"Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.' 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"?' Jesus answered them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed'" (John 8:31-36).
Jesus here speaks to those Jews "who believed Him." The text doesn't state that they verbally confessed their faith, only that they believed (cf. 2:25; e.g., Luke 8:13).
"If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed" (John 8:31). To be a disciple of Jesus is to live in His word and be completely obedient to it. True discipleship is not by profession but by action; it is a life one lives and not merely a doctrine one believes (cf. Luke 6:46; Matt. 7:21-23).
"And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). To know the truth is to hear, believe, and obey it. One who has his head full of Bible facts does not know the truth as God would have him to if he doesn't practice it. A mental comprehension and affirmation of truth is certainly not enough to set one free (cf. James 2:24). One could know the Scriptures very well and yet be lost by failing to apply what he knows (e.g., Satan).
The truth has the power to give one freedom--freedom from bondage to this world, freedom from the cares and anxieties of life, freedom from the fear of death, freedom from guilt, and freedom from sin. Those of the world often deceive themselves into thinking that they are free when in fact they are involved in an advanced form of slavery. They are bound by their passions, desires, and fleshly weaknesses from which they are helpless to escape unless they come to a true knowledge of God's truth.
Jesus' statement about being set free causes these Jews to respond defensively that they have never been in bondage to anyone. Some scholars believe they are stating that they have never been spiritually enslaved because they are descendants of Abraham. Others believe they are affirming that they have never been in physical bondage. Regardless of what they meant by the statement, their words are false (cf. John 8:55). They had been in physical bondage in Egypt for several generations and also Babylonian captivity for 70 years. They had been in spiritual bondage many times when they forsook the Lord's way, served idols, and did what was right in their own eyes (cf. Jud. 21:25).
"Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin" (John 8:34). One who lives in sin is a slave to it (cf. Rom. 6:16-23). Jesus doesn't directly comment on their false statement but proceeds to establish some principles which would show that they were enslaved spiritually and in danger of dying in their sins (cf. John 8:24).
A slave has no permanent relationship to a family. However, a son enjoys a permanent relationship; he will always be a member of the family. Jesus is alluding to the fact that God would soon dismiss the Jews as unfaithful slaves (cf. Luke 20:14-19; Gal. 4:21-31). To be a member of God's family in the Christian age one must believe and obey the truth (i.e., "know" it; cf. Gal. 3:26-29).
If these Jews wanted to "abide in the house [of God] forever," (cf. 8:35) then they would have to be made free by the Son through His truth (cf. 8:32).