This post is written by Shaq Hardy as a companion for Unit 25, Session 3 of The Gospel Project for Adults, Volume 9: From Death to Resurrection (Fall 2023).
True freedom only happens when you know why you were designed from the truth found in God’s Word and when you live within that design by continuing to pursue the living Word, Jesus Christ.
Look at John 8:31-32 and read below to see how Jesus addressed this with those present that believed His teaching.
“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you continue in my word, you really are my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ ”
By the time chapter 8 comes around in John’s Gospel, Jesus has done quite a bit of ministry. Jesus had walked around teaching, performing miracles, and rebuking the Pharisees. At this point in Jesus’s life, the people He had upset didn’t know what to do with Him. Some of them thought that He was crazy, possessed by a demon, and should be put to death. Others thought He could possibly be the Messiah. A lot of the people who were around Jesus in John 8 didn’t like Jesus. But some in the crowd believed the things they heard from Him and genuinely thought He could be the Messiah.
For many who didn’t believe Jesus, they served the master known as human religion. They knew Scripture forward and backward. They thought they were saved because of their lineage, the legacy left to them. But Jesus stepped on the scene and basically said, “Nope, that’s not how it works.”
The word “continue” in verse 31 comes from the Greek word that means “to remain.” Jesus is saying that if you remain, or abide, in His word, then you are truly His disciples. What this does not mean is that if you read God’s Word all the time, then you will truly be Jesus’s disciple. Reading God’s Word is certainly a major part of remaining in Jesus. But Jesus is talking more about following Him. He’s talking about believing that what He says is true and then continuing to believe.
He’s saying this to this crowd that has supposedly believed because He knew that they didn’t fully understand. Many of them were enslaved by the master of religion and their Jewish heritage. They believed that those things saved them from sin. They were working hard day by day to make themselves look good in front of other people.
The word “free” in verse 32 means to liberate. For these Jews to be liberated from the master of religion and heritage (doing the right things, looking a certain way), Jesus said that they had to know the truth. And the only way to know truth is to remain in and believe in Jesus.
They weren’t designed or created to work for God’s affection. They were designed and created because of God’s affection. They were living their lives trying to show that they loved God to get God to love them. And they were trying to show people that they loved God to get people to praise them. But that’s not how it works. First John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” Our love for God cannot make God love us because God loved us before we ever loved Him.
Knowing a lot of stuff about Jesus doesn’t make you a disciple of Jesus. In John 1, John says that Jesus was the Word who became flesh. So when Jesus says, “continue in my word,” He is not saying learn a bunch of things about the Bible. He’s saying abide in Me, know Me, intimately like a friend, like a brother.
As we know God through His Word, living out His Word, we will find true freedom.
Shaq Hardy is the president of the Orphan No More Foundation and has dedicated himself to working toward helping kids without families become orphans no more. Shaq has served as an itinerant preacher for the past ten years and served as a full-time student pastor for six years.