A Child of Abraham or a Child of the Devil?
During the days of Jesus, a person’s lineage was proven by records kept with great precision. To the Jews, such proof of lineage was very important. (To see the importance of such proof of lineage, see Ezra 2:59-63 where some people were excluded from the priesthood because their genealogical record could not be found.) The Jews took great pride in being able to trace their lineage to Abraham. Consider the genealogical record of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus as seen in Matthew, chapter 1. Needless to say, when Jesus accused the Pharisees of not being the descendants of Abraham, the Pharisees took great offense.
The basis for Jesus’ accusation had nothing to do with the Pharisees’ physical lineage, but their lack of faith in the One whom God had sent. Consider if you would, John’s record of this discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees, beginning with John, chapter 8, verse 37:
“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.”
They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.”
Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You do the deeds of your father.”
Then they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father—God.” (John 8:37-41)
Jesus established the following contrast between Him and the Pharisees: Jesus was doing what He had “seen” with His “Father” and the Pharisees were doing what they had “seen” with their “father.” While the Pharisees claimed Abraham as their father, Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.” However, instead of faithfully following Jehovah, and therefore, Jesus the Christ, the Pharisees sought to kill Jesus. Unlike Abraham, the Pharisees rejected the truth, and, therefore, did the deeds of their “father.”
The “father” of the Pharisees, to whom Jesus referred, was the devil. Continuing with verse 42 we read:
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:42-47)
The Pharisees, in rejecting the truth and seeking to kill Jesus, were doing the will of the devil. As a result, they were unwilling to hear the words of Jesus.
Are we children of Abraham or children of the devil?
Had the Pharisees truly been walking in the footsteps of Abraham, they would have accepted by faith the words of Jesus. The same reality is true today. Abraham’s faith in God is a pattern for the faith of all Christians. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, wrote the following regarding Abraham, “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised” (Romans 4:11-12). While Romans chapters four and five are filled with rich material on true faith, this quote from verses 11 and 12 shows the spiritual lineage between Abraham and all faithful followers of God.
If we do not walk by faith, but, instead, fulfill the desires of the devil, then we are children of the devil. Let us recall the words of Jesus when He said, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him . . .” (John 8:44). When a person chooses to do the desires of the devil, that person has chosen to behave as a child of the devil.
We may, like the Pharisees, take great offense at the suggestion we may not be children of God. However, if we are not faithfully following the Lord, but are living in sin and fulfilling the desires of the devil, then we are behaving as children of the devil. The only way to correct the problem is to behave as a child of God by repenting and turning ourselves back to the Lord.