Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
As the grip of the Axis powers tightened over much of Europe by 1941, President Roosevelt delivered his famous Four Freedoms speech. In it, he declared that people everywhere in the world ought to be able to enjoy freedom of speech and religion and freedom from want and fear.
It was well-received by our Allies. It was applauded by freedom-loving people everywhere—even among those who no longer enjoyed those freedoms.
Americans have labeled freedom with the term independence. They began celebrating Independence Day already in 1777. We still do that in our day. We view freedom and slavery as polar opposites. As much as we will fight for the first, so we will fight against the second. Indeed, we have taken to battlefields to set others free.
Thus, the words of God on the subject of freedom resonate well with the people of God. But the message of God would be truncated if we thought it only applied to the politics of governments. Jesus corrected that mistaken impression when it was expressed by some in a crowd that had gathered around him.
He told them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They replied, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
That’s when he delivered the bombshell, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”
Sin is not a one-and-done action in our lives. We sin and sin, then sin some more. We cannot go one day without sinning. It’s worse than an addiction. It is, indeed, slavery.
Freedom is a large word with deep meaning. Americans may now be free from the control of their mother country, England, but that does not mean nothing controls them. Not just local and national laws stand in the way of doing whatever, but also the common restraints of life.
Ask the student who doesn’t want to go to class; ask the worker who would prefer to be at the beach on a summer day; or ask the patient who wishes to be free from chemotherapy. They will tell us freedom seems to be limited. It is not universal or timeless.
And as the bumper stickers around military installations remind us, freedom is not free. It was bought at a price.
If we are irritated by some lack of freedom in daily life, if we are fearful that America may one day no longer be “the land of the free”, the level of concern must rise when we hear Jesus describe our standing with the word “slave.”
He contrasts the position in a family of a slave to that of a son. The slave has no claim to any of the family’s wealth or privileges. The son is an heir to all of it. The slave’s position is temporary. He may lose it at any time. The standing of the son is fixed and permanent.
The message is clear. No matter how rich or poor we might be, no matter how sick or healthy, no matter how high or low our position is in society—it is all temporary if we remain under the control of sin.
Hate it as much as we might, and struggle against it with all our might, we cannot break free from the powerful grip that will keep us as captives to urges of evil and a destiny of destruction.
We need rescue. We need the mighty God to step in and break the chains of slavery. We need to be freed from the tyranny of sin, death, and the devil.
We need Jesus, the Son of God. When Jesus sets us free, we are far more than liberated slaves; we are ourselves turned into “sons” adopted into the household of God, children of the heavenly Father, and joint heirs with Christ.
It’s not just a dream. It’s more than hope. It is a promise from our Good Shepherd.
King David knew that. That’s why his famous psalm which begins, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” ends with the words, “And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6).
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Lord Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, you paid the price of our freedom with your holy blood. From slaves to sin, you have elevated us to heirs of glory in the household of God. You made us free. In your mercy, keep us free. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Is it true that freedom always comes at a price—even if we personally receive it as a gift?
- How is being a member of the household of God evidence of not being a slave to sin?
- What is special about a child of God calling a church building the house of God?
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Stillwater, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.