by Steven Chan
Does truth matter at all? Can we know the truth at all? Can we be certain that we know the truth? Aren’t there more important matters than truth?
In John 18:36-38, Pilate asked Jesus: “What have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was 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.” 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.”
Jesus declared before Pilate that it was for this purpose that He had come into the world: “to bear witness to the truth”. Like many today, Pontius Pilate scoffed at the subject of “truth” when he said to Jesus: “what is truth?” In other words, why bother about “truth”? To Pilate, it was irrelevant or a wasteful effort to consider the matter of “truth”. That’s why Pilate did not pursue the matter of truth with Jesus.
But to Jesus, truth was why He came into the world. At the beginning of the gospel account by John, he declared: “For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:17-18)
Jesus came to reveal the truth about God and His Grace towards all men. The apostle Paul wrote thus in Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
The truth about God and His grace brings salvation to all who believe and obey the truth, and who choose to live holy lives in accordance with the truth revealed by Jesus. They believe the truth about the hope of salvation that will be realized at the ‘appearing’ or ‘second coming’ of Jesus (2 Tim 4:8; Heb 9:28).
The tragic thing is that people choose not to believe the truth; they’d rather believe a lie: “they exchanged the truth of God for the lie” (Rom 1:25). “They will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim 4:4).
Satan deceived Eve by challenging the truth of God’s word about the consequence of eating the forbidden fruit with a lie: “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4). Eve was told by God not to touch or eat that forbidden truth. The truth was not difficult to understand. But Eve chose to believe the lie when Satan provided a different reason why God prohibited her from eating that forbidden fruit. The problem was not because she couldn’t understand the truth of God’s word. Paul explained that “they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” When one does love the truth of God’s word and want to have pleasure in unrighteousness, one is ready to believe a lie!
Some today have rejected the truth of God’s word about marriage and divorce as stated in Matt 5:32 and 19:9 (and in other passages of scriptures) where Jesus stated that one (whose spouse is not dead as per 1 Cor 7:39 & Rom 7:2-3) may not remarry except for only one ground, i.e. if one has divorced the spouse because of adultery. They now prefer to believe the lie that it is okay to divorce for whatever reason and still be permitted to remarry without sinning against God! Some have even ventured further to propagate the lie that it is okay to marry more than one wife today. They do not have the love of the truth; they desire the pleasure of unrighteousness. So, they prefer to believe the lie. Of course, they will deny the latter. They will say that the truth is not as it may appear. One must consider the historical background of those passages and take into account the then prevailing cultural practices. One also must consider the higher truth about ‘forgiveness’ and the importance of ‘spiritual values’ rather than ‘physical’ relationships, etc.…
Is truth important? Listen to Jesus: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32) One can only know the truth when one abides in the word of Jesus. The truth as revealed by Jesus will then set man free from sin (forgiveness of past sins and avoidance of sins in the future – Acts 2:38; Psa 119:11; I John 1:6-2:2). One is set free from the slavery of sin when one “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Rom 6:17) by dying to sin and being raised to walk in newness of life when one is baptized (Rom 6:3-7). That’s the truth about freedom from the slavery of sin. The lie weaved by Satan is that baptism is not essential for one’s salvation. Those who prefer to go the “broad and easy” way along with the multitude, would believe the lie (Matt 7:13-14)
What is truth? God’s word is truth: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Truth is not some nebulous esoteric stuff. Truth is just simply and plainly what God says. God does not lie. So, what He says is the truth. So we need to believe what God says and do what He says.
The bible says: “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4) Knowledge of the truth will enable us to be saved.
God expects all to come to the knowledge of the truth so as to be saved. Yet, many so-called bible scholars are telling us not to waste our time figuring out the truth as it is impossible to know the truth or it is confusing to try to know the truth; it will not unite us – it will divide us; just practice love – that’s sufficient!
Yet God’s Word still says:
- Our worship is not acceptable unless it is in “spirit” and in “truth” (i.e. in accordance with God’s word, the truth) (John 4:24; 17:17)
- The Holy Spirit was sent to reveal the truth: “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13)
- The word of truth is the gospel of our salvation (Eph 1:13; Col 1:5)
- The teachings of the apostles are in truth, the word of God (1 Thess 2:13)
- Some “have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some.” (2 Tim 2:18)
- Some who are lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7)
- Some need to be rebuked to “be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth”.(Titus 1:14)
- “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth” (James 1:18)
- We “purified our souls in obeying the truth” (1 Pet 1:22)
- Those who wander from the truth are heading towards death and need to be turned back: “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”(James 5:19-20)
What is our attitude towards the truth of God’s Word? Do we love the truth of God’s word? Will we resolve to spend much time and effort to study the word of God so that we will know the truth and walk in the truth? The Bible says in 2 Tim 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”.