Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 14, 1961
NUMBER 19, PAGE 5,8b

"What Is Truth?"

Robert H. Farish, Lufkin, Texas

"Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make ye free" (John 8:32) is the promise of the Son of God to those Jews who had believed on him. The context shows that their coming to the full knowledge of the truth that provides the freedom under consideration was dependent upon their continuing (abiding) in Christ's word. He said, "If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples." (John 8:31) The true disciple or learner of Christ is the one who abides in the word of Christ. The only conceivable way for one to continue in or abide in the word of Christ is by living in harmony with that word.

The freedom of which Christ speaks is freedom from sin. Apparently, some of those present on the occasion of this teaching had a false idea of the freedom promised for they said, "We are Abraham's seed and have never been in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, ye shall be made free?" (John 8:33) Their retort reveals a woeful ignorance of their true condition, for they were in the most bitter bondage conceivable — the bondage of sin. The nature of their bondage and of the freedom which the truth was designed to provide is defined by Christ in his answer to their contention. "Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, everyone that committeth sin is the bondservant of sin." (John 8:34) Freedom from the bondage of sin is the freedom which the truth of God provides.

The Jews needed to be convicted of their bondage before they would be in a position to go about gaining freedom. So Christ pointed out that "everyone that committeth sin" is in bondage. Paul wrote to the saints at Rome that "all have sinned." (Rom. 3:23) All both Jew and Gentile had sinned and hence all were in bondage. This problem of convicting the Jew of sin and that his sins put him in bondage just the same as the sin of those who did not have Abraham as their fleshly father, put them into bondage was a problem that Christ and his apostles recognized and dealt with in their preaching. It is everyone that commits sin that is in bondage and not just the ones who could not trace their fleshly ancestry to Abraham.

This is similar to the case of the man who prides himself on being a good moral man and on this estimate of himself bases his hope of heaven. He, like the Jew of old, needs to learn that he can only be free indeed if the Son of God makes him free. (John 8:36) The self-styled "good moral man" like those Jews to whom Christ spoke, needs to "know the truth" for Christ said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make ye free."

Truth here referred to is not truth generally, but specifically, the truth of God as expressed in his word. Christ defines this truth when he said, "Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17) The imperative need of knowing the word of God is seen in Christ's statement, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make ye free." No spiritual benefit can be derived from the truth, the word of God except by those who know it.

Mere academic knowledge of the word will not set one free from the bondage of sin. Such is not to know the truth in the way that brings freedom from the bondage of sin. Hear, James on this point, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth away and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing." (Jas. 1:22-25) Note that the one that continueth in the law of liberty is the same one that is described as the doer that worketh.

All, not just part, of the truth is contemplated in the statement of Christ that, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Many have made grievous mistakes by failing to realize that the truth in its completeness is necessary to accomplish the objective. Paul based his conviction of being free from the blood of all men upon the fact that he had declared the whole counsel of God. (Acts 20:27) He affirmed by inspiration that every scripture inspired of God is profitable. (2 Tim. 3:16) It is the truth, not some of the truth, which makes men free.

When a man whether Jew or Gentile hears the gospel, believes the gospel, repents of his sins, confesses faith in Christ and is baptized by Christ's authority, his sins are remitted, he is free from the bondage of past sins; but in order for him to continue free from sin he must abide in the truth which is designed to enable him to maintain his freedom. For this reason Christ in the commission required that those baptized be taught to "observe all things whatsoever I commanded you." (Matt. 28:20) If you are a child of God, you must "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." (Col. 3:16) You must abide in the word of Christ.

All The Truth Is Revealed

The truth that frees men from the bondage of sin is not learned by observation and experimentation; it is not the conclusion drawn by the wisdom of the world from the facts gained through the medium available to "flesh and blood." Flesh and blood does not uncover or reveal this truth but it is by divine revelation that the truth that frees from sin was made available to men. Paul wrote that, "the gospel which was preached by me is not after men. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:11, 12)

The "word of the truth of the gospel" was completely revealed through the apostles and other inspired men of the first century. "Howbeit, when he the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into ALL the truth." (John 16:13) This promise to the apostles leaves no place for latter day revelations. The Holy Spirit guided the men of that day who were selected by Christ, into all the truth. Anything not revealed through them fails to qualify as truth that frees from sin for if the promise of Christ is true, and it is, then there remains no truth to be revealed at a later date. Hence, Jude writes, "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 3)

As all the truth has been "once for all delivered," the responsibility of the Christian is to "remember them that had the rule over you, men that spake unto you the word of God; and considering the issue of their life, imitate their faith." When it is recognized that Jesus Christ, the author of the faith which these men reflected in their manner of life, is immutable, it is easy to acknowledge the immutable and eternal character of the truth by which men were made free in that day and thus sufficient for men of every age. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever, hence, the faith (gospel) of which he is the author and finisher and of which he affirms completeness and adequacy for all time, needs no modernization. The affirmation of the unchangeable and eternal character of the word of Christ is found in Matt. 24:35. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."

Characteristics of the truth which are affirmed in the scriptures, if believed, will enable the preacher to "preach the word" with confidence, regardless of the number of prospective hearers who will not endure sound doctrine. The "itching ears" of some hearers is not a factor to be taken into account in trying to determine what to preach; that has been settled: "Preach the word."