Never been in bondage to anyone

John 8:33
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

In that beautiful hymn, John Newton wrote, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Mr. Newton understood something that many repentant sinners come to know: until we know Christ and are moved by God’s grace, we are blind to the very sin in which we are lost.


John 9:39
And Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”

Jesus came to open our eyes to the sin that condemns us to death, and yet there were and are many who deny Him, who refuse to believe they are in bondage to sin.

In today’s verse, we see the Jews telling Jesus that they “have never been in bondage to anyone.” How can they say that?!? Does not their own history tell them they were once in Egypt and God brought them out of there? Does not their own city Jerusalem testify to the rebuilding that took place after they returned from seventy years of slavery in Babylon? Does not the presence of the Roman yoke of oppression tell them that they are still in bondage? And yet they claim they have NEVER been in bondage!

That is the same claim made by those who refuse to listen to the gospel. I myself once said, “Why do I need Jesus? I am not a sinner, not enslaved to any sin.” And it was that very same denial that KEPT me enslaved to my sin.


John 9:40-41
40 Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, “Are we blind also?”
41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.”

Like the Jews of Jesus’ time, I was too proud to believe that anything ruled my life but me. I denied my need for a Savior, and so I was not saved. I refused to see the darkness that had taken root in my life, the evil that was tearing apart my marriage and my self-esteem. It wasn’t until I was broken that I finally had to face the fact that I had indeed been blind.

We cannot afford to continue to deny the sin that is in our lives. Even we who have been saved, who have made Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives, we still struggle and fight with this weak flesh that is so prone to temptation and sinfulness. There are times that I join Hamlet in saying, “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!” Then perhaps I would not have to constantly wrestle with sin. But God is faithful even when I am not, and He has sent His Son to deal with my sin. It is not my battle anymore, because Jesus has already paid the price for my redemption from sin and death, and God has sent His Holy Spirit to come alongside me and guide me to the truth that, of course, sets me free from slavery to sin.

Denial of sin keeps us locked in sin. The shackles of sin bondage are made of the steel of our pride, are forged by our blindness to our own sin, and are hardened in the fire of our denial of Christ. And yet those same chains that bind us to sin and death can be broken once we cease denying that they are there, once we open our eyes to see the presence of bondage, once we open our ears to hear the clink and rattle of those links to our past life of selfish desire and proud disobedience. Once we stop saying we have never been in bondage to anyone, then we have the opportunity to accept that Christ is right and we are wrong, that we do indeed need to be set free.

Although John Newton was saved by Christ while still sailing slave ships to America, he struggled for years to finally break free from that sinful life. And when Jesus Christ finally broke those chains to that bondage to the slave trade, Mr. Newton truly became a new man–a minister of God’s Word and even a mentor to William Wilberforce, who himself fought to end slavery. Having had his eyes opened to his own slavery, Mr. Newton then strove to help others open their eyes, too.

Yes, I once was blind to my bondage, once lost in my own pride and denial of Christ. But our gracious and loving God strove with me for years until He finally had His way, and now I see the slavery in which I lived for so long. I still struggle, and daily I seek His forgiveness for the overt and covert sins of my everyday life. But this I know: the Son of God has set me free, and so I am free indeed.

Holy Father, I truly was once lost, but I now can see You, can see that You have always been seeking me. Now that You have found me, let me never deny You again. Let me never rely on my own strength but instead rely on Your truth to keep me free from my former slavery to sin and death. May Your Word and Your gospel be the sweet sound that saves a wretch like me. Amen.

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About Glenn Pettit

I am a deacon at The Well of Iowa, and husband to a beautiful wife and the father of four lovely kids. Called to teach and to preach, I write fresh messages about the Bible every now and then.
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