What is True Freedom?


Some years ago in Los Angeles, a man was walking down the street with a sign on his shoulders. The front of it said, “I’M A SLAVE FOR CHRIST.” The back of it read, “WHOSE SLAVE ARE YOU?”

That is a good question because all of us are slaves to one or the other of two masters—sin or righteousness. We have no other choices. By the very nature of our humanity, we are made to serve and to be controlled by forces beyond our power. [1]So, Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 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’?[2]How Short Our Memories can be?

The Jews claim Abraham’s descendants had never been in bondage was certainly a false one that was refuted by the very record in the Old Testament Scriptures. The Jews had been enslaved by seven mighty nations, as recorded in the Book of Judges. The ten Northern tribes had been carried away captive by Assyria, and the two Southern tribes had gone into seventy years of captivity in Babylon. And at that very hour, the Jews were under the iron heel of Rome! How difficult it is for proud religious people to admit their failings and their needs!

The Jews who sadly believed they had to prove their faith by their faithfulness were trapped by the chains of the law. The law was enslaving them and robbing them of the freedom won for them in Christ’s death and resurrection. You can hear their misguided understanding in the cry, “We are Abraham’s children!” It is the same claim they made when John the Baptist confronted then in the wilderness. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”Matthew 3:8–9. Jesus met their claims head on and made a clear distinction between worldly children of Abraham (v. 37) and Abraham’s spiritual children (v. 39).

In verse 37, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you.”[3]The spiritual children Jesus describes in this manner, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did,” John 8:39

Jesus used the illustration of slave and a son to explain true freedom. The one who is a slave to sin is akin to the servant who may live in the house, but he is not a part of the family. Servants have no guarantee, no secure future. It is possible as the Jews heard this example their minds would recall the comparison between Isaac and Ishmael. You find that account in Genesis 21. A literal translation of the Greek text is helpful here. “Whosoever keeps on practicing (Present Participle) sin is the servant of sin.” These religious leaders were living in bondage to sin!

What Makes Us Truly Free?  

I wonder if Jesus showed up today what would He be addressing in our churches? Where do we get our sense of identity from? Would we say we are followers of the teaching of the good Dr. Martin Luther, therefore we were never slaves to anyone or any false teaching? Would we hold to the liturgy as our safeguard? Or are we slaves to the leader of our congregation, or the connections we have made in our churches? None of these things are bad but if we think participation in these things or membership in the right church body will save us we have taken our focus off what truly saves, what truly set us free. Jesus points the children of Abraham away from works and back to faith. It is faith and faith alone that saves.

Faith in Christ makes us a child of God. Being connected to the Word of God and knowing the truth of Scripture is our safeguard against thinking we can save ourselves by our good deeds. Faith makes a slave of the king.

How can slaves of sin be set free? 

So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham, yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” John 8: 36-37

We can only be set free by faith in the One who has given His life to redeem us, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If that Son sets us free then sin, Satan, and our sinful self-has no claim on us. Jesus has broken the chains of bondage and we are truly free indeed!

[1]Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively(Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[2]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 8:31–38). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 8:37). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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