What is Truth? (2)

By Morris W. R. Bailey

In a previous article under the above heading, the importance of truth was pointed out from the facts that: (1) knowledge of the truth frees us from the bond service to sin (John 8:32); (2) Belief of the truth saves us from the guilt of sin (2 Thess. 2:13); (3) Obedience to the truth purifies our souls from the defilement of sin (1 Peter 1:22). We are now prepared to come to grips with the question posed by our subject title by studying

The Definition Of Truth

The word “truth” in its general sense is defined by the dictionary as: 1. Fact. 2. Conformity to fact. Other words are used to define truth, but they are, I believe, summarized in the two above definitions. So then, truth is defined as fact. And when we consider the nature of fact, it is obvious that truth could not be anything else but fact, or facts. Here we must be careful to distinguish between fact and theory. A theory may be based on speculation and, therefore, if found to be wrong it will be discarded. But when a fact is discovered it is established for all time. For centuries men held various theories concerning the shape of the earth and the foundation on which it rests. But when Columbus made his historic voyage, followed by Magellan, who was the first man to sail around the world, it was demonstrated to be a fact that the earth is globular in shape and hangs in space supported by the law of gravity. That, being a fact, it is not just a theory that will be superseded by later discoveries.

There are facts which constitute the truth in every field of knowledge. These facts are self-evident and undisputed and are as old as time itself. Man did not create these facts; but they are a part of the order of things that was established in the beginning when God created all things. Man discovers these facts as he studies further into the laws of nature.

Biological truth consists of the facts of biology. One of these facts, so obvious in the botanical field, is that seed produces after its kind. Another fact, obvious in the field of zoology, is that all living creatures produce after their kind.

Mathematical truth consists of mathematical facts. The facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division form the basis of our whole mathematical system. By the use of these facts, we establish the value of money, judge time and distance, and compute our weights and measures. By the application of mathematical facts, the civil engineer is able to calculate the stress and strain on a suspension bridge, and the materials that will be needed to enable it to carry its own weight plus the weight of the traffic that will pass over it. By the use of mathematical truth, the architect is able to calculate the strength of a foundation that will be needed to support a hundred story skyscraper. How thankful we should be that there is such a thing as mathematical truth! Would we want to cross a bridge designed by an engineer who relied only on guesswork in designing it? Would we want to live in a building designed by an architect who relied only on his feelings in choosing the material that went into the foundation?

Chemical truth consists of the facts of chemistry. It is because of his knowledge of chemical truth that the doctor is able to prescribe a certain medication for a certain physical ailment. It is because of his knowledge of chemistry that the druggist is able to fill the prescription, giving the directions for its proper application. For it is also one of the facts of chemistry that the manner of application is as important as the medication itself. An under dosage can be useless while an over dosage can be fatal. A medication that is designed to be taken internally would be useless if applied externally. And a medication that is designed to be applied externally, could be toxic if taken internally. So, how thankful we should be that we have such a thing as truth in the field of chemistry, and that matters relating to the health of the body are not left to chance or the experiment of some theory. Would we risk going to a doctor who relied on nothing more than mere guesswork in writing out a prescription? Would we trust a druggist who would try to persuade us to take something different from what the doctor prescribed on the plea that “it is just as good”? Would we believe him if he tried to tell us that it did not make any difference what medicine we take just as long as we are sincere? No, in such matters we want nothing but the truth.

The Truth Of God’s Word

The truth with which we are concerned in this discussion, however, is not mathematical truth, important as it is in the realm of business and architecture. Nor is it chemical truth, important as it is in the field of medicine. It is truth that has more far-reaching implications. For it is the truth the knowledge of which makes us free from bond service to sin (John 8:32). It is the truth, the belief of which saves us from the guilt of sin (2 Thess. 2:13). It is the truth, the obedience to which, purifies our souls from the filth of sin (1 Peter 1:22).

That truth is God’s word. In the prayer of Jesus, uttered in the shadow of the cross, Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth, thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Time after time we find that word described as “the word of truth.” To the Ephesians Paul wrote, “In whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation. . .” (Eph. 1:13). To the Colossians he wrote, “Because of the hope that is laid up for you in the heavens, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel” (Col. 1:5). James said, “Of his own will he begat us by the word of truth. . .” (James 1:18).

So here we have the truth with which the question of our subject is concerned. God’s word is that truth. Like all other truth it is eternal. David said, “Forever, O Jehovah, Thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). So man did not create or formulate divine truth any more than he created mathematical truth or chemical truth. Like all other truth, he can only discover it and apply it, and that only as he studies the Bible where the truth is revealed. There is not a sentence or a syllable of divine truth that man knows that he did not learn from God’s book of truth, the Bible.

Truth, The Sum Of God’s Word

Just as important as the matter of learning truth itself is the matter of learning all the truth on any Bible subject. David said, “The sum of thy word is truth” (Psalms 119:160). There are a few people who obviously have had some difficulty with the word “sum.” They obviously want to spell it, “s-o-m-e.” And they tell us that some of God’s word is truth. The implication is that some of the Bible is not true. I have had people tell me what parts of the Bible they believe and what parts they do not believe. I was in conversation with a man one time who told me that while he believed the New Testament, he did not believe the Old Testament. Without realizing it, he placed Jesus Christ in a very awkward position. Time after time, Jesus quoted from the Old Testament scriptures, thereby implying that He believed them to be true. If they are not true, He was deceived, and that reflects upon His wisdom. If He knew they were not true, yet quoted them anyway, that reflects upon His integrity. Either alternative is unthinkable.

The fact is that when David said, “The sum of thy word is truth,” he simply meant that it takes all that God’s word says on any subject to give us the truth on that subject.

That is a principle that is recognized in every field of knowledge, particularily in courts of law where justice is served only when all of the evidence pertaining to a case is considered. So when a witness is summoned to testify in a case, he is required to swear that he will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If there are ten witnesses, then it requires the testimony of all ten to bring out all the truth in that particular case. What would we think of the judge who, after hearing the testimony of two witnesses, would ignore the testimony of the other eight, and would render his verdict on the basis of only a part of the evidence available? It could be the means of the convicting of an innocent man. Or, conversely, it could allow a guilty man to go free.

Of course men do not usually conduct themselves that way in courts of law. But strange to say, that is often the way that they deal with the Bible. Sometimes a whole system of doctrine will be built on a few passages of scripture, or perhaps even on one passage of scripture, while ignoring other passages of scripture that teach vital truth on .that particular subject.

For example, some people are willing to hear Paul, when he said in Romans 5:1, “Being therefore justified by faith we have peace with God ….” They stop reading there, and shout, “Salvation is by faith alone!” But they are unwilling to hear James when he said, “Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith” (James 2:24). A contradiction? No. Paul’s testimony is true. But so is James’. And if we ignore James’ testimony in this second chapter, we do not have all the truth. For James tells us in verse twenty, “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren.” Taken together, however, the testimony of Paul and James unite in teaching that we are justified or saved by a faith that demonstrates itself in works of obedience. And that is the only faith that avails in the sight of God (Gal. 5:6). Also read the eleventh chapter of Hebrews.

So then, the sum (or total) of God’s word is truth, which is to say that it takes all that God has said on any matter to constitute all the truth. And that is the principle that must never be lost sight of in the study of any Bible subject; learn all that the Bible says on that subject.

The word, church, occurs something over a hundred times in the New Testament (depending on the version used). Then a number of other passages speak of it as the body of Christ, while others teach that it is the kingdom of Christ. To learn all the truth about the church will thus require that we study not only passages where the word “church” occurs, but other related passages as well.

The word, gospel, occurs something over ninety times in the New Testament. But other related passages speak of it as, the faith, while still others speak of the preaching of the gospel as, preaching Christ. To learn all that is involved in preaching the gospel, believing the gospel and obedience to the gospel will require a study of all the scriptures that speak of the gospel as well as other related scriptures. Only when we have the sum of God’s word do we have the truth.

Truth Magazine XXII: 47, pp. 757-758
November 30, 1978