In the end, there is only one thing that matters in the life of a church or in the life of an individual. That one thing is that the church or individual has the truth. If a church has the truth, no matter how small it may be numerically, no matter how insignificant it may be in the eyes of men, no matter how it lacks resources and means, that church is great, and prosperous, and important. If a man has the truth, no matter how lowly his station in life, no matter how adverse the circumstances of his life, he really has everything, and has every reason to rejoice and be glad.
How important is the truth! How we ought to value and cherish and be willing to give up every earthly thing, even our own life, as some have, for the sake of the truth! How miserable is that man, temporally and eternally, who is without the truth!
God Himself gives the truth this chief and primary place. Holy Scripture abounds with instruction in the importance and necessity of the truth. In I Timothy 3:15the apostle Paul describes what the church is and what her calling is in the world. There the Apostle says that the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” In Titus 1:1 Paul tells us the great aim of his gospel ministry. That aim was that through his ministry the elect of God might be brought to the acknowledging of the truth. We hear so much about love today; we’re supposed to love everyone. In I Corinthians 13:6 Paul tells us about love: “Love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” The importance of the truth comes out in Ephesians 6. In this passage the Apostle is busy describing the Christian armor which the believer must put on in order to stand against the wiles of the Devil. And what is the very first piece of that armor, the piece upon which every other piece of that armor depends? Verse 14: “Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth.”
This emphasis on the truth isn’t found only in the writings of the apostle Paul. Jesus Himself emphasizes the importance of the truth for the Christian life in a passage like John 17:19, where He teaches that the believer is sanctified through the truth. The whole Christian life, our entire walk of sanctification, depends upon the truth. The apostle John writes in III John 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Since the Apostle is God’s Apostle, God Himself has no greater joy, this is His greatest joy, that His children walk in the truth.
Throughout history man’s great sin is his rejection of God’s truth. In Romans 1:18, 25 Paul identifies the ungodly as those who hold the truth in unrighteousness, and who change the truth of God into the lie. The prophet Jeremiah points out Israel’s chief sin, the sin for which God rejected the nation and caused her to be carried away into captivity, as her not being valiant for the truth (Jer. 9:3). Similarly, Isaiah laments in Isaiah 59:14, 15: “Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth.” InII Thessalonians 2:10 the outstanding sin of reprobate men is that they receive not the love of the truth, and the Apostle goes on to say in verse 12 that they shall all be damned who believe not the truth. Daniel, in Daniel 8:12, describes the coming Antichrist as the one who casteth down the truth to the ground. And Paul mentions as the outstanding sin of men in the last days their sin of not enduring sound doctrine, but turning away their ears from the truth (II Tim. 4:4).
How critical is the truth! Everything depends upon the truth! This is the line of demarcation among men, that which divides sharply and absolutely. Either a man knows and loves and adheres to and confesses the truth, or a man hates the truth, rejects the truth, and opposes himself to the truth. A third possibility there is not.
There is such a thing as truth. The truth exists and has objective reality. There are those today, as there have always been, who question and who deny the existence of truth. These men ask the same foolish question that Pontius Pilate asked of Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). These men claim that the truth cannot really and certainly be known by men. Men cannot know for certain whether there is such a thing as truth, whether truth exists. And if it does exist, at least men cannot know what the truth is and what are the contents of this truth. This is what we call “agnosticism” or “skepticism,” something that has overrun the whole area of education today.
This skeptical attitude has also had its influence on the churches. The churches today are filled with this wickedness. That’s plain from the low esteem that many in the churches have today for doctrine. That’s plain from the people who view doctrine, truth, as something far too deep and irrelevant anyway for the ordinary Christian, and want only a gospel that tells them how to live a good life in the world.
This whole position is condemned by the Scriptures. There IS such a thing as truth. The truth exists and is real. And the truth can be known, and must be known by every believer.
This truth is revealed in Holy Scripture. The contents of the truth is the Holy Scripture. The Scripture reveals the truth to you and to me, and it is the truth in every book, in every chapter, in every verse, in every word. Jesus Himself says in John 17:17, “Thy word is truth.” In Daniel 10:21 the Scriptures are referred to as the “Scriptures of truth.” The Apostle writes in Colossians 1:5 of “the word of the truth of the gospel.” The truth is all of the doctrine, the truth is all of the warnings, the truth is all of the history, the truth is all of the law and commandments of God in Christ contained in Holy Scripture.
This is why we can know and why we MUST know the truth: God has revealed the truth in Holy Scripture. We’re not left to wonder what the truth is. We’re not in bondage to what this great man or that religious leader tells us is the truth. We’re not left to our own opinion and we may not have our own opinion about what is the truth. God has made known the truth, and God has done that in Holy Scripture.
Because the truth is set forth in Holy Scripture, we stand so vehemently opposed today to those who deny the infallibility and trustworthiness of the Bible. What is happening as a result of this is that the truth is being taken away. The truth is taken away from God’s people today by the many corrupt versions of the Bible that are peddled as Holy Scripture. The truth is denied by those who charge that there are errors and mistakes and inaccuracies, both in the history and in the doctrine of the Bible. Don’t the people see what the outcome of all this will be? Don’t they realize? Don’t they see that what is being taken away from themselves and their children is the truth? And don’t they see that if the truth of Holy Scripture is denied, God’s people are completely at sea as regards the truth? Then where shall they turn for the truth? And who will give them the truth?
Having the truth carries with it certain definite responsibilities. First, the responsibility is to confess the truth. We must never minimize this aspect of our calling to have the truth. Especially the young people must take seriously this calling. They must confess the truth; they must confess Christ Who is the truth. We must not be silent about the truth; but openly and publicly we must confess that truth. In the particular calling and station in life in which God has set us, we must be a witness to His truth. We must never be ashamed of the truth.
Secondly, our calling to have the truth is the calling to live the truth. We must not only confess the truth, but we must live all of our life in harmony with the truth. The Apostle doesn’t say in III John 4 that his greatest joy is that we know the truth. His greatest joy isn’t even that we confess the truth. But his greatest joy is that we “Walk in truth.” ALL of our walk must be in the sphere of the truth. Not the philosophy of men, not what the majority of the people are doing, not what my own feelings are inclined to, but the truth—this must be the standard of my behavior.
Thirdly, the calling to have the truth also carries with it the calling, both for the church and for the individual believer, to stand for the truth, to stand against and to oppose whatever is NOT the truth. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is Himself the truth personally, did just this during His earthly ministry. He not only positively set forth the truth. But He courageously defended that truth, condemned and exposed the lie. His stand for the truth was antithetical, as it always must be. Those who want only the positive aspect of the truth, who don’t want to hear, for example, in the preaching the word of rebuke, warning, and condemnation, simply do not want the truth. Always the truth opposes the lie.
And finally, our calling to have the truth means that we must persevere in the truth. We can only do this by being members of a church that faithfully preaches and defends the truth. Church membership is of the utmost significance as regards this whole matter of the truth. This must determine our church membership. Not the personality of the preacher, not the size of the congregation, not the friendliness of the people, but the truth must determine our church membership. Where the truth is preached, and where that truth is further set forth in the sacraments and defended by Christian discipline, there I am called to be a member. I must be a member of the true church of Jesus Christ in the world. And that true church of Jesus Christ is found in the church that stands on-the truth.
And then for no earthly reason may we withdraw ourselves from that true church. Not for the sake of a career, not for the sake of a boy-friend or a girl-friend, not for an education, not for any reason may we leave the church that preaches the truth. But we must remain where the truth is. This is why it is wrong, sinful, to leave a true church, such as our own is. God is the One Who commands us to have the truth by our membership in a church that preaches the truth. Since God requires this of us, it is simply wrong of us to leave and forsake that true church.
We must have the truth. We must have the truth for the truth’s sake. We must have the truth for the sake of the salvation of ourselves and of our children. We must have the truth for the glory of the God Whose the truth is.
God grant that as churches and as individuals we continue to have and continue to walk in the truth. May God use us for a witness to His truth in all the world.