By Mike Ratliff
14 Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο καὶ ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν, καὶ ἐθεασάμεθα τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ, δόξαν ὡς μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός, πλήρης χάριτος καὶ ἀληθείας. John 1:14 (NA28)
14 “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us and we gazed upon His glory, the glory as as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Post-Modern thought states that it is arrogance to state that one knows the truth. The adherents of this type of thinking claim that it is impossible for anyone to know the truth and those who claim to know it are trying to put others in bondage to their conception of the truth. They teach that true freedom is contained only in relevance. Genuine Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that God’s Word is our foundation of truth, Jesus Christ is truth, and any person or entity that says otherwise is of the antichrist. Is it really possible to know absolute truth? What did Jesus tell us?
31 ἔλεγεν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς τοὺς πεπιστευκότας αὐτῷ Ἰουδαίους· ἐὰν ὑμεῖς μείνητε ἐν τῷ λόγῳ τῷ ἐμῷ, ἀληθῶς μαθηταί μού ἐστε 32 καὶ γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν, καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς. John 8:31-32 (NA28)
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who had believed on Him, “If you remain in my word, then you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, the truth will free you.” John 8:31-32 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Jesus says in this passage that some will know the truth and that truth shall free them or make them free. What is the condition Jesus puts on this? Only those who continue in His Word are His true disciples and they alone will know the truth. Let’s take a closer look.
Jesus is responding to some Jews who had believed Him. In v31 “believed on” translates πεπιστευκότας (pepisteukotas) the perfect active participle, accusative plural, masculine case of πιστεύω (pisteuō). It denotes those who are followers because they have believed. It can mean faith or belief, but in this context it is describing some Jews who were following Jesus. As this is a “perfect, participle, active” it means that this word is describing a state brought about by the finished results of the action. The direct translation of this into English would be, “having believed.” Are they genuine believers?
There is a Greek Word for “if,” that means, “if and it is so,” but this is not that word. When Jesus said “If you remain in my word,” he used a word for “if” (ἐάν (ean)) that is a conditional participle that could best be translated as, “in case that” or “provided.” When used with other participles it denotes indefiniteness or uncertainty. Jesus is not saying they aren’t believers, but that their authenticity will be proved by something. What is it? If they continue in Jesus’ Word then their authenticity will be proved to be genuine. If they do not then they will be proved to be simply religious converts.
The word “continue” in v31 is also translated as “abide” in John 15 where Jesus tells us about those who “abide” in the true vine.” In that analogy, Jesus is the Vine and believers are the branches in the vine. The Father is the Vinedresser who prunes the vines so that they will bear much fruit. Some branches do not abide in the vine. They are cut away by the Father and burned. In John 8:31-32, Jesus is telling us that those who remain or continue or abide in Him are proved to be His disciples indeed. These are genuine believers who abide in the Vine.
It is this group of people who shall know the truth and that truth shall make them free. What is this truth? This Greek word is ἀλήθεια (alētheia). It means truth, as the unveiled reality lying at the basis of and agreeing with an appearance; the manifested, or the veritable essence of matter. This word denotes the reality clearly lying before our eyes as opposite to a mere appearance without reality. Jesus’ application here for this word has reference not only to the facts surrounding Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God but also to the teaching that He brought. Jesus’ application of this word to those who genuinely believe and abide in Him is that they will know divine truth and both freedom from sin and the search for reality. This divine truth does not come just by learning or intellectual assent (1 Corinthians 2:14), but also through saving commitment to Christ. (Titus 1:1-2)
Who is genuinely free? Only those who know divine truth that comes only to those who abide in Christ, thereby proving their authenticity as believers. Therefore, when a Post-Modernist implies that no one can know the truth and it is an act of arrogance to speak the truth as absolute truth, we must not believe him or her. Instead, we must believe our Lord as we abide in His Word as genuine branches who are pruned by the Father.
Soli Deo Gloria!