“What Is Truth?”

The Ninth Commandment in the Gospels

3 min

The truth is not merely what we speak; it is also what we live. Those around us are able to see our hypocrisy very clearly when the way we live does not match the way we speak. The words testimony and witness both come from the same word in the original languages of the Bible. In reflecting upon the ninth commandment—“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”—we must realize that a man’s testimony and a man’s witness should be one and the same thing, not a “false witness” but a living testimony of the truth.

The supreme example of a living testimony of truth is the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate and the jeering, angry mob, our Lord told the Roman procurator: “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37).

Pilate expressed the agnostic confusion and cynicism of a pagan world without the knowledge of absolute reality when, in reply to Jesus, he asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

The Bible gives the answer to Pilate’s profound question. Today, our world still asks that same question. Public schools teach children that there are no moral absolutes. Humanistic philosophy asserts that truth can be one actuality for one man and another reality for another man. Mankind resents the very notion that there is a God Who can define what is right and what is wrong. In a relativistic, antinomian world where mothers can kill their own babies, that confused men and women seek to change their gender identity, that moral standards are deemed antiquated, that the elderly can be euthanized, and that tyrants can annihilate entire segments of their society without a qualm from the international community: Who is to say if these actions are right or wrong?

Against the chaos of relativism and moral confusion, the Lord Jesus Christ made two statements that will always stand the test of time.

  1. “I AM the Truth.”
    Jesus answered Pilate’s question on the same night that He was betrayed. In the Upper Room Discourse, just after Jesus promised His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them and would one day come and receive them unto Himself, Thomas asked Him a question. “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).
    Jesus answered Thomas with words that have been used since by the Holy Spirit to bring about the salvation of many sinners through the centuries: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). This truth is the essential answer that Pilate missed. The Jewish leaders, despite all their religious traditions and Biblical knowledge, missed it too. Jesus Himself is Truth.In a world gone mad, we as God’s people must consistently and boldly proclaim to a confused and relativistic world that Jesus is not one way of many, not one perspective on the truth, and not merely one option for eternal life! He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life.
  2. “Thy Word is Truth.”
    This second statement was also given by Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed. After the conclusion of the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus prayed for His disciples. This prayer in John Chapter 17 has become known as the “High Priestly Prayer.” In the middle of that prayer, Jesus prayed for the sanctification of His disciples: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (verse 17).The wording here is very important. Jesus does not say “Thy word contains truth.” He does not say “Thy word reveals truth.” He says with profound simplicity: “Thy word is truth” (emphasis added). Scripture is absolutely reliable in all matters of faith and practice. Although Jesus Himself was soon going to leave His disciples, He was going to leave them with the infallible record of Scripture illuminated by the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. The Word of God revealed in the Bible would be their enduring standard of truth after He was ascended to His Father’s throne.

Thus, Jesus answered the question of Pilate with a twofold response. Truth was manifested by Who Jesus is and truth is manifested by what Jesus said. These two matters are essentially one and the same. After all, the Gospel of John introduces the Lord Jesus as “the Word” and describes the miracle of the incarnation by declaring “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

As disciples of Jesus, we can draw a very powerful, important lesson from this twofold definition of truth. Just as our Lord Jesus lived the truth and spoke the truth, so we also bear witness to the truth by the lives that we live and by the words that we speak. As we live our lives according to the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to control our thoughts, words, and actions, we are manifesting Christlikeness to a skeptical, watching world. The world is still asking Pilate’s question—“What is truth?” May God give us the grace to answer that question by how we live and by the words that we speak.

This article is from our Matters of Life & Death teaching series.

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