The first declaration in which Jesus referred to Himself as truth is in John 8:31-32. “So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed on Him, “If ye continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
The second time is made in the privacy with His own apostles. In John 14:6 “Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”
The third time Jesus refers to Himself as the truth is in a courtroom with all of the power of the Roman Empire being brought against Him. This was at the insistence of the Jews to determine if He was trying to lead an insurrection against Rome. The charge did not really have to do with His kingdom or what we might style as “the church.” It had to do with His authority and his kingship. He answered the charge brought against Him as to whether He was a king as being true. But to correct the misunderstanding of the nature of His kingdom, He answered Pilates question to Him as to whether or not He was a king as He said, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
It is about the subject of the truth that we will reason together on the subject of the truth.
First: What Does Truth Mean?
Truth has to do with the reality of the basis of all experience. Truth is what actually is. To say that something is true is not the same thing as saying it is truth. When we say that something is right, we are describing something that is in relationship with something else, which constitutes the standard. When we say that something is bad or evil, we are comparing it to a fixed standard.
Now, when we say something is true, we are saying that, in reference to something that determines truth. Jesus did not merely say, “I am true,” He said, “I am truth.” He did not merely say, “If ye abide in my word then you shall know what is true.” He said, “What you will be listening to, is the reality which lies as the basis to every experience.”
When He said that He was the truth, He was not saying that He was literally reality, anymore than when John declared in First John that God is love, that literally God is love and not personality. He is speaking metaphorically and says, “If you want to know what reality is, then listen to me, I know what it is.”
Of all of the startling affirmations that He claimed about Himself in reference to truth, nothing He said could be more startling than what He stated in Pilates courtroom. All Pilate was interested in was, “Are you guilty as charged?” Pilate was really not willing to rule against Jesus in terms of His character because of what he had observed in his life, what he knew about His enemies and accusers, and what he had learned from his own wife of His character. Pilate wanted to bring a verdict of innocence. But when he was accused of a violation against the government, he could not as a Roman Jew ignore that charge. And when this man that did not look like a king, whose bearing was not like a king, whose tone of voice did not sound like an authority, affirmed that what Pilate said about him, or the charge was true, Pilate must have been amazed! But when He went forward and said, “I have been born to tell men what truth is.” It must have been incomprehensible to Pilate. He understood what Jesus was saying. He did not understand Him to be merely saying, “that I have come to speak things that are true.” Cicero, Socrates, Plato, hundreds of others had done that. He came to say, “I am what reality is.” And He did not appear to be that kind of a man. It is not so much about His claim that we are talking about, it is about why it is important.
A second thing I think we need to do to approach this subject reasonably, is to look at several features of truth itself. Please keep in mind that truth is not something that is so, or accurate, or that is correct. It is the reality which reasons and establishes how you determine what is correct and accurate. Jesus said He came to do that.
The first thing, not all truths are susceptible to understanding or to discovery. Some are. Scientific truth is susceptible to private investigation, or personal investigation. Men have discovered something about the science of our world, and how orderly it is scientifically arranged. That’s a matter of discovery. By human invention we have learned something about mathematical truth. God did not reveal that through men. There are some things about social truths we have learned by the ingenuity of our own thinking and action.
But, when you are talking about spiritual truth, when you are talking about the nature of God, the redemption of sinful man, you are talking about revelation. It is for that reason that Jesus affirmed, “Now if you abide in my words, ye shall know the truth.” There is no remedial truth outside of His Word. And if you are looking for a question that relates to your spiritual condition, or with a spiritual relationship with either God or man, if you don’t start with Scripture, you’re never going to find the answer. If you start from interesting stories and experiences, if you listen to the wise musings of other Christians, you start at the wrong end. Start with what He said! That’s where it is. He did not only tell Pontus Pilate, “This is the reason I was born and come into the world.” He says that to you and me.
Now there is a second feature of the truth. It has guidelines. Again and again we find the writers in the Bible speaking about boundaries. They usually do it in language like this, twice in John’s epistle he wrote: “ I rejoiced greatly that I found thy children walking in truth . . .” (2 John 1:3; 3 John 3). There is a great prominence about truth in Scripture. Not only in what Jesus claimed, but also in reference to the suffering and glory each Christian goes through. As we read in I Peter 1:22: “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.” When you start the process of finding truth, it is started and found in Jesus Christ. By what means do we find the truth? We can only find the truth by what He said. As James said, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among his creatures” (James 1:18). Paul said to the Ephesians: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13).
Truth has boundaries to it. If one can walk in it, he can walk out of it. But it is impossible to know if one is on the outside or the inside of truth if there are not boundaries to it. The boundaries of truth are not how I interpret it. The boundaries of truth are what the Word reveals and says. The boundary of truth in the church is not what your elders teach you. What you think about what your capable evangelist preaches is what’s said. It does not matter how intelligent or wise someone thinks they are, it is what truth says.
Second, the boundaries must be knowledgeable. Boundaries serve no purpose where they are not observable. Or where some people can see them and other people can’t. The boundaries of truth are there. Is it not the language of them who reveal truth that we are not to go forward or onward from this teaching? What teaching? Truths that are revealed! Let me illustrate: It’s like playing the game of basketball. Ten men, five on each team, three referees set the stage for a game. The game cannot be successfully in the presence of an audience until the boundaries have been set up. Those boundaries must be marked out and understandable. When a referee blows a whistle and says, “You are out of bound.” What if the offender says, “Where are the boundaries?” What would happen if the referee replies, “Well, we haven’t quite decided, but in my judgment, you were out of bounds.” You can’t successfully play the game like that! Or, if they had decided that the court would be forty-five feet wide and ninety-five feet long and no one had marked them out. How could you play basketball.
There is another characteristic of truth that I want to suggest to you. Truth is fixed. It is changeless. The Bible word is, “immutable.” Our generation makes a mockery of truth by saying it is what we think it is. Now what is true may be what we think it is. But truth by its nature of definition and the words of Christ is what the reality of the thing is. And if a thing is reality, to speak of it as transitory, and variable under different situations is to talk nonsense and absurdity. It is fixed!
The moral principles that regulate the conduct of those of us who are Christians in 2007 are the same principles that Adam and Eve had. They have not varied. Now, the form and application that they take may have changed, but the principle, the fixity of reality has not varied. There are numberless Christians that are forgetting that lesson.
Why is it important? It is only God the author of our redemption that knows what reality is. But, I want to mention a few things that I do not believe I have gotten across to others and myself in my preaching. Why is truth important? It is not just because we will not be divided as brethren. That is a result, but that is not the primary reason. It is not so we can be academically correct. There are some basic reasons.
Fist of all, it is the truth that is the basis of understanding the nature and obligations of being a human being. No one will get that point until the person goes to the truth to find it. Listen to Romans chapter one about the four things God did about man and his sinful condition. In the first three chapters the case is made why man needs redemption offered by God through Jesus Christ the Son. He did so first of all because of sin. He says: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures” (Romans 1:18-23). What did God do about it? First, God let their hearts be darkened. Second, in verse 24, “ Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” God let it run it’s full course, if that is what they wanted to do, that is what God would give them up to do. Thirdly, He turned them over to perversion. Romans 1:26-28 “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
Why did God do that? Because of what men did. Romans 1:23 tells us that men “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” When men did that, what did they do? They shut out of their minds what they knew. Romans 1:19-22 “because that which may be known about God is evident to them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even when they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.” They knew God! Knowing does not refer to simply acknowledging a simple fact. It is not only the kind of knowing that ingests information; it is the kind of knowing that has to do with a personal relationship like a man knowing his wife.
You can never get the point across about the value of man to people that have no appreciation of God. It is pointless to argue about the necessity of the Bible, and to prove from the text itself, from history and archeology, the reliability of a text until someone understands the nature of deity, and that is God. What caused these people to do what they did against their own bodies? They rejected truth! They rejected that God is. Like David says, Psalm 115:2 “Why should the nations say, ‘Where now is there God?’ But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of man’s hands, They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot heart; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them.” Why do we have a plastic culture in our times? It is because everyone has quit worshipping. It is because everyone is saying, “Just do what you want and have no standard.” We are never going to correct, whether it is a national immorality, or national cultural problems unless we start right there. There is a God!
These people were and are perverted. How would you like to buy an automobile from a person that could not tell the difference between the ordinary and the perversion? Homosexuality is a perversion and becoming the standard in our culture. But we are not going to do anything about perversion in our times or any other perversion until you get people to say, “This is the way you tell the difference between the natural and the unnatural.” God gave them up to a reprobate mind. A reprobate mind is a mind that will not pass the test.
The problem that exists is like going to the doctor and saying you want the truth, then the doctor gives you the bad news and you don’t want to hear it. That is America today; we want the truth (we say,) but don’t want to hear the bad news. We are dying spiritually! These people in Romans chapter one did not do what was fitting. We have a generation who are the fittest folks in history, physically. But spiritually they are dead! We have people in high places that think it is just as right to lie, as it is to say what actually happened. Why is that? It isn’t just because they are afraid of getting caught. It is because they have honestly made the substitution. We are never going to correct until we deal with truth. Truth is the foundation of our humanity and defines what I am and what I am supposed to be.
The obligation of being a human being does not grow out of the fact that he has obeyed the gospel. Moral obligation does not start there. Every individual from Adam to this time, are morally obligated growing out of the nature that we are made in the image of God.
People are going to lose their souls for one reason: They do not love the truth! (2 Thess. 2:1-12).
How do we deal with the problems of living in a country that is more concerned about being politically correct than anything else? You deal with it by truth! Because it is only the truth that can set you free.