And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Our Saviour speaks these words to those of whom we read in verse 30: “As he spake these words, many believed on him.” It is very evident from what follows that there were among these “many that believed” who merely believed in an external, superficial sense of the word. It cannot be denied that several of those who “believed” opposed Him, as related in the verses beginning with verse 33.
Verse 31 gives us the test or proof of true discipleship. Do not misunderstand this passage. Jesus does not say: “If ye abide or continue in my word, ye will become my disciples indeed.” Our being or becoming His disciples does not depend upon our continuing in His word. This would be impossible. Do we not read in verse 36: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed”? Jesus, and Jesus alone, makes us His disciples. But we do read in verse 31: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” Disciples of Jesus abide in His word; a disciple or follower of the Christ has Christ in his heart, and he must continue in His word. Hence, we are His disciples if we continue in His word, inasmuch as this is the essence and therefore proof of true discipleship.
Hereupon verse 32 follows: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” The word “shall” does not emphasize the futuristic idea, but the idea of certainty. To continue in His word will surely have this blessed fruit and result. Knowledge of the truth and freedom are inseparably connected. They can never be separated.
Freedom must never be confused with moral sovereignty. Freedom, then, would be independence from God. To be free would, then, mean that we determine our course of action. We can serve and love God or not serve and love Him; we are sovereignly free, are able to do either; we can, therefore, determine our course of action, our own fate.
Such freedom is impossible. Once it happened that we would be sovereignly free. Once it happened that we struck for independence from God. This happened in Paradise. We wearied of our servile relation to God, of His “dictating” to us, of being hemmed in by the living God. We struck for freedom, sovereign freedom, would be the masters of our own fate. What folly! There is no such thing as moral sovereignty for a creature. As a creature, he is created, moves and lives and has his being in God, can never be independent. Indeed, the hearts of kings are in the hand of the Lord as watercourses; He turneth them whithersoever He wills.
God is the God of absolute freedom. Freedom implies that one lives, unhampered and unimpeded, his own life. God is free because He lives, unhindered, His own life. God is the God of infinite goodness and perfection. And, eternally and infinitely, God lives His own life. Eternally He seeks and wills and loves Himself, is never controlled or influenced or restricted by anything outside of Himself. This, of course, also determined freedom for every creature. The being or life of each creature, generally speaking, is determined, of course, by the Creator. Hence, a creature, such as a fish or bird, is not free when it can simply “do as it pleases,” whether or not in harmony with its own being, but only when it is privileged to live, unhampered, its own life. Specifically speaking, man was created in God’s image and as adapted to the life and communion of God. Only then does he live when he can move about in that fellowship and favor of the Lord. God alone is life for the creature, and will surely reveal and maintain Himself as such. True liberty or freedom does not mean, therefore, that we can do “as we please,”—this is not liberty, but death. To be free means that we can serve God, enjoy His fellowship and communion, unhindered and unmolested.
Naturally, every man is in bondage. We read in verse 33: “They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?” The Saviour had said to those who “believed” on Him, that the truth would make them free. To this they object—how can they be made free when they were never in bondage? They prided themselves in the fact that they were the seed of Abraham, and therefore God’s chosen race. They willfully ignore their bondage in Egypt, in Babylon, and at the present time to Rome, and boast that they were never in bondage.
How true this is of the natural man, of you and of me! We are spiritually slaves. To be in bondage to sin and imagine ourselves to be free, is the worst conceivable bondage. But we are also slaves of sin in the legal sense of the word. We are sold under sin; we are slaves of evil according to the righteous judgment of God. God has assigned this bondage to us. We are under condemnation. And we can never redeem ourselves, pay the divine penalty and deliver ourselves out of this fearful bondage of sin and darkness.
Freedom—how wonderful! How wonderful to be delivered from these chains of sin and of darkness! How wonderful to be in the service of the living God and to taste His fellowship and communion! How wonderful is this freedom, because it is an immortal relationship, an immortal, everlasting freedom! It means to be free, forever, in the service of the living God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Immanuel, God with us. Of this freedom Jesus speaks in this word of God.
Indeed, if we continue in Christ’s word, then are we His disciples. And we shall know the truth. This knowledge is not merely intellectual, a mere knowledge of the head. This kind of knowledge does not make us free. This knowledge, however, is spiritual, experiential, a living knowledge of the truth. That truth, as experienced by the child of God, makes him free.
God is truth. Truth is the presentation of reality. God is absolute truth. God is infinite goodness and perfection. And God is absolute. God is what He is alone. Of His light and goodness all other light and goodness are but a creaturely reflection. The world is not a part of God but His creature, not a part of His goodness but a reflection of that which characterizes God alone. And that God is truth also means that He eternally lives His own life. God lives constantly in the world of absolute reality, because He constantly knows and loves and has fellowship with Himself. He alone is good, and therefore He loves and seeks Himself alone. As such He always maintains Himself and does all things for His own Name’s sake.
However, this truth as such does not make us free. In fact, it is exactly this truth which seals our bondage. We are slaves of sin exactly because God is God and always maintains Himself. So, more must be added.
Christ is truth. He is that as the eternal Son of God, the Word, the eternal Logos or Word of God, eternally and essentially the Image of God, spoken Christ.” The law was given by Moses, the law of and generated by the Father, in Whom, out of the Father and through the Holy Spirit, the fulness of the Godhead dwells eternally. He is the Son of God, God’s eternal revelation of Himself as within the blessed Trinity; and therefore Jesus, as the Son, is the absolute truth.
Christ is also the truth as the Mediator, Christ Jesus. He certainly revealed the truth as such. He revealed the Father, was the Party of the living God in the midst of the world. He testified of God, glorified God, was controlled and governed, in all His activity, by the love of God and the desire to do His will. He came, not to do His own will, not to seek Himself, but to seek God, caused the light of God to shine perfectly in the midst of the darkness of this world. The world loves and lives the lie; the world hates God, seeks itself, created a world without God, and therefore lives the lie. Christ lived in God’s world, loved and revealed the Truth, witnessed of the living God.
This is not all. Jesus revealed the Truth as the Christ. Indeed, what a task was His! Among the children of disobedience and. of the lie lay also His own who had been given Him of the Father from before the foundations of the world—they, too, were the servants and slaves of sin and iniquity. And to realize the Truth in their hearts, to redeem and deliver them from the lie and the bondage of sin, He came into this world. The Son, the Son of God came into this world; only He could make us free. And for Christ to reveal the Truth, as the Christ, meant for Him an awful way! The sins of all the elect were upon Him, laid upon Him by the living God, and assumed by Himself as the perfect Servant of Jehovah. Hence, He must reveal the Truth in the midst of hell, reveal the Father in all His terrible righteousness and justice, love God upon the, bottom of hell and thus reveal God’s adorable love of Himself over against all the iniquities of His own.
And this the Christ proceeded to do. That Jesus was conscious of His awesome calling is obvious from verse 28. He assumed His place in our flesh and blood among all the children of disobedience and of the lie, as the one and only Servant of Jehovah and the Party of the living God. He trod the winepress alone, descended into the abyss of hell, revealed the living God with all the sins of the elect upon His shoulders, died the eternal death of the wrath of God, tasted hell in all its awfulness, arose from the dead and is even now at the right hand of God. Christ is the Truth, not only for Himself, but also for all His own. The life of God, the living Triune God, is ours through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
This also explains John 1:17: “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” The law was given by Moses, the law of shadows and ceremonies. Salvation did not come by Moses, but the law, the law as symbol and type of that salvation. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. Grace came by Jesus Christ, the grace of God, salvation, the grace that destroys sin and grants salvation. And therefore the truth came by Jesus Christ, the truth, also as the reality over against the shadows and types. Christ came and with Him salvation became a reality. And because Jesus came the law, having served its purpose, now need exist no longer.
The truth makes us free. This is objectively true in Christ. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ; He revealed the Father in His amazing suffering and death. And the Son has made us free indeed. He has redeemed us out of all the guilt and bondage of sin, has merited salvation for us, the blessed life of God, and therefore has truly made us free.
The truth also makes us free, subjectively and spiritually. Christ, Who Himself revealed the Father, Who suffered and died in order that that Truth might also be bestowed upon us, arose from the dead and was glorified. And by His Spirit Christ comes to dwell within us. His word lives in our hearts and we become His disciples. The truth that God is God alone, is bestowed upon us, lives and becomes reality within us; and we ourselves are made free from the bondage of sin and of the lie. The truth that God is all in all, for which Christ came and suffered and died, lives within us, never again to leave us, even forevermore; and we are free to serve the living God Who alone is life eternal. And through the word of Christ, the preaching of it, we are led in the path of that liberty, unto the glory of Him Who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.