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John 8:47: NASB

He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear, because you are not of God.

What does it mean to be “of God” in the context of this verse? Is Jesus implying that whether someone is “of God” or not is inherent in who they are and not by choice (ie choosing to obey Jesus’s words)?

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Good question. The phrase "of God" appears 3 times.

John 8:47 English Standard Version

Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

In the 2nd appearance, it is words of God, rhēmata Theou, genitive. The English preposition of is implicit in the genitive. It means words spoken by God.

In the 1st appearance, the Greek is ὁ ὢν Θεοῦ.

ὢν (ōn)
Verb - Present Participle Active - Nominative Masculine Singular
Strong's 1510: I am, exist. The first person singular present indicative; a prolonged form of a primary and defective verb; I exist.

I would translate this as

The one being God's

Is Jesus implying that whether someone is “of God” or not is inherent in who they are and not by choice (ie choosing to obey Jesus’s words)?

Yes, to some extent. The Greek does carry this sense of meaning in the phrase ὁ ὢν Θεοῦ.

In the 3rd appearance, the Greek is οὐκ ἐκ Θεοῦ.

ἐκ (ek)
Preposition
Strong's 1537: From out, out from among, from, suggesting from the interior outwards. A primary preposition denoting origin, from, out.

I would translate this as

not from God

Is Jesus implying that whether someone is “of God” or not is inherent in who they are and not by choice (ie choosing to obey Jesus’s words)?

Yes. Now the case for this argument is even stronger.

John 10:27 also support this line of thinking:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

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What does it mean to be “of God” in John 8:47?

Significantly, Christ is always speaking the words of God. A few verses earlier, Jesus condemns His Jewish audience for their disbelief in what He is evangelizing:

John 8:44a: "You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him" (emphasis added).

The reason that Christ would say this is because, outside of Him, we are slaves to sin and the Devil. However, once we are cleansed through His blood we become children of God, or simply, "of God":

Romans 8:14: "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons [and daughters] of God" (emphasis added).

Galatians 4:7: "Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son [or daughter]; and if a son[/daughter], then an heir through God" (emphasis added).

There are a plethora of other, similar passages that could have been cited. Below, note how the apostle John later differentiates between "children of God" and "children of the Devil":

1 John 3:10: "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother" (emphasis added).

All of us fall into one of two categories: 1) (sons and daughters) "of God", or 2) (children) "of the Devil". Our obedience/disobedience to the Gospel is the one great distinguishing characteristic.

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The two main groups of people in the NT are given very common and almost interchangeable names as follows:

"Of God"

  • "children of God" are those who do what is right - 1 John 3:10
  • "church of God" - 2 Cor 1:1
  • "kingdom of God" - 2 Thess 1:5
  • "zealous one of God" - Acts 22:3
  • "those who obey the Gospel of God" - 1 Peter 4:17
  • "we are of God" = those who listen to the truth - 1 John 4:6
  • "those who know the glory of God" - 2 Cor 4:6
  • "those who received the Word of God" - 1 Thess 2:13
  • "those who reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God" - Eph 4:13
  • "those who grow in the knowledge of God" - Eph 1:17
  • "those who join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God" - 2 Tim 1:8

Such people are also described as "saved", "righteous", etc. Note the comments that follow:

John 8:47 - Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” [That is, you are not "of God".]

2 Cor 3:18 - And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Eph 2:8-10 - For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.

"Of the Devil"

  • "one who is sinful if of the Devil" - 1 John 3:8
  • "child of the devil and enemy of everything that is right" - Acts 13:10
  • "children of the Devil = those who do not do what is right" - 1 John 3:10
  • "those under the power of the Devil" - Acts 10:38, Heb 2:14, 1 John 5:19
  • "those in the trap of the Devil" - 2 Tim 2:26, 1 Tim 3:7, 6:9
  • "children of your father the Devil" - John 8:44, 1 Kings 21:13
  • "those under the condemnation of the Devil" - 1 Tim 3:6

Such people are called, "unsaved", unrighteous", etc.

Thus, the whole thrust of the Bible is make a clear distinction between:

  • those who are "of God", the saved, the righteousness, the children of God, those who know God, etc.

versus

  • those who are "of the Devil" the unrighteous, the unsaved, the children of the Devil, the workers of unrighteousness, etc.

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