“If you continue in my word you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”(John 8:32)
“Promising them liberty, when they themselves are the slaves of corruption, for by what a man is overcome, by that is he enslaved” (2 Peter 2:19)
There is a true freedom, according to Jesus, “for whom the Son sets free is free indeed..” Yet the apostle Peter warns us against the slavery of a false freedom.
How can we know the difference between the true and the false freedom? Only by appealing to the original document of human liberty, the Holy Bible.
The Bible addresses the subject of human freedom right from the beginning in the garden of Eden. God created man in a state of freedom, but the freedom he gave us was not autonomy, there were limits set to our freedom.
“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you may not eat for in the day you eat therof you shall surely die.”(Gen 2:17)
Adam and Eve were truly free. They were able begin a family, have children, they had meaningful work to do, they were free of want, strife, and need. Our first parents were free to walk with God , to know and to worship God. As long as they acknowledged the supremacy of God, Adam and Eve could live fully, meaningfully and satisfactorily. Adam and Eve were ‘free indeed’.
However they were not free in an absolute sense. There was one commandment to obey. They were not autonomous, for their freedom was under God. The prohibition underscored the supremacy of God over them. Because they loved God they wouldn’t eat of the forbidden fruit. Denying themselves in this one area would be a confession of submission, devotion and trust in God.
We read in Erich Sauer’s book the Dawn of World Redemption, that Martin luther taught that the forbidden fruit tree would be a testimony to Adam’s love and submission,
Through not eating the fruit of the tree, that is, through victory in the temptation, Adam’s moral consciousness, through the exercise of his freedom of choice, should attain to freedom of authority, and at the same time his service to the earth as its ruler should therewith become effective. Each victory over temptation would have ripened and deepened his inner life. More and more would he have recognized the good and seen through the evil, and would have grown out of the condition of childlike innocence into one of adult ripeness, of victorious holincss, with an attainment of a perception of good and evil like to that of God. “This tree of the knowledge of good and evil was become Adam’s altar and pulpit, from whiich he was to render due obedience to God, recognize God’s word and will and give Him thanks; and had Adam not fallen this tree would have been like a temple and cathedral” (Luther)
But we are told that the Serpent seduced Adam and Eve, into thinking they weren’t free after all. Satan led a ‘liberation movement’, and the first couple bought into it. He was going to ‘set them free’, they were going to ‘throw off the shackles’ that God had imposed on them by the one prohibition that he put on them. By the serpent’s doctrine, the first couple would be ‘enlightened’ into a new kind of liberty, freedom from God.
The deepest bondage is not political, it is moral and spiritual. This is brought out in the context of Jesus’ famous ‘the truth shall set you free’ discussion. We are told that it was to those who believed on Him, that he directed this remark. But they didn’t believe that it applied to them,
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever“.(John 8:31-35)
Behold the power of self deception. They couldn’t see that even politically they were in bondage, “We were never in bondage to anyone!”, What are they talking about? what about the Babylonians, the Assyrians, not to mention the Egyptians, and in the context of that very day, the Romans! And yet the Jews of Jesus’ day are a microcosm of the whole world, Man is in bondage and his pride doesn’t allow him to realise it.
But Jesus goes beyond the political, and adresses the deepest bondage of all, SIN, and slavery to sin. But the promise is that the Son has the power and willingness to set us “free indeed” from the guilt and power of sin, and to allow us to “abide forever!’