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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.45am Service, 2009-03-22

Text: John 8:37-47

The title of this message may sound like a question from a paternity suit. Determining who the father of a child is can be done quite easily today without great expense because of the availability of DNA testing. DNA is the genetic fingerprint found in every cell of one's body. It therefore settles the matter of paternity once and for all and is accepted as conclusive evidence in any court of law. 

But in days of yore, before such scientific tests ever existed, it was not easy to determine who the biological father of a child was, whenever such questions arose. People could only rely on similarities in a person's appearance. And so, if a child bore a strong resemblance to a certain man, that man may soon find himself entangled in a paternity suit! But external resemblance is not a reliable indicator of paternity, because many people look almost exactly like someone they are totally unrelated to. 

During my army days many years ago, I had a platoon mate who was the spitting image of Minister Mentor Lee, except that he was a lot younger. Everywhere he went, heads would turn to look at him and I could tell that he had grown accustomed to it and enjoyed it. But the moment he opened his mouth and spoke, all resemblance was gone - his broken English spoken with a strong Hokkien accent, removed any remote possibility that he might be a very important son.

While resemblance may not be a good indicator of physical paternity, it is actually a reliable indicator of spiritual paternity. When a person becomes a child of God, he will soon begin to manifest traits in his conduct and character that make him resemble his heavenly Father. Therefore if someone claims to be a child of God but he bears no resemblance to his heavenly Father, his claim is not true. Who, then, is his father? This is a question that we need to consider for ourselves, as the consequences of having the wrong father are quite devastating.

This morning we are going to study a passage of Scripture that teaches how to determine one's spiritual paternity. In our previous sermon on John's Gospel we had seen that Jesus was speaking to the crowds at Jerusalem at the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. But as He spoke to them a group of Jews began to oppose him and debate with Him. They were the Pharisees who were looking for an opportunity to accuse Him, arrest Him and kill Him (7:1,25). Therefore when Jesus said in v.32, 'And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,' they retorted, 'We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?' (v.33) 

I. Is Abraham Your Father? (vv.37-40)

Please take note of the reason that was given by them, why they did not need the freedom Jesus offered to sinners: It was the fact that they were Abraham's descendants. This is the first time that Abraham's name appears in John's Gospel, and after this it appears 10 more times, and all within this chapter. Since the Jews were so proud of being Abraham's descendants our Lord used this very fact to show them that they were not as free as they had imagined. Let us see how He did this: In v.37 Jesus said, 'I know that ye are Abraham's seed' There is no question about the physical paternity of these Jews. Jesus did not dispute that. But look at what He added: 'but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.'

Here Jesus raised a very valid point: What the Jews claimed to be and what they were doing to Him did not match at all. He develops this point further in vv.39 and 40 when the Jews kept insisting that Abraham was their father. Jesus said to 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.' In other words, they did not bear any resemblance to their father. They were totally unlike Abraham. What would Abraham have done if He had met Jesus Christ? Well actually the question should be rephrased, 'What did Abraham do when He met Jesus Christ?' because Jesus said in v.40, 'This did not Abraham.'

This implies that Abraham did meet the Lord Jesus even though he lived about 2,000 years before Him. To find out when this happened, please turn to Genesis 18. The first 3 verses reads: 'And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.'

This was the beginning of an interesting encounter that Abraham had with 3 heavenly visitors who were passing by his home. Thinking that they might be weary and hungry travellers he went out to them and offered hospitality and refreshments. They accepted his offer. As they were enjoying their meal, one of them informed Abraham that Abraham's wife, Sarah, would soon bear him a son (v.10). Sarah overheard this and laughed to herself, because she was already 90 years old (v.12). The visitor immediately asked Abraham why Sarah had laughed to herself and had doubted that she could bear a child (vv.13,14). 

Through all this, Abraham realised that this visitor was no ordinary person but was God in human form. Later on, the other two visitors went down to Sodom and Gomorrah, and we find out later that they were actually angels. But the Lord remained with Abraham (v.22). And when He told Abraham that He was going to judge the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins (vv,20,21), Abraham, who had a nephew living in Sodom, pleaded that the city would be spared from destruction if there were some righteous people dwelling in it (v.23). The way that Abraham pleaded with the Lord here is most revealing. It was filled with faith in the Lord's righteousness as the Judge of all the earth (v.25). It was also filled with deep humility (v.27) for Abraham knew that he was standing in the very presence of God.

I would like to submit to you now that the One whom Abraham met and pleaded with here in Genesis 18 was none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. Long before Christ was born into this world, He had already appeared on earth at various times. These pre-incarnate appearances of Christ are known as 'Christophanies'. This then, is what Jesus meant when He said to the Jews in John 8:39,40 '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.' (i.e. 'Abraham did not do this to Me.')

What did Abraham do? He treated Jesus with great hospitality. These Jews treated Him with great hostility. Abraham received the truth from Jesus with faith. These Jews rejected His truth with unbelief. Abraham pleaded with Jesus to spare the righteous when judging the wicked. These Jews judged Jesus unrighteously and sought to kill Him. Can you see that the works of these Jews were clearly not the works of Abraham? How then could they claim Abraham as their father? Abraham would be ashamed to call them his children!

But what about us? Would Abraham be ashamed to call us his children? Do you know that all of us who are saved through faith in Christ are actually children of Abraham even though we are not his descendants? Romans 4:16 makes this clear ('Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all.') 

Now please consider this: If Abraham is your spiritual father, then you ought to bear his resemblance. And this resemblance is to be found in your treatment of the Lord Jesus Christ. According to Genesis 18, when the Lord came to Abraham's home, Abraham gladly welcomed Him and treated Him as his honoured guest, giving Him only the best of everything he had. Compare this now with what you have given to the Lord Jesus, since the day He came to dwell in your heart. Have you given Him the very best of all that you have, or have you given Him the 'odds and ends', the left-overs of your time, talents and treasures? Have you treated Him as your honoured guest?

Besides that, when the Lord gave His word of promise to Abraham, Abraham trusted fully in it. And he saw the wonderful results of doing this - He was blessed with a son called Isaac in his old age. Are you like Abraham? Do you bear his resemblance? Do you trust fully in the words of promise that Jesus speaks to you when you hear or read His Word? Or do you doubt His Word and worry that your trials will surely overwhelm you? 

And here is one more point of resemblance for you to consider: When the Lord revealed to Abraham that judgment was about to descend upon the wicked, Abraham spent time communing with Jesus to plead for the salvation of his loved ones. How much time do you spend communing with the Lord in prayer to plead for the salvation of your unsaved loved ones, when you know that God's judgment is coming? How burdened are you for them to be spared from the wrath to come?

Please try to answer these questions honestly before the Lord. They will help you to evaluate how much resemblance you bear to your spiritual father, Abraham. And this, in turn, will help you to see how much resemblance you bear to your Heavenly Father who is God Himself. This brings us to the next part of our passage, where we see the Jews claiming that God was their Father.

II. Is God Your Father? (vv.41-43)

John 8:41 'Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.' This claim may seem to be a lot easier to make than the previous one, since all men are created in the image of God and bear His likeness. So everyone can surely claim God as their father, can they not? This idea that God is the Father of all mankind has become very popular today. It is called 'Universalism.' Universalists believe that all Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists should regard each other as God's children and as brothers in one universal brotherhood. They also promote the notion that there is no need for us to spread the Gospel and win souls to Christ, since every religion ultimately leads men to God.

If anyone here has been following this kind of thinking, God wants you to know that it does not come from Him. It denies the fact that sin has estranged man from God and only those who are reconciled with God through Christ can be called God's children. Therefore Universalism is a man-made doctrine that has no biblical basis. And it is also a very dangerous doctrine that has given countless souls a false security and sent them to die eternally in hell. Many have been misled into believing that God is their Father when He is really not their Father. And such were the Jews in our passage who claimed rather boldly in v.41: 'We have one Father, even God.'

There is one criterion that must be met for anyone to claim that God is their Father. It is spelled out in v.42 where Jesus said, 'If God were your Father, ye would love me.' This means that all who have God as their Father will love the Lord Jesus. They will have warm feelings for Him. They will be attracted to Him and seek to follow Him. They will find their greatest delight in being with Him, in walking with Him and in hearing His sweet voice. And they will testify to all, 'Yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend.' (Song of Solomon 5:16). 

The question that everyone has to answer is: Do you love the Lord Jesus? Everything depends on whether you love Him or not. God's Word makes it clear that only those who have known the Lord Jesus, received Him as their Saviour, and loved Him as their Lord and Master can truly call God their Father. But if you say that you love Jesus, how much do you truly love Him? One way that you can tell is through your attitude to His Word. If you love Jesus you will say of His Word, 'It is the voice of my Beloved!' (Song of Solomon 5:2) You will cling to every word that you read from His Book. You will meditate on everything that He says to you from its pages and store them in your heart. And you will do whatever He tells you to do.

But if you do not love the Lord Jesus, then the very opposite would be true of you. You would have no appetite for His Word. It sounds just like a foreign language to you. You cannot understand it, neither can you respond to it. And this means that you do not belong to God's family. You are not one of His children. Jesus said this of the Jews in v.43 'Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.' In verse 47 He said, 'He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.' Later on, in John 10:26,27, Jesus said to these Jews, 'ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.'

And so dear friends, please answer the question that Jesus asks you today: 'Do you love me? Do you hear my voice?' If you examine yourself and come to the conclusion that you do not really love the Lord Jesus, please don't give yourself any rest. You must do something about your spiritual state, because if your lack of love for Jesus comes together with a tendency to commit sin habitually, it may mean that your spiritual father is the one mentioned in v.44.

III. Is the Devil Your Father? (vv.44-47)

'Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do...' Here is one spiritual paternity that I am sure no one would ever claim, for no one in his right mind would want to have the Devil as his father. And therefore I don't think any of us would take kindly to someone saying, 'Your father is the Devil.' It is certainly a terrible thing to say to anyone and is bound to evoke a strong reaction. But in the case of the Jews that Jesus spoke to in our passage, it was absolutely needful and necessary for Him to say it, because it was true. And we are confident that Jesus would have said it with their best interests at heart because He came to save the lost.

Sometimes the truth which must be revealed for a person's own good is a truth that hurts. Withholding it from him would only make things worse. A mistaken paternity is one such a truth. According to one website, worldwide studies based on genetic screening have shown that the rate of mistaken paternity is about 2-3 %. This means that 1 out of every 40 children in the world are actually mistaken about who their real father is. Now, some may think that ignorance is bliss for such matters. But this holds true only when there are no medical implications. If a child's real father has a genetic disease that the child may inherit, the consequences of being mistaken about one's paternity can be fatal.

The same thing is true of being mistaken of one's spiritual paternity, except that the end result is much worse - eternal death. And therefore it is of utmost importance that we should not be mistaken about our spiritual paternity. We must not be afraid to face the truth, even if it hurts. 

So let us carefully consider the question, 'Who is your father?' If God is your Father you can be very thankful. But if the Devil is your father, your soul is in the greatest of all dangers. But how can you tell if the Devil is your spiritual father? The answer is given at the beginning of v.41 where Jesus said to the Jews 'Ye do the deeds of your father.' The key is to look for signs of resemblance in character and conduct. The more resemblance that one bears to the Devil and his deeds, the greater the likelihood of his paternity. Let us look at how Jesus described the Devil and his deeds in v.44 '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.'

There are two things about the Devil that are mentioned here: The first is that he is a murderer. Someone may say, 'Well, that leaves me out - I am not a murderer!' But we must look at who Jesus was applying this to - it was not to a group of murderers, but to those who were seeking to kill Him. It was the evil attitudes and intents of their hearts that made them resemble their spiritual father. Jesus also mentioned this in His Sermon on the Mount: 'Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.' (Matthew 5:21-22)

This ought to make us very concerned, especially if we have been harbouring an intense anger or dislike for anyone, or if there is hatred simmering in our hearts against someone and we cannot bring ourselves to forgive him. If such feelings persist for long, we must beware, for they give us a strong resemblance to the father of all murderers.

The other thing that Jesus mentioned about the Devil in v.44 is that he is a liar. He deliberately deceives people and leads them away from the truth. His word cannot be trusted. He masquerades as an angel of light. He uses every means at his disposal to make men believe a lie. 

And signs of his spiritual paternity are found everywhere, for this world is filled with dishonesty, cheating, fraud, pretence, hypocrisy and lack of integrity. But if any of these things are found in our lives without ceasing, we must beware, for they give us a strong resemblance to the father of all liars.

There are other characteristics of Satan besides the 2 that are mentioned in v.44, such as his pride, rebellion, and covetousness. These are all included under the phrase 'the lusts of your father' at the beginning of the verse. But the point we need to emphasise is this: When our lives persistently exhibit the deeds or lusts of the Devil we have strong reason to suspect that he is our real father. And this suspicion is confirmed when we also bear no resemblance to Abraham, and have no love for the Lord Jesus Christ. 

So what should you do, if you are convinced that you are a child of the Devil? Is there a way to get rid of his awful paternity and influence in your life? Yes, there is: It is found in the words of Jesus in John 3:7, 'Ye must be born again.' God is the only One who can change you from being a child of the Devil to being a child of God. This is revealed in John 1:12,13 'But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.'

And what should you do if this message has helped to confirm in your heart that you are not a child of the Devil but a child of God? Be very thankful, and make sure that you continue to bear the marks of resemblance to your heavenly Father in your life. Ephesians 5:1-2 tells us, 'Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.'

Vision & Mission


To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

January 21 & 28 - The Power of Prayer

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16