Bible Study – True Freedom

Jesus is now moving from “light” to “freedom” because they are intimately-related. In our natural state, we are NOTfree“; rather we are slaves to sin. Knowing the truth, as revealed in Scripture, will set us free. I find it ironic that this discourse occurred during the Feast of Tabernacles where part of what they were celebrating was being liberated from slavery in Egypt. The text for this study is John 8:31-59.

The Truth Will Make You Free
31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

This section opens with Jesus turning to address those among the crowd who have believed in Him. In speaking to them, Jesus issues a new challenge: discipleship. To become His disciple, they must “hold to my teachings.” The meaning of the original text is more like the rendering of the NRSV: “continue in my word.” This is much more than being a good Bible student, for John introduced Jesus as the Living Word (1:14) so that to “continue in my word” would require that they have a relationship with Him. In the following sentence, Jesus goes on to tell these people that they will know the truth (Jesus Himself) and that the truth will set them free. This is not a freedom from political or worldly oppression, but a freedom from spiritual oppression; freedom from slavery to sin. This is where His opponents resume their attack…

33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?” Had they forgotten that they had been slaves in Egypt? How about the other captivities since then? They must have forgotten what they were celebrating. Did they have amnesia? Had they forgotten that they were still under Roman occupation, such that their perceived “freedom” was subject to the whims of the Roman government? Their religious-heritage and ethnic-identity were a source of great pride, and what God had intended as a blessing turned into a curse because they idolized those things. The very people who should have been at the forefront in proclaiming that the Messiah had come were doing their best to silence and ultimately murder Him. It should be obvious to us by now that they were also enslaved to their “exalted-positions” and enormous-egos, among other things.

Even though the term “idol” may conjure up things like the Golden Calf or the great temples and statues of the “gods” of the Greco-Roman empire, we are surrounded by people who idolize wealth, fame, success and many other things. They have “sports-heroes” and “stars” whom they advertise and idolize. In reality, an “idol” is anything we place ahead of God in our lives.

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”

34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin”. People wrap their whole lives around those things which they value the most. My neighbor-gal, in spite of having several bad experiences, including her life being threatened and being detained by the police overnight, kept going back to the same bar time after time to watch “her” football team. Watching “her” football team trumped everything else. She idolizes that team and its “star” quarterback. She was also really bummed-out when they lost the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos, and that gave her even more reason to hate Payton Manning. Is football really THAT important to her? Well, since she has made football the “lord” of her life, IT REALLY IS THAT IMPORTANT to her. She is also a TV and movie “addict“. God has no place in her life.

35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. Jesus, as the Incarnate Son of God, is the only person who can make us free from our slavery to sin and give us a place in God’s family, but only if we become His disciples. We can’t “earn” our freedom.

37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38 I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” Jesus is acknowledging their heritage, but since they have rejected Him and His teaching, they are following a different “master“. Jesus was speaking the true things from God, but they have believed the lie that their heritage and religious-rituals will gain them entrance into God’s kingdom.

39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” They again claim their “specialplace” because they are descended from Abraham, but… Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham”. Jesus is holding up Abraham as a shining-example of a man of faith, who, even though he never saw God’s promises fulfilled, continued to follow God and do what God called him to do, including offering his own son as a sacrifice. Jesus is calling them to live in faith and honor God as Abraham did.

This conversation is going to take a nasty turn for the worse. 40 But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 You are doing the deeds of your father.” Jesus is now identifying who their true “father” is, Satan, and all they can do is hurl insults back at Him.

They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” Since Jesus was claiming someone other than Joseph as His “Father“, they assume that He was illegitimate, born of fornication. Okay…

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

They object to this saying that they are not “illegitimate” being Abraham’s descendants, and Jesus continues by pointing out that they are not acting like Abraham would act, instead they are following not Abraham but their own father. Now they say that their only father is God; they have fallen into His trap. Jesus tells them that if this were true they would love Him, not be plotting to murder Him. They are doing the work of their father the devil, who was a murderer and a liar from the beginning. They hate hearing the truth from Him because they are following the lead of their father “master” because they are slaves to sin (the devil). Jesus finishes this comment by telling them the obvious: If they belonged to God they would hear and comprehend His Word, but since they belong to the devil they cannot hear or comprehend.

48 The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; who do You make Yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

The Jewish religious leaders STILL didn’t know when to shut-up, so their insults sunk to a new LOW. 48 The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Their pride and arrogance wouldn’t allow them to see that they didn’t stand a chance in duking it out with Jesus.

This is where it is going to get VERY interesting: 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.”

Once again the Jews respond in a way that seeks to marginalize His words, calling Him a Samaritan and demon-possessed. Jesus calmly tells them that He is neither and says that He is honoring God, and that anyone who keeps His word will never see death( v. 51).

52 The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53 Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; who do You make Yourself out to be?”

This section begins with the Jews asking Him more or less just exactly who He thinks He is, and Jesus is quick to tell them in vv. 54-55 that He is God’s Son. In the next verse He tells them that He knows Abraham’s thoughts as well when He says that Abraham looked forward to this day and rejoices in it, It is important to note that Jesus did not say this so as to speculate on what Abraham would have thought, but instead he is stating it as a fact; He is acting as a witness to it. This completely blows their minds.

54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55 and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

57 So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

Their response in verse 57 is not one of amazement but is instead ridicule; they are marginalizing Him again so as to reduce or eliminate His credibility with the rest of the people. Verse 58 is the tipping point in the discourse: Jesus claims to be God. To make the statement that Jesus made here is one that is direct, to the point and undeniable in its meaning. “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” Jesus is telling them two things, first that He has been around since before Abraham; He isn’t thirty-something, He’s at least 2,000 years old. Second, notice that Jesus didn’t say “before Abraham was born, I was alive” no, He said “I AM”. “I AM” is the name God used to identify Himself to Abraham, thus Jesus is telling them that He is none other than God in the flesh. They understood this, and since they knew blasphemy when they heard it, they proceeded to grab for stones with which to execute Him. Jesus slips away for His time had not yet come to die. It is worth pointing out that for all of the reasons Jesus cited, these people did not stop to consider the possibility that He might be telling the truth. These “great men of God“, these “teachers“, “lawyers” and “scholars” were actually following the devil, and their haste to shut Jesus up when He states the greatest truth of all is a poignant reminder to all of us that we must “continue in His word”.

Are you “continuing in His word”? That is the challenge we must all answer every day of our lives.

In Christ,
Steve

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