Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Set them apart in the truth

"Set them apart in the truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17).

Jesus prayed that too, and He prayed it before He prayed for unity. We can have unity because we believe the truth about the Person. We cease to have a relationship with the Person of Jesus if we are unwilling to listen to His truth, if we depart from the truth, if we do not love the truth, or if we compromise the truth.

Trust (or faith) is inseparably intertwined with the Truth. Jesus, after all, is the Truth. He came to bear witness to the truth; He sets us free with the Truth; and grace and truth come by Him.

We are to love the truth and to buy the truth, even when it costs us much and makes us ugly in the eyes of the world. We must love the truth more than we love the wisdom of the world. Those who sell the truth to gain the praise of the world have their reward already. They can expect none from God. They have chosen what is important to them.

The truth should not automatically be identified either with the traditions of men or the latest notion. Truth is not determined by opinion polls, majorities, counsels, or loyalties. Truth is determined by what God says. Truth is not determined by what crafty people can do to read into the Scriptures what they prefer, but truth is determined by what we can draw out from the Scriptures. Scholars may observe a truth, but they cannot manufacture it.

The postmodernists are wrong: truth is not manufactured at all. Truth is revealed by God. Men may manufacture their customs and mores; they may insist on their creeds and canons. They may enforce their fiats and faiths. But men do not manufacture spiritual truth; only God can do that. Men can merely observe it, and most men have a hard time doing that. Most would rather blend it with their own biases.

"Thy Word is truth." It has the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The Word alone is our standard and measure. All else leads us into confusion.

If I could stand upon the highest place and shout, I would call men back to the Truth of God's Word. I would call them away from the postmodern lie that every view is as good as another, that every church is as good as another, that every faith is like all the others, and that everyone's subjective truth is as good as everyone else's. Only God's truth matters for eternity. The rest is illusion.

For the love of God's truth,


Anonymous said...


We just finished a study on the "Distinctive Nature of the Church". There is a verse that gets quoted very, very often; "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free".

Very rarely to you hear the first part of that verse quoted: "If you abide in my word....".

Thank your for this good blog.

Bob Cox
Huntsville, AL

Terry said...

I like those thoughts. I hope that my biases do not get in the way of Truth either. It takes a lot of introspection to try to figure it out sometimes.

Matthew said...

Wondering, because we are studying this stuff at school now. In this verse, abiding in his word, what is Jesus referring to. In the gospel, on interpretation, there are three levels of interpretation, what Jesus meant to His audience, what the Gospel is saying to his audience, and what the preacher today is saying to his audience. It seems that Jesus is not referring to the collective whole of Christian doctrine in this phrase because in proper exegesis there is no way that the original audience would have realized this statement. They could not have pictured a collective whole of revealed doctrine. So in the context, what is Jesus talking about?

Phil Sanders said...

thanks for your insightful and interesting question. I realize that the audiences of John 8 and John 17 would not have known everything Jesus meant, but this is not such a strange thing. In John 2:19-22 Jesus said, "Destroy this temple...," speaking of the temple of his body. Jesus often understood that the full import of his teaching would not be understood by his original audience.

Even his disciples did not fully grasp or believe his clear statements about his resurrection (Mark 16:14; Matthew 28:17). I realize that we must be careful not to read later understandings into earlier ones; but I am not convinced that John who wrote this gospel more than 50 years after the resurrection wanted to leave incomplete and immature understandings in the hearts of his readers. He understood that he had been the recipient of the promise of John 16:12-13. He knew the whole truth. John understood the faith had been given once for all time. I see this situation much as I do the use of Jehovah (cf. Ex. 6:3) in Genesis. What we have is John's inspired account with his fuller understanding.

I realize that the whole truth was not revealed when the events of John 8 or John 17 took place. John 16:12-13 makes this clear. But what is true of the truth they knew at the time is also true of the whole truth Jesus planned to reveal the apostles. There would be many doctrines revealed after the resurrection, but I do not know of any doctrine one can set aside with impunity. One is not abiding in the doctrine of God if one is selective about which doctrines he will believe and observe and which he will not. By way of application, abiding "in the words" as a principle would be just as relevant to being a true disciple in 85-95 AD as it was in 29 AD. While we understand that the revealing of the whole Truth was progressive, the principle of abiding in the words grew with the revelation.

Loving the truth grows with our understanding. The more truth we know, the more we should love. What applies to loving one truth will apply to all the doctrine of Christ.

I look at this as I do 2 John 9. Whether the genitive is objective or subjective is moot. What is true of going beyond the doctrine about Christ is true of going beyond any doctrine of Christ. It is presumptuous to think we can change anything God teaches. The sin of 2 John 9 is in "going beyond." By application of the principle showing the sin of going beyond, we know it is wrong to teach denominationalism rather than the one church, to teach sprinkling infants rather than to immerse penitent believers, or many other false doctrines.

I hope this helps answer the question you pose. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to address it.

Gardner Hall said...

You make excellent points in your answer to Matthew about the nature of truth, 2 John 9 and the fact that during the first century the necessity of abiding in the inspired words grew with the revelation. However, I can hear many asking, “What about those, like the Corinthians, disciples, and others with different levels of growth and understanding in the truth? Are they excluded from the kingdom simply because they haven’t reached my level of understanding about truth?” What provisions has God made for them?

Thanks for your thoughts and may God continue to bless you,

Phil Sanders said...

Thanks for posting an important and meaningful question.

What of the immature? God's grace certainly covers those who have come up from the watery grave of baptism. God does not judge those who are immature in the same way He judges those who are mature and teach (James 3:1). God never expects out of us what we are unable to give (2 Cor. 8:12).

The problems we are dealing with has more to do with Christians who have spent years in the church wanting to split the church by bringing in unauthorized practices. This is a different situation. I believe passages like Rom. 16:17-18 and Titus 3:10-11 are more in line with such matters.

God does expect all of us to grow, and He is loving enough to give us the time. But there comes a point in which error must be exposed for what it is (Titus 1:9).

thanks for a good post.