John 8:31-33: Part I
The Role of Truth in Salvation and Life after Salvation
Introduction: This three-part series: The Role of Truth in Salvation and Life after Salvation addresses true liberty. Only truth sets a person free. For the believer truth is simple. It is a Person – Jesus Christ – and the Word (John 8:31-33; 14:6; 17:17). Moreover, it is a relationship with Christ by the Holy Spirit. Truth is fundamental for salvation and life after salvation.
The 4th of July is always on the calendar. What a great day! On July 2nd, 1776, the Continental Congress declared the people of America independent of the British colonies. Two days later there occurred another historic day. On that day the Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence – freedom from tyranny and foreign oppression. For Americans who cherish freedom, July 2nd and the 4th are tremendous, even mind-boggling days. How do you define truth, true liberty and does your definition include salvation and lie after salvation?
As good as it is to be an American there is something better. The Bible, the only true answer book, gives what that something is. One of the Bible’s main subjects is liberty – freedom and the Triune God as the Provider of true freedom. The Bible begins with God. It teaches that God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1-2; Psalm 102:25; 104:1-4, 30). The universe and everything in it is His (Psalms 24:1-2; 50:8-12; 104:4-9; Acts 17:24-28). The Triune God sent the Son in order to redeem His creation and His people (Luke 4:18-22; Romans 8:18-21). That is true freedom. Creation and redemption are linked.
You might ask: how is that true freedom? Look at my circumstances. I don’t have much money and I have a poor job, a small house, a car that does not run well, and a bad spouse and boss. Freedom is always from something to something. The realities of this life are rather simple. We are born to die (Romans 5:12-14; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). We live and we die. In between is the key. The in between is this life. After Adam sinned and God judged our first parents, sin, misery, and death entered into man’s life. Salvation does not remove the results of the curse completely in this life. Believers are not immunized from hard times in its many forms. All the above statements are truth and reality statements.
The core of the matter is this: what is the role of Truth in salvation and life after salvation? How do you live? If the author of Ecclesiastes is correct eternity is bound up in the heart of a man (3:11). That means meaning in life can’t be found only in the now: the material, the visible, the finite, the physical, and the temporal. The author of Ecclesiastes confirms this when he says: I know that there is nothing better for men to do than to to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil – that is the gift of God (3:12-13). Life must be lived with a correct Godward focus and orientation that the Bible terms fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
True freedom must properly focus on God as Creator and Controller of His people and His world. The believer is acutely aware that this is God’s world, God is his environment (Psalm 139), and he defines fear of the Lord as follows: God has something to say about every thought, desire, and action of every individual. Therefore the believer (any other type is a misnomer) focuses on what he is in Christ and the blessings and resources endowed to him by the Triune God. These include saving and sanctifying grace which ushers in freedom from guilt and condemnation (Romans 8:1); freedom from membership in Satan’s family and kingdom and membership in God’s family and kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14); and freedom from self to God (Romans 11:36: 2 Corinthians 5:9, 14-17).
What was the cost of that freedom? America has had its share of wars: war of independence, World War II, and the Korean War. These wars cost lives, money, and effort. They were fought in the name of freedom. Many memorials have been erected since those times in an effort to remember the warriors and the cost. Everyone agrees: in spite of sadness, freedom was worth the cost. However, these and other wars and their significance pale if we simply focus on man rather than God.
After Adam’s sin and God’s judgment, the concept of freedom took on different meaning. Deadness, darkness, defiance, and depravity characterized mankind. There was bondage to sin, self, and Satan. God declared the cosmic war of wars in Genesis 3:15. Enmity between God and His seed continues until Jesus returns. Until He does, the war is an ongoing spiritual battle especially fought in the trenches of the person’s heart. The battle was fought initially in the heavenly realms. There is an ongoing spiritual battle that is fought outside every person but also in the heart of every person (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Ephesians 6:10-18. The battle is not fought with chariots and horses – these represent the material and physical. Rather, the war must be fought with the full armor of God: His Holy Spirit who indwells the Church and every believer and His word (Psalm 20:7; 33:17; 147:10; Ephesians 6:10-18).
Victory required a supernatural event – salvation purchased by the perfect obedience and perfect death of Christ and secured by Christ’s resurrection. It is in that light that God sent His Son to die for unworthy, undeserving, and rebellious sinners (Romans 5:6-10). God saved His people from Himself as Judge; themselves as self-pleasing enemies and rebels of God; from sin – its power and penalty; from misery in this life and an eternal destiny in hell; and from Satan, the father of lies and liars. Setting the captives was a divine program with stupendous results (Luke 4:18-22)! The role of Truth in salvation and life after salvation magnifies the Person and work of Christ and the application of that work by the Holy Spirit.
1. Read Genesis 3:15-17. What do you learn?
2. As a result of Adam’s sin and God’s judgment, what happened?
3. What was man’s condition after the fall?
4. Did God have answer? If He did what was it?
John 8:31-33: True Liberty: Part II
We continue the series the role of truth in salvation and life after salvation. The Bible declares that the truth will set you free. John 8:31-32 speaks of true freedom: To the Jews who believed in him, Jesus said: If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. What wonderful words of comfort but also challenge. The phrase believed in him referred to those people who had made a formal profession of faith and may have lived faithfully.
Jesus clarified what He meant by the phrase believe in Him with the words: If you hold to my teachings. His disciples cherish and hold on to Christ and His teachings; they don’t not simply speak words or perform ritual service. Holding on the Christ and His teachings simply means thinking and desiring as the Triune God does and acting accordingly. Jesus adds more clarity to true discipleship. His disciples know the truth and the truth sets them free.
Apparently there were Jews who believed in Christ (v.31). That sounds like a good start! The words indicated that they believed they were freed people – truly liberated. Jesus went on to explain that the test of a true profession of faith and freedom was endurance – holding fast to Jesus, the Person and His words. That explanation did not fit with the Israelites’ concept of freedom. They thought the only slavery that they had was physical – bondage to Rome. The role of Truth in salvation and life after salvation uncovers wrong thinking and wanting about God and self.
Early in His ministry, Jesus claimed to be the Liberator of His people (Luke 4:18-22). In His inaugural public sermon, Jesus claimed that He would pay the ransom price and set prisoners free. Freed men – those saved – would not return to a patterned lifestyle of self-pleasing in its many forms. Rather, true disciples hold to Christ and live as changed people – thoughts, desires, and actions directed toward loving God and loving neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). The statement by Jesus strongly indicated that the believer, and only the believer, has the capacity and will to shed his sinful patterns of self-pleasing and replace them with patterns of pleasing God. This true freedom! Bondage to self carries a heavy price (Proverbs 5:21-22; 13:15b; 26:11).
For the believer and true disciple of Christ, self-pleasing is out at least in principle and is replaced by the practice of putting God and others first (Matthew 22:37-40; Philippians 2:3-5). A person who claims he can’t help but please himself and that he can’t stop sinning in various ways is in serious trouble. If he is a believer he denies the reality of his blood-bought freedom and he denies the true Liberator, His Person and work. The Role of Truth in salvation and life after salvation is at least twofold: it directs the person into God’s way and acts like a lamp and light to light this way.
The words by Christ in John’s gospel describe the means of true freedom: the truth will set you free refers to a person – Jesus Christ (John 14:6), the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 26-27; 16:13), God (Psalm 31:5; Isaiah 45:19; 65:16), and His word John (17:17). The truth will set you free because the believer is now united to Christ through Christ’s union with him through the work of the Holy Spirit. He has the Holy Spirit indwelling him. The Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 16:13). Every believer is in Christ – united with Him – and has the indwelling Holy Spirit. He has been bought with a price because Jesus paid it all (John 19:30).
How does truth set you free? Remember that truth is Intratrinitarian and that Truth has a role on salvation and life after salvation. Truth is external to a person but upon regeneration the believer has a new standard by which to judge true-false, right-wrong, light-darkness, saved-unsaved, God-pleasing-self-pleasing. The believer changes his interpretative grid from feelings, getting now, experiences, and reasoning divorced from biblical truth. He has hidden the word of God in his heart and embraces life under the Son which is based on godly wisdom . Life is simplified as opposed to life under the sun which is meaningless and futile; it is based on man’s standard of true and false, good and evil (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 9-11).
For the believer rightly oriented, joyful satisfaction in the Triune God becomes more and more important as it was to Christ and to Paul (Psalm 34:8; Philippians 3:7-11; Hebrews 12:1-3). He moves through life (actually God’s providence) looking forward to the finish line and heaven because a piece of heaven has come to him in and by the Holy Spirit and his relationship with the Son.
The next question is free from what? The Jews missed the point (John 8:33-41). They denied both their physical and spiritual bondage. They denied the fact that Truth had a role in salvation and life after salvation. Even though under Roman rule, they claimed they were Abraham descendants and were slaves to no one. They concluded that they did not need a Messiah like Christ. Physical relief was all they needed and wanted. These people lived for the now (life under the sun) – the physical, material, and temporal from the grid of for me, by me, to me in whatever form. They saw with physical eyes and interpreted what they took in by their senses which were trained by wants, their feelings, and their knowledge of “life” based on self-pleasing.
In fact, every believer has been freed from life under the sun and its bondage. The believer has been freed from the penalty of sin (condemnation and hel) and the power of sin (slavery to sin and patterned sinfulness through personal lawkeeping). The believer has been rescued and supernaturally transferred from one dominion to another (Colossians 1:13). The believer is no longer a slave of unrighteousness but a slave of righteousness (Romans 6:16-19). This blood-bought freedom at least means the believer has life under the Son: the freedom, the capacity, and the desire to please God and put off the foolishness of anti-God self-pleasing, self-trusting, and self-righteousness learned and practiced while in Satan’s kingdom – life under the sun.
The believer can and will embrace the joy of salvation and trusting God rather than self and perceive of life from an eternal perspective (Proverbs 3:5-8; Hebrews 12:1-3). The dog who returns to his vomit has not really changed; so, too, the fool who is still a fool returns to his folly of self-pleasing (Proverbs 26:11). This is true of the unbeliever all the time and the believer some of the time. The believer is a saved sinner who has remaining sinfulness. But the believer, having been set free, lives out that freedom daily although imperfectly by relying on Holy Spirit-guided and Holy Spirit-directed concrete, specific biblical principles. He loves biblical truth and rejoices in its use (Psalm 119:9-11). The believer lives as a changed person because he is – the Truth/truth has set him free. He knows it and he functions as if his freedom is real because of it!
So back to our person who has had tough times. What does he think and do? Salvation does not necessarily take away hard time nor does it immunize the believer so that he can expect a life of ease. Salvation simplifies life by giving direction and understanding for the believer to live as a victor and a child of the King (Romans 8:35-37). That in itself is a gracious gift and anticipates heaven (1 John 3:1-3; 5:3-4). The believer runs the race as Christ did knowing that pleasing God on this earth is a great privilege and blessing.
1. What truths do you know about yourself and Christ?
2. How do you cherish your freedom?
3. How and why are you applying them and what are the results?
4. What truth do you need to help you change your view of God, self, and others?
John 8:31-33: True Liberty: Part III
The Role of Truth in Salvation and Life after Salvation
In America, we have been taught that freedom is important. However that tenet is changing given the mindset of some recent and probable subsequent legislation. Mankind’s sin does not change the reality that America was borne out of strife. There was a presumed suffocating bondage. Daily life was increasingly restrictive and cumbersome. The bondage was oppressive. A war ensued. Victory was won. Freedom was obtained. So it is in the Christian life. So it will be for the whole world when the true Winner comes – Jesus Christ. Until then the question asked in the past is still pertinent today: how shall we then live? That question and the answer underscores the role of Truth in salvation and life after salvation.
Freed people often look back. It gives a proper perspective of the now and hopefully will guide the future. Previous bondage in Satan’s family and kingdom was a reality. Jesus stated one purpose of His messiahship: He came to free the captives and remove them from bondage (Luke 4:18-22). Supernaturally and radically the believer has been transferred from bondage to freedom (Colossians 1:13). Yet for the Christian, the battle continues and in someway the battle has begun. As a new creature in the new creation, the believer work to do (2 Corinthians 5:17 – 5:9, 14-16).
For the believer, as strange as it may seem, there is a pull back to bondage. Paul discussed this fact in his letter to the Romans (6-8) and to the Galatians (5:1-23). The problem was within the believer – remaining sinfulness and the continuing effects of previous membership in Satan’s kingdom. Moreover, the problem was outside the believer. False teachers were present and the pull to return to personal lawkeeping by ritual and tradition loomed large. It was presented as a preferably lifestyle.
Jesus had addressed the issue of personal lawmaking and lawkeeping as an approach to life in Matthew 11:28-30. He gave His solution: Himself, a relationship with Him, and reliance on His lawkeeping. In Galatians 5:1 Paul wrote that it was for freedom that Christ freed believers so why return to the yoke of personal lawkeeping. Believers have been set free. That was fact. Set free from what? In the context of Galatians Paul is speaking of the lure of returning to personal lawkeeping as a means of salvation and sanctification. Paul was not against the law or lawkeeping. He was a theologian par excellence. He knew Christianity was a lawkeeping religion. Lawkeeping was not the issue. The issue was whose law and lawkeeping and for what reason/purpose? In the same verse (5:1) Paul warns the congregation not to be burdened by personal lawkeeping as a means to accomplish salvation and sanctification. Paul likens this as a return to a yoke of slavery. Yoke refers to the teaching of the Pharisees as Jesus explained in Matthew 11:28-30.
Post-fall, man makes himself his own lawmaker, sets his own standard, and pursues lawkeeping in his own strength. However, he is burdened by his wrong view of the law and his lawkeeping, Nevertheless, he continues his pursuit of earning acceptance before God as he tries to keep his or another’s law. He may try to convince himself that his view of lawkeeping is God’s view. However, Jesus and Paul term this is slavery.
In contrast to false teachers, Paul is emphasizing that freedom from the law is to be properly understood. The law has not changed. It is good (Romans 7:12; 1 Timothy 1:8-11). It is the believer’s relationship to it that has changed. Most theologians speak of freedom from the law in terms of the law’s curse which is the penalty of sin. The curse of the law occurs because of God’s judgment according to His perfect law. This began in the Garden with Adam’s sin. The believer is also freed from the law’s penalty – damnation in this life and the next as well as misery in this life (Proverbs 8:35-36; 13:15).
Also there is freedom from the law’s power as well. The power of sin resides in the law, God’s judgment, and in the person (Romans 7:7-12). Paul wrote that he would not have desired to sin unless he was told no. The one who desires to act as his own lawgiver and lawkeeper is a law to himself. A law from the outside that says no or stop stimulates in man the desire to say yes and do for self. Such is the power of sin or perhaps more accurately the sinfulness in the believer and unbeliever.
People expend efforts to keep the law as they understand it or want to understand it. Instead of depending on Christ’s lawkeeping the unbeliever is a law unto himself. Unfortunately the believer can and does function in the same manner. In Romans 6-8, Paul personifies sin as an operative force or principle in which the person marches to. Paul is speaking of sinfulness, total in the unbeliever and remaining in the believer. Sin’s power resides in the continued inclination developed while in Satan’s family and kingdom which is captured by the term self-pleasing. The issue is one of authority, power, and dominion as given in Galatians 5:13, 16-18. Joshua put the choice and activity of pleasing God or self in covenantal terms in Joshua 24:14-15. Who will you serve: self or God?
Paul was burdened and angered by the false preachers of a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-10; 3:1-5; 5:1-7). He was burdened as he heard and maybe watched false preachers wooing the people with false counsel via a false gospel and way of life. The people were returning to the lifestyle from which they were saved from (Galatians 3:1-5). The Galatians were functioning as the dog pictured in Proverbs 26:11 – returning to his vomit of self-pleasing. Dependence on God and acceptance by God are not earned. Rather, both are gifts supernaturally imparted at regeneration and continued in sanctification (John 3:3-8; 2 Corinthians 5:9, 15-17). If one chooses personal lawkeeping as a way of life then perfect lawkeeping is demanded (Galatians 5:3). Paul turns his readers to Christ – more of Him rather than something more – in this case one’s personal lawkeeping..
There is a perfect lawgiver and perfect lawgiver. Paul pointed the congregation to Christ. He is the lawkeeper par excellence. There is no other and there is no need for another. It is impossible to serve two masters: (Galatians 5:4-5; Matthew 6:24). One says: keep the commandments, any old ones and any old way. Keep your nose to the grindstone. The other says: you can’t but I have kept God’s law in your place – be encouraged and depend on Me. Christ offers freedom from personal, imperfect lawkeeping in His gift of perfect, redemptive lawkeeping. Therefore obedience is linked to love and knowledge; it is not only duty but privilege and blessing (1 John 5:3).
1. Consider lawkeeping from the perspective of Galatians 5:1-5, 13 and John 8:31-32. What do you learn?
2. How do you reconcile John 14:15, 21, and 23 with Christ’s lawkeeping?
3. Your view of God dictates your view of the law and lawkeeping. What is yours?