76. Teachings on Spiritual Freedom
31Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.
32You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to anyone; how is it that you say, 'You will be made free'?”
34Jesus answered them, “Verily, verily, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not continue in his master's house forever; but the son continues forever [in his father's house]. 36If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”
37“I know that you are descendants of Abraham, yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in your hearts. 38I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
39They answered him, “Abraham is our father.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.a 40But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 42If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.
(Jn. 8:31–40, 42–43) (continued)
a “If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham.”—Jesus uses the word child (plural children) in two distinct ways. Webster's Unabridged defines these two meanings as: (1) “a son or daughter; a male or female descendant,” and (2) “one who in character or practice shows strong signs of the relationship to or the influence of another (as a disciple of a teacher)." It is in this second sense that Jesus uses the word children here. In this sense, to be a child of Abraham means to follow in the ways of Abraham.
Thus, Jesus affirms that the Jews are children of Abraham in the first sense (“I know that you are descendants of Abraham”—Jn. 8:37), while pointing out that they are not children of Abraham in the sense of being followers of his teachings and practices. “But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.” (Jn. 8:40)
We may be children of God in both senses. In the first sense (being a descendant), we are already children of God—he is our Creator Father. In the second sense (being a follower), we may become true children of God by believing that he is our Father and choosing to do his will. (“It is my will that your will be done.”)
Jn. 8:32 You / and you (RSV) • You shall know (KJV) / you will know (RSV) • truth shall make (KJV) / truth will make (RSV)
Jn. 8:34 them, “Verily, verily, I (KJV) / “Truly, truly, I (RSV)
Jn. 8:35 in his master's house (Wey) / in the house (RSV) • but the (KJV) / the (RSV) • forever [in his father's house]. / forever. (RSV)
Jn. 8:36 (KJV) • free, you shall (RSV) / free, ye shall (KJV)
Jn. 8:37 in your hearts. (Rieu) / in you. (RSV)
Jn. 8:39 do the works of Abraham. (KJV) / do what Abraham did. (RSV)
Jn. 8:42 If / Jesus said to them, “If (RSV) (162:7/1796–7)