Truth is discovered, not invented. It exists independent of anyone’s knowledge of it. (Gravity existed prior to Newton.)  –

Truth is transcultural; if something is true, it is true for all people, in all places, at all times. (2+2=4 for everyone, everywhere, at every time.)  –

Truth is unchanging even though our beliefs about truth change. (When we began to believe the earth was round instead of flat, the truth about the earth didn’t change, only our belief about the earth changed.)

Therefore, as we try to ascertain what God is like, we are simply trying to discover truths already there.


What is Truth?

Introductory Comments

You have a worldview. Many of you might deny that you have a worldview, but you have one. If you say, “Hey, all I want to do is party, I don’t have a worldview, and don’t need one,” then that is your worldview–the Bible describes that way of thinking as “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die.” Philosophers would probably call such a view of life “hedonistic nihilism,”(now there’s a couple of $50 words!)–which means “have a good time and don’t care about anything.” Your worldview might have been shaped by religious belief and tradition, by occultism and superstition, by humanism and rationalism, by what you learned as a child from “Sesame Street” and “Mister Rogers,” or by what you hear and see now on “Phil” and “Oprah,” but you have a worldview. Your worldview may be clearly thought out or almost totally subconscious, it may be base or noble, it may be sensible or wacky–but you have a worldview. What is more, your worldview is very important to you. It governs the way you think and live; it guides your decisions about everything you do.

If you are a professing Christian, you have an obligation to think out your worldview. You are pledged by your covenant with the God of the Bible to learn His ways and to follow Him (John 10:27). If you are going to follow Christ, then you need to be aware of how God wants you to view the world, and you need to learn to live by His worldview.

Historically, the Christian Worldview has been determined by the answers to two questions: What is Truth? Why are we alive? These are the two most basic questions that can be asked about human existence. Of course, for us to even ask these questions flies in the face of the common modern worldviews, which deny the existence of Truth, Purpose, and Direction in the universe. For us to say, “these questions make sense,” presupposes the Christian Worldview.

What is Truth?

The accused stood before the Roman governor, who had the power of judge, jury, and executioner. This powerful ruler was accountable to no one on earth but Caesar himself, and his only thought was how to handle this thorny situation in such a way as to please Caesar and advance his own cause. Pontius Pilate was a typical Roman politician–skilled, devious, educated, and thoroughly cynical in his approach to life–he would have made a good 20th century American corporation man. Pilate, no doubt, was not in a fine mood. For Pilate, as for all Roman rulers of Judea before and after him, this time of the year was always a tense one, which is why he had left his normal residence in comfortable Caesarea by the Mediterranean Sea and traveled to this miserable, grim city of Jerusalem–a place full of trouble and troublesome people. The Jews were gathering for one of their interminable religious festivals where they worshipped their strange oriental God, their uniquely solitary deity who was so jealous that He wouldn’t even let them make an image of Himself. It was the Passover, the chief of their feasts, so Pilate was in Jerusalem, where he did not want to be, and he was awakened very early in the morning at the summons of the Jewish religious leaders, to handle the case of this prisoner, Jesus. Pilate had already sent Him to Herod, trying to avoid making the decision, and that wily old fox had deftly sidestepped the issue and landed it back in Pilate’s lap. So here they stood, an inscrutable Jewish prophet, and the Roman governor.

John 18:33-37 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?” “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (NIV)

We know the rest of the story. Pilate, who really had nothing against this solitary prophet, tried everything he could to worm out of the situation, but when faced with a political threat to himself, “. . . If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.” (John 19:12), he turned him over to the executioners. Pilate’s words to Jesus, however, ring in our ears, because they sound so current, so “now.” “What is Truth?” Pilate, the cynic, probably had no idea of the answer to his own question–he most likely wasn’t sure there was such a thing as truth, and so it is with many, if not most of the world’s people today. We live in a civilization that will admit the existence of “little truths,” and technological facts. For example, we know that 2+2 = 4, that elements have certain chemical and physical properties, and that bodies in motion behave in a predictable way. However, our civilization officially denies the existence of ultimate Truth–the concept that Francis Schaeffer called “true truth.” For the Christian, however, Truth exists, and it is ultimate, rational, and real.

Your first step in developing and using a Christian worldview is to realize “Thy Word is Truth.” (John 17:17). What a gift you have as a believer! The rest of humanity gropes in the dark for answers about the most basic questions of life, and you have them all, bound up in one book–the Bible. You can know where mankind came from, how we got to be where we are today, and what the future holds for us. You can discover principles and laws that will tell you what is right and what is wrong. If you want to know Who God is, what He is like, and what He wants from you, you can find that out in the Bible–the Bible can even guide your steps in getting to know Him personally. The history of God’s dealing with mankind is founded in literal, historical events–they really happened, and they are recorded for us in the Bible.

The first principle is: There IS such a thing as Truth, it is propositional; it is recorded in God’s Word, it is to be the focal point of our lives, and it is personified in Jesus Christ. Contrary to the teachings and beliefs of human philosophers and occult religionists, Truth exists. Truth is propositional, that means it is something we can put into word, phrases, and sentences that make sense. Truth is recorded in God’s Word (John 17:17). We can find the answers to life’s questions in the Book of Books. Truth is meant to be the focal point of one’s life. We are to know the Truth and to live it.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Truth is personified in Jesus Christ (John 14:6) Only hours before His encounter with Pilate, Jesus had said, “I am the Truth.” In Him, we see the Truth of God walking in a human body ( John 1:14,18). If you want to know Truth face to face, know Christ.

The second major principle of THY Word is Truth is that Biblical Truth is objective “TRUE” Truth. Unlike liberal, existential forms of the Christian faith, Biblical faith teaches that the events recorded in the Bible are reliable historical facts.

If you look at the apostolic-type sermon, Acts 7:1ff, Acts 13:16ff, Acts 10:34ff, you find that the preaching of the apostles was grounded in the historical truths of the Bible. This is consistent with the preaching of Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament–they were not mystics or philosophers, they preached and taught about God, who is, who acts, and who communicates through personal intervention in, and providential guidance of the history of human events. As the apostles recorded the gospel records, they were careful to stress the reality of what they were writing about the Life and Works of Jesus.

Luke 1:1-4 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

John 20:30-31 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John 21:24-25 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Paul in teaching on the resurrection in particular, stressed the eyewitness accounts of it, and the importance of its factuality to the Christian faith.

1 Corinthians 15:1-14 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them– yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

Why Are We Alive?

This is another basic question about the universe. Why are we here? What do the various non-Christian philosophies say about the purpose of human life? To begin with, most deny there is such a thing as a purpose. Purpose implies a conscious, personal, active, involved Creator, and Existentialism, Nihilism and Humanism deny that basic assumption. A far more dangerous philosophy that is becoming very popular is the New Age Movement, which says, among other things, that our purpose is to “become one with the universe.”

Another common belief system, The Self Esteem movement, wants us to feel good about ourselves. This movement is represented by popular psychology and psychiatry (including, unfortunately, many “Christian” therapists). Self Esteem is also a foundational belief of various 12-step recovery groups, who have a religious taste to them by use of the concept of “my higher power.” As with any error, there is a grain of truth here–as creations of a Holy God, we are worthy of a certain dignity. But we are fallen; we are rebels. Without salvation through the blood atonement of Christ Jesus, we are not OK! If I help you with some sort of mental and emotional good feeling and heal your anguish about life, etc., and do nothing to bring you to the Cross for forgiveness, I have done nothing for you that will last!

What does the Bible say about the Purpose of Human Life? It teaches that the human race is a special creation of a personal, loving God … and our purpose as a race and as individuals is to glorify Him, to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus His Son, and to live with Him forever.

The human race is a special creation of a personal, loving, God. Evolutionary “science,” on very fragmentary evidence, has concluded that our race oozed up from some ‘primordial soup’, crawled out onto the shore, eventually became apes, and then progressed to our current form. This is contrary to the teachings of Scripture (and disagrees with the hard scientific facts, too–see reading list at the end of this chapter). The first chapter of Genesis plainly teaches that God created everything ex nihilo (from nothing), that He simply spoke it into existence (God said, “let there be … and there was …”). In Genesis 1:26-28 Moses outlines God’s creation of the race, then in Genesis 2:7-25, he gives a detailed account. The race of Man was personally created by a personal God–for a purpose, for a reason. That reason is given in one of the most beautiful and profound statements in the Bible:

Revelation 4:11 “Thou Art Worthy, Oh, Lord, to receive Glory and honor, and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created. (KJV)

We were created for His pleasure–simply because He wanted it that way. Well, if that is the reason we were created, what is our purpose?

The verse just quoted tells us God is worthy of Glory, so as His creatures we should glorify Him. The truth is that all of the human race will bring glory to God, but not all in the same way. Philippians 2 says (speaking of Christ),

Philippians 2:9-11 “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (KJV)

God has decreed that every knee will bow to His Son, including those under the earth, which is a Biblical reference to Hell. We were created to glorify God, and every human being will. Some will do it as they rejoice in heaven over the salvation of Christ, and some will do it as they suffer the just eternal punishment for their sins.

As believers, however, we have a special place in bringing Glory to God. We are to begin glorifying Him by our life as we live it now.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 10:31 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”… “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV)

The Bible has specific instructions in many places on how to run our lives. It tells us how to run our marriage, our business affairs, our employed lives, and how to conduct ourselves in society and in the church. Our purpose in life as believers is to learn to follow Christ in such a way as to bring Glory to God. A step beyond that concept, however, is the marvelous truth of the final goal of God’s working in our lives. We are to be molded into the image of Christ.

Romans 8:28-29 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (NIV)

1 John 3:1-2 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (NIV)

It is our destiny and reward as believers to be conformed to the likeness, the image, of Christ. We won’t BE Him, as a pantheistic New Ager might say; we will never have His attributes of Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Immutability–but our actions and our countenance will be like Him.

The final part of the purpose of our existence is to Live with God forever. Oh, what a joy, to live in the presence of God eternally, to have no sin or human troubles to worry us, and to enjoy sweet fellowship with Him!

Now that we have said all this about a purpose for our lives, what are the practical implications of that purpose? How do we take this doctrine and apply it to our lives? This marvelous truth has important implications for all of life’s decisions. We cannot live as if we are independent and free to do whatever we might decide to do. If we are Christians, we don’t own ourselves.

One passage quoted earlier (1 Cor 6:19-20), said that we are “… not your own; you were bought at a price.” We are not, as an old song said, “riding the trail alone.” Paul reiterates this principle in 1 Corinthians 7:23, “You were bought at a price, do not become slaves of men.” All believers are priests (1 Pet 2:5, 9), and are to serve God in every area of their lives. In our family, God is to rule ( Eph 5:33-6:4); our work habits are to be those He wants us to have ( Eph 6:5-9). In our civic duties, we are to exhibit His rule in our conduct (1 Pet 2:13-18Rom 13:1-8). Indeed, as Paul tells the Colossians, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Col. 3:23)

When all of this is taken together, a balanced Christian life will emerge. We will not be either lazy or workaholics; we will have an ordered family with a loving atmosphere; we will serve God in every way. This is how life is to be lived–our life is not separated into our “private, religious life” and our “secular” life. The life of a Christian is to be one seamless tapestry, with all parts working together under the direction of the Holy Spirit, by the rule of God’s word, following God’s Son for the glory of the Triune God.

But what about when things get rough–what are the implications of this teaching in times of trial? How can God “get the glory” when His children go through trials and tribulations? There is now a movement claiming to be Christian which says that God always desires for us to be happy, prosperous, and healthy in this world. This movement, called The Word of Faith Movement, or simply The Faith Teaching, unrealistically and cruelly makes all our problems the result of lack of faith on our part. It assumes that God can do nothing without our puny personal faith. As we will learn in chapter 3, God is sovereign, that is, He rules the universe, including determining the circumstances of our lives–(Dan. 4:34-35Job 42:1-6). So, if we are in a difficult circumstance, God has caused or allowed it to take place. Trials, therefore, are part of His purpose for our lives, and we are to glorify Him in our trials.

There are several elements to this whole concept that are beyond the scope of this book, but some things you can look at to begin to understand this principle are: (a) This world is not our natural home–we are strangers and pilgrims here (Phil. 3:20Heb 11:13-16). (b) God’s chastenings are an assurance of sonship (Heb 12:5-13). (c) It is normal for the world system to hate believers; when attacked and under trial from the world, we are following in Christ’s footsteps (1 Pet 2:19-24John 15:18-6:4). (d) God can and does deliver His people from trials–but not always (Heb 11:32-39). Therefore, our proper attitude in times of trial is to be that of the “three Hebrew children.” These youths, captured by a cruel conqueror and pressed into the service of the enemy king, were faced with a choice: worship heathen idols or be fired (with real fire) Their answer is a masterpiece of theology and practical faith.

Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (NIV)

God may deliver, or it may be His pleasure not to deliver–we still serve Him, whatever the case. Christian, your life has meaning and purpose–you are to glorify God in all things.

See Appendix 3 for study questions and projects for Chapter 1.

Related Topics: Introduction to TheologyBasics for ChristiansApologetics



Lesson 96: Jesus, the King of Truth (John 18:33-38a)

by Steven J. Cole (

In 2007, John MacArthur wrote a very important book, The Truth War [Thomas Nelson], that began (p. ix), “Who would have thought that people claiming to be Christians—even pastors—would attack the very notion of truth? But they are.” After citing some specific examples, MacArthur wrote (p. xi):

The idea that the Christian message should be kept pliable and ambiguous seems especially attractive to young people who are in tune with the culture and in love with the spirit of the age and can’t stand to have authoritative biblical truth applied with precision as a corrective to worldly lifestyles, unholy minds, and ungodly behavior. And the poison of this perspective is being increasingly injected into the evangelical church body.

He goes on to show how God and truth are inseparable. Satan tempted Eve with the lie that undermined God’s truthful word. Ever since, the enemy has attacked the truth, because truth is inextricably bound up with God (John 8:44) and His Son, who speaks the truth and who is the truth (John 8:45; 14:6). So if we love God and love Christ we must love the truth and defend the truth when it is under attack. One characteristic of those who incur God’s judgment is that “they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). All will be judged who “did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:12).

In John’s account of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, he emphasizes two important truths about our Savior: First, He is the King of the Jews, and by rightful extension, of all people, because His kingdom is not of this world, but is spiritual. Second, John underscores the Lord’s emphasis on truth. Jesus tells Pilate (John 18:37), “For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” To which Pilate scoffs, “What is truth?” and walks away. Bringing these two points together, we can say that…

Jesus is the King of truth and everyone who is of the truth hears His voice.

1. Jesus is the King of a spiritual kingdom founded on spiritual truth.

Pilate’s question, “Are You the King of the Jews?” was probably incredulous. You is emphatic, so the sense is, “You! You’re the King of the Jews?” If Pilate’s question had been sincere in terms of determining who Jesus really is, he would have been on the right path, because the most important question for every person to answer correctly is, “Who is Jesus Christ?” If He is who He claimed to be, then He is worthy of your trust and submission. If He is not, then no one should waste their time being a Christian.

Jesus could not answer Pilate’s question without further clarification. If Pilate meant, “Are you the political king of the Jews who is usurping authority from Rome?” the answer is, “No.” If he meant, “Are You the Messianic King of Israel, promised in the Old Testament?” the answer is, “Yes, but not in the way that most Jews envision that kingdom.” So Jesus’ question (John 18:34), “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” is asking, “Have you personally investigated My claims and are wondering if I am the Jewish Messiah; or are you relying on the secondhand charges of the Jewish leaders?” Pilate’s contemptuous reply is (John 18:35): “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Pilate assumed that there must be something behind the Jewish leaders’ accusations, but he wasn’t sure exactly what.

Jesus does not reply to Pilate’s question, “What have You done?” Instead, He elaborates on the nature of His kingdom. We can learn two things from His reply:

A. As the King over the spiritual realm, Jesus is the rightful sovereign over all rule and authority.

Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, where the concept of the kingdom is prevalent, John only mentions the kingdom here and in John 3:3, 5 (but, cf. John 6:15). John 18:36-37: “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’ Therefore Pilate said to Him, ‘So You are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’” Jesus’ reply was literally, “You say that I am a king,” but the expression is “unambiguously affirmative” (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John [Apollos/Eerdmans], p. 594; cf. Matt. 26:63-65).

When Pilate asked, “So You are a king?” he wasn’t looking for spiritual answers regarding Jesus’ identity. He was just trying to navigate through the Jews’ accusations to get to the bottom of why they really had brought Jesus to him. Jesus plainly let Pilate know that politically, His kingdom was no threat to Rome. If His kingdom were political, Jesus would have had soldiers defending Him from arrest. As anyone who had been in the garden could testify, Jesus in fact had rebuked one of His followers who had taken up arms to defend Him. As seen in his answer (John 18:38), “I find no guilt in Him,” Pilate discerned that Jesus was not a political threat.

But at the same time, Jesus makes it clear that He is a king, just not the kind that Pilate might envision. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world, but is spiritual. The kings or rulers over earthly kingdoms rule by coercion over geographic territories and seek to conquer other territories through military might. They force their subjects to pay taxes so that they can live in luxurious palaces while they build and sustain their armies. But Jesus’ kingdom is different. As He explained to His disciples (Matt. 20:25-28):

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

In His first coming, Jesus came as a humble servant to establish His spiritual kingdom in the hearts of those He came to ransom from their sins. He came to offer salvation freely to all who willingly submit to Him. But at His second coming, He will forcefully subdue all opposition and judge all who have rebelled against Him. Daniel 7:13-14 describes it:

I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.

The apostle John pictured it like this (Rev. 19:11-16):

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

So Pilate saw a man who outwardly did not look anything like a king. He looked like a common Galilean working man. He wasn’t wearing expensive clothing or jewelry. He wasn’t surrounded by servants. But Jesus was and is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is presently at the Father’s right hand, awaiting the day when He will make His enemies a footstool for His feet (Ps. 110:1). Someday, Pilate, Caiaphas, Caesar, and every person who has ever lived, will see Jesus coming in the glory of His Father with the angels and bow before Him as King before He sentences them according to their deeds (Matt. 16:27Phil. 2:9-11)! The clear application is: Make sure that your heart is in subjection to Jesus as your King now, so that you are not terrified by His coming later.

B. Jesus’ spiritual kingdom is founded on spiritual truth.

In John 18:37, Jesus testifies, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” This is the only reference in John to Jesus’ birth, which points to His humanity. But Jesus has repeatedly made reference to His coming into this world, which points to His pre-existence and deity (John 3:13, 31; 8:42; 9:39; 16:28). Here Jesus indicates that He has been born and come into the world to be a king, but the way He establishes His kingdom is not by military force, but by bearing witness to the truth. Mohammed established his kingdom with the power of the sword, which his most ardent followers still use: convert or be killed. In contrast Jesus set up His kingdom by the power of the truth and His love as seen at the cross.

Jesus’ claim shows that, contrary to the prevalent postmodern philosophy of our time, there is such a thing as absolute, objective, knowable truth in the spiritual realm. Such truth is true whether you feel it’s true or not. It’s true whether you like it or not. It’s true whether you believe it or not. Spiritual truth is not determined by pragmatism, or what works. Some methods and techniques seem to work in terms of success in business or relationships, but they aren’t spiritually true in light of eternity because they do not bring people into submission to Jesus Christ. Spiritual truth applies to all cultures and all people in all times. All spiritual truth comes from God, revealed to us in His Word, which points us to Jesus Christ. Spiritual truth is centered on the gospel, which transforms our hearts and brings us under Christ’s lordship so that we will not face His judgment on the last day.

It’s important to understand that truth is inextricably linked to the eternal God. To answer Pilate’s question, “What is truth?” John MacArthur offers this definition, drawn from Scripture (ibid., p. 2, italics his):

Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: truth is the self-expression of God…. Therefore God is the author, source, determiner, governor, arbiter, ultimate standard, and final judge of all truth.

He adds (p. 1), “Every idea we have, every relationship we cultivate, every belief we cherish, every fact we know, every argument we make, every conversation we engage in, and every thought we think presupposes that there is such a thing as ‘truth.’”

The Bible calls God “the God of truth” (Ps. 31:5Isa. 65:16). It is impossible for God to lie (Titus 1:2). Since God is the only eternal being, who created all that exists, and since He is spirit (John 4:24), we cannot know Him by human reason or speculation, but only as He has chosen to reveal Himself to us, which He has done supremely through Jesus Christ (John 1:1; cf. Luke 10:22Heb. 1:1-3). John 1:14 affirms that Jesus, the Word who is God, is “full of grace and truth.” Jesus also referred to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of truth,” who would guide His followers into all the truth by disclosing the things of Christ to us (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13). Thus truth characterizes each person of the triune God.

Since we are to glorify God by being conformed to the image of His Son, truth should characterize every believer in Christ. We are to “practice the truth” (John 3:21). We are sanctified by God’s Word, which is the truth (John 17:17). We are to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Since Satan is a liar and the father of lies, in contrast to Jesus who always spoke the truth (John 8:44-45), all who want to be like Jesus must strive to be truthful both in word and in behavior. As Paul put it (Eph. 4:15), we are to speak the truth in love. He added (Eph. 4:25), “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” This encompasses not only truthful speech, but also speaking that which is in line with biblical truth or sound doctrine.

The fact that there is absolute spiritual truth also means that there is absolute spiritual error. Some spiritual error is relatively minor in its effects, but some is devastating and damnable (Matt. 23:23, 24). Thus in Paul’s final three pastoral letters to Timothy and Titus, he exhorts them repeatedly to teach sound (= “healthy”) doctrine and to refute those who teach harmful doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3-11; 4:1-3, 7, 11, 16; 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2:14-18, 23-26; 3:1-17; 4:1-5; Titus 1:1, 9-14; 2:1; 3:9). The church is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). Jude 3 exhorts, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” He goes on to warn about false teachers who threatened the church. Also, 2 Peter and 1, 2, & 3 John all have strong warnings against false teachers and exhortations to hold to the truth.

To say that something is absolutely true is to say that anything contrary to it is a lie. But if you say this in today’s tolerant, postmodern culture, you will be labeled as a narrow-minded bigot. Over 100 years ago, C. H. Spurgeon (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 49:174) said that in his day, you would get three cheers if you went into the world and said that you were an agnostic—that you didn’t know anything or believe anything. Others say that it doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere. This, Spurgeon said, is like believing that you can drink acid without harm or go without food and not starve. But, Spurgeon concluded, “Our blessed Savior is honestly intolerant.”

In our text, there are two responses to the truth that Jesus proclaimed: Pilate scoffed; but those who are of the truth hear Jesus’ voice.

2. Those who are not of the truth scoff at the very notion that there is truth in the spiritual realm.

I believe that Pilate’s reply, “What is truth?” was said with a cynical sneer. If he were asking sincerely, he would not have immediately walked away. When Jesus said (John 18:37), “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice,” He was extending an implicit invitation to Pilate to respond: “Pilate, will you hear My voice? Will you listen to Me as I speak the truth to you about your soul?” Really, it was Pilate, not Jesus, who was on trial, because whenever a person comes in contact with Jesus Christ, his sins are exposed in the light of Christ’s holiness and he has a decision to make. Will he hear Jesus’ voice calling him to come to the light? Or will he walk away because he is uncomfortable in the presence of such light?

Apparently Pilate didn’t give much thought to his decision to scoff at Christ’s words and go back out to the Jews, but that was a spiritually fatal decision. On the surface, it seemed like a little thing. Pilate probably thought, “I need to get this case resolved so I can go have breakfast and get on with my day.” But sometimes seemingly small decisions have major eternal consequences: Will you go to church and hear the gospel preached or will you stay home and enjoy a leisurely breakfast while you read the paper? When you hear the gospel preached on the radio, will you listen and respond to Christ or will you hit the button for your favorite music station?

The apostle Paul said (1 Tim. 6:13) that Jesus “testified the good confession before Pontius Pilate.” So Pilate’s skeptical response was not because Christ’s witness was somehow lacking. You can give the gospel as clearly as you know how, and yet people scoff and walk away. Why do they do that?

The comprehensive answer is, “Sin.” And probably the major sin that keeps people from faith in Christ is pride. They think that they know more than God and so they sit in judgment on the Bible, rather than letting it sit in judgment on them. Pride keeps them from asking God to reveal the truth to them. Pride makes them think that their good works will qualify them for heaven.

Also, often as people get older, they often become cynical of any religion that claims to be exclusively true. Perhaps they’ve been ripped off financially by professing Christians. They’ve seen Christian leaders who preached holiness while they were secretly engaging in sexual sins. At the same time, they’ve met unbelievers who were decent, good people. So they wrongly conclude that no one can know spiritual truth and anyone who claims to have the truth is arrogant and narrow-minded.

Another reason people scoff at the truth in Jesus is laziness and resistance to change. They don’t diligently seek truth in God’s Word, because it takes effort. It’s easier just to live as they’ve been living and not do the hard work necessary to change old habits. Plus, they love their sin and the truth makes them uncomfortable. So, like Pilate, they scoff at the notion that there is truth in the spiritual realm. But by God’s power, some do respond:

3. Everyone who is of the truth hears Jesus’ voice.

Being “of the truth” suggests spiritual origin. As Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:6-7), “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Those who have been spiritually reborn by the Spirit of truth are “of the truth.” They become seekers of the truth in Christ. So the crucial question is, “Have you been born again?”

If you wonder, “How can I know whether I’m of the truth? How can I know whether I’ve been born again?” Jesus gives the answer: You will hear His voice. Jesus often cried out (Matt. 11:15; 13:9), “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” He was challenging people to ponder the meaning of what He proclaimed and apply it to their hearts. Hearing Jesus in this sense means not only listening, but also obeying what He commanded. The fact that spiritual truth is knowable and objective means that, like science, it must be studied. God’s truth is like precious metal or hidden treasure that must be diligently sought after (Prov. 2:1-6). If you are “of the truth,” you will be a truth-seeker by studying God’s Word. But the aim is not just to acquire knowledge, but to apply that knowledge wisely so that your life is pleasing to God.


Years ago on a TV talk show, the Archbishop of Canterbury was speaking with actress Jane Fonda. He said, “Jesus is the Son of God, you know.” Fonda replied, “Maybe he is for you, but he’s not for me.” To which the Archbishop wisely answered, “Well, either he is or he isn’t.”

Although most Americans and even a large percentage of evangelical Christians reject the idea of absolute truth in the spiritual realm, that doesn’t undermine the fact of it. Jesus is the truth and He testified to the truth. And He is the King. If you are of the truth, you will hear His voice and submit your life to Him.

Application Questions

  1. How can you reply to a person who accuses you of being narrow-minded and bigoted because you believe in absolute truth?
  2. Often those who study God’s Word come across as spiritually proud know-it-alls who love to win an argument. How can we grow in spiritual knowledge and yet avoid such pride?
  3. Some Christians say that we should set aside doctrinal differences and come together in love and unity with all Christians. Is this sound advice or is it dangerous? Why?
  4. Sometimes the slogan, “All truth is God’s truth,” is used to smuggle worldly “truth” into the church. Is the slogan valid? What parameters need to be applied to it?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2015, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation


Related Topics: Christian LifeChristology



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