John 8:31, 32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The context in which a scripture is set is frequently very important to both the understanding of the verse and its application. Unfortunately Christians and people in general have a tendency at times to over look this fact. A good illustration of this point is Ps 14:1, which contains the statement, “There is no God.” But the context makes a world of difference. The entire verse reads, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”
This importance of context really applies to today’s verses. The portion that is so frequently quoted is the 32nd verse, “…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” It’s usually presented as a Biblical promise that one is set free simply by hearing or recognizing the truth. But a closer examination reveals that the context has a very important qualifier in verse 31.
This promise is part of an “If… Then…” situation. If the first condition is true, then the benefit or desired result will follow. If the first condition is NOT true, then it typically won’t. The full context presents the two components of what Jesus is saying: 1) IF you hold to my teaching…2) THEN you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
The context provides a lot of clarity. Jesus is also defining what is required to be a disciple, who then can be the recipient of the promise. It’s not just a matter of acknowledging Him as Lord. A disciple is one who holds fast to His teachings and lives in accordance with them. The promise specifically applies to that individual who is a disciple.