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Rejoicing in the Truth

By Rev. David Blunt

This Editorial was published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue No. 3, July-September 1996.

P ERHAPS there is no sadder figure in all the pages of Holy Scripture than that of Pontius Pilate. Though many men were implicated in the death of our Lord (Judas, Herod, Caiaphas), the leading authority in the land was Pilate as Governor. His sin was not the greatest in degree (John 19:11), but it was the greatest in its immediate consequence. Against his own conscience and his publicly professed conviction of Christ's innocence (John 18:38; 19:4, 6), he nevertheless "signed the death warrant." It was a higher hand and counsel which directed him (Acts 4:27, 28); but he undoubtedly carried the final responsibility on earth for this foulest of deeds.

A Tragic Question

Of all his words surely the most pitiable were, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). Pilate was not enquiring; he was not even indifferent: he was filled with outright contempt. His reply was simply a cloak for his cowardice. Here we have the measure of the man: evasion, subtlety, compromise and self-absolution characterise his conduct, revealing his inward corruption. Ah, beware of the Pilates today!

Children of Light

Fallen man is living a perpetual lie, and cannot endure for long a face-to-face confrontation with reality. Hiding from it, he persuades himself that the truth is unknowable, or he rejects the Divine reality altogether. His nature is rebellious, in need of a complete renovation.

Descriptions of the saints in the word of God bear witness to the radical change that is effected by regeneration. Christ's enemies are now His friends (Col. 1:21; John 15:14); they who were servants of sin are become servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:17, 18); those whose very nature was darkness are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8). So the saints shine wherever they are found in this morally twisted and perverted world: the world which crucified the Son of God. They shine as they faithfully "hold forth the word of life" (Phil. 2:15, 16).

The Scripture of Truth

Authentic Christianity never flourishes in the soil of sentiment, but only in the soil of truth. A religious profession which majors on feelings to the disregard of truth and reason is unlikely to be the planting of the Lord, and is destined to be plucked up at the Last Day. It is the word of God which is the breeder and feeder of grace: the believer has put down his roots into this pure medium, and his soul is nourished by it alone. To advance spiritually is to grow in grace, but it is also to grow in the knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 3:18); for if grace came by Jesus Christ, then so did truth (John 1:17).

Truth Incarnate

The living and true God has revealed Himself to man through conscience, creation and providence, but lucidly and supremely in Christ. Here is the incarnation of truth; truth Divine in a human face, speaking with a man's voice. Such is the perfection of Christ's Person: God has spoken in Him. Therefore He insisted to men that He was "the truth" (John 14:6). The Prophet greater than Moses had indeed appeared.

No longer enjoying His physical presence, we know Christ now only as He is revealed to us in Scripture. There are false christs preached today who bear little relation to the One who walked upon this earth two thousand years ago. Are not our own fond illusions concerning God also continually reproved as we meet the true Christ in the Bible? Scripture reveals, in Old and New Testaments, one God and one Jesus. The Messiah at His coming fulfils and brightens the same truths that before were unfulfilled and dim.

The Son of man did not refrain from declaring realities repugnant to sinful minds. Both the goodness and severity of God are announced by Him: divine love is painted in bolder colours than in the time of shadows, but divine wrath is described in more sombre tones also.

There is but one occasion on which our Lord is recorded as rejoicing in His spirit (Matt. 11:25-27; Luke 10:21, 22). A strange joy this! Jesus here taught His disciples that they should be more glad over the truth of their election than any success in their ministry, and He Himself exulted not only in election but also in its counterpart of reprobation! We must enter carefully here; but are not the saints as joyful at the execution of God's perfect justice as the displays of His adorable mercy?

Confessing the Truth

It is the function of the Church to testify to God's truth. An excellent feature of the Belgic Confession is that each section begins, "We believe..." followed by the chosen definition of the particular truth under consideration. Christians should rejoice at every opportunity afforded to them to affirm the Faith. The truth is not to be hidden away with embarrassment, or merely tolerated, but rather asserted. "I believed, therefore have I spoken" (Psa. 116:10) is the compulsion which the disciple is under. The Lord takes pleasure in those who are "valiant for the truth upon the earth" (Jer. 9:3) especially when it is run down. A proper zeal for the salvation of souls will never be at the expense of Biblical doctrine. The only weapon which will cleave the conscience of the unbeliever and suitably wound him remains the word of God. The truths of total depravity, sovereign predestination and definite atonement must be brought into service. Certainly it is only by the hand of the Holy Spirit that this sword works effectually: He wields it with perfect precision, cutting and thrusting at the natural man to bring him tumbling down in conviction and conversion; but the preacher should never expect gracious results following his labours unless he is also careful in his proclamation to impart the truth. The gospel has its sharp edge as well as its healing balm; its warnings in addition to its promises. Is a full-orbed evangel heard today?

A Pure Language

How often our speech, like Peter's in the palace, betrays us! A form of godliness only! The currency in which the hearts and lips of the redeemed are meant to deal is truth – a coin originally minted in heaven and now in circulation upon earth. Truthfulness is the very thread which holds together the fabric of a godly society. When Satan introduced into Eden the lie which our first parents swallowed, not only was communion between God and man disrupted, but there followed discord among men because of lies. Adam spoke unjustly regarding Eve (Gen. 3:12); Cain talked deceitfully with Abel before murdering him in cold blood (Gen. 4:8). Violence soon filled the world. When the language of the race was confounded at Babel, sin simply reappeared in new accents. Death, deceit, poison and profanity mark man's conversation wherever he is found (Rom. 3:13, 14).

The prescription given for a harmonious society is: "love the truth and peace" (Zech. 8:19). The order here is instructive: peace is a desirable thing, but truth is more precious, and must serve as the foundation for the former. We are called to speak the truth and to perform the judgement of truth always.

The Fruit of our Lips

When we raise our voices in the worship of God, the highest exercise we can ever engage in, should we not be especially careful to present only the truth to the Most High? The beauty of the Psalter is that it is "the Bible in miniature": in words of divine inspiration the full compass of Christian doctrine is found, and also the breadth of spiritual experience. It is ever suited to be the vehicle of our praise to God. We are exhorted, "Is any merry? let him sing psalms" (Jam. 5:13). So we rejoice in the truth now, and by grace will rejoice in the triumph of truth in a day yet to come.