Expository message on John 8:32.
While studying the nature of knowledge, I came to realize that the study of the nature of truth was of paramount importance. It has been the most exciting intellectual adventure of my life.
For adventure in the physical realm, I endured a year at the battlefront in Vietnam. For adventure in the intellectual realm, I have been blessed to study the nature of truth. Words cannot express the joy and satisfaction I have received from these studies.
Few people ever ask themselves the question “What is Truth?” I am sure you are familiar with the occasion during which Pontius Pilate asked that question of Jesus. It is not an accident that the question came up during the most famous trial in history. Pilate must have been a well read intellectual. But from his attitude, we see that he did not expect an answer. He could not imagine that the shackled man in front of him could give him the answer. Today I want to approach the nature of truth from a new direction.
Jesus is addressing a mixed group of people. Some believers and some unbelievers. This is what John records in 8:32—
To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said: “If you believe my teaching, you are really my disciples, and you shall know the truth & the truth shall set you free.”
There are three essential ideas which we need to understand: Believe, Truth and Freedom.
What kind of freedom is Jesus talking about? What does believing have to do with it? And most importantly, What is Truth?
The first condition for freedom is Belief in Jesus’ teaching.
This belief leads to knowledge of the Truth. We have learned previously that All knowledge is acquired thru Faith. There are no exceptions to this fact. All people, Christians or not, whether they realize it or not, must first believe before they can know anything. To know true knowledge, we must believe in someone who knows Truth. In this case, we must believe what Jesus is teaching about Himself.
Second, let’s address the issue of Freedom.
Notice that the Jews who are listening to him are in a materialistic state of mind. They reply, “We have never been the slaves of any one.” Freedom to them meant the opposite of enforced servitude. That is, being physically owned by another person. They were unable to conceive of any other form of slavery. But to Jesus, physical slavery was of secondary importance. He is interested in freeing people of spiritual slavery. He is urging us again and again to ask for forgiveness of sins, so we may be free, not from future sins, but from the Penalty for those sins.
Let me clarify. When we ask Christ to forgive us our sins, that does not mean that from then on we become sinless creatures. Please notice. While we are living on this earth, there is nothing we can do that is sinless. There is not a single sinless act that we perform while we are occupying our fallen bodies. Even in our most devout prayerful moments, we are in sin.
Why? What does it mean to sin?
The Greek word for sin in the New Testament is Amartia. Literally it means to miss the mark.
Picture a marksman shooting at a target, and missing the bull’s-eye every time. In the spiritual sense, missing the mark means falling short of the bull’s-eye that God requires of us. What is that bull’s-eye? It is Perfection.
Matt. 5:48 says “Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
That is the standard to which we are expected to rise. But in this life, no human is able to reach it. Every act we perform is a sinful act. We are always missing the mark.
Anyone who claims that he is not sinning because he is not doing this or that evil deed has not understood the nature of man and the nature of sin. We are sinful in every act that we perform. It is Christ’s undeserved forgiveness that releases us from the Penalty for sin which is eternal death and separation from God. That is the freedom that Christ is offering to those who believe in Him.
Have you seen people beating themselves bloody to try and atone for their sins? Have you heard of those who walk on their knees for miles in the mistaken notion that that will convince God to forgive them? On TV, I saw a person letting himself be crucified on a cross, as if that will somehow appease God. The forgiveness offered by the sinless Christ is the only one acceptable to a Holy God. Once we realize that the Father no longer considers us sinful, we are free indeed. Free to pursue our interests, and to serve Him out of a thankful heart, under any circumstance. It is not an accident that the countries that offer the greatest opportunity and freedom to its people are nations where Christian principles are preeminent. Wherever Christ’s influence is greatest, there Freedom abounds. Wherever it is subdued, there people are enslaved, literally and spiritually.
Let’s look at some fruits of this freedom:
If your religion requires you to dress a certain way or forbids you to dress another way, as a condition of your salvation, then your religion is untrue.
If your religion requires you to consume a certain food, or forbids you from consuming another food as a condition of your salvation, then your religion is untrue.
If your religion requires you to be in a particular location to commune with God, or forbids you from being at a certain location as a condition of your salvation, then your religion is untrue.
If your religion requires you to perform acts based upon a timed schedule to pacify God, then your religion is untrue.
In short, if your religion requires you to perform any physical act as a condition of acceptance by God, then your religion is not true.
When a person comes to know Jesus Christ, the act of knowing is the result of a spiritual act, the act of believing. There is no need for any physical behavior or performance. It is purely an act of the mind. The mind believes, the mind receives knowledge. That knowledge, the knowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord and God, is an eternally true knowledge.
Third, we want to see the meaning of Truth. Everything hinges upon what Truth is.
But before we get there though, please notice. Both verbs in this sentence are in the Future Tense.
You will know the truth.
You will be set free.
That is, Jesus is saying that you do not yet know the Truth and you are not yet Free. The apostles who had been with him for months, still did not know the Truth that Jesus was alluding to. The knowing of the Truth will be a future event. And the freedom that comes after that acquisition of True Knowledge is a future event.
Now, what is the Truth that Jesus is talking about?
Here I need to summarize the nature of truth which has been so ably presented by St. Augustine, the greatest of all Church Fathers. There are six points to understanding the nature of truth.
1- Truth exists, it is self defeating to deny the existence of truth.
We meet some very interesting people at our office. One day I told a client of ours that I was studying the Nature of truth. Without hesitation he said. “There is no such thing as truth. Don’t bother yourself.” I didn’t want to embarrass him by asking: Is what you just said True? To deny the existence of truth is self-defeating.
2- Truth is unchangeable. What is true today could not have been false yesterday, nor can it become false in the future.
3- By extension of its unchangeable nature, we see that Truth must be eternal. Even if all created things vanish, truth will remain. If we ask, what if one day truth itself perishes? We will see then that the truth that “Truth has perished” will remain forever. Truth cannot die, it is eternal. It has no beginning and no end. This is very important to understand.
4- Truth is spiritual. Truth is something that exists in minds. Truth cannot be a function of any material object. That is, it cannot be dependent upon Matter, Time and Space. Space, time and matter are Not eternal. They are created. They had a beginning. Only Mind or spirit can be eternal. Truth is something that can only exist in minds.
5- Truth is Superior to the human mind. Truth cannot be subjective and individualistic. That is, there cannot be My Truth and Your Truth. People who speak like that have not understood the meaning of Truth. And even if all humans could come together they cannot be sure that they have discovered Truth because a group of fallible people is still a group of fallible people. If you add an endless sum of Zeros it will never equal to One. Truth must reside in a mind that is higher than all human minds put together.
6- Truth is God. The only conclusion that we can come to is that Truth is God.
Let’s recap what we have learned about the nature of truth.
1- Truth exists.
2- Truth is unchangeable.
3- Truth is eternal.
4- Truth is Spiritual, and
5- Truth is Superior to the human mind.
What could Truth be other than God?
Only Truth and God possess these attributes.
Let’s substitute the word God, for the word truth in the previous sentence, and we see that:
1- God Exists.
2- God is unchangeable.
3- God is eternal.
4- God is a Spirit, and
5- God is Superior to the human mind.
Can you understand the import of what we have seen?
The Nature of Truth and the Nature of God are identical.
Truth and God are identical.
Truth is another word for God.
Truth is a synonym for God.
At this point we are facing a difficulty.
How do we interpret the phrase “Truth is God”? What could that possibly mean?
The Bible has some very important information that can help us come to the correct conclusion.
In John 18:37 Jesus says: For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the Truth.
This Truth that Christ is referring to is something that could not have been known without the incarnation and revelation from God himself.
2Tim. 3:7 says: men are always learning but are never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
People can know everything there is to know about the creation, but they still will not know any truth.
2Cor. 4:18- that which is seen is temporal, that which is not seen is eternal.
What is evident to our senses is not eternal. We cannot expect to find truth in a fallen universe because truth is spiritual and eternal.
In John 1:17, this is what is recorded: The law was given through Moses, the grace and the truth came through Jesus Christ.
The plain meaning of these words is that before Jesus revealed himself, people had no way of knowing truth. In fact, even now, outside of Christ, there is no Truth.
And lastly, a verse that we have heard so many times:
I am the Way and the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father, but through me. John 14:6
How can a person be Truth? What could it possibly mean when Jesus says, “I AM THE TRUTH”?
We can finally understand it, because we now know the definition of Truth!
If Jesus is the Truth and Truth is God, then Jesus is Saying “I AM GOD.”
Jesus is saying, if you want to know the Truth, you must know Me, for Truth and I are Identical.
The conclusion that I have come to is that the statement, “Jesus Christ is God” is the only Truth that is available to people at the present time.
“Jesus Christ is God” satisfies all the conditions of the Nature of Truth.
“Jesus Christ is God” is an eternally true statement.
“Jesus Christ is God” is the first of an infinite number of Truths that is in God, and will be available for us in His presence.
Jesus Christ and Truth are Identical.
Let’s substitute the name Jesus Christ for the word Truth in the Nature of truth.
1- Jesus Christ exists.
Before Abraham was, I AM.- John 8:58
2 & 3- Jesus Christ is Unchangeable and Eternal.
I am the same yesterday, today and forever.- Hebrews 13:8
4- Jesus Christ is Spirit.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.- Col. 2:9
5- Jesus Christ is Superior to the human mind.
Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.- Php 2:9
Jesus Christ is God.
This simple, single phrase is all we need to know, to know Truth.
It is knowing that Jesus is Lord, that frees us, because: if the son has set you free, you are free indeed. John 8:36
Let me quote you some very insightful words by other writers:
Robert Speer, in a little book entitled The Principles of Jesus, says:
“To Truth Jesus gave the first place . . .
The first place does not belong to love or mercy or pity. It belongs to truth.”
Psalm 119:160 says: Truth is the first principle of Thy words.
I have found a clear understanding of the nature of truth in the works of a wonderful French commentator of the 19th century, Frederic Godet. Listen to the answer that he gives to Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”:
Truth is God known ... The true knowledge of God is not the result of philosophical investigation. This central and living knowledge of God, which is the only true knowledge, was not possessed by any man, either within or outside of the theocracy, not even by Moses. One can know everything else, not God! The full truth does not exist on earth before or outside of Jesus Christ, and it truly came through him.
The Truth that is the fount of Freedom.
We can now understand:
1- Why is Jesus the ONLY way to the Father? (John 14:6)
Because “Jesus Christ is God” is the only truth that is available to mankind at present.
2- Why is eternal life Knowledge of God? (John 17:3)
Because, believing that “Jesus Christ is God” places Eternally True Knowledge in our minds. The result of which is that our souls can never die.
Now, you might ask:
If the only available Truth is “Jesus Christ is God”, then is everything else False? Is all else just an illusion?
If you are interested in the answer, please see the pages on Logic numbered 30s.
Message given at Armenian Memorial Church, Watertown, MA
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