“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” ~ Jesus, John 8:31-32
Slavery, in its various forms, has been a dehumanizing blight throughout many cultures of human history. At the root of slavery is both pride and selfishness. Pride manifests itself in the attitude that says, “I am better than you, stronger than you, and smarter than you, therefore I will oppress you.” Selfishness manifests itself as it says, “I will make you work to serve my needs.” Both pride and selfishness are antithetical to the gospel where God took on our limitations to live for us and then die for us, all from shear grace.
But slavery did not begin with a human culture where one man oppressed another. Instead it began in the Garden of Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve, meant to lovingly rule the world together and with their offspring, bowed their hearts to the whims of a creature, Satan, instead of to God their creator.
As they disobeyed God, the stewards of creation became slaves of their sin.
In John 8 Jesus spoke to a group of Jews who “had believed in him.” To drive home the point that following him had to be about more than belief, Jesus spoke of obedience. If you abide in my word is the phrase Jesus used to describe devotion to him. First, we put ourselves under his teachings so that it could be said we live in them, they direct our lives. Second, we actually live according to that direction.
Submit ourselves to Jesus, the one true Savior-King, and we will know truth and this truth sets us free. It was here that these Jews bucked against the teachings of Jesus. “What do you mean free? We’re the offspring of Abraham, we’ve never been enslaved to anyone!” they exclaimed, forgetting the 400 years their ancestors had lived as slave labor in Egypt and forgetting at that moment they lacked the right to be a self-governing people since the Roman conquerors dictated law and life.
But Jesus had a different kind of slavery and freedom in mind, anyway. In 8:34 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.” This enslavement knows no bounds. It looks at no person and backs down. It matters not age, gender, ethnicity, social standing, or education. As Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every human being who has ever lived, other than Jesus himself, suffered the same fate as our first parents, for like Adam and Eve we daily choose the bite of fruit over the word of God.
Yet we find hope. Jesus continued, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (8:36). Coming to follow Jesus as Savior-King, we find true freedom. Not only this, but we find an eternal home. One verse prior, Jesus said, “The salve does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.” In other words, even if a slave has the privilege of working, eating, and sleeping in his master’s house, he is still not truly a son. He has no right to claim inheritance on the home. He is not family. A son, a child on the other hand has the full right of inheritance.
That is who we are in Jesus—sons and daughters of God, adopted as part of the family, and fellow heirs with Jesus (Romans 8:12-17). As a slave to sin, we own nothing; as a child of God, the Father has given us everything he gives to Jesus the Son, and Jesus gladly shares it with us.
This is the greatest freedom we could hope for!
Yet, those who heard Jesus that day still rejected his words. They chose to argue and ultimately called Jesus demon possessed (8:52). And here we find one of the saddest truths of sin: until Jesus sets us free, we don’t actually realize or accept that sin had us enslaved. The sin that enslaves us also deceives us with its passing pleasures (Hebrews 11:25), so that we think our enslaved life is a better life.
But Jesus keeps calling out, “Follow me and I will set you free.” Will you hear his call? (You can click here for more information about following Jesus)
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.