“AND ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
From the very first that spiritual aspirations found a place in the soul of man there has been a longing for freedom: the freedom of the soul from the thraldom of unbelief and sin. History shows over and over again how the various races of men enslaved by their stronger fellows have struggled strenuously to be free, counting liberty as more to be desired than life itself. Even so have the souls of children of God throughout all ages prayed earnestly for that freedom which truth alone can give, that liberty which lifts all burdens and brings the believer out into the day of the triumphant Son of God. In the verses preceding and following the words under consideration we find that those to whom Jesus was speaking did not all believe what he said: some did, others did not. None could believe Jesus then, none can believe him now, but those who have the witness of the Spirit within themselves. To some who heard him this witness was given, therefore they believed; to others it was not given, therefore they believed not. Belief, in order to be genuine, must be based on solidity, and that which affords the rock-bed foundation of belief is faith, and faith is a gift of God, the fruit of the Spirit. It takes the same power to bring about belief in the soul as it took to bring the body of Jesus out of the sepulchre. This same mighty power working in the children of God causes them to believe that Jesus is the Christ. That his people should know the truth, Jesus definitely promised. There were no doubts about this fact then, there are none now. The children of God “shall” know the truth. It is not that they “may” know it, it is not that their knowing it hinges upon any contingency which they themselves must bring about, but they “shall” know the truth. Jesus speaks with positiveness and with authority. To him was given power over all flesh that he should give eternal life to as many as the Father had given him. Thus, their knowing the truth depends not on the will of man, not on any conditions which the soul must fall in with in order to know the truth, but the certainty that the children of God shall know the truth, but the certainty that the children of God shall know the truth is of God entirely, his absolute sovereignty and eternal purpose bring about the performance of the promise made in and by Jesus Christ that all his children shall know the truth. They shall not be taught it of men, it shall not be handed down from one to another, nor from generation to generation, but all his elect shall know the truth from the least of them unto the greatest, for all shall be taught it of God. From this point which all God's people agree upon, we pass on to consider how and in what way the knowledge of the truth brings about freedom. First, what is truth? Pilate asked this question, and we may well ask it, too. Jesus himself answers this question in saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Therefore Christ Jesus is himself the truth. Whatsoever agrees not with him and in him is not truth, and must necessarily be false. If truth makes free, then Christ Jesus makes free, for Christ is truth and truth is Christ. We who are to-day living by the faith of the Son of God in this present day of grace and of the gospel dispensation can scarcely realize the capacity in which our spiritual forefathers were under the law in that age of Moses and of sin and death which was before the coming of Christ. All who walked by faith in that age from the time of Abel down to old Simeon were spirits in prison. Notwithstanding that the believed in God and looked for the coming of God's Lamb who should bear their sins away and purge them in his own blood, yet all of them died in faith, not receiving the fulfillment of the promise as we who live in this age have received it. The Holy Spirit in them moved them to testify beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and of the glory which should follow, but as to what or what manner of time the Spirit within them did signify none of them knew; and although they earnestly sought to know the meaning of the Spirit's work within them, yet to none of them was it ever revealed. The book was sealed up until the time of the end and none was found able to loose those seals and open the book until the Lion of the tribe of Judah came. Herein, therefore, was bondage, real soul captivity. That is why we call them “spirits in prison.” The church throughout all that period of time before Christ was a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. The coming of truth, Jesus, made an end of this captivity. The law of God found its fulfillment in Jesus, sin found its destruction; in him condemnation was done away. The doing away of these things brought freedom to the children of God. No more were they under law, but under grace; no more under obligation to offer sacrifices, or to rituals and ceremonies, or to keep feasts and holy days, for now was come the revelation of the truth in Jesus Christ whereby the children of God were liberated from the narrow structures of legalism and brought out into the infinite reality of the gospel wherein God is served and worshipped in Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Far better is it it know that we are living in one never ending Sabbath which Jesus has made and kept for us, and is making and keeping within each of us, than to feel that the sabbath is but one day in the week in which we must do no work or be condemned. Far better than bringing our turtle-doves and pigeons and lambs and kids to some carnal priest for an effectual atonement, is it to know that we have an eternal High Priest entered within the heavens who has made by himself one effectual offering for our sins which insures our never perishing. The things which Truth teaches us are so wonderful and life-giving that when we know them there is sure and abundant liberty from all the ineffectual works of the law which superstitiously were supposed to give life, but which really never did. The Jews commonly thought that they had eternal life in observing the Scriptures, but Jesus said they had not, that the law and the prophets testified of him. It was a false tradition or superstition that by doing the things contained in the law they might reap eternal life, and many among men even to-day are still superstitious about this very matter, still ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness. But superstitious is not confined to any one race or condition of men, for Paul told the Greeks at Athens that he perceived in all things they were too superstitious. The Athenians had erected magnificent edifices as dwellings of the gods, but Paul told them that the true and living God whom he worshipped did not dwell in temples made with hands, nor was he worshipped with men's hands as though he needed anything. The truth in Jesus Christ had been shown to Paul and so his soul was free from any such error as that God needs our weak ministrations, or that he is in any sense dependent upon the efforts of poor puny man, or upon any of his creatures.
Whoever commits sin, Jesus said, is the servant of sin. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, therefore is the Lord's free man. The child of God cannot offend against any law which has no jurisdiction over him. We were some time the servant of sin, because we were under the law of sin, but having been delivered through Jesus Christ from under the law of sin and condemnation this law is no longer over the redeemed of God, hence they cannot transgress it any more. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made believers free from the law of sin and death. Since the work of Jesus Christ cannot by us be undone, we cannot therefore commit sin as once we did, cannot longer live in it as our natural element, and have been made free from its condemnation, which is the wages of sin. This freedom from the service of sin is accomplished in the children of God through their being taught the truth. The entrance of the Word gives light, darkness is abolished, slavery ended, the captive freed. Truth makes an end of slavish fear. The fear of death, the dread of torment, horror of the consequences of sin; all these things enslave the soul. Naught but the truth in its purity can abolish such slavery as this. The thing we dread is the thing which enslaves us. To the extent we are afraid of anything, to that extent we are in bondage to that thing. Most of such fears arise from the fact that we are ignorant of the thing we are afraid of. Ignorance breeds terror. When, however, the revealing light of truth is turned upon the thing we fear, we then come to know that thing for what it really is and it no longer has power to terrify us. To the condemned sinner, conscience-stricken because of his sins, what horrors lurk in death and hell. Burdened with his load of guilt, he knows he is not fit to live nor yet fit to die; to his tortured soul his life from day to day is filled with anguish, his nights are woeful. When, however, the Sun of righteousness arises upon his sin-stricken soul with everlasting healing, then are the shades of night with all its terrors suddenly withdrawn and the soul is freed from fears and from annoying doubts. The light of the knowledge of the glory of God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ accomplishes in the soul that wonderful freedom which death nor hell nor sin can evermore destroy.
The truth of God is infinite even as God himself is infinite, and just as “finis” can never be written to any of the attributes of Deity, just so there is no end to truth. It is promised us that we shall know the truth, not the slightest uncertainty about that, the freedom which knowing the truth brings is our precious inheritance in Christ; but there is no end to it. The soul grows and keeps on growing in the knowledge of truth and of grace. We can never come to the place where we can say, This is the end of truth. It is like a river, ever flowing; never stopping or staying. We cannot set bounds to it nor confine it with narrow limits. To no one of us, nor to any one age or period of time, is the truth all revealed. Not for nothing do the Scriptures repeatedly speak of godly things being like rivers, or like flowing streams. Like rivers, these things of God are not static, but ever going on and on to infinity. There is a river, so says the prophet, the streams whereof make glad the city of God. This living and continual stream of eternal truth has gladdened the hearts of believers throughout all ages and has brought them that freedom from sin and from death, from snares and delusions, from all false traditions and doctrines of men. What need we care what the world believes so long as we have that secret which is given to all them who fear the Lord? Though the world is torn and rent with strife, though men search and delve for fame and honor, wealth and glory, why need these things worry us? Having meat to eat the world knows not of, let us possess our souls in peace. If the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing, let them do so and welcome. God in his rich and sovereign grace has brought us into his pavilion where safely he makes us abide. Under the covert of his wings, we are come to truth. They that trust in the Lord Jehovah are like Mt. Zion, they shall not be moved. What a wonderful blessing indeed is to have in our souls that steadying power of revealed truth whereby our souls remain ever true to the course marked out by the compass of divine faith, not drifting hither and yon at the beck and call of every varying wind of human doctrine, of vain philosophy and of science falsely so-called. Knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus lifts the soul up into a kind of aristocracy of the Spirit; or like an airship flying high aloft, carries us above the earth-deflected currents of the lower atmosphere, into the calm serenity of the vastness of eternal space. - L.
Elder H.H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Vol. 93, No. 10 – October, 1925