Reflections – John 8:34

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 8:34 (ESV)

Slavery is a word that hits people hard, especially if they’re American. Across the United States, children will learn in their history classes about the atrocities committed by the slave trade in the 17 and 1800s. Slaves were ripped from their homelands, separated from their families, and forced to live in complete submission underneath their masters who had bought them. They were abused in many senses of the word, and forced into backbreaking labor. They didn’t have any choice but to live this way.  They were bound to their masters, having no power to free themselves.

The characteristics of physical (bodily) slavery relate very closely to those of spiritual slavery. As children of Adam, we are born into spiritual slavery, forced to submit to our master, sin. As a result of Adam’s act of rebellion toward God, the shackles of sin were wrapped around the human race, binding it in death. Every human, no matter how young and innocent-looking, is conceived by sinful parents and born into a sinful world. Like infants, we cannot live without a parent to watch over us. The way Satan would have it, we would live our short lives here on earth, die as sinners, and face God’s eternal and righteous judgment on our own.

That’s not how God would have it.

As Jesus tells us in the verse above, those who practice sin are slaves to sin. As slaves, we cannot remain in the household of God. However, Jesus gives us hope. Those who are sons of God will remain in His house forever. But how can this happen? If we are born as slaves to sin, how can we become sons of God? The answer is simple yet beautiful: we are adopted as sons on account of Christ.

Paul expresses the intricate nature of God’s plan for salvation in Galatians 4:4-5 –

“But then the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Because sin entered the world through one man, so must sin be conquered through another. We were cast into sin through Adam, who is the father of us all. But we were reconciled to God through the precious atonement of Jesus, giving us a place in God’s house, where He will remain our Father. He has “set us free,” as Jesus tells us in the verse above. This same truth is expressed by Paul in Romans 5:17 –

“For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

God has placed a seal on our adoption with the precious gift of baptism. There we were marked as His children, reborn through water and the Word. Our baptism assures us of our place in God’s house by killing our sinful humanity and raising us anew in Christ, who is our redeemer. We were adopted by God’s grace, through faith in Christ Jesus. Looking to Christ, we now have the assurance that God is our Father, for life and for eternity.