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Doctrine of Christian Liberty - Free to be a Disciple

July 10, 2022 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: John 8:31–59

Quote – J.C. Ryle

Expository Thoughts on John -

Wherein does the liberty of true Christians consist?

Of what is their freedom made up?—

They are freed from the guilt and consequences of sin by the blood of Christ.

Justified, pardoned, forgiven, they can look forward boldly to the day of judgment, and cry “Who shall lay anything to our charge? Who is he that condemneth?”—

They are freed from the power of sin by the grace of Christ’s Spirit. Sin has no longer dominion over them. Renewed, converted, sanctified, they mortify and tread down sin, and are no longer led captive by it.—

Liberty, like this, is the portion of all true Christians in the day that they flee to Christ by faith, and commit their souls to Him. That day they become free men.

Liberty, like this, is their portion for evermore.

Death cannot stop it.

The grave cannot even hold their bodies for more than a little season.

Those whom Christ makes free are free to all eternity.

Let us never rest till we have some personal experience of this freedom ourselves.


Last week we explored what the confession means as having free access to God.

We learned that free access to God is only for those that belong to Him.

  • It is not for the world in general
  • It is not for the heretics or infidels
  • It is not for the self-professed Christian

But those that truly belong to the Lord enjoy free access to Him.

We learned that, with this free access, we are able to approach the throne through our mediator Jesus Christ and, in that, our prayer will be received.

We also learned that when we pray, we should:

  • Pray for things acceptable to His will
    • Pray for humility, increased faith, obedience, godliness, spiritual duties, etc.
  • Labor in accord with our prayers.
    • Keeping in mind that the outcomes belong to the Lord, but the means belong to us
  • Trust in the Lord’s Provision
    • For the church He has provided
    • For the families He has given
    • For the jobs He has granted, etc.

Today we begin our transition from the first Article of the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 20 to the second Article.

Article 2 begins with “God alone is lord of the conscience.”

Before we enter Article 2, let us take a moment and lay a foundation showing why the Westminster Divine are able to confidently assert that God alone is lord of the conscience.


The 4th of July just passed by and there were many celebrations and flags and fireworks in celebration.

  • If you were to ask someone about the meaning of the Fourth of July
    • They might talk at length on something that they call liberty but that's not liberty at all.

The Bible makes it clear that liberty must be founded upon the truth.

Let us tighten it up just a little bit more.

  • Go to those churchmen, those folks that are members in the churches that are spread far and wide across the country.
  • Catch them on the way out from church as they are on their way to the baseball game.
  • Say to them, “Tell me about Christian liberty. What is Christian Liberty all about? “
  • Some of the answers would make their way to something about being delivered from all of that law keeping stuff. Right?
    • Isn't that what we would hear?
  • They speak of the freedom to believe and do whatever they want.
  • That Christ has come to make us free.
  • And by *free*, they mean that we can import certain things into our belief and practice.
  • That Christ is just not so concerned about that.
  • That really, what he wants is your heart.

They will speak of freedom of expression in worship.

  • Some of them will talk to you about how it is right and fitting, and, and they are at liberty
    • to dance during the worship service
    • to speak in a foreign language that they have never learned.
  • Some of them will speak of the freedom that they have to do this thing or that thing.
  • They may speak of the freedom to attend any church at any time
    • to come and go as they please
  • They may speak of the freedom to have Jesus in their heart
    • rather than to go to church every Sunday.

But all of these things, while they speak of a freedom, remember, that it is not truly a freedom that is being pressed.

  • Because this is what the Bible calls bondage.
    • Being under the influence of our own will
  • The Bible calls that bondage
    • Being under the influence of the will of others

There is no such thing as absolute liberty.

  • And the sooner we get that
    • the better off, we will be
  • The sooner we get that,
    • The sooner we will look more like Christians rather than Americans.
    • And what is that we want to be?
      • I pray we want to be Christians.

No Absolute Liberty/ Freedom

John 8.31-59

Jesus is Under Authority

First and foremost, our Lord declared in this passage that we have just read, that it was the truth that sets free.

What did he mean when he said that?

  • In verses 21 → Jesus speaks about his relationship to his Father.
  • Verse 23 → Jesus describes the differences between Him and them
  • Verse 26 → He begins this really interesting series of statements
  • Jesus says, particularly, four things in these verses that are important
  • he talks about his submission to his father, that he was sent by his father
  • that the words that he says, are the words of his father
  • that the teaching that he teaches, are the teachings of his father,
  • the actions that he does, they are the deeds of his father.
  • Jesus presents himself in this passage, as one completely under authority
    • And yet we know that Jesus is free in the biblical sense of that term.

Sometimes when you talk to those folks out there on the street about what liberty is, they are going to say

  • Liberty to be my own boss.
  • It is the American way, liberty, I am going to own my own business.
  • Just take a step back from that →
    • Does that mean that you have no constraints upon you if you are the owner of a business?
    • No, actually, the constraints are magnified as an owner.
      • The constraints on your time
      • The constraints on your thoughts
      • The constraints on your labor
      • The constraints on your actions
    • Many things are even more constrained as a business owner than a non-business owner.

This idea of Liberty is often a strange fantasy.

  • There are all kinds of constraints that we all bear
    • all of our lives because there is no such thing as absolute freedom.
  • Even when we begin to make our own choices
    • we must understand that we are bound even in making those choices

Now, remember this, that someone who does not have the truth, as Jesus sets it forth here,

  • can only choose to do evil
  • he is in bondage to his father, the liar from the beginning.

There is a reason Jesus says the truth will set you free:

  • if you are not in Christ
  • if your minds are not filled with His word
  • if you do not know the truth

Because only in knowing the truth about Jesus and about his Father, and about the gospel

  • Can there be true liberty, true freedom?
    • The truth is, freedom is found only in obedience, under the authority of Christ.

Freedom as Orwellian Double-Speak

The devil, to whom we are all bound coming into this world in our corruption, seeks to destroy us.

He has in his lies

  • deceived us to think that he wants to set us free so we can live it up.

The reality of it is

  • he wants to keep us in bondage to our lusts, so that we die.

This is what Jesus means when he says that he was a murderer from the beginning.

  • Notice he does not say that he was a liar from the beginning.

How was Satan a murderer from the beginning?

  • Because he set forth the temptation to die in front of Adam and Eve.
  • He opposes the truth of God with falsehoods
  • He offers darkness to push out the light
  • He ensnares the mind of man with fancy words and false humility
  • He encourages contention, strife, and separation
  • He leads men down the wide path to death like the Pied Piper – all the while whispering into your ears that you are right, only you know the real truth…

It was not as if he brought the judgment down.

But he was complicit.

  • He was there as their biggest cheerleaders to fall into death.
  • “The Lord God had said to them in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
  • And he said, “Thou shalt not surely die.”

He took away the truth of their death

  • and replaced it with a lie of life.

Brothers and sisters, he is yet doing that today.

  • He is setting forth liberty and life
    • for bondage, and death.


For if we have God’s glory at heart, as we should have, we ought with all our strength to contend against him who is trying to extinguish it.

If we are minded to affirm Christ’s Kingdom as we ought, we must wage irreconcilable war with him who is plotting its ruin.

Again, if we care about our salvation at all, we ought to have neither peace nor truce with him who continually lays traps to destroy it

If we are to be found in Christ, we should stop holding on to these false notions of Liberty and Freedom

  • That we can do as we like
  • That we can determine what is right
  • That we can get what we want simple because we think we deserve

Rather, we must learn to re-program our minds and our thoughts and bring them captive to Christ in all areas

  • And not just those areas in which we agree
  • And not just those areas in which we find comfort

There is no freedom, there is no liberty

  • in anything not founded in the Word of God

The Truth of Christ Will Set You Free

And so, this is why our Lord Jesus Christ said

  • it is the truth that will make you free.

The truth in its full orbed understanding of

  • Who Christ is.
  • Who God is
  • What the gospel is
  • What sin and righteousness is
  • What judgment truly is.

It is only in understanding those things, that you can be free.

  • Everything else leads to bondage and death.
verse 31

Christ says, that as he continues in his father's word, so we should continue in his word

  • If you continue in My word, then ye are my disciples, indeed

Think of if this way

  • “You are not truly my disciples, unless you continue steadfastly in my Word.”

Let us be careful that we do not miss this point.

  • You can hope and wish and even convince yourself and have the behaviors of a Christian
    • But there is a difference between the “word continuing in you” versus you” continuing in the word”
    • The former results in no outward change, no fruits, and no benefits to the church to which you claim to belong
    • The latter will be shown by your lives and seen by the church as it benefits and causes them to profit
  • Continuing in the word, by necessity, requires
    • Belief according to the word itself
    • Obedience to the word itself
    • Embracing the authority of the word itself
verse 28-30

Christ, has just said that he continues in his father's word, that he is under the authority of his father

  • this is in no way adverse to freedom
    • but in keeping with freedom
  • so also, when we continue in his Word, we will know the truth
    • and the truth, will lead to real freedom
    • the kind of freedom that we ought to desire.

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