Slavery and Freedom
July 9th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
SLAVERY AND FREEDOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-9-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled Slavery and Freedom. It is a message from the eighth chapter of the Book of John, beginning at verse 28 and reading through verse 36. John chapter 8, beginning at verse 28:
Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father hath taught Me, I speak these things.
And He that sent Me is with Me: the Father hath not left Me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.
As He spake these words, many believed on Him.
Then said Jesus to the Jews who believed on Him, If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed;
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
They answered Him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest Thou, Ye shall be made free?
Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin.
And the slave abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth forever.
If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free—
ontos, actually, really, verily, truly—ye shall be free indeed.
Slavery and freedom: the passion to be free has been one of the corollaries that has attended the story of mankind through all history. The Israelites in the land of Egypt—in the house of slavery and bondage—longing to be free; the emerging nations that we see today multiplying, these nations are but reflections of that drive in the human heart to be free. We have seen in our lifetime the breakup of the British colonial empire, the French colonial empire, the German colonial empire, the Spanish colonial empire, the Portuguese colonial empire; colonialism has died in our one generation—all of it a reflection of that tremendous desire in the human heart to be free.
We, if we had time, could follow the course of human history, and it would be that story, whether we told of Israel desiring to be loosed from the serfdom they groaned under in Egypt; or whether we followed the story of the rebellion of Babylon from the oppressive Assyrian at Nineveh; or whether we listened to Demosthenes as he denounced Philip of Macedon—so famous those orations that the English word “philippic” is an oration of great emotion and especially directed toward tyranny and oppression—or whether we listen to Spartacus as he addressed the gladiators; or whether we follow the course of the French Revolution with their cry of “Liberty, equality, and fraternity”; or whether we sat in St. John’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, and listened to Patrick Henry as he said, “If it be treason, then make the most of it; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death”; or as we sing our beautiful song:
My Country, ‘tis of Thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of Thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountain side,
Let freedom ring!
[“My County ‘Tis of Thee,” Samuel Patrick Smith]
Or whether we look at our United States national foreign policy today: we are dedicated to the confrontation of a tyranny that would enslave all the world. But the stark tragedy of such a conflict is this: it is possible for men to be free and yet to be enslaved. And it was that of which our Lord spake in this conversation with the Jewish leaders in the temple area: slavery and freedom.
John says that this took place at the Feast of the Tabernacles in the temple at Jerusalem [John 7:2, 8:2]. Now the Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of the exodus out of Egypt, of the wilderness wanderings—that’s why they dwelt in tabernacles, in booths—and of the giving of the law [Leviticus 23:33-43; Numbers 29:12-38; Deuteronomy 16:13-17]. And at that time nationalism was running high in every loyal Jewish breast.
The Judean state was so turbulent and volitive that it was not a senatorial province with a proconsul under the Roman Senate, but it was an imperial province with a procurator under the Roman Caesar. And the reason was because the army was commanded by the Roman Caesar. And all of those provinces that were volitive and revolutionary were placed under him and under the Roman army. And Judea was the most turbulent of all of the Roman provinces; the most warlike. The people felt the galling yoke of Roman servitude. And as Jesus spoke these words, towering above the temple itself was the Tower of Antonio, which was a Roman army bastion.
One of the disciples of the Lord was called Simon the Zealot [Luke 6:15]; there was a Zealot party in Judea—which, by the way, precipitated the war that led to the destruction of the state in 70 AD—there was a Zealot party agitating revolt against Rome, one of whose members was one of the twelve disciples. Now, in that background this conversation took place.
Our Lord said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” [John 8:32], and the people who heard Him answered and said, “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest Thou then, ‘Ye shall be free?’” [John 8:33].
Isn’t that a strange thing for those Jewish people to say? “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.” They had been in bondage to Egypt; they had been in bondage to Assyria; they had been in bondage to Babylon; they had been in bondage to the Greeks; they had been in bondage to the Syrians; they had been in bondage to the Romans and were at that time. But maybe they were speaking of spiritual bondage.
Then the Lord took them at that word and answered, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin” [John 8:34]. It is possible, our Lord says, for a man to be free politically, to be free socially, to be free economically, and yet to be a slave driven under the galling yoke of iniquity. “Whosoever sins is the slave of sin.” A hopeless thing for us and for all of our humankind. But the Lord added a glorious benediction: “But if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free truly” [John 8:36]. Soul freedom, heart freedom, life freedom: “Ye shall be free indeed.” Isn’t that an astonishing thing, to see a people, a nation, free, and yet its citizens enslaved?
I think of our own beloved country. We pride ourselves in our freedom from want, but we are slaves to appetite and indulgence—consume more liquor, enter more orgies and revelries than all the other nations put together in the world. We pride ourselves on our freedom of speech, and are slaves to profanity and blasphemy and foul and dirty language! We pride ourselves on our freedom of press, and grind out untold tons of pornographic literature and trashy, dirty magazines.
One of the ironies that reflects modern America can be found in the state of Illinois. It is against the law in the state of Illinois to read the Bible in the public school; but the same state by law demands that every convict be given a Bible. Freedom of press, but denying some of the great, great revelations of Almighty God even to children in school—no wonder they must provide Bibles for convicts.
Freedom of worship; but we are slaves to amusement and entertainment. And in our land, as in all the free lands of the Western world, you would think that meant freedom from worship. There are not two percent of the people of western free Europe who ever go to church, and the percentage of attendance in America goes down and down and down. It is possible to be economically free, to be politically free, but to be slaves to appetite, and indulgence, and blasphemy, and desecration, and the forgetfulness of Almighty God. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” [John 8:36]. I wish you could see that sentence in Greek. The last word here in my English translation, “Ye shall be free indeed,” the last word is the first word in the Greek. It is the emphatic word, “indeed”—ontos— “truly, really, ye shall be free.” This is a freedom disassociated from any outside circumstances.
As the poet said, “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage” [“To Althea, from Prison”, Richard Lovelace]. As we sing in our hymn:
Our fathers chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free.
How sweet would be their children’s faith,
If we like them could die for Thee
[“Faith of Our Fathers,” Frederick W. Faber]
What kind of freedom is that? Soul freedom, conscience freedom, freedom of life, deliverance in Christ from the galling yoke of driving sin. That’s the kind of freedom that Paul and Silas knew: when thrust inside of an inner dungeon, they prayed and sang praises unto God [Acts 16:23-25]. That’s the kind of freedom that John Bunyan had, when for twelve years he was incarcerated in Bedford Jail; but his soul saw visions of God! That’s the kind of freedom that Balthazar Hubmaier possessed when they burned him at the stake in Vienna because of his Baptist preaching: soul freedom, freedom of heart and life, unfettered and unbound!
I think of these saints of the Lord. What would it be, were you exiled on a stony, lonely isle called Patmos, if, while you were there, you turned to hear the voice that sounded like the roar of many waters, and being turned, saw the Son of God? [Revelation 1:9-13]
I think of that little church to whom an unknown author wrote the letter to the Hebrews here in our New Testament. They had been spoiled of their goods; their earthly possessions had been taken away from them, confiscated. But in the tenth chapter of that epistle, the unknown author says, “But what is that when we remember our treasures in heaven?” [Hebrews 10:34]. Or I think of Stephen and Paul, who were executed for the faith of Jesus; but when they died, they looked up and saw the Son of Man in glory [Acts 7:55-56].
Soul freedom, heart freedom, life freedom, which is disassociated from any outward circumstances: may be in prison, but rejoicing in God; may be poor, but rich toward God; may be afflicted, persecuted, tormented, but inside a “Hallelujah! Glory to the Lord!” every day of our lives, free; “If the Son of Man shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” [John 8:36].
Now may I apply that to us, and especially? The freedom that the Lord gives us—that God bestows upon us—is the freedom that comes when we make ourselves the slaves of Christ, when we willingly yield and surrender ourselves to Him. What an anomaly! I am free when I give up myself and turn over myself to Jesus. And how many of those paradoxes do you find in the Bible? If I die in Christ, I shall live [Romans 6:8]; but if I live for myself, I am dead. And for me to live, I must die to myself and live unto God.
And that same paradox is found in the Word of God. Look: did you ever notice how Romans 1:1, how Philippians 1:1, how Titus 1:1 begins? Begins like this, “Paulos, Paul, doulos, a slave, Iesou Christou, of Jesus Christ, Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ.” The true freedom can only be gained when we make ourselves the slaves of Jesus our Lord. What a paradox, what an anomaly.
I want to show it to you. I am a free man when I sit down at that piano or at that organ. I am bound by no iron laws, and I am controlled by no complex conventions. I am a free man when I sit down there at that piano or at that organ. But oh me! The sounds that come out when I sit down—oh, oh! oh! it hurts my ears even to think about it! But, if I were gifted and I yielded myself to iron laws and to endless and complex conventions, why, I have heard men who have done that, like Paderewski, and the very angels stoop down to hear him play.
I see it every day of my life in the devotion of young people to one another. Here is a young woman, and she is free, perfectly free. She has a fine job, she makes a fine salary, and she can go and come as she pleases; she is perfectly free. Then she will give herself, give herself, absolutely give herself—all that she is and has, heart, soul, mind, and body—she will give herself to a young man and assume all the responsibilities attendant to a home and children, and she will do it willingly, yieldedly, lovingly, tenderly, beautifully, wonderfully, gloriously!
I spoke of this Book of Hebrews. In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the author speaks of Abraham and Sarah, and the patriarchs who went to the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, and now listen as he writes:
They embraced the promises that they saw far off; and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
They could have gone back. They could have given up God and God’s call and God’s promise, and they could have gone back to that country from whence they came.
But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He hath prepared for them that city.
Yielded willingly, gladly, obediently, and refuse to be free from the yoke of the servitude of Almighty God. That is what Jesus says: “freedom indeed” [John 8:36]. When we are slaves of Christ [Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1], when we give up ourselves for the Lord, when we deny ourselves for Him, when we die to self that we might live in Him [Romans 6:8], when we are Paulos, doulos—slaves of God—isn’t that a wonderful thing? And what an astonishing and amazing thing!
Lord, I bind to Thee with steel cables my family and my home and my children. Lord, they belong to Thee; and we are servants to God, slaves of the Lord. Lord, I give up all pretense to my own life, and I willingly, surrenderingly, yieldedly bind myself to Thee, O God! And when I do, I have the gift from heaven of that soul freedom, heart freedom, life freedom that blesses and encourages, that sings songs, that praises God, that lives gloriously and triumphantly; when I am a slave of Jesus my Lord; given for Him, taking His yoke, binding myself to the Lord. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” [John 8:36].
We must sing our song of appeal. And while we sing it, to give yourself to Jesus: “Lord, I take hands off of my life and place my life in the hands of God, and here I come. Lord, I yield to Thee all of the issues of my day. I take Thee, Master, as my Lord and Savior” [Ephesians 2:8].
Would you come today and stand by me? Is there a family you to put your life with us in the circle of our dear church, would you come? Is there a couple you? As God shall open the door and lead in the way, would you make it this morning? On the first note of the first stanza: “Here I come, pastor, and here I am. I will follow the Lord as God shall lead in my life, in my home, with my family, and here I come.” Will you? Will you? Would you decide for Jesus now? “Lord, I’m turning over to Thee and let Thee work out in infinite wisdom and grace all of the issues and days of my life.” Would you do it? If you will, God says there’s a blessing, there’s a liberty, there’s a triumph for you that is indescribable, precious, holy, heavenly, glorious. This is the way of victory! The world has nothing to offer that rivals the pristine, glorious gift of God’s grace in Christ Jesus; try it and see. Come and see, do it now, make it this morning, while we stand and while we sing.
SLAVERY AND FREEDOM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-9-67I. The passion of men to be free
A. In our generation
B. Through the centuriesII. The stark possibility to win freedom and still be a slave
A. Jesus in the temple
1. People were celebrating Feast of Tabernacles
B. A week when nationalism was high
1. Judea a volative province, under a Roman procurator
C. Jesus’ discourse on true freedom (John 8:32-36)III. The burning application today
A. Freedom from want
B. Freedom of speech
C. Freedom of the press
D. Freedom of religionIII. The emphatic word – “really, actually” (John 8:36)
A. Freedom disassociated from outward conditions
B. Freedom of the soul, soaring of the spirit in the love and grace of God (Hebrews 10:34)
IV. True freedom is choosing to be slave to Christ (Romans 1:1, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1)
A. Willingly yielded