[A]nd you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32)
This phrase adorns the buildings and statues on many college campuses. The message is that knowledge of the truth will liberate one’s mind. While that may be true, is that what Jesus was trying to communicate in John 8:32? Let’s take a look at the context.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (Jn 8:31-36)
The first thing we should notice is that Jesus offered a qualifier. To know the truth one must abide in Jesus’ words as one of His disciples. The truth Jesus had in mind, then, was not any and all truth, but spiritual truth in particular. The truth that will set one free can only be obtained by being a disciple of Jesus and following His teachings.
The second thing to notice is that Jesus was very specific about the kind of freedom He had in mind: freedom from sin. We are slaves to sin, but the truth that Jesus provides will set us free from sin (34-36). Jesus was not referring to liberation of thought or feeling, but freedom from sin.
The meaning of John 8:32, then, is that when we follow Jesus’ teachings we will know spiritual truths that will lead to our freedom from sin.
Keep it in context…