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Sun, Aug 08, 1999

59 - True Freedom

John 8:31-47 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:55 mins 20 secs

True Freedom
John 8:31-47
John Lesson #059
August 8, 1999

In verse 31 Jesus begins to address the Jews who have believed in Him: NASB "So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him." This is the perfect passive participle of pisteuo [pisteuw]. In the previous was the aorist active indicative of pisteuo, just summarizing everything up in one ball: "many believed." The subject is "many [poloi] believed [e)ij a)uton] in him." That phrase, pisteusan e)ij a)uton, is a standard stock phrase of the writer of the Gospel for expressing the condition for salvation.

The reason we go over this again and again is that there is this assumption by so many that somehow, because somebody departed from Jesus, that they believed at some point and then seemed to be antagonistic afterwards, that it was not saving faith; that simply accepting the facts about Jesus is not enough, there has to be something more. What that something more is, is never articulated. The assumption is that there are two kinds of faith, that you can have a faith that isn't saving. What that ends up doing is putting the merit for salvation on the kind of faith that you have. You have to have the right kind of faith in Jesus. And how do you know you have the right kind of faith? Well you don't know, except by the evidence, the fruit. If you have the right kind then you will have the right fruit. The Scripture says, "by their fruits you will know them." So the assumption is that the way you know if you have saving faith is because the fruits are there. The problem with that is that the only way you know if you are saved is if you have the right kind of fruit. So that makes everybody fruit inspectors, because we have to find out if we have the right kind of fruit. And what about people who are not believers and who are very religious, who are very moral, who are engaged in all kinds of what the world calls "spiritual activity"? It looks like the right kind of fruit so they must be saved. And these people out here who are living the licentious lifestyle and abusing grace must not be believers, and yet those are the ones who believe Jesus died on the cross for their sins. The problem is, is the faith meritorious or is the work of Christ on the cross meritorious? Salvation is through faith, not because of faith. This is very precise in the Greek. It is Christ whose work saves us, the merit is all in the object of faith not in the act of believing itself.

So these are true believers and Jesus turns to them and begins to address a mini message to them in order to communicate some spiritual life doctrine to these new believers. In v. 31 Jesus was saying those believers had believed in Him. The perfect tense emphasizes the present results of a past action, so they are currently believers because they had made a one-shot decision in the past to trust Jesus Christ as their saviour. He says: "If you continue [abide] in My word," a 3rd class condition in the Greek which means maybe yes, maybe no; maybe you will and maybe you will not fulfil the condition. The condition is abiding. you can fulfil the condition and there will be certain necessary consequences, but maybe you will not. In other words, you can be a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and choose not to fulfil the condition. That option is open to you. Of course you will go through divine discipline for mots of your life, you will never find happiness, you will be absolutely miserable and you will never glorify God, and when it comes to the judgment seat of Christ you will lose rewards, all you will have is wood, hay and straw which will all burn up and you will enter heaven yet as through fire. So you have an option and this addresses your volition. So "abide" is the Greek word meno [menw] which means to abide, to remain, to persevere, to endure, to stick with something. Most things in life that are worth anything involve a tremendous amount of perseverance, endurance and abiding in them. One of the biggest problems that people have in our society is weight. They are constantly looking for quick-fix magic bullet solutions to the problem of their waistline. So there is one fad diet one year and another fad diet the next, and then there are all sorts of various pills that you can take to get that weight off. People go on diets and the after two or three days something comes along and there is a birthday cake or a dessert or an opportunity to go down and get an ice cream cone, etc. that always seems to present itself and we wonder why these things don't work. It is because we don't persevere. If it is going to have any value it means we have to do it the same way every day, day in, day out over a long period of time. The same thing is true with exercise and with any activity in life. If you expect the reap the results from it then you have to make it a part of your daily activity. That is what abiding means, to stay with it making it a part of your life and making it a priority.

"…{then} you are truly disciples of Mine." Jesus is saying that if you are going to be truly disciples, more than just learners, then that means abiding in the Word. "Word" is logos [logoj]. John has an interplay before the word logos and the word laleo [lalew] which means to speak. So laleo will emphasize His spoken word and logos is going to emphasize the doctrines communicated through His spoken Word. So, "If you abide in my logos then you are truly disciples of Mine." So He has shifted from talking about believers to talking about disciples. A disciple is not necessarily a believer. Disciple in its root meaning just refers to a student, someone who attaches himself to a teacher for a time and follows his teaching. It is also used in a more technical way in the New Testament to refer to those twelve who follow Jesus. Some of them were not believers. For example, Thomas. Thomas does not become a believer until after the resurrection.

This always seems to confuse people. How is it that Jesus could send them out in Matthew chapter ten as apostles to Israel, and he delegates to them authority over illness, disease and demons? The solution is very simple. God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants to do in order to achieve His purposes, in the same way that He used unrighteous, unsaved Cyrus in the Old Testament. In fact, He called him "my anointed one." And Cyrus had no clue, he didn't know God existed. God used him to restore Israel to the land. Judas was another who was not a believer. So the term disciple does not necessarily mean a believer.

But then there is the case like this when Jesus is talking about a higher level of disciple. This is not just a learner, not simply one of the twelve, but it is also used as a technical title for believers who are advancing to spiritual maturity and who are serious about everything that Jesus teaches and about mastering the spiritual life. Then there will be a result, verse 32.

John 8:32 NASB "and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." So there is a relationship between abiding or staying with it and knowing the truth. The word "know" comes from the Greek word ginosko [ginwskw], which does not refer to an intuitive sort of knowledge but to that process of coming to know something, to learn something as a result of study and discipline. So there is an emphasis here on concentration, on the process of learning. "Truth" is the Greek word aletheia [a)lhqeia]. Here Jesus is talking about truth in terms of Bible doctrine, all the thoughts, principles, mandates, and prohibitions that are expressed in the Word of God—You shall know through concentration and discipline come to know Bible doctrine, and it is Bible doctrine that will set you free. The essence of the power of Scripture is that it is truth, it expresses reality from God's viewpoint. And by living in reality on the basis of divine viewpoint that is where we have freedom.

But what kind of freedom are we talking about? There are all kinds of freedom: political, social, moral, economic, spiritual. Jesus is talking about spiritual freedom, and this becomes clear from His explanation in verse 32; that it is doctrine that will make you free.

John 8:33 NASB "They answered Him, 'We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, "You will become free"'?" The religious crowd (the natural man, the soulish man cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God) don't have a clue as to what Jesus is really talking about, so they just jump in and interrupt Him out of their arrogance. It is very clear here, especially in verse 41, that He is not talking to believers. The Problem here is that if they are not believers by verse 41 and if the "they" is referring to those who believed in Him (this is how they reason), then therefore it is a false belief. That's how they get there, it is convoluted. If pisteuo eis refers ever to an unbeliever then we have a real problem trying to define what it is you have to do in order to be saved. That is a fundamental issue. Language must mean something and the trouble with today is that we live in an era when people think that language can be shaped and moulded to mean whatever they want it to mean at the moment. pisteo eis always has to mean the same thing, it is John's technical term for how we are saved.

So "they," the religious Jews in the crowd that are not believers says they are Abraham's offspring. The emphasis that they have is that it is their racial heritage, that because they are genetically linked to Abraham they think they are automatically going to heaven. Back in chapter one we are told in the introduction that Jess came to His own, i.e. the genetic relatives, the Jews, and those who were His own did not receive Him, but as many as received Him (the small group) to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believed in His name, "who were born, not of blood [physical relationship to Abraham] nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." It is a spiritual birth, not a physical birth, that is the issue and the religious Jews just don't get the point. They said" "We are Abraham's offspring." And then the arrogance of their blindness: "and have never yet been enslaved to anyone." What about the Babylonian captivity? What about 400 years in Egypt? They totally missed the point that at that very moment in history the province of Judea was a province of SPQR, the Roman empire. They were enslaved to Rome politically, they were enslaved to the Mosaic law, according to what Paul says in Galatians, and furthermore they are enslaved to their own religious traditions. So they are enslaved in many different ways and Jesus says there is another one.

John 8:34 NASB "Jesus answered them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits [practices] sin is the slave of sin'." This is a gnomic principle and will be reiterated by the apostle Paul in Romans chapter six. If you exercise your volition negatively and you choose to sin (and the unbeliever has no other option but the sin nature) then you are the slave to sin.

John 8:35 NASB "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever." In the context the Jews are emphasising their physical relationship to Abraham, so we will emphasise the father in the house as Abraham in the illustration. What Jesus is saying is that you are not a son you are a slave because the issue is not physical relationship but spiritual relationship. So let's correlate this to how the apostle Paul develops this thinking in Galatians 4:21 Paul uses the historical event as an allegory. NASB "Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? [22] For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. [23] But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. [24] This is allegorically speaking, for these {women} are two covenants: one {proceeding} from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. [25] Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. [26] But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. [27] For it is written, 'REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.' [28] And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise." So here we have Isaac on the one side, Ishmael on the other. What made him a child of promise was that Isaac was regenerated. He trusted in the promise of the Messiah.

The slave does not remain in the house forever. Ishmael when he died was rejected because he was going to spend eternity in the lake of fire. The son, Isaac, does remain forever because of faith alone in Christ alone.

John 8:36 NASB "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." He offers salvation to the Pharisees right there. Do you want to be saved? If you do the Son can make you free. [37] "I know that you are Abraham's descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you." Again we have the word logos. Doctrine has no place in them. Again, He is emphasising their negative volition and their rejection of truth. [38] "I speak the things which I have seen with {My} Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from {your} father." Here we have to contrast between speaking, laleo which is His physical active speech, versus the logos. Here He contrasts His Father with their father. Jesus is really turning the heat up here. Throughout Jesus has made the claim that He is the one who is from the Father, has been sent from the Father, and speaks what the Father told Him to speak. Here we have a contrast that Jesus is drawing. He is related to the Father and they, the Jews, are related to their father. Who is their father?

Once again they are thinking physically and they reiterate the previous claim. John 8:39 NASB "They answered and said to Him, 'Abraham is our father.' Jesus said to them, 'If [1st class condition] you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham'." Jesus is not going to grant their assumption, He continues to challenge their presuppositions and demonstrate the fallacy of their assumptions. [40] "But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do." Abraham rejoiced to see Me; you want to kill Me. Their attitude is 180 degrees apart from Abraham, therefore how can they claim to be Abraham's seed? That is the argument. "The truth": over and over again He is hitting them with doctrine, doctrine, doctrine. Do you accept doctrine or not?

John 8:41 NASB "You are doing the deeds of your father." They said to Him, 'We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God'." They are arguing that they are true Jews. So now they are going to shift their argument: Our father is not Abraham, we'll grant that, our Father is God. [42] "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father [and He is not], you would love Me [there is no evidence], for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me'." Jesus uses a 2nd class condition here: if and you are not, if and it is contrary to fact. Jesus continually presses the point that His origin is God the Father. John 8:43 NASB "Why do you not understand what I am saying? {It is} because you cannot hear My word." 1 Corinthians 2:12 says that the psuchikos [yuxikoj] man [soulish man] cannot understand the things of God. What Jesus is saying is: You cannot hear my Word because you are not saved. [44] "You are of {your} father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth [doctrine] in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own {nature,} for he is a liar and the father of lies." This is true of every unsaved human being. They are of their father the devil because they can only operate on their sin nature, and the sin nature leads them in the path of Satan in trying to assert their own independence from God. So Jesus just slaps the religious crowd right between the eyes. They think they are following God, they are so religious, but they are following the devil. So He is calling them liars, demonic, and of their father the devil.

John 8:45 NASB "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me." The reason He is saying that they don't believe Him is because He speaks the truth. They are rejecting Him and because they reject Him and His claims to be Messiah they are rejecting everything that he says. [46] "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?" Jesus is saying: You know Me, I have been under your scrutiny now for three years and you know you can bring no charge against Me, I am sinless. He is forcing the issue down to the fact that it is not the content, it is their volition. They have rejected God at God-consciousness. Just because someone is religious and religiously active does not mean they are positive.

John 8:47 NASB "He who is of God hears the words of God," i.e. a person who is a believer and understands the words, the logos… "for this reason you do not hear {them,} because you are not of God." He is trying to convict them of the fact that they are unbelievers and that there is no hope for them. Just because they are tied physically to Abraham that is not the basis for salvation and Jesus is trying to communicate the gospel to them. The offer is on the table to the Pharisees. The reason they don't is because they are negative.

John 8:48 NASB "The Jews answered and said to Him, 'Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?'" They can't handle His arguments. Jesus' arguments are so sophisticated, so well thought through and so well articulated that they are left without a leg to stand on. So all they can say is: "You have a demon too." And the confrontation deteriorates from there into one of the most profound statements that Jesus makes at the end of the chapter.