What is Truth?
Why did Jesus come to the Earth? This question has many answers, but there is one answer that encompasses all the others. As Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate and all of Jerusalem for that matter, Jesus made a very clear declaration about why He came into this world, “to testify to the truth”. Pilate very arrogantly responded with, “what is truth?” This is one of the big questions the world is asking. By world I mean the people of the world that are in a search for answers to the universals of life. This pursuit is not a new philosophical trend or some “new age” way of thinking. This question is as old as time its self. It is a question asked by every great philosopher and scientific mind. One would think that a question as old and as often asked as this one, would have been answered by now. It has! Many times over. For an unbeliever, they are still left with the quest of figuring out which answers to are correct. For the believer, the answer is simple; God. I think it is only fitting that my first ePistle be about the very thing God has purposed me to address; truth. This open letter to the body of Christ, the church, no matter what your denomination, and every professed follower of Christ, is not to address this question philosophically. Though, it is philosophical by nature, this ePistle is not for the unbeliever and therefore assumes that you, the reader, is in fact a follower of Christ and is seeking truth from a theological perspective. I know that the term “theology” can carry a certain arrogance with it and connotations of higher learning that many followers often think they could never obtain, but I use the term in its truest meaning; the study of God. We are not aiming for deep truths that require a doctorate to understand. The Bible makes it clear that the fundamental things of God and who He is have been made plain for us. That’s why Jesus, when asked, “which is the greatest commandment?” He replied with a summary of the entire law. That summary flew in the face of every expert in the law that spent their whole lives studying the scriptures as to understand them deeply. Jesus took what was made difficult by the religious leaders of the day and made it so simple that even a child could understand it. In all their arrogant knowledge they lacked wisdom. Our aim is to understand through the Spirit the very simple things that God desires for all His people to know and understand. We aim to know the truth and theology, rather the study of God, is how that happens.
The Answer is God
As Christ followers the answer to the question, “what is truth?” is simple; God. God is “the beginning and the end” (Revelation 21:6). He is all there is, ever was and ever will be. He created all things and therefore is the source of all truth and knowledge. Not only that, but He is truth for His “Word is truth”. All things contrary to His character and nature are the exact opposite of truth; lies. For the follower of Christ, the church, which is the bride of Christ bought and paid for by His precious blood, has succumb to many lies since the beginning. It started immediately after Christ was resurrected (The lie about the disciples stealing Jesus’ body) and has perpetuated through church history like a cancer spreads in the body. At this point I would strongly encourage anyone who has not spent even a little time learning about the history of the church to go and do so. It does not need to be exhaustive, but it should be done to some degree. Our history is important in understanding truth because many of the lies that exist in the church today started in the early years of its construction. There is a famous quote by Charles Baudelaire that states, “the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist.” Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44) and uses them to confuse, distract and divide the body of Christ. Lies are Satan’s greatest weapon so then our search for truth should always begin and end with God. We must seek God’s face as Jeremiah 29:12-14 paints. Many followers begin their search with science and philosophy only to find themselves confused, misguided and lost. As a follower of Christ you must acknowledge God as being the source of all truth. There is no other way around it. If you struggle with that, then you have not believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and have not been redeemed. Jesus came to “testify to the truth” (John 18:7). In other words, He is a witness to what is true and has given us proper account of what truth is. Jesus is “the word made flesh” (John 1:14) and since God’s “Word is truth” (John17:17) Jesus himself and all that He testifies is truth. John 1 makes this truth very clear. Again, there is no other way around it.
How Do We Seek God?
We look to God and His character and nature to understand truth for He is truth. How do we look to God? The Sunday School answer would be, The Bible. However, I would like to shift the terminology a little. The correct answer is the word of God. The Bible, rather scripture, is the word of God. Paul makes that very clear by saying, “every scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). However, scripture is only part of the equation. For some the lies begin here. My Sunday school teachers of old drilled into me that the Bible is the source of our understanding of God, but that just isn’t true. If it were then how could countless followers in Acts and all through out church history come to know God and Christ with out a Bible? The Bible is important because it is “useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Scripture is “useful” or “profitable” but only when used in context of being part of the word of God. Scripture is only part of the equation and can only be useful when combined with Jesus Christ and The Holy Spirit. As previously explained, Jesus is the “Word became flesh” as made clear through John 1:1-14. The Holy Spirit is the sword in the armor of God “which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17) and Jesus refers to the Spirit as “the Spirit of truth” in John 14:17. These three work in sync with one another. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 2:14 that with out the Spirit we cannot understand the things of God which includes His word as revealed through scripture. The only way to have the Spirit is to have believed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus being sealed with the Holy Spirit. The equations are simple:
(Jesus + Scripture) – Spirit ≠ Truth
Having a relationship with Christ means that you have received the Spirit but we can grieve the Spirit or deny the Spirit in our life and choose to walk in the flesh. Galatians 5 paints this perfectly. If then we are walking in the flesh we can read the scriptures with out the discernment of the Holy Spirit and allow knowledge gained through human wisdom to pervert the truth and lead us astray. The theological term for this is eisegesis. This is the process of interpreting a scripture in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions, agendas, and/or biases into and onto the scripture. This equation has been the result of countless false doctrines. A recent example of this would be Rob Bell’s recent book titled, “Love Wins”. Bell states that he just can’t believe that God would send someone like Ghandi to Hell and because of that he disregards the scriptures that plainly discuss the wages of sin. Your emotional baggage which comes from your experiences in life has no place when it comes to understanding and discerning the truth. Proverbs 3:5-6 states that it is not our “own understanding” that enables us to know truth but rather it is God who “will make [our] paths straight.” It is the Spirit and only the Spirit. Jesus said, “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you.” (John 14:26) He also said, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13) More importantly, John speaking of the Holy Spirit wrote, “the anointing that you received from him resides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you.” (1 John 2:27) This verse isn’t saying that we can go at it alone, but it does give witness to the power and necessity of beginning “in the Spirit” when it comes to knowing truth.
(Spirit + Scripture) – Jesus = Impossible
This equation is impossible. Scripture is clear that the Spirit comes only as a result of believing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “Apart from [Him] you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Earlier in John 14:6 Jesus declares, “No one comes to the Father accept through” Christ and thus it is impossible to know God and to have the Spirit of God with out knowing Christ first.
Scripture – (Jesus + Spirit) = Foolishness
1 Corinthians 2:14 makes this very clear. A simple Google search for quotes and videos by Bill Maher or Richard Dawkins in reference to Christianity will produce a clear picture of the results of this equation. Not only do they consider the things of God foolish, but they also become fools themselves. “Professing themselves to be wise they are made fools” (Romans 1:22). “The fool says to himself, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1).
(Jesus + Spirit) – Scripture ≠ Truth
When I use the term scripture, I am referring to the written Word of God as in the Bible or any piece of it as well as the spoken form. Before there was a Bible, scripture was passed on through speech. That is how in places where the Bible is outlawed the Gospel continues to spread. However, this is just semantics because whether written or spoken it is still scripture which is the Word of God. I include this only for the sake of being complete and thorough. However, Paul makes it clear that “faith comes by hearing the word of God” (Romans 10:17). If that is true then “how are they to believe in one they have not heard of” (Romans 10:14) or read about? Scripture is a vital part of knowing the truth. According to John Wesley, it contains the only measures by which all perceived truths can be tested. Scripture is our level and with out it we are off center.
Jesus + Spirit + Scripture = Truth
God has revealed Himself through His Word and has given it to us in three forms. If our search for the truth is lacking either of these then our search will fall short and open the door for the enemy to propagate his lies further into the church, our culture and ultimately the world. We must “practice the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and “always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you posses. Yet do it with courtesy and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
Creation = Truth?
There is one more piece to this worth noting for the diligent. Creation. God has also revealed Himself through His creation. Is it possible to know truth through God’s general revelation? It is possible because Paul writes to the Romans, “what can be known about God is plain to [us], because God has made it plain to [us]…because [we understand] through what has been made” (Romans 1:19-20). However, Paul rebuttals his own statement with this, “For although [we know] God, [we do] not glorify Him as God or give Him thanks, but [we become] futile in [our] thoughts and [our] senseless hearts [are] darkened” (Romans 1:21). Basically Paul is saying that it is possible to know the truth through creation, but due to the corruption of our indwelling sin, it is next to impossible. This equation often leads to idolatry because we exchange “the truth of God for a lie and [worship and serve] the creation rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). Some might say that creation should be apart of the equation, but I would say that although creation reveals God’s nature it is not the Word of God, but rather the results of the word of God. With that in mind we should be in awe of the power of the word of God and respect it even more. For if His word can bring life and creation from nothing, then imagine what His word can do in you if you look to it for truth.
I urge each of you to “be careful not to allow anyone to captivate you through an empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions [and based in our own pride] and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Do not take truth lightly. Jesus came to testify to it and has charged you as His disciple and follower to guard it, teach it, stand up for it and declare it. Live worthy of this call and preach the truth. The time has come “when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires…they [turn] away from hearing the truth” (2 Timothy 4:4) Let this not be said of you. Be diligent in seeking God’s face so that you may come to know the truth which sets us free (John 8:32). Be set “apart in the truth” (John 17:17) and go into the world just as Christ went into the world and testify to the truth.
I close with the words of Paul in Ephesians 6, “Finally, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Clothe yourselves with the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. For this reason, take up the full armor of God so that you may be able to stand your ground on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm therefore, by fastening the belt of truth around your waist, by putting on the breastplate of righteousness, by fitting your feet with the preparation that comes from the good news of peace, and in all of this, by taking up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With every prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and to this end be alert, with all perseverance and requests for all the saints. Pray for me also, that I may be given the message when I begin to speak – that I may confidently make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador… Pray that I may be able to speak boldly as I ought to speak.”