True Freedom, Indeed | John 8:31-36 [Sermon Text & Audio]

What follows is text and audio from a sermon shared at First Baptist Church of New Market in Piscataway, NJ on Sunday July 8, 2018 — the weekend following Independence Day.

The text is footnoted and sources are listed here. The biblical text read in service was from the NIV, but here is my translation of John 8:31-36.


31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you remain in my word, truly you are my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are the descendants of Abraham and none of us have ever been slaves. How can you say that, ‘we will become free?'” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly I say to you that anyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 Now 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.”


Good morning. My brothers and sisters, it is truly an honor and a privilege to stand before you once again. Thank you for another opportunity to share with you about our glorious Lord Jesus Christ – our Savior who gives true freedom. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my Rock, and my Redeemer (Ps 19:14, NASB).

What is Freedom?

Earlier this week, I hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day – a day in which we celebrate our American freedom. But what does it truly mean to be free? What is freedom?

O say, does that Star-Spangled, banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave. Before every sporting event, we hear the national anthem which climaxes with the bold claim that America is the Land of the Free.[1]

Freedom is not only the highlight of the anthem of our nation, as studies affirm, freedom is likely the most highly cherished virtue of our nation.[2] But what does it mean to be free? How do we define freedom?

Modern Freedom = Freedom From Constraints

It seems that many if not most American define freedom as independence: freedom from constraints. Freedom to choose to do whatever we want. As long as we don’t hurt anyone, we should be free to live our lives however we please. This is the modern concept of freedom.

One researcher characterizes this attitude in this way:

“Most of us in America believe a few simple propositions that seem so clear and self-evident they scarcely need to be said. Choice is a good thing in life, and the more of it we have, the happier we are. Authority is inherently suspect; nobody should have the right to tell others what to think or how to behave.”[3]

Another summarizes this attitude this way:

“Let each person do their own thing, and . . . one shouldn’t criticize the others’ values, because they have a right to live their own life as you do. The [only] sin which is not tolerated is intolerance.”[4]

Nowadays, if you even question someone else’s freedom – that is, their ability to live however they want – you may find yourself labeled a bigot.

One of the main philosophies that permeates almost every facet of our society – our politics, our education, our entertainment – is this: “No one has the right to tell me how to live my life, unless I hamper the freedom of others.[5]

This modern concept of freedom is the ultimate value, the highest good. And, this secular doctrine is preached everywhere from political campaigns, to top colleges, to kid’s day cares.

The anthem of the 2013 hit movie, Frozen [“Let It Go”], boasts, “It’s time to see what I can do. To test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I’m free.”

We want freedom from constraints, freedom from limitations, freedom from oppressive authority. We want independence – the independence to, essentially, do whatever we want.[6]

Modern Freedom Is Practically Impossible

Though we champion such freedom in our society, living this way is virtually impossible. Why? Because freedoms often conflict.[7]

Let’s just think about it. We usually can’t be free to have enduring health, and be free to eat or drink whatever we want. You can’t be free to run a marathon, and be free to never exercise. And, as I learned in college, you can’t be free to be a good student and be free to be the life of every single party.

Because our freedoms conflict, we have to decide which freedom is more important.[8]

For example, if you want the freedom to earn and spend money, you likely have to put certain constraints on your freedom by working a certain number of hours at a job. If you want the freedom to represent your country in the World Cup, you have put certain constraints on your freedom by putting in hours and days and years of training.

To be a great scholar or athlete or musician, one has to sacrifice certain freedoms in order to gain other freedoms. So, in the words of Tim Keller, freedom is not merely “the absence of constraints but… choosing the right constraints…[9]

Love Sacrifices Freedom

I can think of no better example than love.[10] Do loving relationships not constrain our freedom? When we love others, we begin to sacrifice our freedoms.

Can someone be a faithful, loving spouse if they seek to be intimate with whomever they want? Can someone be a faithful, loving parent if they spend their time and money however they want? To be loving spouses and parents, we have to make certain sacrifices of our own freedoms for the sake of those we love.

And while society tells us that being free from all constraints will make us happy, social science research confirms that we are likely most happy when we have strong social relationships.

One researcher says that having strong relationships…

“strengthens the immune system, extends life (more than does quitting smoking), speeds recovery from surgery, and reduces the risks of depression and anxiety disorders. . . . We need to interact and intertwine with others; we need the give and the take; we need to belong.”[11]

It’s been said that “There is no greater feeling of liberation than to…be loved well.”[12] And, ironically, we have to give up our some of our own freedoms to be free to enjoy a liberating, loving relationship – a relationship in which there is a mutual sacrifice of freedom.[13] My sisters and brothers, I believe this is kind of freedom Jesus speaks of in the eighth chapter of John when He says, “the truth will set you free.”

The Truth Will Set You Free: That’s the Motto

The truth will set you free” is a popular motto.[14] Among many other institutions, “the truth will set you free” is the motto of Ottawa University,[15] the University of Charleston,[16] the University of Portland,[17] Lafayette College,[18] John Hopkins’s University,[19] and the world-renowned California Institute of Technology.[20] This motto is even engraved in stone at the Original Headquarters Building of the CIA.[21]

Though this motto has become something of a classic cultural cliché, we must be careful not to read our modern conceptions of freedom into Jesus’ words.

Talk Is Cheap

As we read in John 8:31, Jesus directs His words to the Jews who had believed him. He has likely been speaking to members of this same audience since He began teaching in the temple courts at the beginning of chapter 7.[22]

As we read in John 8:30, “many” of the Jews who were listening to Him had believed in Him.[23] But, as we find in other places in the Gospel of John (Jn 2:23-25, Jn 6:60f.), those who professed to believe in Jesus likely had not yet comprehended what it truly means to believe in Jesus.[24]

For, as it’s been said, “talk is cheap.” It’s one thing to profess belief in Jesus; it’s quite another to practice belief in Jesus. And, true belief in Jesus is a persevering belief in Jesus. He says, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” A more literal translation is if you remain in my word, truly you are my disciples.[25]

To remain in His word – to hold to Christ teachings[26] entails ongoing allegiance[27] and obedience (Jn14:15, 21, 23, 24; 15:10; 17:6).[28] As we read in John 14:15, Jesus says “if you love me, keep my commands (NIV)” Later in John 15:14, He says “You are my friends if you do what I command (NIV).”

True, obedient faith in Christ perseveres[29] – it lasts to the end. As one scholar writes, “It is only those who continue who are genuine disciples.”[30]

No Fairweather, Fickle Followers

Could you imagine how attractive it must have been for people to follow Jesus around while He was feeding and healing thousands of people? Isn’t it easy to be a fan of something or someone when things are going well?

I’m from Central New Jersey where there are many, many Eagles fans. Since they just won the Super Bowl, isn’t it pretty easy to profess to be an Eagles fan?

But when do we often find out who our true friends are? When times get rough. When situations become costly. When relationships require sacrifice.

These Jews are saying “We believe you, Jesus! “We believe, We believe!” But, as He does on other occasions, Jesus is saying that truly believing in Him has a cost (Lk 9:23 cf. Lk. 9:57–62; 14:25–33).[31]

It entails sacrifice. It means ongoing obedience to His word. Here, Jesus is making a distinction between “fickle faith,[32] which does not last, and true faith, which perseveres to the end.[33]

The Defining Feature of Followers

Now, any tree that bears apples is, by definition, an apple tree. Bearing apples is the defining mark of apple trees. Similarly, Jesus is saying that anyone who continues to hold to His teaching is, by definition, His disciple. [34] Ongoing obedience to His word is the defining mark of a true disciple.[35]

The Truth of Christ

And if we continue to hold to Jesus’ teachings, then we will know the truth and the truth will set us free (Jn 8:32). This truth is not simply a matter of principles that can be learned in a lecture. This Truth is both the principles and the Person of Christ Himself.[36]

The Truth is both intellectual and experiential.[37] And, later in the 14th chapter of John, Jesus says that, ultimately, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6 cf. Jn 1:14).[38] In sum, if we persevere in The Truth of Jesus, we will be set free.

The Longest River in Africa

But set free from what? We can preach the Gospel of Jesus all day long, telling people that Jesus saves. But a modern skeptic might reply, “save from what?”

From what do I need saving? I’m a pretty good person. I live a pretty moral life. And, I’m certainly much better than those bad people who do those bad things I watch on the news.

As it’s often been said, the first step is admitting that one has a problem. Many of us today, don’t even want to admit that we have a problem from which we need saving. We won’t admit that we have chains from which we need freeing. And neither did His audience.

Political Freedom?

In verse 33 we read that they tell Jesus, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? (Jn 8:33, NIV).”

Now, at first glance, one might wonder if these Jews were in denial. For the Jews had been enslaved by the Egyptians, then the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Egyptians (again), the Syrians, and at that very time, the Romans.[39]

[I omitted this italicized section during the sermon for the sake of brevity] Not to mention, we may recall that Jesus is speaking to them during the Festival of Tabernacles.[40] The Festival of Tabernacles was one of the three annual Jewish festivals – along with the Feast of Weeks (a.k.a. Pentecost), and The Passover.[41] During this festival, the Jews would build “booths” – or temporary shelters – to commemorate the time when they lived in temporary shelters in the wilderness, after the LORD freed them from Egyptian slavery (Lev 23:39-43).[42]

All things considered, these Jews probably knew that Jewish people had been political slaves for centuries. Therefore, they are probably not talking about political freedom.[43]

Were They Truly, Spiritually Free?

On the contrary, though they were under the rule of the oppressive Roman Empire, they often thought of themselves as spiritually free.[44]

One famous rabbi, who wrote around the same time as John[45] said, “All Israelites are sons of kings”[46]– meaning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.[47] In their eyes, they were spiritually free simply because they were Abraham’s offspring.[48] However, the freedom Jesus is speaking of is not hereditary.

Stockholm Syndrome

Now, in 1973, there was an attempted robbery on a bank in Stockholm, Sweden. During the robbery, bank employees were held hostage. And, while they were held hostage, they began to (quote) “[develop] sympathetic feelings toward their captors.[49]

In 1978, this (quote) “psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with, or sympathize with” a captor, began to be called “Stockholm Syndrome.[50] Stockholm Syndrome is incredibly tragic, as victims often suffer both physically and emotionally.[51]

In one of the most chilling cases, a ten-year-old, whose name was Natascha [Kampusch], was kidnapped in March of 1998 in Austria. For the better part of eight years, underneath a garage, she was imprisoned in a 54-square-foot, windowless, soundproof, cellar. The windows and doors of the house were booby-trapped with explosives. When she was permitted to go upstairs, Natascha was often abused.[52]

In her autobiography, she wrote that she was beaten up to 200 times per week. And she was forced to refer to her captor as “My Lord.”[53]

One day, in August of 2006, she was vacuuming under her captor’s car while he was supervising. Then the phone rings. When her captor leaves to answer it, she leaves the vacuum on, and flees to the streets. She finds a neighbor who calls the police, and she is finally free. Soon after her captor learns of her escape, he jumps in front of a moving train. When Natascha learns of his death, she weeps.[54]

Ten years later, in a 2016 interview, she admitted that she still carries a photo of her captor in her wallet. And, in spite of the horrors she went through in that place, Natascha eventually bought that very house. And she reportedly sleeps there several nights a week.[55] She still has sympathetic feelings for her captor.

Theological Stockholm Syndrome

Dr. Tom Long refers to our infatuation with sin as “theological Stockholm Syndrome.” He says we are “enthralled with the very powers that hold us captive.”[56]

That is, sin is our captor and we have developed feelings for it. As scholars note, in John, “any will or power that opposes Jesus is sin.”[57] Sin tells us to live our own way instead of living like Jesus (who is The Way, the Truth, and The Life (Jn 14:6)). Sin captivates us, and we develop feelings for our captor.

Slave to the Music

For example, when I was in college, as my fiancée can attest, I loved to be the life of the party. I was the go-to campus DJ. I would play some of the most vulgar, violent, hypersexual, materialistic, sexist, prideful, sin-glorifying songs I could find – and I would enjoy it.

As the son of a pastor, in my heart of hearts, I knew what I was doing was wrong. If my mother walked in to any of those parties, you better believe I would have quickly changed my tune. But I reveled in it.

After the party was over, I didn’t regret playing such sinful music. I wasn’t sorry. I was sorry the party had to end! I was looking forward to the next time I could play this music. I was actively searching for opportunities to sin even more. I was researching and practicing and perfecting my skills, so, the next time around, I could sin even better! I was captivated by it. And for several years I devoted my life to it.

Who’s Your Master?

According to the New Testament, everyone serves something: either God or something else.[58] And the something else we put before God becomes our master. It becomes an idol that we sinfully serve (cf. Mt 6:24).

If we put money before God, money is the master we sinfully serve. If we put worldly success before God, worldly success is the master we sinfully serve. If we put our own pleasure before God, our own pleasure is the master we sinfully serve.

In verse 34, Jesus tells these Jews, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a [servant or a] slave to sin” (Jn 8:34, NIV).

Now, as one scholar writes, “we do not become sinners because we commit sins; we commit sins because we are sinners.”[59] Just like anyone who continues to be faithful to Jesus is, by definition, truly a disciple, anyone who continues to be faithful to sin is, by definition, truly a sinner.[60]

Jesus is basically telling the Jews, you may think you are free, but you are really a slave of sin.[61] Sin is their master. Sin is their Lord.

I think Jesus would say something similar to many of us in the “Land of the Free” today. We think freedom is the ability to do whatever we want, but don’t we see how this is merely slavery to our sinful desires?

What we think is freedom is actually bondage. Sin is like an addiction that we can’t kick on our own.[62] We need someone to break our chains. Whether we realize or not, whether we desire to or not, we need to be set free.[63]

A Slave vs. The Son: A Parable

In verse 35, it says “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever” (Jn 8:35, NIV). A more literal translation would be, Now the slave does not remain in the house forever; the Son remains forever[64]  (cf. Jn 8:35, NRSV, Jn 8:35, ESV, etc.).[65]

The word remain (μένω | menō) is the same word that appears in verse 31 (Jn 8:31) when Jesus says “remain in my word” or “hold to my teaching.” Also, the Greek word οἰκίᾳ (oikia, which sounds like to IKEA) is more literally translated “house” or “household.”[66]

Now, in the Gospel of John, in the only other two instances where Jesus uses similar wording for “house” (oikia), He is referring to His Father’s house.

[I omitted this italicized section in the sermon for the sake of brevity] Earlier in the second chapter (Jn 2:16), after people turn it into a market, He kicks people out of the temple, which He calls His Father’s house (which is the similar word οἶκος). A few verses later, He refers to His body (metaphorically) as the temple, when He says, “destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (Jn 2:19, NIV). Later in the 14th chapter we read how Jesus tells His disciples about His Father’s heavenly homes – that Jesus is preparing for them. He says, “My Father’s house [οἰκία] has many rooms…” (Jn 14:2, NIV).

In these other cases, the “Father’s house” is always closely associated with the body and the presence of Jesus Himself.[67] The same seems to be true here.

The Jews Jesus was speaking to knew that slaves had no permanent place in the household. In their society, slaves could be sold at almost any time.[68] They could work in the same house their entire life, yet have no rights and no power.[69]

On the other hand, except in the rarest of circumstances, sons remained in the house. Virtually nothing could change their position as children of the household. They had rights and they had power.[70] Moreover, sons ultimately had the power to free slaves.[71]

So what Jesus is saying is that He is the Son who remains in His Father’s house forever.[72] Therefore, as God’s one and only son (Jn 3:16), He is the only One with the rights and the power to set slaves free.[73] As we read in verse 36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (Jn 8:36, NIV).

Negative Freedom vs. Positive Freedom

Free, indeed. Now philosophers distinguish between negative freedom and positive freedom. Negative freedom is freedom from; positive freedom is freedom to. There’s freedom from and freedom to.[74]

Negative freedom is freedom from: freedom from constraints, freedom from limitations, freedom from oppressive authority. This is the modern conception of freedom in the American Land of the Free.

However, we have already seen how it is virtually impossible to live life however we desire, because our freedoms often conflict. We cannot live without any constraints; we must choose the constraints that are the most liberating.

Moreover, social studies and experience both suggest that we feel the most liberated when we are in loving relationships – relationships in which there is a mutual sacrifice of freedoms.

In contrast to negative freedom, positive freedom is freedom to: freedom to live a certain way,[75] freedom to reach a certain goal, freedom to fulfill a certain purpose.

Freedom to Fulfill Our Purpose

My brothers and sisters, we have been created for a purpose. We were created to be in communion with our Creator, to be in relationship with our God. We were created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27) to know God, to serve God, and to love God.[76]

But we sinned and became slaves of sin, damaging our relationship with God. We cannot free ourselves from the shackles of sin. And, because of our theological Stockholm Syndrome, our chains even start to look attractive.

But thanks be to God, Jesus is the Son who sets us free from spiritual slavery to sin. He redeems and reconciles and restores us back into right relationship with the Father. As God’s only Son, He is the only One with the rights and the power to give us true independence.

Ironically, independence from sin requires dependence on Christ.

Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we must remain in the constraints of His word – constraints that will ultimately set us free.[77]


So, what does it mean to be free? What is true freedom? Christian freedom is both negative and positive: Though we will never be perfect in our earthly lives, Christ sets us free from the power of sin, and gives us the freedom to fulfill our purpose – our purpose of being in right relationship with God.[78]

And this is what sets Christianity apart from every other worldview: the One we can truly call “My Lordgave up His freedom to give us eternal freedom.[79] This is no one-sided relationship; it is a loving relationship where there is mutual sacrifice of freedom.

Out of love, we ought to give our lives to the One who gave up His life – in order to give us eternal life (cf. Rom 12:1-2, 2 Cor 5:15, etc.).

Though we just celebrated another Independence Day, let us declare every day a “Dependence Day[80] for our dependence on Christ – our Lord who, indeed, gives true freedom. May the Lord bless you all, freely.


There may be someone here today who wants to have this true freedom: freedom from the slavery of sin and freedom to fulfill their purpose – their purpose of being in loving relationship with God through the Amazing Grace of Jesus Christ. This invitation is for you.

There may be someone here today who is seeking to join a family of believers who have already been set free, and who are now striving to hold to Christ’s teachings – to remain in His word. This invitation is for you. This invitation is for all. 


Beale, G. K., and D. A. Carson. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI;  Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos, 2007.

Beasley-Murray, George R. John. Vol. 36. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002.

Borchert, Gerald L. John 1–11. Vol. 25A. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.

Brand, Chad, Charles Draper, Archie England, Steve Bond, E. Ray Clendenen, and Trent C. Butler, eds. “Festivals.” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Burge, Gary M. “John.” In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, 3:840–80. Baker Reference Library. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995.

Carson, D. A. The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991.

Elwell, Walter A., and Barry J. Beitzel. “Booths, Feast Of.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Guthrie, Donald. “John.” In New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, edited by D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed., 1021–65. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Keener, Craig S. The Gospel of John: A Commentary & 2. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012.

Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Keller, Timothy. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Kruse, Colin G. John: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 4. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Michaels, J. Ramsey. The Gospel of John. The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010.

Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003.

Milne, Bruce. The Message of John: Here Is Your King!: With Study Guide. The Bible Speaks Today. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to John. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.

Silva, Moisés, ed. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.

[1] “When ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is sung at sporting events, the climactic phrase comes to an elongated high note: “O’er the land of the freeee . . .” The cheers begin here. Even though the song goes on to talk about “the brave,” this is an afterthought. Both the melody line and our culture highlight freedom as the main theme and value of our society. It’s our national anthem, and for good reason.”  Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, Penguin Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 97.

[2] “them. In their landmark sociological study of American culture, Robert Bellah and other researchers discovered that “for Americans . . . freedom was perhaps the most important value.” Keller, 97 citing Robert Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), pp. xlvii–xlviii.

[3] Alan Ehrenhalt, The Lost City: The Forgotten Virtues of Community in America (New York: Basic Books, 1995), p. 2. Quoted in Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), p. 475. Quoted in Keller, 97.

[4] Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 484 as quoted in Keller, 97.

[5] Keller, 97 (in a footnote)

[6] “Freedom has come to be defined as the absence of any limitations or constraints on us. By this definition, the fewer boundaries we have on our choices and actions, the freer we feel ourselves to be.” Keller, 101.

[7] Keller, 101f.

[8] Keller, 101f.

[9] Keller, 102.

[10] Kelle, 107f.

[11] Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis: Putting Ancient Wisdom and Philosophy to the Test of Modern Science (London: Arrow Books, 2006), p. 133 as quoted in Keller, 106.

[12] Keller, 107.

[13] Keller, 108.

[14] “The statement in v. 32 has become classic. Indeed, parts of it are embossed on the seals of colleges and universities.” Borchert, 303..


[16] Page 12.



[19] (Page 1).



[22] “Part two of this second tabernacles discourse…” Bruce Milne, The Message of John: Here Is Your King!: With Study Guide, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 131.

[23] “Jesus now explicitly addresses “the Jews who had believed him,” that is, the “many” who were said to have “believed in him” in the preceding verse.” J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 504.

[24] “John has already introduced the theme of fickle faith.” D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 347–348. “It is likely that the ‘believers’ had reached the stage of professing faith, but the following discourse shows they had not yet developed into full believers.” Donald Guthrie, “John,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1043. “It is best to think that John is speaking of people who had made an outward profession, but a profession that did not go very deep. Jesus’ words, then, are meant to drive home to formal and casual adherents the meaning of true discipleship. If people in any sense believe in Jesus it is important that they come to see what real faith means.” Leon Morris, The Gospel according to John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 404. “Many who listened to him believed (8:30) but would not persevere to the end of the discourse (8:59); this is not the saving faith (3:15–16) of which the Fourth Gospel speaks (15:6; 1 John 2:19).” Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary & 2, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 747. “As Jesus was not convinced by the believing of the Jews in 2:23–25, he was not misled by the believing noted in 8:30” Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 302–303.

[25] Author’s translation.

[26] “My word” stands for the whole of Jesus’ teaching (cf. 5:24; 14:23, etc.). The thought is repeated several times in this chapter (vv. 37, 43, 51, 52; cf. v. 55)” Morris, 404.

[27] Michaels, 505.

[28] Colin G. Kruse, John: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 4, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 207.

[29] Carson, 348.

[30] Morris, 404.

[31] Carson, 348.

[32] Carson, 348.

[33] “The reference here to being disciples “truly” (8:31; cf. 1:47; 1 John 2:5) suggests a way to confirm one’s discipleship in contrast to false disciples who would eventually fail. Early Christianity continued to distinguish between true and false believers (e.g., 1 John 2:19; Justin 1 Apol. 26).” Keener, 747.

[34] Jesus is not necessarily saying that if you hold to my teaching, then you will my true disciples. “He is not laying down a condition of discipleship, but telling them in what discipleship consists. When anyone abides in Christ’s word, then that person is a true disciple.” Morris, 404-5.

[35] “Remaining in the truth’ is the mark of the true disciple. ‘Those who falsely proclaim they believe give way from the very start, or at least in the middle of the race, whereas (true) believers persevere to the winning-post.” Milne, 132. “The primary duty of a believer is indicated in the exhortation of Jesus, “Remain in my word.” That is the mark of a real disciple” George R. Beasley-Murray, John, vol. 36, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 133.

[36] “Moreover, it is not a statement advocating attachment to mere information or doctrine about Jesus. It is instead a statement about a living relationship with the Son of God, “the truth,” who gives freedom to human beings (cf. 8:36).” Borchert, 303. “Truth is closely connected with the Person of Christ (1:17; 14:6), so that knowledge of the truth is naturally associated with being his disciple.” Morris, 405..

[37] “We come to know the truth, not simply by intellectual assessment, but by moral commitment (cf. notes on 7:17). … here it is close to the meaning of ‘gospel’, the truth that has been revealed in and by Jesus.” Carson, 348-49. “the knowledge of the truth is not alone intellectual, but existential…” Beasley-Murray, 133.

[38] Carson, 349.

[39] Michaels, 506. Borchert, 303. Carson, 349. Morris, 405. Beasley-Murray, 133. Keener, 749.

[40] “Given the context of the Festival of Tabernacles with its background in the wilderness experience of Israel following the liberation from Egypt, however, the reference to freedom and liberty should simply jump out to the knowledgeable reader.” Borchert, 303. “After the material in 7:53–8:11, which, in the judgment of the vast majority of commentators, was inserted at a later time (see Köstenberger 2004: 245–49), 8:12–59 records the second teaching cycle of Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles.” Andreas J. Köstenberger, “John,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI;  Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos, 2007), 456.

[41] Chad Brand et al., eds., “Festivals,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 568.

[42] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Booths, Feast Of,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 375.

[43] “A claim that the Israelites had never been subjugated politically, however, would be absurd.” Keener, 749.

[44] Kruse, 208. Or perhaps “free sons of Abraham, who have never inwardly bowed to foreign rule.” Michaels, 506 quoting Schnackenburg. Carson, 349.

[45] “R. Akiba, who studied with teachers contemporary with John, also insisted that even the poorest in Israel must be viewed as free persons by virtue of their descent from Abraham and the other patriarchs.” Keener, 750..

[46] Beasley-Murray, 133. “

[47] (B. Shabbath 128a) by Rabbi Akiba. Carson, 349.

[48] “…in their view the merits of Abraham covered all their demerits, hence the dictum, ‘The circumcised do not go down to Gehenna’ (ExodRab 19.81c; see Str-B 1:116–21 for examples of these convictions). Israelites are “sons of the kingdom” (cf. Matt 8:12).” Beasley-Murray, 133-34. “The statement of the Jews concerning never having been in bondage was obviously not a mere political evaluation of their history. It was instead a religious statement rooted in their conviction that they were the spiritual children of God and were of the ‘descendants’ of Abraham.” Borchert, 303-4.

[49] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).

[50] Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).







[57] Moisés Silva, ed., New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 260.

[58] Keener, 751.

[59] Milne, 133.

[60] “Jesus is not saying that every individual act of sin represents slavery (though there is a sense in which that, too, is true). He is saying that everyone who continues in sin, who is a sinner, is thereby a slave.” Morris, 406..

[61] “But Jesus is concerned with spiritual slavery (vv. 34–36) and this they cannot perceive.” Gary M. Burge, “John,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 859. “For Jesus, then, the ultimate bondage is not enslavement to a political or economic system, but vicious slavery to moral failure, to rebellion against the God who has made us. The despotic master is not Caesar, but shameful self-centredness, an evil and enslaving devotion to created things at the expense of worship of the Creator.” Carson, 350. “Jesus clarifies the nature of their bondage. It is a bondage to sin.” Milne, 132. “John’s Gospel differs from Paul only in that the law is not implicated in the Jews’ slavery to sin and death, as it is in Paul (see Rom 5:13; 6:14; 7:7–11; Gal 4:21–26).” Michaels, 506-7.

[62] Keller, 112. Also Dr. Tom Long’s aforementioned sermon.

[63] “Those who sin are slaves to their sin whether they realize it or not. This means that they cannot break away from their sin. For that they need a power greater than their own.” Morris, 406. “…bondage to sin is a reality for every one who sins, including Abraham’s children. Unlike slavery that is external, this is an inward condition from which one cannot flee, with its roots in a wrong relation to God. Such a slave needs a redeemer!” Beasley-Murray, 134.

[64] Author’s translation.

[65] Cf. Kruse, 209.

[66] “οἰκία G3864 (oikia), dwelling, house.” Silva, 469.

[67] Keener, 752.

[68] Michaels, 507. Cf. Beasley-Murray, 134. Also, “The idea of an authentic lineage was not something new to Jewish thinking. Ishmael (in addition to Isaac) was of the seed of Abraham (Gen 21:9–10; cf. Gal 4:21–23); Esau (in addition to Jacob) was of the seed of Isaac (Gen 25:21–34; cf. Rom 9:6–13).” Bochert, 304-5. Cf. “The contrast between the son and the slave in 8:35 may allude to Abraham’s respective sons through Sarah and Hagar in Gen. 21:1–21 (see also Exod. 21:2; Hanson [1994: 366] contends that Isaac is a type of Christ).” Köstenberger, 457. Cf. Keeer, 751.

[69] Morris, 407.

[70] Morris, 407. Carson, 350. Michaels, 507.

[71] “indeed, wealthy slaveholders often manumitted slaves with whom they had grown up.” Keener, 752.

[72] Kruse, 209. “It is a bondage to sin (34), which only Jesus, as the eternal Son of God, is qualified to break.” Milne, 132.

[73] “The Son who was personally sent by the Father was indeed capable of supplying them with such genuine freedom (John 8:36) because he was the Lamb who removed the sin of the world (1:29).” Borchert, 304. “Jesus not only enjoys inalienable rights as the unique Son of God, but exercises full authority, vested in him by the Father (3:35), to liberate slaves.” Carson, 350. Guthrie, 1043. Morris, 407.

[74] Keller, 108 (though he uses the terms negative and positive “liberty” and “freedom from” vs. “freedom for”

[75] Keller, 108.

[76] Keller, 113.

[77] Freedom “is expressed in obedience, not independence (35). The recipient becomes a loving, obedient child within God’s family.” Milne, 134.

[78] “True freedom is not the liberty to do anything we please, but the liberty to do what we ought.” Carson, 350 (also quoted by Milne, 134).

[79] “Christianity is the only religion that claims God gave up his freedom so we could experience the ultimate freedom—from evil and death itself. Therefore, you can trust him. He sacrificed his independence for you, so you can sacrifice yours for him. And when you do, you will find that it is the ultimate, infinitely liberating constraint. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).” Keller, 117.

[80] From Rev. Danny Scotton, Sr. sermon on July 1, 2018.

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Imperfect Servant ✝?⛪ | Husband | Princeton U. Alum | M. Div. | Assistant (to the) Pastor | Sound Doctrine & Apologetics @catchforchrist