John 8:31-36 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. NIV
Truth and freedom, two words that are held in high regard but seldom pursued let alone understood. When Jesus told Pilate, “I came to testify to the truth”, Pilate replied, “what is truth?” When Jesus told the Pharisees that the truth would set them free they replied indignantly, “we have never been slaves of anyone!”
Truth and freedom are relative terms in a pluralistic society. One is “free” to “believe” whatever “truth” one chooses. Rather than truth bringing freedom, freedom is relative, a place from which everyone can believe and therefore do what he or she chooses to believe is truth and thus good.1.
Jesus’ word turns this idea upside down – or right side up – by declaring; freedom is the state into which you enter once you receive and believe “the truth”. This is a radical enough thought on its own, that if I do not have the truth I am in fact not free but enslaved by a lie. But it does not stop there. The Pharisees objected that they were born free but Jesus declared that truth which brings freedom is personified in Jesus Christ.2
Truth that Frees
So what is the truth of Jesus Christ that brings us into freedom?
The simple answer is the gospel or the message of the cross. The word of the cross is made clear by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Roman church;
- Before God there is no-one who is righteous, all fail to express the glory of God in creation and are objects of His wrath. The law given to Moses and that which is written on our conscience reveals our powerlessness to redeem our position in that all people are slaves to sin and are unable to live free from sin’s power and control. Even if we come to believe the truth that the law is good and should be obeyed we are not free to obey that law and live righteously before God.3
- The conclusion of this revelation is summed up by the cry “wretched man that I am, who will rescue me from this body of death?”4
- The answer to the realisation of bondage to sin and death and the cry for freedom is found in the person of Jesus Christ.5
The personal word of God in Christ Jesus is heard at the cross;
- Jesus, in His humanity, receives the penalty of the guilty verdict hanging over all people – the wages of sin is death. The righteous requirement of the law is death.6
- On the cross the wrath of God was poured out upon Jesus as he experienced (and revealed) God’s wrath as forsakenness.7 Matt 27:45-46 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”-which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” NIV
- Jesus’ resurrection declares justification before God for all who call upon His name. Rom 4:25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. NIV
Truth that Condemns
When Jesus declared “the truth will set you free” there was a very clear truth that is found and received only in Jesus Christ. The truth that sets people free does not begin as a word of affirmation -people are basically good, they really do want God and they just need to be loved on- but it begins with a word of guilt, condemnation and wrath. Now, just as God’s righteousness is being revealed,8 it begins with the revelation of His wrath.9 People are slaves to sin, guilty as hell itself and condemned to the death of Godforsakenness.
Jesus made it clear that He came to save those who would believe as John 3:16,17 states:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
However, Jesus does not stop here. He declares clearly and emphatically in the next few verses that people are already condemned. They are not in a neutral state but are already under God’s wrath and those who do not believe are not condemned by Jesus BECAUSE they are already condemned; and that is because their hearts love darkness rather than light:
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. NIV
Unless a person can receive the truth that they are wretched they will never find freedom in Christ. Partial truth does not bring freedom but only a different form of slavery. The Pharisees were too righteous in their own eyes. Pilate was pluralistic concerning truth and regardless of which position is taken, “all stand condemned before God” and are therefore “wretched”.
Truth that Cries for Deliverance
“Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death”10 is the cry of one that believes the truth. “What must we do to be saved”11 is the belief that slavery is your present predicament and wrath your inevitable reward.
The prayer of the Pharisee was one of slavery because there was no truth in it.
Luke 18:10-14 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” NIV
The tax collector believed the truth and cried for freedom.
Truth that brings Freedom
The word of the cross that screams guilt and condemnation over all of humanity also cries out “it is finished, the penalty paid, the wrath appeased, righteousness revealed.” The truth of condemnation is also the truth of deliverance from sin to all who believe. Whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned; they will not perish but will be free.
As Romans reveals,
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 of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. NIV
“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
There is no freedom in believing what we want to believe only bondage and slavery to that belief. Society offers freedom of belief but Jesus gives belief that frees.
Belief that frees begins with the truth that in my flesh there is nothing good. I am a slave to sin in my sinful flesh and powerless to do anything other than to reject and hate God.12
Belief that frees is one that cries for deliverance from slavery to this body of lust which hates the life and light which is Jesus Christ. To daily live according to the desires of the flesh is to deny the truth that in Christ freedom is not only deliverance from God’s wrath but also freedom from the power of sin in the flesh. Freedom and power to daily crucify the flesh.
And finally belief that one day this corruptible body will be made incorruptible, mortality will put on immortality and salvation’s final work will be complete.
The Truth will set you free so believe and be free in Jesus Christ.
- An untenable theory because it assumes everyone else’s truth parallels my interests and does not oppose them. Courts are filled with plaintiffs arguing their right as being more valid or true that the rights of another ↩
- John 14:6-7 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” NIV ↩
- Rom 3:10-18; 3:23; 7:7-24 ↩
- Rom 7:24 ↩
- Rom 7:25 ↩
- Rom 8:3-4 For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, 4 in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. NIV ↩
- Rom 1:18,24 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness… 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts… 28 since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind… NIV ↩
- Rom 1:17 ↩
- Rom 1:18 ↩
- Rom 7:24 ↩
- Acts 2:37; 16:29 ↩
- To believe people have not rejected God but have rejected the church is a slavery to sin because it rejects “the truth”. ↩