John 8:44: “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”.
1. The use of the pronoun “he” does not indicate that the Devil is a person. “Wisdom” is personified as a woman house-builder (Prov. 9:1) and sin as a paymaster paying wages (Rom. 6:23). Human lust is personified as a man who drags us away to enticement. If it is accepted that sin and sinful tendencies are personified, there should be no problem in imagining that persona being given a name- “Satan”, the adversary.
2. There is no specific reference here to the serpent in Eden.
3. We sin because of the lusts that begin inside us (Mk. 7: 21-23; James 1:14; Jer. 17:9). Our evil heart - the real Devil - is the father of our lusts and sins. “The lusts of your father” the Devil, are thus the same as the lusts of our evil heart - the Devil.
4. The Devil is a murderer. But “no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn. 3:15). The Devil must, therefore, die - but as angels cannot die (Lk. 20:35-36) they are therefore immortal, and have eternal life abiding in them.
5. In our exposition of Mark 4:15, we have identified the children of the Devil as those who obey their evil desires - the real Devil.
6. “Ye do that which ye have seen with your father” (the Devil) v. 38. The Jews had not literally seen a person called the Devil, which indicates that when Jesus spoke about the Jews being of their father the Devil, He was again using parabolic language.
7. They were of the Devil in the sense that, “ye do the deeds of your father” (v. 41), i.e. they continued the family likeness.
8. If the Devil is a murderer then he isn’t immortal, for in commentary on this verse John later explained [as if there had already arisen misunderstandings in the time between John’s Gospel and epistles]: “No murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn. 3:15). Angels are immortal (Lk. 20:36), so therefore this “murderer” wasn’t a ‘fallen Angel’.
1. Scripture often uses the characteristics of something mentioned at an earlier point in the Bible to describe what a group of people are like. Thus “the sting of death is sin” (1 Cor. 15: 56) alludes back to the sting of the serpent in Eden, but it doesn’t mean that death is a literal serpent - it has the characteristics of the serpent. Thus the dragon in Revelation 12: 9 is called “that old serpent”. A dragon cannot be a snake at the same time; but it had the characteristics of the serpent in Genesis.
2. Similarly, the Devil, the desires which are in our heart forming and stimulating an evil inclination, has the characteristics of the serpent, but it does not mean that the serpent was the Devil itself. The serpent was “subtil” (Gen. 3:1; 2 Cor.11: 3); this may well be behind the description of the Jews consulting “that they might take Jesus by subtilty, and kill him” (Matt. 26: 4). The serpent in Eden was the prototype of the Jewish system; their killing of Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy that the seed of the serpent (sin manifested in the Jews, Mt. 12: 34; Lk. 3: 7, in it’s primary meaning) would wound the seed of the woman, Christ, in the heel (Gen. 3:15).
3. John 8: 44 is also a reference to Cain, the first murderer - “he was a murderer from the beginning” (Gen. 4: 8-9). He “abode not in the truth” as he was the father of the seed of the serpent who corrupted the true way of worshipping God (see exposition of Gen. 6: 2 for more on this: “Suggested Explanations” , No. 4).The letter of John often alludes to the Gospel of John, and 1 John 3:12 & 15, is an example; it confirms this interpretation: “Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one (i.e. the Devil - Mt. 13:19 cp. Mk. 4:15) and slew his brother...Whosoever hateth his brother (as Cain did) is a murderer”. However, it is also true that John 8: 44 alludes to the serpent as well. The serpent told the first lie, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3: 4); he did not abide in the truth; he was a murderer in the sense that he brought about the death of Adam and Eve. “He is a liar, and the father of it”. But in the same way as Cain was not a super-human person called the Devil, but an ordinary man, having the characteristics of the serpent and manifesting the Devil - our evil desires - so, too, the Devil - our evil desires - has characteristics of the serpent (see exposition of Genesis 3, earlier) - not a being called the Devil. The way in which the fire consumed Abel’s offering but not Cain’s is paralleled by the fire burning up Elijah’s offering but leaving those of the apostate Jewish Baal worshippers (1 Kgs.18: 19-40). This would associate Cain with apostate Jews, i.e. the Jewish Devil.
4. Note: “...he is a liar , and the father of it”. Jesus does not say “he was a liar”. If we tell a lie, it is a result of the Devil, in the sense of our evil desires prompting us - not due to any force outside of us. Lying is one of those things that Jesus lists in Mk. 7:15,21-23 as not entering a man from outside him, but originating from within him. The Devil is the ‘father’ of lies in the sense that they originate from within us- which is where the Biblical Devil is located.
5. “When he speaketh a lie” - when someone lies, it is not a super-human person called the Devil standing in front of him, it is the Devil, in the sense of the man’s evil desires speaking to him. “Deceit” - i.e. lies - proceed “from within, out of the heart of men” (Mk. 7:21-22).
6. The context of John 8 is Jesus stressing that if only the Jews would truly follow the Word of God, then they would not be seeking to murder Him. There is a pointed contrast between those who are born of the Word of God and those conceived by the Devil, our evil heart. Man’s heart is evil continually (Gen. 6: 5), and it is only by the Word of God being there that we can stop the evil desires there - the Devil - leading us into sin (Ps.119: 11; James 1: 13-15):-
- Thus Jesus said that the Jews were murderers (i.e. of the Devil - v. 44) because the word “hath no place in you’ (Jn. 8: 37);
- “Because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the Devil” (v. 43-44);
- Because Jesus kept the saying (Greek : logos - word) of God, He was not a liar like the Jews (v. 55) - and they were liars because they were of the Devil (v. 44);
- “There is no truth in him” (the Devil - v. 44) because “Thy Word is truth (Jn.17:17). The Devil is therefore the opposite to the Word of God. Jesus said, “If ye continue in my Word...ye shall know the Truth” (Jn. 8: 31-32);
- “He that is (born) of God heareth God’s Words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (v. 47), i.e. they were of the Devil, (v. 44);
- “I tell you the Truth (the Word - Jn. 17:17), ye believe me not” (v. 45) - because,( v. 44), “ye are of the Devil”, which is not sensitive to the Word of Truth”;
- The seed of the Devil is therefore our lusts, which result in the conception of sin (James 1:13-15; Matt.13: 39). Believers are born “not of (this) corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God” (1 Pet.1: 23; James 1:18), the seed of the Word preached by Christ (Lk. 8:11).
Thus, because it is through the Word that our evil desires are overcome, they who, like the Jews, reject that Word, will be living lives and making judgments governed solely by their evil desires - they will be truly “of the Devil”.