“The Truth Shall Make You Free”: The Meaning of John 8:31-32

Jesus promised in John 8:32 that His truth would set His disciples free. What does the truth set us free from? How does God’s truth provide freedom?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “The truth shall make you free”?

This is a saying that many will recognize, as it has been used as a motto for educational institutions and perhaps even as an encouragement to tell the truth. However, there is far more to this phrase than many realize.

This phrase comes from a lesson Jesus Christ gave to those “who believed Him.” In John 8:31-32, He is quoted as saying, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Jesus was speaking about a form of freedom God alone can provide—freedom given only to those who believe and are faithful to His truth. 

What is this freedom Jesus spoke of? And what exactly is it that we need freedom from?

What is the meaning of Christ’s words in John 8:31-32? 

What does the truth set us free from?

In verse 33, the Jews responded with seeming confusion over Christ’s words—How can we be set free when we have never been in captivity? Their reaction was perplexing, given their ancestors’ history as slaves in Egypt, their deportation to Babylon for 70 years, and their subjugation to Rome at that time.

Like the Jews in John 8, we in the Western world might say that we have never been in bondage to anyone either. What do we need to be set free from?

The answer lies in the kind of bondage Jesus was speaking about. 

Jesus was not speaking about freedom from physical slavery at all. In verse 34, He revealed a very different kind of captivity that must be broken: “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.’”

After we repent, God’s truth and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ lift the weight of our death sentence and free us from the chains of sin.If sinning makes us a slave to sin, then all of us have been in captivity—spiritual captivity to sin. Romans 3:23 tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All of us, therefore, must admit that we have been in bondage. We have all been slaves to sin.

Until we repent, sin holds us captive in our everyday lives, keeping us from attaining the potential God created us for. Even worse, sin carries with it a death sentence. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Being condemned to death because of our sins is the ultimate way sin enslaves us. 

After we repent, God’s truth and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ lift the weight of our death sentence and free us from the chains of sin. We can be freed from the death penalty looming over us only by the redemption offered through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

To learn more about redemption, read “What Does Redemption Mean in the Bible?

How does the truth “make us free”?

Jesus Christ tells us we can be free from this spiritual bondage only through His truth. But how does that work? Does simply knowing the truth intellectually set us free from our sins? Or is there more to it than that?

Simply put, the truth of God has to lead to more than just an intellectual understanding. Knowing God’s truth should lead us to action. Paul explained that obedience to God is required. “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). 

Until we reach that point, we are blinded by the deceptions of Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4). Fear, confusion and deception run rampant in this world as a result of sin.

We can be free from deception by learning the truth and obeying God’s law. The confusion, fear and hopelessness common in our world can be replaced by the freedom of knowing God’s purpose, plan and way of life. We also experience blessings in our life from obeying the truth revealed in His Word. These blessings bring us freedom from the consequences that come from disobeying God.  

The book of Hebrews likens this to running a spiritual race free of any lingering or unnecessary weight: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Like the bonds that keep a slave in submission, sin weighs us down. It keeps us from reaching our full God-given potential—from finishing the race. But responding to the truth leads to obedience to God, which motivates us to overcome the shackles of sin. No longer bogged down by the weight it adds to our lives, we can run with endurance.

The truth gives us freedom to choose our master

Like everything in life, becoming free from sin is a choice, but God takes the initiative. First, He exposes us to the gospel message. Then, He convicts the minds of those He selects for salvation as firstfruits, and they become aware of their wretched, sinful condition. This is a calling. 

But after being called, we must decide for ourselves if we will obey Him. He will not make that choice for us. Once our eyes are opened and we understand the truth, we must choose who we want to serve. (To learn more about this process, read “Called and Chosen.”)

By becoming slaves to righteousness, we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to serving God and never returning to the chains of sinful behavior.The Bible is clear that there are only two options: We’ll either be slaves to sin and Satan or be slaves to righteousness and Jesus Christ (Romans 6:19).

Jesus Christ was clear that there is no room to serve both Him and sin (Matthew 6:24). We can serve only one master—there is no overlap between the righteousness of Jesus Christ and the wickedness of sin.

Once freed from the bondage of sin, we must consciously choose to serve God. By becoming slaves to righteousness, we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to serving God and never returning to the chains of sinful behavior.

But is exchanging one form of slavery for another a good thing? How is becoming a slave to Jesus Christ better than being a slave to sin?

In John 8:35-36, Jesus revealed that we are called to be far more than slaves: “And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

No slavemaster (Satan included) plans to give a slave all he has as an inheritance. 

But God is calling us to be sons and daughters in His family—to be heirs to the glory of the Kingdom of God (Romans 8:17; Galatians 3:29).  

Choosing Jesus Christ as our new Master frees us from the burden of sin, commits us to a lifetime of obeying Him and sets us on course to inherit all things in His Kingdom. 

Choose righteousness

Our world is in slavery to unrighteousness and confusion. But God calls us to be free of that. However, we must act on this opportunity to become His people by obeying Jesus Christ as our Master, trusting fully in Him.  

The path to becoming a slave to righteousness begins with hearing and obeying the truth. Only then can we wholeheartedly serve God, free from this world’s confusion, and take our first step toward eternal life in His Kingdom.

Topics Covered: Christian Living, Bible Study

About the Author

Jordan Iacobucci

Jordan Iacobucci

Jordan Iacobucci attends the Raleigh, North Carolina, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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