In our text today Jesus contrasts freedom and slavery.
• However, this is the kind of freedom and slavery that concerned Jesus the most – spiritual freedom and slavery.
• Jesus makes clear humanity either abides in His word and is free OR is enslaved to sin.
• Today we will try and understand the contrast Jesus is making.
John 8:30–38 (ESV) — 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.
1) FREEDOM IN ABIDING
John 8:30–32 (ESV) — 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
A few obvious questions arise from Jesus’ words.
• What is it to abide?
• What is His word?
• What is the truth?
Using what John’s Gospel has shown us thus far, our context, we can track down the answers to these questions.
The “laboratory” definition conveys the idea of to Continue, Live, Dwell, or Lodge within a “certain realm or sphere” – BDAG.
• The “realm or sphere” was made clear last week when Jesus differentiated between the realm of God and the realm of a fallen and rebellious creation.
• John 8:23 (ESV) — 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
• And in our text today, the “realm of God” is specifically represented by Jesus’ Word.
• So Jesus is teaching that a believer (disciple vs. 31) is to Continue, Live, Dwell, or Lodge within God’s realm as represented, in this case, by Jesus’ Word.
And the importance of abiding is underscored by Jesus’ and John’s repeated use of the concept.
• John 6:56 (ESV) — 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.
• John 15:4 (ESV) — 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.
• 1 John 2:6 (ESV) — 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
• 2 John 9 (ESV) — 9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
We get a sense from these verses that we are to abide in more than just Jesus’ words.
• And it is interesting that, like our text today, these other examples appear in contexts that contrast the difference between authentic belief and spurious belief.
• In other words, abiding in Jesus’ Word (vs. John 8:31), His Vine (vs. John 15:4) and in Him (1 John 2:60) demonstrates authenticity of belief – fruit.
• As James makes so clear, belief is not void of action.
• James 2:26 (ESV) — 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
But, it is necessary to point out that our abiding and the “works” or “fruit” it produces is fueled and empowered by God’s grace, not our will.
• “the branch cannot bear fruit by itself” – John 15:4.
D.A. Carson fleshes out abiding nicely when he says:
• “A genuine believer remains in Jesus’ ‘word’ (logos), his teaching (cf. notes on 1:1): i.e. such a person obeys it, seeks to understand it better, and finds it more precious, more controlling, precisely when other forces flatly oppose it” – D.A. Carson.
So we have explored the idea of what it is to abide and why it is important.
• Now to answer the 2nd question concerning the object of our abiding in our text today – Jesus’ Word.
• What is it?
One need only look back at the last 8 chapters of John to see Jesus’ Words and some highlights are His teaching on:
• His relationship to the Father.
• The depravity of man.
• The nature of the work of God in salvation.
• His identity with Yahweh as found in His “I am” statements.
• His looking forward to being “lifted up” to the Cross.
BTW – the words of the rest of the NT writers are also Jesus’ words (unless they say otherwise).
• John 17:8 (ESV) — 8 For I [Jesus] have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.
• John 14:26 (ESV) — 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
So why Jesus Word?
• “To the Jews who have professed faith in him, Jesus, understandably enough, indicates what genuine faith does: it perseveres, it holds tight to Jesus’ teaching, with some glorious consequences” – D.A. Carson.
• In other words, the capacity to abide in Jesus’ words demonstrates a born again heart, eyes that see, ears that hear – i.e., salvation.
• John 5:24 (ESV) — 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Salvation is not the only Glorious Consequences of Abiding in Jesus’ Word – a few more:
(1) God’s word produces knowledge that averts spiritual destruction.
• Hebrews 5:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
• Hosea 4:6 (ESV) — 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.
(2) God’s word testifies to truth of Jesus Christ.
• John 5:39–40 (ESV) — 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
(3) God’s word produces spiritual maturity and the benefits thereof.
• Acts 20:32 (ESV) — 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
(4) God’s word exposes where we cling to the flesh in our heart and mind.
• Hebrews 4:12 (ESV) — 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
(5) God’s word produces joy and delight.
• Jeremiah 15:16 (ESV) — 16 “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.”
(6) God’s word gives a proper spiritual perspective to a material world.
• Psalm 119:72 (ESV) — 72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
(7) God’s word exposes deception and worldliness.
• Colossians 2:8 (ESV) — 8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
• Ephesians 4:14 (ESV) — 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
(8) God’s word protects us from ourselves.
• Mark 7:8-9 (ESV) — 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!
This is by no means an exhaustive list.
• Nonetheless, it has aptly revealed why Jesus would associates belief (“truly my disciples”) and abiding in His word.
• And incidentally, the list also answers the 3rd question we asked at the beginning.
• What is the truth that abiding in Jesus’ Words makes known to us?
• And more than that, it also demonstrates why the truth that comes from abiding in Jesus’ words sets us free from the slavery of sin.
This relationship between abiding and freedom from sin brings us to our next section, the response of the supposed believers.
2) FREEDOM IN ABRAHAM
John 8:33–37 (ESV) — 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.
Strikingly, we see here (2) significant developments.
• (1) Those who “believed” were not authentic (vss. 37-38).
o As is so often the case in John, they had a spurious faith.
o And Jesus’ desire is always to expose a spurious faith as he did here.
o It is not about numbers but about authenticity.
• (2) The Jews curiously ignored Jesus’ significant statement about abiding in His Word and latched on to the use of His word “freedom”.
o It is the slavery/freedom discussion I want to unpack.
Interestingly, the Jews finally got the spiritual gist of what Jesus was saying to them.
• Usually they miss Jesus’ spiritual point and dwell on a literal view of His words.
• We know they got it this time because historically speaking the Jews had been slaves or captives – of the Egyptians, the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
So what was their point when they said, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone”?
As the Jews have so often assumed, being Jewish was to be free; to be saved.
• But nothing in the Old Testament Scripture teaches this.
• The OT does not teach that salvation is by birth or works.
• Habakkuk 2:4 (ESV) — 4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.
• In fact, Paul actually preached the Gospel from the O.T. in Acts 13 when he spoke of the promised offspring, the begotten one, the uncorrupted one, etc.
And in Romans, Paul, a Jew, states clearly the problem with this Jewish line of thinking.
• Romans 2:28–29 (ESV) — 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
But the Jews in our text today were telling Jesus that in fact their “praise”, salvation and freedom were from man…Abraham.
• Jesus disagreed.
No Freedom in Abraham’s house:
Living in the “house” of Abraham (Israel) does not bestow on its occupants freedom.
• Especially when ones position in the house is a slave to sin.
• So irrespective of their relationship to Abraham, the Jew lives in this enslaved condition.
• And as a slave, there is no right to the righteousness of the God of Abraham.
o Slaves have no inheritance rights
• As Wiersbe says, “The servant may live in the house, but he is not a part of the family; and he cannot be guaranteed a future” – Wiersbe.
• This is what Jesus means when He says, “The slave does not remain in the house forever”.
o The Jew benefits from their covenantal relationship with God, but they are not, by default, spiritually free because of this relationship.
John MacArthur puts it like this:
• “His statement that the slave does not remain in the house forever, but the son does remain forever was a warning. The son has permanent rights in the household; the slave does not. Even though the Jews were Abraham’s descendants (and thus part of God’s chosen nation), they were like slaves, not sons, and in danger of eternally forfeiting the privileges they had received” – John MacArthur.
Jesus, on the other hand, is the Son and as such remains forever.
• In other words, as God/Man without sin He both is and gives the salvation of the Father.
• It is His rightful inheritance given His relationship with the Father.
• Therefore to be saved is to be in Jesus (to abide in His word), not to be in Abraham (a slave to sin).
Jesus is making the following contrast to teach us and the Jews:
• “The contrast is between a son, who is the inheritor of the father’s property and whose rights cannot be denied or taken away, and a slave who, although he may enjoy some of the privileges of being in the same house as the son, nevertheless can be sold at any time and thus lose his privileges. Obviously this applied to Christ’s hearers, who were Jews but who were not God’s sons by the new birth. They had all the privileges of being Jews, but unless they came to Christ for salvation the privileges would not last forever. The day would come when even Jerusalem would be destroyed and the Jews would be scattered” – James Boice.
And as alluded to earlier:
• “By sketching genuine faith in such stark terms, Jesus is standing true to a pattern we find elsewhere: he is never interested in multiplying numbers of converts if they are not genuine believers, and therefore he insists on forcing would-be disciples to count the cost (cf. Lk. 9:57–62; 14:25–33)” – D.A. Carson.
• What is the cost in our text today?
Lesson for Us:
• Jesus’ warning to the Jews is a warning to us.
• In whom or what do we trust?
• And we can answer this question by examining in what we abide.
• Do we abide in Jesus’ words?
• Do our lives display the glorious consequences of this abiding?
• If our lives do not display theses glorious consequences, then are we abiding in something we shouldn’t be (at least for a season).
• Jesus words to the Jews, His truth, were more often than not incredibly offensive to the Jews.
• How is Jesus offensive to this day?