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Truth - What is it?
Twenty surprising truths about Truth Created 27 May 2015

What is Truth? This seems like a philosophical question - one that belongs to late-night-many-glasses-of-wine-discussions, or intellectually-superior-academics; the kind of stuff that 'ordinary people' have no answer to. But that's not right. There is an answer to the question and it is not philosophical in nature. It is perfectly practical. What's more, anyone who genuinely wants it can have it.

Pontius Pilot - Governor of Judaea - asked what seemed to be an elusive question - "What is truth?"[1] But long before that Jesus Christ - the Son of God - had already answered it: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.[2] Later He - Jesus - repeated to Pilate essentially that which He had said before: For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice[8] .

This brings home a general biblical principle: (only) those who genuine seek Truth will find it.

The answer is simple enough; Jesus is Truth. Truth is not an abstract thing. It is a person, and that person is Jesus. An image of Truth

That which represents Jesus is Truth.

It is so easily presumed that Truth is an expression of a truism - something that is considered to be 'true'. In fact, that's exactly how "truth" is generally defined: "the quality or state of being true" or "that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality". So, in general terms, Truth is whatever can be proven or whatever is considered a true statement. But the Bible tells us that Truth is much, much more than that: it is the expression of the character of Jesus - the Son of God.

Therefore, if this is so - as John 14:6's 'I am the way, the truth and the life' suggests - that Truth is a 'manner' of doing things ("the way"), and that it has an outcome ("the life"), and that this "way" and "life" is each directly related to who Jesus is and what He represents (the Kingdom of God), then Truth is not merely an expression of words. It has a number of dimensions or aspects connected to it, which likely explains why so many people who claim to have the Truth often differ by what they say; they presume that Truth is represented in the utterance of true words, so they end up arguing whose words are the 'truest'. That in and of itself is the opposite of Truth. It is a falseness or an untruth; a means to lead people astray.

Image of different thoughts about the same thing

Truth has several different dimensions or aspects connected to it which may explain why so many people have different views on what it really is.

Consider that the Buddhists think about what they have as the truth. So does Islam and Judaism, certain strands of Christianity, New Age, and of course many 'dark religions' such as Wicca, Witchcraft and others. But let's have a look at what the Bible may describe as some of the dimensions of Truth.

To know what it is and what it is not we must study the life and character of Jesus of Nazareth.

First, from John 14:6 quoted above, notice that coming to the Father requires Truth. Without Truth no-one can come to the Father. So, whilst your next door Buddhist may often utter and also subscribe to 'the wise words' of the Dalai Lama (as even many professing Christians do), he or she cannot possibly have Truth because, if they did, they would have come to the Father and they would have heard Him speak to them about Jesus as the Truth. Consider that the Bible says 'whoever hears the Father comes to Jesus'[6] . Buddhists do not have Truth, even if the Dalai Lama speaks words that appear to be true or are in fact true. So, Truth has an outcome - those who have it hear the Father speak and these come to Jesus.

Second, if we think of Truth as 'true words spoken from the Bible' - as many people do - then Satan spoke Truth (refer Matthew 4:5-7), which in reality he never did. Consider that Jesus in fact called Satan "the Father of lies" and said "there is no Truth in Satan at all"[7] . This is despite him (Satan) accurately quoting Scripture. So, Truth is not necessarily quoting words or passages from the Bible.

Third, Truth may be silent. 8 Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, 9 and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, "Where are You from?" But Jesus gave him no answer [9] . Consider that Jesus was and always remained "the way, the truth and the life". And at times His 'way' said nothing at all. There were not many times like that, but they did occur. So, although only on rare occasions, Truth is completely silent and totally 'passive' at times.

Fourth, Truth is not reliant on social acclaim or even social acceptance. Jesus did not come to 'win friends and influence people'. He did not come to create a political system. In fact He shied away from anything that would promote Him to political power (now there's a lesson for Christian political lobby groups!) or appoint Him as a leader of a social or even a commercial initiative: They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. "Teacher," they said, "we know that you are genuine and that you teach God's way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people's opinions, because you don't show favoritism"[32]. So, whilst Truth does not seek to alienate people, it does not consider political or social or commercial acceptance above Kingdom realities. Much of what we know as 'church' today seem to not know this.

Fifth, Truth is brutally honest and it is sincere. Do you really mean what you say, or are you just being nice? Phony and nice, that is. Consider how often you may say, "Bless you" or "I will pray for you", but not mean it. That is not Truth. That is deception, or falseness. At times Truth is downright offensive. Consider how Jesus spoke to the Pharisees: Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?[10] Truth does not mince its words to make the message more palatable. It speaks to the understanding of the hearer. Notice how Jesus did not speak to all people in this way. He only spoke like this to those who were in the know - those who should have known better than to live as unbelievers or hypocrites. Hence, to the ignorant He spoke directly and truthfully but in a way that reminds of a gentle shepherd. Yet to those who were in the know He was quite severe. It is amazing to me to see how some of those around us who profess to be mature in Christ often object to scrutiny; very few I have found embrace frank feedback. In short, they are either deceiving themselves about their maturity in Christ or they do not like Truth. So, Truth can both be gentle and brutally honest at the same time.

Sixth, Truth has the right tone for the right moment. Picture Jesus saying the following in a submissive, gentle, inviting, compliant and peace-loving tone - the type of tone so often wrongly proclaimed as "the love of God": 20 Jesus said to him: “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. 21 Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.” Now consider what happens next: Jesus gets struck by a Roman officer - an unbeliever - apparently not for what He said but for how He said it: 22 And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?”[5] Truth has tone. Untruth - or that which is false (phony) has tone too. You or I can say the right thing in the wrong way and we will still not speak Truth. We may speak something that is true, but it won't be Truth. We may say, "God heals the sick" - which He does - but with doubt in our voices, and we will not convey His truth. We will have spoken a true thing but not have spoken Truth. Why? Because Truth is the character of Jesus displayed; His character does NOT offer severe words when kind words are appropriate, and His Truth does NOT offer kind words when severe words are appropriate. So, Truth, at times, may be uttered in a dismissive - dare I say disrespectful - manner; a way which the world will not approve of.

Image of Jesus chasing money changers out of the temple

Truth seizes a moment of opportunity for the Kingdom of God.

Seventh, Truth has the right timing. Truth is the character of Jesus displayed in any given situation. It is this definition that helps us understand that Jesus - in total love - took the time to make a whip in order to chase people out of the temple. He apparently said no or few words while doing so. But He acted in Truth, and this is the point. It is this definition of Truth that helps us understand how Jesus said and did things in Truth which clearly offended both Jews and non-Jews alike. At times He did things in what may have seemed as 'socially frowned-upon' at the time. Yet, He always acted in Truth. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables [12]. So, Truth seizes a moment of opportunity for the Kingdom of God even if it does not suit people's timing or agendas.

Eight, Truth is more fearful of God than of people in positions of power. 11 Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above[11] . Jesus said these words to Pontius Pilate as he - Pilate - was questioning Him to determine his guilt or innocence. Consider that you or I may have feared Pilate - a man who had the power to set free, throw into prison or crucify - so much that we may well have chosen not to 'stir' or risk offense. Yet, that is not what Jesus did. He simply spoke the truth with greater fear of God than fear for any other thing. So, when prompted by the Holy Spirit, Truth in us fears God more than any man or any man-made system of law and of government, and prompts us to say or do things which may not spare our career or our reputation or even our life. It says what needs to be said regardless of the consequences.

Ninth, Truth has context. I am not referring to context in a cultural or even Geo-political terms, but in spiritual terms. So, I am not talking about what the gate at the city's wall looked like or what people wore in the time of Jesus, or what their practices around the dinner table was. Though these things may be helpful, I believe these matters have generally been over-emphasized in understanding what God is saying in His Word, and Truth has paid the price for it. Instead, I am talking about understanding the chronological place in history in terms of God's unfolding plan for mankind when speaking through any one speaker heard in the Bible. Picture Jesus saying to the blind man He just healed, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded. Now, if we do not understand that whilst the book of Matthew (where the above text is recorded) is found in the New Testament, the scenario described in the text takes place under the Old Covenant[14], we may be led to believe that Jesus was telling New Testament believers to adhere to the Law of Moses, which in reality, is not the case. So, when Jesus commands a man to obey the Law of Moses, He is not suggesting that New Testament believers like you and me follow the Law of Moses as well. He said what He said before He fulfilled the Law of Moses and introduced His New Covenant[15] with mankind. The general confusion about the Old and New Testament books in relation to Old and New Covenants, I believe, applies to the practice of "tithing" towards the 'local temple', celebrating Jewish festivals by non-Jews within Christianity, and, for instance, referring to Him as "Yeshua" - His Hebrews name instead of "Jesus" - His Greek name, as used in the Greek/Aramaic texts of the New Testament. So, Truth has a particular dispensational context which leads us to understand the character and way of God in relation to people.

Image of a convenient lie

Undue reassurances can kill someone's soul.

It can be murderous to preach a half-truth.

Tenth, Truth has conditions associated to it; there are others truths or true statements captured in the Bible that lend legitimacy to any one passage, or serve to temper it. During His temptation in the desert, Satan said something that was 100% consistent with the power of God. Yet, he did not speak Truth. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” It took another passage from Scripture to prove Satan's suggestions as illegitimate: 4 But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'"[3] Later, Satan quoted directly from Scripture: 5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you', and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'" 7 Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"[16]. So, Satan presented Jesus with true words that were not tempered by the totality of God's character. That in itself is deception. It is true that God does provide - Scripture says so - but it is Truth that we should not tempt Him in order to extract His provision. See what Paul says about the need for a complete revelation: Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God[33]. It can be murderous to preach a half-truth. So, Truth is complete - it does not hold back and it does not serve partially. What we say is as important as what we do not say.

Eleventh, Truth brings liberty. Jesus said to His disciples, You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free[17]. Truth makes a person clean from the inside and it makes them free. That is it's effect. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth[5]. True words - even words spoken from Scripture - that serve to bring you or me into bondage is not Truth. Again I cite the example of a popular message about the need to "tithe". The Bible is clear that giving out of gratefulness and compassion should be part and parcel of every Christian's life, but that such giving should not be by compulsion. There is no "you must give" for New Testament believers[18]. So, any true words (any message - even from the pulpit) that puts you on a 'guilt trip' for not doing something (like giving enough or tithing) is not setting you free and it is not Truth.

Here is a true saying, but is it Truth?

Image of Rather hurt by the Truth rather than comforted by a Lie.

Twelfth, Truth dispels deception and it convicts us of sin. I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life[31]. This "light" Jesus is talking about is a revelation of how things really are. It is Truth. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin. There is no way to come up with Truth by yourself, it has to come from Jesus speaking through the Holy Spirit. When He does, we speak Truth as well. Note; I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth [23]. One of the reasons who so many people are led astray is because they are led by people who think they are born again, but aren't. Or, think they hear the Holy Spirit, but don't. We all make mistakes. We all miss God at some point(s). But those who have Truth will come to (eventually) see it. So, Truth will bring us to a realization of how much we have missed God's way.

Thirteen, Truth is spoken in faith, never in doubt. Whatever is not done in faith is in fact sin; you or I may say the right things, in the right way and even in the right context, yet not in faith, and the result would not be Truth but sin [13]. So, Truth and genuine Faith in the word of God always go together. That's why a person - even another Christian - saying things that are socially acceptable, research-indicated or otherwise suggested which are contrary to Scripture cannot speak Truth. They in fact speak sin because what they say is not in faith.

Jesus' healing today Consider the many preachers who think they are speaking truth from the pulpit, yet not believing wholeheartedly what they preach. These are not speaking truth. They are deceiving even themselves.

Fourteen, Truth addresses the core of the issue. Consider that when Jesus rebuked Peter, He was really addressing Satan who worked to subvert the purposes of God through him (Peter): But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”[19] Jesus knew what was going on. To the ignorant observer Jesus may have said a distasteful thing to someone who was clearly 'on His side'. But Peter himself was not the object of Jesus' rebuke. Satan (working through Peter) was. Consider how Nicodemus asked Jesus about His power to do miracles. Yet, Jesus answered him concerning the Kingdom of God and the absolute need to be born into it[20]. At first glance there seems to be no relation between Jesus' abilities to heal people and being born again. But then, as we study the lives of the believers of the New Testament church, we see the link between the power of the Holy Spirit (for healing) working through a believer and the Kingdom of God; a Kingdom and a power that can only be accessed by literally having been 're-birthed by the Spirit of God' (inasmuch as Adam's person was birthed by the Spirit of God)[21]. So, Truth always addresses the core of the issue.

Fifteen, Truth can only be heard by those who have their hearts turned towards God. In the example above where Jesus rebuked Satan working through Peter, if Peter had taken offense, he would not have been able to align himself with Truth. Consider that Pontius Pilate had Truth presented to him by Truth himself, yet he could not grasp it. Pilate therefore said to Him, "Are You a king then?" Jesus answered, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all[22]. So, only those who are of Jesus' Kingdom can hear Truth.

'Beating up another with Scripture' does not mean 'whenever you quote Scripture to another person'.

Image of Truth in love

Sixteen, Truth is spoken in love: Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies[26]. How often does it happen that Christians 'beat up others' by throwing Scripture at them. Let's be clear 'beating up with Scripture' does not mean 'whenever you quote Scripture (and it's verse) to another, but whenever you do so in order to humiliate or denigrate or intimidate another person. Such quoting of Scripture or 'speaking of truth' is not Truth. So, Truth always shows the character of God, which is love.

Seventeen, Keeping God's commandments (correctly) is walking in Truth: Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him"[24]. So, Truth is when we allow God to have His way in our lives individually. We pursue His will, not ours.

Eighteen, quoting Jesus even slightly incorrectly is the opposite of Truth - it is error: Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me." 23 Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?"[25] So, Truth, at the very least, is when we get Scripture right.

Nineteen, Truth is not possible for he or her who has not been born of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Truth. Those who have Him may have Truth: If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. 15 "If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you[27]. Whatever the Holy Spirits speaks is Truth: But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me[28]. So, step one to have Truth is to genuinely and practically get born again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Twenty, there are other things that look like Truth, but isn't. I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser[29]. Jesus only says "the true vine" because there are other vines that are not true; they do not produce Truth. So, Truth is when we are 'born into the true vine' - the person of Jesus Christ (by repentance and faith) - and deliver fruit according to His nature (by obedience). Outside of that whomever pursues such a 'vine' is not in the true Vine.

In conclusion

Truth is in His character and that character most often has words - God's words: Jesus' words - which are God's words - spoken in the true love of God and in the character of God, is Truth.

True things may be spoken by anyone - even Pontius Pilate - but Truth is presented only by the true people of God by the unction of the Holy Spirit. Consider that the religious establishment - the ones who had been officially endorsed as 'true believers' - such as the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducee - were really the ones who led many people astray as to what Truth really was; they were the ones who eventually succeeded in getting rid of it - Jesus, the Truth.

Can you see how important it is to:

  1. Not to presume that theologians and/or church leaders automatically speak the Truth, and
  2. Learn Truth by 'eating solid spiritual food'[30], and
  3. Learn to clearly identify those who hear the Father - those who are genuinely Christians - and those who only think they hear Him.
Image of the King of the Jews

JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS

- John 19:19

God may speak Truth through an ungodly man, but only Jesus' people will understand it, Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS 20 Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. 21 Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but, 'He said, "I am the King of the Jews."'" 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written, I have written."

God Almighty ordained that these true words about His Son - Jesus of Nazareth - be written for all to see by the hand of an unbelieving Roman Governor; they will stand for all of human history. Though the words were true, that which was Truth was the Man that was in fact hanging on the cross and later rose again.

This article contains true words from Scripture. Whether or not it is presented in context, with the right tone, in completeness, in love, ..... you must pray about. Because if you really, really want Truth you will find it.

In the meantime, we may know what Truth is not (necessarily).

Let's be clear: Truth is not having knowledge of the Bible. In the same way, truth is also not having knowledge of the culture or the practices of the Jews or the Greeks or the Romans in the time of Jesus. Those two in combination - knowledge of the Bible and knowledge of the culture of the Jews in the time of Jesus - lead many well-meaning people to believe they have Truth. But they don't. Truth is not knowledge or information. It is a Person.

Footnotes:

[1] 38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all. (John 18) [back]

[2] John 14:6 [back]

[3] Matthew 4:3-4 [back]

[4] John 18:20-22 [back]

[5] John 17:17, 19[back]

[6] John 6:44-45 [back]

[7] You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44) [back]

[8] John 18:37 [back]

[9] John 19:8 [back]

[10] Matthew 23:33 [back]

[11] John 19:11 [back]

[12] John 2:15 [back]

[13] But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14:23) [back]

[14] 3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Matthew 8:304) [back]

[15] He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:8-13) [back]

[16] Matthew 4:5-7 [back]

[17] John 8:32 [back]

[18] So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7) [back]

[19] Matthew 16:23 [back]

[20] There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Jon 3:1-3) [back]

[21] And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:1-11) [back]

[22] John 18:37-38 [back]

[23] John 16:8,12 [back]

[24] John14:23 [back]

[25] John 20:22 [back]

[26] 1 Corinthians 8:1 [back]

[27] John15:14 [back]

[28] John15:26 [back]

[29] John 15:1 [back]

[30] 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14) [back]

[31] John 8:12 [back]

[32] Matthew 23:15-16 [back]

[33] Acts 20:26-27 [back]

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Time spent reading the Bible and meditating on it is likely better time spent than reading any other thing, including this website.

If you do read what is written here, please consult the Bible and test what is written. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not from God.

Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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