Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed him, “If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Jesus’ words in John 8:32 have provided comfort and encouragement for believers for generations. Many seek and hope to be set free in Jesus Christ, and we all know the great value present in freedom!
Sadly, in context, Jesus’ words were understood as anything but comforting and encouraging. The Jews, in fact, took great offense at them: how could Jesus insinuate that they were enslaved to anyone when they were children of Abraham (cf. John 8:33)? Despite Jesus’ attempts to explain to them that anyone who sinned was a slave of sin, a servant of “their father” the Devil (John 8:31-47), the Jews would not listen. The very Jews who “believed” in Him before now considered Him to be a demon-possessed Samaritan, worthy of being stoned for blasphemy (John 8:48, 59)!
It is evident that Jesus’ message of freedom does not sit well with those who do not perceive the burden of their sin. Those who believe that they are “healthy” and in no need of redemption find His message for them distasteful, even if they are willing to intellectually concede the value of His other teachings (cf. Matthew 9:11-13, John 8:30). It is one thing for Jesus to claim that He has a close relationship with His Father; it is quite another to claim that His hearers are enslaved and sons of the devil!
This is why the beginning of Jesus’ statement is so important: those who know the truth that will set them free are those who abide in Jesus’ word and who are His disciples (John 8:31)! The truth cannot liberate those who refuse it or reject it. The truth cannot liberate even those who hear it but do not act on it. It can only liberate those who believe in Jesus Christ and who abide in His word– His obedient servants!
Such is an important reminder for those of us who enjoy great freedoms in our country. When many people think of freedom, they think of license: “I am free to do as I please.” Freedom in Jesus Christ is not license; instead, it is deliverance. The truth sets us free from sin and death in order to serve Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1-2, 6:16-18). It does not give us license to act as we please, as if recognizing that Jesus is Lord can somehow save us from ourselves. Instead, it delivers us from our earlier “father,” the devil, so that we can begin to serve our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. It means that we throw off the yoke of sin and death and take on the yoke of the meek and gentle Shepherd of our souls (cf. Matthew 11:28-30).
Freedom in Jesus Christ is most precious indeed; it was paid for by His own blood. Let us learn to appreciate His sacrifice and our deliverance from sin, and seek to serve our Lord and to be His true disciples!
Ethan R. Longhenry