Jesus promised in John 8:32, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
The Jews in Jesus’ day knew truth, but they were not free. The leaders in Jerusalem still wanted to kill Jesus. They were slaves of sin. Many leaders in nations around the world know truth, but they are not free. They are slaves of sin. Many in all types of governments, all types of media, and even all types of churches know truth, but they still lie to their listeners, cheat others when “making deeds,” steal from and kill the less powerful, and mislead the uninformed. They are slaves of sin. It is one thing to know truth and quite another thing to be truthful instead of telling lies when truth is known. Some know truth and use it to deceive others, to control and manipulate others, and to achieve their selfish outcomes without regard to God or anyone but themselves. They are slaves of sin. So Notice: in John 8:32, Jesus did not say, as so many misinterpret, “When you know truth, truth will set you free.”
What did Jesus actually say in John 8:32? “AND you will know THE TRUTH.” The “And” indicates that we must do something in order to know “the truth,” not just truth. To know “the truth,” people must do what Jesus said in John 8:31, “if you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.” To know “the truth” we must be disciples of Jesus (students, learners) of Jesus. Until we are disciples of Jesus, we will be slaves of sin. The evils that many in all types of governments, all types of media, and even all types of churches say and do should not surprise us, because many are not disciples of Jesus. They are slaves of sin. To know “the truth, people must become disciples of Jesus and try to do what Jesus commanded and showed us as an example. It is quite clear that those who are not disciples of Jesus, no matter what they may claim to be or what church they claim to belong to, are slaves of sin. Slaves of sin suppress “the truth,” so “the truth” will not influence their thoughts and actions; they suppress and hide “the truth” and misuse many important truths so they can misuse others (see especially Romans 1:18-32). Only Jesus can free someone from slavery to sin.
Remember: Jesus said, “if you continue in my word.” Jesus is the Word of God who perfectly revealed the mind, intention, will, love, and commands of God to the world. True disciples of Jesus continue to learn and do Jesus’ words in the power of the Holy Spirit. True disciples of Jesus are filled with the Holy Spirit who guides, empowers, and gives them the love and understanding to do all that Jesus has commanded with God’s help. Though true disciples of Jesus do not follow and obey Jesus perfectly, continuing in the words of Jesus is the direction of their lives and sin is the exception (not the direction) of their lives—because Jesus has freed them from slavery to sin. Knowing Jesus and the truth, and living as a disciple of Jesus, does not guarantee that a disciple will not be mistreated and killed by those who are slaves of sin, but in many situations Jesus’ followers will recognize when someone is telling lies or telling truths so as to have true freedom from fear, sin, and death as they face the future with Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
So, next time you hear John 8:32 misused, try to explain from memory what John 8:31-32 actually mean and the conditions that Jesus said believers in Him, disciples of Jesus, need to fulfill in order to know “the truth.” If people will do what Jesus commanded, Jesus, who is THE TRUTH will free them from slavery to sin. Indeed, in John 8:36, we read this promise, “So, if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
We all need to be “free indeed,” freed from slavery to sin. All who lead our nations around the world, our media, and our churches need to be freed from slavery to sin, but only Jesus Christ, the Word of God, can make people who believe in Him “free indeed,” and He will only do so if we will continue in His word as He promised. To learn more about how to be free, read the International Bible Study Commentary.
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May God continue to bless your Bible study and teaching and encourage you by His Word and Spirit!
Teaching the Truth in Love for the Love of God’s Word and His people,