Open your Bibles to John 8:31-47. After a short break last week for the purpose of preaching on the ordinance of Baptism, we now return to the Gospel of John and continue our journey through the entirety of this book, verse by verse.
Before we read our text, let me briefly remind you of the context of today’s setting. At the beginning of chapter 7 we saw Jesus going to the Feast of Booths in Jerusalem. While at the feast of booths Jesus places himself at ground zero, the Temple, and begins to teach. The teaching of Jesus caused quite the stir in Jerusalem. The whole town was abuzz because of this carpenter from Nazareth. In John 7:32 we see the Pharisees issuing a warrant for his arrest. The officers who went to execute the warrant came back empty handed; not because Jesus eluded them, but because of what Jesus was teaching. John 7:45 says, “The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!”
Which leads to the question, what was Jesus saying that was so riveting? The answer is that he was talking about himself. John 7:38 Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Then in John 8:12 we see Jesus say, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
All these words were spoken during the Feast of the Booths and today’s text is just a continuation of that dialogue. So let us now turn to our text, read it, pray, and study it.
John 8:30-47 – “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
Slave to Sin
The one thing that John does well is capture the dichotomy that existed in the teaching of Christ. In our text today we see the comparison of slave and free, lies and the truth, the devil and the Father. As I have said before, this is the way God sees mankind, in a very black and white sort of way. Unfortunately, mankind, on the other hand, sees the world is shades of gray. And this is why Jesus speaks the way he does, to pierce through the fog and shine light upon the truth of our condition.
Let us begin today by looking at what Jesus says in verse 34, “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” What does Jesus mean when he says a slave to sin. First, I think we can all agree that the word slavery immediately invokes many images. Images such as bondage, chains, forced labor, and masters. The Greek word behind the word slave is doulos. The best translation, I believe, for doulos is slave. Some translations, even the ESV at times, will translate this word to servant or bondservant. However when this occurs the imagery is somewhat lost. For what Jesus is shedding light on in this passage is the bondage of the human nature.
To be a doulus of sin is to be mastered by sin, controlled by sin, owned by sin, chained to sin. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit says in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” The Apostle Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit says in 2 Peter 2:19, “For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
So who does Jesus claim to be a slave to sin? Once again in verse 34 it says “everyone who practices sin.” If you have the NIV, NASB, or the King James the word “practices” is not present in your translation. The NASB and the King James says, “commits.” The Greek Word behind this is the word is “poieō” (poi-e'-ō). It is at times translated “to make” or “to produce.” John MacArthur in describing the use of this word says it describes “the pattern of their life was to commit sin, present tense.”
So who is Jesus speaking of when he speaks of being slaves to sin? Those whose life is a regular manifestation of sin. Day after day, moment after moment, making, producing, committing sin. Practically speaking, who fits into that category of “practicing sin”? Absent the freedom that only Jesus provides, everyone. Everyone who has ever been born, prior to the liberty found in Christ, is enslaved to sin. Don’t believe me? Listen to these verses.
- Psalm 51:5 – “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
- Genesis 6:5, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
- Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
- Mark 7:21 – “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”
- Romans 3:9, “both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
- Ephesians 2:1-3 – “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
How is that possible? How is everything humanity does apart from faith in Christ sin? It is because when we do things without faith like build hospitals, feed to poor, become foster parents, put out house fires, without faith we are not doing it for the Glory of the Creator. Instead we are doing it for the glory of creation. And this is not God's will.
God did not create you to glorify humanity, or glorify your family, or glorify a political party, or glorify yourself. He created you for one reason only, to glorify God. If you are not glorifying God in what you are doing, then you are rebelling against your God ordained purpose for breathing. If your life is not lived through faith in Christ, then everything you do is a sin. You are a slave to sin.
Freedom in Christ
So what is the answer to this slavery? Jesus tells us in verse 36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. “ Who sets you free? Jesus. Not Muhammed, not Budha, not Mary, not good works, not religion, not yourself. Jesus, and Jesus only has the power to break the chains of your bondage. He is the one who liberates you from your sinful passions and desires. Jesus does not need help to set us free. Just as Jesus did not need our help to be the bread of life, or living water, or the light of the World. Jesus is making it abundantly clear that salvation is in Christ alone.
The apostle Paul knew this reality very well. In Romans 7:23 Paul says, “but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Paul who was immersed in the religion of his parents, the religion of his tradition, found that he could not break the chains of his sin. He was not powerful enough. There is only One who has that power, Jesus Christ our Lord. As Paul said, it is only through Him, and Him alone that we can be set free from sin.
This leads us to a question, how does one become set free through Christ? How does this work? How does it come about? Take a look at verse 32, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Hold on. Is it the Son who sets you free, or is it truth that sets you free? The answer is, it is both. As John has already told us in John 1:14, “we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.“ And then again in verse John 1:17, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Christ and the truth are synonymous. Christ is the embodiment of truth. Later in the John 14:6 Jesus says this about himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” So is it the Son, or is it truth? The answer is yes. It is both.
But can we be more specific? What is meant by Jesus being the truth? The truth that sets us free is the truth about who Jesus is and the purpose of him becoming a man. This is the truth that liberates. Another way to talk about this freedom giving truth is the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus became a man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross in our place, absorbed the wrath of God, was resurrected from the dead, is now seated at the right hand of God, and offers forgiveness and eternal life to all who submit to Him through faith. This is the truth about Christ. This is the Gospel. And this is why Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel for it is power of God for the salvation.”
So let us ponder this for a moment. If Christ sets us free from the bondage of sin, and the proclamation of who Christ is and what he has done gets us access to this power, what should be our response? Should it not be to go and set captives free by the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? We have the keys to release them from their shackles, why are we not using them. Why are we not loving those who remain caged in their sin by testifying to the truth of Christ? Romans 10:14-17 says, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?c And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
People are not saved from sin and death by stepping into a building and marveling at a new floor, they are saved by faith in the Word of Christ. This is the power of the Gospel that God has granted to us to go and breaks the chains of our fellow man before it is too late.
Are You Free?
The question I now have for all of us is, are you free? Has the Son set you free from the chains of sin? Look at verse 30, “As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” The reason this conversation started was because people “believed” in Christ, but the question is what kind of belief do they have? Is it a true belief, is it a true faith, are they truly disciples of Jesus? James 2:19 says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”
If you recall, this is an ongoing issue in the Gospel of John. Both in John 2 and John 6 we see the ongoing problem of people beliving in Jesus but not really believing in Jesus. If you recall in John 6, we read about thousands of people following Jesus out to the middle of nowhere with a desire to make him their King, and by the end of the chapter, all of them left Jesus except the 12 disciples. The faith of the crowd was not a true faith, it was a demonic faith.
So the question Jesus has for those who believe in Him as mentioned in verse 30 is, are you truly my disciples? Have you truly been set free by the Son? The answer is found in verse 31, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”
The word for abide in Greek is “meno” which means to remain, to continue in. So the answer to the question of what faith do you have will be revealed by your “abiding.” Your abiding in the word of Christ is evidence of freedom. If they truly believed in Christ, their life would look different. You will no longer look like a slave, but you will look like a free man.
So the question is do you? If someone was to examine your life, would they be able to see that you live for Jesus? Or would you just look like the rest of the enslaved humanity. As we examined in 1 John this morning at Cornerstone. 1 John 2:3, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,5but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
The false faith that is a reoccurring problem in the Gospel of John is a false faith that is still a problem today. And this problem has eternal consequences. For if you do not see the evidence of true faith, which is abiding in the Word, then that means you are still in your sins. And if you are still in your sin, you are a slave. And Jesus tells us in verse 35, “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” Which means the day is coming, when your life will come to an end. And if at that moment, if you are still a slave to sin, and are not free by the power of the Gospel, then you are forever cast out of the presence of God.
Jesus speaks of this reality in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Workers of lawlessness, is just another way to say slaves to sin. Claiming Christ does not save, authentic faith in Christ does. And authentic faith in Christ will always produce law-keeping, not law breaking. So the question is, is this your trajectory? Does the word of Christ, the teaching of Christ, the commands of Christ live in your heart? If not, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.