Sunday, October 25, 2009

What is Truth? (John 18:38)

I would like to pursue the question posed above, and how it may be answered through the Bible. According to Oxford’s dictionary fourth edition, the word ‘truth’ is defined as, “#1 the state of being true; #2 (also the truth) that which is true; true facts. #3 a fact or belief that is accepted as true.

Strong’s Concordance renders the word ‘truth’ as, “stability, firmness or security, (moral) fidelity, or to build up or support, to foster (as a parent or nurse).” The word truth (not counting true, trustworthy, etc) is used 234 times in the Bible. The Lord Jesus Christ used the word in His conversations with the disciples and Jews 26 times. In the Old Testament, the word truth is frequently linked with God’s mercy, see Psalm 25:10, 57:3, 85:10, 86:15, 115:1; Proverbs 3:3, 16:6, 20:28 for examples. The apostle John was intensely interested in God’s truth, and that we might know it. He uses the word ‘truth’ in his three epistles (8 chapters total) 21 times. One of the main points of John’s epistles is so that believers may KNOW the truth. This is also the theme in John’s Gospel: “Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:31-32. “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name,” John 20:30-31.

Nothing God does is divorced from His truth. When He grants mercy, it must be in truth; it must be true mercy. When Jesus forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery, He forgave in mercy and truth. His mercy was this: “Neither do I condemn you.” His truth was this: “Go and sin no more,” John 8:11. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; there is nothing but condemnation for those who do not have God’s Son. Jesus said plainly, in truth, that if we do not have Him, we do not have the Father either.

John also says likewise: “He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son,” 2nd John 1:9. The basis for God’s objective truth is doctrine, this form of doctrine that has been delivered to us. There is no other appeal, and no other authority to turn to than the word of God, given by God to reveal His mind and will for faith and practice. There is no ‘authoritative church’ that can move against Scripture, or create or ordain things contrary to God’s command. Contrary to popular opinion, there can be no new ‘spiritual movement’ in the church that downplays doctrine for the sake of spiritual power and life. In the doctrine resides our power and spiritual life, because the Holy Spirit does nothing apart from the Bible, seeing as how He is its author, see 2nd Peter 1:21.

The title of this post is of course taken from Pontius Pilate’s famous rhetorical question to Jesus, “What is truth?” Pilate was a Roman, and hence had been inundated with Greek philosophy and pagan polytheism that was rooted far back in their culture. The Romans adopted and re-named the Greek gods, while great names the likes of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle re-shaped the way men looked at the meaning of life, and the afterlife. There was Platonic philosophy, Epicurean, Stoic, Sophism...the list is endless. Despite that, Jesus in fact answered Pilate’s question before it was even asked when He said, “For this cause was I born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth, hears My voice,” John 18:37.

If there is any doubt as to what Jesus meant at this point, He clarified earlier in John’s Gospel, stating, “I am…the truth,” John 14:6, as well as, “Sanctify them by Your (the Father’s) truth. Your word is truth,” John 17:17. The written word (the Bible) and Jesus, the living Word (John 1:1,14; Revelation 19:13) are joined in an inseparable union; if you remove the one, you have (ignorantly or knowingly) given up the other. Pilate wondered what truth was, all the while he was staring Truth in the face. The truth is that mankind is sinful, and lost in sin. The truth is that our sin has alienated us from God, and that if we remain alienated, we will go to Hell when we die, because we are in our sin. The truth is that nothing we can do will mend this broken relationship; we have rebelled against the King of the universe, and forfeited our rights to His Lordship.

The truth is that sin results in death, and so death has reigned in mankind since Adam. The truth is life dwells only with God; Jesus Christ is our life. He became a Man, and died on the cross to reconcile us to God, suffering the penalty we deserved by tasting death for every man who would ever live, being separated from the Father (in ways we will NEVER know!) those hours on the cross, so we could be reconciled. Sin was punished in Christ, and sin died with Him, for those who place their faith in Him alone as their Savior. The truth is, He came to give us life, and this life is Himself. We were dead, and He brought us to life; we were lost in sin and darkness, He found us and gave us light. We were dressed in the filth of our self-righteousness, He clothed us with white robes, which is a symbol of the righteousness found only in Him, and when we one day stand before the Father, we shall be so clothed, being found in Christ, having His life and dressed as His bride, we will be (and presently are when one exercises faith) ushered into the heavenly kingdom.

The truth is there is no other name under Heaven given among men whereby we MUST be saved, and therefore it is imperative to preach the gospel to the lost, or they shall remain lost, and inherit Hell as their final resting place. If what I say sounds harsh, then please consider the following: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life (because he has Christ; Christ is our life); and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of abides on him,” John 3:36. "If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins,” John 8:24. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned,” Mark 16:16. One of those passages was spoken by John the Baptist; the latter two by our Lord Himself. Here is the truth, and the offense of the cross which Jesus said would result from preaching the gospel. Many would stumble over the message of the cross, because it is foolishness to those who are perishing, 1st Corinthians 1:18.

The truth is, without the inspired, recorded oracles of God, and the revelation (or appearing) of Jesus Christ, there would be no salvation; no one would enter Heaven. Why? Natural revelation does not reveal the nature and Person of our triune God. God says that the world in its wisdom did not know Him, and all that we may know of God through the natural creation is His power and deity (or Godhead), 1st Corinthians 1:21; Romans 1:20.

God wants us to know Him, and also to know that there are frauds in this world that attempt to pass themselves off as “god.” In Isaiah chapter 45 God calls Himself the God of Israel (verse 3) and the Holy One of Israel (verse 11), telling us something about Him. This concurs with Jesus’ statement that salvation is of the Jews, John 4:22. God’s revelation of Himself came to the Jewish prophets of old. Listen to how else God describes Himself and defends His character before apostate Israel: “I did not say to the seed of Jacob (Israel), ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right…the nations…pray to a god[s] that cannot save…There is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me…Look to ME and be saved, all you ends of the earth (all nations, all people)! For I am God, and there is no other…all shall be ashamed who are incensed against Him (at God’s ‘narrow-mindedness’),” Isaiah 45:19-22,24.

We would indeed seek God in vain if every religion had valid revelations concerning God, since not one agrees. Is God confused, or a liar, or schizophrenic? I say this with utmost reverence, because I do not believe any of those statements. God is a God of order, and desires all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, 1st Timothy 2:4. Obviously this is impossible without intimately knowing the Savior; both who He is, and who He is not.

God chose the vehicle of the written language, and especially the Hebrew and Greek languages to speak into His world the message of the Gospel, and the revelation of all we need for life and godliness. The truth is, that had we no word from God, then we would not have known of the Savior, that faith in Him and His redemptive work alone saves, and that we needed saving since we are sinners by birth and choice, having no spiritual life in us and no valid or legal claim to God’s care, having forfeit it. Where in the natural order would that have been deduced? Faith comes by hearing (note it is not seeing, or feeling, or experiencing, but hearing), and hearing by the word of God, Romans 10:17.

What of all the other religions of the world? Are those not inspired words from the same God? Are not all religions and their affiliated books and teachings valid wisdom from the God who inspired the Bible? Are they not similar teachings leading to the same destination? Or, are they cunning forgeries, manufactured by the wisdom of men or the malice of demons to mislead those who have not the love of the truth? Like counterfeit money, false religions can pass for the genuine article in the eyes of those untrained in how to spot them, which is why all Christians should spend ample time in the word, and in prayer to God that He might disclose the truth of His word, so we are not blown about by every wind of doctrine. The apostles warned false teachings would come, and that many were already present.

Believers are to become so familiar, so well read, so enamored with the Bible, that it may be held up to all other teachings to expose them for the frauds that they are, spiritual deceptions that will only lead their adherents to eternal fire. Jesus claimed to be the only way to the Father and Heaven. His death on the cross proved the need of His sacrifice for our sins, despite the fact that He prayed there would be another way to redeem mankind. But there was none, and the Son had to become sin for us, and was punished by the Father, so we might be reconciled to Him. If Christ had to die, and suffer that penalty on our behalf, rest assured there is no other way outside of Jesus Christ that will bring anyone to Heaven.

His mandate to make disciples of all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit likewise would have been pointless in meaning, if all religions were a valid approach to God; the devotees of opposing religions would be saved at any rate, why bother them? Jesus commanded they be ‘bothered’ because their religions would only bring them to Hell, since God’s wrath was abiding on them, and the new and living way had now been opened for all the world. The invitation was (and currently is) to whosoever desires, let him take the water of life freely, Revelation 22:17. The only requisite is that you thirst. You must believe that God is, and is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Truth is not subjective, though today’s culture accepts subjectivity, most times without any serious thought on why they accept it. Truth is objective, it exists outside our person and is not subject to be molded and twisted to our fancy or desire. It is not a notion of ‘what works best for you, that is truth.’ No, that’s opinion and conceit. We read about the man who blesses himself in his heart, saying, “I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart,” Deuteronomy 29:19. This is man’s desire, to be right because he WANTS to be right; and for no other reason.

Yet God says of the heart whose dictates we opt to follow: “[It] it deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9. Concrete truth stands apart from conformity, and would exist as truth even if no one on earth believed it any longer, which sadly is slowly becoming the case, especially in America. I have encountered too many times the, “I believe what I believe, so don’t try to tell me anything” mentality among people I know. But if what you believe is wrong, shouldn’t someone who knows that be kind and caring enough to reveal that to you? If you sincerely believe that 1 + 1 = 6, and were frustrated that your answer was always wrong, would you manifest animosity toward the teacher that tried to correct you?

The teacher is in that position to teach, that is what they have been trained for. Likewise, God has raised up Christians to speak truth; He has given it to us, and saved us from eternal separation in His condescending love. Truth, genuine truth, is taught in one form or another. It does not just manifest magically, nor is it something you decide one day in your musings; like suddenly deciding that because it seems right to you, London is now a city in Italy. Is that the truth? London is still in England, no matter how much you want to be right.

The truth is, that is why God deigned to give us the Bible over the course of time. He wanted us to know the truth, and believe the truth, and be saved by the truth. Eternal matters weigh far heavier than temporal issues, if one was at all honest; can you really believe that things which shall endure forever are not governed by absolutes? Our world of change and time has absolutes that simply are, and no one attempts to rescind them. How ludicrous to think God’s kingdom, which He established and reigns over, is not likewise governed, with moral and spiritual absolutes that exist in truth apart from our say. “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in Heaven,” Psalm 119:89.

What is truth? Truth is God’s medium; it is the only way in which He communicates and operates. He is the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shadow of turning, James 1:17. This strongly suggests, even plainly states, that God does not change. The Bible says as much, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8. More so, God is truth, just as He is love, 1st John 4:8. On what grounds do I state this? Simple, “Jesus said, “I am the truth,” John 14:6. Jesus is God, and Jesus IS the truth; therefore God is the truth. Contrary religions, which portray God in a light not revealed by His Spirit through His prophets and apostles, are not truthful, therefore they are not of God.

How many books, how many times, must God speak to a fallen world to achieve His purpose of revealing the means of salvation? “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it,” Isaiah 55:11. When a warranty is void, it is no longer useful for redeeming an item that is broken. God’s warranty, so to speak, never expires while we live; the door of mercy is always open. But we must come in truth, what has been revealed about us, our condition, God’s remedy, and our need of applying it for eternal life.

A smorgasbord of religions smattered across the globe speaks of confusion and continual rebellion against God’s revealed word. Which one can be right? Logically and entirely honestly, how can any thinking person suggest they are all right, when they do extreme violence in their contradictions of one another? It isn’t possible, so I will not dress this post in a veil of political correctness. As the prophet Isaiah recorded, God has sent forth His word into the world, and it shall not return to Him void. “He (the Word, Jesus Christ) was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right (authority) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name,” John 1:10-12.

The Bible is either truth, singular truth revealed by the true God of Heaven and earth, or it is a vicious fabrication and a lie, none of it to be believed. It is not one way of many, for it boldly claims to be the only way, with every other claimant being a fraud of man’s deceit or demonic origin. If my post has been received as harsh, it was not my intent, but soft words seem to be trampled over in today’s culture. I speak the truth in love, but if I must shout with the trumpet to be heard at all, then so be it, and I pray that anyone who reads this post may understand, and be given enlightenment to know the truth. It is something objective and separate from our creation, it is something taught, not inherently known or prone to variation.

It is immutable as God Himself, since He in fact is the truth. “Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man (Jesus Christ) is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things which you could not be justified by the law of Moses,” Acts 13:38-39. We are truly morally guilty before a holy God. We are, in truth, sinners. What will we do about it? John gives this inspired advice: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” 1st John 5:20-21. May we be given the strength to walk in such a manner. Amen.

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"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," 2nd Timothy 3:16.

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All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.