Freedom in Christ / John 8:31–36 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday October 31st 2021 / Reformation Day - Eve of All Saints Day / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday Oct 31st 2021: Reformation Day - Eve of All Saints Day / John 8:31–36 "Freedom in Christ"
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered Him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
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.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. On the this side of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection Saint Paul righting to the Christians of Galatia encouraged them saying, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a [burden] of slavery.” In our Gospel reading Jesus, near the end of His public ministry, in the time leading up to His crucifixion and resurrection said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered Him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
They were of course wrong, historically their forefathers had been slaves: they had been literal slaves in Egypt for 400 years; then when their forefathers had finally attained, by the grace of God, the Land promised to them the book of Judges records how they repeatedly ended up subjugated to foreign powers because “the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD,” serving false gods and doing what was right in their own eyes; then later they had been dragged into exile in Babylon and for around 100 years they were kept from returning to the Land promised to them. And as Jesus spoke to them in today’s Gospel reading they may have had a local king but what did that amount to when they were under the control of the Roman Empire and made to be salves, as it were, in their own Land. They were not free. More than that Jesus is also speaking to them about their slavery to sin.
You see when they said to Jesus “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 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.” But right after that, where our Gospel reading ends off, Jesus continues to say to them: “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill Me because My word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” Jesus further clarifies that those who do not follow Him, those who do not have His Heavenly Father as their father, those without the Holy Spirit have the Devil as their father, and here in John chapter 8 Jesus describes the devil saying, that “[the Devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Now think back to what Jesus said earlier, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Then think again on what Saint Paul wrote to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a [burden] of slavery.”
So then are people slaves today? Do people protest this and say, “[We] have never been enslaved to anyone!” Is the atheist who has no place for the Word of Christ in their life a slave of the Devil? Is the one mired in debts a slave to the monetary systems of the World? Is the one who folds and caves to a particular sin over and over and over again a slave to Sin? Is the one afraid of death to the point of being afraid to live a slave to Death? When we put ourselves over and above God’s Holy Law making ourselves to be a law unto ourselves are we not then a salve to our own fallen will when “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” becomes the philosophy of life to live by? In these and various other ways people daily submit again and again to a [burden] of slavery: as we believe, teach and confess in the catechism, “We daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.” We are constantly tempted back into slavery, to be the slaves of Sin, Death, the Devil, the World and even to ourselves rather than living life free in Christ Jesus.
When trapped in this kind of slavery, the one who knows the truth of Christ and what He has done for them can then turn to the Son of God, return to the Son of our Heavenly Father and they can lift up their fists chained by sin and say ‘set me free, loosen the bonds of Sin, the fear of Death, the burdens of the World, shield me from the cruel oppressors’ rod and from his hoards of devils threatening to devour me, dearest Jesus save me from my self,’ and the Son of God in love will hear your plea and He will set you free: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Dear ones, you have been made free by the faith lavishly poured upon you in your Baptism, set free by the Word of God lavishly poured into your ears, down into your heart here in this place as the Word of Christ Jesus is read, sung and preached to you. This is why Jesus says, “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Stay close to God’s Word, abide in that Word, be where that Word is rightly taught and confessed and flee from all who would twist it and make it serve purposes for which it was never intended. Run with all your might from those who would lie and teach falsely by God’s Word for they are the children of their father and their father is not your Father.
Martin Luther in his day had stumbled upon a lie, a false teaching that put the Christians of his day in the early 16th century into slavery. The Roman Catholic Church had taken an already false teaching of purgatory, the idea that a Christian after death needed to settle their accounts with God and burn off their sins, and added to it an even worse lie that you could, with money and or acts of penance cancel the debt of sin for the Christian who had died springing them from ‘purgatory’ into heavenly rest … or at least hasten this release. This lie had the ‘benefit’ of feathering the nest, and lining the pockets of the Papacy with gold but there was no benefit to the Christian who was cajoled and duped by the lie, fleeced and starved by the very under-shepherds who where intended to care for them. The stark falseness of the lie became apparent to Luther because Luther had been studying God’s Word: Luther was one who was abiding in Christ Jesus’ Word, and this in turn made Luther a true disciple of Christ Jesus and knowing the truth the truth set Luther free.
Luther could read, in the original Greek language of Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, how the Christian being set free from sin belongs first and foremost to God and how it was that while “the wages of sin is death … the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”And how in Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we are taught: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So on Oct 31st in 1517 Luther desired to debate the truth of Scripture against the lie of buying and selling the forgiveness of sins, or the hinging of forgiveness on acts of penance. Even at that early stage Luther, by the grace of God in Luther’s study of God’s Word he knew that no satisfaction could be made for sin outside the sacrifice of Christ Jesus upon the cross of Good Friday in His crucifixion: that it was there that the debt of Sin is cancelled, it was there that Jesus concurred the World, vanquished the Devil, dealt death to Death and saved you from yourself.
And by 1530 Luther no longer stood alone in this truth, and at Augsburg in German Luther’s friend and colleague Philip Melanchthon was able to say before Charles the V the Emperor of Holy Roman Empire and in front of delegates from the Pope of Rome that: “We [Lutherans] believe teach and confess that a person cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favour, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who, by His death, has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God [assigns] to the person for righteousness in His sight.”
This truth is so wonderful that some find it hard to comprehend and for this reason many, sadly even many Christians, continue to believe that they need to contribute towards receiving this, that they cannot freely receive it as a gift, that certainly they must do something to receive it. On the other hand there are many who live ignorantly in slavery to their Sin, to the fear of Death, to the World, to the Devil, to themselves and even more tragically there are Christian who heard yet have walked away from the truth back into this slavery, rarely if ever darkening the doors of the very place where the truth is proclaimed in all its fullness.
What then can be done? Saint Jude in his Epistle provides a picture of our day and gives advice for us all, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Jude writes, “you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire;” therefore be merciful, by the Word of God call them out of their slavery, don’t accept or validate the slavery they are under, Jesus is the only one who breaks the darkness, the only one who truly sets the prisoners free, who with His word makes the blind to see. He is the Son of God who sets you free. And “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Galatians 5:1
 Judges 2:11
 John 8:37–38
 John 8:44
 Explanation of The Fifth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, Concordia Publishing House 2017, Pg 21.
 Romans 6:23
 Ephesians 2:8–9
 Article IV: Justification, Augsburg Confession, Concordia The Lutheran Confessions Pocket Reader’s Edition of The Book of Concord, Concordia Publishing House 2005, Pg 36.
 Jude 17–23
Photo Credits: Main Photo Wittenberg Germany from Pr. Ted Giese; In Chains from unsplash; Rusty Chains from pexels; Lock from unsplash; Debt from pexels; Set Free from pexels; Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Studying the Word of God from unsplash; Luther Defending the Christian Faith from unsplash; Luther's Rose from Pr. Ted Giese; Detail of the Altarpiece at St. Mary's Church Stadtkirche Wittenberg Germany from Pr. Ted Giese; Christian with Bible from pexels.