These three words, once uttered by Pontius Pilate in the presence of Jesus are three of the most profound words ever uttered by man. Jesus, who is the perfect embodiment of truth, stood before him as he asked this question. It almost seems paradoxical but Pilate did not know and did not understand who Jesus was and why he came
“What is truth?” Is the question that we must be asking ourselves all of the time. With the invasion of various opinions and half-truths, even in Christian radio, we need to ask the question, is what I am hearing truth or is it someone's interpretation of truth? I like to listen to gospel music on the way to work and as I listen to the words of what the singers are singing, I ask myself the question, where is that found in the Bible? Have I ever read that before? If what I'm hearing is truth how come I never found it in the Scriptures?
I graduated from a Bible Institute and they taught us how to study the Scriptures inductively. Rather than reading a lot of commentaries we were taught how to outline and understand the Scriptures in the purest possible way. That way is through meditation. In Psalm one the blessing of meditating on the word is described and success is assured when we spend time meditating on the word of God. We must realize that only God's word and not men's opinions about the word are truth. However, at once there is a problem. I am still a sinful human being with a carnal nature and a fallen mind. Paul the apostle says in Romans 8:7, 8, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, so then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans chapters 6-8, describes the struggles that we face with the sin nature. Because man becomes a Christian, it does not mean that the sin nature is eradicated. We have the help of the Holy Spirit in our struggle with truth and error to put down those promptings.
God's truth, as Paul has stated, is “perfect just and holy but I am carnal sold under sin”. There is a conflict with God's perfect truth when applied to men's fallen nature. Truth disturbs our comfort zone and we will fight it and resist it until the end. We may even become hostile toward those who speak the truth because we do not want to change. My spiritual gift involves declaring and speaking God's truth. That means I must be careful in my understanding of God's word and careful as well in declaring it. Truth is like medicine (it is medicine) but you can't give the whole bottle at once. It causes reactions.
Francis Schaeffer was a man who ministered in the 1970s and in his ministry he shared with us how truth began with Jesus Christ and the early church and how over the ages through the centuries truth has shifted and has been replaced by men's logic and formations from his imagination. He also went on to share what would happen in the future as men continued to replace what God has clearly stated with new age formulations of truth. We need to get back to the basic question, ” what is truth?” That means we must spend time diligently understanding the word of God and not merely placing our faith in what people say the word of God says.
We must be like the Berean's in Acts chapter 17 verse 11. “these were more noble than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so”. To put it simply, they checked out everything the apostles said, and they checked them by studying in the Scriptures. Is this what the Scriptures really teach they would ask themselves? To search the Scriptures daily means that we understand them well enough to know where to find the facts. I dare say most Christians that I know do not read the Bible, or study it carefully. It is the word of God but it's so much easier to take what the teachers and the pastors say and trust them to speak the truth. They are still men, with opinions, and some of their beliefs come from others who taught them their present beliefs. Even their teachers may have been expressing opinions they receive from other teachers so we cannot always trust the opinions of men as valid truth. We must know the Scriptures, understand the contexts, and make sure that what we are hearing is truth and not mere interpretations of truth.
Recently I gave a gentleman at work a copy of my newest book. When I asked him what he thought of it I loved his answer. “You seem to be doctrinally sound.” That means he had a base for truth. That was a real compliment because I know he just didn't take my word for it; he wanted to know if I was speaking the truth and he was checking it out and that's what we all must do.
I found it necessary to write this distraction from the teachings on the Seven churches because there's a relationship to the churches that we are about to discover. The one good thing about the church of Ephesus, not mentioned, is they had a base for knowing truth. They were doctrinally correct and examined those who were in error. We are presuming to think that they were doctrinally sound in what they were doing. However, it is also possible to have a doctrinal base that we judge others by which is not scriptural. Perhaps we arrive at truth through logic rather than accept what God's word says by faith. There's a place for logic but since God has spoken, men are not always capable of reasoning out why He said it and what His motives were. So even in having a correct doctrinal base in order to detect error, sometimes our doctrinal bases may be flawed. We come into real conflict when we question them and try to correct them. Truth challenges all theories and all opinions about the Scripture.
Since we are fallen men, truth is transitional. It takes time and it takes maturity and until the time when our ministry on earth is through, we will always have imperfect knowledge. Truth is what the Holy Spirit uses to convict a man of sin and error. Hostility occurs when we do not want our lifestyles interrupted or destroyed. Pure truth changes us and keeps changing us. We do the best we can with what we have, and God through the Holy Spirit will take that truth and still use it to his glory. That is the wonder of Grace.
As we continue our study in the churches we will see what the reaction of society was to the church at Smyrna. This is a true picture of the church who suffers tribulation for Christ's sake. They lived the truth, they spoke the truth, and the reaction of the world that didn't want to hear the truth was persecution. Peter tells us “think it not strange concerning the fiery trials that shall try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, but rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings that when His glory shall be revealed ye shall be glad also with exceeding joy.” Paul also told Timothy “that those who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution”. That's what we can expect from those who do not want to hear the truth (and from Christians who do not want to hear it either.) Sometimes truth and persecution go hand-in-hand. It happened to Jesus. Why should we be surprised if it happens to us, His followers?