Assaults on truth are nothing new. In the dock before Pilate, Jesus said he came into the world “to bear witness to the truth.” To which Pilate mocked: “What is truth?”
The irony is thick in John 18:38. The Roman prefect missed the truth, even as Truth incarnate stood before him. Then again, Pilate may not have missed anything. He may have known too well what Jesus offered him and, unwilling to follow the king of the Jews, hastily dismissed him from his presence.
Not much has fundamentally changed since that fateful day. The question of truth continues to color theological, ethical, and political debates—and to plague human hearts. Christians need to have a good answer to Pilate’s question.
In contrast to the spirit of the age, truth isn’t a feeling experienced but a fact decreed in eternity, demonstrated in history, and progressively revealed and recorded in Scripture. Put simply, truth is what God says it is.
According to Isaiah 65:16, God is the “God of truth.” All history proves this reality. What Yahweh promised, he fulfilled; what he foretold, he accomplished. His actions validated his words, and his words perfectly revealed his holiness, goodness, trustworthiness, and truth.
Moreover, when God revealed himself, he inspired a true book. Letting Scripture speak for itself (something theologians call “self-attestation”), Psalm 119 says God’s law and commandments are true (vv. 142, 151). And again: “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endure forever” (v. 160). The truth of God’s Word is evidenced in its moral character and enduring nature. That which is false corrodes and fails, but God’s Word is both pure (Ps. 12:6) and eternal (Ps. 119:89): “Every word of God proves true.”
Therefore, on the basis of God’s character, his faithfulness in history, and Scripture’s own testimony, we have confidence that true truth exists and has been given to us by the God of truth.
God’s written Word isn’t the only source of truth; it’s also manifested in a person. John opens his gospel this way: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). These verses speak of the incarnation and how the Son of God who spoke the world into existence took on human form to embody grace and truth.
On earth Jesus called himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). As he ministered, people marveled at his power, wisdom, and authority. Yet he wasn’t simply a man speaking about the truth; he was and is the truth of which all Scripture speaks (John 5:39).
In his life Jesus manifested truth and by his death saved sinners enslaved to deception. Even to Pilate he proclaimed a way of truth that would have given the Roman ruler life. Amazingly, by the predestined plan of God (Acts 4:27-28), Pilate’s rejection of truth advanced the cause of truth—for through dying and rising Christ received the right to send the Spirit of truth to his sheep.
Finally, truth isn’t restricted to the events of history; it’s also an eschatological reality God is bringing into the present. Even as the Devil continues deceiving the world, Jesus sends his Spirit to lead his people into the truth.
By regenerating the ones purchased on Calvary, transferring them into his kingdom, and illuminating their minds to grasp God’s truth, the Spirit causes believers to walk in the truth. In a world of death and deceit, God unites his sheep to their Shepherd by means of his Spirit and his Word. The Spirit empowers believers to proclaim the gospel such that the “word of truth” (Eph. 1:13) both liberates (John 8:32) and sanctifies (John 17:17).
Like in Genesis 1:2, the Spirit now hovers over the murky waters of this world. Christ’s future kingdom is growing in our present age. The first place we look for truth, then, isn’t the heady halls of academia or the power structures of Washington, D.C. We find truth in the urban mission, the rural church, and the college Bible study outlawed for its biblical views on sex. In these places forgotten by the world and deemed “false” by questioners of truth, God’s truth advances. Where his Spirit and Word are at work, there his truth is found.
Hold Fast to the Truth
Without coincidence, true truth is triune truth: it’s decreed by God (the Father), personified in God (the Son), and effected by God (the Spirit). Contrary to popular belief, truth isn’t based on personal feeling, self-understanding, or a contemporary situation. It’s based on God’s revelation, centered in the gospel, and revealed by the transforming work of the Spirit.
Unlike the mood of our age, truth isn’t something we can create, discover, or deny. Like the innocent man Pilate sentenced to death, truth has a way of coming back to life.
May we, like Jesus, make the good confession and hold fast to the truth.