It is common practice by those in the message to quote this portion of scripture that we’re studying today in order to say that those of us that have left the message of William Branham are ‘serpent seed’ or ‘of our father, the devil’. They take this argument directly from the tapes of William Branham, who proclaims regularly on tape that rejecting his message means that the individual is rejecting Jesus Christ—even if that individual DOES believe upon the Lord:
64-1221 - Why It Had To Be Shepherd
248 And look at those trained theologians of that day, trained! Holy? Clean living? We have nothing to compare with it today, the way they lived. And what did the Great Shepherd call them? Said, "You are of your father the devil," because they didn't… They recognized the Word, but the Word of another day, not the Word of that day. 249 If they recognized Noah's time, that's all right, that was Noah's time; but it wouldn't work in Moses' time. And Moses' time wouldn't work in Christ's time. See? Luther's time won't work in Wesley's time. Wesley's time won't work in Pentecostal time. And Pentecost has done the same thing the rest of them did. Now, who has give me help in the days gone by? Asked you.
This ‘dispensational’ understanding of the plan of God is diametrically opposed by scripture—particularly this portion of scripture, where Jesus addresses the Pharisees as ‘belonging to their father, the devil’. William Branham claims that the issue with the Pharisees was not that they lacked fundamental faith in God, but that they lacked faith in the “Message of the Hour.” The reality however is that Christ WAS concerned with their faith in God in general—not just their faith in Him, but their underlying lack of faith in the promises of God contained in their holy texts.
Let’s take a look at the scriptures and examine this exchange piece by piece:
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.”
39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 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. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
Right from the beginning we see the issue is one of faith in the promises of God and not simply in the “fresh things” Christ was teaching for their ‘hour’. Jesus tells them that they have no room for His word (John 8:37), and that what He is presenting is Truth from God (John 8:40). The issue is not that they haven’t heard these promises before and are rejecting Him because they are clinging to a dispensation that had passed, but that they refused to hear (John 8:43), refused to examine and hold to the Truth (John 8:44), and refused to acknowledge what they knew to be true—what they knew they could not disprove and what they were simply choosing to disbelieve (John 8:45). They were refusing to listen to God—both Jesus Christ’s words and the words of Scripture (John 8:47). It was their refusal to accept what they knew to be true that made them ‘of their father the devil’ and not of God.
John chapter 5 records a similar exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees and the explanation Christ gives as to why the Pharisees refused to believe in Him is the exact same as the one in today’s text. They refused the testimony of John the Baptist even though they agreed and knew it to be reliable (John 5:33), they rejected the testimony of the Scriptures that foretold of Christ’s coming (John 5:39), and they rejected the testimony of Christ’s works, even though they knew that these works were in harmony with the prophesies made about the coming Messiah (John 5:36). In short, they were unwilling to come to Him and truth Him for their salvation (John 5:40)!
It wasn’t that they didn’t see and know that Christ was the Messiah, but that they were unwilling to humble themselves and admit what they already knew to be true—they were unwilling to put their faith in Him. They refused to examine the truth, refused to accept the Word of God, and refused to do anything but fight against what they already knew was the truth. They buried their heads in the sand, stating in outright defiance of the Word of God and of Jesus Christ, their savior that they did not want to submit to the authority of His words—even if they were true.
In summary, the Pharisees were sold out to a lie and were too proud to submit to God. They would rather continue in a lie that admit their error and come to Christ. It was in their pride that they rejected Christ, and it was in their willful ignorance, their determination to ignore facts that they crucified the Messiah.
In the message of William Branham we were taught that understanding, knowledge, and in-depth study of the Word were contrary to true faith in God. Anyone coming forward with a question about the message was usually told to ‘place it on a shelf’—that seeking to find out the answer was an intellectual pursuit and that you should not approach God in that way—have faith, and the understanding will come in the Lord timing.
This teaching flies in the face of Scripture, however:
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
(Jesus came) To give knowledge of salvation to his people and forgiveness of their sins,
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
And lastly, the scripture verse I would like to conclude with comes from 1 Corinthians 2:6-16:
6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Allow these words to sink into your heart and transform your perception of God as opposed to wisdom, understanding, and education.
While it is true that we should not seek to find God in the folly of human wisdom and the ‘insights’ of worldly philosophers and thinkers, our minds, having been transformed by a work of the Holy Spirit, are able to search everything, even the depths of God (1 Cor. 2:10). The Spirit gives us comprehension of the thoughts of God (11), and understanding of things pertaining to salvation (12).
A spiritual person judges all things (15), and understands the mind of the Lord—even has the mind of the Lord (16)! Clearly, we are not to check our brains at the door when we become a Christian! God desires to transform our minds and renew them (Romans 12:2) so that we can think, and reason, and understand the Truth of God.
We will not all understand the things of the Lord to the same degree—understanding is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and so is knowledge. Some will be extravagantly gifted with Bible understanding, and that is a beautiful thing—an edifying gift given for the betterment of the Body of Christ.
The Pharisees refused to accept true knowledge of the Lord—refused to heed the wisdom and instruction of those with more understanding in the Word of God and of Truth. May we never be guilty of the same.