The Gospel of John – Lesson 22 – John 8:31-47

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples. 32 You will also know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 “We are Abraham’s descendants,” they answered, “and we have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be set free’?” 34 Jesus answered, “Amen, Amen, I tell you: Everyone who keeps committing sin is a slave to sin. 35 But a slave does not remain in the family forever. A son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free. 37 I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because there is no place for my word in you. 38 I am telling you what I have seen at the side of the Father. As for you, you do what you have heard at the side of your father.” 39 “Our father is Abraham!” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” Jesus told them, “you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard at the side of God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You are doing the works of your father.” “We were not born of sexual immorality!” they said. “We have one Father: God.” 42 Jesus replied, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I came from God and I am here. Indeed, I have not come on my own, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand my message? It is because you are not able to listen to my word. 44 You belong to your father, the Devil, and you want to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and did not remain standing in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks from what is his, because he is a liar and the father of lying. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Who of you can convict me of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God listens to what God says. The reason you do not listen is that you do not belong to God.”

In the previous section of John 8, Jesus spoke to those who refused to believe his testimony that he is the true Son of God. Now we notice that Jesus directs his comments to a different segment of his audience. Some of the Jews believed in Jesus. However, it quickly becomes clear from the conversation that their faith in Jesus was not complete. His teaching and miracles convinced them that he truly did come from God. They wanted to follow him. But their new faith needed direction. They needed to understand what it means to be Jesus’ disciples. The Jews were descendants of Abraham. They placed great value on their ancestry. They reasoned that God chose Abraham and his descendants to be his special chosen people. Therefore, they believed they were disciples of God because they could trace their lineage back to Abraham.

But the Son of God taught that being his disciples didn’t depend on who our ancestors are. Being Jesus’ disciples means that we remain in his word. To remain in Jesus’ words means that we hear, believe and obey them. We hear and believe his message that we are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s glory. We believe that Jesus is our only Savior. He alone won forgiveness of our sins and gives eternal life to all who trust in him. Jesus said that those who remain in his words are set free from their sins. This means we are free from the guilty verdict sin places on us and the punishment that must accompany this verdict. We are set free from trying to win God’s favor by our works, which we could never do. Those who remain in Jesus’ words live in the certainty that we are children of God and heirs of eternal life. The truth that the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings really does set us free.

But the Jews didn’t want to believe they needed to be set free. Abraham was a free man. His descendants must be free also. But Jesus proclaimed that they were slaves to sin. This proclamation is equally true of us. That’s a hard truth to swallow. Sure we sin, but we’re not slaves are we? Let’s try a simple test. We know that sin makes God angry. We know that sin separates us from God. As God’s people we want to do God’s will. So, try to spend the next five minutes without committing a single sin. If we’re honest with ourselves we must admit we can’t achieve that goal. Like it or not, we are by nature slaves to sin.

Jesus’ words got even stronger. The Jews called themselves children of Abraham. Jesus countered by saying they were not children of Abraham. They shared the same bloodline as Abraham. But they were not spiritual children of Abraham. Genesis 15:6 said, “Abraham believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” True children of Abraham would believe God’s promises as Abraham did. But the Jews were rejecting God’s promises and how they were being fulfilled in Jesus. They were children of the Devil instead. Jesus called the Devil a liar. He was the “father of lies” because he rejected God in the beginning and deceived many others into following him. He is a murderer because he strives to lead as many people as he can to eternal death in hell. Those who truly belong to God will strive to follow God and do what he says. Those who don’t follow God don’t belong to him. They belong to Satan instead. There is no middle ground here. Jesus’ words make it clear, we either belong to the Lord or we don’t.

As you read our Savior’s words in this lesson, give thanks. Many of the physical descendants of Abraham heard Jesus’ clear words and rejected them. You hear our Savior speak and you believe that he is the true Son of God and our Savior. This is a precious gift from God. As Martin Luther wrote in his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles Creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him. But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, page 5, Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2017) By the work of the Holy Spirit you are Jesus’ disciple. You know the truth of God’s Word. The truth sets you free.

Discussion Questions

1 – Many people claim to be disciples of Jesus. According to Jesus, who are his disciples?
Jesus said his disciples hold onto his teachings. This doesn’t mean we pick which teachings we want to hold onto and disregard the ones we don’t. His disciples believe that all that our Lord says to us is sacred. His disciples want to gladly hear all his teachings, believe them, and obey them.

2 – How do Jesus teachings set us free?
Without the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we would be left to try to earn God’s favor by keeping his commandments. We couldn’t do this because God requires his commands be kept perfectly. Our sinful nature prevents us from doing this. Without Jesus we would be condemned for our sins and would have to suffer the eternal punishment God requires for our guilt. But Jesus fulfilled the Law for us and paid the penalty our sins earned us. God now declares us to be not guilty of our sins for Jesus sake. Jesus truly has set us free.

3 – What did the Jews mean in verse 41 when they said “We were not born of sexual immorality?
Mary, the mother of Jesus was found to be pregnant before she was joined in marriage with Joseph. This happened because the Christ child was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit. Many did not believe this miracle. They assumed Mary became pregnant due to sexual relations outside of marriage. They denied the clear promises of Scripture that the virgin woman would conceive and give birth to a son (Isaiah 7:14)

4 – What was the difference between the children of Abraham the Jews claimed to be and the true children of Abraham Jesus spoke of?
The Jews were physical descendants of Abraham. Jesus spoke of spiritual descendants. True children of Abraham share the same faith as Abraham.

If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to