JOHN:The Book of Heartfelt Belief
His Word Brings Life
Jerry A. Collins
I believe that there are at least two major obstacles which keep people from turning to Christ in faith as the means of salvation. First, people think they can earn their way into Gods favor. They have an innate sense of some need to earn that favor. They may not call it sin but they are driven by the need to appease God. This can take many different directions but the bottom line is that I can do something which will earn Godís acceptance of me. So, numbers of people figure what that means to them and do their best to follow their path to pleasing God. Second, people believe they deserve Godís acceptance of them. They think God owes salvation to them because of who they are, where they come from or what they have accomplished. There is no sense that they need Gods grace because they are not undeserving of Godís favor. Both beliefs are pride-based. Pride is never a good thing in the Bible. Pride assumes you have achieved it. James 4:1-5 teaches that God is opposed to the proud. Pride is never a good thing in sports, business or family. If we are proud of our children, or career or country, God is opposed to us. Humility assumes that it is a gift of God. Every hero of the Bible was humble. In other words, whatever they possessed or accomplished was viewed as a gift from God. Pride is only on this side of the grave. No one will ever be proud of something on the other side of the grave (Isaiah 66:1-2). Instead we must live thankfully and gratefully, giving God the credit from our hearts for whatever happens. I am not the source of any of this! Including my salvation.
It is clear from our passage, that Jesusí opponents were proud of their heritage and assumed that this gave them special favor with God. Their antagonism toward Christ is the result of His refusal to sanction them with this special favored status. The only thing that can change their status with God is a humble acceptance of Jesusí Word. That alone brings life.
1. THERE IS A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FAITH AND WORKS 8:31-32
Some of the people listening to Jesus believed Jesusí teaching and claims to be the Messiah. If they really grasped this message, then they would continue to follow His teaching and this would make them disciples. This journey would begin be being delivered from their sins. Their works demonstrated by their willingness to follow Jesus would demonstrate their faith in Him as their Messiah. Your works reveal what your faith is in. The implication is that oneís faith in Christ will be reflected in a life that is characterized by righteousness. Of course, given our sin nature, that expression will vary in devotion and determination. But just hanging around church, listening to the Word and saying I believe in Jesus is not going to save anybody.
The reason is...
2. BECAUSE OF SIN, NO-ONE HAS SPECIAL STATUS WITH GOD 8:33-50
These believers listening to Jesusí teaching and may have even accepted His claim as Messiah are not trusting in Him personally. We know that from their response. It is possible to believe in Christ in a way that does not save you. What these people lacked was a sense of their bondage in sin and the death that results from it (v. 34, 51). Sin is anything contrary to the character of God. It is more than selfishness because we can sin unselfishly. It is more than lawbreaking because particular laws change. They needed to believe that Jesus could deliver them from that. But it required that they recognize they were sinners and needed to be delivered from that. Instead they denied this by arguing they were Abrahamís descendants (vs 33, 39) and that this gave them special status with God (vs 41). Physically, of course they are descendants of Abraham vs 37. Yet their desire to kill Jesus, vs 37, their unwillingness to accept His message vs 43, calling Jesus a heretic and suggesting he was demon-possessed, meaning he was evil vs 48, and threaten to stone him vs 59, reveals they were not Abrahamís spiritual descendants even though they claimed to be so vs 39. They do not have to be freed from anyone, they claim, since they are not slaves vs 33. A curious argument since they are currently slaves to Rome, came from slavery in Egypt and were enslaved by Assyria, Babylon and Persia. If they were spiritual descendants, then they would do what Abraham did, that is, they believe and obey God vs 39. Abraham did not reject Gods commands (Gen 12:1-3) but believed and demonstrated that with his works vs 40. Their status as Abrahamís physical descendants was no guarantee they were his spiritual ones as well. Because of sin, no-one has special status with God. Rejecting Jesus claims, believing lies and desiring to murder him reveal they really have embraced another father, Satan, who desires the same thing vs 44. Jesus was saying that they were the devils very offspring! (1) His lie brought spiritual and physical death to mankind and it was premeditated. (2) He is a liar by nature. He does not just tell lies he is a liar and lying originates with him. Their refusal to accept Jesus and His claims is proof they are in league with Satan and not God or Abraham as they claim. Unbelief is blinding and deceiving. And yet for all of the defamation of Jesus character and for all of their attacks upon him, they could not offer proof that he was guilty of any sin vs 45-46. Why? Because they canít. But instead of this changing their minds about Jesus, they stubbornly continue to believe their lie about him in spite of the truth otherwise vs 47! Amazing, isnít it how dark peoples hearts can really be.
3. ACCEPTING JESUS TEACHING IS ONLY WAY TO BE SET FREE FROM ETERNAL DEATH 8:51-59
From what does the truth of our Lords word set us free vs 51? it sets us free from sin and eternal separation from God. We are set free from the lies of Satan. This is the only way we can have special status with God. Jesus has superiority over the prophets and Abraham and any other connections we may think we have with God vs 58. Not everyone will like this vs 59. They will still believe they can earn or deserve Gods favor.
(1) Like Christ, we must communicate truth as freedom from slavery to sin.
(2) God will ask us to mortgage the present for the future. Satan lie is to tempt us into mortgaging the future for the present.
(3) Teaching the truth about sin is not compromised by telling lies so the masses will follow us.