In John 8:31–47, the Jewish religious leaders claimed to be descendants of Abraham, with God Himself as their “true Father” (verse 41, NLT; see also verses 33, 37, and 39). But Jesus confronted them by saying, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44, CSB).
The Pharisees and teachers of the law believed their relationship with Abraham set them free from sin and error, making them automatic children of God. But Jesus presented them with the ultimate fail-safe paternity test: “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father” (John 8:39–41).
Jesus affirmed that a person’s actions reveal his inner nature. The way we live and behave proves our true paternity. If Abraham is our father, we will share his character. We will be like Abraham, believing in God and obeying His truth (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6). Abraham was known as “God’s friend” (Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23) and for good reason. He loved God, listened to Him, and obeyed His truth even when he didn’t understand it (see Genesis 22:1–24). Abraham’s obedience proved his character as God’s child. The Jewish leaders were nothing like Abraham. Their rebellion confirmed they were children of the devil (Acts 13:10; Matthew 13:38).
Jesus told the Jewish religious leaders, “You are of your father the devil,” because they behaved like the devil. “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God,” explained Jesus (John 8:42). The devil is God’s enemy. He opposes God’s presence, purposes, and people in this world (Matthew 16:23; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Ephesians 6:11–13; 1 John 3:7–10; Revelation 12:10; 13:6). True children of God love Jesus (1 John 5:1), but the devil hates Him. Satan is a murderer (John 8:44; 1 John 3:12), and the Jewish leaders were cut from the same cloth, looking for a way to kill Jesus (John 7:1; 8:37, 40). Their hate-filled, murderous actions proved that they, like Cain, “belonged to the evil one,” their father, the devil (1 John 3:10).
After he killed his brother Abel, Cain lied about it (Genesis 4). Jesus said the Jewish leaders could not understand His words because their native tongue was lying, the same language as the devil’s: “He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! . . . Anyone who belongs to God listens gladly to the words of God. But you don’t listen because you don’t belong to God” (John 8:44–47, NLT).
If we are God’s children, then we “participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:1–4) and walk in His truth (Ephesians 5:8–9; 2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:4). But if we are of our father the devil, we share in his evil nature and have no truth in us.
The devil brought spiritual and physical death to humankind by telling a lie (Genesis 3:4, 13; 1 John 3:8, 10–15). Today, he still distorts the truth, doing everything in his power to lead people away from God, who is the source of truth and life (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The Bible says obedience, love, and truthfulness are marks of a true child of God: “So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God” (1 John 3:10, NLT). Jesus told the Jewish leaders, “You are of your father the devil,” because there was no room in their hearts for Christ’s message of life and truth (John 8:37). These religious pretenders showed their true colors as murderers, liars, and rejectors of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ. By refusing God’s words of truth and life, they forfeited their opportunity to become His children (John 3:19–20; 8:40).