Big Idea: True freedom comes when disciples know, believe and obey the Truth.
A. What is our perception of freedom?
1. We live in America, “land of the free, and the home of the brave.”
2. Statue of Liberty greets newcomers on our eastern shore
3. No limitations. No restrictions. No restraints.
4. “I can do what I want, when I want, as often as I want with whomever I want.”
A. Discussion on series “Easter – So What?”
B. Reason for this sermon
1. Because of the cross, I can have freedom.
2. Not freedom as the world defines it with all its limitations and exceptions. But freedom as God defines it. Real and true freedom.
3. What is this freedom, and how do we get it?
C. Context of John 8
1. Jesus, in chapters 7 & 8 is addressing a large crowd of Jews who have assembled in Jerusalem for the annual Feast of Tabernacles.
a. Feast of Tabernacles is one of three feasts that able-bodied Jews were commanded to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate.
b. The Feast was a celebration of God’s provision and protection of the Jewish nation after He had delivered them out of slavery in Egypt through the Red Sea.
2. Tabernacles was different than the other two main Feasts in Judaism; Passover and Pentecost, primarily because Jewish pilgrims from all over the world were more likely to attend, to bring out the underlying theme of Tabernacles that the Jewish people were pilgrims and wanderers for 40 years before they had a place to call home.
3. Distinctives of Feast
a. Dwelling in booths
b. Pouring out of water (John 7:37)
c. Lighting the 4 candelabras (John 8:12)
4. Other claims.
a. One claim was that there were some in the crowd that were intent on killing Him.
b. Another was that He was sent by God, His Father, and that He truly speaks the words of God.
c. Also, He also claimed that unless people believed that He was the promised Messiah, the Son of God, they would die in their sins.
5. Needless to say, this stirred up quite a controversy among the people.
a. There were those that were so opposed to Him that they did want to kill him.
b. There were those that were more mildly opposed to Him that they discounted Him as an illegitimate half-Jew who was possessed by a demon.
c. There were those that liked what He said, but didn’t fully grasp the concept of the Messiah or Christ.
d. Then there were others that not only liked what He said, but believed what He said and put their faith in Him.
e. This is the group that is mentioned in John 8:30, and whom Jesus addresses in our text starting in verse 31.
A. Jesus Addresses Believers (John 8:31-32)
1. Despite all the chaos of the setting and of the crowds, Jesus delivers a powerful sentence of encouragement to those Jewish men and women from around the globe who were hearing Jesus’ words for the first time and were trusting in Him for the forgiveness of their sins.
2. He encouraged these new believers with the fact that as His disciples, they can know and experience a freedom that no one else can experience.
3. There are three key terms in this short sentence that are important for us to unpack.
a. The first is “abide”.
i. Abiding is a profound theological term.
ii. Basically it means to stay, or remain in a place.
iii. In our context it means that despite the bad feelings and even persecution from friends and family members, you will not waver and will not fail to follow Jesus and obey His commands.
b. The second is “truth”.
i. Pilate famously asked Jesus later in this gospel right before His scourging and crucifixion “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
ii. Truth, for the apostle John, means a divine revelation of reality.
iii. John is most concerned that people know that Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing in Him, they can have forgiveness of sins (Jn. 20:30-31).
iv. Therefore, knowing the truth is knowing that God has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, and that this revelation represents a reality that is otherwise hidden to us.
c. The third key term is “free”
i. In general, freedom in the NT represents an awareness that we are not in control of our existence, therefore in order to have any semblance of control, we must look to an outside source.
ii. In the context of John 8, this existence is the realm of sin.
4. Therefore, what Jesus is saying in this compact sentence is that those who are professing faith in Him will not only experience forgiveness of their sins, but if they follow Jesus’ example and continue to obey His commands, regardless what everyone else is doing, they will experience a liberation from the enslavement to sin because they see more clearly God, who has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and know more clearly His will for their lives.
5. These are indeed great words of encouragement, knowing that not only were their sins forgiven, but also that it would be possible that sin would no longer have control over them.
B. Jesus Addresses Non-believers (John 8:33-36)
1. Change in audience
a. The “they” in verse 33 does not refer back to the believers that Jesus was just talking to.
b. Since it was a mixed crowd of people, another group responds to what Jesus just said. (example with people in the congregation)
c. This group does not believe in Jesus’ words and are quite antagonistic to His message in general.
d. In fact, by the end of the chapter, they are part of the people that are trying to kill Jesus by stoning.
2. These people pick up on the implication that they are not free and protest on two accounts.
a. First, they were offspring of Abraham (Jn. 8:33a)
i. Abraham in the OT was a great king and warrior who was enslaved to no one. In fact, he was called God’s friend (Is. 41:8).
ii. By claiming to be his offspring, they were claiming royal lineage of the highest degree.
b. Second, they had never been enslaved to anyone (Jn. 8:33b)
i. This is an ironic statement because from the moment they entered the Promised Land they had been oppressed by various people groups for hundreds of years.
ii. In the then 1000 year history of the nation of Israel, more than half of their existence was spent in either exile or under foreign rule.
iii. As they were speaking in the temple courtyard, one only had to look to the NW to see the Antonia Fortress, and look in the streets to see the legions of Roman soldiers, both of which were visible reminders that they were not currently free.
3. Jesus addresses the second protest first and corrects them as to what He meant (Jn. 8:34-36)
a. As the people were protesting on human terms, Jesus was speaking on spiritual terms.
b. The slavery that Jesus was speaking of was slavery to sin.
i. Even though most English translations say “everyone who commits sin” or “everyone who sins”,
ii. The original language gives a force of habitual continuing in sin, so that the New Century Version says, “everyone who lives in sin is a slave to sin.”
iii. Not one particular sin committed over and over again, but the sheer repetition of committing sinful acts – which is what we all do naturally.
iv. The repeated acts of sins that people commit are evidence of to sin and the inability to escape it under their own power.
4. Jesus then addresses the first protest by explaining the difference between spiritual and freedom by comparing a slave and a son (Jn. 8:35)
a. The slave may enjoy the protection and provision of working and serving in a master’s house.
b. But ultimately, they are not a part of the household: the inheritance won’t be passed on to them, they don’t share the same family name, they may not even serve in the house for long since they could be sold or cast out at any time.
c. In contrast, the son shares the family name, is the heir to the fortunes, and can never be cast out of the house, indeed, he abides in the house forever.
d. In addition, the son has the power and authority to grant the slave his freedom – something that a slave cannot grant himself.
e. This addresses the Jews’ protest that they are offspring of Abraham because as we recall from Genesis 21, Abraham had two sons:
i. Ishmael, who was born to the slave Hagar ,
ii. and Isaac, who was born to his free wife, Sarah.
iii. The son of the slave was cast out of Abraham’s house, while his son Isaac remained to inherit the fortunes of Abraham, but also inherit the promises that God had given to Abraham.
f. The comparison is given to show that the difference between freedom and slavery is not one of physical lineage, instead it is one of spiritual affiliation and the result is either impermanence or permanence.
5. Jesus then applies the illustration directly to the Jews that He has been talking to and tells them that since He is the Son of God, and heir to God’s Kingdom, He possesses all authority and ability to free anyone from the to slavery, and that when Jesus frees a person, they are completely, permanently, and totally free.
A. Freedom that Jesus offers is true and real freedom.
1. It is freedom from the slavery to sin and obedience to our enemy the devil.
a. Doesn’t mean we will never sin.
b. Means we have the ability to no longer be controlled by sin or held captive in its grip.
2. It is freedom that is not found anywhere else (Gal. 5:1 – “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”)
a. Through Christ’s resurrection He defeated the power of sin, Satan and death, in order to give us true freedom. How disgraceful is it that we would voluntarily choose to be slaves or servants to anything or anyone else but Christ?
b. We do this by looking for freedom in political social programs and laws.
c. By looking for freedom in philosophical ideologies and movements, like feminism and scientism.
d. By looking for freedom in ourselves with self-help books, 12-step programs, Eastern meditations.
3. It is freedom from the past
a. Not the consequences that come from our actions like breaking the law
b. It is knowing that what I did yesterday does not define who I am today.
c. I don’t have to be burdened by the guilt and shame of my past mistakes.
4. It is freedom from fear, self-loathing, self-doubt, self-justification, lust, anger, envy, prejudice and insecurity
5. It is freedom from believing the lies of the enemy
6. It is freedom to pursue holiness and righteousness
7. It is freedom to live whole-heartedly for God and to be a willing channel for His grace and love
B. Believe the Truth
1. Believe doesn’t mean “agree with” or “give verbal assent to”.
a. It means that we entrust ourselves to Him in faith for our protection and provision, for our deliverance and our daily bread, and for our forgiveness of sin and our freedom from sin.
b. We commit ourselves whole-heartedly to Him.
2. Why? Because of Easter; because of the empty tomb.
a. God had promised in the OT that His Messiah would be delivered from death (Ps. 16:10).
b. Jesus promised that if they would kill Him He would raise Himself up again.
3. The empty tomb on Easter morning shows that Jesus is the promised Messiah and that He alone delivers us from slavery to sin and death.
C. Abide in the Truth
1. Stay in it; never waver.
2. We must make a choice – conditional statement in John 8:31
3. Daily decision for the believer – not every believer lives in this freedom
D. Know the Truth
1. There are many places where people look for truth
a. Some look to personal experience or personal reality
i. Truth is individually determined
ii. “That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”
b. Others find truth in science
i. Equate truth with provable facts
ii. They believe that if only we spent more time and money doing experiments and research we would ultimately know all that there is to know.
iii. We would be able to cure cancer, rid the world of AIDS and discover how the universe got started.
c. Some find truth in ideologies
i. When feminism arose in the 1940s and 50s, the message was that a woman wasn’t truly being a woman unless she was doing everything she was capable of doing.
ii. The liberated woman was one who could play the roles of breadwinner, housekeeper and wife all at the same time, thereby bringing herself true joy and freedom.
iii. We remember the perfume jingle: “I can bring home the bacon. Fry it up in a pan. And never, never, never let you forget you’re a man. ‘Cause I’m a woman!”
d. Others declare that truth is found in only the purest concepts like love, music, color or ideas.
2. For Jesus, there was only one source of Truth – Himself.
a. Jesus told Thomas that He Himself was the Truth (John 14:6)
b. From the opening words of John’s Gospel, he presents Jesus as God in the flesh – the perfect revelation of God for all mankind to see (Jn. 1:14).
c. If we are to know the Truth, we need to know the words and works of Jesus Christ – the true source of Truth.
3. “It is the nature of sin to enslave; it is the nature of truth to set free. And only in God’s Word can real truth and freedom be found.”
4. Dr. Wiersbe said, “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.
A. Why does Easter matter more than just one day each year?
B. Because it shows us what Truth is – the fullness of God tabernacling in person of Jesus Christ
C. Because it provides us with the only way of escaping the burden of enslavement to sin and allowing us to be truly free.
D. One of the intentions of the Cross and the Empty Tomb was to bring a person past the point of intellectual assent or cultural belief and to a point where that person entrusts themselves fully to the Risen Savior and endeavors to follow after Him so closely that there no longer remains a distinction between Master and disciple. This is where true freedom is found.
Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989), Jn 8:31.