By Cecil Willis
“To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, ‘What is truth?’ ” (Jn. 18:37, 38). Thus the skeptical Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?” and, as he asked, he asked the question for all humanity.
For centuries man has tried of himself to find the solution to the question, “What is truth?” All the efforts that have been made to answer the question have served only one purpose and that is to show the futility of man’s trying to decide what truth is separate from the Word of God. During the many years of man’s seeking, many answers have been given. Among these answers some have been simple and understandable, but inadequate, and others have been so complex that one cannot understand just what is meant by the author.
One of the great problems which philosophy seeks to answer is the problem of truth. The philosophers seek to give a definition of truth. While these definitions might be correct, none of them can be as full and complete as the one given by our Lord in the New Testament. Philosophically truth is defined as Horizontal self-consistency and vertically fitting the facts (Carnell, An Introduction to Christian Apologetics, Chapter on the Problem of Truth). This is a good example of the complexity of the philosopher’s definition. It simply means that before a proposition can be accounted as truth it must be consistent with itself, not self contradictory, and must fit the facts of reality as they are found, but this is too complex for practical use. Others define truth simply as knowledge, but all are incomplete.
It is hard for one to realize the error into which the world had fallen before the coming of Christ because they had no proper knowledge of truth. Idolatry raged rampant. Women were considered nothing more than the toy or tool of man. Men were made beasts of burden by the common practice of slavery.
Truth Came By Christ
In view of this, it is not difficult to imagine why Pilate and the Jews were skeptical concerning Christ’s statement that he had come to bear witness of the truth. Throughout the past fifteen-hundred years the Jews had continued to receive revelation through the Law of Moses, but this law could not adequately answer the question, “What is truth?” Of course, the things contained in the law were true, but much more was implied in the question than formal truth. John, the Baptist, implied the failure of the law of Moses to fulfill all that was expected of the “truth” when he said, “the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17). While here we see the inadequacy of the law to answer the question, we do see when to expect the truth, for John said, `”. . . truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17).
It is affirmed that in some way Jesus Christ was the very embodiment of truth, and that in him we could look for truth. Jesus asserted that “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6). Jesus Christ is the standard of all truth. Being in the “express image” of God (Heb. 1:3; Phil. 2:5-8) Jesus Christ then was as perfect as God, and thus could properly be accounted a standard in all that he said and did. By virtue of the fact that God was the standard of truth, and Christ was God in flesh, then he could properly say I am “the truth” and thus could answer the question of Pilate. When Christ issued a decree such as “Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness,” it then was wrong to violate these rules for in Christ was truth. If men would but follow Christ’s standards of morality, wars would cease, evil would be overcome with good, and God would reign in the lives of men.
Thy Word Is Truth
While Christ was on earth the “truth” was on earth, but it had been God’s intentions from the beginning of time that Christ had a particular mission to perform here and then he was to return to heaven. When Christ had done his work here and had lived the life of truth, then he returned to His Father. But what about mankind? With Christ, the truth, gone, was man going to be left once more to grope about in the darknesses of error? God in his infinite wisdom had made provision for man. While Christ was yet on the earth he began preparing man for the time when he should go away. In Jn. 16:7 he said, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I go, I will send him unto you.”
But how was it that the wonderful life of truth which was seen in Christ was to be made known in order that it might be repeated from generation to generation? We find the answer given in Christ’s own words near the time of his ascension. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth; for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (Jn. 16:13). By the guidance of the Spirit of truth, the minds of men were to be guided into the writing of the things that Christ had spoken. “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you” (Jn. 14:26). As these men infallibly recorded the events and remarks in the life of Christ, the life of truth, they then produced the Book of Truth, the Bible. Thus Jesus while yet on earth prayed unto God in behalf of his disciples: “Sanctify them.in truth, thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Paul reiterated this great thought in 2 Tim. 3:16, 17, when he said: “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is, in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” We see how the generations that follow the period of Christ’s life are to have made known unto them the truth, as we see the Spirit of Truth recorded the Life of Truth in the Eternal Book of Truth, the Bible.
Our Attitude Toward Truth
We see then that we have the answer to the question, “What is truth” in the word of God as Christ said “thy word is truth.” It is possible for each one of us, through persistent study and fervent prayer, to learn what is truth. Seeing that we do have the truth in the word of God, what should be our attitude toward it?
First of all let us note that our attitude should not be one of anger toward him who brings us the truth. If one should speak to us the word of God properly and we become angry with him, it is equal to becoming angry with God because God’s word is truth and he has only spoken the word of God to us. Christ said of the Jews: “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I heard from God” (Jn. 8:40). Paul stated further, “So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth” (Gal: 4:16). We should appreciate the assistance of those who are willing to take the word of truth and assist us in our study of it, rather than becoming angry with them.
Our attitude toward the truth should be one of a longing for it. Solomon said, “Let not kindness and truth forsake thee” (Prov. 3:3). Again he said, “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23). Paul said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Our disposition should be that of longing for the truth to the extent that we are willing to spend long hours in diligent study of it.
Attributes of Divine Truth
Now in conclusion let us note some of the attributes of this truth revealed unto us. First, necessarily the truth is beautiful. It could be nothing less in view of the fact of what it is. It is a statement of the beautiful teaching of our Lord and a record of the beautiful, sinless life that he lived. It disapproves and condemns all that is evil and ugly. Finally, it is beautiful in that it pictures to us a beautiful reward; so in every aspect one might well say that the truth is beautiful.
Secondly, the truth is eternal. This truth has existed in the mind of God from the beginning. Since God’s word is truth, and God is eternal, then truth must be eternal. In spite of the many efforts that have been and are being made to destroy it, the truth continues to survive its enemies and shall ever do so for it is indestructible and eternal.
Finally, the truth is liberating. He who knew what it take’s to free said: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). Notice, our Lord said, “Ye shall know the truth.” While the eternal truth exists, whether we ever come to a knowledge of it or not, it takes a knowledge of it to save. one. But certainly only the knowledge of the truth is not sufficient to save one. It takes much more than that to be freed by the truth: from our sins. There are many people who know what they must do to be saved, they have the knowledge, but they refuse to do what their knowledge of the truth tells them they must do to be made free. Once more though, it takes the truth to make men free. Error is not a substitute for truth. Error preached, error heard, error believed and error obeyed will not make men free. It takes the truth preached, the truth heard, believed and obeyed to make man free.
Thus we see that it takes obedience to the truth to free men’s souls of sin. Paul says, “Ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching, whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17, 18). Their freedom from sin followed their obedience.
We see we have the truth revealed, it comes to us infallibly by the word of God, and by obedience to it we can be made free from sins. If we are in sin, it is our fault, for by obedience to the eternal truth, sin can be removed. We are hoping that you will make that right decision, that of obedience, and reap the benefits of the eternal truth.
Truth Magazine XIX: 17, pp. 259-261
March 6, 1975