Attitudes Toward The Truth (6)
Morris W. R. Bailey
I Having discussed in preceding articles, a number of unfavorable attitudes toward the truth, in this, the concluding article, of this series, I propose to discuss briefly
The Proper Attitude
There is but one proper attitude toward truth which will make us receptive to the truth, and that is love for the truth. When Paul, in 2 Thess. 2:10-12, ascribed the unbelief of some, in the fact that they had not received the love of the truth, there is implied therein the suggestion that those who had believed the truth (v. 13) did so because of love for the truth. In fact, the nature of the truth of the gospel is such that it can be received only by those who are favorably disposed toward it.
In speaking of a proper attitude toward the truth, Solomon stated it this way, "Buy the truth and sell it not; Yea, wisdom, and instruction, and understanding" (Prov. 23:23). Which means that one will prize the truth so highly that he will make every effort to acquire it, regardless of the cost; and, having found it, he will not part with it regardless of what price may be offered:
A proper attitude toward the truth may be learned from the parable of "The Pearl Of Great Price." Jesus said, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a merchant seeking goodly pearls: and having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Matt. 13:45, 46). Since the kingdom of heaven is founded on truth and its citizens are those who receive the truth (John 18:37), it does no injustice to this parable when it is used to teach a proper attitude toward the truth. That being granted, I therefore submit the following observations:
1. The merchant of the parable was "seeking." He was motivated by a dominant purpose; he was not just out "window shopping," nor was he an impulse buyer. He was in search of something - goodly pearls. If we are going to find the truth, it will not be through any halfhearted effort, nor will it be found in such generalizations as "getting religion," or "joining the church." It will be the result of a diligent search for the truth. It does not come to us by accident.
2. The merchant of the parable knew what he wanted. He was seeking goodly pearls. He was obviously, then, a judge of values, for the pearl was one of the most valuable gems of that day. He was thus not to be fobbed off with some inferior gem, nor with a cheap imitation, nor even with a pearl of small value. When we realize that only the truth will make us free from the bondage of sin (John 8:32) and save us from the guilt of sin (2 Thess. 2:13), the honest seeker after truth will be satisfied with nothing else. He will be able to distinguish between truth and error. (1 John 4: 1-6)
3. The merchant did not find the long-sought-after pearl in some bargain basement. What the exact price of the pearl was, we do not know, except that Jesus said it was great. It cost him all that he had. Nor is the truth cheap. Something of its superlative value can be judged by the fact that Jesus came to earth to bring it (John 1:17; 18:37). The apostles fought to preserve it from the assaults of false teachers (Gal. 2:5). They suffered persecution that it might be preached (Acts 4:1, 2).
4. When the merchant found the pearl for which he had been seeking, there was no haggling over the price. Regardless of the fact that the price was great, he immediately took steps to acquire it, even though it meant extreme sacrifice. He went and sold all that he had in order to buy the pearl. And when one is seeking with the same determination for the truth, he will find that the price is great. It will mean the abandonment of previous false doctrine that has been tenaciously held; for there can be no compatibility between truth and error (1 John 2:21). It may cost him the good will of former associates. Witness the things that Paul suffered for the truth at the hands of his own people, the Jews. (Acts 17:5, 13; 20:19). It may even cost one his family ties (Matt. 10:34-37).
Some Examples Of Love For The Truth
In the New Testament, particularly in the book of Acts, we find some outstanding examples of people who displayed an attitude that made them receptive to the truth when it was presented to them.
The Ethiopian Eunuch
The story of the Ethiopian Eunuch is related in the eighth chapter of Acts. He held a responsible position as a cabinet minister to the queen of Ethiopia being in charge of her treasury. His concern for spiritual matters is seen in the fact that despite the demands of his position, he had made a journey of about a thousand miles to Jerusalem, not for a vacation nor to visit friends, but for the specific purpose of worshiping God. True, the requirement to worship at Jerusalem was no longer binding (John 4:21), but he was worshiping according to the light that he then had. His godly character is further seen in the fact that on his return journey he was reading, not some light fiction nor the stock market quotations, but the scriptures, in this case what we know as the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. His desire to know the truth is further seen in the fact that he wanted to know the meaning of a portion of the scripture that puzzled him. Was the prophet speaking of himself, or of some other (v. 34)? His quest for the truth was answered when Philip, "beginning from this scripture, preached unto him Jesus" (v. 35).
Another fine example of a receptive attitude toward the truth is seen in the conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion. His godly character is evident from the fact that the writer of Acts described him as "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, who gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always" (Acts 10:2). Yet despite such fine qualities he was still unsaved. That is evident from the fact that he was instructed by an angel to send to Joppa for Peter, "who shall speak unto thee words whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house" (Acts 11:14).
While awaiting the arrival of Peter, Cornelius had called together his kinsmen and his near friends. The purpose of their coming together was stated in the words of Cornelius: ". . . now therefore we are all here present in the sight of God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of the Lord" (Acts 10:33). Such a receptive attitude toward the truth is certain to be rewarded (John. 7:17). And it was. That very day Cornelius and his household learned the truth, by which they were made free (John 8:32).
After having been driven out of Thessalonica by unbelieving Jews, Paul came to Berea and, as his custom was, went into the Synagogue of the Jews to preach. Of the Bereans, the inspired writer said, "Now these were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).
In this brief account, two praiseworthy characteristics on the part of the Bereans are displayed. (1) Unlike the Jews of Thessalonica, they allowed Paul to preach, and gave him an attentive hearing. (2) They wanted to be certain that what Paul taught was the truth. They may have had some experience with false teachers, and may well have heard some of the false Christ's that Jesus foretold would come in his name (Matt. 24:5). They wanted to be certain that the Christ whom Paul preached was the Christ foretold by the prophets. To that end they searched the scriptures daily to see if the things spoken by Paul were so. Such a receptive attitude toward the truth, and nothing but the truth is worthy of our imitation. May God help us all to be like Bereans.
What was true of the characters mentioned above is just as true today. If men, with singleness of purpose, seek the truth with the same persistence, they will find the truth. One example comes to my mind.
Some thirty years ago I was preaching on a daily radio program from Moose Jaw. I received several letters from listeners. Some were complimentary. Others were critical. But one letter came from a man in Medicine Hat, Alberta. The teaching I was doing struck a responsive chord in him. When he later obeyed the gospel, he made the remark, "This is what I have been seeking for, for some years." He sought the truth and he found it. May his tribe increase!
Truth Magazine XXIV: 11, pp. 182-183