Living for Eternity
Truth Statements by Jesus
Turn to John 8. This week you had been asked to read through John 8:12-59, and notice any verses that you found to be powerful, doctrinal, or even confusing. I have chosen seven separate statements that Christ makes in this section that Tammy has made a copy for you. Three, I have listed as rather confusing statements; and four, that are theology statements. Now I want to clarify that all of these statements are theological, as they are all teaching us things about God and His Word. But there are three specifically that need clarifying. You may have chosen others than I did, but these ones specifically stood out to me. And this is so important, for the better we understand the Bible, the more we know about God; and the more we know about God, the less apt we are to be deceived by lies. And if the life goal of the Christian is to be like Christ, then, it would make sense, that the life goal of the Christian is to know Him better. And finally, if Jesus Himself thought that these were vital to His hearers, we certainly do not want to miss the truth that He is communicating. For Jesus is going to speak this morning about eternal things, the eternal destiny of all men and women. So, the first confusing statement that I find in this passage is in verse 15.
“You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone.”
Judging according to the flesh. Some have called this, judging without the help or the control of the Spirit. Times when we might judge with little thought, maybe getting mad at someone. When we might make a judgment and then we get all the facts, and then we respond, oh, true, yeah, you’re right. Human emotions can also distort our judgment. In marriage counseling, I always encourage couples to make sure when they may have a problem to resolve between them to ask a neutral party that loves them both. A bride calling her Mom, or even a son calling his Mom and complaining about their spouse, is not a great idea, as this can cause great division among families. And judging without all the facts, as we tend to judge by mere appearances. And these men to whom Jesus was speaking were completely wrong about Christ, as their own fallen nature would not even allow them to consider who He was. In fact, their jealousy was in the way of their judgment. When we may be jealous or angry or biased, there is not a chance we could ever look at a situation fairly. Some of the best advice when trying to figure out a situation is to think about it, not allow emotion to control your thinking, and the benefits of being slow to speak and slow to anger. And even good emotions like love can distort what should be done in certain situations.
But what does Jesus mean here when He says that He does not judge? For we usually think of Jesus being the Judge (capital “J”) all the time. Well first, we could think that Jesus does not judge in the same manner. He does not judge by the flesh or by outward appearance as He knows the heart of every man. Or secondly, when Jesus says He does not judge, that Jesus is withholding His judgment, that He has not judged anyone yet. John 3:17 specifically says that Christ did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. And even clearer in John 12:47. He says:
“And if anyone hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”
John 12:47 (LSB)
I believe we can understand here that Jesus said many things from His humanity, just as He forgave those who crucified Him on the cross. His mission was to save, yet someday He will come as Judge. And thirdly, which I personally believe to be the strongest argument, there is such a connection here between the Father and the Son in John 8. Jesus continues to repeat how He does only the will of the Father, and this is so much part of His willingness to submit to His Father. So, I believe that part of the understanding here is that Jesus is acting completely on the Father’s will, therefore, He implies that the judgment is not His, but the Father’s. And we have talked about this in other messages regarding our own responsibility to judge, as we do not judge in the sense that we are only applying the principles which the Father has already given because God has already given His judgment. So, Christ submits to the Father in all things including judgment. His earthly mission was not to judge, but He will judge someday. And of course, He does not judge outwardly like men do. Confusing statement #2:
“So Jesus said, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing from Myself, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.’”
John 8:28 (LSB)
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He”
The reference here is to Jesus being lifted up on the cross. The term lifted up also implies His exaltation. That is the easy part of the verse. But what does it mean that these men will know that Jesus is the Christ or that Jesus is the Son of God? That everyone who saw Him on the cross knew who He was? or believed? D. A. Carson said this:
“One of the functions of the cross is to reveal who Jesus is. That is when the Jews will know the truth. By this John is not saying that all of Jesus’ opponents will be converted in the wake of the cross. But if they do come to know who Jesus is, they will know it most surely because of the cross. And even those who do not believe stand at the last day condemned by him whom they ‘lifted up’ on the cross, blinded to the glory that shone around them, yet one day forced to kneel and confess that Jesus is Lord.”
- A. Carson, The Gospel According to John 345
I believe that this passage is like so many of the Old Testament promises. That it has a closer fulfillment and then a future fulfillment. These are piercing words by Jesus, “Then you will know.” The closer fulfillment was fulfilled when many saw Christ on the cross and realized who He was, but for others when Christ is “lifted up” and exalted in eternity, then they will know. But not knowing in glorious salvation, but then with regret and remorse for killing the Saviour. The reality of the result of your rejection of Christ will be forever made known. And when Jesus was hanged on the cross, He did this openly for all to see. And His further burial and resurrection confirmed beyond a doubt that Christ was God in the flesh. It is interesting that in Acts 2:23, Peter preaches:
“this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of lawless men and put Him to death.”
Acts 2:23 (LSB)
Then at the end of his sermon, these same people who had been part of the crucifixion, it says “were pierced to the heart.” And they asked Peter what they should do. And he told them to repent. Arthur Pink notes this:
“How strikingly was this word of Christ verified on the day of Pentecost! Thousands, then, of the very ones who had cried, ‘Crucify him’, were brought to believe on Him as ‘both Lord and Christ’”
Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Vol. 2 37
The final confusing statement I noticed is found in verses 45-47:
“But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”
John 8:45-47 (LSB)
There are a few things going on here. That because it is truth … they do not believe, they do not hear the words of God because they are not of God, and what is this about Christ saying, which one of you convicts Me of sin?
I have lumped these together as they are all referring to their unbelief, and to their accusations against Christ. And so, I will answer these together as well. When Jesus says, which one of you convicts Me of sin; this does not mean that of the crowds of people following Him, there were one or two convicting Him of sin, for the text seems to indicate that many of them were accusing Him. The question by Jesus is really Jesus asking what have I done? Or what is the charge you have against Me. This question came up at the trial of Jesus, has this Man done anything worthy of death? And this is not a situation where Jesus was hiding anything or trying to get away with what he had done. For the claim of Christ is always that He is absolutely innocent. Carson said that Jesus never wavered in His own understanding of His perfection. There is never any kind of humbleness in the sense of His words saying things like you guys overrate Me, or I am not that good. No, His humbleness is shown by His willingness to go through what He did, in spite of His perfection, In other words, His perfection is confirmed by Jesus Himself in His actions and in His words. iHis actions and in His words
This doctrine is known as the impeccability of Christ; His perfection, His holiness, His utter separation from sin. The life of Christ was lived without a single sin, without one sinful thought even through temptation and persecution. And those who are the children of God are able to accept this truth. While unbelief is simply that the one outside of Christ is unable to accept this truth. They do not believe, they do not hear the words of God, because they are not of God. Because for one to believe: a person must be drawn by the Father (6:44), a person must be given to the Son (6:37), a person must be taught by God (6:45), and a person must be chosen by Jesus (6:70). Without the work of the Holy Spirit, because we are children of Satan, we are unable and unwilling to receive the truth. So, the Lord must open a heart, or a person will not respond to the truth or even listen to it. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, they will turn their ears away from the truth, 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
When we stand before Christ someday and He says to us well done My good and faithful servant, we will realize just how close were to never believing in Him, without the work of the Spirit. This enlightenment did not come from within us. This intelligence of understanding God and His work is not in us. It must be revealed to us by God. 1 Corinthians 2:14, the natural man cannot accept the things of God. This is why we can hear things on the news or in the media and wonder, how can even smart men and women think so foolishly? Well, our parents are Adam and Eve, and they were deceived, and so are we. Pink wrote:
“Man will give credence to the most grotesque absurdities … Some will believe that there are no such things as sin and death. Some will believe that instead of being the descendants of fallen Adam, they are the offspring of evolving apes. Some believe that they have no souls and that death ends all. Others imagine that they can purchase heaven with their own works. O the blindness and madness of unbelief!”
Arthur Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Vol. 2 51
Thus, the heart of man believes what is false. Yet those who are of God, those who are God’s sheep, (John 10:27), they hear the voice of the Shepherd, they follow Him, and they never perish. Statement #4 by Jesus, not as confusing, but loaded with truth:
“As He was speaking these things, many believed in Him. THE SON WILL MAKE YOU FREE. So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’”
John 8:30-32 (LSB)
“If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
There have been a number of references to those who were believing in Jesus, and now Jesus simply says that those who abide are truly My disciples. Some of these will be slaves to sin. Some will eventually be indifferent to Jesus’ words. This will include the many who may have come to Christ through a very simple gospel, but the further teaching of the Bible will prove them to be unfaithful. In other words, they will not be able to accept the deeper things of the Bible. For the “belief” in verses 30-31 is conditional on abiding. This type of statement in the Bible is also often used to encourage believers. In other words, the challenge to the believer that I must hold on to my faith, hold on! Knowing that this will be a lifetime battle. As there will be tests, challenges, and disappointments along the way that will test my faith so that it proves to be fruitful. As faith is often depicted as a battle, therefore put on the armour of God.
So, this section (vs 30-32) as Leon Morris states is a discourse: “addressed to those who believe and yet do not believe.” As verse 30 begins by saying that many believed. And as you read further, many of those believers did not truly believe. These represent the many who believe in Jesus, who even believe His truth claims, yet they are unwilling to submit to His Lordship. We could say that this is not true belief, yet the Bible uses the word belief. This goes back to John 6:66, many of those who were His disciples who believed did not follow Him anymore. This is the difference between what we might call faith and saving faith. Paul warned of believing in vain. He said in (1 Cor 15:2) that if you do not hold fast to the truth, you believe in vain. 2 Corinthians 13:5, he said test yourself to see if you are in the faith, unless, he said, you fail the test. The writer of Hebrews wrote:
“But My righteous one shall live by faith, And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
Heb 10:38-39 (LSB)
Listen young person, young Mom and Dad, 80-year old, believing in Christ means that you are beginning a life-long commitment to Christ, that you will serve Him all the days of my life, with an enduring love and devotion to Christ. This is why it is such a serious thing to call yourself a Christian. This is why believer’s baptism is such a serious thing. There is no disconnect between faith and obedience. Faith means that we are willing to be obedient to His Lordship. That is what faith is! Therefore, the one who claims to believe and falls away was never truly saved. And to know the truth is much stronger than to know what is true. Therefore, we cherish, we treasure God’s Word, but we also must treasure His will. Notice 3 things: continue in My Word, you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Next statement, verse 34:
“Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.’”
Our battle today with our culture is not against a political system, but it is a complete moral failure, and a rebellion against God. This is why our focus cannot be to modify behavior or even try to instill Christian principles into culture, though that is helpful, it is not our primary mandate. Our number one focus must be to save souls from sin, so that, they are no longer slaves to sin. Modifying behavior does not do this, only the gospel does this. And if the majority of our country’s leadership is unsaved, our direction as a country is being led by those who are enslaved.
Many times, in the Bible, sin is representative of a way of life, as a sinful life is ignoring our wrongness and not dealing with our sin. Slavery means this, I have no way to free myself from sin. But this is not true for the believer, as the believer’s life is a life that is being freed from sin and becoming more and more like Christ. Pink writes that the Christian sins daily, if we are honest we know everyday day we have wrong thoughts and actions; but he repents; he does good; and he brings forth fruit. However, the unchristian does nothing but sin, for man is a sinner by practice, and a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Pink said:
“Because the sinner has no spiritual nature within him … because he does nothing for God’s glory, every action is polluted, every deed unacceptable to the Holy One”
Arthur Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Vol. 2 43
I know this sounds harsh, but unless someone has the Spirit of God in them, even their goodness, their righteousness is as filthy rags. Brian E. Beyer writes that our feeble righteous acts count as nothing before God (Encountering the Book of Isaiah 236). See, when we are Christ’s, we are clothed with His righteousness, and there is a vast gulf between our righteousness and the righteousness of Christ. And only when we are “in Christ” are our deeds and our worship accepted by God. Statement #6, verse 37:
“I know that you are Abraham’s seed; yet you are seeking to kill Me, because My word has no place in you.”
This is such a classic statement as these Jews felt their connection with God was through their heritage of being Jewish. Yet the Bible is clear that a true Jew is not one who is merely outwardly a Jew or that he had been circumcised. It must be a circumcision of the heart inwardly, by the Spirit. So, Jesus can say, you are of Abraham’s seed, that is true; yet their unwillingness to accept Jesus, and His teachings is proof of their unbelief in the Father. This would be like someone who claims Christ, maybe has been baptised, or made a profession of faith, yet the truth of God s Word, His direction and guidelines for life do not have a place in them. Obviously, the lesson to us today is that we cannot excuse ourselves from sin and disobedience, and not allow the Holy Spirit to work. The hardness of the Jews here is little different from being convicted in your pew this morning and ignoring that conviction tomorrow morning at work. It would be like Jesus saying to us that His Word has no place in our hearts.
And these ones whom Jesus describes as those whom His Word has no place in them is the warning we spoke about a number of weeks ago, as those who do not accept the whole of the Bible. And notice the heart of these men, they wanted to kill Jesus. This is completely parallel to our culture which wishes to put to death the truth of the gospel. Also, interesting of note, is that the Jews said they had never been slaves of anyone. Well, what about Egypt? Assyria? Babylon? Persia? and now Rome? See, they did not know their own slavery under various nations, nor admit it, just as people refuse to acknowledge their slavery to sin today. In verse 37, the phrase, “no place” Greek chōreō, means no entrance. A prayer for each of us is that the Lord would give entrance to the words of Christ in our hearts. The final statement, in verse 58:
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
Notice verse 24, where Jesus says, “For unless you believe that I am He.” The question could remain, who is He? Then verse 28, when you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that I am He. Again, we could ask, who is He? But now in verse 58, He makes this certain, that before Abraham, I am. Even if He had said that before Abraham was, I was, which would have meant that He existed before Abraham, but did not necessarily equate Him with the Father. But this statement that before Abraham, I am, is the same identification of the Eternal God in the Old Testament. Isaiah 43:13, “Even from eternity, I am He.” In Exodus 3, when Moses asks God whom should I say You are when the people ask Me? And God responded by saying, I am has sent you. John Piper said:
“This is the clearest declaration in the mouth of Jesus that he is God. That he is Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament. ‘I am.’”
So, they wanted to kill Him because He had made Himself equal with God, as He called Himself “I am.” He was declaring Himself to be the God of the Old Testament. John MacArthur said that we need to understand who Christ is. He does not say I was born. There was never a time when He did not exist, for no one is eternal unless He is God. So, you have only one option with Christ. You either fall down and worship Him, or you must kill Him for what He has just claimed. What would be done to a world leader today, that wants to take over the world? You either serve him or you do what you can to get rid of him. I believe we understand here why Jesus said He does not judge, because they should have instantly died for their unwillingness to acknowledge God. For here is the God of the universe being rejected by these mere men. It says this in Exodus 6:2-8:
“God spoke further to Moses and said to him, ‘I am Yahweh; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Yahweh, I was not known to them. And I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned. Furthermore I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel because the Egyptians are holding them in slavery, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the hard labors of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their slavery. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out from under the hard labors of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am Yahweh.”’”
Ex 6:2-8 (LSB)
This name “I am” is so tightly related to the deliverance of God towards His people. And here Jesus lays claim to the title while at the same time, He is preparing to become the ultimate sacrifice to deliver His people. When you watch the news these days the name of Christ comes up once and a while. And He is often used to endorse certain moral principles, sometimes even wrong ones. In other words, Jesus would not condemn such things. As somehow the teaching of Jesus, at least what is left of the teaching of Jesus in our society, has been disconnected from God, the Eternal God. So, Jesus is used to endorse this thought or that direction of morality, all at the whims of humans, who place no value in the Word of God. And therefore, no value in God Himself, for they have rejected what God has said. Folks, this is a massive sin. To use Jesus to endorse what we choose to do, instead of falling before Him as a slave of our Eternal God and King. Let’s pray. Lord, may we worship you as the God of the universe, as Judge, as Saviour, as the Perfect Holy God, as the God of Your Word, and as the Eternal God, the “I am.” Might we as a congregation, in a new, fresh way, might we be impacted by Your Greatness. And all God’s people said, amen.