I have heard many people repeat the out of context biblical phrase that says: “The truth shall set you free.” That phrase is in the Bible, for sure, but Jesus did not mean to say that the truth was arbitrary, relative, selective, or optional. The truth, according to Jesus, has a very specific and limited context. Let me share Jesus’s full statement: So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Did you read Jesus’s words carefully? Jesus basically said that the truth is not even available to someone who is not his disciple. If people want to discern the difference between propaganda, deception, misinformation, lies, and the truth, they must be Jesus’s disciples. Otherwise, they will be blindly going from here to there without ever finding their way to God. Jesus’s declaration is a compound statement that has a logical sequence of clauses that lead to an inevitable conclusion. Let me start from the conclusion and work my way back through the clauses to understand why Jesus said what he said.
Jesus’s conclusion was, “the truth will set you free.” However, freedom is conditioned on people’s ability to grasp the truth itself. Thus, Jesus said, “you will know the truth,” and after knowing the truth the way Jesus wants us to know it, then, the truth will set us free. Jesus statement means that knowing the truth will, inevitably, lead to spiritual freedom, and spiritual freedom is not possible without knowing the truth that proceed from Jesus. The obvious question is: how does someone know they have come to know the truth? Or what does it mean to know the truth? This is a more complicated statement than it appears on the surface. Let me explain.
Most of the time when the Bible uses the words “knowledge or knowing” is making a reference to something deeper than just the mere acquisition of information. For example, when the Bible states that “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived,” we all know Moses was referring to sexual intercourse. In the Bible, knowledge requires a level of intimacy that goes well beyond the superficial idea of hearing something and storing it in our minds. So when Jesus told the disciples that they would know the truth, he was, in fact, telling them that they would have such clarity, intimacy, and commitment to the truth that they would design their lives around that truth.
When someone says, “I know God,” most of the time they only intend to say that they know God exists or that they grew up in church believing that God exists. Let me disappoint you. This is not knowing God.
In the next conditional clause, Jesus stated that the knowledge of the truth is directly tied to being one of his disciples. To be a disciple of Jesus means to receive, accept and digest Jesus’s teaching in such a way that we imitate Jesus’s life and words. Being a disciple means to submit to the authority of a particular teacher. To be a disciple of Christ requires that we get rid of our own wisdom and that we accept the truth that comes from Jesus. The Lord said it this way: If you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me.” In other words, we have to die to the old beliefs of how we saw the world. Only those who are Jesus’s disciples can come to the knowledge of the truth that comes from Jesus. It is important to note that since Jesus is the Creator of the universe and the Giver of life, all truth comes from him and without him nothing can be understood.
A disciple is not someone who agrees with Jesus. Not at all. Judas agreed with Jesus, but he never accepted Jesus as his Lord. A disciple of Jesus is someone who has designed his life around Jesus’s character and message. (To be continued…)