Friday, February 20, 2009

The Truth and Salvation (Part IV)

In the last post, we examined some of what Jesus had to say about the subject of baptism. We pointed out that in the Great Commission, Jesus never gave His disciples the option of NOT baptizing those who believed.

This brings to mind something else that Jesus had to say on the subject. In John 3, we see a leader of the Jews that came to Jesus and confirmed his belief that Jesus was truly from God. Did this belief alone save Nicodemus? Notice what Jesus said to him in John 3:3: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus was quite perplexed by this idea of being "born again" until Jesus explained to him what this meant: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). Jesus very plainly teaches here that one of the requirements for entering the kingdom of God is being "born of water," or baptized. But why? It was later, through the Spirit-breathed words of the New Testament writers, that the reason is revealed. But first let's look at some first century conversions and see what part baptism played.

The Day of Pentecost

In Acts 2, we have recorded what is considered to be the first Gospel sermon preached after the Lord's ascension. Peter and the eleven stood before a group of Jews and laid out for them the Scriptural proof that Jesus Christ was indeed the Messiah, that he had come to save them from their sins, that they had rejected Him, and that they had crucified Him (verse 36). Upon hearing these words and being convicted of their sins, they cried out to the twelve, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (verse 37). Did Peter reply, "Your simple act of belief is enough" or "Since you believe and are sorry for your sins, you are saved"? No, there was something else they had to do: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (verse 38). Verse 41 tells us that "those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them."

Philip in Samaria

In Acts 8, we see Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What does it say was the reaction of the people? Were they merely believing in Jesus and confessing their belief and counting themselves as saved. No, note verse 12: "But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized." We can infer from this that Philip's teaching on "the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" included Jesus' teaching on the necessity of baptism.

The Ethiopian Eunuch

Later in Acts 8, we see Philip led by the Holy Spirit to a man of Ethiopia reading the Scriptures. When Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading, he replied, "How can I unless someone guides me?” (verse 31). What does it say that Philip did then? "Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him" (verse 35). When Philip had completed his preaching, what was the eunuch's next question? “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (verse 36). Again, we cannot but infer that when Philip "preached Jesus to him" that preaching included Jesus' teaching on the necessity of baptism for salvation. If not, why would the eunuch ask?

The Conversion of Saul

In Acts 9, we see Saul on the road to Damascus. Saul had been greatly persecuting the church of the Lord. On the road Jesus appeared to Saul and asked why Saul was persecuting Him (through persecuting the church). Saul asked the Lord, "what do You want me to do?" (verse 6). Jesus then told him to go into the city and "you will be told what you must do" (verse 6). What was Saul told he MUST do? Jesus sent a man named Ananias to Saul and we have to go to Paul's account in Acts 22 to see what he was told to do: "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (verse 16). Jesus had chosen Saul (later Paul) to take the Gospel to the Gentiles, but he could not do this before he was first baptized.

The First Gentile Converts

In Acts 10, we see Peter being guided by God to preach the Gospel for the first time to the Gentiles. In order to prove to Peter that the Gentiles would also be able to share in the blessings of Christ, God caused the Holy Spirit to fall on Cornelius and his household. Note Peter's reaction to this in Acts 10:47: “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” If baptism were unnecessary for salvation, why would it matter if these Gentiles were "forbidden water"? Also, note the verse following (emphasis mine): "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." Peter was being guided by the Holy Spirit and baptism was a command from God.

The Conversion of Lydia
Acts 16 shows us the conversion of a woman named Lydia (and her household). Again, let's note how her conversion happened:

And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us. (Acts 16:13-15)

There is no doubt that Paul preached the Gospel of Christ to Lydia and her household. But what MUST that teaching have included? It must have included Jesus' teaching on the necessity of baptism.

The Philippian Jailer

Acts 16 also includes the conversion of the Philippian jailer. When God opened the doors to the prison for Paul and Silas, we see that the jailer was about to kill himself (verse 27). Paul admonished him to do himself no harm. The jailer then asked them a question much like the one asked on Pentecost: "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (verse 30). We are then told that Paul told him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. We have already discussed that this belief must be an ACTIVE belief. Note what happened when the Gospel was preached:

Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And
immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them
into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God
with all his household. (Acts 16:32-34)

If part of what Paul taught them was NOT the importance of baptism, why the urgency (they were immediately baptized)? At what point did the jailer rejoice and at what point was he counted as "having believed in God with all his household"? It was AFTER his baptism.

Conversions at Corinth

Acts 18 shows us the conversions of Crispus, ruler of the synagogue at Corinth, and many of the Corinthians. The Scripture very simply describes their conversion: "Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized" (Acts 18:8).

We have already seen what happened when Lydia and the Philippian jailer "believed with all [their] household." We can very safely infer that baptism occurred in the household of Crispus, as well. What better illustration of Mark 16:16 than what we see the Corinthians doing here?

The book of Acts is a history of the first century church of our Lord. Every conversion recorded in that book includes baptism. If we are seeking to serve our Lord as the Christians in the first century did, how can we deny that baptism is necessary and essential for salvation with "so great a cloud of witnesses" testifying to its necessity?

Next, we will examine the "why" of the necessity of baptism for salvation.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Truth and Salvation (Part III)

As mentioned previously, many in our religious world stop at confession as a means to salvation. That is, they would have us believe that all you have to do is confess your faith in Jesus Christ and you will be granted salvation. This is usually couched in language such as "accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior." Undoubtedly, one has to accept that Jesus is the only means to salvation, as is revealed by Peter in Acts 4:12: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” However, doesn't this also mean that we can only come to salvation by the means that HE has prescribed?

The Truth reveals to us that Jesus never said that all one has to do is confess Him as Lord and Savior in order to receive salvation. Furthermore, the apostles never wrote by inspiration that confession is all that is necessary. The condition of being lost means that one is still "in his sins" and that his sins have separated him from God. It was through the shedding of the blood of Christ that forgiveness of sins was made available to mankind. So, how is this blood applied or where is it contacted so that man's sins are taken away? It is on one "landmark event": baptism in water.

Again, many in our religious world today will tell us that baptism is NOT necessary for salvation. They will tell us that baptism is recommended, but that it is merely an "outward sign of an inward change." That is, they would have us believe that salvation has already taken place and that baptism is merely a "declaration" of salvation. But is that what the Truth reveals about baptism?

The word "baptize" or a derivative thereof (baptized, baptizes, baptism) in reference to water baptism occurs more than 60 times in the New Testament. This volume alone should indicate to us that baptism is important to God. Let's look at what Jesus Himself said about baptism (emphasis mine):

  • Mark 16:15-16 - And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

  • Matthew 28:18-20 - And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Each of these passages is a different account of "The Great Commission." Did Jesus give the disciples the option of baptizing those that they taught? Did He minimize baptism in any way? No, in fact, Jesus says in Mark's account that baptism precedes salvation ("will be" = future tense). We see that baptism is an outgrowth of true faith. If one does not have the faith Jesus requires, he will not even consider baptism. These two passages alone should suffice for the true believer to be convinced of the necessity of baptism for salvation. However, God has given us further instruction in His Word about the importance of this event.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Truth and Salvation (Part II)

As mentioned in the previous post, the Scripture reveals that salvation is not a "faith only" proposition. In fact, the only time the words "faith only" are used in the Scripture, it is to reveal that man is NOT saved by "faith only." Consider James 2:14-24 (emphasis mine):
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

James tells us very plainly that salvation does not come through faith alone. God requires an expression of that faith . . . he requires a working faith to grant salvation. Does this mean that works earn us our salvation? Absolutely not. We could never do enough to earn forgiveness of our sins. Salvation is a gift, but there are conditions to receiving that gift. This is the way God has dealt with His people from the beginning. There is perhaps no better illustration of this than to read Hebrews Chapter 11 in its entirety. In this "roll call of faith," we see that each individual mentioned acted "by faith" and in so doing, they received the blessings of God. The Scripture does not say that any of them "earned" the blessings they received, but as they acted in faith God granted them those blessings. Salvation of our souls is no different. So, what works, then, does God require to grant us the gift of salvation?

Repentance very simply defined means having a change of mind. A change of mind about what? About sin. Repentance includes coming to the realization that my sin is what separates me from God and then coming to the conclusion that I must turn away from sin in order to restore that relationship with Him. Repentance is not simply being sorry for what we've done (or sorry that we've gotten caught). Consider how Paul describes repentance in 2 Corinthians 7:9-11: "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication!" True repentance starts with a heart-rending sorrow because I have sinned against my Creator and produces an overwhelming desire to make things right!

Is repentance truly necessary for salvation? Jesus Himself said it is. In Matthew 9, when the Pharisees condemned Jesus for eating with sinners, He told them "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (verses 12-13). A major part of Jesus' mission on earth was to call sinners to repentance. Why? Because repentance is necessary for salvation. In Luke 13, Jesus and His disciples were discussing calamities that had befallen certain individuals. Jesus used this opportunity to teach them (and us) that these did not die because they were "worse" sinners than others. He said, "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (verses 3 and 5). Condemnation will fall on all those who refuse to repent. Peter reinforces this idea in 2 peter 3:9. In discussing the reason why Jesus delays His Second Coming, Peter tells us, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance."

On the day of Pentecost, after Peter had finished preaching to the Jews, they cried out to him "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). They had been convicted of their sin and wanted to know how to make things right with God. The first instruction Peter gave to them was to repent (verse 38). In Acts Chapter 3, Peter once again stresses the necessity of repentance. Once again speaking to the Jews he says, "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord . . ." (verse 19). We learn here that ones sins cannot be "blotted out" (erased) without repentance.

Once one has heard the Word of Truth, believed it, been convicted of his/her sin, and determined to turn away from a life of sin, God requires that a public confession of faith be made. What is one to confess? Acts 8 shows us a good example of what this confession is. After Philip had taught the Ethiopian eunuch the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the eunuch wanted to be baptized. Philip said to him, "If you believe with all your heart, you may [be baptized]” (verse 37). The eunuch then made the following confession: "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (verse 38). We see, then, that this confession is one of belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Is this confession truly necessary for salvation? The apostle Paul tells us it is (emphasis mine): "But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:8-10). We see a perfect example here of what James talks about in James 2: that confession is an outgrowth or manifestation of one's faith (belief). John also tells us in 1 John 4:15, "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." The converse is certainly true: God does not abide in him who does not confess that Jesus is the Son of God.

Again, many in our religious world will stop at confession as a means to salvation. But is that all God requires before He will grant this most glorious gift? Not according to the Truth. There remains a "landmark event" before one can truly be called a child of God.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Truth and Salvation (Part I)

Once I understand that God's Word is Truth and that Truth has the ability to save my soul from sin, what is the next logical step? I want to find out HOW to be saved through the Truth. The only way to do this is to read everything the Truth has to say about salvation. I cannot just pick and choose from the Scriptures what I "think" I need to do to be saved. I must remember that one of the aspects of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" is taking it for what it says on a particular subject . . . and taking it for ALL that it says on that subject.

In Romans 10, Paul is lamenting the fact that the majority of Jews were lost because they had "a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (verse 2) and they "sought to establish thier own righteousness, [having] not submitted to the righteousness of God" (verse 3). What did Paul mean? He meant that they were ignorant of the gospel of Jesus Christ. How could this ignorance be overcome? Consider verse 14 (emphasis mine): "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" Paul says that the first step toward salvation is to HEAR the gospel of Christ. Again, how can a person believe in something that of which they have no knowledge? Paul reinforces this idea in verse 17: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

This "hearing" can come in a couple of different forms. Certainly a person can read the Bible and learn what it says about salvation. However, as Paul points out above, many times people need a little extra help to guide them. A perfect example of this is found in Acts 8. Here we see an Ethiopian eunuch who searched the Scriptures to see how to be pleasing to God, but he could not fully understand what he was reading. God sent Philip to this man and the Scripture says: "Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him" (verse 35). After hearing the message of Christ, the eunuch did those things that led to his salvation and he "went on his way rejoicing" (verse 39).

But is just hearing the Word enough to save one's soul? Consider what Paul says concerning the Jews in Romans 10. Paul says in verses 16, 18, and 19 that they HAD heard the gospel. So where was the problem? Back to verse 17: their hearing of the gospel had not led to FAITH or BELIEF in that gospel. Jesus tells us in Mark 16:16 that belief is an essential component of salvation. Furthermore, Hebrews 11:6 also tells us that a lack of faith in God's saving power will prevent our being pleasing to God: "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him."

Unfortunately, many in the religious world today will stop at faith as a means to salvation. But is faith alone in Jesus Christ all that God requires for man's salvation? I must remember to examine ALL that God says in His Word about salvation. An honest examination of the Scriptures reveals that faith alone is not enough for God to grant salvation.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Responsibility Toward Truth

What is my responsibility toward this most precious of possessions? Probably no verse in the entire Bible sums it up better than 2 Timothy 2:15:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Where the NKJV says "be diligent," the KJV version says "study." Either version gives the idea that I am to apply myself in a regular and consistent manner to the study of the truth. Paul refers to those who do so as "workers," implying that it takes effort. To what purpose am I to be a diligent worker? So that I may "rightly divide" God's Word.

What does it mean to "rightly divide the word of truth"? At its most basic level, it is knowing which parts of it apply to me and which parts don't. A perfect example of this is the Old Testament (OT) law. The OT law was a covenant law between God and a specific people: the Jews. It was also temporary until Christ came (please see the previous post entitled "The Value of Truth" for a discussion of this). No part of the OT law (including the 10 Commandments)has any bearing on my relationship with God . . . it doesn't apply to me (I'm not a Jew) and it was "nailed to the cross" when the New Testament was put in force by the blood of Christ (Colossians 2:13-14). Does that mean, then, that the Old Testament has no value? Absolutely not, and I plan on discussing that in a later post.

"Rightly dividing the word" also implies that I understand the nature of the prophecies contained in it. More simply, I need to understand which prophecies have been fulfilled and which are yet to be fulfilled. Paul addresses this is in 2 Timothy 2:16-18. There were some in Paul's day who were saying falsely that the final resurrection had already occurred. This was a symptom of the misunderstanding of (or failure to rightly divide) the inspired Word. What was the result? The teachings of these men was "overthrowing the faith of some". So I can see that failure to understand prophecy in Scripture can not only place my soul in danger, but the souls of others, as well.

Finally, "rightly dividing the word" means that I take the Word for what it says rather than making it say what I want it to say. It has been said that a person can make the Bible say anything he/she wants it to. This is certainly true when one takes Scripture out of context and applies his/her own "interpretation" to it. However, the Scripture addresses this phenomenon and its consequences. In 2 Peter 3, Peter tells us about those who will mock Christians for believing that Jesus will come again. He goes on to explain that Christ's delay in coming is out of His desire for all to come to repentance, but that when He does come there will be judgment and destruction of the earth. He reminds his readers that Paul had written to them about the same things, but note what he says about some who read Paul's words (emphasis mine):

. . . and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Peter says there are people who are untaught and unstable who will twist the Scriptures to make them say what they want them to say. Yet what is their end result? Their destruction. Certainly being able to "rightly divide the word of truth" is a grave responsibility.

In conclusion, what will be the end result if I am diligent in learning how to rightly divide the Word? The Scriptures say that I will be "approved of God." The idea here is that I will be acceptable to God in my handling of His Word. His Word will then be able to guide me to salvation and to being a faithful and obedient child in His family.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Value of Truth

Once we understand that God’s Word is truth, the next question that comes up in my mind is “What value does truth hold?”

Truth Provides Freedom
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’” (John 8:31-32).

What type of freedom? Freedom from what?

First, God’s Word provides freedom from sin. Notice the exchange between the Jews and Jesus in John 8: 33-35: “They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.”

We understand that all have sinned; therefore, all are slaves of sin. However, the Word of God has the power to free mankind from the bondage of sin. Paul devotes the entirety of Romans Chapter 6 to the idea of freedom from this bondage. Note especially what he says in verses 17-18: “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” “Doctrine” means simply “teaching.” What teaching had they received? Teaching from the Truth . . . the Word of God.

Also, God’s Word provides freedom from the Old Testament Law. Remember that Jesus was speaking to Jews in John 8. There would come a time when they would no longer be bound by the tenets of the law given to Moses. Paul told the Galatian church that the Old Law was a schoolmaster, something to prepare the world for the coming of Christ. However, he says that after Christ came “we are no longer under a schoolmaster” (Galatians 3:25). In fact, Paul also told the Galatians that any of them that were seeking to be justified by the keeping of the Old Law were “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

Once the Old Law had fulfilled its purpose, it was no longer necessary. What happened to it? Paul tells us that it was nailed to the cross (emphasis mine): “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). In Hebrews Chapter 9, the Old Law is likened to a last will and testament that comes into effect when one dies. Jesus brought a New Testament that went into effect when He died. This made the Old Testament null and void, as revealed by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 10:8-10 (emphasis mine): “Previously saying, ‘Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them’ (which are offered according to the law), then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Truth Provides Completion

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Paul tells us here that God’s Word gives us everything we need to do the work that God wants us to do as His people.

Doctrine: As stated above, the word “doctrine” literally means “teaching.” We don’t need to go to any other source but the Word of God to find teaching for ourselves and teaching for others.

Reproof: Other versions of the Bible use the word “rebuke” here. The word translated “reproof” or “rebuke” come from a Greek word meaning “instruction which aims at increasing virtue” and “chastisement or chastening.” So, the Word of God is to be used to show others where they are wrong in relation to the teaching of the Word. Literally, we are to take the Word of God and “prove again” (re-prove) that which is sound doctrine. This instruction, however, is to be done with the aim of increasing virtue rather than to tear down.

Correction: This goes hand in hand with reproof. Again, if we look at the original Greek word, what we have is “restoration to an upright or right state” and “improvement of life or character.” The idea here is that when we see ourselves (or someone else) going astray from the Truth, we can use the Word of God to bring those things back in line. As with reproof, the goal is achieving what is best for the one who has strayed (i.e. agape love).

Instruction in righteousness: Righteousness, most simply put, is doing what is right in the sight of God. We can go to the Word of God to find out what it is we must do to be accounted as righteous in His sight.

When I use the Word of God and only the Word of God as my guide for living, I can be complete and do those things that are pleasing to God.

Truth Provides Limits
For those of us that are parents, we understand the value of placing limits on our children. Doing so prevents them from “running wild” and doing whatever they please. Furthermore, children have a desire to please their parents and to know their limits so that they CAN please them. God has done no less with His children. It is to our benefit that He has placed limits on what is pleasing to Him.

How do we know these limits exist? Scripture is very plain on this point. Consider what John tells us in 2 John 9: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” The word “transgress” literally means to “go beyond.” Therefore, if I “go beyond” anything that is not revealed in the Truth, I do not have a relationship with God.

In Colossians 3:17, Paul says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” What does it mean to do something in the name of Jesus? It certainly doesn’t mean that I can do anything I want to as long as I say I’m doing it in His name. Doing something in someone’s name means you are doing it with their authority. What does a law officer mean when he says to someone “Stop in the name of the law!”? He is saying that he has the authority of the law to require the person to stop. The same principle applies to what we do in service to God. If I do not have the authority of Christ to do a certain thing, then I have overstepped my bounds.

So, how do I know if I have the authority of Christ to do a certain thing? Consider verse 16 in Colossians 3 (emphasis mine): Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” Those things that Christ has authorized are revealed in His Word. If it’s not there, I don’t have the authority of Christ to do it.

Truth Provides Salvation
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

The Word of God has the power to convict man’s soul of sin and to save him from that sin. In Acts 11, we see that the angel of the Lord visited a Gentile named Cornelius. The angel told Cornelius to send for Peter and when Peter arrived “[he] will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved” (verse 14). Acts 10 records the words Peter spoke to Cornelius and we see that what he spoke was the Gospel of Christ.

James makes a contrast between those who belong to the world and those who belong to God in James 1. In verse 18, he says that God “brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” The idea here is that of a rebirth and what accomplishes that rebirth is “the word of truth.” Furthermore, he says in verses 19-21 that the deeds of the flesh do not accomplish the righteousness of God; he tells us rather to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

It quickly becomes evident that the Truth is the most valuable thing that we can possess. Is it any wonder that Solomon said in Proverbs 23:23, “Buy the truth and sell it not”? The Word of God is the most precious thing that we own.

When we come to a realization of how valuable and precious Truth is, it can help us to more fully appreciate our responsibility toward Truth.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Is Truth?

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Pilate's question to Jesus is, unfortunately, one that has resonated throughout every epoch of man's existence. Man has always been searching for truth. Failure to find truth has led many to conclude that a) there is no truth or b) man makes his own truth. Neither conclusion is valid. The problem does not lie in the existence of truth, but in man's failure to see and acknowledge what is right before his eyes.

Jesus said that he had come into the world to "bear witness of the truth." Did He do that or not? He said he did. One can only come to one of two conclusions: either truth exists and He bore witness of it or He was delusional. Jesus further said "everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." Can one be "of" something that does not exist?

So the question remains, "What is truth?" Jesus had answered that question just hours earlier as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. In John 17:6-19, Jesus prayed to God on behalf of his eleven disciples. In verse 17, He requests that God the Father will "Sanctify them in the truth. Thy word is truth." So we see that the answer to Pilate's question is very simple: the truth is the Word of God.

When we apply this principle to what Jesus said in John 18:38, it makes perfect sense:
  • When Jesus said "I came to bear witness of the truth," He was saying that he came to bear witness that the things God had revealed in His word are true. Jesus came to bear witness that the Messianic prophecies made by God through Moses, David, and the prophets were true. He came to bear witness that the seed of woman would truly "crush the head" of Satan. He came to bear witness that God would establish a New Covenant, allowing those of all nations to be citizens of His kingdom. And the list goes on and on . . .
  • When Jesus said "everyone who is of the truth hears my voice," He is saying that those who recognize that God's Word is the truth will also listen to and obey the words and teachings of Jesus. Why? Because they will understand what Jesus said in John 14:10: "The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works." They will understand that Jesus also speaks the truth because what He speaks is from God.

It is on this basis, then, that we can begin to examine our responsibility to the truth. When we learn our responsibility to the truth, we can then see how the truth affects every aspect of our lives and, most especially, our relationship to God.