We all see the world somewhat differently, subjectively. Truth is individual. In the public square we should give freedom for everyone to believe in his/her own view of truth. Freedom of religion is important.
However, truth is not only subjective and personal like postmodern philosophy argues. General, objective truth exists. After all, we all live in the same reality. The freedom of religious thought which we should give to everyone does not mean that only one Truth with the capital “T” cannot exist. It also does not mean that we should not search for the Truth or that one cannot find the Truth.
Truth with the capital “T” can be associated with the so called “grand narrative” or “great story”. For example, we are talking about “the story of the cosmos” when we are discussing about the origins and the future of the universe.
Now, the biblical great story is one grand narrative of the origins and the future of the cosmos. At the core of its narrative is the salvation history. This history calls for a search of the deeper meaning of Truth.
Therefore, let us seek the biblical definition of Truth. After all, we should at least give the Bible a chance, because it claims to be a historical book with a coherent great story of the universe and salvation. We are going to see how we can grow into Truth in our search for it.
Biblical Definition of Truth
The Scripture gives at least four definitions of Truth. God’s Word is the Truth (John 17:17), God’s commandments are the Truth (Ps. 119:151 KJV), Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6), and the Holy Spirit is the Truth (1. John. 5:6). The Bible as a whole is the plan of salvation and the revelation of Jesus Himself. It has the authority of God, because the Spirit of God has been the inspirer of the biblical writers (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21). This is why both Jesus and his Word are the Truth.
John describes Jesus and the Truth as light (1 John 1:5-7). “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” (John. 1:4 KJV) “And the Word was made 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.” (v. 14) As Pilate interrogated Jesus, Jesus said: “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” (John 18:37 RSV) Pilate answered: “What is truth?” (v. 38) “After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again, and told them, ‘I find no crime in him.’” (v. 38)
Pilate did not stay and wait for the answer, even though the One who was standing before him was the Truth himself: the Truth about God’s character, care and motives towards the human race. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 RSV)
In the Son of God dwells, therefore, both love and truth. Moreover, Jesus said: “Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth.” (John 17:17 RSV) We can see the principles of love and truth in Jesus and the Word of God (the Bible). The Truth is a Person! Therefore, we can find Him, because He has approached humanity, the Bible assures us.
To Paul and to the other Apostles the Truth, in addition to love, was important (2 Thess 2:10; 2 Tim 2:16-19; Titus 2:1; Jas 5:19; 1 Pet 1:22; 2 Pet 1:12). They sook the Truth. Paul wrote that God’s children would grow until they “come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Eph 4:13 NRSVA) This unity is based on both love and truth. Again, Truth is in Jesus, ready for us to be cultivated into.
Even though we can grow in the knowledge of truth, there are limits to our growth.
The Limits of Truth
Truth with the capital “T” or the absolute Truth does not mean that human beings can understand it completely or claim to understand or hold it completely. Rather, through the Bible we can realize that the absolute Truth exists. There are at least three things which limit our capacity to understand the fulness of Truth, namely everything about God. These three things are circumstances, sin and chaos, and the greatness of God.
There is a reason that the Middle Ages are called the Dark Ages. During the Middle Ages, people were not allowed to read the Bible. The true Light of God’s Word was suppressed from them.
But the story did not end there. God lifted up the Reformation to set the lamp back to its candlestick. The meaning of the Reformation is to find the original faith of the Apostles. The process can be said to have begun in the Middle Ages, but it has continued until the modern times. This is why the brightness of Truth is relational according to the times or circumstances one is living in, even though Truth has always been available in the Bible. There exists a “present truth”.
Reformation has always been or should have always been founded on this principle of present truth. Protestants should be open to new discoveries from the Word of God, as long as the discoveries do not contradict the already established biblical truths (Isa 8:20).
Sin and Chaos
When thinking about today’s world, chaos could be one word to describe its reality. Before God created this world, there was chaos generated by Satan (Ezek 28:12-19; Rev 12:7-9). After human race fell into sin, there has been chaos. This is why everything that comes out of human being itself is not bound to eternity and truth but chaos. Our mind, being and understanding are sinful and corrupted (Rom 3:9-18).
Human creativity and thought are not infinite in their capacity. That which is done on earth has been done before in a different form but in the same essence (Eccles 1:9). In other words, human creativity and understanding have their boundaries, and the deepest reality of things is not in human being itself. God’s Word/law gives these boundaries. The set boundaries by God protect the sinner, because the law reveals what sin is (Rom 3:20).
The Greatness of God
When Jesus comes again, He changes the circumstances of His people, and transforms the sinful bodies of the saints into glorified and sinless bodies (Phil 3:21). However, even in the eternal Heaven and the New Earth will be things to learn about God. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29 RSV)
Even though there are limits in our ability to know the Truth, God still reveals it to us according to our ability to understand it. But how can we discern truth from lies? What if we understand the Bible incorrectly? God wants to lead us to understand His Truth. We may call this growth in Truth.
Growth in Truth
God says: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13 NIV) If we are honestly seeking, we will find the Truth. By opening our hearts to God, He shall be close to us and guide us.
Open Your Heart to God
Understanding the Bible is a journey. The Spirit illuminates us with a truth, which makes us wanting to seek more of the truth. We can seek by studying the Scriptures. We want to open our hearts for God’s Spirit to lead us. Jesus said: “If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself.” (John 7:17 NASB)
Human beings can know God and the Truth only by the Holy Spirit’s influence (John 1:9; 12:32; 1 Cor 2:14). We can trust the Bible, because experiences come and go, but the Word stays the same (Isa 8:20). Even Christ counted on the Scriptures. He said: “It is written…” (John 4:4), when He battled with the devil in the wilderness.
The Bible warns us that seducing spirits can claim to offer the truth although not being from God (Rev 16:12-14). Paul writes:
The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess 2:9-12 RSV)
This is why God’s sure Word is the guiding light through the chaotic confusion of this world and through the deceptions of Satan. God’s Spirit and the Scriptures are not contradicting each other (Eph 6:17). Indeed, the Scriptures are trustworthy and understandable. God does not want us to be baffled about the most important things in human life. Especially salvation is so important issue that the contours of it are not foggy in the Bible.
Open Your Heart to His Salvation
In order to be honestly seeking, one needs to be honest before God. We are able to accept the Truth of the Bible if we confess to God our sins and inability to be saved without Jesus. Jesus said to those who persecuted Him: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40 NKJV)
Jesus gave himself to death “that he might reconcile” everyone with God (Eph 2:16). Christ opened the way to growth in Truth, knowledge and wisdom (Col 2:2-3; 3:10). He is the foundation to grow on (Eph 3:16-17). He is the ground of all Christian teaching and lifestyle.
Open Your Heart to His Way
How do we know we are on the right path? God’s way is depicted in His Truth: the Bible and God’s commandments. It is the same Christ who died on the cross who also gave the Ten Commandments (1 Cor 10:1-3). Therefore, God’s Commandments give the solid rock to build on thinking, teaching and practice. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa 8:20 KJV)
God’s law declares His authority and is sealed by His authority. Only He has the authority to say what is right and wrong and what is good and evil. The sign of His authority as the Creator is in His law: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exod 20:11 NIV) The Sabbath “will be a sign between me [God] and the Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” (Exod 31:17 NIV)
The Sabbath proclaims rest in God’s righteousness, authority and truth, because God rested and lets humanity be part of His rest. In creation of the world God made everything ready, and after that human beings could rest in His completed work (Gen 2:1–4). Only through the Creator and Redeemer, one can find the truth of salvation, which is salvation by Christ’s righteousness. When Jesus died on the cross, He said: “It is finished.” (John 19:30 NIV) Then he rested in a tomb for the Sabbath day, because He arose from the grave on the first day of the week (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). Salvation is finished in Jesus. The authority of salvation is in Jesus. The truth of salvation is in Him.
By accepting more truth from the Bible, the Spirit enables us to grow even more. True, the Spirit enables us to even accept the truth in the first place. However, we have freedom of choice as well. The Spirit does not force us to accept the truth. God wants us to love Him freely from our hearts. The amazing thing is that our freedom to choose Truth leads to more freedom.
Truth Leads to Freedom
Jesus said that “the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) The Truth sets free from all the chaos, all the fallible ways of human thinking. It gives freedom from deception and self deception. It is the way to honesty about reality. Only when you are honest, you can find the truth; and when you are truthful (honest), you can see that human being is sinful and needs atonement. You can realize that human being is like vapor that vanishes and needs the eternal life as a gift from God.
One should not fear the truth but love it, because it is a gift from God. Jesus gave himself as the gift of salvation (John 3:16). “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32 NASB) God loves us freely. Truth is free.
God will lead us in our journey and search of Truth. It is a wonderful route, because it leads to freedom, freedom to see the amazing character of God through Jesus Christ. He shed His pure blood so that we might live. We all have sinned and deserve the penalty. He came as our substitute. He took the penalty of our crimes and sinfulness upon Himself so that we might be free from the penalty. His perfect righteousness is counted for us in the heavenly court if we confess our sins. Would you not be willing to be honest and confess your inability to be saved without Jesus? Again, by being honest, one can receive the Truth, the reality of salvation.
God’s love and truth holds the universe together, and will not let it fall into chaos again. Right now, there is also chaos in the world, but it will end when Jesus comes again from heaven, when His feet will not touch the ground, when the sky will be split in half, and when the reality will be revealed as it is (Luke 21:25–28; Matt 24:29-36; Rev 1:7; John 14:1–3; 1 Thess 4:13–18; 1 Cor 15:51-52; 2 Pet 3:10). Everything will be made perfect when Jesus comes. “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” (1 Cor 13:10 NKJV) Jesus is the Reality. Jesus is the Truth.
Now, already, we can have rest in God’s perfect Truth. It is based on His eternal righteousness (Exod 3:14). Now, already, we can find Truth when we want to seek it honestly. We are free to be amazed by the wonderfully loving and gracious character of God. Let us be bold and seek and love the Truth!