Commentary, Featured, John McReynolds - Posted by on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 7:52 - 0 Comments 2,190 views

Basics 20 – The God of Truth

BASIC BIBLE DOCTRINE

Understanding God

Lesson Twenty: The God of Truth 

In His word the God of Truth makes plain His attitude toward lies and liars, and that those who partake in falsehoods will be judged harshly—which puts just about all of us in a very uncomfortable position.  How many lies have each one of us uttered in our lifetime?  Today’s post-modern culture is especially prone to lies and falsehood.  Usually when the truth is told it is adulterated with shadings and bendings of the truth in order to put a false slant on it.  We see it in our courts of law where truth is supposed to be paramount; we see it in our politicians who regularly twist the facts in order to deceive us; we even see it in advertising!  This world is bursting with the rottenness of falsehood.  It is no wonder to me that we are seeing calamities snowball at an unprecedented rate.  When I look at the world through the lens of the truth of the Bible I cannot help but believe that Jesus must come soon to judge this world.

 

 BASIC BIBLE DOCTRINE

Understanding God

Lesson Twenty: 

The God of Truth 

by John McReynolds

As we enter into the study of God’s word be sure that you are in fellowship with Him so that the Holy Spirit will make the truths we discover in His word real and effective in your spiritual life.  Confession of sins is the only way to insure fellowship with God and the filling of the Holy Spirit so essential to learning the truth of God.  First John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins God is faithful to forgive those sins and to cleanse us from the unrighteousness that plagues our lives.  Thus we are made fit to take in His word—let us pray:

We’re grateful, Heavenly Father for the opportunity in grace to discover the gems of truth that is your word.  Give us focus and concentration as we delve into Your truth, for we ask it in Jesus name, amen. 

Finding Truth

In our studies of the essence of God—we take up now the subject of God’s veracity—that is God’s truth.  Of all of the aspects of God’s essence, perhaps none have as profound an impact on man’s existence than the fact of God’s veracity.  Let us begin with the Gospel of John, in Chapter 18, verses 33 through 38, which record the following conversation between Jesus and the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate:

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”

Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”

Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”  And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”

John 18:33-38 NASB

What is truth?”  Pilate had no idea what truth was, and neither do most other folk.  He assumed that since he—an accomplished Roman governor—didn’t know what truth is, there was no way this unlettered carpenter from Galilee could know it.  So his question was not really a question at all, but rather a cynical rebuff.  To Pilate, Jesus was just a Jewish mystic, blathering nonsense about some other-worldly kingdom.  He concluded that Jesus was no threat to his governorship or to the Roman Empire.

Nevertheless, although he did not intend it, Pilate’s question expressed one of the deepest longings of the human soul.  Every person ever born into this fallen, depraved world, once he has elevated his attention above the basic needs of life, has at some point yearned to know “the truth”—whatever it is.  Philosophers have devoted entire lifetimes to the pursuit of truth—often fruitless searches because they rejected the God of the Bible. 

The Failure of Philosophy

The seventeenth century French philosopher René Descartes (pronounced Re-NAY De-CART) is a prime example.  Descartes attempted to create a new philosophy based on the Method of Doubt (also known as Methodological Skepticism)—doubting everything until it could be verified as truthful.  Nothing that could not be directly verified was to be accepted as fact.  By this method he determined to “start from scratch” as it were by treating all accepted truths as untruth until they could be verified as true.  Then and only then would they be admitted into the body of truth.  In this way Descartes sought to establish a system of truth that was uncluttered and unfettered by traditions and dogma.  But he recognized that he had to start somewhere—there had to be some irrefutable truths to form the basis for his philosophy. 

To establish this basis he worked backward down the chains of cause and effect.  He finally boiled down his philosophical starting place to three principles:

  1. There can be no doubt of the existence of the doubter—cognito ergo sum—(Latin for “I think, therefore I am.”) 
  2. Reason itself cannot be doubted since reason is the basis for the Method of Doubt. 
  3. Because reason exists, God must exist, and God guarantees that reason is not misguided.

Descartes, who came from a devout Roman Catholic family, nevertheless believed in God only from a philosophical standpoint—he apparently never made it to faith in Jesus Christ.  He rejected the Bible as a source of Divine revelation.  Many of Descartes’ contemporaries considered him to be a Deist—one who believes that God created the universe, but plays no active role in its workings beyond the initial creative act. 

Descartes rejected the notion of Divine revelation and considered reason to be the only reliable path to truth.  So starting from this premise, when he considered the existence of man, he concluded that mental function—thought—was the only real evidence that he existed at all—cognito ergo sum—“I think, therefore I am.” And the best he could do with God was the circular argument that reason demands a God, and God is the source of reason. 

God Must Reveal Himself

René Descartes attempted to reason his way to absolute truth without establishing his philosophical base in Divine revelation.  But all such attempts are doomed to failure.  You might as well try to rise from the ground by pulling on your own shoelaces.  God must initiate all discourse with man—man can never find his own way to God. 

The Apostle Paul referred to this fact in his famous Mars Hill discourse as recorded in Acts chapter 17.  In verses 24 through 27 Paul aptly states the problem that man has in trying to seek God on his own:

“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us …”

Acts 17:24-27

Notice that statement “… if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him …”  The construction of this phrase in the original Greek text includes what is known as a fourth class conditional clause—this is one of the few verses in the New Testament where the fourth class condition appears.  The Greek fourth class condition expresses a hypothetical situation that is extremely improbable or even impossible, no matter how much one may wish for it to be true.  Essentially it says “if—I wish it were true, but it isn’t”.  In an expanded translation this statement could be rendered, “… that they would seek God, as if it were possible to find Him by groping for Him” 

No, God cannot be found by any effort of man.  The best we can do is know He exists—and even that understanding He has given to us:

… because that which is known about God is evident within them [men]; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made … ~Rom. 1:19-20.

For all the blind groping of secular philosophy for truth, God has graciously revealed truth to mankind.  Indeed, man knowing the truth is a prime necessity for man to be truly a free moral agent:

“… and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. ~John 8:32. 

God has revealed truth in many ways throughout the long history of His dealings with mankind, but when Jesus Christ came into the world He became God’s mouthpiece for the communication of truth:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son … ~Heb. 1:1-2a. 

For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. ~John 18:37b.

And now that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us (Rom 8:34), we have the Mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16) which is the Word of God contained in the Bible, and to guarantee that we interpret it correctly we have the Holy Spirit as our mentor and guide (John 14:16, John 16:13). 

Indeed God has graciously revealed truth to us, and He has done this because truth—Veracity—is an intrinsic part of his being.  So let us now explore what the Scriptures have to say about the God of Truth.

Veracity and the Divine Nature

At the beginning of this series on the attributes of God we listed certain qualities and attributes of God.  One of these was that God is Absolute. We stated that God is perfection itself.  Part of the concept of perfection is that perfect God contains no hint of untruth or falsehood.  The whole concept of falsehood implies imperfection, so it cannot exist in perfect God.  To look at it from the other direction, pure truth admits no imperfection because it is pure, so perfect God must express only perfect truth.  This is what is meant when we speak of God’s Veracity

The word “veracity” comes from the Latin, veracitas, “truthfulness”, which is related to veritas, “truth”.  Both words comes from the root verus, meaning “true”.  It is where we get our intensive word “very”, and is also the root of the word “verily”, which was used extensively in the King James translation of the New Testament for the word “amen”—a word brought over from the Hebrew meaning “surely”, “faithfulness”, “truly”, carrying with it the connotation of truth and certainty.

All three Members of the Godhead share the same perfections, including the perfection of Veracity or absolute truth:

  • The Father:  “This is eternal life, that they may know You [the Father], the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” ~John 17:3. 
  • Jesus Christ, the Son:  “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  ~John 14:6 
  • The Holy Spirit:  “It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” ~1 John 5:6c

No Falsehood in God

Because falsehood is deviation from perfection, Veracity allows no untruth, falsehood, or unrighteousness in the Persons of God or in any of their expressions toward each other or toward their creation, including angels and man.  The Scriptures expressed this when the prophet Jeremiah contrasted idols to the true God:

But they [idol makers and worshippers] are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion—their idol is wood!  …  But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation.

~Jeremiah 10:8, 10

The Scriptures always speak of God as righteous and just and exclude any hint or expression of untruth, in contrast to men: 

God is not a man, that He should lie  

Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.

~Numbers 23:19a; 1 Samuel 15:29

Indeed, the Scriptures declare that not only does God not lie, it is impossible for Him to do so:

Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago …

~Titus 1:1-2

And the author of Hebrews affirms this:

“… so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”

~Hebrews 6:18

Those who would attack the Scriptures and the God they proclaim sometimes point to Jeremiah chapter 20 in an effort to show that God lies when it suits Him—

O LORD, You have deceived me and I was deceived …  ~Jeremiah 20:7a

But this attempt, like all such attempts, fails miserably.  When we consider the whole context of Jeremiah 20 we see that the prophet, who is extremely burdened and upset at the degree of calamity that God is about to bring upon the people of Judah, is expressing his dismay at the reaction he is getting from them as he tries to warn of impending Divine discipline.  He is not claiming that God has deceived him, he is saying that the message God is requiring him to deliver is making him appear silly in the eyes of his hearers.  “To be made silly” is one of the meanings of the verb pâthâh [פּתה — pronounced paw-THAW], which is translated in this verse as “deceive”.

But then in verse 9 Jeremiah confesses that his desire to keep this distressing message to himself and escape the scorn and ridicule of his countrymen,

… becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. 

And then in verse 13 he proclaims,

Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD! For He has delivered the soul of the needy one from the hand of evildoers.

This is hardly the attitude of one who feels that God has lied to him.

Veracity – God’s Most Important Attribute?

The Veracity of God is an integral part of His Being.  In fact it may be fairly said that of all of the ten attributes we have adopted as describing the essence of God, Veracity is the most essential to His existence.  It is a fundamental aspect of the other nine:

God is truly sovereign—he rules the universe in truth, His very name is linked with truth in hundreds of passages of Scripture.  Here are just a few:

2 Sam. 7:28a – “Now, O Lord GOD, You are God, and Your words are truth”. 

Psa. 31:5 – “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.” 

Isa. 65:16 – “Because he who is blessed in the earth will be blessed by the God of truth; and he who swears in the earth will swear by the God of truth” 

John 4:24 – “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” 

Rom 1:25 – “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” 

2 Thess. 2:13 – “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

God is perfect righteousness and justice—and as such He is the ultimate judge in the earth: Gen 8:25; Psa. 50:4; 82:8, and many more.  And all of God’s judgments are firmly based in truth—He judges in righteousness and truth:

Psa. 19:9 – “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.

Rev. 16:7 – “And I heard the altar saying, ‘Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.’

God is love, and His love is based in His truth and inextricably linked with it:

Psa. 57:10 – “For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens and Your truth to the clouds.

Psa. 85:10 – “Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

2 John 1:3 – “Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

God is eternal life, and His truth is forever:

Psa. 111:7, 8 – “The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure.  They are upheld forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness.

Psa. 117:2 – “For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the LORD is everlasting. Praise the LORD!

Psa. 119:160 – “The sum of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.

God’s infinite ability—His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence—are wielded in the cause of truth:

1 Cor 1:18 – “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it [the word of truth] is the power of God.

1 Cor. 1:24 – “but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom [truth] of God.

2 Cor. 6:7 – “… in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left …

And God’s perfect truth does not change (God’s immutability):

Psa. 132:11 – “The LORD has sworn to David a truth from which He will not turn back: ‘Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne …’

2 John 1:2 – “… for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever …

Psa. 119:89 – “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.

God’s Attitude Toward Falsehood

Given that truth underlies every aspect of God’s being, it should not come as a shock when we discover what is God’s attitude toward liars and falsehood.  But in case we still have not made that connection, God has given us ample evidence in His word of truth.

What is desirable in a man is his kindness, And it is better to be a poor man than a liar.” ~ Prov. 19:22

In the Old Testament God condemned false prophets:

So My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will have no place in the council of My people, nor will they be written down in the register of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel, that you may know that I am the Lord GOD.” ~Ezek. 13:9

From the very beginning of His dealings with Israel God prohibited telling lies about others:

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” ~Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 5:20

The Lord prescribed harsh penalties against perjurers—those who lied under oath.  For example if a man falsely accused another with the intent that he would have the other man put to death, then he himself was liable for the death penalty:

If a malicious witness rises up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing, then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days.  The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

~Deuteronomy 19:16-19

In the Proverbs a list is made of the top seven things God hates.  Not surprisingly lies figure prominently in the list being mentioned twice, the first time ahead of murder!

There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:  Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.

~Proverbs 6:16-19

In the Gospel of John Jesus reveals that God considers liars on a par with murderers, and in other places He ties lies and falsehoods with murder:

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” `John 8:44

You [God] destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.” ~Psalm 5:6

In His word the God of Truth makes plain His attitude toward lies and liars, and that those who partake in falsehoods will be judged harshly—which puts just about all of us in a very uncomfortable position.  How many lies have each one of us uttered in our lifetime?  Today’s post-modern culture is especially prone to lies and falsehood.  Usually when the truth is told it is adulterated with shadings and bendings of the truth in order to put a false slant on it.  We see it in our courts of law where truth is supposed to be paramount; we see it in our politicians who regularly twist the facts in order to deceive us; we even see it in advertising!  This world is bursting with the rottenness of falsehood.  It is no wonder to me that we are seeing calamities snowball at an unprecedented rate.  When I look at the world through the lens of the truth of the Bible I cannot help but believe that Jesus must come soon to judge this world.

How Should We Then Live?

Truth is what is real.  God is the ultimate reality, and so it should not surprise us that God’s Veracity is the most fundamental aspect of His essence.  Everything that God is and that He does is stamped with the unmistakable seal of truth.  Every human being that has ever lived, is living now, and who ever will live, will ultimately come face to face with the God of truth in judgment.  And all of our devices, lies, cover-ups, our shadings and bendings of the truth will be burned away by the pure white light of the Truth that is God, and they will be revealed for what they truly are: cheap, base, shoddy, mean, and useless—the sad attempts of fallen creatures to justify their own perverse lives. 

God gave us His truth in the Law of Moses—His commandments as to how we should conduct ourselves before Him.  And the truth is that we—all of us members of fallen, depraved humanity—cannot possibly keep the commandments of the Mosaic Law, as the Apostle Paul so effectively demonstrated in the 7th chapter of Romans.  Yes, God is just in condemning us for breaking His commandments.  But He is also gracious to save those who will accept His salvation in the person of Jesus Christ. 

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.  For the Law [God’s truth in the Old Testament that condemns us] was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ [God’s truth in the New Testament that saves us].

~John 1:14, 17

So within the truth of God is both condemnation and salvation.  For us who have accepted God’s saving solution to the problem of sin that saves us, the question remains “… how should we then live?”(Ezek. 33:10, KJV).  During His temptation in the desert our Lord Himself answered that question for us in His reply to Satan (Matt. 4:4) when He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 —

… man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

We will live as God would have us to live when we:

  1. Redeem the time God has given us in our lives, taking God’s Word of Truth—the very Mind of Christ—and transferring it from words on the pages of the Bible to mental comprehension in our minds.
     
  2. Metabolize that Word of Truth by accepting and believing it, and allowing the Holy Spirit to work a miracle of transformation, converting that mental comprehension—that gnosis—to spiritual comprehension—to epignosis—spiritual truth in our regenerated human spirits ready to be used in our lives.
  3. Complete the cycle of faith by applying this epignosis comprehension to the situations God brings into our lives to test us and to grow us spiritually.
  4. And keep doing this again and again, over and over, little by little letting the Grand Potter of the universe shape the clay of our lives into a Divine work of transcendent beauty that shows the world what Jesus looks like! 

We have described this cycle of faith often during this series on Basic Bible Doctrine; it has been one of the primary messages we have tried to impart to you, the reader.  It is the key to living the Christian life—the method God uses to sanctify us here on earth so that we become fit citizens of heaven in the next phase of our eternal lives.  When we follow His plan for us, faithfully and consistently for the rest of our Christian lives, when we at last stand before His Judgment Throne, having lived our lives according to the truth of God, we will at last hear our Lord Jesus Christ declare:

Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.

~Matthew 25:21, 23

We’re grateful, Heavenly Father, that You have shown us truth—the very essence of who You are.  We began in this life, fallen children of fallen parents, groping for whatever panaceas might deliver us from the evil conditions of our fallen world, seeking for the truth, but with no hope of ever finding it.   But in Your love and grace toward us You have shared Truth—your very essence—with us, and lifted us from the mire of our fallen existence to share eternal life with You. 

So thank You for Your truth that has saved us, that has freed us from our slavery to sin and opened the door to an unimaginable wonderful eternity with You.  Bless this study and sanctify the things we have learned that we might be more perfectly conformed to the image of our Savior Jesus Christ, for it is in His name we ask it, amen.

 

To the reader:  If you have read this lesson, I would greatly appreciate any feedback, questions, or comments you have.  Getting feedback from my readers is very helpful and encouraging to me.  I promise to respond to all legitimate questions or comments as appropriate.  But please, do keep your questions and comments appropriate and constructive.

Thank you very much.

In His Service,

John McReynolds

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