Truth, Freedom and Bondage
As Jesus was speaking, many in the crowd believed in Him.
John 8:30 (VOICE)
This verse says many believed on Jesus. Yet, Jesus went on to say that if they continued in His Word, then they would be His disciples indeed (John 8:31). That means that there is a difference between being a disciple and a believer. All disciples must be believers, but not all believers are disciples.
Jesus continued in this discourse to rebuke these believers and eventually said they were of their father, the devil (John 8:44). Apparently there is a difference between just plain faith and believing faith. As James taught, believing faith has to have accompanying actions (James 2:20). These people recognized and believed the truth that Jesus was the Christ, but they didn’t believe it enough to act on that faith. Instead, they loved themselves more than Jesus, as can be seen by their reactions to His statements below.
The Truth Will Make You Free
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
John 8:31-32 (NASB)
Such power attended our Lord’s words that many were convinced, and professed to believe in him. Jesus was speaking to Jews who believed on Him. Yet, He said that they would not be His disciples unless they continued in His Word. He made a clear distinction between those who believed and those who were disciples. There is a difference.
When we obey His Word, we grow in spiritual knowledge; and as we grow in spiritual knowledge, we grow in freedom from sin. Life leads to learning, and learning leads to liberty. Only those who continue in God’s Word and become disciples indeed ever know the truth. This is speaking about more than intellectual knowledge. It is only the truth we know that will set us free. It is incorrect to present this verse as saying God’s Word sets us free. Only when we continue in it until we know it are we set free.
Definition Of A Disciple
A disciple is a person who continues in God’s Word until they experience freedom. Put together with John 15:8, where Jesus said a disciple is one who bears much fruit, we can say that a disciple is someone who continues in God’s Word until they are free and it can be witnessed in their lives as fruit.
Jewish Believers: We are Abraham’s children, and we have never been enslaved to anyone. How can You say to us, “You will be set free”?
John 8:33 (VOICE)
These people were willing to believe Jesus was the Christ, but they refused to acknowledge their need for Him. They didn’t see that they needed to be made free. So, it can be said that true salvation not only acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, but we have to admit our dependency on Him for salvation.
We have never been enslaved to anyone— Their claim that Abraham’s descendants had never been in bondage was certainly a false one that was refuted by the very record in the Old Testament Scriptures. This assertion was not only false, but it was ridiculous in the extreme; seeing their whole history, sacred and profane, is full of recitals of their servitude in Egypt, in Chaldea, under the Persians, under the Macedonians, and under the Romans. The Jews had been enslaved by seven mighty nations, as recorded in the Book of Judges. The ten Northern tribes had been carried away captive by Assyria, and the two Southern tribes had gone into seventy years of captivity in Babylon. And at that very hour, the Jews were under the iron heel of Rome!
How difficult it is for proud religious people to admit their failings and their needs! But those who are not under the influence of the truth of God will speak and act according to the influence of the spirit of falsehood and error.
Jesus explained that the difference between spiritual freedom and bondage is a matter of whether one is a son or a servant. The servant may live in the house, but he is not a part of the family; and he cannot be guaranteed a future.
Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through. I know you are Abraham’s descendants. But I also know that you are trying to kill me because my message hasn’t yet penetrated your thick skulls. I’m talking about things I have seen while keeping company with the Father, and you just go on doing what you have heard from your father.”
John 8:34-38 (MSG)
These “believers” took offense at Jesus saying they needed to be made free. He explained to them that He was not talking about physical slavery but spiritual bondage. Anyone who sins is a slave to sin. Then, He explained how belief in Him could make them free indeed.
Jesus was saying these things to help these people, not hurt them, but their pride blinded them to His love. They refused to receive any instruction that made them inferior in any way. This is ironic, since the Jewish nation was in slavery to the Romans at the time. In truth, these people were in bondage in the natural as well as the spiritual.
Slaves don’t have the same privileges as sons. These people were slaves to sin, and Jesus was offering them freedom from their sins and true liberty through the Spirit.
How can slaves of sin be set free?
Only by the Son.
How does He do it?
Through the power of His Word.
Christ has freed all who believe on Him. This freedom is total and complete. But not everyone who has been freed is free. We have to receive and walk in that freedom. It doesn’t happen automatically. It’s like unlocking prison cells and telling the prisoners they are free to go. That would be setting them free, but they wouldn’t experience that freedom until they got up and acted like they believed it. They could continue to sit in their cells and be freed, but not free.
There is a false freedom that Satan has been promoting since the Garden of Eden. He has deceived all of us at one time or another into thinking that God is a tyrant and doesn’t want us to really enjoy life and consequently has told us not to do certain things. Because we believe this lie, we disobey God (or sin) in the name of freedom.
The devil has been deceiving the world about sin since the Garden of Eden when he told Eve that through sin, she could be like God (“as gods,” Genesis 3:4-5). Time has proven, not only to Eve, but also to each one of us, that this is not true. Sin brings death and not life (Romans 6:23). If we observe Satan and his ways, then we will eventually act like him. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). If we keep our vision stayed on God, then we will eventually be like Him. Our actions are determined by whom we listen to or watch.
The word of God requires a heart, which is empty. A heart filled with earthly projects, carnal interests ambition, thoughts of raising a fortune, and with the love of the superfluities and pleasures of life, is not fit to receive the seed of the kingdom. When a man shuts his heart against it by his passions, he at the same time opens it to all sorts of crimes. Jesus was stripping sin of any glamour with which the devil may have disguised it. Sin brings bondage. The only true freedom is found in Jesus.
They were indignant. “Our father is Abraham!”
Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would have been doing the things Abraham did. And yet here you are trying to kill me, a man who has spoken to you the truth he got straight from God! Abraham never did that sort of thing. You persist in repeating the works of your father.”
They said, “We’re not bastards. We have a legitimate father: the one and only God.”
“If God were your father,” said Jesus, “you would love me, for I came from God and arrived here. I didn’t come on my own. He sent me. Why can’t you understand one word I say? Here’s why: You can’t handle it. You’re from your father, the Devil, and all you want to do is please him. He was a killer from the very start. He couldn’t stand the truth because there wasn’t a shred of truth in him. When the Liar speaks, he makes it up out of his lying nature and fills the world with lies. I arrive on the scene; tell you the plain truth, and you refuse to have a thing to do with me. Can any one of you convict me of a single misleading word, a single sinful act? But if I’m telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Anyone on God’s side listens to God’s words. This is why you’re not listening—because you’re not on God’s side.”
In the rest of this section, you see the debate centering on the word father. Jesus identified Himself with the Father in heaven, but He identified them with the father from hell, Satan. Of course, the Jews claimed Abraham “as their father, but Jesus made a careful distinction between “Abraham’s seed” (physical descendants) and “Abraham’s children” (spiritual descendants because of personal faith; Gal. 3:6-14).
These Jewish leaders, who claimed to belong to Abraham, were very unlike Abraham. For one thing, they wanted to kill Jesus; Abraham was the “friend of God” and fellowshipped with Him in love (Isa. 41:8). Abraham listened to God’s truth and obeyed it, but these religious leaders rejected the truth.
Nature is determined by birth, and birth is determined by paternity. If God is your Father, then you share God’s nature (2 Peter 1:1-4); but if Satan is your father, then you share in his evil nature. Our Lord did not say that every lost sinner is a “child of the devil,” though every lost sinner is certainly a child of wrath and disobedience (Eph. 2:1-3). Both here and in the Parable of the Tares (Matt. 13:24-32, 36-43), Jesus said that the Pharisees and other “counterfeit” believers were the children of the devil. Satan is an imitator (2 Cor. 11:13-15), and he gives his children a false righteousness that can never gain them entrance into heaven (Rom. 10:1-4).
What were the characteristics of these religious leaders who belonged to the devil?
For one thing, they rejected the truth (John 8:40) and tried to kill Jesus because He spoke the truth. They did not love God (John 8:42) nor could they understand what Jesus taught (John 8:43, 47). Satan’s children may be well versed in their religious traditions, but they have no understanding of the Word of God.
Satan is a liar and a murderer. He lied to our first parents and engineered their deaths. Cain was a child of the devil (1 John 3:12), for he was both a liar and a murderer. He killed his brother Abel and then lied about it (Gen. 4).
Is it any wonder that these religious leaders lied about Jesus, hired false witnesses, and then had Him killed?
The worst bondage is the kind that the prisoner himself does not recognize. He thinks he is free, yet he is really a slave. The Pharisees and other religious leaders thought that they were free, but they were actually enslaved in terrible spiritual bondage to sin and Satan. They would not face the truth, and yet it was the truth alone that could set them free.
The truth will either set people free if they receive it (John 8:32) or will cause them to rebel if they reject it. God’s truth (John 1:14, 14:6, and 17:17) is like light (John 1:1 and 4 with 17:17). Light exposes all of the sins people have tried to hide (John 3:19-21). People will either repent and be set free when this happens, or will strike back and try to put out the light, as these Jews did, so that they can continue to conceal their sins. The truth will cause freedom or rebellion but never indifference.
Modern theology believes it’s possible for people to believe on the Lord with saving faith yet never mature to a place where they hear God’s voice. This looks like it is in direct opposition to what Jesus was saying. I believe there are a lot of professors of salvation who don’t actually possess it, and that’s the reason they can’t seem to hear from God or experience any of His blessings in their lives.
DECLARATION OF FAITH
I am a true disciple of Jesus. I remain focused on his Word, continually meditating upon it, speaking it, and living according to its precepts. I know the Truth and the Truth has made me free.
I understand how sin infects the human nature and separates them from God for all of eternity.
I understand how sin makes a person a slave to it influences and temptations.
I also understand that a slave is not a real and permanent member of the family.
A true son is a real and permanent member of the family. Therefore, since Jesus, the true Son, became my substitute, I have truly been set free! He became identified with my condition, so that I could be identified with His. The Son has set me free! Jesus paid my price and bought me into the family! Sin can no longer hold me and it’s cruel bondage! I am no longer a slave! I am a true son/daughter – a real and permanent member of the family of God!
I have become the seed of Abraham. I follow his example and I am blessed in the same ways that He was blessed.
God is my father, and I love, respect and gladly welcome my elder brother Jesus into my life. He has made me well able to hear and understand His message. I know what our relationship is and what He is made me to be.
I belong to God and listen to what He has to say. His Word is life to me and I hold it forth as my overcoming reality in every circumstance.
I pray this declaration of faith in Jesus’s name!