Relationship, Not Religion, Sets Us Free
John 8:31-44 NIV
We may all know Jesus, but we are not all set free. How can we gain the freedom that Jesus has died for us to have?
Truth That Sets Us Free
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
These were Jews who believed in Jesus, but Jesus said that they had not come to know the truth and thus had not been freed. And the reason was because they did not hold to his teaching and weren’t really his disciples.
A genuine belief in Jesus is more than mere intellectual knowledge. We can believe in Jesus and yet not be his disciples. We can claim to be Christians and yet not be freed from our bondage to sin. We can have knowledge of the Bible and yet not have knowledge of the truth. The difference, as pointed out by Jesus here, is whether we hold to Jesus’ teachings.
Pride That Blinds Our Eyes
They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (John 8:33)
“Abraham is our father,” they answered. (John 8:39a)
“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.” (John 8:41b)
For the first time in their lives, these Jews were told that they were not free. This was hard for them to swallow.
The Jews took pride in their lineage and believed they were the only saved nation. They thought that just because they were descendants of Abraham, then they were children of God too. Because of their confidence, they took their foot off the pedal in following the truth. But God had shown in the Bible and throughout Israel’s turbulent history that being Abraham’s children meant nothing if they didn’t obey Him.
It could be the same for us Christians today. Pride blinds our eyes too. Like these Jews, we want to hold God to His promises without us holding to our end of the agreement. We want to believe what makes us feel good even though the Bible may teach otherwise. Do we put our confidence in our belief or our baptism but have stopped making every effort to be right with God?
Aren’t we hypocrites if we say these Jews are not saved when we ourselves put our faith in the wrong things as well?
Sin That Enslaves Our Soul
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. (John 8:34-35)
Jesus replied that their sinfulness made them slaves to sin and explained the distinction between a slave and a son — a son has a place in the family but a slave doesn’t. They couldn’t be slaves to sin and also children of God.
This same rationale applies to us too. We cannot be children of God and also slaves to sin. We are one or the other, we cannot be both. Do we show the traits of a child of God? Or do our lives show that we are slaves to sin? Have we taken repentance and righteousness seriously? We don’t have a place in God’s family if we are slaves to sin.
Redemption By The Son
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. (John 8:36-37)
Jesus explained that only the Son (himself) could set them free. But that would first require them to stop putting their confidence in their lineage, acknowledge that they’ve slaves to sin, and seek Jesus’ help.
Unless we face up to the seriousness of our sins and see that we are enslaved, we will not ask Jesus to free us. We cannot simply assume we are free because we attend church, pray and have a Christian name. We have killed Jesus through the sins we committed. We need to make room in our heart for Jesus’ words.
It is only by having a truly authentic relationship with Jesus that we can be freed from our slavery to sin.
Reflection Of Our Father
I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” (John 8:38)
“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. You are doing the works of your own father.” (John 8:39b-41a)
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:42-47)
Jesus reasoned that they could be biological descendants of Abraham, but they didn’t follow the obedience of Abraham. Their actions mattered more than their genes: “If you were Abraham’s children then you would do what Abraham did”.
Jesus taught that what they did reflected who their father was. He didn’t mince his words and went on to say that their actions reflected that they were children of the devil.
What do our actions reflect? Who are we children of?
Like these Jews, we say that, “The only Father we have is God himself.” We place our confidence in our belief and baptism just as these Jews placed their confidence in their biological lineage. But Jesus emphasised that how we behave truly reflects who our father is.
How do we react to Jesus’ message that we are slaves to sins and children of the devil? Do we accept it or do we resent it? This truth is told to us in love. We should response to this love with a contrite heart to repent.
God desires to be close to us. What He wants is an authentic relationship, not a symbolic religion.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.