As I view the ecclesiastical scene, especially the Reformed scene, I am impressed with two facts. The first is the fact that the truth is being sold on every side; one is not even shocked by it anymore. Consider how the truth is being sold. The truths of creation and the fall of man into sin as recorded in the first few chapters of Genesis are denied. These chapters, we are told, contain not a literal account but are teaching models. The truth of definite (limited) atonement is denied in favor of universalism. The truth of the expiatory or atoning character of the death of Christ is denied. The truth of the place and calling of women in God’s church is denied. The truth of the miracles and especially the central one, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, is denied. The truth concerning the task or mission of the church is denied. The church, it is said, must be the “healing community” in the midst of the world. The church must work to eradicate poverty; it must work for peace and social improvement. All the while the task of preaching and evangelizing is scorned and the church’s calling to be separate from the world is denied. The truth as it applies to the godly life of the child of God, for example in the area of worldly amusements, is denied. Movies and dancing have won full approval in many a church. And, to cite no more, the truth of the inspiration and infallibility of the Holy Scriptures is denied. The Bible is said to be a collection of moralisms couched in, myths and teaching models. Or it is said to be man’s word about God or concerning his religious experience with God, but it is not literally the very Word of God. All this occurs not just in the church world generally or in the modern, liberal churches, but within the Reformed community of churches.
This brings me to the second fact with which I am impressed: we as Protestant Reformed Churches are coming to stand more and more alone! That is true both as far as the true doctrine of Scripture is concerned and as far as our manner of life is concerned. This ought not disturb us at all. Let it be alone! Alone with our God and His Christ on the basis of His truth.
That is why we need this Word from Proverbs 23:23. If our churches are going to stand on the basis of the truth, they need ministers who will preach the truth. And that means they need a Seminary in which there are professors who are committed to the truth and who will teach young men that truth. For us as professors and students as we begin another season of instruction and learning there is no more timely admonition than: “Buy the truth and sell it not. . . .”
That which we are exhorted to buy is the truth. That term as used in the text is found often in the Old Testament. Sometimes it has the connotation of firmness or stability or that which is secure or certain. Closely related to those meanings is that of faithfulness. Then too it denotes uprightness, integrity, or justice. But in every instance the underlying idea is that which is opposed to falsehood. The truth is always that which is opposed to the lie. Hence we may define the truth as reality. That’s the truth. That which is real is the truth. And the truth is reality over against that which is unreal or contrary to reality. Then too the truth is always the faithful presentation of reality and that too with respect to all things: God, Christ, the church, the world, the past, the present, the future, heaven, earth, all things.
That means, therefore, that God is the truth. That is Scripture throughout. Deuteronomy 32:4 says: “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: . . . a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” The truth characterizes God. He is the God of truth. That He is the Rock means that He is unchangeable, and that too in justice, for just and right is Her The truth, therefore, is the unchanging, ever faithful, just God. God is the God of truth for He is the eternal reality. He is before all things and He made all things to be a revelation of His glory. As the truth He never denies or contradicts Himself. Always He is the same. He says: “I am that I am.” As the immutable One He is the truth, the unchangeable reality.
Thus too the Lord Jesus Christ is the truth. He is the eternal Word by Whom and for Whom all things were made. And that Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. As such He is the complete and perfect revelation of the Father, the God of truth. Christ is the reality. The types and shadows of the Old Dispensation, significant in their time and place, were not real. Christ is the reality to which they pointed. Christ is the reality over against all that is contrary to the truth. He condemned all that is of the darkness and the lie. Christ Himself said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
The Holy Spirit is the truth. As the Spirit of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ He is the Spirit of truth. And as the Spirit of truth He leads the people and church of God into the knowledge of the Word of Christ.
That truth is made up of several parts. This is brought out beautifully in the text when it speaks of wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The translation is incorrect in that it has “also” as if the text reads: “Buy the truth, and also buy wisdom, etc.” This is not correct. The idea of the text is that these three, wisdom, instruction, and understanding, are three parts of the truth. When we buy the truth, therefore, we are buying wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
Along with the truth we also receive wisdom. That term, wisdom, in Scripture means: “wise in the sense of intelligent, the ability to judge or discern.” Hence wisdom is the gift of knowing reality and living in harmony with that reality. Wisdom is always practical. It is being able to discern the Lord’s way and ordering one’s life in harmony with that way. The, second part of the truth according to the text is instruction. This word is used in the Old Testament Scriptures to refer to the correction of children by their parents or of men by God. Sometimes it is also translated admonition, or discipline. Hence this is the discipline of the truth: that which corrects us from error and keeps us in the truth. And finally there is understanding. This term really means insight. With the truth we are given insight into reality. That is the truth in all of its riches: God as revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ; wisdom, correction, and understanding.
That eternal, unchanging reality, the truth, is preserved for us in the Holy Scriptures. Scripture is the truth precisely because it is “God-breathed” (II Timothy 3:15). It is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, Scripture is the product of the work of God through His Spirit, for “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (II Peter 1:21) This means that Scripture is not, as many teach these days, the words of God and the words of man. Nor is Scripture the record of man’s witness to God or an account of man’s religious experience or encounter with God. O no! Scripture is in all its parts the very Word of God. We must maintain this most emphatically. The Bible is God’s Word, given by the miracle of inspiration and preserved throughout the ages for the sake of the church. This means that Scripture is the whole truth. It is the truth about everything. It presents all of reality in its proper perspective. There is nothing: no field of endeavor, no area of knowledge which can be understood apart from the light of the Scriptures. And Scripture is the only truth. There is no truth apart from the Scriptures. Everything apart from the Scriptures is of the creature and thus is the lie. The Scriptures are the only source of the truth. It is too bad, but a fact nonetheless, that these things need emphasis in our time, for there are few even in Reformed circles who maintain this view of the Holy Scriptures.
Scripture reveals the truth about God. The Bible tells us all about Who He is, His attributes and perfections. Scripture informs us that God is the Creator of all things but also the God Who upholds and governs all things to attain the purpose He has ordained in Christ before the foundations of the world. Scripture tells us that God is the God of all glory Who is God alone and Who must be worshipped and praised by ‘us. Scripture presents us with the truth concerning man. Scripture teaches us that man was created good and in the image of God. Scripture tells us that man chose for Satan and the lie, turning against the living God. As a consequence man is guilty, totally corrupt, prone to all evil and incapable of any good. Scripture gives us the truth concerning Christ. That He is the only begotten of the Father, that He is Immanuel, that in Him the fulness of God is revealed as the God of our salvation, that Christ is the only Savior of God’s elect, and that in His death and resurrection He brought life to all of God’s people—all this Scripture reveals concerning Christ. Finally Scripture presents the truth concerning all things: that the world did not come about by evolution, but was created by the mighty Word of God; that the earthly is only preparation for the heavenly and, therefore, that we must not seek earthly things; that in all events good and bad, past and present, God is actively saving His church and bringing about the consummation of His eternal counsel in Christ.
This, in brief, is what Scripture is, and this is what Scripture teaches. Scripture is the truth. This has serious implications as far as our attitude toward and approach to Scripture is concerned. Precisely because Scripture is all of that, it may not be contradicted. All that speaks against the Scriptures is the lie. Nor may Scripture be doubted. We do not approach the Bible to see whether or not it is true. Nor do we set ourselves up as judges of what belongs to Scripture and what does not. Positively we must approach the Bible in the faith that everything we find in it is the absolute truth of God which must, therefore, be believed and obeyed. We bow in humble submission to Holy Scripture. In that humility of faith we must do all of our work in teaching and learning in the Seminary. Scripture is the truth.
That truth of the Scriptures we have in our Reformed Confessions, the Three Forms of Unity. Scripture records the revelation of God. And that revelation came in time and history gradually, in types and shadows, in Christ and through the Apostles and Evangelists. That truth is objectively contained in our Confessions. These sum the truth. The Confessions are the fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit as according to His promise He guides the church into all the truth. Through the ages, often in controversy and over against false teachers, the church stated its confession. Thus in the confessions the truth of Scripture is arranged systematically and logically. All the various truths of Scripture are put together as they comprise the body (unity) of the eternal truth of God’s Word. That is the truth! Do you wish to know the truth of Scripture? Go to the Confessions of the Reformed Churches. That needs emphasis in our times. Today it is said that those confessions are no longer adequate. They do not meet the needs of our modern day. Thus we witness a growing movement to get the creeds revised. We must not become a part of such a movement. Those Confessions contain a priceless heritage of the truth. Thank God for them.
That is the truth which we must buy: the precious heritage which God has given to His Church to believe and walk in; the truth of the Word of God as set forth in the Reformed Confessions and as, by the grace of God, preached and taught in our Protestant Reformed Churches.
“Buy the truth and sell it not . . .,” that is the admonition. “Sell it not.” That implies that we have it, it is in our possession. Indeed it is! God has given us in the Scriptures and our Reformed Confessions a priceless heritage of the truth. It is a fact that the truth is still preached from our pulpits, taught in our catechism rooms and in the Seminary. The truth is still being defended by us. I am not at all ashamed to say: our churches and Seminary have the truth. That is no reason for pride. God’s grace has kept us in the truth, not we. Thus in deepest humility and with profound thanksgiving we may say that we have the truth. Now then, “sell it not!” Do not get rid of it, do not let go of the truth. Do not sell the truth by compromise, not even a little. Whatever you do, do not sell the truth, not for any reason. Our churches and Seminary are small, but we must not sell the truth in order to grow and become large. The churches and Seminary may very well become smaller on account of the truth. Let that be. Do not sell the truth.
Rather we must buy the truth. This cannot be taken literally, as if we were admonished to buy the truth with money. That is not the idea. The truth is priceless. Besides, the Scriptures warn us against making merchandise of the truth. We have a figurative expression here. The term means purchase, get a hold, of, take possession of something, make something your very own. And that refers to our response to the truth. When the truth is revealed to you or made known to you, when it is preached or taught you, then buy it, i.e., get a hold of it, take possession of it, know it and believe it and make it your very own. That is our calling! And there are no options here. God says to us: Buy the truth and sell it not.
And as God calls us together as a Seminary for another season of teaching and learning, this is our calling. The faculty must buy the truth and sell it not. They must not compromise the truth; they must never let it go. They must hold it fast! All of the instruction of the professors, all of the various courses, must be instruction in the truth of Scripture. Hence they must prayerfully and diligently study the Holy Scriptures and the Reformed Confessions in order more and more to gain an insight into and a deeper understanding of the truth. In this way only will they be able to teach the truth and defend it.
That is also the calling of our students. They must receive that truth. They must learn it and know it. To be sure! But more than that, they must also believe the truth and walk in it. They must make it their very own possession. Apart from that they can never be ministers of the Gospel in God’s church. This means they must study, prayerfully and diligently they must study. They must not be lax or lazy in their work. The truth demands our very best efforts. In this way and in this way alone they will become equipped to shepherdize the flock of Jesus Christ.
That is our calling! Buy the truth and sell it not. May God in His mercy grant us the grace to be obedient to that calling for the blessing of the churches and for the glory of His Name.