“If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed” John 8:36
This October we celebrate 49 years of God’s grace at St James. How thankful we can be for all that the Lord has done, as we trust Him for future blessings.
In the Bible the number 7 and its multiples are important numbers. In Genesis 2 we read that God rested from His creation work on the 7th day, declaring it holy, a Sabbath day. Israel were thus commanded to honour the Sabbath both in remembrance of God the Creator and, after their deliverance from Egypt, also in remembrance of God their Redeemer (compare Exodus 20:8-11 with Deuteronomy 5:12-14). In the Book of Revelation, the number 7 represents God and His perfections. And, of particular significance for our 49th birthday as a church, we note in Leviticus 25:8-54, that the 49th year ushers in the year of Jubilee, a year to remember the freedom that God’s people enjoy because He has redeemed them from slavery. For Israel that meant remembering their deliverance from bondage in Egypt and living practically as the free people of God. For us today it means remembering the even greater deliverance from the penalty and power of sin that Jesus has brought about. It is this greater deliverance and the true freedom that flows from it that Jesus is speaking about in John 8:34-36.
The first thing to note from these very striking verses is Jesus’ diagnosis of the problem that every person faces. Jesus says, “everyone who sins is a slave to sin” (vs34). According to Jesus it is thus not just our actual sins which are the problem, but our sinfulness – our heart and mind slavery to sin. This is what Martin Luther; the father of the Protestant Reformation was referring to when he wrote about the bondage of the will. Thus, if we are truly to be liberated we need to be freed not just from the penalty of our sins but also from the power of sin itself. In John 8:36 Jesus makes an extraordinary promise, a promise that He, the Divine Son, has the power to bring this redemption, a redemption which no amount of religious ritual or zeal, no matter how sincere, could ever accomplish.
The second thing to notice is that the moment we come to Jesus to be liberated in this way, we cease to be slaves and become children within God’s family. Jesus is of course the eternal Son of God who has come to dwell among us (John 8:36 cf John 1:14). But as the Son of God He came not only to make God known (John 1:18) but also “to take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). In other words, the Son came into the world so that He could set us free from the penalty and power of sin and thus usher in the age of Jubilee, the age of true freedom. And so, John 1:12 tells us that all who believe in His Name, receive the right to become “children of God”. The Son of God who sets us free turns slaves into sons and daughters of God. What amazing grace from the One who came full of grace and truth!
The third thing to note is the element of free choice that is involved in all of this. We do not have free will, for by nature our each and every person’s will is in bondage to sin. But we are not automatons, flesh and blood robots governed by impersonal force. God has created us with both the ability and the responsibility to choose. Thus, in John 8 we find Jesus urging us, as He did His original hearers, to make sure that we are truly His disciples (vs31). How do we do that? In the very next verse Jesus says that those who are truly His disciples will “know the truth” and “be set free by the truth”. Later (vs36) He says that those who are truly His disciples are the ones whom the Son has set free. What are we to make of this? Well simply this. The truth which sets people free and which we are to know is not academic, impersonal truth but rather a Person, the One who is the Truth (John 14:6). As John 1:12 put it, it is as we receive Jesus and believe in His name, that we benefit from the freedom He brings and come to be children of God. And then John goes on to speak of the miracle of grace – for he reminds us that even this receiving and believing is the result of being born of God.
The question is this: Do you want to know the true freedom that Jesus, the Son brings? Then come to Him and put your faith in Him, asking Him to set you free. Do you feel unable to do this? Then ask the God the Father, the giver of new birth, to give you the ability to believe the truth about Jesus and to discover for yourself that the truth really does set us free.
Written by Mervyn Eloff. Original article can be found here.