Comments on John 8:32

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:32, KJV, modernized

This verse is the sum of the Christian understanding of freedom. What is freedom? It is commonly said that “I have the right to do ‘x’” or that “freedom is the capacity to exercise will,” usually in reference against some law or rule perceived as unjust or unfair. In a sense, yes, I agree, but also in a sense, no this is not freedom. The Christian understanding of freedom goes beyond this in that it not only frames freedom as a question of origin, such as “I am free from x,” but goes beyond in the sense that it asks what is freedom “for and unto.”

Freedom is one of the central themes of the New Testament, and rightfully so. It is the Christian belief that we are free from many things: it is our hope that we have been made from the dominion of death [1]; and it is our belief that we are free from sin [2]. But there is a distinction to be made when we say what we are free from, and what we are free for. We often consider what we are free from, and many of us are free from many things such as slavery, or abject poverty (reading this on the internet is saying something), or persecution, and many, many other things, but the centre of Christianity is that we have been freed to a goal, and that goal is expressed in John 8:32. Truth is what sets us free, and we are set free for truth, and when truth is expressed in Christ, we have also been set free for Christ [3], for the Church, and for the expression of God’s love on this earth. In fact, the central message of Christianity is the perfection of freedom is found in Christ [4].

So the question for Christianity is what is this perfection of freedom? Before, when I addressed the “from” of freedom, I said “we are free from sin.” Indeed the very nature of this freedom is that we are no longer consigned to follow the patterns of this world, and that through the blood of the cross we have been, and are being reconciled to Christ [5], to perfection, and to the total refinement of the image of God that we have been created in. Therefore, because we have been set free from sin, freedom is for the expression of our salvation from the dominion of sin. Freedom is to say “I know this is wrong, but I will choose to not do that which is wrong.” Christians often think that “Christianity is so restricting, it says I can’t drink, and I can’t enjoy the pleasures of [premarital] sex, and I can’t do many things that my non-Christian friends so enjoy,” and the logical conclusion of such a statement is the Christianity is not freedom because it restricts, but this is not so! Rather, through our being set free from sin, we now have the capacity, in Christ, to know what is right to set our hearts upon it and then express our actions in regard to that which is good. Freedom, thus, is not conforming to the patterns of this world, but to express in full understanding and knowledge that by not conforming we have broken the law of sin and death for the expression of our salvation. This is freedom, an act that is for Christ, and an expression of our unbroken freewill that has been regenerated in Christ. Christianity does not restrict, but it rather makes us utterly free through the grace and power of God to reject the world in favour of what is for God.

The importance of John 8.32 is that it says “truth” makes us free. It is of note that the utter perfection of truth is found in Christ who is “the way, the truth, and the life” and ultimately is described as logos, the Word (truth) incarnate [7]. Thus to become free we must first know Christ and it is thus important to learn from him, love him, and ultimately have the same outlook on sin that he expresses. To be free, we must know truth; we must study scripture, and so learn how it is that we must live. Freedom must be found and correlated to truth, for through truth we have gained salvation, and by learning truth through scripture we will renew our minds so that our freewill may continually be expressed more and more as we reject the ways of this world in favour of whatsoever things are true, or honest, or just, or pure, or lovely, or of good report and in so doing express our freedom to its utmost degree [8].

[1] Romans 6.9

[2] Romans 6.18

[3], [5] Colossians 1.20

[4] John 8.36

[6] Romans 12.1

[7] John 1.1

[8] Philippians 4.8


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