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Liberty or Death


John 8:31-36 (ESV) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” “Give me liberty, or give me death!” So said Patrick Henry in a speech to the Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775 as he tried to convince the Virginia House of Burgesses to send troops to support the Revolutionary War. In the audience that day were none other than Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. After Henry delivered his rousing speech, all those in attendance began to shout his powerful phrase, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

The sentiment Henry and his fellow Virginians were expressing was that they would rather suffer death rather than live in bondage to a political authority which they considered to be tyrannical. They were willing to die in order to achieve political and civil liberties.

While we should be thankful for such liberties in this life, their importance pales in comparison with the liberty that Jesus is talking about when He says, “If you abide in My Word, then you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Political and civil liberties are all temporary and easily changed or overthrown; they guarantee certain freedoms while we are living in this world, but at death they are all taken away.

On the other hand, the freedom that Jesus speaks of in John 8 is not temporary but eternal liberty from sin, death, and hell. We can see the everlasting nature of this freedom when Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The liberty Jesus is talking about delivering to His disciples is true freedom from sin; He wants to liberate us from slavery to sin and have us dwell freely in God the Father’s house forever.

It is noble that men are willing to sacrifice their lives to achieve or preserve temporary earthly liberties for their neighbors, but consider how much more wonderful it is that Jesus would lay down His life to set us free from the guilt of our sin and in exchange give us His righteousness and everlasting life. The Son’s sacrifice of His life is our freedom from death. Jesus willingly said to His Father, “Give Me death for the sins of those slaves so that I can give them liberty!”

Early on in the ministry of Jesus, John the Baptist pointed to Him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus came to the Jordan River to fulfill all righteousness, to accomplish the righteousness of God that liberates sinners from their guilt. At the Jordan Jesus was baptized with a baptism intended for sinners, yet He Himself had no sins to confess or be forgiven of; by taking that Baptism for us sinners He was loading the guilt of the sins of the world upon Himself, taking the bondage off of us and putting it upon Himself. By taking our sins He places Himself into slavery to the punishment of sins, death. Yet He Himself was perfectly innocent so that He could be the blameless and spotless Lamb of God, dying in the place of sinners so that we can be set free from the guilt of our sins. On the cross Jesus pays to His Father the ransom price of His holy, precious blood and innocent sufferings and death in order to redeem us out of slavery to sin, death, and hell.


And Christ’s resurrection on the third day is proof that the Father was pleased with the Son’s sacrifice for sins. The grave could not hold Jesus down, but He broke the bonds of death and burst forth from the tomb, never to be captive to the weight of sin or death ever again. Then Jesus gave to His Church the proclamation of the Gospel as the means for the Holy Spirit to create saving faith in the hearts of sinners. He gave Holy Baptism as the concrete place where sinners receive liberty from slavery to sin and adoption as free sons in God’s eternal household. In Holy Baptism, you are set at liberty from the guilt of your sins and are given a new life to live as free sons of God in his Kingdom.

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