He never sinned but glorified God in everything He did.
Consider the prayer life of our Lord Jesus and see how that demonstrates His sinlessness. Our Lord Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them who trespass against us” (see Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4), but He never prayed that prayer Himself. We never read of Him joining with anyone in prayer. He prayed for people but not with them. Why? Because He prayed from an altogether different standpoint than others. He prayed as the Eternal Son of the Father whose communion had never been disturbed for an instant. When we come to God, we pray as forgiven sinners, or we pray for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus could not join in that. Some of our most blessed experiences have been when we have knelt with others and prayed with them. We pray with confidence and faith, believing that God is ready to forgive, for He says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Jesus never joined with any body to pray like that.
And then, again, consider the question of His piety. If you are a Christian, may I ask you this? How did your life of piety begin? You were not always a Christian. You were not born a Christian, though you may have been born into a Christian family. How did your life of godliness begin? Did it not begin with the recognition of your own lost estate, and did not that lead you to see your need of salvation and bring you to God for pardon? Jesus knew nothing of this. In His life we see piety without one thought or mention of repentance. No tears of contrition ever fell from His eyes. If He wept, He wept for others’ sins, as when He looked over Jerusalem and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee: how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). His tears were for others’ sins and sorrow. He had none for His own, for He was the sinless One, and in this we recognize His Divinity and His Deity.
And so He speaks the truth. He challenges everyone by saying, “If I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (John 8:46-47). If we reject the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, our very rejection declares that we are not subject to the will of God. But our Lord’s hearers, on this occasion, were very indignant with Him. They resisted His testimony and answered, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (v. 48). And for an orthodox Jew to call anyone a Samaritan was to use the most contemptuous expression possible, for if there was anyone the Jew detested, it was the Samaritan. So they said, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?” (It is really “a demon.” There is only one Devil.)
Is it not a striking thing that in that parable of the man on the Jericho road, which we all love, He uses that name for Himself He pictures Himself as a Samaritan. It is as such our blessed Lord has come from the heights of glory into this dark world, seeking those that are lost. How wondrous His grace!
But when they said, “Thou hast a demon,” He replied, “I have not a [demon] ; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me” (v. 49). And whenever we refuse His testimony we are dishonoring Him. In the next verse He explains that He was here to seek the glory of God, and He could commit this into the hands of Him who “judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). Then He adds something that astonished them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death” (John 8:51). Now outwardly, of course, believers die as others die. And yet the wonderful thing is that the words of Jesus are absolutely true: the believer does not see death. What does he see? He sees the entrance into the Father’s house. Death, we are told, is our servant. How does death serve us? By ushering us into the presence of God.
I was with an evangelist in the South, and we went to visit a friend who lived in a nice house where we were met at the door by a kindly colored servant. “Oh,” she said, “the mistress is waiting for you,” and took us inside. The evangelist turned and said, “You know, that kindly colored servant reminds me of the Scripture that says, ‘Death is ours.’” Death stands by, death is just a servant who ushers us into the presence of the Lord. “He that believeth in me shall never see death.”
When Mrs. General Booth of The Salvation Army was dying, she looked up and said, “Is this death? Why, this is glorious.” Somebody said, “But you are suffering.” She said, “Oh, yes, the waters are rising, but so am I.”
Yes, death is only the means of entrance into eternal blessing-with Christ. But oh, what a sad thing if one does not know Christ! That will mean eternal banishment from God.
But the Lord’s hearers did not understand, for they said, “Now we know You have a demon. Why, Abraham is dead, and he was the father of our nation, and the prophets are dead, and Thou sayest. ‘If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?’” (vv. 52-53). They could not conceive anyone greater than Abraham. Abraham was called the friend of God, and here was God standing among them in human guise. “Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God” (v. 54). He added, “If I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (vv. 55-56). When did Abraham see His day? When God gave him the promise, “In thy seed shall all the nations… be blessed” (Genesis 22:18; Genesis 26:4Genesis 26:4).
Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness. But the Jews could not understand this. They said, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” (John 8:57). He did not say, “I have seen Abraham,” but He said, “Abraham saw my day.”
Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (v. 58). Again, He uses the incommunicable name of God. “Who shall I say has sent me?” said Moses. “Say I AM has sent thee.” And Jesus says here, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He speaks as the God of Abraham. Notice how He insists on His preexistence. He is the ever-living Christ who came into this world as our Redeemer.
When He spoke like this, they counted it blasphemy. You remember how some of them came to the temple earlier, intending to stone that poor woman, but when Jesus thus declared His Deity they took up stones to cast at Him. “But Jesus hid himself,… going through the midst of them, and so passed by” (v. 59), and they lost their opportunity. They refused to credit His testimony and He left them, “and so passed by.”
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on John 8". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26