Dr. Richard L. Strauss
March 16, 1980
When our Lord Jesus stood trial for His life, the civil judge in the case was a puzzling and pathetic figure named Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea. Secular history as well as this Biblical record shows us that Pilate had little understanding of the Jewish people and had gained a reputation for total insensitivity to their customs and manner of life (see Luke 13:1). Yet he feared them for what they could do to him by their continual complaining to Rome about him. When he heard the case against Christ, he was torn between displeasing the Jews and condemning an innocent man. He still had enough conscience left to not want to do that.
He thought that a personal conversation with the accused might give him the insight he needed to make an intelligent decision, so he left the crowd and entered into the palace to talk to Jesus privately. He asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" (John 18:33).
"'Is that your own idea,' Jesus asked, 'or did others talk to you about Me?' 'Am I a Jew?' Pilate replied. 'Your own people and chief priests handed You over to me. What is it You have done?' Jesus said, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.' 'You are a king, then!' said Pilate. Jesus answered, 'You say that I am a king'”—that's an idiom of speech meaning an affirmative reply. Jesus was saying yes, He is a king. "'In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to Me.' 'What is truth?' retorted Pilate” (John 18:34-38a).
With that, he threw up his hands in exasperation and went back outside to the Jews, never waiting to receive an answer to his question.
"What is truth?"
That's a good question. It deserves an answer. And if Pilate had waited a minute he would have gotten an answer because he was speaking to the one Person who could have answered his question better than any other person who has ever walked the face of this earth. But Pilate didn't really want an answer. He wasn't honestly seeking the meaning of truth. Like many today, he was expressing skepticism and doubt about the whole subject. He was unsure that there was any such thing as truth or that anyone could know it if there were.
Pilate would have been right at home on a modern secular university campus, for his point of view is probably the prevailing opinion there. Statements like "This is true" or "This is right" are meaningless to many intellectuals there. Absolute truth is a non-entity to them. They insist that truth is relative. It's all the way you see it, and it really doesn't matter how you see it, because in the final analysis, nobody has any ultimate answers.
But above this din of confusion and despair, another voice is heard. It's the voice of our Lord Jesus, who when ministering to His disciples the night before His trial in Pilate's court, said:
"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me: (John 14:6).
It was the same claim made by Jehovah when He revealed Himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai. He called Himself:
"The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Exodus 34:6).
God abounds in truth. There is such a thing as truth, and it resides in a Person, a Person whom David called the "Lord God of truth" (Psalm 31:5).
What does it mean that God is truth? I think we can answer that question as we examine four statements:
- He is the truth<
- He knows the truth
- He reveals the truth
- He requires the truth
1. God Is the Truth
"But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King” (Jeremiah 10:10a).
The New Testament echoes that same message. Jesus referred to His Father as "the only true God" (John 17:3). Paul commended the Thessalonians because they "turned to God from idols, to serve the living true God" (1 Thessalonians 1:9; see also 2 Chronicles 15:3; John 3:33; 1 John 5:20-21).
The meaning is clear: The God they trusted is the only real God. That's what it means to be the true God. All other so-called gods are really not gods at all, but woefully inadequate imitations of the one genuine God. When we read that He is the true God, it is usually because He is being contrasted to false gods, particularly idols. That's the whole subject of Jeremiah chapter 10.
"For the practices of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good” (Jeremiah 10:3-5).
Idols cannot walk; somebody has to carry them wherever they want them to be. They cannot talk, so they have no way of communicating with us nor of ministering to our needs. They cannot harm us, but neither can they help us. They are a vanity (Jeremiah 10:15), a word referring to a vapor; they are unsubstantial, unreal, utterly worthless.
"But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God, the eternal King. When He is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure His wrath. Tell them this: 'These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.' But God made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding. When He thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from His storehouses” (Jeremiah 10:10-13).
Jehovah is the only God who is in actuality what He claims to be, the only God who has done what God must do to be God. Just as true gold must be gold not only in appearance but in pure reality, so the true God must be God not only in name but in reality.
The same idea is suggested when He is called the "God of truth" (as in Deuteronomy 32:4 and Psalm 31:5). The Old Testament word for truth comes from a root that indicates firmness, stability, or a reliable basis for support. It refers to something that rests on reliable facts. The New Testament word has the idea of being open and unconcealed, therefore being real and genuine rather than false or imaginary. The God of truth is the God whose disclosures about Himself are consistent with the facts, with the nature of things as they are. He has integrity. He is who He says He is. He is the God of truth.
Isaiah also called Him "the God of truth" (Isaiah 65:16), but he used a different word which is translated in every other place in the Old Testament as "amen." It's used a number of times and all other times it is translated as "amen.” In Isaiah 65:16, Isaiah called Him literally "the God of the Amen."
The word amen means "verily" or "truly," and refers simply to something that is so. When God says "Amen," He is asserting that something is, and shall be so. When we use the term, we are saying essentially, "Let it be so." But when it is applied to God as a title, it means He is the God who truly is, the only true God, the God of truth.
Interestingly enough, Jesus is also called "the Amen" (Revelation 3:14). Jesus Christ, God the Son, is the embodiment of all God is. That is why He could say to His disciples, "I am the truth." That is why He could tell Pilate He came to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37). That is why John could say, "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). He is the visible manifestation of the eternal God. He is no imposter nor deceiver. Jesus Christ is the God of truth.
I'd like you to look at a good passage that bears that out. It is a strong testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ:
"We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true by being in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20).
2. God Knows the Truth
We learned earlier in our study about the attributes of God that God is omniscient—He knows everything. Now we learn that God is truth, which would indicate that everything He knows is absolutely correct. It is in accord with things as they really are. In other words, He not only is the truth, He knows the truth.
The Psalmist said—at least twice that I could find—that His truth reaches to the clouds (Psalm 57:10; 108:4), another way of telling us it is perfect and unlimited. He has accurate information about everything.
The Bible teaches that God created everything (see Ephesians 3:9). And since He obviously knows all there is to know about everything He made, we are driven to the inescapable conclusion that He has complete and accurate information about everything there is.
The Psalmist said, "All His works are done in truth" (Psalm 33:4).
Everything He created was made just as it should be. So He knows exactly how it is all put together and what makes it tick, and He will never forget any of that reliable information. He keeps His truth forever (Psalm 146:6). He has all the true facts and He will never forget any of them.
I certainly cannot make that claim. When I put something together there is no guarantee that I will remember how it works the next time I use it. I usually need to refer to the instruction booklet again. I have a bicycle carrier that I put together. It goes on the back of the car. Mary and I like to ride bikes different places. But you know every time I get that crazy thing out, I have to read the instruction manual again to figure out how to put it on the car. I'm the one who assembled it, but it doesn't mean I remember everything about it. And just because I spend a lot of time preparing a sermon, and preach it twice on Sunday morning and maybe a few times at other places, it does not mean that I will remember everything I said the next time I need that information. I have a fantastic forgetter and it works really well! I forget things.
But all truth resides in God, permanently.
If God has complete and accurate information about everything there is, then we can accurately say that all truth is God's truth. He is the author of truth. He created our capacity to grasp the truth. And through Him we can know not only the appearance of things, the reality of things. We can come to a knowledge of the truth, through God alone.
And furthermore, anything we think we know as true must coincide with the truth which He possesses. It must be in accord with reality as God knows it. Otherwise, it's not true. We can think it's true, but if it's inconsistent with what God knows is true, then it's not true.
How then can we discover God's truth?
3. God Reveals the Truth
God has no intention of hiding His truth from us. His desire is for everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth. In fact, He uses those very words in 1 Timothy 2:4.
"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
So He takes the initiative and reveals Himself to us. The fact that He is truth guarantees that He will reveal Himself as He really is, that His revelation will be perfectly reliable, and that what He says will correspond exactly to the way things are. A God of truth would never deceive us nor reveal to us error or falsehood, He cannot lie. He must speak the truth. Four times in the Bible we are assured that God does not lie (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18).
People lie. We all know that. We've all been lied to by somebody or other, and we've all probably distorted the truth for our own advantage at one time or other. Consequently, we find it difficult to imagine a God who never misleads anybody. But the Apostle Paul encouraged us to believe it when he said, "let God be found true, though every man be found a liar" (Romans 3:4, NASB).
That's where this message title came from, Romans 3:4. Let God be true. What does that mean?
It means that God's truthfulness is inviolable though every man on earth be a liar. Let every person on earth be a liar, but God is true. Whatever men are like, we have no right to question God. When He speaks, what He says it true, accurate, and correct to an infinite degree. We need to believe that. "Let God be true."
But how does God reveal His truth? One major method is through the Bible. They claim to be God's Word to mankind. "All Scripture is God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16, NIV). Jesus said it actually proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). Holy men of God spoke as they were born along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). They wrote their words but God the Spirit was moving them.
So we would expect the Scriptures (the Bible) to be true. And that is exactly what it claims for itself.
"And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6).
"The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous” (Psalm 19:9).
"Yet you are near, Lord, and all Your commands are true. ...All Your words are true; all Your righteous laws are eternal” (Psalm 119:151, 160).
Jesus added His divine testimony in His high-priestly prayer to God the Father:
"Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
If God's Word is truth, then it is without error. Truth and error are antithetical. And there are some who claim to be evangelical Christians who insist that it is unnecessary to believe in an inerrant Word from God. Inerrant means without error. They say the Bible is inspired by God, but they see no problem if it contains historical, scientific, numerical, or chronological mistakes.
The subject of inerrancy has become a major theological issue among evangelicals in our generation, and it is not an issue on which we can afford to remain neutral. We should stick our heads in the sand on this. To weaken the Biblical doctrine of inerrancy is to set us adrift on a sea of human speculation and rob the Christian message of its uniqueness and power.
If parts of the Bible are true and parts are false, what criteria can we use for determining which parts we can accept as correct and which parts are mistakes? Who will make that decision? The parts that are false cannot be from God since He is the God of truth, so they must be of human origin. Yet the Bible claims to be from God in its entirety. If we are the ones who determine what is true and what is false, we are elevating ourselves above the Bible, and ultimately above God Himself. We become our own gods, believing what we choose to believe and living as we want to live—without any divine authority.
If the Bible is not true in its historical facts, then we cannot be sure it is true where it speaks about eternal salvation or daily responsibility. We are left with no sure word from God. We cannot be certain that anything about the Biblical message is true, and we are free to follow the spirit of our age in matters such as homosexuality, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, abortion, divorce for any cause, and other common practices that are inconsistent with what God's Word actually says. Some professing Christians who have denied inerrancy have already adopted the world's standards in some of these area.
The Bible was written by human authors who left their mark on the finished product by their own individual personalities, literary styles, and particular emphases. But what they wrote in its original form was exactly what God wanted it to be. It is His truth, and it cannot be diluted with falsehood.
Admittedly there are problem passages in it, but none of them are without reasonable answers. Yes, it is open to varying interpretations—I hear that one so often—but careful study with open hearts and minds can bring us to an accurate understanding of its meaning. It does include some of the erroneous ideas of Satan and of self-willed men, but it is still an accurate account of what they said. It does not tell us everything there is to know, but what it does tell us is truth.
If man is ever to know God and have the assurance of life eternal, then God must speak to him, and a God of truth will speak the truth without error, fraud, or deceit. We at Emmanuel Faith stand firm on the doctrine of the inerrancy of the Bible.
4. God Requires the Truth
Unfortunately, believing in an inerrant Bible alone is not going to impress a lost world very much. The people of the world can find folks who believe almost anything, and one religious opinion is just as good as another as far as they are concerned. The fact that you and I believe in an inerrant Bible doesn't make any difference to them at all.
People want to see something that works in everyday living. When God's truth is demonstrated by a life of honesty, integrity, and absolute truthfulness, then people will sit up and take notice. And that is what God desires of us.
David learned that lesson after a major crisis in his life. He committed the sin of adultery, then tried to cover it up by dishonesty and deceit. The whole sickening affair had brought reproach on the name of God, but He had exposed it and David had repented. David wrote Psalm 51 after his repentance. He was reflecting on his relationship with God after the ordeal was past, when he made this incisive observation:
"Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being” (Psalm 51:6a, NASB).
When God's truth becomes a part of our inner being, then we will be able to speak truthfully and act truthfully toward others, and then they will begin to turn to the true God.
"Then”—after truth is in his innermost being, David says—"I will teach transgressors Your ways, so that sinners will turn back to You” (Psalm 51:13).
Do you want a testimony that will reach those who need Jesus? It begins with truth in your innermost being.
The Apostle Paul put it like this:
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25).
That kind of living will have an impact on the world.
When a Christian businessman can be trusted to tell you the truth about his product and trusted to do what he promised to do...
When a Christian employee is honest about the hours he works and his diligence during those hours...
When a Christian student is honest at examination time even when opportunities to cheat are presented to him...
When a Christian family is truthful about things as little as admitting the damage their dog did to the neighbor's flower garden...
...Then people will begin to listen to their testimony about a God of truth, whose message of truth can bring the assurance of everlasting life.
Living in the knowledge of God's absolute truth has other far-reaching implications for our lives as well. It involves bowing to His absolute authority over us. If God is absolutely right about everything and His Word is perfectly true, then we have a responsibility to do what He tells us to do.
Many of us resist that. We live in an age of rebellion against authority and it has had its affect on all of us. We reserve the right to live as we please and seek our own happiness anywhere we think we can find it. But a true God whose Word is truth demands our utter allegiance and faithful obedience. That may sound oppressive and burdensome at first, but it isn't. It is the only way our lives can operate smoothly and effectively.
Look at is like this. Most products work better when we use them according to the manufacturer's instructions. We are free to ignore the manual if we choose, but that doesn't always turn out to be true freedom. It may restrict the product's usefulness and the satisfaction it brings. Just so, our lives operate most satisfactorily when we live by the principles which our Maker has revealed in His manufacturer's manual, the Bible. To ignore His truth leads not to freedom, but to bondage, frustration, and failure.
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). By letting His truth find expression in our lives, we can be free to live and grow and become all we were meant to be.
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
May I remind you that we cannot even start to be all that God wants us to be until we listen to the truth that Jesus revealed, and acknowledge the He is the truth. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6).
We can try to do it ourselves and construct some other way, but in the final analysis there is no other way.
There is no other name given under heaven among men whereby we must be saved.
We must believe that God's Son, Jesus Christ, came to earth and paid the debt and punishment for our sin. By putting our trust in Him and the all-sufficiency of His shed blood, we are saved. There is no other way.
That is the truth. Will you believe it? Right now?
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:6 NIV
Continue to AT-20: Great Is They Faithfulness