30. While he spoke these things, many believed on him.31. Jesus therefore said to the Jews who believed on him, If you continue in my word, you shall be truly my disciples.32. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.33. They answered, We are Abraham's seed, and never were enslaved to any one; how then sayest thou, You shall be free? 34. Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say to you, That every man who committeth sin is the slave of sin. 35. And the slave remaineth not always in the house, but the son remaineth always.36. If the Son then shall make you free, you shall be truly free.37. I know that you are the seed of Abraham, but you seek to kill me, because my word dwelleth not in you. 38. I speak what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.
30. While he spoke these things. Though the Jews, at that time, almost resembled a dry and barren soil, yet God did not permit the seed of his word to be entirely lost. Thus, contrary to all hopes, and amidst so many obstructions, some fruit appears. But the Evangelist inaccurately gives the name of faith to that which was only a sort of preparation for faith For he affirms nothing higher concerning them than that they were disposed to receive the doctrine of Christ, to which also the preceding warning refers.
31. If you continue in my word. Here Christ warns them, in the first place, that it is not enough for any one to have begun well, if their progress to the end do not correspond to it; and for this reason he exhorts to perseverance in the faith those who have tasted of his doctrine. When he says that they who are firmly rooted in his word, so as to continue in him, will truly be his disciples, he means that many profess to be disciples who yet are not so in reality, and have no right to be accounted such. He distinguishes his followers from hypocrites by this mark, that they who falsely boasted of faith give way as soon as they have entered into the course, or at least in the middle of it; but believers persevere constantly to the end. If, therefore, we wish that Christ should reckon us to be his disciples, we must endeavor to persevere.
32. And you shall know the truth. He says, that they who have arrived at some knowledge of it shall know the truth True, those whom Christ addresses were as yet uneducated, and scarcely knew the first elements, and therefore we need not wonder if he promises them a more full understanding of his doctrine. But the statement is general. Wherefore, whatever progress any of us have made in the Gospel, let him know that he needs new additions. This is the reward which Christ bestows on their perseverance, that he admits them to greater familiarity with him; though in this way he does nothing more than add another gift to the former, so that no man ought to think that he is entitled to any reward. For it is he who impresses his word on our hearts by his Spirit, and it is he who daily chases away from our minds the clouds of ignorance which obscure the brightness of the Gospel. In order that the truth may be fully revealed to us, we ought sincerely and earnestly to endeavor to attain it. It is the same unvarying truth which Christ teaches his followers from the beginning to the end, but on those who were at first enlightened by him, as it were with small sparks, he at length pours a full light. Thus believers, until they have been fully confirmed, are in some measure ignorant of what they know; and yet it is not so small or obscure a knowledge of faith as not to be efficacious for salvation.
The truth shall make you free. He commends the knowledge of the Gospel from the fruit which we derive from it, or -- which is the same thing -- from its effect, namely, that it restores us to freedom This is an invaluable blessing. Hence it follows, that nothing is more excellent or desirable than the knowledge of the Gospel. All men feel and acknowledge that slavery is a very wretched state; and since the Gospel delivers us from it, it follows that we derive from the Gospel the treasure of a blessed life.
We must now ascertain what kind of liberty is here described by Christ, namely, that which sets us free from the tyranny of Satan, sin, and death. And if we obtain it by means of the Gospel, it is evident from this that we are by nature the slaves of sin. Next, we must ascertain what is the method of our deliverance. For so long as we are governed by our sense and by our natural disposition, we are in bondage to sin; but when the Lord regenerates us by his Spirit, he likewise makes us free, so that, loosed from the snares of Satan, we willingly obey righteousness. But regeneration proceeds from faith, and hence it is evident that freedom proceeds from the Gospel.
Let Papists now go and proudly vaunt of their free-will, but let us, who are conscious of our own slavery, glory in none but Christ our Deliverer. For the reason why the Gospel ought to be reckoned to have achieved our deliverance is, that it offers and gives us to Christ to be freed from the yoke of sin. Lastly, we ought to observe, that freedom has its degrees according to the measure of their faith; and therefore Paul, though clearly made free, still groans and longs after perfect freedom, (Romans 7:24.)
33. We are Abraham's seed. It is uncertain if the Evangelist here introduces the same persons who formerly spoke, or others. My opinion is, that they replied to Christ in a confused manner, as usually happens in a promiscuous crowd; and that this reply was made rather by despisers than by those who believed. It is a mode of expression very customary in Scripture, whenever the body of a people is mentioned, to ascribe generally to all what belongs only to a part.
Those who object that they are Abraham's seed, and have always been free, easily inferred from the words of Christ that freedom was promised to them as to people who were slaves But they cannot endure to have it said that they, who are a holy and elect people, are reduced to slavery For of what avail was the adoption and the covenant, (Romans 9:4,) by which they were separated from other nations, but because they were accounted the children of God? They think, therefore, that they are insulted, when freedom is exhibited to them as a blessing which they do not yet possess. But it might be thought strange that they should maintain that they never were enslaved, since they had been so frequently oppressed by various tyrants, and at that time were subjected to the Roman yoke, and groaned under the heaviest burden of slavery; and hence it may be easily seen how foolish was their boasting.
Yet they had this plausible excuse, that the unjust sway of their enemies did not hinder them from continuing to be free by right. But they erred, first, in this respect, that they did not consider that the right of adoption was founded on the Mediator alone; for how comes it that Abraham's seed is free, but because, by the extraordinary grace of the Redeemer, it is exempted from the general bondage of the human race? But there was another error less tolerable than the former, that, though they were altogether degenerate, yet they wished to be reckoned among the children of Abraham, and did not consider that it is nothing else than the regeneration of the Spirit that makes them lawful children of Abraham And indeed, it has been too common a vice in almost all ages, to refer to the origin of the flesh the extraordinary gifts of God, and to ascribe to nature those remedies which Christ bestows for correcting nature. Meanwhile, we see how all who, swelled with false confidence, flatter themselves on their condition drive away from them the grace of Christ. And yet this pride is spread over the whole world, so that there is scarcely one person in a hundred who feels that he needs the grace of God.
34. Every man who committeth sin is the slave of sin. This is an argument drawn from contrary things. They boasted that they were free. He proves that they are the slaves of sin, because, being enslaved by the desires of the flesh, they continually sin. It is astonishing that men are not convinced by their own experience, so that, laying aside their pride, they may learn to be humble. And it is a very frequent occurrence in the present day, that, the greater the load of vices by which a man is weighed down, the more fiercely does he utter unmeaning words in extolling free-will.
Christ appears to say nothing more here than what was formerly said by philosophers, that they who are devoted to their lusts are subject to the most degrading slavery. But there is a deeper and more hidden meaning; for he does not argue what evil men bring on themselves, but what is the condition of human nature. The philosophers thought that any man is a slave by his own choice, and that by the same choice he returns to freedom. But here Christ maintains, that all who are not delivered by him are in a state of slavery, and that all who derive the contagion of sin from corrupted nature are slaves from their birth. We must attend to the comparison between grace and nature, on which Christ here dwells; from which it may be easily seen that men are destitute of freedom, unless they regain it from some other quarter. Yet this slavery is voluntary, so that they who necessarily sin are not compelled to sin.
35. Now the slave remaineth not in the house always. He adds a comparison, taken from the laws and from political law, to the effect that a slave, though he may have power for a time, yet is not the heir of the house; from which he infers that there is no perfect and durable freedom, but what is obtained through the Son In this manner he accuses the Jews of vanity, because they hold but a mask instead of the reality; for, as to their being Abraham's offspring, they were nothing but a mask. They held a place in the Church of God, but such a place as Ishmael, a slave, rising up against his freeborn brother, usurped for a short time, (Galatians 4:29.) The conclusion is, that all who boast of being Abraham's children have nothing but an empty and deceitful pretense.
36. If then the Son shall make you free. By these words he means that the right of freedom belongs to himself alone, and that all others, being born slaves, cannot be delivered but by his grace. For what he possesses as his own by nature he imparts to us by adoption, when we are ingrafted by faith into his body, and become his members. Thus we ought to remember what I said formerly, that the Gospel is the instrument by which we obtain our freedom So then our freedom is a benefit conferred by Christ, but we obtain it by faith, in consequence of which also Christ regenerates us by his Spirit. When he says that they shall be truly free, there is an emphasis on the word truly; for we must supply the contrast with the foolish persuasion by which the Jews were swelled with pride, in like manner as the greater part of the world imagine that they possess a kingdom, while they are in the most wretched bondage.
37. I know that you are Abraham's seed. I explain this as said by way of concession. Yet at the same time he ridicules their folly in glorying in so absurd a title, as if he had said: |Granting that on which you flatter yourselves so much, still what avails it that those men are called the children of Abraham, who are enraged against God and his ministers, and who are actuated by such wicked and detestable hatred of the truth, that they rush headlong to shed innocent blood?| Hence it follows that nothing is farther from their true character than what they wished to be called, because they have no resemblance to Abraham
You seek to kill me, because my word has no place in you. He means that they are not merely murderers, but are driven to such rage by hatred of God and his truth, which is far more heinous; for such an enormity does not merely extend to men, but likewise dishonors God. He says, that they cannot receive his words, because through malice they keep their minds shut, so that they cannot admit anything wholesome.
38. I speak what I have seen with my Father. He had already made frequent mention of his Father; and now, by an argument drawn from contrary things, he infers that they are enemies to God, and are the children of the devil, because they oppose his doctrine. |For my part,| says he, |I bring nothing forward, but what I have learned from my Father. How comes it then that the word of God excites you to such fury, but because you have an opposite father?| He says that he speaks, and they do, because he discharged the office of a teacher, while they labored strenuously to extinguish his doctrine. At the same time, he protects the Gospel against contempt, by showing that it is not wonderful if it be opposed by the children of the devil Instead of you do, some render it, Do you what you have seen with your father; as if Christ had said, |Come, show that you are the children of the devil, by opposing me; for I speak nothing but what God has commanded.|