What is Truth?

Apparently in the days of ancient Rome, truth was determined by the philosophy of relativism. This was based on the theory that all truth is relative to the individual and to the time or place in which he acts. Evidently Pilate was greatly influenced by this philosophy and when the Lord Jesus spoke to him about truth during His “mock trial,” Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:37,38) He assumed that truth to the Roman was very different than truth to the Jew. He probably thought that what was considered truth in his day was very different than what they considered truth in the previous century. The Bible, which is the Word of God, makes it clear that truth is absolute. It is not based on an individual’s interpretation at a certain time, place, or circumstance. It is completed and never subject to change by any individual or event, and most importantly, it can be understood and believed. Our day is no different than Pilate’s day. People think it is “tolerant” to “respect” all beliefs. They infer that truth is whatever one chooses to believe and the source or authority is not to be questioned.

The Holy Spirit especially exercised and used one of the Lord’s apostles regarding the revelation of truth. His name was John and in the Gospel of John and the three epistles of John he refers to truth in at least thirty-seven verses. Let us examine some of these verses and find the answer to Pilate’s question, What is truth?

The Source Of All Truth

Whatever God has spoken is the truth. He is the absolute source of truth. It does not come from man or from any source in this world. In addressing the Father, the Lord Jesus said to Him, “Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). That statement is as absolute as “God is love” or “God is light.” Because He is light, He must reveal the truth. God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2), and everything He has said is the truth. Thus we can know the absolute truth by consulting the Bible, the written Word of God. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Because the Lord Jesus Christ is God, He is also the source of truth and He brought truth into the world when He came into the world. “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:17) and His character is described as being full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14). Whenever He spoke, He spoke the truth. He said to the Jews when here on earth, “But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God” (Jn. 8:40). When addressing the disciples before His death, He stated, “I tell you the truth” (Jn. 16:7). Christ is actually the personification of truth; thus He could say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6).

The third person of the trinity, the Holy Spirit, is called “the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 14:17; 15:26; 1 Jn. 5:6). Through the Spirit, God revealed the truth to man. “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). As He functions in the life of those who commit themselves to Christ, He guides them into all truth (16:13). In and of ourselves, we would not be capable of knowing the truth, but through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are able to understand the truth.

On the other hand, the Bible identifies the devil, Satan, as the source of error and falsehood. Christ said to those who refused to believe the truth, “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” (Jn. 8:44).

The Subjects Of The Truth

Those who receive God’s truth and become subjects of His truth, take on certain characteristics that can only be true of those who walk in the truth. “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seenÉ” (Jn. 3:21). “Truth seeks no corners. Those who mean and act honestly dread not a scrutiny, but desire it rather.” (Matthew Henry). One of the first characteristics of knowing the truth is the willingness to acknowledge the truth about ourselves. God tells us we are sinners, and we do not seek to hide this fact, but we bring it out into the light and acknowledge the truth of it. By nature, we do not want the truth because it reveals our sinful condition. Christ told those who refused the truth, “But because I tell you the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?” (Jn. 8:45,46) The truth exposes us and we acknowledge before God our sinful condition. “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:6,8).

Once we accept the truth, we become set apart for God. “Sanctify them by Your truthÉAnd for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth”(Jn. 17:17,19). “As the believer walks in the truth, the truth made known by the Father through the Son, he is increasingly sanctified and enabled to walk even as He walked” (A. C. Gaebelein). The effect of truth on our walk and character is emphasized by John in his epistles. “He who says, I know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in himÉMy little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him” (1 Jn. 2:4;3:18,19). “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 Jn. 3,4). When truth is received, it has a dynamic result in the walk of the believer. Truth is more than head knowledge; its reception results in great changes in the life of the believer.

The Success Of Truth

As we look around this world, it would appear that wrong and falsehood are on the throne. It would appear that truth is mocked and the cost of denying it seems small. Not so. Those who practice deceit and error will eventually be exposed and in the end only those who receive the truth of God will triumph. “Whoever commits sin is a slave of sinÉand you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32,34). Freedom of the spirit can only be realized by those who receive the truth. Those who base their choices upon lies become victims and slaves of their very choices.

Those who walk in the truth have the God–given ability to recognize error. “We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 Jn. 4:6). Through familiarity with the truth, which is the Word of God, the believer develops the ability to recognize what is not of the truth. The more truth we know, the less likely it is that we will be carried away by error, so “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, Christ” (Eph. 4:14, 15).

In the ages to come, the lies of men will be brought to light, and only the truth, which comes from God, will remain steadfast forever. John speaks of the truth which abides in us as that which “will be with us forever” (2 Jn. 2). We will eventually lose all our earthly possessions that we have gathered here, but the truth will remain with us forever. Let us go in then for gathering the truth. Let us learn it, memorize it, and receive it willingly. Let the skeptics laugh, the tolerant growl, and the philosopher mock, but God’s truth is absolute and we can absolutely believe it with all our heart.