Pilate's Question - God's Answer
(Second in a series on "WHAT IS TRUTH?")
Roy E. Cogdill
Since only the truth can make men free, it is important for us to know exactly how the truth may be determined. By what standard can it be established? There is no substitute for truth but error. Truth is narrow and is always consistent. There must be some rule or rules by which truth can be determined.
Modernistic unbelief takes the attitude that truth is a relative thing and cannot be absolute in any respect and especially do they insist that this is true in religious or spiritual matters. This sort of an attitude would entirely destroy faith and create such uncertainty that an effort to serve God and reach Heaven eventually would be so confused one would not know in what direction he was travelling. Is the fact that there is one true and living God indefinite and relative? Is there a chance that there may be God's many instead of only one? Is the one true and living God a kind and loving heavenly father, interested in the salvation of every one of us and not willing that any should perish, only relatively true or is it possible that He may be a despotic, cruel, unmerciful, and tyrannical destroyer of the souls of men? Can we know and be sure about it?
Does man have an immortal spirit? Can we be sure of it or is it only a relative matter about which we may eventually learn that we have been wrong? Is there but one Lord and lawgiver, one savior and king, or shall we allow for the fact that truth is relative and that we may eventually learn that there are really many Christ's to serve and to save? If these are matters of absolute faith and confidence, why hold that any other revealed truth should be considered only relative? There are, to be sure, many things that God has not revealed and about which we cannot know. Moses said, "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." (Deut. 29:29) This division must be recognized and we should not try to be certain and dogmatic in our attitudes about those things that God has not revealed. But about those things which are revealed, truth can certainly be determined and must be believed and followed if we are to be made free by it. (John 8:32) Men who would come to God must believe that "He is and that He is a rewarder of them that seek after Him. (Heb. 11:6) We must believe the Gospel, the truth, or we will be damned. (Mark 16:15-16; II Thess. 2:12) How can a man who believes not the truth be justly damned if he cannot determine what the truth is which he must believe?
If there is just one faith, and Paul by the Holy Spirit so declares (Eph. 4:5), then there is no room for uncertainty or variation in what we believe and if we believe differently about any revealed thing, some one does not believe the truth. This is so simple and self-evident from the premises that only the willfully ignorant cannot see it. Truth is narrow, and hence right belief must be narrow also.
But many reason within themselves that if they "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints," they will give offense to others who do not believe the truth as it is revealed in Christ Jesus and, because they do not want to appear dogmatic and give offense to others, they compromise with error. This is offensive to God and evidences to the world that we think more of our friends and our standing with them than we think of God and His word. Such people argue that if we stand for the truth and preach the truth uncompromisingly that we will make ourselves unpopular, be accused of having the wrong attitude and being bigots, and drive those away who do not agree with us. They quote Eph. 4:15, "speaking the truth in love," and condemn, sometimes severely, those who are bold in "contending for the faith" and condemning error. But we are to preach the truth in love for what? Are we to love and honor God above men? God demands first place in our hearts and also demands that His Word must be honored above all. Can we be vacillating and uncertain, compromising and unfaithful in "contending for the faith" and yet give God and His Word the consideration that is due? When we put the feelings of men and their friendship for us above the truth we are unfaithful to God and condemn ourselves.
Jesus taught the truth and condemned error even when men became so offended at him and what he taught that they wanted to crucify him. Upon one occasion when the Pharisees were offended at what he taught the disciples became very concerned about it and came to him with the matter. "But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind, and if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. (Matt. 15:1214) This should be our pattern.
In reality, those who teach us the truth, love our souls far more than those who would leave us in error and allow us to be condemned in the last day. We should not count any man our enemy who tries to teach us the truth. He may be wrong in what he teaches but we should appreciate his concern for us evidenced in wanting to share with us what he believes to be the truth. People who resent the efforts any one makes to teach them the truth and become ugly in their attitude toward them are wrong in their attitude even though they may be right in what they believe. When our interest in truth is as great as it should be, we will be willing to hear and appreciate any opportunity to learn.
But by what standard shall we determine what is right and what is truth? There are many false standards but there is but one right one and that is the Word of God. Jesus answered the question that heads this article by the statement, "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth". (John 17:17) This is the standard and the absolute test. Does God say it in language plain enough to reveal to us the truth? By no other test or standard can the truth of anything be established. Paul declared, "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, Let God be true, but every man a liar." (Rom. 3:3-4)
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