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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
John 8

 

 

Verses 1-11

CHAPTER 3

THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN

John 8:1-11. I merely insert this caption through courtesy to the English reader; but will be excused from the exposition, as this item is entirely absent from the original, having been interpolated in post-apostolic times, as John, in whose gospel it appears in the E. V., is the last writer, and he never wrote it. There is no doubt but it was added by some of the clergy after the Constantinean apostasy as an apology for sin.


Verses 12-16

THE LIGHT OF LIFE

John 8:12-16. “Then, Jesus again spoke to them, saying, I am the Light of the world; the one following Me can not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of life.” The subjunctive mode is here very consolatory, assuring us that no one following Jesus can walk in darkness, but that all such will have the Light of life. The world is full of deluded people, walking in the false light of spiritual death. Dead bodies frequently, in dense darkness, emit a phosphorescent light, which only serves to bewilder and delude. If you do not have the life of the Holy Ghost in your heart, you are walking in Satan’s counterfeit light of spiritual death, whose phosphorescent glare can only illumine the way to hell. Cold Churches have no light but this illusory ignis-fatuus of the devil, only serving to delude its carnal votaries, till their feet finally slip and they take the awful plunge. As true light of every species emanates from fire, so without the fire of the Holy Ghost in your heart, you will not have the “Light of life.” “Then the Pharisees said to Him, Thou art witnessing concerning Thyself; Thy testimony is not true.” This is a stratagem on the part of the Pharisees to turn His own utterances against Him. “Jesus responded, and said to them, If I testify concerning Myself My testimony is true, because I know whence I came and whither I go. You do not know whence I come and whither I go. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. And if I judge, My judgment is true, because I am not alone, but I and He who sent Me.” In vain do they seek to turn Him down on His own affirmation, that if one testifies of himself, standing alone, his testimony is not true, as He and His Father testify in perfect harmony, thus confirming the truth and establishing the validity of His testimony.


Verses 17-20

WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT

John 8:17-20. “And it has been written in your law, That the testimony of two people is true. [Deuteronomy 19:15] I am the one testifying concerning Myself, and the One who sent Me testifies concerning Me.” Here is the experimental consolation of every true Christian, the Holy Spirit witnessing along with his own spirit that he is born of God, and that his heart is clean, thus bringing all Christian testimony into harmony with the Divine law, by which every affirmation is made valid. “Then they said to Him, Where is Thy Father? Jesus responded, You do not know Me nor the Father; if you had known Me, you would also have known the Father. He spoke these words, teaching in the treasury in the temple, and no one arrested Him, because His hour had not yet come.” There were many magnificent buildings on the Temple Campus, all indiscriminately denominated “the temple.” We have here quite a significant statement of our Savior, while looking those preachers and official laymen in the face, and notifying them that they did not know God, involving the conclusion that they were sinners on their way to perdition. Doubtless they were as honest as the clergy, and ecclesiastical rulers of the present day. What an awful inference is deducible! Lord, help us all to examine ourselves, and see whether we truly know God!


Verses 21-27

ALARMING PREDICTION AGAINST THEM

John 8:21-27. “Then He again said to them, I go, and you shall seek Me, and you shall perish in your sin; whither I go, you are not able to come.” The prophetic eye of Jesus saw the awful calamities coming on those people, when they would perish miserably by sword, pestilence, and famine, doubtless many of them seeing their awful error when too late. “Then the Jews said, Whether will He kill Himself? because He says, Whither I go, you are not able to come; and He said to them, You are from beneath, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world.” Those people, both preachers and members, solidly believed themselves to be the true people of God. Here the Infallible Teacher informs them that they are from beneath; i. e., not only unacquainted with God, but actually in the hands of Satan, and led captive at his will. “Therefore I said unto you, that you shall perish in your sins; for if you may not believe that I am He, you shall perish in your sins.” This is a most solemn and sweeping abnegation of all human hope without Christ. John the Baptist had preached to those people three years previously, telling them, in words of heaven- born eloquence, winged with celestial lightning, that this Jesus is the veritable Christ of prophecy, Redeemer of Israel and Savior of the world; actually pointing Him out, introducing Him to them, and inaugurating Him into His official Messiahship by the rite of baptism. These three years they have been taking counsel of the devil, imbibing unbelief, hardening their hearts, and stiffening their necks against the truth; not only sealing their own doom, but, by precept and example, leading the multitudes in the way of death. “Then they said to Him, Who art Thou? Jesus said to them, That which I tell you from the beginning, I tell you now. I have many things to speak and judge concerning you.” He knew that the judgment of the quick and dead would devolve on Him in the last day. “But the One having sent Me is true; and whatsoever things I heard with Him, these I am speaking to the world.” What a wonderful blessing is the gospel of Christ, as, having lived in heaven from the dawn of creation, in the very bosom of God, He then spoke on earth precisely what He heard from His Omniscient Father! “They did not know that He was speaking to them of the Father.”


Verse 28-29

THE CRUCIFIXION

John 8:28-29. “Then Jesus said, When you may lift up the Son of man, then you shall know that I am He; and I do nothing of Myself; but as the Father taught Me, these things I speak.” In that memorable sermon to Nicodemus, in the beginning of His ministry, in His reference to Moses lifting up the serpent, our Lord assures us by what death He is going to die. Here He repeats the affirmation. This was quite a new departure, as the Jews had no such a punishment, it being peculiarly Roman. Hence, His death by the hands of the Gentiles, by the most cruel of all methods, He predicts ever and anon. When His ministry thus wound up, it was too late for those hard-hearted, unbelieving Jews, as doubtless the Holy Spirit withdrew, leaving them to their dreadful doom; meanwhile, the darkening sun, rending rocks, heaving earthquakes, bursting tombs, risen saints, rending veil, descending angels, empty sepulcher, etc., would inundate them with conviction that they had actually killed the Prince of light, not a few of them repenting and getting saved during the Pentecostal revival, but vast multitudes only the more hardened, evidently having crossed the dead- line, and sealed their doom in endless woe. “The One having sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, because I always do those things pleasing unto Him.” Jesus is our only Paragon. Such is the bountiful redeeming grace which He gives His humble followers, that we are enabled always to do those things pleasing to the Father, thus walking in His footprints and emulating His example.


Verses 30-32

DEGREES OF FAITH

John 8:30-32. “He speaking these words, many believed on Him. Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed on Him, If you may abide in My Word you are truly My disciples; you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” We see from the context that these Jews, addressed in these verses, had but a vague, shadowy faith in Him, believing that He was an extraordinary messenger sent of God, a prophet, and might perhaps, in the end, prove to be the Christ who is to redeem Israel. O how the Churches of the present day abound in this superficial, carnal belief in Christ, which staggers at the promises, failing in their appropriation!


Verse 32-33

EGREGIOUS BLINDNESS OF THE JEWS

John 8:32-33. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They responded to Him, We are the seed of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one; how do You say, That you shall be free?” This illustrates the alarming fact that even religious people may become so hallucinated by the devil as to tell falsehoods with unblushing effrontery and amazing volubility, and at the same time not know it, but think they are preaching the truth. Not only had these Jews been in bondage to the Egyptians two hundred and fifteen years, but at that very moment they were in bondage to the Romans, and, worst of all, to the devil.


Verse 34

THE SLAVE OF SIN

John 8:34. “Jesus responded to them, Truly, truly, I say unto you, That every one doing sin is the slave of sin.” The devil’s people all night long wheeling in the mazy gyrations of the giddy, lustful dance, quaffing the inebriating bowl till they kindle hell-fire in their blood and transform their cranium into rattlesnake dens, wasting their vitality in brutal debaucheries and diabolical sensualities, vainly dream in their drunken revelries that they are the freest people in all the world because they can do such things, while at the same time they are the most miserable slaves, demons from the bottomless pit lashing them with the firebrands of inflamed appetites and abnormal passions, actually precipitating them into suicide, and forcing them, in the black foundries of an earthly pandemonium, to forge the adamantine chains that shall bind them in penal fires through the flight of eternal cycles.


Verse 35-36

THE SON THE AUTHOR OF TRUE FREEDOM

John 8:35-36. “The slave does not abide in the house forever.” This great and beautiful world is one of God’s houses, in which not a few of His children have been living these six thousand years. All sinners are the slaves of sin and Satan. The slaves never inherit anything, having neither possessions nor rights in the home, their sojourn being transitory, and winding up when they are worn out and can toil no more. Not so with the son. He inherits the estate, transmits it to his children, and in his posterity abides forever. The wicked think they are getting this world, while they are simply traveling through it to their bed in hell. Now, suppose the son of the estate liberates and adopts a slave, do you not see that he will abide forever? So the time is very near when the redeemed of the Lord shall possess this world, with other paradisian orbs, to shine and shout forever, every track of the wicked having been obliterated in the sanctifying fires, followed by the glorious renovation (Revelation 1), making the earth new, and enveloping it in a new firmament, which never reverberated the blasphemy of the wicked.


Verses 37-47

SATANIC PATERNITY OF THE UNREGENERATE

John 8:37-47. “I know that ye are the seed of Abraham; but you seek to kill Me, because My Word has no place in you.” How sad the condition of those preachers and people when Jesus, looking through them, actually saw them full of repellency and diabolical antagonism to the truth! N.B. You will find it so in many Churches nowadays, I awfully fear and doubt not. “Whatsoever things I saw with the Father, I speak; therefore you indeed are doing the things which you heard with your father.” This arouses in those shrewd, cultured priests an awful suspicion that He is impeaching their claim to the Abrahamic paternity. “They responded, and said to Him, Abraham is our father. Jesus says to them, If you are the children of Abraham, you did the works of Abraham; but now you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has spoken to you the truth which I heard with God. Abraham did not this. You are doing the works of your father. They said to Him, We have not been born of fornication; we have one father, God. Then Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love Me with Divine love; for I came out from God, and I go back; for I have not come from Myself, but He sent Me. Wherefore do you not know My speech? Because you are not able to hear My word.” What a profound significance! His words were then ringing in their ears! Yet He said, “You are not able to hear My word.” The mystery is readily solved. The soul has the five senses — i. e., sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch — just like the body. When the soul is dead, as in the case of all the unregenerate, the senses are all dead with it. A dead man has eyes, but they are dead; ears, but they are dead; smelling organs, but they are dead; a tongue, but it is dead; nerves, but they are dead. Now these preachers, Church officers, and members, in whose physical ears His sweet, eloquent, melodious words were ringing, heard them plainly with their bodily ears, yet He certifies to them, “You are not able to hear My word.” This is the reason why they rejected it: His utterances were deep, rich, spiritual truth, and they were spiritually dead, so they never heard them; they rang in at one ear and out at the other, the dead soul within knowing nothing about the message of life which had resounded in their mortal ears. How signally does this penetrating truth apply to the fallen Churches of the present day, both ministers and members, as well as to this wicked world! What is the remedy in that case? An avalanche of importunate prayer, that the Holy Ghost may quicken them into life, in which case their spirit will hear and understand the glorious spiritual truth of the gospel. Deficiency of prayer explains multitudes of failures on the part of holiness preachers and workers. As a rule, it is painfully deficient. Shall we not wake up to the fact that we waste our ammunition on dead game, if we do not pray down the Holy Ghost to quicken them into life? “You are of your father the devil, and you wish to do the lusts of your father.” This tells an awful secret, which everybody ought to know, smashing the silly Universalist dogma now ringing from the Protestant pulpits; i. e., the Divine paternity of the wicked.

You see from the very words of the Savior that it is not so. Preachers, standing in their pulpits, address their audiences as the “children of God,” when in all probability nine-tenths of them are the children of the devil, having never been born from above. Divine life was lost in the fall, and is only regained in regeneration. Consequently all the unregenerate, — whether never converted or backslidden, as you see from the plain words of our Savior, here addressed, not simply to the uncouth rabble, but to the preachers and Church members, — all the unregenerate are the spiritual children of the devil till quickened into life by the Holy Ghost. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and stood not in the truth, because the truth is not in him.” How is the devil a murderer? He murders all the souls that follow him, beginning with the destroying angels, and sweeping down the terrestrial ages, deluging hell with the fallen millions. “When he may speak the lie, he speaks of his own, because he is the liar, and the father of the same. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” Those people, like the fallen Churches of every age, were deluded by Satan’s lies, making them believe that they were saved when they were lost, in order to blind them and lead them down to hell. Humanity is uniform in all ages. So is Satan, sin, religion, salvation, and God the same now as in our Savior’s time. You must not shove aside these awful truths uttered by our Savior and leave them with the scribes and Pharisees, when they apply to the present generation as pertinently as to them. The world is girdled with Churches today — Pagan, Mohammedan, Papal, and Protestant — standing spiritually precisely where our Savior’s audience, backslidden members of the Jewish Church, stood, so deceived and led away by Satan’s lies, making them believe that they are Christians and on their way to heaven, while they are sinners and on their way to hell, that a preacher coming among them and telling them the truth, as Jesus did, shares the same fate — i. e., is rejected and persecuted; while a false prophet coming along, and helping Satan to keep them blindfolded till he can dump them into hell, is received like an angel, remunerated, honored, and applauded as a man of God, such as all Churches need. Lord give us all the light, help us to be true, like Jesus, and abide our destiny! “Which one of you convicts Me concerning sin? If I speak the truth, why do you not believe Me?”

“Convict” here is the very word descriptive of the condemnatory sentence of a criminal judge, as Jesus defied men and devils to convict Him concerning sin. Good Lord, help us all so to speak the truth and walk in His footprints that we can challenge the powers of earth and hell! His own Church fell out with Him and killed Him because He told them the truth. If He had preached falsehood, they would have received Him with enthusiasm. Satan’s people love lies and fatten on them, preparatory for a barbecue in hell, when devils will devour their flesh and drink their blood. “The one being of God, heareth the words of God. Wherefore do you not hear? Because you are not of God.” Lord, help us to preach the same gospel that Jesus preached, fearless of men and devils! Here you see the reason why the truth has always been so unpopular. In this case, Satan had the Jewish Church with him, in addition to the wicked world. So few people in this world are of God, comparatively with the multitudes in Satan’s kingdom, deluded by his lies and led captive by his caprice, that the truth in every age has found but few adherents, Jesus falling a victim to the cruelty of the fallen Jewish Church, so duped by Satan that they loved lies and hated the truth, and two hundred millions of martyrs following in His track, sealing their faith with their blood. When the present holiness movement becomes popular, it is ruined.


Verses 48-52

SIMPLICITY AND CANDOR OF JESUS

John 8:48-52. “The Jews responded, and said to Him, Do we not truly say that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon?” The Jews hated the Samaritans so inveterately that they doubtless thus stigmatized Him because He had preached in Samaria, not only in the beginning of His ministry, but a few days previously on His journey to Jerusalem. The charge of demoniacal possession was old and trite, and they still perpetuated it, because His preaching dug them up and burnt them so horrifically, exposing so lucidly the dead formality and hollow hypocrisy with which Satan had them blindfolded, fast leading them to the pandemonium. “Jesus responded, I have no demon but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.” The most acute philosophy fails to recognize the slightest manifestation of resentment in this simple, direct answer to that awful accusation of demoniacal possession. How meekly and perspicuously does He speak a simple negation to the opprobrious allegation! Lord, help us to follow Thy example, and when accused of the blackest sins and vilest crimes, simply, dispassionately, and unostentatiously answer in the negative! “I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeketh and judgeth.” The Father who sent Him vindicates Him in all of His mediatorial work, and administers righteous retribution to contemptuous despisers. “Truly, truly, I say unto you, If any one may keep My Word, he can never see death.”


Verses 52-59

JESUS PRE-ABRAHAMIC

John 8:52-59. “The Jews said to Him, Now we know that Thou hast a demon.” Sharpers, sent out for that specific purpose, hung on His lips, like lightning upon the skirts of the clouds, seeking with diabolical chicanery to catch some word on which they could found an accusation, either to arraign Him before the Roman governor or the Sanhedrin. “Abraham and the prophets are dead, and You say, That if any one may keep My Word, he shall never taste of death; art Thou greater than our Father Abraham who is dead? And the prophets are dead; whom do You make Yourself? Jesus responded, If I shall glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; there is One who glorifieth Me, whom you say that He is your God, and you do not know Him, but I know Him.” Jesus made no mistakes. These people stood at the head of the Church, both clerical and laical; yet they were strangers to saving grace, aliens from God, and traveling the way of death. Never did the sun look down on a people more sanguine that they were right than those scribes and Pharisees, who were in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity. “If I say that I do not know Him, I shall be a liar like you; but I know Him, and I keep His Word.” See with what utterly unimpassioned candor our Lord calls them liars! To convict is to convince. As conviction is fundamental in every work of grace, everything else being spurious without it, it becomes pre-eminently important that we call everything by its right name, as otherwise the normal force always goes out of the message. “Abraham, your father, rejoiced that He might see My day, and He saw it, and was glad. Then the Jews said to Him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?” Some have concluded that our Lord was much more than thirty-three when crucified, deducing their proof from this statement. We doubt not the correctness of the chronology, making Him thirty years old when John formally introduced Him into His official Messiahship; then His ministry, beginning at the Passover in the purification of the temple, winding up by crucifixion at another Passover, two other festivals transpiring in the interim, making three years in all. Then why do they speak of fifty? From the simple fact that, as thirty was their majority, fifty was their maturity. Hence they think to confound Him outright by the affirmation that He has not so much as reached mature manhood, being comparatively a tyro.

Hence the glaring inconsistency of His claiming, as they construed it, to be contemporary with Abraham. “Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” The present tense of the verb “to be” is peculiar to the Deity, applicable to Him in all ages, and to no one else; hence, in this affirmation, our Lord not only claims to be pre-Abrahamic, but eternal, without beginning or end. Hence the “I Am,” immutable, through all ages, without beginning or end. “Then they took up stones, in order that they may cast them at Him.” With the Jews, the penalty of blasphemy was death by stoning. They see from His phraseology that He identifies Himself with God, being even pre-existent to Abraham. Consequently they construe His phraseology into blasphemy, and, apparently in a paroxysm of righteous indignation, take up stones, to vindicate the Mosaic law by His execution. “And Jesus was hidden, and passed out from the temple;” i. e., as on many other occasions, resorting to His omnipotence, in order to prolong His life and finish His work, He renders Himself invisible, passing through the midst of the crowd unseen, and going away from the Temple Campus. In this miracle He, to the surprise of all, suddenly disappears, all looking for Him, both His friends and His enemies; but no one being able to catch a glimpse of His person, while at the same time He is passing through the crowd unseen. It seems that such a miracle would satisfactorily confirm His Christhood in the estimation of all. However, they well remembered when Elisha, at Dothan, dropped an optical illusion on the whole Syrian army, so that they mistook him for their own commanding officer, obsequiously obeying his marching orders, till he led them to Samaria and turned them over to the king of Israel. Hence the tardiness, even on the part of His own relatives and friends, to acquiesce in His Messiahship, so many of them thinking that He was either a mighty prophet of Israel or one of the prophets risen from the dead.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on John 8:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/john-8.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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