What Is Truth?

Truth, newspaper

What is truth?” This was the question Pilate asked Jesus after hearing the Lord’s claim that He came to testify to the truth (John 18:36-37). When we think about truth, we must understand two things: (1) it is unchanging and (2) it is the same message for all. The word of God is truth (John 17:17). His word does not change (1 Peter 1:25) and is to be preached to all people everywhere (Mark 16:15).

Many have the idea that there can be many truths – you may have your own truth, and I may have mine. This is not what the Bible teaches. The same message of truth is for all. The differences come from our perception of the truth. These perceptions can be very different, despite a common message.

In the minds of man, truth can have various characteristics. Let us consider the conflicting characteristics of truth depending on the perspective of the hearer.

Comforting or Uncomfortable – The Holy Spirit was sent as a Comforter (John 16:7). How would He carry out this role? He would reveal the truth (John 16:13). The word of God is intended to provide comfort for us. After explaining the events surrounding the return of Christ, Paul wrote, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

But for some, the truth can be very uncomfortable. To some degree, this will be true for all. The wise man said, “The Preacher sought to find delightful words and to write words of truth correctly. The words of wise men are like goads, and masters of these collections are like well-driven nails; they are given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:10-11). Why is the truth uncomfortable? It convicts us of sin (John 16:8), exposes all of our flaws (Hebrews 4:12-13), and calls us to sacrifice (Luke 9:23). There are many who want to feel comfortable in their sin, weakness, and worldliness. Truth does not allow this, but instead prods us forward to follow after God. Those who do not want to repudiate sin and pursue godliness will always find the complete message of truth to be uncomfortable.

Encouraging or Discouraging – When Paul met with the Ephesian elders in Miletus, he said to them, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). God’s word is able to edify or build us up. Paul told the saints in Rome that the Scriptures provide encouragement (Romans 15:4). How do we gain encouragement from the word? In it we see the reward that God has promised (2 Timothy 4:8), as well as examples of others who have overcome as a reminder that we can do so as well (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Sadly, some find the truth to be discouraging. One such individual was the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to obtain eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The young man said he had done this and wanted to know what else to do. So Jesus told him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor…and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). Upon hearing these words, his enthusiasm was gone. “He went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property” (Matthew 19:22). Truth can be discouraging when it is different from what we expect and requires a change in our attitude and life. We do not know what happened to this man. Perhaps he returned to Jesus after reflecting upon what he was taught. But many do not do this. They hear the truth, become discouraged, and turn away.

Unifying or Divisive – Before His death, Jesus prayed for unity among His followers: “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us” (John 17:20-21). This unity was to be based on the word of God (“through their word”). We can have unity today as we follow the same standard (Ephesians 4:3-6) and speak the same things (1 Corinthians 1:10).

However, many will accuse those who teach the truth as being divisive. They do not believe we can or should unite upon the complete message of the gospel. So they reject the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) in favor of unity in diversity. This way, everyone can believe, teach, and practice whatever they want and unity can still exist. Speaking the truth is a threat to this form of unity. But we must understand that division does not exist because truth has been taught. Division exists because error has been taught. If we want true unity, we must unite upon the message handed down from God.

Inclusive or Exclusive – The truth of God’s word is intended to be inclusive. The gospel is for all men. Jesus told His apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Peter noted that “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34). Paul told Timothy that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

But many perceive a fixed standard of truth to be exclusive. They believe it is not for everyone but only for a few because, after all, it teaches that not all will be saved. It is certainly true that few will be saved. Jesus said, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:14). But the problem is not that truth is exclusive. God made it inclusive when He made it for all men. Instead, the problem is that many have excluded themselves from the truth by believing and practicing things that are contrary to what God has revealed.

Good News or Bad News – The gospel is good news. That is the meaning of the Greek word (euangelion) that is translated gospel in our Bible. It is good news because it contains a message of grace (Acts 20:24), salvation (Romans 1:16), forgiveness (Luke 24:47), and hope of eternal life (Titus 1:1-2).

But this same message for many people is a message of death. Paul wrote, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16). The same message was preached to both groups – the saved and the perishing – but the message was viewed very differently by those two groups. It will be seen as bad news to some because it speaks of judgment (Romans 2:16) and punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Conclusion

It may seem strange that the same message can be received so differently. In the end, it comes down to whether we choose to accept the truth or reject it. Our salvation depends upon how we respond to the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15). What will your decision be?


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