Free to Believe or Believe to be Free

John 8:31-36 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. NIV

Truth and freedom, two words that are held in high regard but seldom pursued let alone understood. When Jesus told Pilate, “I came to testify to the truth”, Pilate replied, “what is truth?” When Jesus told the Pharisees that the truth would set them free they replied indignantly, “we have never been slaves of anyone!”

Truth and freedom are relative terms in a pluralistic society. One is “free” to “believe” whatever “truth” one chooses. Rather than truth bringing freedom, freedom is relative, a place from which everyone can believe and therefore do what he or she chooses to believe is truth and thus good.1.

Jesus’ word turns this idea upside down – or right side up – by declaring; freedom is the state into which you enter once you receive and believe “the truth”. This is a radical enough thought on its own, that if I do not have the truth I am in fact not free but enslaved by a lie.  But it does not stop there. The Pharisees objected that they were born free but Jesus declared that truth which brings freedom is personified in Jesus Christ.2

Truth that Frees

So what is the truth of Jesus Christ that brings us into freedom?

The simple answer is the gospel or the message of the cross. The word of the cross is made clear by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Roman church; 

  • Before God there is no-one who is righteous, all fail to express the glory of God in creation and are objects of His wrath. The law given to Moses and that which is written on our conscience reveals our powerlessness to redeem our position in that all people are slaves to sin and are unable to live free from sin’s power and control. Even if we come to believe the truth that the law is good and should be obeyed we are not free to obey that law and live righteously before God.3
  • The conclusion of this revelation is summed up by the cry “wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?”4
  • The answer to the realisation of bondage to sin and death and the cry for freedom is found in the person of Jesus Christ.5

The personal word of God in Christ Jesus is heard at the cross;

  • Jesus, in His humanity, receives the penalty of the guilty verdict hanging over all people – the wages of sin is death. The righteous requirement of the law is death.6
  • On the cross the wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus as he experienced (and revealed) God’s wrath as forsakenness.7 Matt 27:45-46  From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”-which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” NIV
  • Jesus’ resurrection declares justification before God for all who call upon His name. Rom 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. NIV

Truth that Condemns

When Jesus declared “the truth will set you free” there was a very clear truth that is found and received only in Jesus Christ. The truth that sets people free does not begin as a word of affirmation -people are basically good, they really do want God and they just need to be loved on- but it begins with a word of guilt, condemnation and wrath. Now, just as God’s righteousness is being revealed,8 it begins with the revelation of His wrath.9 People are slaves to sin, guilty as hell itself and condemned to the death of Godforsakenness.

Jesus made it clear that He came to save those who would believe as John 3:16,17 states:

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

However, Jesus does not stop here. He declares clearly and emphatically in the next few verses that people are already condemned. They are not in a neutral state but are already under God’s wrath and those who do not believe are not condemned by Jesus BECAUSE they are already condemned; and that is because their hearts love darkness rather than light:

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. NIV

Unless a person can receive the truth that they are wretched they will never find freedom in Christ. Partial truth does not bring freedom but only a different form of slavery. The Pharisees were too righteous in their own eyes. Pilate was pluralistic concerning truth and regardless of which position is taken, “all stand condemned before God” and are therefore “wretched”.

Truth that Cries for Deliverance

“Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death”10 is the cry of one that believes the truth. “What must we do to be saved”11 is the belief that slavery is your present predicament and wrath your inevitable reward.

The prayer of the Pharisee was one of slavery because there was no truth in it.

Luke 18:10-14 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” NIV

The tax collector believed the truth and cried for freedom.

Truth that brings Freedom

The word of the cross that screams guilt and condemnation over all of humanity also cries out “it is finished, the penalty paid, the wrath appeased, righteousness revealed.” The truth of condemnation is also the truth of deliverance from sin to all who believe. Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned; they will not perish but will be free.

As Romans reveals,

Rom 8:1-4 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. NIV

“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”


There is no freedom in believing what we want to believe only bondage and slavery to that belief. Society offers freedom of belief but Jesus gives belief that frees.

Belief that frees begins with the truth that in my flesh there is nothing good. I am a slave to sin in my sinful flesh and powerless to do anything other than to reject and hate God.12

Belief that frees is one that cries for deliverance from slavery to this body of lust which hates the life and light which is Jesus Christ. To daily live according to the desires of the flesh is to deny the truth that in Christ freedom is not only deliverance from God’s wrath but also freedom from the power of sin in the flesh. Freedom and power to daily crucify the flesh.

And finally belief that one day this corruptible body will be made incorruptible, mortality will put on immortality and salvation’s final work will be complete.

The Truth will set you free so believe and be free in Jesus Christ.

  1. An untenable theory because it assumes everyone else’s truth parallels my interests and does not oppose them. Courts are filled with plaintiffs arguing their right as being more valid or true that the rights of another []
  2. John 14:6-7 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” NIV []
  3. Rom 3:10-18; 3:23; 7:7-24 []
  4. Rom 7:24 []
  5. Rom 7:25 []
  6. Rom 8:3-4 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. NIV []
  7. Rom 1:18,24 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness… 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts… 28 since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind… NIV []
  8. Rom 1:17 []
  9. Rom 1:18 []
  10. Rom 7:24 []
  11. Acts 2:37; 16:29 []
  12. To believe people have not rejected God but have rejected the church is a slavery to sin because it rejects “the truth”. []

4 thoughts on “Free to Believe or Believe to be Free

  1. Lesley Fewson

    What an incredible breath of fresh air. If we can only crucify our own idolatry by denying our belief that we are god and that what we believe is good and see it as evil, then this message will truly “set us free”.
    Let all cry “deliver me from this wretched body” and begin to live in Christ with His power to daily crucify the flesh.

  2. Dana

    What relief, what joy, what life, to know & believe that by the power of Christ within us we CAN say “NO” to our fleshly desires! That we are no longer slaves to sin!
    To know & believe that ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness..’ 2 Peter 1:3
    Praise be to God that in Christ we have the ‘freedom and power to daily crucify the flesh.’
    To borrow Paul’s words from Ephesians: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory and honour and praise for ever and ever. Amen.”

  3. Jessiefewson

    What a powerful demonstration of God’s mercy and grace! I pray that we all stop defending the good that we think we have in us and live in that freedom that comes from saying “What a wretched man that I am” and believing that “in me no good thing dwells”. Thanks be to God through Christ Jesus who has saved us from the punishment that our evil hearts deserved. How great is the love of the Father for his children! Let us yeild our hearts to this great and awesome love.

  4. Travis Blakiston

    For too long we’ve had it all wrong! We’ve not known the love, grace and mercy of God because we have not believed the truth! We refused to submit to Him and those sent by Him (His ascension gifts). Why did we refuse? Because obedience would have led to the death of the old self with its corrupted beliefs! We’ve treasured our corrupted beliefs rather than the truth. But the Cross of Christ has crucified and intends to crucify the old so that the new may be built up. The new being that is God glorified in His church with Christ as its Head. I pray that we love God who reveals Himself to us in the Christ of the Cross!

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