With the filling of barns and silos and the putting away of our vacation gear, the time is again upon us to apply ourselves to the mental and heartfelt pursuit of the study of God’s Word in a far more systematic way than we have done in the past summer months. School bells (buzzers) call eager youth to class and they come clutching colors and tablets. Young people pursue their chosen course in high school and college. And a goodly number of young men trim candle and lamp for the late hours that seminary study demands. Bulletin announcements call the youth of the church to catechism classes and the older members to Bible study societies. In short, the Church of Jesus Christ on earth prepares herself to heed her high calling of “buying the truth,” a calling that comes to her in the twenty-third verse of Proverbs twenty-three: “Buy the truth and sell it not; also wisdom and instruction and understanding.”
It is the case that the Church must busy herself with this calling in the midst of the world, a world which Solomon describes in this chapter in terms of stark realism. It is a world that has no place for wisdom, but rather is filled with winebibbers and riotous eaters of flesh, given over completely to the pursuit of self-satisfaction and the pleasure principle. As a whore seeks to lead men to misery and destruction, so this world of dark corruption would lead the faithful into all manner of transgression and iniquity, entice her into a compromising position, so that she knows not nor cares for the truth but makes and loves the lie. In that position, oft-tempted and precarious, the Church must hear the words: “Buy the truth and sell it not!”
WHAT IS TRUTH?
With that question Pilate responded to Jesus when our Lord stood before him and declared the truth: what is truth? The Word of God uses a term here to which the lexicons ascribe a rich meaning. The word embraces the idea of firmness, off certainty and faithfulness, of integrity, and of justice. Thus, whatever shade of meaning the word has in a given context, it always denotes that which is in opposition to falsehood and the lie, to that which is temporal and imaginary, that which is deceitful and unreal. Truth is reality; and truth is the presentation of reality, of all reality. Truth is the accurate presentation of all things in respect to God, Christ, and man; in respect to heaven, earth, and hell; in respect to things past, present, and future.
The classic text for understanding our subject is perhaps Deut. 32:4, where Moses speaks of Jehovah this way: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect, all His ways are judgement; a God of Truth, and without iniquity, just and right is He.” A God of Truth! God is Truth, He is Truth personified. And as the Rock, He is the unchanging reality, so that the Truth which emanated from Him is also unchanging. We may know this because He has sent Christ to us, Who said concerning Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” This eternal Son of God Who is the Word from the beginning is the complete and perfect revelation of the Father. He came into the world, the world received Him not because their deeds were evil, yet the Church sees Him as the light, and in Him knows the truth to be unchanging and absolute.
Indirectly Solomon calls the truth very precious by telling us that wisdom, instruction, and understanding are the components that make up the truth. Truth is precious because it makes wise unto salvation, because it gives a person both the knowledge of reality and the ability to live in harmony with it. Wisdom is an ethical concept, it is a gift given only to those who are in Christ. Instruction really means correction. The word used here refers to the disciplinary aspect of the truth whereby the one who strays is corrected and brought back to the proper pathway. Understanding has the primary idea of distinguishing and separating mentally. When a person has the truth he has all these things! Hence, the truth is able to set free!
Where may this truth be found? Jesus answers the question when He confides to the Father in the garden, “Thy Word is Truth.” The Bible is the source book of all truth. It is the truth because it is according to its own testimony “God breathed.” The words of the Bible are the very breath of God. Secondly, the Bible is thewhole truth in that it presents all reality in its proper perspective and relationships. In this modern age man worships in the temple of science; he will tell us that perhaps for matters of faith and doctrine you can go searching in your Bibles, but if you want to know about this world, about history and science, then you must seek out the philosopher, the historian and the scientist. So far is this world out of joint! The believer must learn to go to the Bible for all things. I do not say there is no place for learning and even higher learning. Of course there is. But the point is that there is no area of knowledge that is not interpreted and strictly bound by the Word of God. It gives us the whole truth in all its beautiful harmony.
Not only that, but the Bible as the Word of God is the only truth. Everything apart from the Scriptures, every word of man that is not spoken in the light of Scripture, is the lie! There is no truth in all this sorry world except for that which God has spoken. Man as he multiplies his words in magazines and books, in lectures at universities and colleges, in seminary and in pulpit, does nothing but lie against the truth. How imperative, then, that the Word of God underlie all instruction and thought. This is what differentiates godly and godless education. The goal must be to have our children and young people instructed in the truth and this presupposes an environment where the truth is known and loved. It is time to make a specific recommendation and, hopefully, to plant the seed of an idea. There is a pressing need for a college that gives instruction in the truth, as the truth pertains to all things. We have numerous grade schools and junior high schools. We have a senior high school in the Grand Rapids area. Now we need an institution that will give instruction with the same emphasis on the college level. This need has been spelled out by preseminary students who vex their souls in existing colleges. This need has been described by many others who have wearied in their search for a college education that is Christian and Biblical. We have even been approached by those outside of our churches with the questions, “Don’t you people have a college? When will you get one?” Specifically, then, a parent-controlled society ought to be established immediately to undertake this work. This society ought to provide for active or regular members not only, but also for associate members who can be informed of progress and who can thus be supporters in a prayerful and financial way. Let the lead be taken by those in the Michigan area where the college undoubtedly will be located, since over half our people reside there, and well over half of our college students as well. But let this work be done now, and let the labors of this society and its board be carried on with a sense of urgency. That, too, is wisdom: recognizing reality and acting accordingly!
THE FIGURE OF BUYING THE TRUTH
When Solomon commands, “Buy the truth and sell it not” he does not mean with money. For the truth is priceless. Besides, the Bible warns us against making merchandise of things holy and spiritual. He uses a figure. To buy is to take possession of something, to get a hold on it. As you stand in the generations of Reformed believers, as you have the rich heritage of the Reformed Confessions, as the truth is preached to you Sabbath by Sabbath, as the Word is the center of your home life and the education of your seed . . . take possession of it, get a hold of it, embrace it, and negatively do not sell it! The plain implication is that to possess the truth is going to cost. It may even be that everything has to go for the sake of the truth. Did not Jesus say that “whosoever loveth son or daughter, or father or mother more than Me is not fit for the kingdom”? Nothing may stand in the way of our possessing the truth of the Word of God. Not family, not jobs, not name and position.
Practically this has some implications for the church institute as she reveals herself in the congregation and in the seminary. Since no one enjoys being small, least of all the office-bearers, the natural tendency is to do away with those things which seem to inhibit growth. Let us not proclaim so sharply the doctrines of double predestination, of total depravity, of particular grace and atonement. Let us relax those positions which we have taken that lead to discipline and sometimes excommunication. That way we won’t refuse to let anyone in and we won’t push anyone out, and we’ll grow! In these days of irresponsible evangelism the Church of Jesus Christ must be reminded: Buy the truth! Resist all compromise by refusing to go along with the spirit of the age that cannot stand the test of the Spirit of the Truth. To be lax in this area is the quickest way to sell the truth as something without which we can well do.
Practically there are also implications for the individual, implications which come sharply into focus at this time of the year. The means by which the Holy Spirit writes the truth in our hearts are the preaching and catechetical instruction. If we neglect these means of grace we sell the truth. We must buy the truth through Bible study. There seem to be many who view attendance at men’s society and ladies’ society, at Mr. and Mrs.’ and at young people’s, as optional. That cannot be the case in the light of this Word of God. If we make ourselves so busy in our jobs and in our pleasures that we do not prepare for, and attend, the tine opportunities that are ours, to grow into the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, then we sell the truth, we despise it, we say we can get along without it. The truth must be bought in the home. In addition to the systematic reading of the Bible, there ought to be discussion with the children around the Bible, lessons taught in stewardship, in prayer, and in pilgrimage. And finally, a special word for the young people who are tempted in this area above all others. These are the years which form you, these are the years when opportunities are yours that will never be yours again, these are the years when decisions are made which will determine much, if not most, of your future life. Buy the truth by being faithful in all aspects of your church life. And resolve not to sell the truth by leaving it! You will be tempted to leave it, for the sake of a boyfriend or a girlfriend, for the sake of education or a job. But always remember: God wants you to buy the truth and never to sell it. Follow that command and you do not have to worry about anything in the future. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
May these lines be useful as we take up once again the Holy Scriptures in church and home and school.