What Does It Mean to be a Slave to Sin?


In our daily meditations, we are continuing to look at some of the teachings of the Lord Jesus. In a confrontation with the ruling powers of the day, Jesus told them they could be set free: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). Knowing the truth will set us free. The Greek term translated "set you free" suggests being released from indentured servanthood. In the ancient world, when a person didn't have enough money to pay his debts, either he or one of his children was made a slave or servant to the one owed. If someone paid his or her debt, they were released from indentured servanthood, i.e., set free. The truth is that Jesus has paid the sin debt that humanity owed and liberated people from slavery to Satan. The Lord was saying that, if they listened and held to His teaching, then they would know the truth about God’s deliverance from sin, and that truth would keep them in life and set them free from slavery to the power of sin.

The religious leaders could not contain themselves. To be told that they could be made free implied that they were slaves. To a proud Pharisee, such words hurt their religious pride and made them bristle within:

33They answered him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?" 34Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word (John 8:33-36).

What a terrible indictment of a person! “You are ready to kill me because you have no room for my word" (v. 36). When we find room in our hearts for God’s Word, it will bring illumination into our lives, exposing and challenging any darkness that has been there. As usual, the religious elite failed to understand that Messiah was not talking about things on the physical level, but in spiritual terms when He said that they could be set free from slavery. They went off on a tangent about the Jewish people never being slaves to anyone, which was completely untrue, Egypt had enslaved them before Moses came along; Babylon also conquered them, and at that very time, they were under subjugation by Rome. Jesus homed in on their hearts, saying, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin” (v. 34). He meant that sin has an addictive power over us that refuses to release us once it gets its hooks into us. Let me illustrate with a story from my past.

When I was seventeen years of age and very insecure and impressionable, I began working on a cruise liner with about 200 people on the crew. We cruised to Norway, Denmark, France, Spain, Gibraltar, and to the North African ports of Tangiers and Casablanca in Morocco. While on one of the cruises to North Africa, I wanted to become part of the in-crowd and enjoyed hanging out and drinking with the other young men. One evening, a marijuana cigarette was passed around. I took it and thought that I would try it and see how it would make me feel. After a few puffs, I passed it on. I didn't notice that I felt any different, but it made me feel like I had become part of the in-crowd of the crew. I was warned by my grandma never to take drugs and was fearful of the consequences, but sin also has a deceiving aspect to it. I quieted my conscience by telling myself that the marijuana didn’t affect me for some reason.

I thought I could control the drug, but before I knew it, the drug and the lifestyle, which went with it, was controlling me. From that point on, my life took a downward direction into real bondage to marijuana. I lost all self-esteem and couldn't bear to look at myself in the mirror. Every time I did, I saw someone I no longer recognized. I tried to break the habit several times by throwing the marijuana into the sea, but I just went back and bought more the next day. It had a real hold on me and ruled over everything I did. My enslavement was broken at the feet of Jesus when I gave my life to Him. From that point on, I have not touched any marijuana or any other drug. The Lord entirely delivered me from that bondage. Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (v. 36).

I hope you have not gone down that road and that it is different for you, but the chances are that many reading these words have been or are addicted to alcohol, lying, cheating, or stealing. Your sin may not be as apparent as those things, but what about bad temper, envy, arrogance, lust, pornography, sexual immorality, slander, gossip, covetousness, pride, slander, or even fear, e.g., fear of death, fear of a parent, fear of your boss? All of these things have an addictive, enslaving power over us, along with all the guilt and other emotions that come with them, but God's power can break it off of you. We can be free. Keith Thomas

Shortened from the more extended study at the following link: The Light Challenges the Darkness