“The truth will set you free.”
This popular phase has adorned institutes of higher learning and is commonly quoted by intellectuals, and others who value a good education. “When you are exposed to truth, you will be able to throw off the shackles that have enslaved you”; “Only when you learn will you reach your full potential.”
Others use this phrase as encouragement to cleanse yourselves from the trappings of any lies. They see being truthful as freeing yourself from the entanglements caused by your deception, “tell the truth and free yourself”.
But is Jesus really talking about education and self-fulfillment? Look closer at all that Jesus said:
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.”
Many believed in Jesus after his last statements. There were also several believers in the crowd from the recent Feast of Tabernacles (see John 7:31). Jesus then turned to the believers. It is not enough to simply agree with the truth about Jesus. To be a true disciple of Jesus, you need to abide in his word.
What does it mean to abide in his word? The word for “abide” is meno (μένω), which means to take up residence; to continue; remain; not depart. It means to stay connected to His word. Jesus uses the same word, “abide”, in John 15 when he compared his disciples as branches to a vine. We abide in Him when we stay connected to him. We need to make his word our source, our guide, our refuge, and our comfort.
What is the truth? Jesus made it clear that the freedom is from sin, yet the people already believed that they were free. Part of the truth is to shatter their false security so that they may know that they need to be rescued from sin. But Jesus, himself, is the truth (John 14:6). All who believe in him will be rescued from sin (John 3:14-18).
What happens to the true disciples who abide in His word? They will know the truth that makes them free. The true disciples will know the truth about freedom from sin and receive eternal life with God.
“By nature far from Him, they were bondsmen. Only if they abode in His Word would they know the truth, and the truth would make them free. The result of this knowledge would be moral, and hence that knowledge consisted not in merely believing on Him, but in making His Word and teaching their dwelling – abiding in it.” – Alfred Edersheim 
In the previous study on John 8, we had covered that Jesus commanded the listeners to “Follow Me” four times in this chapter. Each time he repeated the command, he made the command more specific and had increasingly hostile responses. In each of these four commands, Jesus also gave a promise for those who follow him:
- “Follow Me” (John 8:12-20)
- “Believe that I AM” (John 8:21-30)
- “Abide in my word” (John 8:31-47)
- “Keep my word” (John 8:48-59)
The final two commands, discussed here, are both related to Jesus’ Word. What makes the difference between a true disciple and an unbeliever? Their response to His Word.
“Abide in my word”
It is those who abide in His Word that are his true disciples. The promise, discussed above, is that the true disciples would know Jesus and be made free from sin.
But the opposition to Jesus has increased severely. The Jews did not believe that they need anything else other than to be a descendant of Abraham. They would rather kill Jesus than face the truth. They dismissed Jesus as an illegitimate child, who is not worthy of teaching them.
The response by Jesus was the strongest yet. There are only two families: the family of God and the family of The Devil. If they do not love the one sent by God, then they are children of The Devil! How are they identified as children of The Devil? Because they do not love Jesus and they cannot bear to hear his word.
“Keep my word”
“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.”
Jesus also gives the promise that those who keep his word will never see death. Their bodies may die but they will never be separated from God (See Revelation 21:1-8).
“Now outwardly, of course, believers die as others die. And yet the wonderful thing is that the words of Jesus are absolutely true: the believer does not see death. What does he see? He sees the entrance into the Father’s house. Death, we are told, is our servant. How does death serve us? By ushering us into the presence of God.” – H.A. Ironside 
The opposition by the Jews goes beyond the personal attacks. They now accused Jesus of being demon-possessed. The response by Jesus was the promise here, but he also relied on the glory from God the Father.
The Jews were shocked that Jesus may claim to be a greater man than Abraham, yet that was not what Jesus was saying. He was not a greater man than Abraham. He was the God of Abraham!
Things to remember from this study:
- Jesus is the truth. If you want to be free, know Jesus! To be free from your sin, get closer to Jesus Christ.
- There are only two families: the family of God and the family of the Devil.
- Get close to Jesus by abiding in His Word!