What is Truth? (3)

By Morris W. R. Bailey

In a previous article on the above subject, it was pointed out that one of the definitions given by the dictionary to the word truth is fact. Thus the truth on any subject consists of the facts relating thereto. It was pointed out also that in spiritual realm, God’s word is truth (John 17:17). Also, since the sum of God’s word is truth (Psalm 119:160), it takes all that the Bible says on any subject to constitute that truth on that subject. We are now ready to proceed to the second part of the definition of truth, namely,

Conformity To Fact

That, of course, is self-evident. For if a fact is true, then anything that conforms to, or corresponds in all particulars to that fact will also be true. That is the principle upon which we proceed when we compare values, when we judge between right and wrong, and when we draw the line between what is true and what is false. Does the thing under consideration conform to fact?

Most of us remember our school days. There were periodic examinations on the subjects we studied. We recall how that we submitted answers to the questions asked, sincerely believing that our answers were correct. But often when those examination papers came back from the teacher, we were disappointed in that we found some of those answers marked as incorrect. What was the matter? Was that teacher just a narrow-minded bigot who thought that she was always right and that anyone who disagreed with her was wrong? No, I do not recall thinking so, regardless of whatever else I thought. We realized (too late) that our answers did not conform to the time-tested and accepted facts regarding those subjects on which we had been examined. If it was a question in mathematics such as, “What does four plus four make?” and my answer was ten, it obviously did not conform to the fact that four plus four make eight. If it was a question in history, such as, “In what year did Columbus discover America?” and my answer was the year of 1650, it obviously did not conform to the factual date of 1492. It would have been a very incompetent teacher who would have marked my answers as being correct because she believed that I was sincere when I submitted them. And it would have been even more absurd if she had marked a number of conflicting answers as being correct. Methinks that there would have been some parents demanding that a change in the teaching staff of that school.

How strange it is that in every field in the natural realm, people will insist on having the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, measuring the commodities they buy according to factual and time-tested standards. When the housewife buys a pound of hamburger, she insists on getting sixteen ounces, not twelve ounces. The motorist buys a gallon of gas, and he expects to get four quarts, not just three quarts. The seamstress buys a yard of cloth, and she expects to get thirty-six inches, not just twenty-four inches. Yet, often those same people will step out of the school room, or out of the field of business and commerce and into the field of religion and will adopt a philosophy that would not be tolerated for a moment anywhere else. But that is what they do when they glibly talk about how it does not make any difference what one believes so long as he or she is sincere.

The Principle Applied

Let us apply the principle of conformity to fact to divine truth. On that basis it is obvious that any doctrine, to be true, must conform to the truth of God’s word, just as certainly as the answer to a question in history, to be true, must conform to historical truth. A few examples are in order, here.

Preaching The Truth

The Bible lays great emphasis on preaching the truth. Paul preached the truth at the risk of making enemies (Gal. 4:16). He exhorted Christians to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Moreover, the Bible warns against teachers of error and calls them false prophets (Matt. 7:1; 2 Cor. 11:13; 2 Peter 2:1).

But with the multiplicity of preachers, with differing and sometimes conflicting doctrines, with voices crying Lo, here, and Lo, there, many good people are naturally confused when they do seek for the truth and, consequently, the question may be asked from time to time, “Who among all these is preaching the truth?” The answer lies in the matter of conformity. Whose preaching conforms to the truth as taught in the Bible?

The apostle John gives us an example in 1 John 4:1-3 of the test that reveals whether or not a man is preaching the truth. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the llesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God; and this is the spirit of the anti-Christ.”

It is obvious from the foregoing scripture that John did not subscribe to the idea that it does not make any difference what one believes. For there, he cautioned his readers against believing every spirit (preacher) and warned against some whom he called false prophets.

Sometimes today when you question a man’s teaching, branding it as false and speak of him as a false teacher, some one will say, “O, you are judging, and the Bible condemns that.” Now, I know that there is a judging, in the sense of condemning, that is forbidden (Matt. 7:1); certainly, no Christian should be guilty of such. And I am sure that the apostle John was not guilty of such when he called those men false prophets, which they were. But there is a manner of judging which Jesus called, “righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Such judgment consists of measuring against some standard, and reaching a conclusion based on conformity or, as the case may be, lack of conformity. One does not, therefore, unjustly judge the purveyor of false doctrine when he calls him a false teacher, any more than he unjustly judges the man who steals, when he calls him a thief.

It will be noted that in verse one, John exhorts his hearers to “prove the spirits, whether they are of God.” To prove, or test a thing requires that we measure it against some accepted standard. To prove whether or not a man is preaching the truth requires that his preaching be measured against the truth. Hear John in verse two: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God.” How, John? “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” And how are we able to detect the false teacher? Verse three tells us! “And every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God.”

So it is all a very simple matter. For it is the theme of revelation and, therefore, truth that Jesus came in the flesh. His birth in Bethlehem has been recorded by Matthew and Luke. John tells us, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1;14). But it is obvious that there were some in the days of John who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh. Since their teaching did not conform to the truth, it was obviously false, and John therefore called the progenitors of such teaching false prophets.

On the same basis and from the same standpoint we can judge every doctrine that is preached by men today. When men preach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, they are in harmony with the truth taught in God’s word (Matt. 16:16, 17; Rom. 1:4). But when men preach, as some do, that Jesus was nothing more than a perfect man, their teaching lacks conformity with truth and is therefore false. When men preach that Christ is reigning in His kingdom at God’s right hand today and that His reign will end at the second coming, as taught by the apostles (Acts 2:29-36; 1 Cor. 15:22-26), they preach the truth. But when men preach that Christ will set up His kingdom and occupy a throne here on earth at his second coming, there is an obvious lack of conformity to the truth of the gospel: such teaching is, therefore, false and those who preach it are false teachers.

Believing The Truth

Just as the Bible lays great emphasis on the preaching of the truth, so also it teaches the importance of believing the truth (2 Thess. 2:13) and the danger of believing a lie (2 Thess. 2:11, 12). But because of the multiplicity of conflicting doctrines in the world today, many are confused as to what the truth is, and some have doubts as to whether they believe the truth. (This is a good sign, especially, if it leads them into a search for the truth.)

Such confusion and such doubts can all be resolved by submitting one’s belief to the test of conformity. Does what he believes conform to what the scriptures teach? Let me submit here a simple true or false quiz. I shall first state some assumed item of belief, and then in brackets I will give what the Bible (truth) teaches, and let the readers judge as to whether or not this belief conforms to the truth of God’s word.

1. I believe that the universe was formed by the process of evolution (Gen. 1:1; Ex. 20:11; Heb. 11:3).

2. I believe that man .was created on a level far above that of the beast, having been given the power of choice, and from that standpoint the master of his own destiny (Gen. 1:27; Josh. 24:15; Deut. 11:26-28; 2 Cor. 5:10).

3.I believe that all men inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin, and that children are, therefore, born totally depraved. (Ezek. 18:1-3, 20; Matt. 18:3; 1 John 3:4).

4.I believe that the alien sinner is saved at the point of faith, without any act or acts of obedience (James 2:20, 24; Mark 16;16; Acts 2:38; 22:16)

5. I believe that once a person is saved, his eternal salvation is secured and he cannot be lost. (John 15:5, 6; 1 Cor. 10:6-12; 9:26-27; Heb. 4:1; 6:4-6).

6. I believe that there will be a judgment at the coming of Christ, when we will be judged according to the things done in this life, and when the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked punished. (Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:10; Matt. 25:31-46).

This list could be extended much farther; but I trust that by now the reader will have grasped the point, namely, that only as our faith conforms to the truth of God’s word, can it be said that we believe the truth. That which does not conform to God’s word, regardless of how sincerely believed, is belief of a lie, and will condemn the one that holds to it. (2 Thess. 2:11, 12).

Truth Magazine XXII: 48, pp. 775-776
December 7, 1978