|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:30-36 Such power attended our Lord's words, that many were convinced, and professed to believe in him. He encouraged them to attend his teaching, rely on his promises, and obey his commands, notwithstanding all temptations to evil. Thus doing, they would be his disciples truly; and by the teaching of his word and Spirit, they would learn where their hope and strength lay. Christ spoke of spiritual liberty; but carnal hearts feel no other grievances than those that molest the body, and distress their worldly affairs. Talk to them of their liberty and property, tell them of waste committed upon their lands, or damage done to their houses, and they understand you very well; but speak of the bondage of sin, captivity to Satan, and liberty by Christ; tell of wrong done to their precious souls, and the hazard of their eternal welfare, then you bring strange things to their ears. Jesus plainly reminded them, that the man who practised any sin, was, in fact, a slave to that sin, which was the case with most of them. Christ in the gospel offers us freedom, he has power to do this, and those whom Christ makes free are really so. But often we see persons disputing about liberty of every kind, while they are slaves to some sinful lust.
Verse 36. - Therefore if the Son - who abideth ever in the Father's bosom, and fills the house with his glory, and is the Heir of all things - make you free, ye shall be free indeed (ὄντως, "essentially," only here used by St. John, who elsewhere uses the word ἀληθῶς, ver. 31; John 1:48; John 4:42; John 7:40; John 6:14). The Son is he who gives power to become the sons of God. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus frees from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). Only by acquiring the true spirit and regenerated life of a son can any man be delivered from the bondage induced by ignorance of the actual truth about God, about man, and about the relation between God and man. This knowledge is produced by the Son of God, who is the Truth. A full and believing apprehension of the Son of God, a realization of what he is, confers a new life and reveals the wonderful possibilities and relations of human nature. The incarnation of the Son of God as a veritable Son of man emancipates the soul fettered by the tyranny of nature and baffled by the mastery of time and sense, inasmuch as it discloses the august majesty of its own origin. Essential freedom accrues to him who knows that sin is pardoned, that death is vanquished, that the prince of this world is cast out. The eager Jew might look through the battered walls of Zion and the charred fragments of its gorgeous temple, and still see the adamantine structure and its agelong triumph. But the disciples of Jesus, with John as their leader, when these words were recorded by him as they fell from the Lord in their true connection, saw the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven as a bride adorned for her husband, with its open gates, its crystal stream, and the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb as the Light of it. The freedom of a perfect service and the glorious liberty of the sons of God was theirs, in proportion as they accepted their emancipation from the Son himself (1 Corinthians 7:22; Romans 8:35, 36; 2 Corinthians 3:18). The sons are "free indeed," whatever the world, or the Hebrew Christians, or the philosophers might think or say.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
If the Son therefore shall make you free,.... Alluding to the custom of adoption by the sons or brethren in the family, which obtained in Greece, called "the adoption of brethren", as Grotius, and others have observed; or rather to a custom among the Romans, of a son's making free after his Father's death, such as were born slaves in his house. Such a case as this is supposed (h);
"a man having a son or a daughter by his maidservant, that which is born of her, since of a servant, is without doubt a servant: wherefore if he (the son) should say, this is my natural brother or my natural sister; for since my father had children by his maidservant, "whom he did not make free"; and he dying the law has made me lord of these, , "I have made these free", because of their natural kindred.''
This is allowed to be a just and good reason of manumission. Now this answers very much to the case in hand. Men are home born slaves; the chosen people of God are such by nature; they are born in sin, and are the servants of it; Christ the Son makes them free; and then they are no more foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God. This suggests, that true freedom is by Jesus Christ, the Son of God; see Galatians 5:1. He it is that makes the saints free from sin; not from the being of it in this life, but from the bondage and servitude of it, from its power and dominion, and from its guilt and liableness to punishment for it, by procuring the pardon of their sins through his blood, and justifying their persons by his righteousness: he also makes them free, or delivers them from the captivity of Satan, by ransoming them out of his hands, taking the prey from the mighty, binding the strong man armed, and delivering them from him, and from the power of darkness, and putting them into his own kingdom; he does not indeed free them altogether from his temptations, but he preserves them by his power from being hurt and destroyed by him: he likewise makes his people free from the law, not only the ceremonial law, which is abolished by him, but from the moral law; not from obedience to it, as it is in his hands, and a rule of walk and conversation to them, but as in the hands of Moses, and as a covenant of works, and from the rigorous exaction of it, and from seeking justification and life by it, and from its curse and condemnation: and he gives them freedom of access to God, as their Father, through his blood and by his Spirit; and admits them to all the privileges and immunities of the church below; and gives them a right to, faith in, and an expectation of the glorious liberty of the children of God hereafter; and such are truly Christ's freemen:
ye shall be free indeed; this is true freedom; what the Jews boasted of, supposing what they said was right, was but a shadow of freedom in comparison of this; and that liberty which sinful men promise themselves in sin, is all deceit; there is no true, solid, substantial freedom but what is by Christ, the Son of God. Even that freedom which the children of God had under the legal dispensation, was a servitude, in comparison of that which the saints enjoy by Christ under the Gospel dispensation; though they were sons and heirs, yet being in bondage, differed nothing from servants, being under tutors and governors, in bondage under the elements of the world, and under the influence of a spirit of bondage unto fear; see Galatians 4:1; but such that have received the spirit of adoption from Christ, they are really free: they have not only the name of children, and of freemen, but they are truly such, and wholly so; perhaps there may be some reference had to such sort of persons among the Jews, who were partly servants, and partly free: so it is said (i),
, "he who is half a servant", or partly a servant, and partly free, shall serve his master one day, and himself another.''
And such an one, as the commentators (k) say, is one who is a servant of two partners, and is made free by one of them; or who has paid half his price to his master (for his freedom), but the other half is still due: and of one in such circumstances it is said (l), that
"he that is partly a servant, and partly free, may not eat of his master's (lamb at the passover):''
but now those who are made free by Christ the Son of God, they are not in part only, but are wholly free, and have a right to all the privileges of his house, to the supper of the Lord, and to every other immunity.
(h) Theophili Antecensor. Institut. Imperat. Justinian. l. 1. tit. 6. sect. 5. p. 38. (i) Misn. Gittin, c. 4. sect. 5. & Ediot, c. 1. sect. 13. (k) Maimonides, Jarchi, & Bartenora in ib. (l) Misn. Pesachim, c. 8. sect. 1.
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