Matthew Poole's Commentary
Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.John 8:1-11 Christ letteth go uncondemned the woman taken in adultery.
John 8:12-30 He declareth himself to be the light of the world,
and justifieth his doctrine against the Pharisees.
John 8:31-32 He promises freedom through knowledge of the truth
to those Jews who believed on him,
John 8:33-47 confutes their vain boast of being Abraham’s seed,
and the children of God,
John 8:48-58 answereth their reviling by showing his authority and
John 8:59 and by miracle rescueth himself from their attempts
to stone him.
A mountain within less than two miles of Jerusalem, whether our Saviour, when he was at Jerusalem, was wont often to withdraw, for privacy and devotion, Matthew 24:3 26:30 Luke 21:37 22:39.
And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.So at our Lord’s last passover Luke notes, Luke 21:38, that all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, to hear him. Our Saviour’s early going into the temple to teach, and the people’s diligence in coming so early to him to hear, ought to check our slothfulness in sacred business. Multitudes of people came to him; for so the universal particle all must be expounded in a multitude of Scriptures.
He, after the manner of the Jewish teachers, sat down, and taught them. Of this custom of theirs, for their doctors, while they taught, to sit down, we have had occasion to speak before.
And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,There were (as they say) three sorts of scribes amongst the Jews. The first were secretaries to princes and great men; so Sheva was scribe to David, 2 Samuel 20:25. A second sort were such as we call scriveners, or public notaries, who made instruments for people, and were employed in their more private bargains and contracts. Neither of these seem to have been of authority enough to have done this act; and besides, the Pharisees being joined with them makes it evident, that these scribes were those who expounded the law in the temple and in the synagogues, and are therefore called lawyers. They are often joined with the Pharisees in our Saviour’s discourses, Matthew 23:13-15, &c. And we find them often joining with them in their discourses and actions, tending to entrap our Saviour: such was their design at this time.
They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.They bring to our Saviour a woman taken in the act of adultery, and set her before him.
Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?Moses in the law, Leviticus 20:10, commanded that such malefactors should be put to death; but we read of no law commanding this kind of death. And their rule was, that when the law had set no kind of death for an offence, there the mildest kind of death was to be their punishment, which they counted strangling to be. But they ordinarily entitled Moses to their traditional additions to the law; and death being commanded by the law, as the punishment of such offenders, they took themselves to be at liberty to determine the kind of death, as prudence and reason of state ruled them; so as, probably, they, seeing that that sin grew very frequent amongst them, appointed stoning to be the kind of death such malefactors should be put to. The manner of which we are told was this: The guilty person was to be carried up to some high place, and thrown down from thence headlong by such as witnessed against him; then they threw stones at him till they had killed him, if not killed by the fall; or covered him, if he were dead. This they tell our Saviour Moses commanded, because he had commanded in the general, that such a person should die, and their sanhedrim had determined this particular death to such malefactors. But they would know what our Saviour said to this.
This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.Their design was from his answer to take some colourable pretence to accuse, and either to discredit him with the people, or to expose him to the displeasure of the superior powers. If he had directed to send her to be punished by the Roman governors, who administered justice in capital causes, the people would be fired with indignation; for they looked upon them as invaders of the rights of government that belonged to the Israelites. If he had advised them to put her to death by their own power, they would have accused him of sedition, as an enemy of the Roman authority. If he had dismissed her as not worthy of death, they would have accused him to the sanhedrim, as an infringer of the law of Moses, as a favourer of dissoluteness, an enemy to civil society, and worthy of universal hatred. This malicious design, so craftily concerted, our Saviour easily discovered and defeated; whereas they thought it would require his most attentive consideration to extricate himself from the snare. He seemed not at all to attend to what they said, but, stooping down, wrote on the ground: what he wrote, or how he could write upon the floor of the temple, (which was of stone), are very idle questions; the first not possible to be resolved, the second impertinent; for it is not said, that he made any impression upon the ground, though it be said, he wrote upon it. It appeareth plainly to have been but a divertive action, by which our Saviour signified that he gave no ear to them.
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.They will not let our Saviour alone, but importune him for an answer. He saith,
He that is without sin, let him first cast a stone at her. The law of God was, Deu 17:7, that in the execution of malefactors, The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death. In reason those who are zealous for the punishment of others, should neither be guilty of the same, nor of greater crimes, themselves. By this saying of our Saviour, we must not understand it the will of God, that those who are magistrates, and employed in executing the Lord’s vengeance on malefactors, should themselves be free from all guilt, for then no justice should be done. The vengeance is God’s, not theirs; it is the law of God which they execute. He only by this minds them of that compassion which ought to be found in persons prosecuting others justly, that they may execute judgment with compassion and tenderness, and such moderation as the law will allow them, considering that they are not free from guilt, but as obnoxious to the justice of God for other sins, as those poor creatures whom God hath suffered to fall into sins punishable by human judges.
And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.When our Saviour had said this, he returneth to his former posture and action, (it being not a thing wherein he was concerned, who was not sent into the world to be a secular judge), as not at all regarding them.
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.This was an age of very great corruption as to men’s lives and manners, as well as to doctrine, and corruption of worship; and as other enormities of life were very common and ordinary amongst them, so it is very probable were adulteries, and that their rulers and teachers were not without great guilt. Now, see the power of conscience, when set on work by God; these accusers’ consciences were to them as a thousand witnesses; they were reproved and convicted by them, and not able to stand under the reflections of them, or to say any thing in answer to what our Saviour had said: they went away one after another; and possibly it is particularly noted that they began
at the eldest, because the consciences of the eldest of them charged them more deeply for more and greater sins. Jesus was left not wholly alone, for the next words tell us, that the woman was still left standing in the midst; and no doubt but his apostles were there, for they constantly attended him; and no doubt divers others were also there: but the meaning is, that he was by this means quit of the scribes’ and Pharisees’ company, who were gone out of shame, being thus convicted by their own consciences, which told them, that whatsoever this woman was, they were no fit accusers.
When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?The close of the former verse told us, that though the scribes and Pharisees were gone, yet the woman was left in the midst, expecting Christ’s sentence. Christ knew well enough that the scribes and Pharisees, this poor woman’s accusers, were gone; but yet he acts warily, and calls for her accusers, and asks if no man had condemned her? Thereby intimating, that the law against adultery was a just law; and if the crime were proved against her, she deserved to die; but she must first be convicted, and condemned. He asks her, If she were condemned? For then he had nothing to say.
She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.She tells him, None had. He replies, Neither did he. He did not acquit her, for he was not to make void the law of God; nor did he condemn her: he was neither a witness in the case, nor yet a secular judge, to whom such judgments did belong; he was only to speak to her, as the Mediator and Saviour of man.
Go, I discharge thee, as being coram non judice, before one who in my present capacity am no judge to hear this cause, and to give sentence in it.
Sin no more; whatever becometh of thee as to man’s judgment, thou hast reason to fear the greater judgment of God, if thou goest on in a course of sin. Nor doth he say, Commit adultery no more; but, sin no more. No partial repentance or sorrow for any particular sin will suffice a penitent that hopes for any mercy from God; but a leaving off all sin, of what kind soever it be.
Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.I am the light of the world; this is what John the Baptist had said of Christ before, John 1:4,5, and what Christ saith of himself afterward, John 9:5. It was prophesied of him, that he should be a light to the Gentiles, and God’s salvation to the ends of the earth, Isaiah 46:6. And old Simeon saith of him, Luke 2:32, that he was to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel. Light is a thing glorious in itself, and communicative of itself unto others to guide them. So as Christ is most aptly compared to light, and spoken of under that notion; as for his own innate glory, so for the communicativeness of himself to creatures; which latter appeareth to be chiefly here intended: for he saith, that he who followed him, believing his doctrine, and obeying his precepts, living according to his direction and his example, should not be at a loss how to guide himself, nor remain in the darkness of sin, ignorance, and spiritual death; but should have that light which bringeth life along with it, and is sufficient to guide a man in all the works of a spiritual life, and at last bring him to life eternal.
The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.It was a known rule of law, that none ought to be believed upon a testimony given to himself: this is that they object to our Saviour, that though he spake great things of himself, yet he was not to be believed in his own cause.
Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.There is a seeming difficulty to reconcile the words of our Saviour, John 5:31, If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true, and his assertion here,
Though I bear record of myself, my record is true: but the resolution of it is clear by considering that he speaks in the former chapter of his own single testimony with respect to them, as not of sufficient validity to authorize his Divine vocation, according to the rule of their law, that required a double testimony for confirmation of things; but here he speaks of the verity of it in itself.
For I know whence I came, and whither I go; that is, I know from whom I have received my commission, (though secret to the world), even from the Father: and yet, after the accomplishing of my embassy for his honour, I shall return to heaven, and be glorified with the glory I had with him before the world was, John 17:5. The reason alleged implies his being the Son of God; and his Father’s entire approbation of his office, and fidelity in the discharge of it; and the concurrent testimony of the Father with him: therefore his record was authentic and true. But they did not believe his mission from heaven, nor that he was to ascend thither, and accordingly did not value his testimony.
Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.According to my outward appearance to you, so you judge of me; or, according to your own passions, and corrupt affections. I judge no man in that manner; or, I judge no man alone, as it followeth in the next verse.
And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.My testimony is not to be looked upon as a single testimony for myself; though I do judge, yet my judgment is true; for no act of mine is a single act: I and my Father are one; and what I do, my Father also doth, that sent me into the world as his ambassador. So as if the judgment of God be true, which you all own, grant, and acknowledge; then my judgment is true, because it is not mine only, but the judgment also of that God, whom you own, acknowledge, and worship, and who sent me into the world.
It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.It is written, Deu 17:6 19:15. God so ordered it by his Divine law, that every thing should be established by the testimony of two witnesses.
I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me.I (saith our Saviour) have two witnesses; I am one, I bear witness of myself; my Father is another, for he beareth witness of me. Our Saviour’s argumentation seemeth weak, unless we look upon him as exempt from the condition of ordinary men, and no mere man, by reason of the personal union of the Divine and human nature in his person. Nor must our Saviour be understood here to distinguish himself from his Father, in respect of his Divine being, for so he and his Father are one; but in respect of his office, as he was sent, and his Father was he who sent him. And indeed in the whole he seemeth to accommodate himself to the people’s apprehensions of him.
Then said they unto him, Where is thy Father? Jesus answered, Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.Thou talkest much of thy Father, where is he? We know no father which thou hast but the carpenter, Joseph; we do not look upon him as so credible a witness in the case, as to take his testimony in such a matter as this is. Christ tells them, that the reason why they did not know the Father, was because they did not know and acknowledge, receive and believe him; for if they had received and believed him, they would not then have been at such a loss to have known where his Father was, or who he was. The eternal Father is not to be known but in, and by, and through the Son.
These words spake Jesus in the treasury, as he taught in the temple: and no man laid hands on him; for his hour was not yet come.The treasury was a public place in the temple; concerning which, See Poole on "Matthew 27:6", See Poole on "Mark 12:41", See Poole on "Mark 12:43" and See Poole on "Luke 21:1". Christ taught sometimes in one part of the temple, sometimes in another: but that no man should lay hold on him, considering the search made for him in the beginning of the feast, and their sending messengers to take him, as we read John 7:32, and the affront he had given to the scribes and Pharisees, of which we read in the beginning of this chapter, was very miraculous; nor can any account be given of it besides what is here given, viz. that his
hour was not yet come; which was the reason we heard given before in the same case, John 7:30. Men shall be able to do nothing against Christ, or any that belong unto him, till the time cometh that God hath set in his wise and eternal thoughts.
Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come.The greatest part of what is said here, was said by our Saviour before, John 7:34; (see the explication of it there); only here, instead of ye shall not find me, is,
ye shall die in your sins; a phrase we shall find in Ezekiel 3:18,19, which doubtless signifieth, in the guilt of your sins, not removed from you; and is a threatening of eternal death, as well as temporal in the destruction of Jerusalem: and those who do so, cannot come into heaven, where Christ is.
Then said the Jews, Will he kill himself? because he saith, Whither I go, ye cannot come.Before they guessed that he would go to the dispersed amongst the Gentiles, John 7:35. Now they fancy that he would kill himself; or else speak this in mockery.
And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.Ye are not only of an earthly extraction, creatures of the earth, not descended from heaven, as I am; but also of earthly spirits and principles; you savour nothing that is sublime and spiritual, and therefore you do not understand me. I tell you,
I am not of this world; my original is not from it, nor am I to determine my being in it. I shall die, but I shall rise again from the dead, and ascend into heaven, where you cannot come. Still our Saviour asserts his Divine nature; and the stress of all, he saith, lieth there; their unbelief of which was the cause of all their disputings and errors. He had given them the greatest evidence of it imaginable in the works which he had done in their sight, which were not only above the power of nature, but such as God had never authorized, or enabled any creature to do; yet they, being destitute of supernatural grace, did not believe in him. And they were inexcusable, because that grace was denied them for their wilful corruption and wickedness, which they might have avoided by the use of that common grace which was not denied them.
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.In the Greek it is only, if ye believe not that I am. Some refer this to Christ’s Divine nature; (I am, is the name of God, Exodus 3:14); but others rather think that Christ here speaketh of himself as the Messiah and Mediator, and so the object of people’s faith; and he out of whom there is no salvation: the latter indeed includes the former; for cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, Jeremiah 17:5. The text plainly holds forth an impossibility of salvation for those who, under the revelations of the gospel, receive not and believe not in Christ as Mediator.
Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.What good Christian will not learn to contemn the slights and reproaches of sinful men, when he readeth of a company of miscreants thus using their Lord and Master, saying to him,
Who art thou? It is no wonder if the world, which knew him not, doth not know us. The latter part of the verse, as it lies in the Greek, is exceedingly difficult; word for word it is, The beginning, because also I speak unto you. Some think that our Saviour calleth himself
The beginning. Others think the noun is in this place put for an adverb: of which we have many instances in Scripture, though none as to this noun. But I shall leave those who desire satisfaction as to what is said by critics about this verse, to what Mr. Pool hath collected in his Synopsis Criticorum, and only consider it as our interpreters understood it; in which form it seemeth to be a mere slighting of them, as much as if he had said, I have often enough, even from the beginning, told you who I am; I can say no more to you upon that head than I have said. I am the same, and no other, than I at first told you I was.
I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.Judging is not put here for judicial condemnation; but for reproving and accusing, which is one part of judging. You accuse and reprove me; I have many things of which I could also accuse and convince you; but let me say what I will, you will not believe me. But you will not escape the judgment of my Father, who is true, he will judge you. I speak unto men nothing but what it is his will that I should declare to them.
They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.The Jews (as we are told) used to call God The Father, in a way of eminency: they understood that he spake to them of his Father; but they would not understand when he spake to them of his Father, or the Father, he meant God the Father of all; their minds were blinded, that they could not see, and their hearts hardened, that they could not understand.
Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.It is your unhappiness, that while I am alive, and preaching the gospel to you, inviting you to repentance, and faith in me, as the true Messiah, you will not believe me to be indeed what I am; but you shall lift me up upon the cross, (for that is meant by lifting up, as John 3:14 12:32), and when that time cometh, you shall know that I am the light of the world, as John 8:12; for after that, the gospel began to be preached to all nations: or, that I am the true Messiah, he whom the Father hath sent into the world. Some of you shall then know it by those signs and wonders that shall attend my death and resurrection, and to your shame and confusion: others of you shall know it to your eternal joy and salvation; believing on me then, whom you will not now acknowledge; and that what I have done, I have only done by commission from my Father, not of myself; and that what I have taught, I have had in commission from my Father to teach.
And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.I have the presence of God with me, as I am Mediator; the Father hath not sent me into the world to do his will, and left me alone without his presence; for I do his will; I drive no separate design from my Father, but always do those things which please him. From whence all faithful ministers and Christians may learn how to conclude of God’s presence with them, which they can no longer promise to themselves, than they speak and do those things that please him.
As he spake these words, many believed on him.Believing on him is not here to be understood strictly of saving faith; but rather, of some preparations toward it: they began to believe that he was the true Messias, and to have more honourable thoughts than they had of him: that this was all, will appear from what we find in the following verses; and believing often signifieth no more in the New Testament than a light assent given to some propositions of the gospel relating to Christ.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;Believed on him, in the sense before expressed. Our Saviour well enough saw their hearts, and in what manner they believed, and what sort of disciples they were, viz. only nominal: they have the name of disciples who come after Christ to hear him; but they are his disciples indeed, who make his doctrine the rule of their lives. He therefore tells them, That not a mere saying to him Lord, Lord, and yielding some light assent to some propositions of truth in the gospel, would make them his disciples in truth and reality, without an abiding and continuance in the words which he taught them.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.And ye shall know the truth; that is, you shall more fully and clearly know the truth; by which may be either understood Christ, who styles himself, The way, the truth, and the life; or those propositions of truth which Christ hath revealed. There must be some knowledge of truth in a soul before it can believe; for how shall they believe (saith the apostle) in him of whom they have not heard? but a fuller and clearer knowledge of the truth is got by degrees, by those who studiously seek after it, and walk close with God.
And the truth shall make you free: it appears by John 8:36, that by the truth he means himself; there he saith, If the Son make you free: and indeed, though the knowledge of the proposition of truth gives men some liberty from the bondage of ignorance and some lusts, yet it is only the saving knowledge of Christ which brings men into a perfect liberty from the law, the rigour, curse, and terror of it, and from the dominion of sin and corruption.
They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?How carnally doth a carnal heart understand spiritual mysteries! Thus Nicodemus, hearing of being born again, grossly dreamed of entering into his mother’s womb, and being born again. The woman of Samaria, hearing of living water, dreamed of water that should so satisfy her thirst, as that she should never come again to the well to draw. The Jews here hearing of being made free, dream of a freedom from human bondage and slavery. To what our Saviour had said, that if they knew the truth, the truth should make them free; they reply,
We are Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any. Admitting that they were Abraham’s seed, that is, Jews, were not the Jews in bondage, first to Pharaoh, king of Egypt; then to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon? They were now in bondage to the Romans. They must either understand it of their own persons, though they were tributaries they were no slaves; or else concerning their right, they had a right to liberty though they were under an extrinsic servitude to their conquerors. This made them angry, that Christ should speak of their being
made free; for those that are free are not in a capacity to be made free. The Jews were a people very tenacious of their liberty, and gloried much in the right they had to it.
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.Our Saviour here correcteth their mistake, letting them know, that he was not speaking about any corporal, but spiritual servitude; not of the freedom of men’s bodies from the power of enemies, but of the freedom of men’s souls from the slavery and dominion of lusts and corruptions. He that doth sin (saith he) is the servant of sin. The committing or doing of sin here intended, is not to be understood of single acts of sin, for in that sense who lives and sinneth not? (the righteous man sinning seven times in a day); so as all men would be concluded the servants of sin; but of living indulgently and habitually in a course of sin, and in the practice of gross sins; in which sense workers of iniquity is to be taken, Matthew 7:23; and this very phrase, 1Jo 3:4. And indeed, the very heathen could see, that there was no such slavery as a servitude to lusts and passions: men are the servants of corruption, 2 Peter 2:19; under the dominion of sin, Romans 6:20.
And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.The servant of sin abideth not in the church (which is the house of God) for ever. Look as it is with slaves, and servants; they are no fixed members of families; they may be turned out, they may be sold over to others; they abide in families according as in them they behave themselves: so you, who, as you are Abraham’s seed, as you boast and glory, are now servants in the church of God; yet if you continue to be servants of sin, you shall not for ever abide in God’s house; if you be not cast out of the church militant, you shall certainly be cast out of the church triumphant; that is, you shall never come there.
But the Son; some think he speaks of himself who was the eternal Son of God, he
abideth ever; but I rather think he speaks of him that is a son by adoption, John 1:12 Romans 8:15,16. So as this text showeth us the remarkable difference betwixt a nominal professor, and one who is a true believer: the one is but as a servant in God’s house, to whom belongeth no inheritance; though while he is in the family, he enjoys some common privileges which a mere stranger hath no right to: the other is a son, and hath a right to the inheritance, and so shall never be cast out of the family, but abideth in it for ever.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.If that term the Son in this verse be the same with the Son mentioned in the former verse, they must both be understood of Christ: for it is most certain, that here the Son can signify no more than Christ, to whom alone it belongeth to make souls free from the slavery of the law, sin, death, hell, &c. Now, saith our Saviour, this is the true freedom. Alas! What is the freedom you boast of and glory in? It is not the freedom of your inward man, if you were in the fullest actual possession of it; many a one in that sense free, hath a base, servile, slavish mind, and is a servant to corruption and lusts. It is only the freedom which I give unto souls, that is a true and perfect liberty, and is alone worthy the name of it.
I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.According to the flesh you are descended from Abraham, that I know; but of what advantage is or can this be to you, while in the mean time you are implacable enemies to me, and seek to murder me, who am not only an innocent person, but am the Lord of life, and came to save the world? And the root of this is your unbelief: did you receive and believe the word that I have spoken to you, you would do otherwise; but although the sound of my word pierceth your ears, and then you receive a little of it, yet it passeth not into your hearts, it hath no place within you; you do not believe it, you are not affected with it, it doth not dwell in you as it ought to do, so that you are not turned into the likeness and obedience of it. Men may be professors and members of the church of God, in whom yet the word of God hath no rooting, and findeth no true place; so as that their condition may be sad enough.
I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.My Father is God; I declare unto you his mind and will; no uncertain things, but what I have seen with him, that is, what I certainly know to be his will. You declare by your actions who is your father; and as I do my Father’s will, and what he teacheth me to do, so you do the works which the devil, who is your father, John 8:44, prompts you to do.
They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham.Abraham is our Father; this was their continual boast, as may be learned from Matthew 3:9; glorying in their birth privilege, Abraham being the father of the whole Jewish nation; and in their church privilege, Abraham being the head of the Jewish church, and he to whom the promises were made. But Christ taketh them off this glorying, by reminding them, that the blood of Abraham running in their veins would be of little significance to them, so long as they did not walk in Abraham’s steps. Men are truly to be accounted the children of those, not from whom they are naturally descended, but whose steps they walk in, and whom they imitate in their conversations.
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.You declare by your actions that you are very far from the spirit and temper of Abraham: I am one who, being sent of God, whom you own as your Father, have faithfully revealed the will of God to you, and have never told you any thing but the truth; and this is all my crime, for which you seek to murder me: this was none of your father Abraham’s practice; so as though you have something of Abraham’s blood, yet you have nothing of Abraham’s spirit in you.
Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.Ye do the deeds of your father; you imitate him who is indeed your father; by whom our Saviour (as we shall hear more afterwards) meaneth the devil. This they fume at, and tell him they were not
born of fornication, which is, in our English dialect, as much as, We are no bastards; but it hath another sense in this place, as appeareth by the next words.
We have one Father, even God; that is, we own and worship one God, who is our Father; which makes very good interpreters think, that their meaning in those words, We are not born of fornication, is, We are no idolaters; idolatry in holy writ being very ordinarily compared to whoredom and fornication.
Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.This agreeth with what we have 1Jo 5:1, Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him. But here our Saviour rather seemeth to speak of his proceeding forth and coming from God, as sent into the world to fulfil the will of God as to the redemption of man, than of his proceeding from his Father by eternal generation. It is true, that he who loves the father will also love the child, so far forth as he resembles his father, and acts like unto him; and it is as true, that he who loveth him that sends a messenger will also love the messenger, executing the commission of him that sent him.
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.It is manifest all along this discourse, that Christ spake riddles to the Jews, and that they understood not the import and sense of his discourse: Now (saith our Saviour) the reason is,
because ye cannot hear, that is, believe, my word: they could and did hear it with their ears; they heard the sound of it, but they could not discern the spiritual sense and meaning of it: it was not given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, Matthew 13:11. And the reason was, because they suffered themselves to be blinded by prejudice, and by their own lusts and corrupt affections, till God gave them up to a judicial blindness, that hearing they heard, and did not understand; and seeing they saw, and did not perceive.
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. 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.Our Saviour now plainly tells them what he meant by their
father, mentioned John 8:38; viz. the devil, whose children though they were not by natural traduction, yet they were by imitation, wilfully doing the things which the devil would have them do. He instances in two of these lusts: 1. Murder. He saith, The devil from the beginning of the world had a mind and design against the sons of men; and he ever since (as the apostle tells us, 1 Peter 5:9) hath gone about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. And in this they were his true children, using all arts imaginable to destroy him whom God had sent into the world for man’s salvation. In another thing also they were the true and genuine children of the devil; the devil had no truth in him, nor did he abide in the truth. God indeed created the angels (who afterward fell) in a state of rectitude, without unrighteousness; but they did not keep their first station. So, neither did they love the truth, nor abide in it, but were wholly false and liars, and could not abide the truth.
And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not.Such is your hatred to the truth, that you hate me for no other reason but because I reveal my Father’s will (which is the truth) to you; than which nothing can evidence a greater hatred to truth, nor conformity and likeness to the devil. There cannot be a greater evidence of any one’s hatred of the truth, than the hatred of those who tell them the truth, and for this very reason, because they do so.
Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?If any of you can prove that I have spoken to you any thing that is false, and not consonant to the will of my Father, do it; but which of you is able to charge me with any such thing? If there be no such thing, but I have told you what is the very truth, and the will of my Father, as to what you are to believe and do, why do you not believe me? For every reasonable soul is a debtor to truth.
He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.He that is of God; to be of God, here, is opposed to a being not of God, and so may be understood to comprehend election, as well as regeneration.
Heareth God’s words; he heareth, acknowledgeth, believeth, and patiently submits to the will of God revealed in his word.
The reason why you, though with your ears ye hear the word of God, yet do not in heart receive, and embrace, and believe it, nor can submit to it, is
because ye are not of God, not chosen of him, not savingly enlightened and regenerated by him. So as this text affords us an excellent note, by which we may know whether we be regenerated, and of God, yea or no. That is, our believing and yielding obedience to the will of God revealed in his word. By this saying of our Saviour, he seemeth to acquiesce in the will of God, concerning these refractory and unbelieving Jews, notwithstanding all the pains he had taken with them to enlighten and bring them to the saving knowledge of the truth. It pleased not his Father to open their eyes that they might see, or their hearts that they might understand. This ought in like manner to satisfy all the true and faithful ministers of the gospel, when they see they have laboured in vain, and spent their strength for nothing and in vain. When they have done all they can, they will find this of our Saviour true, That the work must be God’s, and not theirs; and no more hearts will be changed, than theirs who are of God.
Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?A Samaritan signified to the Jews as much as an impostor, or seducer; for the Jews looked upon the Samaritans as a detestable sort of men, who had corrupted the worship of God with their horrible superstitions in Mount Gerizim.
And hast a devil; that is, art mad: See Poole on "John 7:20".
Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.I have not a devil; that is, I am not possessed with an evil spirit, as you blaspheme; or, (as others think), I am not mad, I speak the words of truth and soberness, (for it is said, that the Jews held an opinion, That all who were distracted were influenced by all evil spirit, and had a devil). It is true in both senses, Christ had no devil. He did nothing that he did, but for the honour of his Father; this was but a term of scandal and reproach they cast upon Christ. In the mean time it must be observed, with how much meekness the Lamb of God received these most unworthy reproaches cast upon him; that we may learn to behave ourselves in like manner under such temptations.
And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth.Christ very often reminds them of this, that in what he spake and did, he sought not his own honour and reputation; which both obviated an objection they might make against him, and also convinced them of his truth and sincerity in what he did. But, saith he, though I seek not my own honour, yet there is one who cometh himself in my honour and glory; and you must expect that he should judge and condemn you for all your hard speeches which you have spoken against me.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.To see death, in this text, signifieth to die, but in an apparently differing sense from what it is taken in Luke 2:26, where it is to be understood of a natural death; of which it cannot be understood here, for the holiest men shall die: the body is dead (that is, in dying) because of sin; or, shall die because of sin, Romans 8:10. It must therefore be understood of death eternal; and in that sense the proposition is certainly true, That a holy man that keepeth the sayings of Christ shall not see death, that is, shall have eternal life; which is no more than what we have often before met with, viz. the promise of life eternal to faith and holiness.
Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.Thou hast a devil: this is the third time we have met with this blasphemous imputation from these wretched men, John 7:20, in this chapter, John 8:48, and here. What we have here, may strongly incline us to believe, that by the phrase they did not intend that he was possessed with the devil; for they here declare themselves confirmed in what they said, from his speaking that which was contrary to sense and demonstration. Abraham was dead, (though the father of the faithful), and the prophets were dead; and therefore to speak of any mortal man’s not seeing death, was contrary to every day’s experience, and to the experience of the holiest men who ever lived. To them therefore who understood him speaking of a natural dissolution of the soul and body, this looked like the language of one beside himself; which probably was all they meant, when they said he had a devil, unless they used it as a term of reproach and passion; of all which none can give any just account.
Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?If thou canst so effect it, that those who keep thy sayings shall not die, thou canst also make thyself immortal: neither Abraham nor the prophets could save themselves from death, they are all dead: what art thou? What dost thou make thyself? And by the way, this was another charge upon our Saviour, the Jews having no patience with any that should prefer himself before their father Abraham or Moses.
Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:If I honour myself, my honour is nothing; this is much the same with what our Saviour said, John 5:31, which he seemed to contradict, John 5:14; (see the notes on both those places); the meaning is, If I seek mine own honour and glory; or, If I arrogate to myself what indeed doth not belong to me; or, If I alone honour myself, which (by the next words) seemeth to be the true sense of the phrase here. My Father is he who honoureth me, by witnessing from heaven that I am his beloved Son; by sending me into the world to accomplish his work; by many signs and wonders: and you say, that this my Father is your God. If therefore you will not give credit to me and my testimony, yet you ought to give credit to him, whom you own as your God.
Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.You glory much in this, that you have Abraham to your father. This father of yours foresaw my coming into the world, and my dying upon the cross. He saw it by the eye of faith, in the promise which was made to him, That in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He saw it in the type of Isaac’s being offered, then receiving him in a figure, Hebrews 11:19. He saw it in the light of Divine revelation. He saw my coming in the flesh; my dying upon the cross for sinners; the publication of my gospel to the whole world, by which means all the nations of the earth became blessed in his seed. And he
was glad, with the joy of faith, which gives the soul a union with an absent object by faith made certain to it, Hebrews 11:1.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?Christ was at this time but three and thirty years old, and upward: they dream of Abraham’s seeing him, and his seeing Abraham, with bodily eyes, of which Christ said nothing; that indeed had been a thing impossible, for Abraham was dead many hundred years before Christ appeared in the flesh to the world: neither doth our Saviour say, that he had seen Abraham, or that Abraham had seen him; but that he had seen his day, his coming in the flesh, his death, which Abraham had seen, not with bodily eyes, but with the eye of faith.
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.Some will have the meaning to be, that Christ was before Abraham’s time constituted Mediator; as he is said to be the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, Revelation 13:8: so 1 Peter 1:20. But thus it might have been said of any of the elect, that they were chosen before Abraham was. It is therefore undoubtedly to be understood of Christ’s eternal existence, as to his Divine nature; and this will appear, as from other arguments, so from the whole scope of our Saviour’s former discourse in this chapter, which was to assert his Divine nature and equality with the Father.
Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.Then took they up stones to cast at him; as they also did, John 5:31. It is vain to inquire where they had stones in the temple; they might be repairing some part of it, or some parts of it paved with stones might be loose, &c.; it is enough that we are assured that some they found. He did not go
through the midst of them that were in this uproar, but first thrust himself into the more innocent crowd, then passed through the midst of them. Some make a question here, how he could pass through the midst of them? Whether he made his body invisible? (so the Lutherans think); or whether he struck his enemies with blindness, or thickened the air before their eyes? But what needs that dispute? Admit some few of the rabble to be in a rage, the greatest part innocent, it is no hard thing for us to conceive how a person, discerning the disorder, may thrust himself into the more innocent crowd, and pass by, escaping the rage of his enemies.