What Is Truth?(By Christopher Long, BodEquip Ministries)
Truth. An interesting word. People throughout history have been claiming that A is true, B is not true, etc. Often times it is in the context of religion and morality. So how can we know what is true and what is not true? And just who is telling the truth? Is there even such a thing as truth?
I have found that many times when someone reads or hears something that is claimed to be Biblical truth, or God's truth, they will respond back something along the lines of the following:
"That may be your truth, but how dare you say it is God's truth."
"You have your truth, I have my truth."
"How dare you judge? You should look at what Jesus said about that and about loving people."
"Truth is whatever you want it to be."
Yes, even the word "truth" conjures up some pretty strong opinions among many people. For many, it is a word that implies intolerance and hatred.
And so, today let us look at "truth".
But first a question for you:
Do you believe the first verse of the Bible?
It is Genesis 1:1, which says:
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (ESV)
Do you believe this?
You may wonder why I ask this...it seems kind of odd in a discussion about "truth" doesn't it?
It has been said that if one believes Genesis 1:1, they ought not to have a problem with the rest of the Bible.
If you believe Genesis 1:1, then what are you basing that belief on?
If you don't believe Genesis 1:1, then what are you basing that belief on?
See, the moment that we start thinking about the essence of truth we are brought squarely to the requirement of a universal absolute - that is, the eternal reality of a Being greater than us, of God. Either you and I believe that there is a God who made this world, made us, and has given us His word, or we don't.
If we are willing to acknowledge and really believe in what Genesis 1:1 says, then we, by extension, are acknowledging that there is a Being, greater than us, who made everything and has say over everything. That there is One bigger than us who is outside of time and greater than humanity since He made the world. In this case, we acknowledge that whatever He says must be true. That there is such a thing as "truth" and God is the standard of it.
If a person is willing to believe Genesis 1:1, then they have to logically be willing to consider the rest of the Bible in that same light. This includes what the Bible says about God, about sin and humanity's depravity, and about God's answer to humanity's problem in the form of God sending His own son Jesus to this earth to pay for our sin.
This by the way, is why there has been such a major push in our society for theories like evolution and the Big Bang, because if a person can believe that this world and themselves being here all just happened by random chance then they don't have to agree with anything the Bible says and they can just live however they want, which when you get down to it is REALLY what fuels people's adamant supporting of such things. Of course, the central problem with such scientific theories is that no matter how far back you want to go (you can go as many millions or billions of years back as you want), eventually you still are left with the question of "What created that first atom/spark/particle/etc?" Just saying something magically appeared isn't science, it has to come from somewhere. Which means eventually no matter how hard you try, you still end up back at the concept of a Creator...
But many people don't like that prospect so they keep searching and searching and trying to find some possible way so they won't have to acknowledge God, and thus Jesus.
Shortly before Jesus was allowed to be put to death, the following exchange took place between Jesus and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate as recorded for us in John 18:37-38:
Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (ESV)
And right after asking this, the Bible says Pontius Pilate went out and allowed Jesus to be handed over to be put to death (even though he said he couldn't find Jesus worthy of such a thing). But, see, Pilate didn't know what was truth or not. Jesus tried to tell him. Jesus tried to tell him that He testified to (bore witness to) the truth and that Pilate should listen to Him. Jesus, God's son, the One that the Bible tells us pre-existed before time in the Heavenly realm, that the Bible says holds all things together and in Him all things consist (Colossians 1:16-17). He tried to tell Pilate to listen to Him because He knew a thing or two about truth.
But Pilate didn't. Pilate wouldn't. Instead, he rejected what Jesus said because he didn't want to believe. He refused to believe. Instead, he threw up his hands in unbelief and couldn't see how Jesus' truth could be more or less real than what anyone else says is true or not.
And you know what? Some things don't change.
Many today ask the very same question:
"What is truth?"
They hear the truth of God proclaimed to them and instead of believing it and accepting it as true, they - in one way or another - say: "What is truth?" And usually with a bit of sarcasm to it. That certainly is how I hear Pilate saying it. Because then we see that because he wouldn't accept God's truth proclaimed to him, that he rejected Jesus (and thus God) by allowing Him to be brutally flogged, mocked, and finally crucified.
Because Pilate wouldn't take a stand on what was true, He ended up allowing Jesus Christ to be put to death, without any valid cause at all.
Many read this story and like to criticize Pilate. But may I suggest, that there are many - even many in churches throughout this land - that if they were in the exact same position as Pilate, would have done the exact same thing? Some things do not change. Pilate didn't allow Jesus to die because Pilate was a mean and "bad guy". Pilate handed Jesus over to be killed because He would not believe the truth of God that Jesus presented to Him.
It was the result of Pilate's unwillingness to stand for God's truth - in his unbelief. It was a result of Pilate attempting to be "tolerant" to all points of view (I can just hear him thinking something like "How can I believe Jesus when this person and that person says differently?").
Pilate had no basis upon which to know what was truth or what was not truth because He did not believe in the standard of truth - Who happened to be standing right before him!
Before appearing before Pilate, Jesus told His disciples:
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6b ESV)
Man loves to complicate things. We've been doing it since day 1. The reality is that much of what we like to complicate is actually very simple.
Jesus says that *HE* IS TRUTH!
We are to simply believe God for what He says. It is that simple. And yet, simple belief is the hardest thing for humanity to do.
Because we are full of pride and want to do things our way. We want to be "in control" - in control of our bodies; in control of what we do or do not do. We don't like someone telling us that we can't do something. It offends us. We want to be the "master's of our fate"; the determiners of right and wrong. We take offense when someone suggests that there is a standard of right and wrong that is NOT determined by us, but rather by the One that made us. This offends people!
It naturally offends us when we read Jesus saying that He is the way, the truth, the life and that nobody comes to the Father unless they go through Him.
Who is this man that he would dare say such a thing??
Well, if He is the Son of God that God the Father sent into the world to save humanity - and that by Him all who believe should be saved - then we can understand why He would say such a thing. We must choose for ourselves: Will we believe this?
C.S. Lewis once said, "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him, 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the kind of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to."
As a fun exercise go read Genesis chapter 1 and then John chapter 1. You might just be amazed at the similarity between the beginning of Genesis and the beginning of John. Jesus is actually called the "Word of God."
Besides men and women wanting to do things their own way, we want to come to God on our terms. We want to believe what we want to believe and then try to force God to accept what we believe as right. We want to do things the way we want and then try to force God to accept it.
Rather than believing in God and what He says, we love to come up with excuses such as:
"I can't believe in a God who would send people to hell."
"I believe in God, but He is only loving and would never judge anyone."
"I believe in God, but I don't believe that [fill in the blank] is wrong."
and on and on this goes.
It sometimes amazes me just how vehemently someone will defend their unbelief because they want to come to God on their terms. They want God to be who THEY want Him to be, rather than how He clearly has revealed Himself to be.
"Much of our difficulty...stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist upon trying to modify Him and to bring Him nearer to our own image." - A.W. Tozer
I may be bursting some bubbles, but you can be "open minded" and "tolerant" in your unbelief all day long - and even convince yourself that you are the enlightened one - and that all who believe what God says are "closed-minded", "intolerant", "haters" and the like. You can do this if you want. You can reject God and His truth in unbelief.
But if Genesis 1:1 is right and there is a God and He made this world, then you will find out - if not in time, then certainly in eternity, the seriousness of your choice to reject Him and His truth here. If He is the standard of truth and you reject that standard because you want to make your own standard of truth and what is right or wrong, you can foolishly do so. He loves you so much that He gives you the choice to choose Him and His truth or not. And if you don't want Him, He, in sadness, will honor that choice when you breathe your last here on this planet.
God is inclusive. He is inclusive in that He wants ALL to come to Him. But He also claims to be exclusive in that believing in Jesus Christ as the means of salvation is the only way in which we can come to Him and be with Him for all eternity. You can read Jesus' words as plainly as I can. We either believe or we don't.
John 3:16 is a popular verse of the Bible:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (ESV)
But many people don't know the important verses that follow it where Jesus continues speaking:
"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”" (John 3:17-21 ESV)
It is so ironic that it is SO EASY for humanity to be saved for all eternity and be in a right standing with God, and yet, it seems to be the hardest thing for men and women to do: to just believe what God has said and stop trying to justify themselves and their behavior before God!
"What is truth?"
The answer is remarkedly simple. It turns out you don't need to spend a million hours in some philosophy class to attempt to figure this out, going down a false trail that will never end. The answer is simple:
God is truth.
He is the personification of truth. It is His very nature. It is according to this that we can see what is right and what is wrong, what is false and what is not. His standards of right and wrong as revealed to us by His Book showcase His truth. I again bring you the statement from Jesus himself (who is part of the 3-part nature of who God is):
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6b ESV)
And now, we come to the next relevant question that all of humanity must answer - the very same question that Pontius Pilate had to answer:
Do you believe?
Hopefully, unlike Pilate, we will be wise enough to let go of our foolish pride, humble ourselves, and with all the faith we can muster, say: "Yes, Jesus. I Believe."
This article is Copyright by Christopher Long 2008-2020. All rights reserved. You may quote/reprint this article for any non-commercial purpose without obtaining permission as long as you use the entire text and that all text, including this and all following notices, is not modified or removed in any fashion. For any other usage, you must obtain written permission from the author.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
This is version 3.0 of this document (April 11, 2020). Any personal references relating to timing or specific events are likely from when the article was first written for the first version and may or may not currently be accurate.
Previous versions: 2.0 (April 2012), v1.1 (September 2008).
This document is provided as a ministry outreach of BodEquip Ministries. http://www.bodequip.org