A story was once told of a woman who was hesitant to commit her life fully to the Lord Jesus Christ. She told her pastor, “I know I will have to do all the things I most dislike, but I am determined to be a true believer.” When the same pastor visited her a year later, she joyfully told him, “My life is so different now! When I first followed the Lord, I was concerned that I would have to do the things that were contrary to my desires. But now I do what I want every day because God has made me pleased with the things that honour Him!”
Like this woman, many people have the mistaken idea that Christianity is a legalistic religion which binds the lives of its followers with a list of dos and don’ts. To them, the Christian life with its many prohibitions is hard, joyless and restrictive. It is sad that even believers hold this negative view – that living for the Lord can at times be miserable and mundane.
But the Bible tells us otherwise. In John’s Gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ addressed the believing Jews about continuing as His disciples, and the true liberty they would enjoy when they followed Him: “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn 8: 31-32).
o Deliverance only by the power of Christ
Only the Lord Jesus Christ has the power to set us free from the shackles of Satan, sin, death and eternal damnation. The prophet Isaiah had foretold that when Christ, the Messiah comes, He would liberate those who were in bondage to sin (Isa 61: 1-3).
“The servitude to sin is the most grievous bondage, far worse than any other kind of political or social servitude. Since the fall of Adam, all men are born slaves to sin, without the power to deliver themselves. Only by the gracious bestowment of freedom by the Son of God could men’s souls ever be liberated from the clutches of sin. Hence, freedom from sin’s influence and guilt is the greatest freedom” (Bible Witness: September – October 2019).
o “The truth shall make you free”
Jesus told these new believers that “the truth shall make you free”. Instead of enslaving and restricting them, God’s truth actually sets them at liberty. There is a progressive order in the three statements of Christ – “ye continue in my word” (v 31) “ye shall know the truth” (v 32a) and “the truth shall make you free” (v 32b). Obedience leads to knowledge of the truth, which in turn leads to spiritual liberty in Christ Jesus.
How does the knowledge of God’s truth make us free? To answer this question, let us consider our Saviour’s statement in John 8: 31-32:
A true disciple will “continue in my word”. This distinguishes the genuine follower of Christ from the mere professor. He who truly loves the Lord will abide in His Word: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (Jn 14: 21a). Like the seed that falls on good ground, he will be fruitful – “and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt 13: 23). The faith of these new disciples would stand the test – only if they obeyed God’s Word and lived a holy life. It would be proof that their faith was genuine.
A true disciple will be enlightened and guided by God’s Word – “and ye shall know the truth” (Jn 8: 32a). Such a one will be able to understand God’s revelations concerning Christ, the Gospel, Biblical doctrines and God’s will for his life: “… and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (Jn: 21: 14b).
A true disciple will enjoy spiritual liberty – “and the truth shall make you free” (v 32b). He will be set free from the bondage of sin, from enslavement to his fleshly passions, and from prejudices and man-made traditions. Instead of finding God’s commandments burdensome, he will delight in doing His will because of his love for the Lord.
Matthew Henry explains: “Justification makes us free from the guilt of sin, by which we were bound over to the judgment of God, and bound under amazing fears; sanctification makes us free from the bondage of corruption. … Gospel truth frees us from the yoke of the ceremonial law, and the more grievous burdens of the traditions of the elders. It makes us free from our spiritual enemies, free in the service of God … The knowing, entertaining, and believing, of this truth does actually make us free, free from prejudices, mistakes, and false notions, than which nothing more enslaves and entangles the soul, free from the dominion of lust and passion; and restores the soul to the government of itself, by reducing it into obedience to its Creator.”
As mentioned above, many view Christianity as a “demanding” religion that requires its followers to live an upright life, attend church every Sunday, contribute their tithe and give up unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking. To these people, Christians are like slaves because they are subject to the teachings of the Bible. This is not true. It is those who think that they are free – who speak their minds freely, assert their rights, and do as they please – who are enslaved in sin. Coming under the dictates of their depraved nature, they live for themselves and cater to their fleshly lusts: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Tit 3: 3 cf Rom 6: 17-18). Nothing but Christ’s power and God’s truth can deliver them from their sins and give them true liberty: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Jn 8: 36).
We thank God that He has delivered us from the dominion of sin through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are grateful to the Lord for blessing us with His enlightening truth that has made us free. Having been set at liberty, let us no more be “servants of sin” (Rom 6: 17) but seek to obey and serve the Lord: “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom 6: 22). May the Lord grant us grace to live each day for His glory and the blessing of others.