Rev. Slopsema is pastor of First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and president of Synod 2007. This is the text of the Presynodical Sermon, delivered on June 9, 2008 in Hope PRC.
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
Solomon addressed these words to his son. They apply therefore first to the children and young people of the covenant.
But these words apply also to every member of the church, to every family in the church, to every congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and finally to every ecclesiastical body of the church—including this synod.
There is a twofold calling set forth in this passage.
First, we are to buy the truth. Those who buy the truth also buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. The truth comes with a price, and the price may be high. But the truth will always be worth the price we pay.
Secondly, we are not to sell the truth. We may be able to get quite a bit for the truth, but whatever we get in exchange for the truth will never compensate for the loss of it.
A glorious truth!
Truth is reality. Truth stands opposed to the lie. The lie is that which is fictitious, but often passes for reality.
If we will know truth, we must begin with Jehovah God; for God is the God of truth. “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deut. 32:4).
That Jehovah God is truth means several things.
It means, first, that Jehovah is the one true God. There are many false gods (idols), but there is only one that really and truly is God. He is Jehovah, the great I AM.
That Jehovah God is truth means, second, that He is the source of all truth. He has perfect understanding of all reality. He has perfect understanding of Himself. He has perfect understanding of the entire universe and of all that transpires in it. This is because He has eternally willed it, created it, and controls it.
God has revealed to us the truth about these things. He has revealed the truth somewhat dimly in nature, and more fully and clearly in Scripture. Especially in Scripture, God has revealed the truth about Himself, about the creation, about the true nature of man, about His purpose to save a people in Jesus Christ, as well as the way of salvation. He has not revealed all things. Our minds are not capable of understanding all. But He has revealed all that is necessary for us to know in order that we might serve Him and find salvation in His Son.
The glorious revelation of the truth of Scripture is also summarized beautifully in our Reformed creeds.
The revelation of the truth is important. Without it we would not know the truth. We would not know God, the origin of the universe, the true nature of sin, or the salvation of God in Jesus Christ. Those who reject this revelation are left to follow their own imaginations into the most foolish ideas imaginable.
Included in this truth are the three things mentioned in this proverb—wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
Before we consider each of these specifically, we ought to take note of especially two things about them in general.
First, these are not additional things that we must buy and not sell, but are rather included in the truth. The truth of God’s word is wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
Second, these three things make the truth extremely valuable. What great treasures are wisdom, instruction, and understanding! “Wisdom is better than rubies” (Prov. 8:11). “How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!” (Prov. 16:16). Because wisdom, instruction, and understanding are an integral part of the truth of Scripture, the truth is extremely valuable.
Let’s consider these three aspects of the truth.
First, there is wisdom. Wisdom is the right use of knowledge that enables us to prosper. Surely the truth of God is wisdom. The truth of God not only imparts knowledge about spiritual realities of life, but also shows how to make good use of these realities so that we prosper. Thus, for example, the truth not only teaches us about salvation in Jesus Christ but also shows us how to apply that knowledge to our lives in the midst of this world so that in Jesus Christ we can avoid the judgment of God and come to the enjoyment of life eternal. In that context, the truth of God also shows us how in Christ we can prosper under God’s blessings in our marriages, in our homes, in society, in our work, in our pleasure, and in every part of life.
Then there is instruction. The word here is really the word for verbal correction and chastisement. The truth of God in Scripture corrects and chastens us. It does this by pointing us to our errors, rebuking us, and calling us to repentance.
Finally, there is understanding. This word emphasizes the idea of insight, of being able to distinguish one thing from another and to see how they relate. The truth of God gives us penetrating insight into many things: ourselves, our problems, the world, and all things we need to know for salvation.
What a fabulous treasure is the truth of God.
A necessary purchase!
This proverb speaks of buying the truth.
The word “buy” is used in two ways in the Proverbs.
It has the original meaning of acquiring. In this sense it is used a number times in the Proverbs with respect to wisdom and knowledge. Thus, for example, “get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not” (Prov. 4:5). “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all they getting get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).
From this idea also comes the concept of acquiring something for a price. This is the meaning here, as is evident from the mention of selling.
What does it mean to buy the truth?
Obviously, we do not buy the truth as we buy merchandise with money, or perhaps the loyalty of others with favors we show them.
Buying the truth must be understood figuratively.
To buy the truth means first to acquire the truth.
That involves several things. We acquire the truth by coming to a thorough knowledge of the truth as revealed in Scripture. But acquiring the truth also includes embracing the truth with a believing heart, so that we embrace the God of Scripture and the salvation He provides in Jesus Christ. Finally, we acquire the truth when in faith we also embrace the wisdom, correction, and understanding of the truth.
To buy the truth means, second, that we acquire the truth no matter what the cost. It will cost a great deal to acquire the truth. This cost includes the time and energy necessary to come to know the truth. Acquiring the truth also requires sound preaching. This in turn requires a great deal of expense to train ministers and provide for their living, so that they can devote their lives to the Word of God. Acquiring the truth requires Christian schools, which also are very costly. To acquire the truth will sometimes also cost us the friendship and acceptance of men, jobs or careers, earthly possessions, and perhaps even our lives, as the truth shows itself in our confession and walk. To buy the truth means to acquire, embrace, and live the truth no matter what the cost.
It is our calling to buy the truth.
Many refuse to buy the truth because of the cost.
This is true of many young people, who consider the cost of time to learn the truth, and the cost of friendships for living the truth, to be too much. This is true of many homes and families that consider the cost of supporting the gospel ministry, of paying for Christian school tuition, and of lost job opportunities, to be too much. This is true of many churches that consider the cost of smallness and lack of recognition to be too much.
How foolish. Whatever we are required to pay for the truth can never begin to compare in value to the benefits we derive from the truth.
By the grace of God the Protestant Reformed Churches have bought the truth in her 80-year history. She came into existence because of her insistence on the truth of the sovereign, particular grace of God as taught by the Scriptures and the Reformed confessions. Over the years she has maintained the truth of God’s grace and developed these truths, especially as they pertain to the covenant. Her members have over the generations of her existence passed that truth down to each new generation and have lived the truth.
And the price has been high. Endless hours and much money have been spent by parents and grandparents to instruct the covenant seed of the church in the home and the Christian school. Endless hours have been spent by officebearers to instruct the church in the truth. A great deal of money and effort have been expended to maintain a Seminary that can provide our churches with sound preaching. Because of the truth our denomination is small and unnoticed in the church world. Many are not interested in us because of the truth we maintain. Others have left because of our insistence on the truth of God’s sovereign, unconditional grace.
Let the 2008 Synod be deeply conscious of this in its work. Let the synod reflect what our churches have done in the past with the precious truth of God. The PRC have bought the truth over the decades and even paid a high cost. Let this synod also reflect that by continuing to buy the truth. Essentially all that this synod has on its agenda involves the truth: missions, Seminary, contact with other churches, appeals concerning the education of our children. Let this synod take her stand on and for the truth of Scripture as set forth in our Reformed creeds. And let this synod not count the cost. Let this synod not only reflect the heritage of the PRC of buying the truth, but let this synod also show leadership in this all important calling to buy the truth.
A necessary warning!
This proverb also speaks of selling the truth. To sell the truth means to give up the truth, to abandon it for the lie, and to do so for a price.
Once we have bought the truth, the devil would buy it back. He works unceasingly to take the truth away from the church and her members, so that they embrace and confess the lie rather than the truth. And he will pay a good price for the truth.
We see many that have sold the truth or are in the process of selling it.
Many churches have done this. They have sold such truths as the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, creation, Calvinism, and sovereign grace. The price they received in exchange has been recognition in the church and secular world, acceptance, and numbers.
Many families and individuals have also sold the truth. They have sold the truth of the Sabbath day, marriage, submission to authority in the work place, headship of the husband, the honorable place of the woman in the home— to mention just a few. Often they have done this, while the churches of which they are members were also busy selling the truth. The price they have received is good jobs, high standard of living, and acceptance in the world.
But we must not sell the truth.
The truth has been given to our churches by God as a precious heritage. By the grace of God we have preserved the truth among us during the 80 years of our existence. Let us never forget the price that our forefathers have paid for this truth. Let us be careful not to sell this truth, no matter how much the devil may give us in exchange.
And let the synod be careful not to sell the truth or to make decisions that may incline our churches to sell the truth.
There is nothing that we can ever get in exchange for the truth that can at all compare in value to the truth. Sell the truth and you sell wisdom, instruction, and understanding. Sell the truth and you sell the very salvation of God in Jesus Christ!