When Jesus spoke these words, the Jews replied immediately: “We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man.” (John 8:33) These were strange words coming from the Jews. How could they say such a thing? For four hundred and thirty years they had been slaves in Egypt, for seventy years they had been captives in Babylon, and at that very moment they were under the dominion of the kingdom of Rome. So why did the Jews make such a boastful and untrue statement?
The answer is to be found in their words, “We be Abraham’s seed.” In these words we find the very foundation of the Jewish blindness. God had promised to bless Abraham and his seed forever, and the Jews were absolutely convinced that because of this promise they would be a sacred people, special and peculiar to God forever. They did not realize that this would only be true if they remained faithful to God and were obedient to His Word. They felt that they would never, ever, under any circumstances, be cast off or rejected by God, no matter how disobedient and unfaithful they were. So blinded were they by this false idea, that it led them to even deny the fact that they were in bondage at that very moment.
Therefore, the words of Jesus, “Ye shall know the truth,” annoyed the Jews. Here He was, suggesting that they did not know the truth, yet they were Abraham’s seed! They believed they were the chosen people of God, belonging to the true church, and they could prove it. They could trace the history of their nation in an unbroken line, right back to Abraham who had been the friend of God. God Himself had given them many, many, promises that they misinterpreted to mean that He would never cast them off. (See Jeremiah 31:35-37.) He had even delivered to them, by His own mouth and by His own hand, His sacred laws. At that very moment, while Jesus was speaking to them, the Jews who heard these words were standing in the great temple, raised up by them to the honor and glory of God. If ever there was a people who had the truth, it was the Jews, and yet, here was Jesus suggesting that they did not know the truth, and that they were in bondage. The very suggestion filled them with anger.
But did the Jews really know the truth? What is “the truth?” Is it a set of carefully guarded doctrines? Is it the knowledge of God’s ceremonies and laws? Is it something which can be locked up within the walls of a certain church? In a general sense, when we talk about truth, we mean that which is not false. We mean that which tells us the reality about things. However, Jesus was talking about truth in a particular context. He was speaking about that truth which will enable us to achieve the whole goal and purpose of God’s plan for our lives; that truth which will enable us to become fully what God wants us to be. In the context of Christ’s discussion what, in fact, is the truth?
Well, according to Jesus, truth sets men free. Free from what? Jesus went on to say, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.… If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:34, 36)
God’s truth sets men free from sin! No matter what theories we believe, no matter what religious group we belong to, as long as we continue to commit sin it means that we do not know God’s truth. To know God’s truth is more than to have an intellectual knowledge of truth. It is an experience that we have with “the truth” that sets us free from sin. Whoever commits sin is in bondage. He does not know the truth! For hundreds of years the Jews had faithfully carried out their religious services; they had studied the laws and the sacred writings; they had jealously guarded against those who tried to change their faith but, despite all this, they did not know the truth, as demonstrated by the fact that they had not been set free from sin! They had never come to know the truth because God’s truth is not found in mere doctrine; truth is a person and that person is Jesus Christ. To know the truth is to have an intimate relationship and interaction with Jesus Christ, so fully that He lives His righteous life within us. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Jesus is the Truth
“Jesus saith unto [Thomas], I am the way, the truth and the life. ” (John 14:6)
The Jewish religion was not the truth, and it had never been the truth. Jesus had only intended that it should be a means by which they could come to know Him, because He, and He alone, is the truth. The Jews had missed the mark completely. They had come to believe that the system itself was truth, therefore they believed that by being a part of the system they had the truth! They naturally came to the place where they worshiped the system and they considered it the greatest heresy for somebody to speak against the system as Jesus did.
This, then, was the problem that the Jews had. They were so secure with what they had, so sure that they had the truth, that they saw no need of anything else. In their eyes, they were “rich, and increased with goods, and [had] need of nothing.” (Revelation 3:17) The system had blinded their eyes and, therefore, they could not see Jesus. The choice that faced them was: Jesus or the system? They could not be loyal to both because the system had taken the place of God. In order to take His rightful place in the hearts of people, it was necessary for Jesus to first destroy the reverence which they had for “the church.” But the leaders of the Jews recognized what Jesus was doing and so, to save “the church,” they crucified Jesus. In their zeal to preserve “the truth,” they murdered the Truth! (See John 11:49, 50)
Is it any different today?
Jesus is still the Truth. No system, no organization, no church can set men free. Yet, the great majority of those who claim to be Christians have diligently followed in the footsteps of the Jews. They worship their churches. They regard these systems as the sources of light and truth and they fiercely attack those who dare to criticize, or those who have truly found “the truth.”
But what is your hope of salvation? Is it the fact that you were baptized into a certain church? Is it because you have accepted the fundamental beliefs of an organization? Is it because you carefully observe the commandments as taught by your church? This is the position of millions of people today. They were made to believe that when they joined their church they were saved. They were told, “Our church has the truth. We are the true church.” And yet, although these people claim to know and to have the truth, they tell a lie because they are not free from sin!
Can your church take away your sins? Was it a set of doctrines that hung, bleeding on the cross for you? Is it a denomination that loves you with a love, stronger than death? No! It was Jesus, a living, thinking, feeling person. Therefore, the reality of Christianity is to know Jesus; no more, no less. You owe no loyalty to any human organization; do not follow them. But you owe your all to Jesus. Follow Him.
Over and over, God has sent holy men to the churches with messages to turn the eyes of the people to Jesus, and every time Jesus is lifted up, these modern-day towers of Babel (man’s systems) are torn down. So the religious systems have never allowed, and will never allow, Jesus to be the ruler of the people. They have crucified Him again and again, as they have cast out, slandered and destroyed His servants.
Every time men have come to know Jesus, there has been a breaking away from the religious systems, as happened at Pentecost and during the Protestant Reformation. Each time there was also great persecution of the true Christians, by the religious organizations, as the leaders saw that the systems which they worshiped were in danger of falling.
Today, it is no different. When men come to know Jesus, there will be freedom and they will find the power to overcome weakness, temptation and sin. Without a blind loyalty to a denomination or religious group, people will understand the Word of God without prejudice or bias, and they will have the ability to be free from falsehood.
But the churches will unite to persecute and destroy those who dare to be different—who dare to worship in a different way. Once again, as in the past, the established churches will view the work of Christ as a threat; as something which is dangerous, and they will rise up to persecute and to crush those who are determined to follow Christ alone, in the way of truth. Jesus testified that this is how the last great persecution will come against God’s true people. (See John 16:2.)
Friend, are you still enslaved or have you been set free? Your church cannot set you free; your doctrines cannot set you free. In fact, these may be the greatest obstacles to your freedom. There is one way, and only one way to salvation:
“Ye shall know the Truth [Jesus] and the Truth shall make you free. ” (John 8:32)
“This is life eternal; that they may know Thee, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. ” (John 17:3)
Do you believe that this is an unimportant matter? God’s Word tells us that in the last days people would not endure sound doctrine, but that they would find teachers for themselves who have “itching ears,” and they would turn their ears away from the truth and would believe fables. (2 Timothy 4:3, 4) God’s sure Word is, that because they did not love the Truth He would leave them to receive strong delusion that they should believe a lie, and the end result is that “they all might be damned who believed not the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12) My friend, the churches are full of false teachers; men who are only in the ministry to make a living—people who are seeking profit, who are paid to do their job. These men must teach what they are told to teach. They dare not teach the Bible as it reads, or it would cost them their jobs. You know in your heart that this is the truth. The bottom line, my friend, is that in most religions it is a matter of money. Can you afford to sacrifice your soul for another man’s profit? Can you afford to lose eternal life because another man was securing his paycheck or his prestige, power and pride?
My friend, God wants you to be free. He is speaking to you now, through this paper. The whole world is in bondage, but do you want to be free? Do you wish to escape the great delusion which has blinded the world? Then please follow Christ and turn away from man-made systems, which only exist to glorify themselves. Turn to the Lord with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13) Make it the business of your life to spend much time in talking with God alone. Find a quiet place where you can reason with Him often. Open your whole life to Him and let Him take control. Develop the habit of communing with Him wherever you are and whatever the situation you may be in. Take the Bible as your only source of instruction. Feed upon it continually and ask the Lord to wash your mind clean from the empty traditions of men and their denominations.
My friend, this is life. This is your life. Eternity is too important for you to treat it lightly. May God set us free from men’s systems that we may be able to find the real life and truth of God in Jesus Christ.
(This article was taken from a tract, written by David Clayton entitled, “The Truth.” This tract is available online at www.presenttruth.info. You may request printed copies by contacting David Clayton at PO Box 23, Knockpatrick, Manchester, Jamaica, West Indies. You can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call him at (876) 904-7392. Editor)