If the Son Has Set You Free…
What does it mean to be a disciple?
Context: In John 8, Jesus was in the temple, specifically the treasury, speaking to his disciples and those who had gathered around in him. This is the place just inside the court of the gentiles, also called the Women’s court, the inner-most part of the temple the women of Israel were able to gather. There was no gentile allowed into this court, and thus, Jesus is speaking strictly to the nation of Israel. It was common for rabbis to gather disciples in the temple and teach them.
At this time, Jesus was nearing the end of his earthly ministry. This feast was about 6 months prior to the Passover, the feast that was concurrent with Jesus crucifixion. And Jesus delivered, yet again, a powerful and jaw-dropping statement: “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
These words rang out in the treasury, in front of the people of Israel, disciples and Pharisees alike. This led to a confrontation with the Pharisees, who then tried to discredit him. Jesus, as he had done before, debunked their rebuke, and exclaimed to them, “unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” In his statement, I AM, Jesus was eluding to, and later made plain, that He was claiming to be the great I AM, the self-existent one. We will expound on this at the end of chapter 8. We need to note, for the sake of today’s passage, that Jesus’ claim that He is the Light of the world, He was claiming to be— and to speak the truth. And just as God in creation separated light from darkness, so Jesus separates those who walk in light or darkness. One is life. The other is death. His statement that those who follow me will not walk in darkness was discipleship language— a call for those who would be his disciples to learn of him.
So now we continue with this conversation as he addresses specifically those who would claim to be his disciples.Today, we look at the passage under the following headings:
The Claim, The Litmus Test, Great Implications, The Indictment , and True Freedom
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed 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 practices 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.
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed 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.”
We must feel the gravity of this claim… This is not a normal claim that anyone would make today. The most dramatic claims of our day— that are somewhat accepted, would be those of our professional athletes: Muhammad Ali: “I’m the greatest!” LeBron James: “I’m the king.” Even those claims are contested, and the power and extent of their claim doesn’t light a candle to that of Jesus. They claim their title and it shines the light on them. Jesus claims his title and it lights the world. Their glory is for their own benefit; Jesus’ glory heals the sick, raises the dead, and sets the prisoner free. Their claim is limited to one specific area of expertise, Jesus claimed to be, know, and teach the all-encompassing truth.
So… Jesus claimed to know and be the one who delivered truth. Jesus claimed the truth that will set you free.
BUT, This claim— of knowing truth and being free, are reserved only for His disciples. Jesus wasn’t so quick to assume everyone who called him Lord truly believed.
In fact, we read in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (ESV)
Gathered around Jesus, in the treasury, are a number of people who— according to v30, believed in him. They heard Jesus speak and were inspired, captivated, and by all appearances, believed he was the Messiah.
We need to see that Jesus was not satisfied with someone merely believing he was the Messiah— whatever that meant to them. Saving faith in him isn’t merely mental ascent, or emotional inspiration, but it is complete submission. To be a disciple is to sit under someone, to learn their understanding, to follow their way, to learn the way they think and speak, and become like their teacher.
How does one know if they are a disciple? There is a…The Litmus Test
(30As he was saying these things, many believed in him.) 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed 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.”
Do we understand that God cannot be fooled? He is not looking for fans, but disciples. One can admire Jesus, and like all that that he promises for them; eternal life, and forgiveness of sin. However, Jesus wasn’t calling for fans, but followers. And in this passage he separated those who claimed to believe and those who truly believed.
There is an “if-then” statement: If you abide in my word…
The greek word meno is translated here as abide. It means to remain. Jesus statement means this: those who are truly His disciples will remain in His word. They will walk in His light, for His way is truth.
If you are a disciple, you will plant yourself in His word. You will remain in it. You will be like a tree planted by streams of water, and you will not look elsewhere for nourishment. Like Peter, you will say to Jesus, “You have the words of life; where else would I go?” (Jhn 6:68).
A disciple will root themselves in his logos, his word, for it has authority, and life. John told us in chapter 1 that Jesus is the Word (logos) become flesh.
The word Logos had significant meaning for the readers of John. Some of you may recall when we unpacked John 1:1-5. Logos is the Greek term meaning “the Word.” Greek philosophers like Plato used Logos not only of the spoken word but also of the unspoken word, the word still in the mind -- the reason. When applied to the universe, Greeks were speaking to the rational principle that governs all things. A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus first used the term Logos around 600 BC to designate the divine reason or plan which coordinates the entire universe. Monotheistic Jews used Logos to refer to God, since He was the rational mind -- reason -- behind the creation and coordination of the universe. Thus, John (the author of the biblical book of John) used … Logos … meaningful to both the Jews and the Greeks during the first century AD.
This has great implication for life and truth, doesn’t it? If God himself has come from heaven to earth to explain all things, shouldn’t we listen? And in this passage, Jesus words also have …Great Implications
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed 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 practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.
The first implication is this: only a true disciple will be free. Those who were around him in the treasury are said to have believed in him. The language suggests that these same people who were said to have believed, were the ones challenging Jesus. It was to them that Jesus delineated between a true disciple and a false disciple.
The second implication is this: we are slaves and need to be set free. How might have they understood Jesus’ statement? I believe they understood the context— that Jesus was speaking spiritually. The Jews had been slaves of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and now were under the Roman authorities. The people of Israel knew what it was, historically, to be political slaves. But Jesus statements were of moral, and spiritual context. If they were referring to their current or past political position, they would respond differently! They were looking for a messiah to free them—politically!
The Jews were appealing to their lineage as descendants of Abraham, and as the ethnic people of God! They chaffed at the idea that they were slaves. In fact, Judaism taught that study of the law makes a man free. However, they should have seen how that Scripture verified their slavery to sin. The Jews should have understood this. Psalm 130:3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? And Psalm 53:3 “They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”
The Jews here called themselves the seed of Abraham, referring to the promise of God and themselves as his sons. Such a reference is to Genesis 16 and 21. Abraham had two sons, one by Hagar and one by Sarah. Sarah was his wife, and the son was Isaac. Hagar was the maidservant, the slave, and her son was Ishmael.
Hagar and Ishmael were driven from the house and did not remain; Isaac did.
The third implication is this: the slave does not stay in the house. There is a reward to being set free, and a consequence to remaining in your sin. The house is a metaphor for the kingdom of God. And again, Jesus used the word meno, or remain! There is a parallel here: those who remain in His word are his disciples who remain in the house of God!
So, in his conversation with the fanfare, Jesus issued…
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.
Jesus clarified: everyone who practices sin is enslaved to sin. Jesus redefined sin in Matthew 5 as a matter of the heart. You might have all the practices of the law down on the outside, but if in your heart lies murder or covetousness or hatred or adultery, you are guilty of it, regardless of what your body actually performed. Do you sin? Yes. That means you’re enslaved to it.
I want to clarify, lest you argue in your heart: “what do you mean I’m a slave to sin? What do you mean there is none who do good?” We must understand that God’s righteousness is such that the only true moral and spiritual good is to be without sin and name and honor God as such. No one is without sin. That automatically disqualifies every person on the earth, save Jesus! In fact, Jesus would say, “…There is no one good, except God.” (Luke 18:19)
You might ask — what about the good things I see people doing? Even those who aren’t Christians? Being made in the image of God, though marred by the Fall of man, we have a conscience and do acts that reflect his image— moral good according to mankind. We can come together and help our neighbors, feed the poor, stop sex-trafficking, end genocide. These are all good things, but there is a spiritual and moral goodness that even our best actions cannot attain. There is a goodness that is required of us by God that only He can give us, only He can perform in us, and that is the goodness required for salvation, and we cannot attain it for we have been enslaved to sin.
Jesus claimed he alone could set one free! It was not the law that freed a man, but his word. Only by Jesus do we have…
36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Let’s recall again the story of Abraham and Isaac. Jesus says, if the Son… there is a definite article preceding Son. That is why it is capitalized in your Bible. There is one specific Son of whom he speaks: himself. And he is stating that He is the Son, the seed of Abraham. Jesus is the true Son. He comes with the authority of the Father to declare the truth of the Father, to shine the light of the Father, and to make peace between the Father and his creation.
If the Son has set you free…
How do you know? You know and recognize the truth. Look back at verse 31:
“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.”
You know the truth. You recognize that in the Light of Christ you are a sinner, in need of forgiveness. You see the promises of His word, that those who would call on hi, believe in him, cast their faith on Him, follow him and become His disciple, they are the ones who are forgiven and will abide, remain, meno, in his house forever. It is those who come to the light with all their need, who claim nothing but the blood of Jesus as their righteousness, these are the ones who have been set free.
And if the Son has set you free… you are free indeed.