SCRIPTURE: John 8:31-38
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38 I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”
Warren Wiersbe BE Bible Study Series offers the following insight about our passage for today: “What listeners are represented by the pronoun they in John 8:33? In the previous verses, Jesus addressed the ‘believers’ mentioned in John 8:30, and He warned them that continuance in the Word–discipleship–was proof of true salvation. When we obey His Word, we grow in spiritual knowledge, and as we grow in spiritual knowledge, we grow in freedom from sin. Life leads to learning, and learning leads to liberty.
It is not likely that the pronoun they refers to these new believers, for they would probably not argue with their Savior! If John 8:37 is any guide, ‘they’ probably refers to the same unbelieving Jewish leaders who had opposed Jesus throughout this conversation (John 8:13, 19, 22, 25). As before, they did not understand His message. Jesus was speaking about true spiritual freedom, freedom from sin, but they were thinking about political freedom.”
As this study series points out, this passage can be confusing or misunderstood at first read depending on how you understand who “they” is. There are several places like this throughout Scripture that because of word choice, it can be confusing at times who the focus on something is, or who something is being directed at. And while who you understand “they” to be can alter the understanding or interpretation of this passage at some level, there are others throughout the Bible that are altered drastically depending on how certain words or defined or directed.
The important message though here is just who the study series mentions, “Jesus was speaking about true spiritual freedom, freedom from sin, but they were thinking about political freedom.” And I have to wonder that if we heard the same message today, would many of us not make the same mistaken interpretation of Jesus’ words too? Although today we might be thinking more about freedom from this pandemic and freedom to return to “normal life” more than political freedom.
What are you seeking freedom from right now? Do you believe it is a freedom that can be attained better, or easier, through Christ? What do you imagine would change for you by achieving this freedom?
Freeing and saving God, we thank you for the spiritual freedom that we are offered through Christ. Through that freedom, we grow spiritually and in connection with and knowledge of you. Help us to continue to grow, to push, to learn, to love. Amen.