Print This Page Print This Page


Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on May 15, 2016 under 2016 |

Message preached Sunday, May 15, 2016 from John 8:31-36

Theme: True freedom—at the deepest level—comes only through a relationship with Him who is the Truth.

There’s a passage that I have felt very much drawn to this week. It’s a passage that speaks of a wonderful concept that all of us hold very dear. It’s a passage that contains the Lord Jesus’ declaration of ‘freedom’.

All of us—living as we do in ‘the land of the free’—cherish the idea of ‘freedom’. But the kind of freedom Jesus is speaking of in this passage is a far greater and far deeper kind of freedom than most of us might think of when we hear that word. It’s something greater than the civil and political freedoms we enjoy. He speaks of the greatest kind of freedom of all—a freedom that everyone desperately needs; one that transcends all other temporal circumstances of freedom that we might experience, and that gives the greatest possible meaning and value to them.

And as this passage shows us, it’s a freedom that cannot be experienced except through Jesus Himself.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Our passage is found in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus was in the temple in Jerusalem at the time. A group of Pharisees were confronting Him and challenging Him over the claims that He was making about Himself. At one point in the debate, He told those Pharisees;

When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him’” (John 8:28-29).

What an astonishing set of things it was that He was saying about Himself! He was saying that He was sent by the heavenly Father; and that He only spoke and taught and did what the Father had given Him. He was claiming that God the Father was always with Him; and that He always did those things that pleased the Father. And what’s more, He claimed that the Pharisees—once they had crucified Him—would know that He truly was the Son of Man, sent into this world by the Father.

As some of the other people listened in on this conversation, many believed in Him. There was a mix, then, of those in His presence who believed in Him and those who would not. And Jesus turned to those who believed in Him, and said something to them that was very offensive to those standing by who would not believe in Him. In our passage this morning—in verses 31-36—John tells us;

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed (vv. 31-38).

“Free indeed!” He said—a greater freedom than any other kind of freedom people can experience. It’s a freedom that many people—even people who, like us, live in the freest place in the world; people who have the greatest level of civil and social freedom that mankind has ever known—do not themselves enjoy; because it’s a freedom that can only come through a relationship by faith with Jesus Christ.

This is the true freedom—a freedom that comes only through knowing Him who is the Truth.

* * * * * * * * * *

Have you ever tried to define “truth”, by the way? It’s a tough word to define. But I hope you don’t mind if we take a moment to try.

When some people try to define truth, they often say, “Well; truth is that which is true.” But that’s cheating a bit; because it uses the word in order to define the word. Many folks today take the ‘post-modern’ route, and say, “Truth is that which is true for me; and what’s true for you may not be true for me.” And that’s not merely cheating—that’s just plain sloppy thinking. I even heard one woman not long ago say that she used to believe what the Bible says, “but my truth changed.” If we can pick and choose whatever we want to be “true” for ourselves—and just change it whenever we wish in order to conform to the times or to prevailing cultural values—then we’re saying that there isn’t really any ultimate standard of truth; and the word “truth” itself becomes virtually meaningless. It seems rather hard, then, to define “truth” unless there is an ultimate, absolute standard somewhere—something that is outside of myself and that doesn’t change.

Let’s suppose, for example, that I decided to save some money and I made a yardstick for myself. And let’s suppose that I wanted to check and confirm that my self-made yardstick actually is three feet long. I could just say, “It’s three feet long to me”; but that makes it a very subjective yardstick that may or may not really be three feet at all. I could hold it up against other yardsticks that other people made for themselves, and see how it compares with them; but how could I know for sure that their yardsticks are really three feet long?

There is, however, a sure way that I could prove that my self-made yardstick really is a true ‘three-foot’ yardstick. I could get a plane ticket to France, and drive out with my yardstick to visit the International Bureau of Weights and Measures that is located in Sèvres. Assuming that they have a yardstick somewhere in their holdings (I’d better call and check first), it’d be the only ultimate, internationally standardized yardstick in the world; and I could hold my yardstick up to the ultimate yardstick and check. And then, I can say, “Yes—I now see that my yardstick is true. I have checked it against the true, unchanging, unsubjective standard of ‘yardstick-ness’; and I have successfully verified that this yardstick of mine conforms to the truth.” (I might have also successfully proven that I have a lot of time on my hands; but that’s another story.)

So then; how would I define truth? I would say that “truth” is that which conforms to ultimate reality or to an original standard. Something is “true” to the degree that it measures up to the way things really, ultimately, objectively are. And how do we find that ultimate objective reality? I asked a group of friends the other day how they would answer that question: “How would you define ‘truth’?” And one of them very wisely said, “Truth is that which conforms to the mind and word of God.” I believe he was absolutely right. That’s our ultimate standard of truth. Something is “true” to the degree it conforms to reality; and reality is what God—the Creator and Sustainer of all things; the ultimate, unchanging Standard of reality—has declared it to be. In that case, I’m not making up “truth” for myself anymore; and you’re not making up “truth” for yourself either. Truth is declared, objectively and beyond ourselves, by the Person of God—who is unchanged and unchanging; and our beliefs and actions and understanding are “true” to the degree that we humbly bow to what He has said, and conform ourselves to His mind and His word.

Now; the reason it’s important for us to understand all this is because the Bible presents Jesus Christ to us as He who is the revealed truth from God in bodily form. The proposition that the Bible makes to us is that “Truth” is a Person. Look at what He had said to the Pharisees. He said, “I do nothing of Myself; but what My Father taught Me, I speak these things” (v. 28). He said, “I always do those things that please Him” (v. 29). In John 14:6, He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” In John 1:14 we’re told, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” And in verse 18, we’re told, “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” He told Pilate that He came into the world, “that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:27).

So; in our passage this morning, when Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”, He’s talking about Himself. He’s talking about the greatest experience of freedom anyone can have; and He is telling us that this freedom comes through hearing Him and knowing Him.

True freedom—at the deepest level—comes only through a relationship with Him who is the Truth

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; let’s look at this passage a little closer. And first, let’s notice carefully what Jesus says about . . .


John tells us that He turned to those who had been listening to what He said and had come to believe in Him. And almost as if to affirm their faith in Him and to further encourage that faith, He told them, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed . . .” (v. 31).

What does it mean to “abide” in His word? It means to acknowledge the authority of His word, to ‘remain’ in it and ‘live’ in it; to continually meditate on it, to obey it, and to let it guide our way of thinking and living. And do you see what He goes on to say about that? He says that if you do this—if you abide in His word faithfully as a regular pattern of life—you are His disciples ‘indeed’. You’re the real deal.

I don’t know if you have ever thought of this before; but Jesus never called anyone to become “a Christian”. There’s nothing wrong with the word ‘Christian’, of course. I’m very glad to be known as a Christian. But that’s not how Jesus put the matter. Instead, His invitation to people was, “Follow Me”. It involved practical action. It involved obedience. It involved hearing His words, receiving them as our authoritative commandments and instructions, and rising up and doing what He says. It involves putting our feet where He said to put them. That’s what it means to “abide” in His word. It’s what it means to abide in Him! To abide in Him is to abide in His word; and to abide in His word is to abide in Him.

In another place in John’s Gospel, Jesus said;

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:5-8).

I like to think of it as a matter of being “free” in the same way that a train on the tracks is free. A train, when it derails from the tracks is not free any longer. It is stuck in the mud and can’t go anywhere. But when it’s running along on the tracks—as it was designed to do—it runs freely. It goes wherever it was meant to go. And it’s the same for us. When we no longer walk in accordance with truth—when we go our own way and make it all up for ourselves—we’re off the tracks. We are derailed. We are creatures who are designed to live in accordance with the thoughts and words of our Creator—that is, in conformity to truth. And until we get back into the truth—and abide in the truth—we’re not free.

And so; the more we obey our Lord, the more we walk in accordance with truth. And the more we walk in accordance with truth, the greater our freedom. That’s the path to true freedom—to believe on Jesus and to walk in accordance with His true word. If you want to be truly free, then enter into a relationship with Him by faith, and be faithful to abide in Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; that’s what Jesus said to those who believed Him. But it seems to me that the next words come from those who did not believe in Him—that is, the unbelieving Pharisees. They took offense to what He said.

In verse 33, they said to Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” These Pharisees were thinking very pridefully of their Jewish heritage—and the Jewish heritage of the people who Jesus had just spoken to. “How dare You!” they thought. What do you mean by saying that the folks You’re talking to would be ‘made free’? We’re nobody’s slaves—and never have been!”

There was a sense, of course, in which they were forgetting their own history. It’s true that they were the children of Abraham; and that God had called them out as His special people—unique in all the world. It’s true that they were the most privileged of all people of the earth. But it just wasn’t true that they had never been in bondage to anyone. They had been, many centuries earlier, in bondage in Egypt for over four-hundred years. And then, of course, there was the seventy-years that they were in exile under captivity in Babylon. Many of the ‘seed of Abraham’—that is, the northern tribes of Israel—had been taken captive by the Assyrians a few centuries before, and never returned to their homeland. And then, of course, there was the whole contemporary matter of the Romans. Even as these Pharisees spoke, their land was being occupied and controlled by the Gentile Roman empire. It wasn’t entirely true that they had never been in bondage to anyone.

But then, Jesus wasn’t really speaking of a ‘political’ kind of bondage. He was speaking of being set free from an entirely different kind of bondage—a much deeper bondage—a bondage that they didn’t even believe themselves to be in at all, and about which they had deceived themselves.

And that’s when Jesus goes on to teach about . . .


Look at how He says this. He says—turning, I believe, to the unbelieving Pharisees—“Most assuredly, I say to you . . .”; or, as it’s translated in the old King James Version, “Verily, verily, I say unto you . . .” We’ve been speaking about “truth” throughout or examination of this passage; and here, Jesus is marking out what He is about to say as a statement that is of the utmost truth. It’s something of which everyone is called to take special and serious notice. You can translate His words, “Truly, truly, I say to you . . .”

He then goes on to say these stunning words: “whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” Think of that! He was talking about spiritual bondage to sin—was pointing His words at those who thought they were the most religious, and most righteous, and most free of all people. That means that you can have the greatest civil freedoms imaginable. You can live under the benefits and blessings of the freest government on earth. You can have the greatest possible human freedom to go wherever you want to go, do whatever you want to do, think whatever you want to think, write whatever you want to write, say whatever you want to say, own whatever you want to own, and live however you want to live—and still be a slave under the most horrible kind of bondage there is: the bondage to sin. And the whole time long, you can be completely self-deceived about it, and think you’re free and that you’ve never been in bondage to anyone.

If you are free in every other way, but are not free ‘not to sin’, then you are a slave to sin. You’d be like what the apostle Peter said about some of the false teachers who were deceiving others:

While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage (2 Peter 2:19).

The apostle Paul wrote quite a bit about this slavery to sin. In Romans 6:16, he wrote;

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:16).

In Ephesians 4:17-19, Paul wrote about the sad, self-deceived condition of slavery that unbelieving people are under;

in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness (Ephesians 4:17-19).

And may I just point out how radically different these words of Jesus are from how people typically describe the condition of those who are trapped in a life-style of what the Bible calls ‘sin’? The typical diagnosis from this world is that, because such sins are so humanly impossible to depart from, it must be that they are simply a part of their inherent nature—and that those who commit them are ‘born that way’. Jesus—I believe—would agree that such sins are humanly impossible to depart from. But it’s not because they are ‘born that way’. Rather, it’s because they are under the bondage of those sins and are enslaved by them. They are free to do what they want; but slaves of the sinful things that they ‘want’ to do.

The truth, as Jesus declared it, is that those Pharisees were enslaved by sin. They thought they were the freest people in the world; and they didn’t even recognize how much in bondage they were!

* * * * * * * * * * *

Now; the ‘good news’ of the gospel is that Jesus came to die on the cross and liberate those who are in bondage to sin. Back in Romans 6; Paul went on to say to his fellow believers;

But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:17-23).

This leads us then, in closing, to consider . . .


In verse 35, Jesus told the Pharisees who were self-deceived slaves of sin—and also speaking in the earshot of those who believed on Him—“And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.”

When a slave serves in a household, he holds a low position. He is far below a son, who is the legal heir of the household. At best, a slave’s position in the household is only temporary. He can be sent away at a moment’s notice; and would have nothing. He has no authority at all—no power over his situation; and is completely at the mercy of the heir. But the son, on the other hand, has a high position. His position is permanent. He can never be sent away. As someone said to me recently, when you’re on Facebook, you can ‘un-friend’ a friend. But you can never ‘un-son’ a son. A son—a true heir—possesses total power and authority over the servants of the house.

Jesus, as the true Son of His Father’s household, has the authority to unite those who believe on Him to His own death, burial, and resurrection in such a way as to completely deliver them from our bondage to sin, and to make them ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ of God along with Himself. The apostle Paul put it this way:

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin (Romans 6:5-6).

And so, look at what Jesus says at the end of our passage this morning—in verse 36. What great words they are! “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” True freedom! Freedom from the bondage of sin! Freedom to live as God calls us to live!

* * * * * * * * * *

So; do you have that freedom? It can be yours. Look again at what He says at the beginning of our passage—when He spoke to those who believe in Him: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

That’s where true freedom from the bondage of sin comes from. It comes only through a relationship by faith with Him who is the Truth.

He is the word of the Father in human flesh. When He speaks, He speaks the words of the Father; and so, He speaks truth. To abide in His word means to be a disciple of Him who is the truth and to abide in truth. And look at what He said in verse 32; “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

  • Share/Bookmark
Site based on the Ministry Theme by eGrace Creative.