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What is Truth?


This is a favorite question of a cynic. Pilate responded to Jesus’ declaration that He came into the world to bear witness to truth with this question. Then he turned away. As one who is committed to truth, I dare not turn away from pursuing this question.

A favorite quotation, found on the city hall of Detroit and many public libraries is, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” These words came from the lips of Jesus, who prefaced them by saying, “If you continue in my word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).

In another place, Jesus prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Yet truth is more than the words spoken by Jesus or even the words that have come from the Father. Jesus Himself declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Jesus is Truth incarnate. He is also the Word of God incarnate. John’s gospel opens with the announcement, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

Jesus Himself is Truth, for He is the living Word of God in a way that letters on a page can never be.

This in no way belittles or demeans the Bible as the written Word of God.

Jesus spoke highly of the Scriptures, the Writings that came from God, when He declared to the Jews of Jerusalem, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).

All parts of the Scriptures testify of Jesus. Before the resurrected Jesus left His disciples to return to the Father, “He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). These were the three divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. All of these testified of Jesus.

The tragedy of the Jews is that they did not get the point of their own Scriptures – and so they missed seeing Jesus there. They labored long to discover all of the nuances of the Law, while missing the beauty of the One of whom the Law testified.

As a Jew zealous for the Law, Saul of Tarsus sought to destroy the name of Jesus along with all who called on that Holy Name. As the Apostle zealous for the gospel of Jesus, Paul declared, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12). Note how Paul personalized his faith. He did not say, “I know what I have believed.” He said, “I know whom I have believed.”

Paul’s faith was not in a written (or unwritten) creed made of propositions about God and His way. His faith was in the Living Word that is Truth. That his faith was trust is apparent, as he continued “I am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him.”

Paul was committed to truth because he was committed to Jesus. From the time Jesus made Himself known to Saul on the Damascus Road, Paul’s commitment to truth made a u-turn. Before, he was zealous for the minutia of  the Law; afterward, he was committed to knowing Jesus!

He himself wrote of this change: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

That is what commitment to truth meant to Paul.

Commitment to Truth, i.e. commitment to Jesus, meant more to him than the position he had enjoyed among his fellow Jews. It meant more to him than the confidence he had in the things of the flesh, as he sought to save himself by his blamelessness with regard to the Law. It meant more to him than his identity of a Hebrew of Hebrews and a Pharisee of Pharisees.

Commitment to Jesus is what commitment to truth must mean to us as well. How can the traditions of our fathers compare to the excellency of knowing Jesus? How can the rituals of law make us become what fellowship with Jesus will lead us to be? How can the works of righteousness according to the flesh empower us as does sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus – especially when we walk in that death unto life day by day, crucifying self to allow Christ to live in us?

If I am truly committed to truth, I will be committed to knowing Jesus, to walking with Him intimately in my life.

It is this truth that will sanctify me and set me free. It in this truth that I will be able to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made [me] free” (Galatians 5:1a). It is commitment to this truth that keeps me from being “entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1b).

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