Then Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him,
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?’”
I doubt that Pilate was being sarcastic when he muttered his question at Jesus. It was an exasperating moment for the Roman procurator. He knew Jesus was innocent, but he couldn’t find a way to get the Jewish mob to agree that Jesus should be released. Pilate was trapped, and at that moment, he probably was sincere in his longing to know what “truth” really was.
We could answer Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”, simply by referring to Jesus’ description of it. Jesus said that the truth makes you free; therefore, whatever makes you free is the truth. The truth, whatever it is, is powerful enough to set sinners free from sin, set the confused free from their ignorance, and set the fearful free from fear.
Pilate needed to be set free from fear of displeasing the angry, evil mob that confronted him; he needed to be set free from fear to do with Jesus what he knew was just; that is, to release him. The love of God would have given Pilate the strength he needed to treat his innocent prisoner justly. Had he possessed the love of God within, Pilate could not have harmed God’s Son. That liberating love of God, Paul said, “is shed abroad in our hearts by the holy Spirit which God has given to us” (Rom. 5:5). So then, for Pilate, God’s love was the truth he needed in his heart, but didn’t have.
Because the holy Spirit sets men free from evil influences, such as the wicked demands which this world makes of us all, John called the Spirit itself “the truth” (1Jn. 5:6). The Spirit will give you whatever truth you need to be set free from whatever binds you. Jesus said that every truth would come by the Spirit (Jn. 16:13), which is to say, all liberty is found by following after the Spirit. Knowing this, Paul wrote, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Cor. 3:17). We might add to that, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is not, there is bondage.”
If the Spirit which makes us free is what leads us into all truth, as Jesus said, and liberty is found only where the Spirit of the Lord is, as Paul said, then we cannot be mistaken to say that those without the Spirit are still in bondage and are without the truth. This is certainly what Paul taught. He said that those without the Spirit of God were “none of His” (Rom. 8:9).
This message of the necessity of the holy Spirit is not given to condemn, but to enlighten and to liberate. If you have been taught that your sins are washed away, but you have not yet received the baptism of the holy Spirit, you need to be liberated from false teaching. The Spirit alone will do that, and when you receive the baptism of the Spirit, you will understand what I mean because your heart will be liberated from the influence of those who, too, need to be liberated from a wrong idea about the way of salvation.