John 18:38 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
In the United States, there are 350,000 churches, making up hundreds of denominations. Eighty percent of these are stagnant, with nineteen percent growing only through childbirth, and less than one percent being by conversion. Moreover, there is a great divide among those Christians, who make up these churches. How can we as Christians turn this around, and find unity amongst ourselves? Each Christian, regardless of background, needs to come to a full and complete knowledge of the only true God; moving to bring their lives in harmony with his Word, the Bible.
Pontius Pilate (d. 36 C.E.) was the Roman governor of Judea who would order that Jesus was crucified. This was the man that asked the famous question above, “What is truth?” The two men facing each other could hardly have been more different. Pilate was a politician who was skeptical sarcastic, distrustful, ambitious, wealthy, seeking to do anything to advance his own career. Jesus was a humble teacher who rejected wealth and status and was ready to sacrifice his life so that he might save the lives of others. Clearly, then, these two men would not be in agreement, especially as to the matter of truth.
The statement that prompted Pilate to ask the question is worth considering. “Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose, I was born, and for this purpose I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.’” (John 8:37) Truth to Jesus was not relative, elusive, incomprehensible notion. Just a year earlier, teaching after the Festival of Booths, “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you remain in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” (John 8:31-23) Where can such truth be found? On Thursday afternoon, Nisan 14th, just after the Passover feast, Jesus said in prayer to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” The Bible of sixty-six books is the inspired, fully inerrant Word of God, which reveals the truth, and is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be fully competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) Pilate uninterestedly rejected the opportunity to learn such truth.
Here Jesus stood before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, as a condemned criminal. Yes, Jesus was born, came into this world, for the purpose of testifying to the truth, “to give his soul as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Pilate’s reply was a memorable question: “What is truth?” (John 18:38) “With this flippant remark, Pilate dismisses Jesus’ claim that he came to testify to the truth and that everyone on the side of truth listens to him.” Witherington (1995: 292) writes, “Apparently Pilate concludes that Jesus is a deluded quack whom he can banter with but not take seriously.” Carson (1991: 595) describes Pilate’s response as “curt and cynical” and thinks that his reply is terse “either because he is convinced there is no answer, or, more likely because he does not want to hear it.” Ridderbos (1997: 596) sees Pilate “shrugging his shoulders, in effect.” Hendriksen and Kistemaker observe, “When Pilate hears this remark about the truth, he shrugs his shoulders. Skeptic that he is, this subject no longer holds any interest for him. R. C. H. Lenski writes Pilate’s “tone is that of an indifferent worldling who by his question intends to say that anything in the nature of religious truth is a useless speculation.” (Lenski 1942, 2008, 1236)
Thus, the Roman governor likely asked the question with cynical disbelief, saying, in essence, “Truth? What is that? There is no such thing.” Many share this disdainful attitude toward truth today, including many Christian leaders sad to say, as well as secular educators, and politicians. Many today, view truth, especially moral and spiritual truth, as not absolute, but rather relative and constantly changing or developing. Of course, this takes us back to the prophetic words of Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isa. 5:20-21) In other words, people today believe that each individual is capable of determining what is right and what is wrong for themselves. In conjunction with this, they absolutely reject the Word of God, viewing its values and moral standard as out-of-date.
Anyone who is in college today, or who follows politic and current affairs, will recognize that Pilate’s skeptical view of truth is quite common today. Many today believe that truth is relative. What does that mean? Matthew J. Slick writes, “Relativism is the philosophical position that all points of view are equally valid and that all truth is relative to the individual. This means that all moral positions, all religious systems, all art forms, all political movements, etc., are “truths” that are relative to the individual. Under the umbrella of relativism, whole groups of perspectives are categorized:
- Cognitive Relativism: Cognitive relativism affirms that all truth is relative. This would mean that no system of truth is more valid than another one and that there is no objective standard of truth.
- Moral/ethical relativism: All morals are relative to the social group within which they are constructed.
- Situational relativism: Ethics (right and wrong) are dependent upon the situation.”
Slick goes on to write, “Unfortunately, the philosophy of relativism is pervasive in our culture today. With the rejection of God, and of Christianity in particular, absolute truth is being abandoned. Our pluralistic society wants to avoid the idea that there really is a right and wrong. This is evidenced in our deteriorating judicial system, which has more and more trouble punishing criminals, in our entertainment media which continues to push the envelope of morality and decency, in our schools which teach evolution and ‘social tolerance,’ etc. In addition, the plague of moral relativism is encouraging everyone to accept homosexuality, pornography on TV, fornication, and a host of other ‘sins’ that were once considered wrong but are now being accepted and even promoted in society. It is becoming so pervasive that if you speak out against moral relativism and its ‘anything goes’ philosophy, you’re labeled as an intolerant bigot. Of course, this is incredibly hypocritical of those who profess that all points of view are true yet reject those who hold the view that there are absolutes in morality. It seems that what is really meant by the moral relativists is that all points of view are true except for the views that teach moral absolutes, or an absolute God, or absolute right and wrong. Some typical expressions that reveal an underlying presupposition of relativism are comments such as ‘That is your truth, not mine,’ ‘It is true for you, but not for me,’ and ‘There are no absolute truths.’ Of course, these statements are illogical. Relativism is invading our society, our economy, our schools, and our homes. Society cannot flourish nor survive in an environment where everyone does what is right in his own eyes, where the situation determines actions and if the situation changes, lying or cheating is acceptable—as long as you’re not caught. Without a common foundation of truth and absolutes, our culture will become weak and fragmented.”
IF this has been how you have viewed truth, it might very well be that you have unknowingly adopted it from school, college, social circles, movies, television, music, and the like. It is inundated the United States, the last bastion of absolute truth. Many are not aware how much this philosophical mindset affects their life.
Assaulting the Truth
This attack on absolute truth did not begin with Pontius Pilate. Some ancient Greek philosophers living centuries before Pilate made relativism their entire life’s work. Parmenides was a late sixth or early fifth century B.C.E.) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. Parmenides believed that real knowledge was unattainable. Democritus (c. 460 – c. 370 B.C.E.) was an influential Ancient Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, who said, “Truth is buried deep. . . . We know nothing for certain.” And even the most revered of them all, Socrates (470/469 – 399 BC), who was a classical Greek philosopher said that all that he really knew was that he knew nothing.”
Norman L. Geisler writes, “Most relativists really believe relativism is true for everybody, not just for them. But that is the one thing they cannot believe if they are truly relativists, for a relative truth is true for me but not necessarily for everyone. So if the relativist thinks relativism is true for everyone, then he really believes that it is an absolute truth. Of course, this being the case, he is no longer truly a relativist, since he believes in at least one absolute truth. Here is the dilemma: A consistent relativist cannot say, “It is an absolute truth for everyone that truth is only relatively true for me.” If he says it is absolutely true that relativism is true, then he is not a relativist but an absolutist. If, on the other hand, he says, ‘It is only relatively true that relativism is true,’ then we cannot know if relativism is really true, for if it is only relatively true for him (but not for all), then relativism may be false for me. Why then should it be accepted as true? Furthermore, for the relativist it can only be relatively true that it is relatively true for him, and so on infinitely. Either the claim that truth is relative is an absolute claim, which would falsify the relativist position, or it is an assertion that can never be made, because every time you make it you have to add another “relatively.” It is just the beginning of an infinite regress that will never pay off in a real statement. The only way the relativist can avoid the painful dilemma of relativism is to admit that there is absolute truth. Indeed, as already noted, most relativists believe that relativism is absolutely true, for they believe that everyone should be a relativist. Therein is the basic self-destructive nature of the relativist: He stands on the pinnacle of his own absolute truth to relativize everything else. But as the mythological Hercules understood, one needs a firm place to put a fulcrum before he can move the world. The sinking sand of relativism is not a firm place to set anything.”
He goes on to say, “If relativism were true, then the world would be full of contradictory conditions, for if something is true for one but false for another, then opposite conditions exist. If one person says, ‘There is milk in the refrigerator,’ and another insists, ‘There is no milk in the refrigerator’—and they are both right—then there must both be and not be milk in the refrigerator at the same time and in the same sense. This is impossible since it violates the law of noncontradiction. So if truth were relative, the impossible would be actual. But that is not possible. In the religious realm it would mean that Billy Graham was telling the truth when he said ‘God exists,’ and Madalyn Murray O’Hair was also right when she claimed ‘God does not exist.’ But, as even a child knows, these two statements cannot both be true. If one is true, then the other is false. And since they exhaust the only possibilities, one of them must be true. If truth is relative, then no one is ever wrong—even when he is. As long as something is true to him, then he is right even when he is wrong. The drawback to this is that I could never learn anything, either, because learning is moving from a false belief to a true one—that is, from an absolutely false belief to an absolutely true one.”
The relativist would argue that no truth can be absolute because we only have limited knowledge of any given truth. It is true that we only have partial knowledge on most things that we know. Thus, begs the question, if you only have partial knowledge of all truths, how can any be absolute? First, we do not have absolute truths on everything, this is meant to mislead or detracts from the actual or otherwise important absolute truth. We do have absolute truths on some things. “One can be absolutely sure that he exists. In fact, one’s own existence is undeniable, for one would have to exist in order to make the statement “I do not exist.” One can also be absolutely sure that he cannot both exist and not exist at the same time. Just as he can be certain, for example, that there are no square circles.”
Geisler goes on to make the observation, “Of course, there are many more things of which absolute certainty is not possible. But even here relativists miss the mark in rejecting absolute truth simply because of the lack of absolute evidence that some things are true, for they fail to recognize that the truth can be absolute no matter what our grounds for believing it are. For instance, if it is true that Sydney, Australia, is next to the ocean, then it is absolutely true no matter what my evidence or lack of evidence may be. An absolute truth is absolutely true in and of itself no matter what evidence there is for it. Evidence (or the lack thereof) does not change the facts. And truth is what corresponds to the facts. The truth doesn’t change simply because we learn something more about it.”
Relativists argue that if we have absolute truth, there is no room for new truths or progress. In other words, if truth is absolute, it can never change. Thus, there ca never be new truth or progress on that truth. The truth of the matter is, if a new truth or progress about a given truth, it is only new to us, as it has already existed. While we might have an absolute truth about some form of cancer, as to what it is and what it does, or does not do, this does not mean that if we add to that knowledge, grow in understanding; it somehow negates our absolute truth. Then, if we discover the entirely new truth, like in the field of science, i.e., scientific discovery, this is only new to us, it has been there all along and anything we learn about it, just as to the truth. Thus, new truths once they have become known do not change from being a truth any more than old truths change because we learn additional information.
The relativist would also argue that absolute truths change with new knowledge and understanding, so how can it be absolute. An example would be that God created the heavens, and the earth is absolutely true. This author believes that the creation days were periods of time, not literally 24-hours long. Suppose new or additional information came from science or a better biblical understanding, or archaeology, which showed it, was literally 24-hour days. Would this new information change the absolute truth that God created the heavens and the earth? Moreover, let us say that new information comes to light that undoes a truth that we thought was absolute, does this mean that there are no absolute truths? No. Really, the absolute truth never changes, the only thing that ever changes is the knowledge and understanding of that truth. Let us take an atheist that does not believe in God and is an apologist for atheism for his entire life. Then, science makes a breakthrough that offers impeachable evidence that a Creator exists. Does this information mean that there is no absolute truth about God? No, there is just need to humble oneself in light of the new information and reevaluate one’s view of God. Geisler offers, “When science truly progresses it does not move from an old truth to a new truth but from error to truth. When Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) argued that the earth moves around the sun and not the reverse, truth did not change. What changed was the scientific understanding about what moves around what.”
The relativist will also argue that belief is absolute truth is untenable, dogmatic and obnoxious. Geisler says, “This objection misses the point. All truth is absolute, for, as we have seen, if something is really true, then it is true for all people, times, and places. So in this sense, everyone who claims anything is true is ‘dogmatic.’ (And, as has been demonstrated, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t claim that something is true.) Even the relativist who claims that relativism is true is dogmatic. Indeed, the relativist who claims that relativism is absolutely true is particularly dogmatic, for he is claiming that he has the only absolute truth that can be uttered, namely, that everything else is relative. Further, something important is overlooked in this charge of dogmatism. There is a big difference between the pejorative charge that belief in absolute truth is dogmatic and the manner in which someone may hold to this belief. No doubt the way many absolutists have held to and conveyed their belief in what truth is has been less than humble. However, no agnostic would consider it a telling argument against agnosticism that some agnostics have held to and communicated their agnosticism in a very dogmatic manner. What we have here is an entirely different issue, and while it is one that certainly is worthy of our examination, it has nothing to do with truth being absolute.”
Many liberal-progressive minded young ones, who have grown up on this relativism, might argue that they are just being open-mindedness, which only brings a positive impact on humanity. In contrast, like in the above, relativists would argue that those who believe in absolute truth are dogmatic and obnoxious, bringing nothing but a negative impact on humanity. Does relativism really bring a positive impact on humanity though? What about you, how does it really affect you? Do you believe that truth is relative? If you do, you may very well believe that to search into biblical truths about God, about humanity, about the future of humanity is nothing more than a waste of your time. Therefore, belief in relativism, it may very well influence your future, especially your eternal future. This book is not about defending absolute truth, proving its existence, or undermining those that hold to relativism. Rather, it is for people that believe that the Word of God is truth and those who may not believe such but want to investigate further. In addition, it is to help its readers understand what it means to be sanctified in the truth. Now, let us take a brief moment to look at the meaning of some biblical Hebrew and Greek words.
|10:14a. Calling requires faith. How … can they call on the one they have not believed in? In the Old Testament, calling on the name of the Lord was a metaphor for worship and prayer (Gen. 4:26; 12:8; Ps. 116:4). No one can call out to God who has not believed in him.
10:14b. Faith requires hearing. And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? More than anything else, this question is the crux of all missiological activity since the first century. God has ordained that people have to hear (or read, or otherwise understand the content of) the word of God in order to be saved. One who knows the gospel must communicate it to one who does not know it.
10:14c. Hearing requires preaching. And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Since no other media except the human voice was of practical value in spreading the gospel in the first century, preaching is Paul’s method of choice. And yet, in the media-rich day in which we minister, has anything replaced preaching as the most effective way to communicate the gospel? We thank God for the printed page, and even for cutting-edge presentations of the gospel circling the globe on the internet. But it is still the human voice that cracks with passion, the human eye that wells with tears of gratitude, and the human frame that shuffles to the podium, bent from a lifetime of Service to the gospel, that reaches the needy human heart most readily. Hearing may not require preaching in person today, but it always benefits from it.
10:15. Preaching requires sending. And how can they preach unless they are sent? Even when his servants were unwilling (e.g., Jonah), God has been sending the message of salvation to the ends of the earth from the beginning. Paul, a “sent one” (apostle, apostolos), was sent to the Gentiles, and he needed the church at Rome to help him. But he also wanted them to be available for God to send them. There were many, many Jews in Rome who were still stumbling over the stone in the path of salvation. How would they ever call on the name of the Lord unless someone is sent? Paul wants the church at Rome to get in step with those who have borne good news to Israel before, most specifically those who brought the good news of their deliverance from captivity in Assyria:
Six key terms, taken in reverse order, summarize God’s plan for taking the good news of the gospel to those in need: send, preach, hear, believe, call, saved.
With a final barrage of scriptures from the Old Testament, Paul proves his point that, in spite of sovereign election from God’s side of the equation, Israel is in a state of unbelief by her own choice. Personal responsibility is part of the ministry of the gospel, both in delivering it and in choosing whether or not to receive it. God’s responsibility was to get “the gospel” to Israel; it was Israel’s responsibility to act on it.
10:16–18. Unfortunately, not all the Israelites accepted the good news (the obvious implication being that some did—the remnant; cf. Rom. 9:27; 11:5, 25). Paul uses a situation in Isaiah’s day to illustrate:
The apostle John agreed with Paul’s assessment of Israel’s condition. Even though the Israelites saw Jesus’ miracles with their own eyes, “they still would not believe in him” (John 12:37). John then says this was in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:1, just as Paul did. Paul then reiterates what he said in verses 14–15, that faith can only come through hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. The word of Christ here is perhaps best taken as “the spoken words about Christ,” referring to the preaching of the gospel. Word is rhema, the uttered or spoken word as opposed to logos, the revealed word as expression of thought. A. T. Robertson has christou as an objective genitive (Robertson, 4:390), yielding “the spoken message about Christ.”
The Hebrew term emeth is often rendered “truth, “firmness,” “faithfulness:” “faith” “faithful,” “faithfully,” faithfulness,” and designates that which “firm,” “faithful,” “trustworthy,” “stable,” true,” or “established as fact.”
|WORD STUDY: emeth
faithfulness, reliability, trustworthiness, i.e., a state or condition of being dependable and loyal to a person or standard (Ge 24:27); 2. LN 72.1–72.11 true, certain, sure, i.e., that which conforms to reality, and is so certain not to be false (Dt 13:15), see also domain LN 70; 3. LN 88.39–88.45 honesty, integrity, i.e., be in a state or condition of telling the truth, and living according to a moral standard (Ne 7:2); 4. LN 33.35–33.68 unit: כְּתָב אֱמֶת (keṯāḇ ʾěměṯ) a reliable book, formally, Book of Truth, i.e., a writing in a heavenly scroll giving details of future things, with a focus on both certainty and reliability (Da 10:21+); 5. LN 67.78–67.117 lasting, enduring, i.e., a duration of time, without reference to other points of time (Jer 14:13)
The Greek word aletheia stands in contrast with falsehood or unrighteousness, (πλάνη) going astray or wondering (μῦθος) fiction or myth, (ψεῦδος) lie or falsehood, (ἀδικία) wrong or evil, (πρόφασις) pretext or excuse and denotes that which conforms to “the quality of being in accord with what is true, truthfulness, dependability, uprightness, the content of what is true, truth.”
|WORD STUDY: aletheia
of what has certainty and validity truth (EP 4.21), (2) of the real state of affairs, especially as divinely disclosed truth (RO 1.18), (3) of the concept of the gospel message as being absolute truth (2TH 2.12); (4) of true-to-fact statements truth, fact (LU 4.25), (5) of what is characterized by love of truth truthfulness, uprightness, fidelity (1C 5.8; 13.6), (6) of reality as opposed to pretense or mere appearance truth, sincerity (PH 1.18), idiomatically ἐν ἀληθείᾳ literally in truth, i.e. really, truly, indeed (MT 22.16); κατὰ ἀλήθειαν literally according to truth, i.e. rightly (RO 2.2); ἐπ̓ ἀληθείας literally on truth, i.e. really, actually (AC 4.27)
The God of Truth
King David in the Psalms tells us that
Psalm 31:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Jehovah, God of truth.
God is faithful in his dealings with others. He does not lie, nor has any need to feel regret so as to have to change his mind; he is holy, he can never die, his purposes are unchangeable, for they are always right and just. (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Ps 89:35; Tit 1:2; Heb. 6:17-18) Whatever God does is by nature right (Rom. 3:4; 9:14; Ps 9:4, 8; 96:13; 145:17; Isa 45:19). God judges according to truth, namely, according to the way things really are, and not because of external, superficial appearance. (Rom. 2:2; John 7:24.) God has given us right judgments and true teachings, good regulations, and commandments. The judgments, laws, commandments, and word of God are truth. (Neh. 9:13; Ps 19:9; 119:142, 151, 160) His righteousness is an everlasting righteousness.
True and Loving Creator God Contrasted with Carved Images
Unbelief and Its Consequences
Jeremiah 10:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 Every man is stupid and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is put to shame by his carved image,
for his molten images are false,
and there is no breath in them.
- B. Huey says, “The power of the true God contrasted with the powerlessness of idols. His power is manifested in his creation and control of the heavens and the earth. His control over the rain demonstrates his superiority to the pagan storm gods (Sumerian Enlil, Babylonian Adad, and Marduk, Canaanite Baal). Those who worship such gods are as “senseless” (or “brutish,” i.e., like dumb animals) as the gods themselves. Those who make them should be shamed by their foolishness because their images are a fraud. They are without breath and are ‘worthless’ (see vv. 3, 8). When the time comes for their judgment, they will perish.”
Many scientists today are turning to the Creator, as the creation itself, the universe, the earth, and man offer testimony to God’s existence. However, according to the apostle Paul, in his day, there were those who ‘knew God’ because “his invisible attributes are clearly seen from the creation of the world, being perceived through what has been made,” yet they denied this truth. (Rom. 1:20-21) Rather “they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their reasoning, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” (Rom. 1:21-23) While the so-called wise of today may not be serving or worshipping graven images, they are worshipping themselves. This rejection of the only true God was lies, falsehoods, and untruths in Paul’s day, and so they are today. Therefore, these persons, though having the truth of God, “they exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Rom. 1:25) In the case of today, that creature that theses ones worship is the human creature, i.e., humanism. Humanism is a system of thought that is based on the values, characteristics, and behavior that are believed to be best in human beings, rather than on any supernatural authority. In Paul’s day, as was true for many centuries before, this rejection of the truth of God and turning instead to the falsehood of idolatry led them into all kinds of degraded practices.
John 14:5-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how are we able to know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.
Jesus Is the Way
There is no Gospel where Jesus talks more about the Father than here in the Gospel of John. We have already mentioned in the Preface that Jesus tells us the only way to God the Father is through Jesus Christ the Son. Think about what this means for a moment. Jesus told us in Matthew 7:21, “‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” The apostle John tells us, “The world is passing away, and its lusts; but the one who does the will of God [i.e., the Father] remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Therefore, Jesus is “the [only] way” we can enter into an approved relationship with the Father. Why is this the way? Jesus said, “The Son of Man came … to give his soul as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28) Yes, Jesus remained faithful unto death and gave his perfect life, which corresponds to the perfect life Adam lost, as a ransom for anyone who wished to trust in him. If it were not for this ransom, we would not have access to the Father. The prophet Isaiah says that the Father is holy and that imperfect humanity and our sinful state ‘that separate us from the Father when we try to worship him so that he does not hear us.’ (Isaiah 6:3; 59:2) However, it was the sacrifice of Jesus that removed this barrier, giving us the necessary covering, or atonement, for our sin. (Heb. 10:12; 1 John 1:7) If we accept the ransom sacrifice of Christ Jesus and trust in him, we can not only regain access with the Father but gain his favor as well. There is no other way or path to that reconciliation with the Father.
Romans 5:6-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man one would dare even to die. 8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 Not only that, but we are also exulting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
Jesus is also “the way” when it comes to our prayers to the Father. The apostle John writes, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have before him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” Jesus himself said, “… whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” He also said, “… if you ask of the Father for anything in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in my name; ask and you will receive so that your joy may be made full.” (John 16:23-24) It is because of “the way” that Jesus’ Father now becomes “our Father.” (Matt. 6:9) Therefore, Jesus said of himself, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things that One does, these things the Son does likewise. He also said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:19, 30) Therefore, imitating the Son is imitating the Father. The apostle Peter tells us, “… because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his footsteps.”―1 Peter 2:21.
Jesus Is the Truth
“Truth is in Jesus.” (John 1:14; Eph. 4:21) The truth about salvation leads to the whole of all Christian truth, which is found in the person of Jesus. While on earth, Jesus Christ was ‘a man who has told those to whom he had witnessed the truth that he had heard from his Father.’ Jesus said to the Jews, “But because I tell the truth, you do not trust in me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not trust in me?” (John 8:40, 45-46) Jesus “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Pet. 2:22) Even Jesus’ own enemies had to acknowledge openly that he taught “the way of God in truth.” (Mark 12:13-14) The apostle John wrote: “For the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) “In a sense, the rest of the New Testament is an exposition of the grace and the truth which came through Jesus.” “Moses was the head of Israel: ‘The law was given through Moses’ (John 1:17). Christ is the Head of the church: ‘Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ’ (John. 1:17; cf. Eph. 5:23). Israel was baptized into Moses (1 Cor. 10:2); believers are baptized into Christ (12:13).” Jesus called himself ‘the way and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6). Knowing Christ is knowing the Truth, and this liberates one from sin’s slavery (John 8:32). Jesus was so transparently true that the Pharisees resisted him.
When John says, “the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), he did not mean that the Mosaic Law was flawed. The Psalmist tells us that ‘all of God’s commandments are truth.’ (Psa. 119:151) The apostle Paul tells us “the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Rom. 7:10-12, NASB) However, the Law served a limited purpose. Paul tells us, “Before faith [i.e., Jesus Christ] came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith [i.e., Jesus Christ] has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Gal 3:23-25) In other words, the Mosaic Law served as a tutor leading to Christ. It was a guide, guardian and a little bit of a teacher leading to Christ. ‘The Law had only a shadow [prophetic picture] of the good things to come and not the very form of things [greater realities].’ (Heb. 8:4, 5; 10:1-5) The Mosaic Law was a slight preview of the good things to come, though truthful, was not the full truth, that is, not the good things themselves; it was a shadowy outline of the good things to come, giving way to the realities that it foreshadowed. Paul made this point clear in Colossians 2:16-17, “Therefore let no man judge you about what you eat and drink or about the observance of a festival or of the new moon or of a sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to Christ.” Therefore, the “truth came through Jesus Christ” he took the truths foreshadowed by the Law and placed them in the reality of the full or complete truth. Jesus was no shadow of anything else to come; he was the reality, “the truth.” The Mosaic Law was not the full truth, Jesus was.
When Jesus said ‘I am the truth,” he was meaning far more than his making the truth known by way of his preaching and teaching. If we turn to the Old Testament, we notice scores of prophecies about the coming Messiah, the Christ, anointed one. Nostradamus was a sixteenth-century French apothecary (a person who prepared and sold medicines and drugs) and reputed seer who published collections of prophecies that have since become widely famous. Every prophecy of Nostradamus was a one-line sentence that if given enough time, it will come true. If I were to say, “One day a bald man will rule America; it is only a matter of time. The numerous prophecies in the Old Testament were true prophets of God, offering many details about his life, ministry, and death.
Again, the Mosaic Law contained shadows, or prophetic patterns, that pointed to the coming Messiah. (Heb. 10:1) Would these prophecies about this coming Messiah come true, down to the last detail, many of which, were to take place when he was an infant or child and when he was being executed, namely, outside of his control? It was when Jesus ascended back to heaven, to sit down at the right side of the Father; we find that all of the prophecies about him were fulfilled, even if many of the Jewish religious leaders were slow to understand. Jesus knew his role and he had to carry that weight throughout his entire life and ministry. The apostle Paul tells us, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him [Jesus that is]. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” Hence, Jesus was “the truth.” It was as though the truth of the Father’s prophetic word came to us in the person of Jesus.—John 1:17; Colossians 2:16-17.
Jesus Is the Life
Jesus is “the life,” as he is the only way to the “real life” that Paul spoke of (1 Tim. 6:9), which can only come through Jesus Christ. Lea and Griffin comment on 1 Timothy 6:9, “Paul stressed that generous actions allow the giver to lay hold of eternal life in the here and now. Paul had urged Timothy to lay hold of this in v. 12. Here Paul expressed that taking hold of eternal life is a goal of the unselfish giving he had commanded. Christians who enter the life of love by unselfish behavior will enter gloriously into God’s presence in the life to come.” Kenneth O. Gangel writes, “Jesus is the way—reconciliation; Jesus is the truth—illumination; Jesus is the life—regeneration. This is the exclusive gospel. The New Testament knows nothing of universalism—the idea that God will find some way to save everybody. What could be clearer than Jesus’ words in verse 6, No one comes to the Father except through me.” Andreas J. Köstenberger says, “Jesus is the life-giver because, like the Father, he has life in himself. He “was with God in the beginning” (1:2), and ‘in him was life’ (1:4). As God breathed life into the original creation, so Jesus gives life to those who believe in him (cf. 1:12–13; 3:3, 5, 7–8). Without such life, people will remain in death (5:24), “darkness” (3:19), and under God’s wrath (3:36).
The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone trusting in him will not be destroyed but have eternal life.” “The one trusting in the Son has eternal life, but the one who disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:16, 36, UASV) What does it mean to trust in the Son of God? The grammatical construction of pisteuo “believe” followed by eis “into” plus the accusative causing a different shade of meaning, having faith into Jesus. It means, “To believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance—‘to believe in, to have confidence in, to have faith in, to trust, faith, trust.’” Gangel says, “Any approach to God apart from Jesus Christ is futile. Religions, cults, and civic groups miss the message of the Bible when they talk frequently about God but do not want to disturb the pluralistic harmony of their members by emphasizing Jesus Christ. God allows no approach to himself apart from his Son. Whoever rejects the Son has forfeited eternal life and receives instead the wrath of God. This is what the Bible means when it says life is in the Son.”
However, it is more than mere belief. Jesus half-brother James tells us, “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” Brent Calloway writes, “When a person (a soul) dies (beyond clinical death), there is no longer any animating force or “spirit” within any single cell out of the body’s one hundred trillion cells. Many of us have seen the animation video in science classes at school, where the cell is shown to be like a microscopic factory with an enormous amount of work taking place. Therefore, no work is taking place within the lifeless body, as all of the cells that were animated by the spirit are dead. The body is not good for anything. This is the similarity that James is trying to draw as a faith that lacks works is just as lifeless, producing no results and of no use as a corpse. The literal eye cannot see faith; however, works is an evident demonstration that faith can be seen. When one has is not moved to good works, it is all too clear that this one has no real faith. Alternatively, any Christian that is motivated to good works possesses a genuine faith.”
What about those, like Lazarus, who have already died? Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this because an hour is coming when all who are in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good things to a resurrection of life, and those who have practiced evil things to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28-29) When Jesus returns, he will bring many angels, and wipe out the wicked. However, the righteous will not be destroyed, and the righteous prior to Jesus first coming back in the first century, will receive a resurrection. The unrighteous, which had never had the opportunity to know God, will also be resurrected for a chance to hear the Good News, and then, they will be judged on what they do during the millennial reign of Christ. Acts 24:15) Therefore, the punishment for sin is death, the punishment for those, who “keep on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” i.e., eternal death. However, “there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust [i.e., those who never heard the Good News].”–Acts 24:15
Revelation 21:3-4 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and he will dwell among them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be among them, 4 and he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Testifying to the Truth
John 18:37 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
To Pilate’s question, “So you are a king?” Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37) As we have seen in the above Scriptures, the truth to which he testified was not just truth in general. Jesus revealed to us what purposes of his Father were and is, the truth based on the important fact of God’s sovereign will and His ability to accomplish that will. Jesus said to his disciples, “To you it has been granted to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” In his ministry, Jesus revealed the “secret” as being God’s Kingdom with Jesus Christ, the “son of David,” serving as King and Priest on the throne. (See Luke 1:32, 33; 2:10-14; 3:31) In Paul’s writings, he gives a full view of the revelation of the “secret” of the Christ. At Ephesians 1:8-11 he says,
Ephesians 1:8-12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 which he made abundant toward us in all wisdom and insight, 9 making known to us the mystery [secret plan] of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in him 10 for the administration of the fullness of times, to bring together all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth. 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, having been foreordained according to his purpose who works all things after the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
This “secret” involves the Messianic Kingdom of God. The things in the heavens are those who have been “made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign over the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10) These are Jesus’ co-rulers, who will rule with him in his Kingdom for a thousand years. The apostle John writes, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:4) Therefore, “the things in the heavens,” which Paul is referring to, are the co-rulers of that heavenly Kingdom with Christ. “The things on the earth” will be earthly subjects of the kingdom of heaven. The apostle Paul gave further details when he explained that the (mystery) “secret” or secret plan includes the Christian congregation, of which Christ is Head. (Eph. 5:32; Col 1:18; Rev 1:20) The whole ministry of Jesus Christ was, therefore, a ‘testifying to the truth,’ to the things to which the Father had long proclaimed. Jesus was thus no shadow; he was the long awaited Messiah or Christ, he was the King and Priest, who would rule the kingdom of the heavens.—Romans 15:8-12; Psalm 18:49; 117:1; Deuteronomy 32:43; Isaiah 11:10.
1:8–10. We were also “enlightened” through Christ, when God made known to us the mystery of his will. The mystery known to believers but unknown and not understood by unbelievers is that when the time is right God will bring all things in heaven and earth to a fitting conclusion in Christ who will be the head or ruler of all things.
The New Earth: The Earthly Hope
In the O[ld] T[estament] the kingdom of God is usually described in terms of a redeemed earth; this is especially clear in the book of Isaiah, where the final state of the universe is already called new heavens and a new earth (65:17; 66:22) The nature of this renewal was perceived only very dimly by OT authors, but they did express the belief that a humans ultimate destiny is an earthly one. This vision is clarified in the N[ew] T[estament]. Jesus speaks of the “renewal” of the world (Matt 19:28), Peter of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). Paul writes that the universe will be redeemed by God from its current state of bondage (Rom. 8:18-21). This is confirmed by Peter, who describes the new heavens and the new earth as the Christian’s hope (2 Pet. 3:13). Finally, the book of Revelation includes a glorious vision of the end of the present universe and the creation of a new universe, full of righteousness and the presence of God. The vision is confirmed by God in the awesome declaration: “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:1-8).
The new heavens and the new earth will be the renewed creation that will fulfill the purpose for which God created the universe. It will be characterized by the complete rule of God and by the full realization of the final goal of redemption: “Now the dwelling of God is with men” (Rev. 21:3).
The fact that the universe will be created anew shows that God’s goals for humans is not an ethereal and disembodied existence, but a bodily existence on a perfected earth. The scene of the beatific vision is the new earth. The spiritual does not exclude the created order and will be fully realized only within a perfected creation. (Elwell 2001, 828-29)
God created the earth to be inhabited, to be filled with perfect humans, who are over the animals, and under the sovereignty of God. (Gen 1:28; 2:8, 15; Ps 104:5; 115:16; Eccl 1:4) Sin did not dissuade God from his plans (Isa. 45:18); hence, he has saved redeemable humankind by Jesus ransom sacrifice. It seems that the Bible offers two hopes to redeemed humans, (1) a heavenly hope [i.e., the chosen ones], or (2) an earthly hope. It also seems that those with the heavenly hope are limited in number, and are going to heaven to rule with Christ as kings, priests, and judges either on the earth or over the earth from heaven. It seems that those with the earthly hope are going to receive everlasting life here on a paradise earth as originally intended.
John 8:31-47 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
The Truth Will Set You Free
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you remain in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Enslaved to Sin
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
You Are of Your Father the Devil
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father, even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but that One sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you are not able to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. That one was a manslayer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not trust in me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not trust in me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
The Spirit of Truth
John 14:15-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever; 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see him or know him, but you know him because he remains [meno] with you and will be in you. (see Appendix D)
The Holy Spirit, through the Spirit-inspired, inerrant Word of God is the motivating factor for our taking off the old person and putting on the new person. (Eph. 4:20-24; Col. 3:8-9) It is also the tool used by God so that we can “be transformed by the renewal of your mind so that you may approve what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.” (Rom. 12:2; See 8:9) What miraculous, supernatural gifts were the apostles and a select few workers to receive, to establish first century Christianity? They would receive a helper, comforter, an instructor, a guide, a supporter, i.e., the Holy Spirit.
What did Jesus say about the Holy Spirit, being specifically applied to the apostles and a select few other fellow workers, to accomplish their work of establishing Christianity and completing the Bible? He had much to say on this, as we will discover from the texts below. Italics and underlines are mine.
John 14:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, that one will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 15:26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, that one will bear witness about me.
John 16:5-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when that one arrives, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;
John 16:12-15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when that one, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak from himself, but whatever he hears, he will speak; and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 That one will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All the things that the Father has are mine; therefore I said that he takes what is mine and will declare it to you.
In the above texts, we have a number of things that the Holy Spirit was to do for the apostles and a select few other fellow workers. Can the Holy Spirit do the same for us? No, the Holy Spirit cannot, at least not in the same way and the same sense. How, then, can we receive the Holy Spirit, to be instructed, guide, taught, reminded and to be directed in our witnessing to others in our evangelism work? As an aside, the answer will apply to every other facet of our Christian life as well, we just happen to be focusing on the evangelism aspect. Let us look at the thought of the Holy Spirit instructing and teaching Christians. Today we have over 41,000 different denominations, all teaching different doctrinal positions on the same subject matter. If we choose just one denomination, we find that each of the tens of thousands of pastors in the churches does not have to teach the same thing about the same doctrine. Then, let us take and one church within that denominations, and we will find that the church members do not all believe the same thing as their pastor.
Thus, we have all sorts of men teaching different views on every doctrine. Let us look at a few examples, so we can better understand. In dealing with the inspiration of God’s Word, most church leaders teach The Infallibilist View, meaning that they believe the Bible is infallible only in matters of faith, but that it contains many mistakes, errors, and contradictions in matters when it touches on science, history, and geography. On the other hand, few conservative church leaders still teach The Inerrantist View, meaning that they believe the Bible is without error of any kind. On the doctrine of the atonement, some leaders have The Penal Substitution View, meaning that they believe that Christ died in our place. Others have the Christus Victor View, meaning that they believe Christ destroyed Satan and his works. While others have The Moral Government View, meaning that they believe Christ displayed God’s wrath against sin. Concerning the doctrine of Sanctification, there are four main views. We have the Lutheran View, meaning sanctification as a declaration by God. We have the Calvinist view, meaning sanctification as holiness in Christ and personal conduct. Then, we have the Keswick View, meaning sanctification as resting-faith in the sufficiency of Christ. In addition, we have the Wesleyan, View, meaning entire sanctification as perfect love. Even these four beliefs on sanctification are not completely accepted because each church leader can tweak it to fit his understanding of things. These doctrines are just the beginning. We could cover The Providence Debate, i.e., the sovereignty of God. We could talk about different foreknowledge beliefs; the divine image differences the different salvation beliefs, the different beliefs about the human constitution, eternal security, the destiny of the evangelized, baptism, charismatic gifts, hellfire, and numerous others.
These differences in the Christian leader’s beliefs are often contradictory. Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit wanted church leaders to teach that sinners are destined to enteral torment in hellfire while other leaders teach eternal destruction for the sinners? Are we to believe that the Holy Spirit teaches different church leaders four different views on sanctification? The belief that the Holy Spirit is still carrying out the same work today as what the Father and the Son assigned in the first century, place the Holy Spirit in a very unenviable position, i.e., teaching different views on the same doctrine, some of which are even contradictory. Can we accept that the Holy Spirit teaches different views on all doctrinal positions, even being contradictory? Remember, it was the Holy Spirit, who taught and instructed the apostles miraculously. The Holy Spirit guided them as well. One way was in their writings, as no New Testament author contradicted another, they were all one because there was really one author, God. This is actually true of all forty plus authors of the entire Bible. Thus, we are to believe that the Holy Spirit moved over forty Bible authors miraculously, over a 1,600 year period, to pen sixty-six Bible books, in all of which there is not one contraction, error or mistake, but now the Holy Spirit is teaching different views and contradictory information? We would not say in the church of and leader, who taught contradictory information, so why would we accept that the Holy Spirit would do such a thing. Supposing that churches evangelized their own communities, which they do not, but let us suppose they did. How should an atheist feel if different churches came to his home to witness to him and they told him contradictory views about the same doctrine?
The problem is the belief that the Holy Spirit is carrying out the same work after that work was completed in the first century. Only the apostles and a select few fellow workers received the Holy Spirit in a direct and supernatural way, teaching them, guiding them, instructing them, bringing back to their remembrance all that Jesus had said. The apostle Paul told Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2) We all know that Timothy traveled with Paul for 15 years, being taught by Paul (Paul already being extremely educated by Gamaliel), but more importantly, miraculously taught and instructed by the Holy Spirit. This clearly was not the case with Timothy (his being taught and instructed by the Holy Spirit in the same way and to the same extent), as Timothy was taught by Paul and his study of the Old Testament Scriptures. This text evidences that we are to be taught and instructed by Holy Spirit by way of our study the Holy, Spirit-inspired Scriptures.
If the Holy Spirit were miraculously teaching and instructing Christians today, as took place with the apostles and a select few fellow workers, there would be no need for any sort of Bible study tools, such as Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, word study dictionaries, commentaries, and the like. Even so, while there are no direct Scriptures to evidence Timothy receiving Holy Spirit in the same way as Paul and the twelve apostles, we know that Holy Spirit led Paul to Timothy on his second missionary tour. We know that Paul saw something in Timothy that brought about a 15-year friendship and bond between the two like no other. Timothy became an extremely valuable co-worker of the apostle Paul, in a time, when the Holy Spirit was building the first-century Christian congregation. Therefore, we cannot discount the possibility that the Holy Spirit guided Timothy as Paul had been, maybe not to the same degree, and that he was not taught and instructed in the same way and sense but used more directly by the Holy Spirit than those after the first century, including us today. Let us get back to the apostles for a moment. Let us look at the apostles in the very beginning of Acts, as Jesus tells them,
Acts 1:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in both Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the extremity of the earth.”
Earlier, Jesus had told them that he was going away and that he was sending them a helper, the Holy Spirit. Now, he specifically tells them, “You [namely, the apostles] will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Just after Jesus said these things, as they were watching, he ascended back to heaven to be with the Father. Some days later on Sivan 6, 33 C.E., they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit, where there was an outpouring of Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-17, 38) If they had already received the Holy Spirit, they would not have needed to call the brothers together to determine who was going to replace Judas as the twelfth apostle. Moreover, “they cast lots for them [Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias], and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.”–Acts 1:15-26
Jesus told his listeners,
Luke 11:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”
If we want to receive the Holy Spirit, we just go to the Father in prayer and ask him. If we want to be bolder in our sharing of the good news, we can pray to God for the Holy Spirit. However, we must not misunderstand the Scriptures, so as to expect the miraculous, supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit in the same sense and the same way as the apostle, their fellow workers, and the Christians of the first century. If want to become a better teacher in the Bible class at our churches, we will have to be a better Bible student, take in many Scriptures that deal with the principles of being a more effective teacher, put these into practice, and maybe pick up some good Christian books on being a better teacher. In this way, we would be working in harmony with our prayer, because the Word of God is Spirit inspired, and thus the more we delve into it and apply it in a correct and balanced manner; in essence, we are getting more Holy Spirit. If we want to teach the Bible to the Spanish-speaking people in our community, we may want to learn the Spanish language.
Some might believe that I am suggesting that the Holy Spirit is not active today. This is not the case. It is not the question of whether the Spirit is active, but how the Spirit is active. We can all agree that the Holy Spirit is pleading with the unsaved world, to help them find the path of salvation that leads to accepting Jesus Christ. This is not accomplished in some miraculous, supernatural way, but rather through our work as ambassadors for Christ. New Testament Bible scholar, Richard L. Pratt Jr., made the following comment on 1 Corinthians 5:20a,
Paul’s role in the divine plan of reconciliation led him to a remarkable claim. He and his company were Christ’s ambassadors. “Ambassadors” was a technical, political term used in Paul’s day that closely parallels our English word “ambassadors.” An ambassador represented a nation or kingdom in communication with other nations. Paul had in mind his apostolic call to represent the kingdom of Christ to the nations of the earth. Ambassadors held positions of great honor in the ancient world because they represented the authority of the kings on whose behalf they spoke.
This was also true for Paul as the ambassador of Christ. When he spoke the message of reconciliation, it was as though God were making his appeal through him. Rather than speaking directly to the nations of the earth, God ordained that human spokespersons would speak for him. As an apostle, Paul had authority to lead and guide the church (2 Cor. 13:3, 10). Yet, this description applies to all who bear the gospel of Christ to others—even to those who do not bear apostolic authority (1 Pet. 4:11). Though we may not present the gospel as perfectly as Paul did, we do speak on God’s behalf when we bring the message of grace to others. But Paul and his company were to be received as mouthpieces of God in the most authoritative sense. (Pratt Jr 2000, p. 359)
2 Corinthians 5:16-20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 And all these things are from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
As ambassadors for Christ, we are not seeking to offer superficial feel-good solutions to the problems of their imperfection, nor the wicked world in which we live. We are not telling them that, if they accept Christ, God will take care of their problems, and they will feel better about life. Sadly, many who first come to a Christian meeting are looking for just that; they want God to help them cope with the imperfection that surrounds their every waking moment. We certainly can counsel them biblically, which will enable them to improve their lot in life, will help them be stronger in dealing with this imperfection we all face, and, generally speaking, if they live a Christlike life, there will be fewer problems that a worldly life. However, our serving as ambassadors for Christ, this is not the goal of our service to the unbelieving world. We are offering them the same gospel that Paul did. In other words, the Father loved the world of humankind so much; he offered the only begotten Son, and the Father is willing to forgive any of their Adamic, inherited sin, by means of Christ Jesus. Paul wrote,
Romans 5:10-12, 8:32 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. 11 Not only that, but we are also exulting in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned,
32 He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered him over for us all, how will he not also with him freely give us all things?
God’s Word Is Truth
John 17:17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
The Word of God is absolute truth that gives us the realities of how things really are. It reveals the attributes, purposes, and commands of God, as well as the truth of how humans came to be, why we are here, and what we can expect in the future. The Word of God is the road map to what is expected our of us if we are to be sanctified and made holy, to be set apart from Satan’s world, to carry out the will of the Father. (Matt 7:21; 28:19-20; 1 John 2:17) It also sets out what is expected of us if we are to remain sanctified. (Heb. 5:9; 6:4-6; 10:26-27; Matt 24:13; Phil. 2:12; Eph. 2:8-9; Jam 2:14, 26) Hence, Jesus could pray respecting his disciples, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (Joh 17:17; compare Jam 1:18.) Peter writes,
1 Peter 1:22-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 The souls of you having been purified by obedience to the truth, for an unhypocritical love of the brothers, intensely love one another from the heart, 23 having been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
The response of holy living that should result from the new birth is now applied to three areas. Obedience to the truth purifies and produces (a) a sincere love for the brethren (1:22–25), (b) repentance from sin (2:1), and (c) a desire for spiritual growth (2:2). [Commenting on 2 John 4], Evidently John had encountered members of this church (some of your children; cf. v. 1) somewhere and was delighted (it has given me great joy; cf. 3 John 3–4) to observe their obedience to the truth. He used their fidelity, which he had observed, as a positive starting point. What they were doing (walking in the truth; cf. 3 John 3–4) was precisely what the Father commanded. To walk in the truth is to be obedient to the truth God has made known. John wanted the whole church to do the same.
Walking in the Truth
Psalm 25:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
For a deeper discussion of walking the truth, please see Chapter 15. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words defines the Hebrew term (emet) “truth” as “faithfulness, reliability, trustworthiness; truth, what conforms to reality in contrast to what is false.” (Mounce 2006, 896) Jehovah God, the Creator of heaven and earth is our only true source of information as to the truth of humanity’s current circumstances (i.e., our imperfect condition). He has complete understanding of everything that he has created, which includes humankind. He knows our design, which means our optimum circumstances for enjoying the life that he gave us. He is also well aware of how to deal with the rebellion of our first parents, Adam and Eve. He is also aware of what the future holds as well.
Psalm 31:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Into your hand I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Jehovah, God of truth.
Jesus himself said to the Father in a prayer of the disciples, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17) Since we are able to place complete trust in every word God has inspired, we need to heed his direction about human behavior, as it is entirely trustworthy. Young Prince Hezekiah says of Jehovah, “all your commandments are true.” (Ps. 119:151) The promises that he lays out with his Word, the Bible are dependable. After a lifetime of trusting Jehovah, Joshua said, “nothing failed from all the good things that Yahweh promised to the house of Israel; everything came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45) Thus, from the books of Moses to the book of Revelation, we see that God is ‘righteous and true in all his ways.’―Revelation 15:3.
Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and were a reflection of his qualities and attributes. Even after the fall, in humanities state of imperfection, we still maintain a good measure of that image. For that reason, there is little surprise that the Creator of humankind would expect us to continue to walk in his truth, or that the lovers of truth would want to walk in his truth. How are we to accomplish this in our imperfection? The Apostle Paul provided that answer when he wrote, “this is good and acceptable before God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to an accurate knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:4) We need to acquire an accurate knowledge of who God is, why he created the earth, humans, and his will and purpose for us and the earth. What does he expect of us, his followers? (John 17:3; 1 John 2:3-4) Walking in the truth is far more than mere head knowledge of who, what, where, why and how of things. This knowledge will lead to what Luke called the early Christians, “the Way.” (Acts 9:2) This taking in knowledge of the Father and the Son will be life altering, to the point where it becomes a Way of life.
Certainly, what is true of our human parents would be even more accurate of our heavenly Father as well. God finds great joy, satisfaction, and happiness when imperfect humans choose to imitate his qualities and attributes over their fleshly desires, which lean toward wrongdoing, and over the god of this system of things, Satan the Devil. (Gen. 1:26-27; Pro. 23:24-25) As the Creator and Designer of us, ‘he teaches us what is best for us, leads us in the way you should go.’ (Isa. 48:17) It is a privilege to work with hundreds of millions of others that want to walk in the truth, to be used in the Great Commission, helping millions more to move from death to life. – Matthew 28:19-20; John 5:24.
We also bring glory to God when we walk in the truth. Satan challenged his sovereignty, the rightfulness of his rulership, and our choosing to walk with him, means we support him as ruler. (Gen. 3:1-4; Rev. 12:9) Part of Satan’s challenge was that created persons would only love him for what they can get out of him, if opposition to their loyalty arises, they will abandon him. (Job 1:6-12) Thus, our continuously, steadfastly walking in the truth, evidence that lie, because we refuse to compromise what is right for some immediate gratification. (Pro. 27:11) For those who have chosen not to walk in the truth, but have followed the path of independence, like Adam and Eve, they unwittingly align themselves with Satan. He is the “father of the lie,” “who deceives the whole world,” as he is “the god of this age [and] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” (Jn. 8:44; Rev. 12:9; 2 Cor. 4:4) These have a closed heart and mind and are unable to see the path of truth. May we maintain the mindset of the Psalmist and the prophet Samuel,
Psalm 25:4-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
4 4 Make me to know your ways, O Jehovah;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
1 Samuel 12:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile. 24 Only fear Jehovah, and serve him faithfully with all your heart, for see what great things he has done for you.
James 4:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
If we draw close to God in our worship, as well as our commitment to him, he, in turn, will draw close to us. Many, who shy away from putting the effort into buying out the time to get to know God better, which requires deepening our knowledge of him in personal Bible study, will say that head knowledge will get us nowhere. Well, yes that is true to an extent. However, a deeper knowledge of God’s power, love, wisdom, and justice, among other outstanding attributes, will give us guidance for our godly life, meaning the head knowledge as some like to call it, will get down to our heart, the seat of motivation.
“‘Deep’ study is no guarantee that Mature Faith will result, but shallow study guarantees that immaturity continues.” – Dr. Lee M. Fields.
The hands were sometimes used to represent the actions of the person himself in his life of worship. For us today, this means that we set aside any activities in our lives that would make us impure in the eyes of God. This means that we have to purify our hearts, i.e., the inner person, which is evidenced in our daily life, the outer person.
We can be double-minded, doubting, wavering persons when we live as the world does, because we would not have faith that, what the Word of God promises, is going to come true. In other words, we are playing both sides of the fence, just in case. We have one foot in the world of humankind alienated from God, and the other in Christ.
Deepening Our Knowledge
It only stands to reason that our first task is to draw close to God by getting to ‘know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent.’ (John 17:3) We do know that he has already reached out to us through his Word the Bible, a revelation about him, and his will and purposes for his creation. One way that we can grasp his instruction for us is by studying his Word. Even the Apostle Peter found the letters of the Apostle Paul to be difficult to understand.
2 Peter 3:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Both Peter and Paul have spoken to the early Christians about what it means to live a Christian life in these difficult times. These parts of Peter and Paul’s letters are not too difficult to understand. However, some aspects of the letters were deeper and more difficult to comprehend, which would be even more so with us today, as we are 2,000 years removed from that time, culture and language. Getting back to the point of what Peter was talking about, that is false teachers who were distorting and twisting Paul’s teachings that were easy to understand, which dealt with a Christian lifestyle. We can see that they were not too inclined to let the words of Paul or any apostle for that matter tell them that their living in sin was wrong. Therefore, if some can distort and twist those messages of God that are easy to understand, how much more so would that apply to the deeper things of God?
God has freely given us his precious truths within the Bible. As we begin our study of Scripture, we will take in knowledge of him, his name, his qualities, his personality, as well as why he created us, why we are here, what his purposes are for us, and the rest of his creation. We will discover the fall, the imperfect human condition, as a result, why he has permitted the pain and suffering, old age and death. We will discover that there is the hope of a resurrection after death. Most importantly, we will discover his will for us. In other words, how we like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, can walk with God, to be pleasing in his eyes. In the course of our study, we will find that he expects us to obey his Word, a task that is not burdensome; but rather beneficial when we apply them in a balanced manner.
The truths of Scripture that we are going to embark on will enable the interested ones to make life-altering changes. (Heb. 4:12) Before we ever discovered the Word of God, we were walking “according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2) Now that we have the Word of God in our hands, we can embark on a different path altogether. We will be able to “live in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good deed and increasing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:10) This chapter is about the basics of our relationship with God, the first steps of growing our unbreakable friendship. As Jesus said, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” – Luke 11:28, NASB.
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