Made Free by the Son
Let us look at John verses 32 and 36. These give us a key to the chapter:
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
"If therefore the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed."
That speaks to us of freedom by knowledge of the truth. You will notice that the declaration made by the Lord Jesus in these words about the truth making free, immediately raised in those to whom He was speaking the whole question of bondage. Their instant reaction to His words was, that they repudiated the suggestion that they were in bondage. Said they: "We ... were never in bondage to any man ..." and in so saying they betrayed themselves very thoroughly. They showed how utterly blind they were, and they completely justified the words with which this portion commences: "I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness." There is no need for a light, if there is no darkness. The Lord Jesus made the statement that He was the Light. He knew right well how deep the darkness was, but they were not aware of that darkness, and therefore they saw no need for Him. They were not aware of bondage; therefore they saw no need for liberation. It is just wonderful how this whole chapter justifies Him in declaring Himself as the Light, and as the Liberator, because of darkness and bondage existing, although they were unconscious of it.
Thus this chapter brings out both the fact and the nature of the darkness, and of the bondage, and then shows the way of deliverance, and that way is the Lord Jesus Himself. They said: "We ... were never in bondage ..."! He will show four ways at least in which they were in bondage, and inasmuch as they did not recognize any one of them, it is proved how utter the darkness was.
1. Bondage to the Law
First of all He will make it perfectly clear they were in bondage to the law. In bondage to the law in this way; that that law stood over them as a master, as a judge, as something from which they could not get clear, from which there was no escape, to which they would have to capitulate by compulsion. They were in that way in bondage to the law. The first eleven verses of this chapter are a remarkable parenthesis. We shall see how they form a part of this general matter. You notice that these rulers brought the woman taken in sin, and said to Him: "Master, this woman hath been taken in adultery, in the very act. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such: what then sayest thou ...?" Of course, it was an utterly illegal act of theirs. They had a court, a recognized court for such cases, where the law was administered. They had no business to take it away from the proper quarter and bring it, as it were, to a private person, especially to One in Whom they did not believe. But man will do anything with a view to getting an end upon which he is set, and these rulers were out to entrap Him. They were trying to get Him to adjudicate, and to bring Him into conflict with the Sanhedrin, the judicial court. We leave that, but notice the issue that arises: "Moses commanded ... what sayest thou?" Will He uphold Moses? If He does so, and pronounces judgment, He takes the place of the Sanhedrin, and also immediately comes into conflict with the Roman authorities who, for the time being, have superseded Moses in the administration of the Law. Will He set aside Moses? If He does, then He will be implicated in the sin, He will be condoning it, and will be a party to evil. It looks like a trap from which there is no escape.
He is sitting in the temple teaching, and when they bring in the woman, and make their charge, and interrogate Him He bends down from His seat, and writes on the ground. They press Him with their question, and all He says, lifting up His head, is: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone ..." and then stoops down again. When He has been writing a little while He looks up, and they are all gone: the Word says: "They ... went out one by one, beginning from the eldest, even unto the last." Do you say they are not in bondage to the law? He has brought home to them the law they were trying to bring home to this woman. He has turned the weapon on to the accusers, and they, who thought they stood well with Moses, have come under the lash of Moses, and cannot stand up to the law. If they could have stood up to the law of Moses, that woman would have been stoned, but they could not do it; the law judged them, condemned them. How proven was their state of bondage, when they went out!
We make our application as we go along. Not only they but all are in bondage to the law in that way. God has uttered His law, and has never taken one fragment away from the law. That law stands! It is comprehensive, detailed; it touches everything in life and in character. On the one hand there is a whole comprehensive catalogue of: "Thou shalt not!" On the other hand there is an equally comprehensive catalogue of: "Thou shalt!" And then the whole of both sides is gathered up into one thing: If you are guilty of breaking the law at one point, you are guilty of the whole law. If you break down at one point, you are responsible for all the rest. We cannot stand up to that. We are in bondage by nature. God has spoken, and we cannot get away from it. We are responsible for all that God has made known of His mind, of His requirements, both on the side of : "Thou shalt"; and on the side of" "Thou shalt not." We shall never get away from that, but shall have to answer for that one day. Every one of us has got to stand before God, to answer to Him for His law, and there is no escape. God will bring it home to us sooner or later, and it will mean condemnation and judgment for every one. There is only one way of escape, but we are all in bondage to the law by nature, and we have all to answer for the law. Is there one who can say he has kept the whole law, and never violated any bit of God's commandment? It is not a matter of how many sins. If you only commit one violation of God's commandment, you are guilty of all the rest before God. The law is broken, you are proved a sinner, and you might just as well go the whole way, so far as your standing before God i concerned. The fact of sin is established, and, whether it be sin more or less, it is judgment.
(continued with # 32 - "2. Bondage to Sin)