The Distinctive Traits of True Godliness: Love For the Truth of God

Arie den Hartog is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.

That love for the truth is and must be one of the distinctive traits of true godliness is obvious. By love for the truth of God we mean first of all love for the truth about God, the truth that declares who and what God is in Himself. That is basic. Love for the truth of God is more than love for a certain system of doctrine about God. We say that not at all because we wish to minimize the importance of doctrine. Doctrine, systematic theology, is of utmost importance. All Christians should be schooled in the doctrines of God. The Bible, it is true, is more than a book of systematic theology and doctrine. Nevertheless it is possible and highly beneficial for our knowledge of God and our faith in Him to derive from the revelation of God in the Bible a carefully ordered system of doctrine. The Bible reveals the doctrine of God. At the same time it must be said that our love for the truth of God must go further than love for a system of doctrine even if that system is in all points based on the Scriptures. There are those in the church, sad to say, who have only an abstract and intellectual interest in a system of doctrine, but show little real love for the God about Whom that doctrine speaks. We must love the truth of God as it reveals who and what our God is. God is a living and personal God. He is the wonderful and blessed God of salvation. He is the covenant God of His people. He is known in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must know and love this God in a living and personal ways as our Lord and God, and the God of our salvation. As Christians, we must love the truth of God as much as we love God Himself. Anyone who denies or contradicts that truth cannot be said to love God. Anyone who imagines that this truth is not so very important to maintain and defend is not very serious about love to God, and lacks true godliness.

Love for the truth begins with a high regard for the Bible as the infallible revelation of God. The Bible is God’s book that declares the truth about Him. It is the chief source of our knowledge of God. It is true that God reveals Himself in the whole of His creation. The ungodly man rejects that revelation of God because he hates God and forms another God after his own vain imagination, which is an idol. After the fall of man into sin, God can only be known through His self-revelation in the Bible. Only the child of God who knows and loves the truth of God as found in the Bible can also see the revelation of God in His creation. The Bible reveals the truth of God in Christ Jesus. We know Him, through His Holy Spirit, by His wonderful self-revelation in the Bible. The Bible is the absolutely perfect and infallible revelation of God. All that can be known of God by man is found in the Bible. The whole of the Bible reveals the truth of God. There is no distinction of parts in the Bible, some of which reveal God and others of which reveal only man. God makes Himself known in the Bible from the beginning in the great story of creation, where He reveals Himself as the creator of heaven and earth, who by divine fiat created heaven and earth and all things which they contain in six days. God reveals Himself in all the record of the history of His dealings with His chosen people and the revelation of His covenant with them. God makes Himself known in the history of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His wonderful person, in His mighty works, and in His great teachings as the God of our salvation, and especially in the cross and resurrection and exaltation of our Lord. God reveals Himself to us in and through all the letters of the apostles and the doctrine which they set forth. God reveals Himself in the glorious hope and prophesies of the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ that are recorded in the last book of the Bible. When the modernist denies the absolute infallibility of the Bible, he loses God. He arrogantly sets himself over the Bible, to judge it according to his own reason, and reveals his contempt for the truth of God. The truly godly man stands in fear and awe before the revelation of God in the Bible. For him the Bible is as true and perfect as God Himself is.

The godly man believes that the Bible reveals the objective truth of God. God is known absolutely as He has revealed Himself in the Bible. The selfrevelation of God in the Bible is clear and plain, and can be known by every true child of God who has the mind and Spirit of Christ. Our day is a day of subjectivism. Men claim to know God by experience and feeling alone. These come to some of the strangest conclusions concerning Who God is. Everyone imagines that he has his own understanding of God which needs not to be judged by the truth that is in the Scriptures. According to many modern day Christians, God is only what I think and feel Him to be. How tragically mistaken this notion is. Many who claim to be Christians are in fact worshiping an idol god fashioned after their own imagination.

Love for the truth of God implies a great interest in the study of that truth as it is found in the Bible. The true child of God loves to study the great truths of Gods attributes: His sovereignty, His almighty power and perfect and glorious holiness, His righteousness and faithfulness, His love and amazing grace and unfailing mercy. Few who call themselves Christians today have this interest. The vast majority of modern day Christendom is caught up with man and his concerns. They have made Christianity a religion that reaches no higher than the happiness and prosperity of man. Thousands of books are written every year advising man how to deal with this problem and that problem that he might face in life. Very few books are written about who and what God is and even fewer books are being read that concern the great doctrines of the truth of God.

If we love the truth of God we will be diligent students of the Scriptures. It is true that the Scriptures are simple and plain. They can be understood by the common, ordinary child of God. But that is not the same as saying that the truth of God can be understood with little or no effort on the part of the child of God. The truth of God is deep and profound. He is a great God, infinitely greater than all our understanding of Him. Even with great effort we cannot comprehend the greatness of God with our small and limited human minds. If we are genuinely godly we will search the Scriptures daily to know the truth of God. The godly man delights to come to the house of God to hear the preaching of the Word. According to Gods own ordination, He is pleased to have the truth about Himself explained and taught through the official preaching of the Word. The truly godly man will also study the Word of God privately and personally in his home and with his family. The child of God seeks to know the great mysteries of Gods predestination and providence, and of His wonderful salvation by sovereign grace alone in His Son Jesus Christ. There are a great many doctrines in the Bible. They all reveal the truth of God. They must be searched out by the child of God in their length and height and breadth and depth. After studying all of these things, the child of God stands in amazement and awe, in fear and trembling before the greatness of the truth of God. He is profoundly conscious of the fact that the truth of God is so much greater than all of his knowledge of God. He desires every day to grow and increase in that knowledge. Therefore, he reads his Bible every day. Those who today imagine somehow that this is no longer necessary have lost this distinctive mark of true godliness.

Love for the truth of God is revealed in a readiness and willingness to defend the truth of God. When we as Christians do that, we are not merely defending an abstract system of doctrine that really has very little to do with God Himself. When we stand steadfastly for the truth of God and we refuse in any way to compromise that truth of God, we reveal a true love for God and a genuine godliness. All of this is very unpopular today in the church world. Truth and doctrine are considered to be very unimportant. It does not matter so much what you believe. We must strive for a vague and undefinable and unprincipled unity of the church in the name of evangelical and social concern. It does not matter if the church has in her midst the most damnabIe heresies concerning the truth of God. Let us all join hands, for we can all serve God together, and ignore our differences, and do great things for God. Let the truly godly man know that this whole spirit and attitude is not of God; it in fact reveals a disregard and contempt for the true God of the Scriptures. The truly godly man loves the truth of God to such an extent that he is by. the grace and Spirit of God ready to stand for His truth and to bear the reproach and mockery from the world, also and especially from the world of modern day Christendom. The godly man knows that he is involved in a great spiritual battle for the truth of God. He is ready, should the honor and glory of his God require it, to die in that battle. Let him be called a bigot or sectarian or whatever name the world may think up. The man who gives his life for fighting for the truth and reveals a passionate hatred for the lie and false doctrine that contradicts the truth, that man is a truly godly man. And there are few, very few, of those today. The return of the Lord is near. Wickedness and false doctrine abounds in the church today because few today love the truth of God.

Love for the truth of God implies a zealousness on the part of the Christian to speak of the truth of God to others. He desires to do this chiefly that God may be glorified. He desires to do this also because he knows and believes in his heart that the truth of God, the gospel of salvation, is the power of God unto salvation to all that believe. He desires to see God’s elect saved in the truth of God. The godly man desires to stand together with those of like precious faith in promoting and defending the truth of God to the glory of the name of God.

The godly man who loves the truth of God is finally also one who earnestly strives to live according to the truth of God. That is in a sense the acid-test of true godly love for the truth. The truth of God is also the law of God for the child of God. It governs the whole of His life. The truth of God is exalted and glorified in our lives above all when we seriously strive every day and in every sphere of our endeavor to put it into practice. That is the mark of true godliness. Do you possess this mark, dear Christian?