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John 8:31-47 Study Guide: The Truth Will Set You Free

Community Group Study Guide — The Truth Will Set You Free
John 8:31-47

Study Information:
Jesus makes one of his most famous statements from the Gospel of John, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set free.” Our modern world wants to interact with the idea of relative truth, absolute truth, post truth and alternative facts and we can pull out this statement as a “proof.” What Jesus pointed to though was more than just about relative vs absolute truth, he pointed to how all of reality centered on abiding with him. He was and is the truth from God and the Jews who heard him teach were offended that he’d suggest they were enslaved to sin because they were wrapped up in the Father of Lies. 

The Jews reacted to Jesus’ message that they were still in their sin and needed to be set free by saying “we’ve never been enslaved to anyone” (John 8:33). This is simply just not true and there is much irony in their statement because their history is one of being enslaved and needing to be set free. First, they were slaves in Egypt and set free by God to the promised land. Next, they were exiled and essentially enslaved in Assyria and Babylon and God preserved a remnant and brought them back home. At the time of this teaching from Jesus they were occupied by Rome. They may not have been technically enslaved, but they certainly were not politically free. Finally, Jesus’ main idea that they were enslaved to sin and death because of their legalism and religiosity (John 8:24). 

How could any objective person see the situation of the 1st century Jews and think they were free physically or spiritually? Jesus came to his people so they may receive him and be children of God and yet one of the threads of the gospel of John is their rejection of him (John 1:9-13). Jesus is the truth from God that sets his people free, will you receive him as truth or will you be enslaved to lies about God, your sin and the world?

Whoever Practices Sin is a Slave to Sin
John 8:31-38
You are either a slave to God or a slave to sin. We have a complicated history with the word “slave”, but we all serve someone or something whether we choose to our not. This was Jesus’ point in Matthew 6 and Paul’s point in Romans 6-7. Each of us was designed to be in relationship with God and he is a better master than any created thing or being enslaved to our own desires. To find freedom we must abide in Jesus’ word (John 8:31-32). Liberation from sin comes progressively as we learn and apply Jesus’ teaching. 

When we abide in Jesus’ word we are actually abiding with Jesus. He shares his relationship with the Father with his people. Yet at this point in time, even though it looked like this crowd believed (John 8:30) they did not really have God as their spiritual Father. Their belief was in something other than Jesus as the truth from God. We know that one of John’s arguments from chapter one is that people only become real children of God through receiving Jesus and the spiritual leaders of Israel continue to reject Jesus and not accept his word. 

Being a slave to sin makes us unable to love God, love our neighbor and obey God’s word. We need freedom. 

The Father of Lies
John 8:39-46
If God was not their father, then who was? What were they trusting in? 
They relied on their physical ancestry and spiritual heritage to find standing before God; however their actions continued to show that they were not fully faithful to God. It is possible to project a false image of who we really are by doing the right actions, but for the most part what we do reflects what we believe. Jesus challenged them to consider their actions. Instead of being like their physical ancestor and father Abraham, who received God’s word by faith, they were acting like the devil. They sought to kill Jesus and were wrapped up in lies. Some of Jesus’ harshest words come in this chapter as he calls them the children of the devil (John 8:44). The devil was a murder and a liar from the beginning. Jesus offers them truth that will set them free, but they’d rather be wrapped up in lies and find validation and standing in hollow things like being born in the right family and being part of the right religious group. Jesus offered something better. 

To abide in Jesus’ word is to be free from lies and to be free from slavery to sin and death. 

Freedom in Christ
John 8:47
In order to have a relationship with Jesus, we each need to be set free. “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.” Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil and to remove our sin from us so we can be reconciled to God. 

This passage should cause each of us to consider who our spiritual Father really is. Are we children of God or are we enslaved to our own desires and passions and ultimately children of the devil; people who are still stuck in the curse of Genesis 3. Struggling with sin does not automatically make us children of the devil, but we should consider if our hearts are hard, if we struggle to want to put in practice what Jesus taught and if our love for God has grown cold. If you’re a child of God, you can go to God like a Father and bring the observations of your heart to him and ask him to help you to abide in his word and find freedom from sin. We all serve someone or something, God is a better master because he is more than a boss, he is a Father. If you do not yet trust in Christ, this passage invites you to believe and receive Jesus who promises to be the truth that sets you free. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 8:31-38

What do you think is the link between freedom from slavery to sin and abiding in Jesus’ word? (John 8:31-32)

Why do you think Jesus points out how the actions of these Jews contradicted their declaration that God was  their father? 

Describe the character of the devil from these verses? How does that contrast with God’s character?

Imagine a Christian friend comes to you and tells you they’re struggling with sin and are questioning whether they really are a child of God. How would you counsel or encourage them from these verses?