John 8:36 ESV "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed".

Are A, B, C, and D valid references to "free indeed"? Are there others?

A. John 8:33 To those listening to Jesus the word "free" was in the context of political freedom. "We are the offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved."

B. John 8:35 The slave is banished. Genesis 21:10 "cast out this bondwoman", but the free son remains.

C. John 8:32 "the truth will set you free" from John 8:44 "the father of lies."

D. Could "free" in John 8:36 be used to support the idea of "freewill"? I put freewill in inverted commas because I am not convinced that it is either a coherent concept or, if one believes in it, that it can deduced from this verse. I think I have seen it used in this way on Hermeneutics Stack.

If God had a holy motive for withholding from created Adam the grace to obey, in order to prove that Adam was inferior to his uncreated Son Jesus, then Adam's sin was not a free act.

Adam was sent from the garden and Ishmael to the Wilderness of Paran. Neither were free from the way they were made or the situation they were born into.

E. I understand eleutheroi is plural. Who will be free?

  • I put freewill in inverted commas ["freewill"] because I am not convinced that it is either a coherent concept or, if one believes in it, that it can deduced from this verse. Jesus has already clearly said that «whoever commits sin is a slave of sin» (not vice-versa, BTW ...). having noted that, could you please explain why "freewill" would not be, in your opinion, a "coherent concept"? Thank you Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 16:57
  • @Miguel de Servet Suppose the human will was not subject to cause and effect then it would be subject to something else e.g. randomness. If cause and effect has a first cause, Alpha, and God the first cause of every causal chain, then there is no freedom from His causation. If randomness is the first cause then every attempt at logic must ultimately be based on a meaningless premise.
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 18:05
  • Your question contains this statement .... “*If God had a holy motive for withholding from created Adam the grace to obey, in order to prove that Adam was inferior to his uncreated Son Jesus .... *” what is this based on/sourced from?
    – Dave
    Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 19:41
  • @C.Stroud - Your alternative is artificial. Aristotle, while clearly affirming the distinction between chance and necessity (Metaphysics, Book V, 1025a25; Book VI, 1027a29), also clearly affirms the notion of agency and of free agent (Nicomachean Ethics, III, v, 6, Loeb translation). Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 19:56
  • @C.Stroud - But it is Epicurus (born 43 years after Aristotle) who summarized this triple classification of causality in the clearest and most essential way (see Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus, last but one paragraph) Commented Jul 1, 2021 at 20:02

5 Answers 5


Jesus is making it clear that even though they may have come from Abraham it does not mean they are free. It was through the seed of Abraham that they were missing… They did not realize Christ was the promised seed of Abraham and everything would come through him.

They did not see that they were slaves to sin… They were blind to themselves.

34Jesus answered them: I say unto you: that whosoever committeth sin, is the servant of sin.

They answered him: We are the seed of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to any man: how sayest thou: you shall be free?

They would be free indeed from sin if they followed Jesus to the cross and realized who he truly was and what he did on their behalf for sin enslaves them.

They did not believe he came from God.

C Stroud,
You also made this statement.

"If God had a holy motive for withholding from created Adam the grace to obey, in order to prove that Adam was inferior to his uncreated Son Jesus, then Adam's sin was not a free act."

You are absolutely right . Here's a couple different translations from Romans 11:32

Look at who it was that subjected All to disobedience .

King James Bible For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

New American Standard Bible For God has shut up all in disobedience, so that He may show mercy to all.

For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.

Amplified Bible For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all [Jew and Gentile alike].

Everyone has been in prison by being made a prisoner of sin…

Of course it started with the First Adam only to be all undone by the second Adam… Christ

1 Corinthians 15:45 So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

The first man is out of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord out of heaven;

Freedom is only through him And if he has set you free you are truly free!


The basic take of this question is a presupposition that since what we call "free action", "free choice" can be caused either by previous causes and thus cannot be free, or is grounded on randomness and then it becomes foolish and loses all dignity.

This presupposition is plain wrong. There exists in humanity, in all cultures and traditions (read the fairy tales and folklore of all nations!) a very correct basic and axiomatic belief that there is good and bad and there is choice between them, and if one choses good, e.g. fights dragon and liberates a princess, then he is praised, but if one choses bad, e.g. gets afraid of dragon, runs away, and leaves poor princess helpless, then he is censured. Now, this is a healthy belief of mankind and philosophically this belief can be supported, even if this is difficult.

Actually, when God creates universe, He does it freely, but not randomly, for this will be a blasphemy on God to say that He does anything randomly. Now, when we choose actions we also do it like God does, in complete freedom and without randomness, for this choice is preceded by our understanding of good and bad. God made us absolutely free in our choice between the two, and in this choice, in this "either... or"-ity, as Descartes nicely says in his fourth meditation, we are formally no less free than God. However, despite this complete freedom there is a necessity also that if we choose bad, we shall lose happiness, for bad is privation of good and privation will makes us spiritually deprived and depraved also.

When the Lord says that He will liberate us and that the Son remains eternally, He simply says that He is God and that human souls were created to find eternal harbor in God, for as the blessed Augustine says on behalf of all mankind "our hearts are restless until they rest in You".

  • In this comment I am not trying to be contentious but merely further explain my position as a Christian and a hard-determinist. Your example of fairy tales involves characters whose choices are determined by their author. I believe we choose. We choose on the basis of who we are. We do not choose who we are but our choices are expressions of who we already are. Thus choice is an expression of how we were made and nothing can make itself. If it does not exist it it is not in a position to make itself.
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 13:08
  • +1 as I think your answer is useful to moving the debate on.
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 13:20
  • @C.Stroud Hard determinism, Calvinism, Extreme Augustinianism - you name it, destroys human freedom and, more, infects God with a guilt of being a cause of evil, or creating humans for a purpose of ruining them. Thus, as such, those are dangerous heresies, putting to null both divine praise and divine retribution for human good choices/deeds and bad choices/deeds. To use Augustine's example, twin brothers having the same ontological and social standing, can have completely different lives, good or bad, depending on their choices. And yes, "by author" but this author is basic human intuition. Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 14:08
  • @C.Stroud And, please, be contentious! Be fiery and unrelenting! I have nothing against it, on the contrary, I respect a passion in search and defense of what one considers to be true. That I staunchly and fiery disagree with your take on the notion of freedom, does not hinder in a tiniest way me to respect just as I respect myself. Thanks, anyhow for taking interest in my comment, addressing it and estimating it. Commented Jul 3, 2021 at 14:27
  • Thanks for reply. I would be happy to carry this on in a chat room but don't know how to start one. God is holy. We see in Job 1:12 not that God does evil but that He says to Satan "Behold, all that he has is in your power" and 1:19 thus God authorises the death of Job's children. Also Mat 28:18 all authority given to Jesus. So, Satan does not have the authority to sustain his own existence. Satan is sustained in his existence and used by God. Satan does evil and God has a holy motive for using him. Do you agree?
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 19:36

Responsibility to choose does not equate with “free will”. And not until the Son has truly set us free can we first see that all our choices up till then were made on the basis of being enslaved – to sin. The true freedom Jesus spoke of in that section of scripture is freedom from our slavery to sin. He liberates the captives who truly believe in him, and trust in him alone to be saved, as opposed to still holding on to their will to make choices. Such people have fallen between two stools. Those who have been given true freedom as a gift of grace, have been picked up from the ground (as it were) and seated in a heavenly ‘place’ even before they get to heaven. From heaven’s vantage-point we then see clearly just what the matter of choice, responsibility to choose even while sinners, and freedom to choose the will of God, in Christ, means.

A. Those who thought Jesus was speaking of political freedom were very wrong. He was not.

B. They were in the position of being servants of God, and such servants were not free to choose at will what to do as servants, or to abide forever in God’s household. Jesus warned in parables about the outcome for servants who thought they could decide for themselves what to do with their God-given responsibilities (e.g. Mat. 21:32-46 where those hired labourers who hated the Son killed the servants sent to gather the fruit, then killed the Son).

C. Because the Son abides forever, the freedom he gives is true freedom, which liberates from Satan’s grip and causes the former captive to desire to choose what pleases his living Lord.

D. No, it cannot be used to support the idea of “freewill”. Bringing in speculative ideas about Adam is not helpful. You raise the question of whether “God had a holy motive for withholding from created Adam the grace to obey” but if Adam had no choice in the matter of obedience, he would have been robotic, not a sinless human. Christ was “the last Adam” and had as much choice in the matter of obedience when on earth as had Adam. If not, then he too would have been robotic, not a sinless human. Both Adam and Jesus had the responsibility of choosing, but they were truly free, not enslaved to sin (until Adam made his sinful choice). Thereafter, Adam’s choice has had repercussions for not only all humanity following, but even the rest of creation (Romans 8:19-23 – which speaks further of “the glorious liberty of the children of God”.)

E. Yes, it is a freedom that applies to many, and it is a vast freedom encompassing everything; the ones set free by Christ await the redemption of their bodies as adopted children of God. They are no longer servants in the sense of having no permanent place in the household of God. Their changed status and inheritance is described in Romans chapter 8, and elsewhere. Knowing this informs all their choices while remaining in the body, for they are still responsible to make right choices, even though they will err if they allow selfishness to over-ride the known will of God.

Given the vast scope of your question, and the five points you raise, it is not possible to do justice to all of that here, so I will not engage with any comments. I merely address your five points briefly, but would add, in conclusion, that those who only suppose they have been liberated by Christ, but who remain deceived by the ‘father of lies’, will exert extraordinary efforts to vindicate their ideas of “freewill”. Those who have been set free learn to say less and less about the matter because its depths are overwhelming. Not until we are in the glory will its immensity cause us to praise God without ceasing.

  • I up voted your point by point answer. My reaction: You say, "responsibility of choosing". If a saw cuts it has instrumental resp'. The hand on it another sort of resp'. The hand that upholds all things has ultimate resp'. If one does not specify what sort of resp' human choice involves then it could be instrumental or ultimate.I think this distinction is not important to the compatibilist who who sees both in the Bible. But for the Bible believing hard-determinist it is a crucial distinction to their interpretation.
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Jul 6, 2021 at 13:52

The phrase after ἐλευθερώσῃ, ὄντως ἐλεύθεροι ⸀ἔσεσθε, means "you will really/indeed be free. ὄντως means really, certainly, in truth (BADG), the word giving the meaning indeed.

Jesus answered most of your question in the verses before 8:36. It's set free from sin:

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 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’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:31–36, ESV)

Jesus also said:

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6–7, ESV)

Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection sets us free from sin:

Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38–39, ESV)

 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:7–11, ESV)


The Bible discusses freedom in several broad, overlapping categories: Freedom of Choice (see below), freedom of the Christian life (from sin, see below), and Freedom of Religion (see below).

The OP alludes to the concept of Calvinism's questions about the sovereignty or otherwise of human will, vs that of Arminianism's declaration of the opposite. The particular question should be directed to Christianity Stack Exchange.

The New Testament labors the idea of freedom at some length in the sense of freedom from the entanglements of sin that easily hinders us” (Heb 12:1), and a mind freed from the veil of Moses; these two ideas frequently overlap. This Christian freedom is granted by Christ and imparted by the Holy Spirit as set out below.

Freedom from Sin

The Bible uses the metaphor of slavery and freedom frequently. Here is a brief sample.

  • John 8:32, 34-36, “…the truth will set you free…whoever sins is a slave to sin…so if the Son sets you free you are free indeed.”
  • Gal 5:13, 14, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use our freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
  • Gal 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
  • Gal 3:22, “But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”
  • Ps 118:5, “Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free.”
  • Ps 119:45, “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.”
  • Acts 13:38, 39, “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”
  • Rom 6:14, 18, “Sin shall no longer be your master because you are no longer under law but under grace. … And, having been set free from sin, we have become slaves of righteousness.”
  • Rom 6:22, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
  • 1 Peter 2:16, “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.”
  • 2 Peter 2:19, “promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”
  • Rom 8:1-4, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
  • Rom 8:20, 21, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”
  • Luke 4:18, 19, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” See also Isa 61:1ff.
  • 2 Tim 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
  • Tim 2:26, “and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.”
  • James 1:25, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
  • Isa 58:6, 7, “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
  • Acts 8:23, “For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”

Freedom from the Ceremonial Law (“of Moses”)

  • 1 Cor 3:12-17 describes Christians “being bold” and non-Christians whose “minds were made dull” and “covered by a veil” and that “only in Christ is it taken away”. Paul concludes with, “where the Spirit of Lord is, there is freedom.”
  • 1 Cor 6:12, 13, “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but I will not be mastered by anything. You say, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.’ The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
  • Eph 3:12, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
  • Acts 13:38, 39, “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”
  • Gal 2:4, “This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves.” (see v3).
  • Rom 6:14, “Sin shall no longer be your master because you are no longer under law but under grace.”

It will be observed from the above that Christian freedom psychologically overlaps with “Freedom of Choice” (which see) but is logically and theologically distinct. Indeed, one must be free in order to freely choose.

Freedom of Choice

Freedom of choice is another of the implicit teachings of Scripture. However, a few passages come close to being explicit. Let us examine a sample of the Bible data.

  • Gen 2:16, 17 – the original choice given to Adam and Eve to choose service to God.
  • 1 Cor 10:13 – God is gracious enough to only allow temptations that we can bear. This reveals that God recognises the effect that sin has on our will; sin weakens our will but God helps by both strengthening our will and only allowing temptations that we can bear.
  • 2 Peter 3:9 – God is patient wanting all people to decide for Him.
  • Gal 5:13 – We are given freedom by God but the privilege should not be abused.
  • John 7:17 – People can choose to do the will of God and such a choice bring further enlightenment.
  • Josh 24:15 – The Israelites were encouraged to choose God.
  • Mark 8:34 – Choosing to serve God involves personal sacrifice which is why it is such a serious decision.
  • Rev 3:20 – God wants to be with us but we must choose to allow Him into our lives.
  • Gal 5:16, 17, John 8:34-36 – Sin enslaves but the Christian life by the Spirit gives freedom.
  • Isa 55:6, 7 – Isaiah encourages the people to choose service to God over all else.
  • Deut 30:19, 20 – Moses encourages the people to choose between life and death.
  • Exe 18 – an entire chapter about the consequences of choice which ends with the plea, “Repent and live!”

Thus, while Biblically implicit, the concept of the freedom to choose to serve God or otherwise is woven into the very fabric of scripture.

In addition to the above, there is a more fundamental reason why freedom of choice is essential to the plan of salvation. Observe the following:

  • John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
  • John 15:12, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
  • 1 John 4:7, 8, 11, 16, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love … Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another … No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us … And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them … We love because he first loved us.”

It is immediately apparent that love is the very essence of God and our relationship with Him and each other. Now, here is the point; love cannot be forced else it is not love. A programmed machine can recite loving sentiments but does not love. Thus, love can only be love when there is a free choice to love.

Therefore, for love to exist there must be freedom of choice. Stated another way, if God were to force us to love and obey Him, we would not love God at all and God would be saving machines.

Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion gives all people the right to practise their beliefs without interference by others, especially the state. This idea, leads directly to the concept of the secular state where all people are granted religious freedom, protection under the law and access to the “public square”. The Bible provides a number of good examples of religious tolerance.

  • Mark 9:38-40, Luke 9:49, 50. Jesus tolerated other groups disconnected from His own.
  • Luke 9:52-56. Jesus refused to curse non-believers
  • John 4:7-27 (Samaritan woman at the well) is a remarkable example of tolerance where Jesus made no attempt to make the woman a Jew and call her “one of us” before she became a very effective missionary.
  • Rom 2:14-16 clearly says that some pagans will be saved. This should make Christians very tolerant of unbelievers.
  • Rom 14:1-23 provides an extended passage about being non-judgmental and tolerant about others’ beliefs and practices.
  • 1 Cor 10:31, 32 advises Christians to give no occasion for offence to Jews or gentiles.

In much of the western world, secular government has been implemented with the aid of the modern doctrine of the separation of church and state.

  • 1
    Perhaps, as you suggest, this answer would be better suited to a support of Arminianism on SE-Christianity than to an hermeneutic reply on SE-BH.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 2, 2021 at 5:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.