JESUS IS “THE TRUTH”
Paul reminded Timothy that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:4). When Paul used the phrase “the truth” in the context of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, he was using it as an abbreviated form of the complete phrase, “the truth of the gospel” that he used in the letter to the Galatians (Gl 2:14). Therefore, when Paul made the preceding statement, he wanted all men to come to a knowledge of the historical event of the Son of God coming into the world for the salvation of all people. The meaning of “the truth” was not in reference to learning a theological outline of scriptures in reference to some doctrinal system of law. Paul wanted the world to come to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and His redemptive offering for the sins of the world (See Rm 9:1-3; 10:1).
The gospel is not an outline of true points of a church catechism. “The truth of the gospel” is not some systematic theology that is assembled together through the organization of favorite proof texts. The abbreviated statement of this phrase, “the truth,” is not a reference to doctrine, though doctrine of the New Testament is true and important. But in reference to “the truth” as the phrase is connected with the word “gospel,” it is truth in reference to a Divine being and action in reference to the salvation of the world. Jesus explained, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Jesus said that He was “the truth.” This is person, not doctrine.
Though the religionists to whom Jesus spoke on the occasion of the preceding statement in John 14 were seeking some systematic theology of traditions or doctrinal mandates from Jesus, at the time, they, as well as the disciples who stood with Jesus on the occasion, still could not understand that He was the incarnate “Word of God.” He was “the truth” that was revealed from God. He was God’s Word through which redemption came to mankind.
Now consider this point in reference to Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, who stood before Pilate. Jesus said to Pilate, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this cause I came into he world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (Jn 18:37). But Jesus’ statement so befuddled Pilate that he responded to Jesus, “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38). What Pilate did not understand is that the “what” was the “who” who was standing before him. Jesus was “the truth” to whom John the Baptist gave witness (Jn 5:33). Jesus was the incarnate Word who was sent to mankind. This truth was far outside the understanding of Pilate at the time. The King who was before him was “the truth,” the incarnate Word who had come into the world (Jn 1:1,2,14). This was “the truth” to whom the Father had given witness through the works that Jesus did in the midst of the people (Jn 5:36).
Nevertheless, regardless of Pilate’s limited understanding of these spiritual matters, he was certainly not asking from Jesus some doctrinal manifest that would explain a systematic theology that Jesus was promoting, specifically in reference to the existence of Jewish insurrections who were scattered through the Roman Empire. At the time, Pilate was frustrated, seeing Jesus only as a man whom the Jews sought to have eliminated. But he could find no fault in His behavior that would warrant His execution (Jn 18:38).
Our understanding that Jesus is “the truth” is brought out in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In the same context of those who would not walk according to the gospel in Jerusalem, Paul wrote, “To whom [the legalistic Jewish religionists] we did not yield in subjection even for an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gl 2:5). These were those who “were not straighforward about the truth of the gospel” (Gl 2:14). Jesus was the good news that was revealed to the Galatians. He is the truth to which all people must gravitate. It is as Jesus said during His earthly ministry, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Me” (Jn 12:32).
When the apostles first went forth to preach the gospel, people heard “the word of the truth of the gospel” (Cl 1:5). There is a difference between the medium of the preached word by which the gospel of Jesus is communicated to the world, and the gospel itself (See 1 Co 15:1-4). The gospel is good news about the truth of Jesus’ incarnation, sacrificial offering, resurrection, ascension and reign at the right hand of God. We use words to communicate this salvational journey of the Son of God into and out of this world. These are the truthful events that must be preached to the world in order that all those who desire to hear might “come to the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel]” (1 Tm 2:4). It is knowledge of this Jesus to which all men must come.
When one ceases to believe the word by which “the truth” of Jesus is communicated, then he begins to turn from the truth of who Jesus is. His doubt assumes that he no longer believes any of the events of the gospel, and thus begins to doubt whether Jesus is the Son of God. There are those who enter into the body of Christ who were initially convicted by the truth of the gospel. But later they began to doubt the historical events of the gospel, and thus they eroded Jesus Christ as the foundation upon which their faith was built (1 Co 3:11).
When belief in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God is preached, church happens, because people believe that He is our resurrected Savior (See Mt 16:18,19). The church in turn becomes the medium through which the truth of the gospel is preached to the world (1 Tm 3:15). Nevertheless, there are those in the church who become “destitute of the truth [of the gospel]” (1 Tm 6:5). They are as Hymanaeus and Philetus, “who concerning the truth [of the gospel] have strayed” (2 Tm 2:18). In the case of these two brethren, they denied the gospel of the resurrection. And by making such a denial, “they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Tm 2:18).
God desires that we continue to grow in our knowledge of the gospel. The textbook of the New Testament must be devoured lest we ourselves be devoured by Satan. For this reason, the early evangelists returned to Christians who had initially responded to the gospel. They returned to teach again the gospel in order that they might come to “a full knowledge of the truth [of the gospel]” (2 Tm 2:26). Some wrote to encourage the disciples to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Pt 3:18). On one occasion, this was the reason why Paul wanted to make a trip to Rome. He wanted to go to the disciples in Rome in order that he might bear fruit among them through his continued teaching of the gospel (See Rm 1:13-16). He knew that some are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel]” (2 Tm 3:7). Therefore, Christians must take every opportunity to study and discuss matters concerning the truth of the gospel.
In view of the fact that there are always present among the disciples “men of corrupt minds” (2 Tm 3:8), it is the work of every evangelist to continue to teach the gospel in order that the members of the body might come to a full knowledge of the gospel. This is necessary because there are always those in the fellowship of the church who “will turn away their ears from the truth [of the gospel] and will be turned to fables” (2 Tm 4:4). In the first century, these were those who gave “heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth [of the gospel]” (Ti 1:14). Such people need to remember the final warning of the Hebrew writer in reference to some Jewish Christians who were returning to the religion of the Jews: “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth [of the gospel], there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Hb 10:26).
[Next in series: Jan. 12]