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’?”  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31–36)
Our freedom in Christ remains a driving force in the Reformation, more than 500 years after Martin Luther sparked the movement. This passage not only affirms this truth but provides a stark warning to us.
In this passage, Jesus tells Jewish people they need to be set free. They push back, refusing to acknowledge they could be enslaved. We question this claim (about those centuries your ancestors spent in Egypt…). However, we know enough from the Gospels that Jewish leaders often tangled with Jesus.
Our warning isn’t that Jewish people arched their backs at Jesus. It’s that these particular Jews believed in Jesus (vs. 31). We believe in Jesus. What is to keep us from also denying that we were once slaves to sin? Jesus says that everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. (vs. 34) We daily grapple with sin.
This is yet another reason our Lord has blessed us with Scripture. Just as God used the Scripture to realign the Christian faith during the initial Reformation, so God still works through His Word in us. Scripture counters the ways we can again be enslaved by sin:
- We can be entrapped by sin by denying our sinfulness. God’s Word makes us aware that we will struggle with sin until we join Christ in heaven or Christ returns. (Romans 3:19-25)
- We can become hopeless, convinced that our sin is so great it can’t be forgiven. The Scriptures provide comfort, reminding us that Jesus paid the price for all sins. There is no sin greater than Jesus’ forgiveness. (1 Timothy 1:15)
- We can deceive ourselves, thinking we are not forgiven because someone we offended refuses to forgive us. The Bible intervenes, showing us God has accepted our confession and forgiven us. (1 John 1:9)
All praise be to our Lord and Savior who not only has set us free but sustains that freedom through His Word.
(A Second Look devotions are written for the congregations of the Ohio District LCMS.)