Declaration of Independence

Bible Book: John  8 : 31-36
Subject: Independence Day; America

The Declaration of Independence: A History,” states...

Nations come into being in many ways. Military rebellion, civil strife, acts of heroism, acts of treachery, a thousand greater and lesser clashes between defenders of the old order and supporters of the new – all these occurrences and more have marked the emergences of new nations, large and small. The birth of our own nation included them all. That birth was unique, not only in the immensity of its later impact on the course of world history and the growth of democracy, but also because so many of the threads in our national history run back through time to come together in one place, in one time, and in one document: the Declaration of Independence.

When the Second Continental Congress first met in May 1775, King George III of Britain had not replied to a petition and list of grievances sent to him by the First Continental Congress. So before their three-week recess in June 1776, they appointed a committee of five men to draft a statement presenting to the world the colonies’ case for independence. The committee consisted of John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. Jefferson later wrote that the other members of the committee “unanimously pressed on” him to draft the document.

On July 1, 1776, Congress reconvened. The discussion in Congress resulted in some alterations and deletions, but the basic document remained Jefferson’s. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late afternoon of July 4. Then, at last, church bells rang out over Philadelphia; the Declaration had been officially adopted.

The Declaration of Independence begins with these familiar words...

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In meditating upon the events and words that formulated and founded the liberty we now enjoy apart from the rule of a monarchy, my mind was drawn to a higher and nobler design of freedom, of spiritual life and liberty. Though we are 231 years removed from the signing of that great document by 56 representative signatures, we still rejoice in the independence that it secured. And though we are nearly 2,000 years removed from Calvary, we still marvel and rejoice at the salvation that the blessed Son of God secured, as “by His own blood He … obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12). Truly, God’s great salvation makes possible our spiritual Independence Day. While political freedom from tyranny is wonderful, spiritual freedom in Christ is “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8).

And the founding fathers understood that political freedom should be built upon the foundation of spiritual freedom.

John Quincy Adams said, “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: that it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

Thomas Jefferson said, “The reason that Christianity is the best friend of government is because Christianity is the only religion in the world that deals with the heart.”

Benjamin Franklin said in 1774, “He who shall introduce into public affairs the principles of Christianity will change the face of the world.”

George Washington said, “Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

French writer and political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville, after visiting America in 1831, said, “I sought for the greatness of the United States in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, her fertile fields, and boundless forests—and it was not there. I sought for it in her rich mines, her vast world commerce, her public school system, and in her institutions of higher learning—and it was not there. I looked for it in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great!”

The Bible says in Isaiah 61:1, “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” This morning, that is my mission and message, particularly proclaiming liberty to the captives of sin. In order to proclaim this message of liberty, we’re looking at John 8:31-36.

I. Let’s Consider The Declaration Of Freedom In Verses 31-32

A. Christ Declared The Mark Of Discipleship

(John 8:31) Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

One of the well-known names from the American Revolutionary war period is the name Benedict Arnold. He was an American Revolutionary general and traitor whose plan to surrender West Point to the British for 20,000 pounds was foiled when his accomplice John André was captured in 1780. Arnold fled to New York and then to England in 1781. He proved that he was not a true American patriot because he did not continue in the pursuit of American independence. Similarly, it’s not just those who make a profession of salvation that are true disciples. In John 8:30, “many believed on Him,” but He said if they “continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed” (vs. 31).

1. There Is A Furtherance In Discipleship

continue – Greek 3306. meno, men'-o; a prim. verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):--abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), X thine own.

continue – Greek NT:3306. means that something has established itself permanently within my soul, and always exerts its power in me: equivalent to persevere; the word is used of him who cleaves, holds fast, to a thing:

(From Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

2. There Is A Foundation In Discipleship

The foundation is the Word of the Lord.

Barnes’ Notes said…

[If ye continue in my word] If you continue to obey my commandments and to receive my doctrines. (From Barnes’ Notes)

Adam Clarke said…

[If ye continue in my word] Or, in this doctrine of mine. It is not enough to receive God's truth – we must retain and walk in it. And it is only when we receive the truth, love it, keep it, and walk in it, that we are the genuine disciples of Christ.

B. Christ Declared The Means Of Deliverance

1. Deliverance And Liberation Comes Through The Realization Of Truth

(John 8:32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Lawrence Richards said…

To “know” the truth is not to intellectually comprehend, but to experience. To know the “truth” is not to focus on a body of knowledge, but to live in touch with reality as God knows reality. To “hold to” Jesus’ teachings is not a reference to doctrinal purity, but to a commitment to put Jesus’ teachings into daily practice. To be “free” is not to live selfishly, doing whatever one wants whenever one wants, but to live a disciplined and godly life which releases us from our bondage to sin so that the choices we make lead to what helps us rather than to what hurts. All this can be found if we are only willing to really be the disciples of Jesus. (The Teacher’s Commentary)

2. Deliverance And Liberation Comes As A Result Of Truth

(John 8:32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Phillips Brooks said, “No man in this world attains to freedom from any slavery except by entrance into some higher servitude.” When we become servants to truth, we are liberated from falsehood and error.

Matthew Henry wrote, “The truth which Christ teaches tends to make men free. Justification makes us free from the guilt of sin, by which we were bound over to the judgment of God, and bound under amazing fears; sanctification makes us free from the bondage of corruption, by which we were restrained from that service which is perfect freedom, and constrained to that which is perfect slavery. Gospel truth frees us from the yoke of the ceremonial law, and the more grievous burdens of the traditions of the elders. It makes us free from our spiritual enemies, free in the service of God, free to the privileges of sons. The knowing, entertaining, and believing, of this truth does actually make us free, free from prejudices, mistakes, and false notions, in which nothing more enslaves and entangles the soul, free from the dominion of lust and passion.”

The more I willingly enchain myself to the truth of God’s Word, the more I am liberated from fear, from carnality, from that which does not please Almighty God.

[Ye shall know the truth] Shall have a constant experimental knowledge of its power and efficacy.

[And the truth shall make you free.] It was a maxim of the Jews, “That no man was free, but he who exercised himself in the meditation of the law.” No man is truly free, but he in whose heart the power of sin is destroyed, and who has received the Spirit of adoption, through which he cries, Abba! Father! The bondage of sin is the most grievous bondage; and freedom from its guilt and influence is the greatest liberty. (From Adam Clarke’s Commentary)

II. Let’s Consider The Delusion Of Freedom In Verses 33-34

A. Notice The Arrogant Boasting Of Man

(John 8:33) They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

1. Their Claim Was Adamant

how – Greek 4459. pos, poce; adv. from the base of G4426; an interrog. particle of manner; in what way? (sometimes the question is indirect, how?); also as exclamation, how much!:--how, after (by) what manner (means), that. [Occasionally unexpressed in English.]

“What do you mean by that?”

2. Their Claim Was Absurd

We read from R.C. Trench, “The whole past history of their nation was the record of one bondage following hard on another, they for their sins having come at one time or another under the yoke of almost every people round about them. They have been, by turns, in bondage to the Canaanites, in bondage to the Philistines, in bondage to the Syrians, in bondage to the Chaldaeans; then again to the Greece-Syrian kings; and now, even at the very moment when this indignant disclaimer is uttered, the signs of a foreign rule, of the domination of the stranger, everywhere met their eye. They bought and sold with Roman money; they paid tribute to a Roman emperor; a Roman governor sat in their judgment hall; a Roman garrison occupied the fortress of their city. And yet, with all this plain before their eyes, brought home to their daily, hourly experience, they angrily put back the promise of Christ, ‘The truth shall make you free,’ as though it conveyed an insult: ‘How sayest thou, ye shall be made free? We were never in bondage to any man’ (From The Biblical Illustrator).

As Adam Clarke stated, “This assertion was not only false, but it was ridiculous in the extreme.”

B. Notice The Actual Bondage Of Man

(John 8:34) Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.

1. Jesus Made A Statement That Was Doubly Confirmed

Twenty-five times in John’s Gospel, Jesus used this double “verily.” It is the Hebrew word “Amen,” which means sure (or surely), faithfulness, truly, firm, trustworthy.

2. Jesus Made A Statement That Was Detailing Captivity

It’s interesting that He didn’t attempt to magnify the absurdity of their claim of never being in bondage, but He simply and straightforwardly pointed to the critical area of their captivity – spiritual bondage.

Had the power of King George III of Britain been at work only outside of our coasts, there may have been no problem. But he sent troops here. He demanded allegiance and tribute here. His harassment was felt here, and he would not respond to reason. Similarly, if sin were merely an external foe it might pose little threat.

But as a Professor Shedd wrote, “Sin is the suicidal action of the human will. It destroys the power to do right, which is man’s true freedom. The will cannot be forced or ruined from outside. But if we watch the influence upon the will of its own yielding to temptation, we shall discover that the voluntary faculty may be ruined from within. Whatever springs from will we are responsible for. The drunkard’s powerlessness issues from his own inclination and therefore is no excuse. Sin is spiritual slavery.” (From The Biblical Illustrator)

servant – Greek 1401. doulos, doo'-los; from G1210; a slave (lit. or fig., invol. or vol.; frequently therefore in a qualified sense of subjection or subverviency):--bond (-man), servant.

III. Let’s Consider The Dimensions Of Freedom In Verses 35-36

A. In Terms Of Relationship

(John 8:35) And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.

1. He Mentions The Relationship Of A Bound Slave

Now the slave remaineth not in the house always. He adds a comparison, taken from the laws and from political law, to the effect that a slave, though he may have power for a time, yet is not the heir of the house; from which he infers that there is no perfect and durable freedom, but what is obtained through the Son. In this manner he accuses the Jews of vanity, because they hold but a mask instead of the reality; for, as to their being Abraham’s offspring, they were nothing but a mask. They held a place in the Church of God, but such a place as Ishmael, a slave, rising up against his freeborn brother, usurped for a short time, (Galatians 4:29.) The conclusion is, that all who boast of being Abraham’s children have nothing but an empty and deceitful pretense. (From Calvin’s Commentaries)

Ishmael had the definite paternity of Abraham, but not the Divine promises of Abraham.

The difference between being a household servant and being the Son, is like the difference between being a mere member of a church and being the Christ of the church. These Jews were boasting in their empty position like some people boast of being a long-term member of a church. There boast reveals the true condition of their heart, just as…

The elder son in the parable of the prodigal (Luke 15:29) denies his sonship by the words, “These many years do I serve thee (douleuoo).” (From Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament)

[The servant abideth not...] So said the Saviour to the Jews: “You, if you are disobedient and rebellious, may at any time be rejected from being the people of God, and be deprived of your special privileges as a nation. You are in the condition of servants, and unless you are made free by the gospel, and become entitled to the privilege of the sons of God, you will be cast off like an unfaithful slave.” (From Barnes’ Notes)

2. He Mentions His Relationship As The Born Son

(John 8:35) And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.

abideth – Greek 3306. meno, men'-o; a prim. verb; to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy):--abide, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, tarry (for), X thine own.

You can either be in captivity or in Christ.

B. In Terms Of Reality

(John 8:36) If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

1. There Is A Descriptive Reality Of Freedom Here

In Rome, and in other ancient communities, it was no unusual occurrence for a son, on coming into his inheritance, to set free the slaves who had been born in the house. The form of setting a slave free was very picturesque. The master, the slave, and some third person, appeared before one of the higher magistrates. This third person touched the slave’s head, saying, as he did so, “I claim that this man is free.” The master then took hold of the slave, turned him around, and said: “I concede that this man is free.” The slave was then pronounced free by the magistrate, and thenceforth he was free indeed. (S. S. Times from The Biblical Illustrator)

2. There Is A Definite Reality Of Freedom Here

indeed – Greek 3689. ontos, on'-toce; adv. of the oblique cases of G5607; really:--certainly, clean, of a truth, verily.

John 8:36

When he says that they shall be truly free, there is an emphasis on the word truly; for we must supply the contrast with the foolish persuasion by which the Jews were swelled with pride, in like manner as the greater part of the world imagine that they possess a kingdom, while they are in the most wretched bondage. (From Calvin’s Commentaries)


Political freedom is but the bark, intellectual freedom but the fibre, of the tree. Spiritual freedom is the sap. Men contend for bark and fibre, Christ gives the sap. (O. F. Gifford from The Biblical Illustrator)

Christ makes us “free indeed.”

In conclusion, note that another well-known name from the American Revolutionary era is the name Patrick Henry. Henry is perhaps best known for a speech that he made at the Virginia Convention of 1775, in which he said: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but, as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.” Spiritually speaking, those are the only two choices that you have. You can either be dead in trespasses and sin or you can enjoy life and liberty in the Lord Jesus Christ.