Author: Ron Graham

Upholding Law

You Shall Know the Truth
—John 8:32

Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). Although some say we should not analyse the Bible minutely word by word, that's exactly what we are going to do with this statement of Jesus.

There are four key words in this verse which don't explain themselves. We need to find out from other verses what Jesus means when he uses these words.

“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”

1 “YOU”

John 20:30-31, John 5:24-29, John 17:20-21 cf v2.

The question here is: does “you” mean “me”? We hear it said lately that the scriptures were written to certain people; in certain places; at certain times; in certain circumstances; and that by making “you” mean “me” we are violating the context. However, in our current case, as in a great many cases, other verses force us to understand Jesus to mean everybody, not just his immediate audience, when he says “you”.

John understood that all who came to know about Jesus through John’s written testimony could believe in Jesus and have eternal life (John 20:30-31). All who are in the graves will be called out from them to either of two destinies (John 5:24-29). Jesus prayed that the world might believe in him and his truth (John 17:20-21). The world he was talking about is the world over which he has authority, namely "all flesh" (John 17:2). So when Jesus said, "You shall know the truth..." he meant all of us; he meant ME.

2 “KNOW”

John 12:46-50, John 5:37-40, John 14:15,

You can know something without taking responsibility for it. If an astronomer observed a huge asteriod heading for earth, and treated it as of scientific interest, feeling no obligation to do anything about it, what good would that astronomer’s “knowledge” be? Jesus says that if we know his word but don't keep it, his word will judge us (John 17:46-50).

Jesus said to the religious leaders of his day, "You search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life and these scriptures testify of me. You are unwilling to come to me that you might have life" (John 5:39-40). They “knew” the scriptures but did not act on their knowledge. To know Jesus is to love him; to love him is to keep his commandments (John 14:15).

3 “TRUTH”

John 17:17, John 10:34-36, John 14:6,

When Jesus says “truth” he means his Father’s word (John 17:17). Jesus believed that this truth was in the scriptures and is unchangeable. He held that "the scriptures cannot be broken" —not even the smallest saying (John 10:34-36).

Jesus went further, and spoke of himself as the embodiment of truth. "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). The truth is not an abstract or relative matter. The truth of which Jesus spoke is his word which he got from the Father and passed on to the world: promises in which to anchor our hope; facts to believe with all of our heart; commandments to keep and not to deny (John 14:15 again).

4 “FREE”

John 1:14-17, John 8:34-36, John 11:49-52,

Now Jesus says the truth shall make you “free” (John 8:32). From what enslavement, what chains, what prison, are we freed? Many will quote, "The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). They will say that we are freed from law. We hear it said that our salvation is “all of grace” and that law only ever keeps people in bondage. But Jesus says, "Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin" (John 8:34). It isn't God’s law that enslaves, but one’s disobedience to God’s law.

Jesus goes on to say, "If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). Jesus sets us free by his death, the perfect sacrifice. It was necessary "that one man should die for the people" (John 11:50). The law of Moses was righteous and holy, but when people sinned it offered no cure; it lacked a remedial sacrifice. Jesus brought in a better law, the truth that can set us free from sin. For at the heart of that truth, even of its laws and commandments, is Christ’s sacrificial death and his resurrection. Thereby Christ sets us free from sin to live in the grace that his new law provides.

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