Freedom is what Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread are ultimately about. God's freeing Israel from bondage in Egypt is the object lesson that we are to apply spiritually. Truth and freedom go hand in hand. This is why the Christian world is in the condition it is in. The vast majority of Christians do not really mark the death of Jesus Christ in the way that God commands us to observe it. They may be very much aware of it, and it is a large part of their teaching: They understand that Christ died for our sins. But they miss its full importance—its full impact—because they do not observe the Passover. Thus the lesson is missed.
Truth and freedom go hand in hand, but truth will produce freedom only as it is used. That ought to be self-evident. We can know something is true, but if we fail to use it, what good is it? Its value is worthless unless it is used.
Freedom and truth come to those who press on. Freedom, the kind of freedom that God is involved in bringing us into, comes progressively, not all at once. These are lessons from the Days of Unleavened Bread. It took the Israelites seven days to get to and across the Red Sea. It took them another forty years to get into their own land, into their inheritance, the Promised Land.
Their freedom was progressive. There was a time when it began, but if they had never continued on the way, they would never have had their own land, never have had their inheritance, never have been free. This is a large part of the object lesson: We have to continue. If we continue, then we will truly be a disciple. We will understand the truth, and we will become free. The truth of God shows us the real values of life because it shows us what we are to give our life to.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation
The word "abide" in verse 31 can also be translated as "continue," "dwell," "remain," "be present" and "endure." It gives the sense of staying in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy. It does not indicate one merely inactively standing still but suggests consistently moving within a pattern. Jesus clearly states that truth makes a disciple free. However, He also emphasizes that the truth and the freedom it produces do not come in a moment of time.
The truth of which He speaks indicates a broad and deep reality, a package containing many individual truths, not merely one. Thus, the package takes time to build, to accumulate, which is why a person must abide, pressing on, maintaining the freedom once it is given. The use of time is a costly investment that is not always easily made. Experience in Christian living proves that urgent needs arise in the defense of one's standing before God, and they cannot be dealt with leisurely. In addition, there is the everyday maintenance of discipline in one's life in securing our absolute need of study, prayer, and service to God and fellow man.
Truth and freedom go hand in hand, but truth will produce freedom only if it is used. This is why there must be a disciplined investment of time and energy by those who have truth and desire to protect and build their freedom. We might know something is true, but if we fail to use it, of what value is it? It would be like having money but never using it to buy or invest in anything. What good is it merely to possess it?
Truth and the freedom it produces accrue to those who press on, maintaining what they already have while simultaneously expanding and deepening it. The kind of freedom God is bringing us into comes progressively. We are to overcome, as Jesus admonishes us seven times in Revelation 2-3, and we are to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love
God chose to illustrate our enslaved condition through His rescue of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from their bondage to Egypt. He desired to free them from their servitude and establish them as a separate nation of their own, a people free to determine the quality and outcome of their lives. Once at liberty, they were no longer subject to the orders and decisions of the pagan Egyptians.
Working through Moses, God succeeded in His purpose, and Israel was settled as a free people in their own land. However, the Israelites never truly learned the lesson of what having the liberty to choose required of them. John 8:31-37 gives evidence of this when Jesus confronted them about it nearly 1,500 years later.
Even during the Israelites' wilderness journey after being freed from Egypt, the flaws in their thinking began to surface in their conduct. Within just two years, they rejected the righteous leadership of Moses, refusing to exercise their liberty to choose to enter the Promised Land and take it as their possession.
The result of that dreadful choice was that every Israelite adult over twenty years of age except for Joshua and Caleb perished on the journey. Thirty-eight years later, the younger generation entered the land under Joshua and took it. However, after he died, the nation quickly deteriorated from the dynamic bastion of righteousness that God intended, choosing to abandon the godly causes that they had followed under Joshua. In their decline, the Israelites showed they were still enslaved by their own carnality.
John 8 proves that, despite possessing both biblical and historical records—as well as being taught by the very God of creation right in their presence—individual Israelites failed to choose to be free of the spiritual slavery to which they were currently in bondage. Why? They never overcame the slave mentality that their ancestors learned in Egypt and which they succeeded in passing on to successive generations.
Like their ancestors, they were slaves of sin and passed the same self-centered thinking processes on to their children. They persisted in the same old, carnal ways. They were each unwilling to make the changes in their thinking that God demanded after He called them out of Egypt. Why, despite their advantages, did they not change?
John 8 is proof of how tightly bound we are to the anti-God carnality ingrained in our hearts. The Jews ended Jesus' teaching session with their violent intentions toward Him so filling their hearts that He escaped only because God intervened to protect His life. They grasped that He was telling them that they had to makes changes in their thinking, but they could not bring themselves to make them. They could not change because they were deeply enslaved by a deadly combination of factors. Simply stated, they did not believe who He was and what He said. Rather than submit to them, they fought against these truths.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Three)
What kind of message does it send to God if His children, those called by His name, either do not seek truth or carelessly ignore what they have? Perhaps it would be good for us to think of it like this: He is Truth personified. Therefore, to ignore truth is to ignore Him and, by extension, to ignore salvation. Remember, salvation is the active, continuous process by which God delivers us from what causes disease in the mental and physical areas of life and eternal death in the spiritual. Is it really worthwhile to ignore truth?
Truth does not come to us all at once. It gradually accumulates in those who ask, seek, and knock for it, then use it in their own lives to glorify God. We do not always easily find it. Sometimes truth emerges only after a long and confusing search that is constantly impeded by conflicting information. Nevertheless, we must persevere!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Six)
An implication of this passage is that freedom is always relative. Nobody is ever really free from responsibility in his relationships with others, especially in his relationship with God. Political freedom leapt to the Jews' mind in this instance, and they replied, "We have never been in bondage to any man." But even at this time, they were in a kind of bondage to the Romans, though they did not consider themselves to be so. But political freedom is not the only kind of freedom that one can have, and in reality, it is far from the most important. Nobody is ever free to do everything that he might think to do. He will always be constrained by law, principles, tradition, and even safety factors to choose to direct himself in a certain way.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 1)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing John 8:32:
2 Timothy 2:26
2 Timothy 3:16-17
1 Peter 2:13
1 Peter 5:5