When our Lord Jesus stood trial, the civil judge in the case was a puzzling and pathetic figure named Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judea. He had little understanding of the Jewish people and had gained a reputation for total insensitivity to their customs and manner of life. Yet he feared the damage they could do to him by their continual complaining to Rome, so when he heard the case against Christ, he was torn between displeasing the Jews and condemning an innocent man.
He thought that a personal conversation with the accused might help him make a more intelligent decision, so he retreated from the crowd and entered into the palace to talk with Jesus privately. “Are You the King of the Jews?” he asked. After Jesus explained that His kingdom was not of this world, Pilate persisted with his questioning: “So You are a king?” Jesus replied, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” At that, Pilate threw up his hands and exclaimed in total exasperation, “What is truth?” Then he went back outside to the Jews, never waiting for Jesus to answer his question (cf. John 18:33-38).
“What is truth?” It was a good question and it deserved an answer. Christ could have given Pilate one if he had waited just a moment longer. But he did not really want an answer. He was not honestly seeking the meaning of truth. Like many people today, he was expressing skepticism about the whole subject of truth. He was doubtful that there was any such thing, or that anyone could know it if there were.
Statements like, “This is true,” or “This is right,” are meaningless to some intellectuals, those who deny the possibility of absolute truth. They insist that truth is relative, that what is true for one may not be true for another, or what may have been true in the past is not necessarily true today. They claim that it’s all in the way you see it, and it really does not matter how you see it because, in the final analysis, nobody has any ultimate answers. Some would even say that life is a laugh, death is a bad joke, and everything is quite absurd.
But above this din of confusion and despair, another voice is heard, the voice of this same Jesus ministering to His disciples on the night before His trial in Pilate’s court: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). It was the same claim made by Jehovah when He revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai centuries before. He called Himself “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Exodus 34:6). There is such a thing as truth, and it resides in a person, a person whom King David called the “God of truth” (Psalm 31:5). What does it mean that God is truth?
“But the LORD is the true God,” declared the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 10:10). The New Testament echoes that same message. For example, 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 a living and true God” (l Thessalonians 1:9; cf. also John 3:33; 1 John 5:20-21). The meaning is clear—the God they trusted is the only real 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 to idols.
Listen to Jeremiah again as he describes the gods men fashion with their own hands:
Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they,
And they cannot speak; They must be carried,
Because they cannot walk!
Do not fear them, For they can do no harm,
Nor can they do any good (Jeremiah 10:5).
Why worship gods who cannot communicate with us, minister to us, or even transport themselves from one place to another? “They are worthless, a work of mockery” (Jeremiah 10:15). The word worthless refers to a vapor, something unsubstantial or unreal. Worshiping an idol makes no more sense than swearing your allegiance to a zucchini squash.
But what a contrast is the Lord, the true God, the living God, the everlasting King. He made the earth by His power and established the world by His wisdom. He stretched out the heavens by His understanding. He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth, makes lightning for the rain, and brings the wind from His storehouses (Jeremiah 10:10-13). He is the only God who has done what God must do to be God. His actions substantiate who He says He is. We can understand that from the physical world. For instance, we may claim to have pure gold in our possession, but pure gold must be gold not only in appearance but also in true reality. It must have all the properties and characteristics of pure gold. So the true God must be God not only in name, but in truth and actuality.
The same idea is suggested when He is called the God of truth, as in Psalm 31:5. The Old Testament word for truth comes from a root indicating firmness, stability, or a reliable basis for support. It refers to something that rests on trustworthy facts. The New Testament word has the idea of being open and unconcealed, and 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 and with the nature of things as they are. He has integrity. He is who He says He is.
Isaiah also called Him “the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16), but he used a different word which is translated “amen” every time it occurs in the Old Testament. 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, the God who is truth.
Interestingly enough, Jesus is also called the Amen (as in Revelation 3:14). He is the embodiment of all God is. That is why He could say to His disciples, “I am the truth,” and why He could tell Pilate that He came to bear witness to the truth. That is why John could say, “grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). He is the visible manifestation of the eternal God. He is no imposter or deceiver. Jesus Christ is the God of truth. The Apostle John stated it powerfully: “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Jesus Christ is the true God.
God not only is the truth but He knows the truth. The Psalmist went so far as to say that His truth reaches to the skies (Psalm 108:4), another way of stating that it is complete, perfect, and unlimited.
We can illustrate that from the human realm also. Some people are mechanically inclined and enjoy building things. I have a friend who likes to restore antique cars. He tears them apart and puts them back together again. He knows them inside and out, right down to the last nut and bolt. People are normally familiar with the things they build. Scripture teaches that God created all things (e.g. Ephesians 3:9). 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, “The truth of the LORD is everlasting” (Psalm 117:2). He has all the true facts; they will always be true, and He will never forget any of them.
I certainly cannot make that claim. I am not very mechanically inclined, and when I put something together there is no guarantee that I will remember how it works the next time I use it. Some time ago I purchased a bicycle rack for my automobile so my wife and I could get away and enjoy a little togetherness. I followed the instructions carefully, installed the rack on my car, and we had a great time together. It was nearly a year before I tried to use it again, and I could not figure out how to attach it to my car. I had to find the instructions and read them again. Facts do not always stay with me very long. Just because I prepare and preach a sermon does not necessarily mean that I will remember everything I said the next time I need that information. But all truth resides in God permanently.
All truth is God’s truth and we are totally dependent on Him for our knowledge of truth. Since He is the author of truth and since He created our capacity to grasp truth, we can come to a knowledge of things as they are only through Him. Anything we think we know to be true must coincide with the truth He possesses; that is, it must be in accord with reality as He knows it.
God has no intention of hiding His truth from the people He made. His desire is for everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), 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, that what He says will correspond exactly to the way things are. A God of truth will never deceive us or reveal to us error or falsehood. He must speak the truth. At least four times in Scripture 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 have all been lied to and we have all distorted the truth for our own advantage at one time or other. Whatever men may be like, we have no reason to question God. The Apostle Paul said, “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar” (Romans 3:4). When He speaks, it is true, accurate, and correct to an infinite degree.
But how does God reveal His truth to us? One major method is through His Word. “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV). It actually “proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). It was revealed when “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 NIV). So we would expect Scripture to be true. And that is exactly what it claims for itself:
The words of the LORD are pure words;
As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven tines (Psalm 12:6).
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether (Psalm 19:9).
Thou art near, O LORD,
And all Thy commandments are truth (Psalm 119:151).
The sum of Thy word is truth,
And every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting (Psalm 119:160).
Jesus added His divine testimony: “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
If God’s Word is truth, then it is necessarily without error. Truth and error are antithetical and mutually exclusive. If it is true, then it cannot be in error, and if it is in error, then it cannot be true. Yet there are some who claim to be Christians who insist that it is unnecessary to believe in an inerrant Word from God. They say that the Bible is inspired by God, but they consider it to be no problem if it contains historical, scientific, numerical, or chronological mistakes. The subject of inerrancy has become one of the major theological issues among evangelicals in our generation, and it is not an issue on which we can afford to remain neutral. 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? 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 Scripture claims to be from God in its entirety. If we are the ones who determine what is true and what is false, then we are elevating ourselves above Scripture, and ultimately above God Himself.
If the Bible is not true in its historical facts, then we cannot be sure it is true when 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. Some professing Christians who have denied the inerrancy of Scripture have already adopted the world’s standards in matters such as homosexuality, abortion on demand, and divorce and remarriage for any cause.
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 the Bible, but none of them is without some reasonable answer. We must acknowledge that some passages are open to varying interpretations, but careful study with hearts that are open to God’s Spirit and wills that are yielded to Him can lead to an accurate understanding of their meaning. There may be some passages on which we all will never agree here on earth, due possibly to our deeply ingrained presuppositions or prejudices. But God still knows what He means, and someday we shall all understand it as He does.
The Bible obviously includes some of the erroneous ideas of Satan and self-willed men, but it is still an accurate account of what they said or thought. 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 eternal life, then God must speak to him, and a God of truth will speak the truth, without error, fraud, or deceit. First believe Him, then spend time studying His Word and come to a knowledge of 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 somebody who believes almost anything, and one religious opinion is just as good as another, as far as they are concerned. 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 notice. And that is what God desires of us.
David learned that lesson after a major crisis in his life. He had committed the sin of adultery, then tried to cover it by dishonesty and deceit. The whole sickening affair had brought reproach on the name of God. But David had repented and was reflecting on his relationship with the Lord when he made this incisive observation: “Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being” (Psalm 51:6). When we fulfill God’s desire and allow His truth to become a part of our inner person, then we will be able to speak truthfully and act truthfully toward others. They will see the reality of God’s presence in our lives and turn to Him.
Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways,
And sinners will be converted to Thee (Psalm 51:13).
The Apostle Paul put it like this: “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE OF YOU WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25). That kind of living will have an impact on the world. When a Christian businessman tells the truth about his product and can be trusted to do what he promised to do, people will notice the difference. When a Christian employee is honest about reporting the number of hours he works and how he uses those hours, unbelieving employers will notice the difference. When a Christian student is honest at examination time even when he has opportunities to cheat, others will feel the impact of his witness. When a Christian family is truthful with the neighbors about the damage their dog did to the neighbor’s flower garden, or when the twelve year old boy in the family is honest about the window he broke when nobody was home to see him, then those neighbors will begin to listen to a 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, such as bowing to His authority over us. If everything God says in His Word is absolutely true, then we are responsible to act on the basis of it, to do what He tells us to do. Something that is true requires that we heed it. For example, if a sign says, “Dangerous Curve Ahead, Maximum Safe Speed 15 M.P.H.” and it is true, then we had better reduce our speed to 15 miles per hour. Truth demands compliance. Many of us resist that. We live in an age of rebellion against authority. Some of us 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 total submission and faithful obedience. That may sound oppressive and burdensome but, on the contrary, it is the only way our lives can operate smoothly and effectively.
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 does not always turn out to be true freedom. It may restrict the product’s usefulness and the satisfaction it brings. One of my sons purchased a thirty-five millimeter camera and took it with him on a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But on one roll of film he failed to heed the instructions, did not engage the gear in the film properly, and did not check to see if the spool was turning as he advanced the film. By the time he reached forty exposures he realized there was something wrong, but by then it was too late. He had taken forty never-to-be-repeated shots on the same frame. He was free to ignore the instructions, but the end result was frustrating.
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, “and 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.
How much time do you give to reading and studying the Bible in an average week? If you have not already done so, build into your daily schedule some time to spend in God’s Word.
Examine your life prayerfully for possible areas of dishonesty, then determine before God to correct them.