What did Jesus mean when He said 'the truth will set you free' (John 8:32)?In John 8:32 Jesus says, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." This verse is often taken out of context, understood to mean that knowing truths in general brings freedom. However, that isn't at all what Jesus is talking about. Earlier in the context, Jesus explains that the One who had sent Him was true (verse 26). His listeners didn't recognize that Jesus was actually talking about God the Father (verse 27). Jesus was affirming His authenticity and divinity. He would later even make the straightforward statement that He Himself was actually the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). This was one of many occasions that John's Gospel records Jesus as characterizing Himself as something we might ordinarily consider to be impersonal.
For example, in John 2:19 Jesus called Himself a temple (explained in verse 21). In John 6:35 He referred to Himself as the bread of life. In John 8:12 He said He was the light of the world. In John 10:7–9 Jesus portrayed Himself as the door of the sheep. In John 10:11 He asserted that He was the good shepherd. There are other instances like these throughout John's Gospel. These show that Jesus commonly used metaphor—and specifically personification—to illustrate who He really is.
In John 8:32 Jesus declares that the truth shall set you free. The "you" is His listeners, specifically, those who had believed in Him, as verse 31 indicates. When questioned about what He meant, Jesus responded that, if the Son makes a person free, then that person is truly free (John 8:36). In verse 32, the truth sets people free. In verse 36, Jesus says that He sets people free. Then in John 14:6 Jesus states plainly that He is the truth. The fact that He had earlier called His Father true (John 8:26) just emphasized His close identity and intimate relationship with God the Father.
Jesus is the truth in whom we should believe. He is reliable and trustworthy, and He has the power to redeem us, to save us, and to give us true freedom. It is worth noting that in John 14:6 Jesus doesn't say that He is a way—as in one of many. Jesus is the way. He explains that no one can come to the Father (and receive new life) except through Jesus. Sometimes we don't like to hear that there is only one way, but according to the Creator of the universe, the design is that there would be only one way to have a right relationship with God, eternal life, and a future with Him in heaven.
Paul describes something similar in Romans 1:16, when he explains that the gospel—the good news about Jesus—is God's power or ability to save. God could have chosen to save any way He might have wanted, and He chose that Jesus would be the way. Jesus would be the truth who would set us free. It is no surprise then that one of the key themes in Paul's letter to the Romans is the freedom we have in Christ. Jesus is the truth, and He sets us free if we will put our trust in Him.
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