New Apostolic Church USA

You Shall Be Free Indeed

"A study of John 8:31-36 - You shall be free indeed" from the 2020 Autumn Vision Newsletter

As we move into the new year, with a new theme from our Chief Apostle, let’s revisit our theme from 2020 once more: Christ makes free! A few verses from the book of John where Jesus is speaking in the temple give us some new insights.

John 8:31-36

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

At first glance, these verses might seem a bit opaque, but let’s deconstruct and examine them. Before we come to verse 31, we find Jesus in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles (also known as the Feast of Booths). The chapter records various encounters with the scribes and Pharisees, who first bring to Him the adulterous woman (John 8:1-12), and then interrogate Jesus about who He is, who His Father is, and what He is doing. As He responds to these questions, verse 30 tells us that many believed in Him.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”

At this point, Jesus addresses those Jews who believed Him, giving them a condition of the freedom that He offers – if you abide in My word. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? Jesus makes it quite clear – to remain in His teachings.

Jesus is also saying, My teaching is God’s teaching. Later in His discourse with the people, Jesus says, Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM (John 8:58). This is a reference to the name that God gives Moses in Exodus 3:14, I AM WHO I AM. All Jewish people would have recognized this reference instantly, knowing that Jesus was identifying Himself with their God.

We believe that a Christian is someone who believes in Jesus, is baptized, and professes His life and teachings. However, some followers of Christ may profess, but they do not progress. They make a commitment to Christ, but do not orient their lives to Him. Are we constantly changing, growing, and orienting ourselves to the mind of Christ? Do His teachings give meaningful direction to our lives? This is a lasting and progressive directive from Jesus that applies to His disciples still – continue, remain, abide in My word.

Jesus continues in John 8: And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

What are we freed from? The bondage and weight of sin. Sin placates us into the false belief that the comfort of the status quo is preferable to growth and change. The truth of Christ sheds light on our sin, bringing it out in the open so it can be forgiven and we can be liberated from it. This concept is intensely brought into focus in the record of Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous women just a few verses before. The scribes and Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus to be judged, but with His response, He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first, they walked away, condemned of their own sinfulness. And she, whose sin was so harshly exposed in public, heard words of mercy, encouraging her to overcome and start anew.

In Judaism, it was the law that set you free (Psalm 119:45). However, some of the teachers and leaders of the time had twisted the truth and order of God’s law into a warped version of itself. This is again evident in the story of the adulterous woman. The Mosaic Law teaches that both the woman and man caught in adultery should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). Scholars also say that by this time period, punishments of death were not usually adhered to so strictly. The scribes and Pharisees apparent zeal for righteousness in the situation was a façade, only meant to trap Jesus. If He said not to stone the adulterous woman, they could point to His irreverence for the Mosaic Law. If Jesus condemned her to death, He would acquiesce to their judgmental and violent treatment of the woman, and would have to answer to the Roman authorities for instigating a stoning. Jesus’ response points to a different understanding of God and His law – a perspective of love. God is love, and He gave His law to the people to guide their communal living and to set them as an example for the world, a light in the darkness (Isaiah 42:6). The people were to obey God’s law because they loved Him, not for selfjustification, comparison, or judgement.

Obedience to God brings freedom. Not freedom to do as we please, but rather, freedom from our fallen, sinful selves, and the power and guidance to act in accordance with the will of God. This is what God intended for His chosen people, to live in the freedom of His will. Jesus came to earth to display what it would look like to live the way God intended. His life portrayed the truth of the law and He fulfilled the law. He was the way, the truth, and the life – He personified it.

Jesus said to the people, you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. How do we know the truth? For disciples of Christ, it’s not only about deeply studying Jesus’ teachings, but additionally, growing closer and uniting ourselves with the One who is truth – Jesus Christ (John 14:6). He has made known to us the eternal God, even as He is the eternal God (John 1:18, John 14:9).

To know Jesus is to know God, and the more we enlighten ourselves with and embody His teachings, the more we will find ourselves living in obedience to God.

To continue our examination of John 8, the scribes and Pharisees’ response to Jesus’ statement about freedom was: “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

Seeing as the Jewish people were slaves to Rome, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and a number of other nations, this response seems quite odd. We should understand their claim to have never been in bondage to mean that even throughout their enslavement and oppression, they were able to maintain their identity as God’s chosen people. This was not the case for every tribe enslaved at those times; many lost their identity, culture, and religion in the process. By naming themselves as Abraham’s descendants, they were implying they were not in need of freedom. As a result, they misunderstood Jesus, thinking He was remarking on their national freedom and identity, when He was really asserting inner freedom.

Jesus clarified this misunderstanding by responding: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

Inner freedom is freedom from sin, that which ensnares and enslaves us. Jesus accentuates the contrast between His status, as the Son of God, and humans, subjugated by sin. Jesus is the One with freedom in God’s kingdom (or house), and He shares this freedom. When we accept the Son, we share in His inheritance and in His relationship with the Father (John 17:20-26). Paul further develops this thought in his letter to the Galatians: Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Jesus proclaimed that the truth shall make you free. We know and believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and He has come to liberate us from sin and give us a new life in His kingdom.

We are free indeed.

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