What Is Truth?

William J. Stewart

After He was betrayed by Judas and arrested by the Jewish authorities, the Lord was ridiculed and tortured throughout the night. When the morning came, they took Him to Pilate, expecting the governor to put Jesus to death. Pilate was not as accommodating as the Jewish leaders expected; in fact, he declared, “I find no fault in Him” (John 18:38; 19:4, 6).

Pilate asked His accusers what He had done but they would not respond. They simply said:

If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you. (John 18:30)

Being pressed for an accusation, they stated:

We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King. (Luke 23:2).

In Pilate’s conversation with Jesus in the Praetorium, the governor ignored the first and second accusations, but focused on the third—that He claimed to be a king. Let’s notice the questions he asked the Lord.

Are You A King Then?

Jesus answered Pilate,

My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here (John 18:36).

And again,

You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. (Luke 23:2).

I’m not aware of any other text where Jesus made a verbal claim to be king, but His actions and the response of the people in texts such as Matthew 21 reveal that He was accepted by many as the promised king. Just a week before He was brought before Pilate by the Jews, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey,

…that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: ’Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey”  (Matthew 21:4-5).

Indeed, Jesus is a king. In fact, He is identified in the Bible as the “King of kings” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16). Yet Pilate was made to understand that His kingdom was no threat to the Roman empire, for His kingdom is not of this world; it’s an eternal and spiritual kingdom.

What Is Truth?

As Jesus finished His short discourse with Pilate, He made two statements about truth:

  • He had come to bear witness to the truth, and
  • Those who are of the truth will hear His voice.

In response to this, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38)

There are times when reading the Scriptures the purpose and tone of words spoken are evident. There are other times when it would be helpful to hear the tone of voice used by the speaker. I’ve often wondered what Pilate’s tone was when he said these words. Was he inquisitive? Were these the words of a jaded man? How did he say such an important question? Sadly, it appears he did not stay for the answer, for the text tells us,

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 fault in Him at all.’ (John 18:38)

What does the Bible say about truth?

God’s Word Is Truth

Just a chapter earlier, Jesus identified truth for us. He said in prayer to the Father,

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (John 17:17)

When we read the Bible, we can have confidence that what we are reading is truth. God’s words are true (2 Samuel 7:28; Psalm 119:142, 151). Paul tells us that God and His word are trustworthy, for God cannot lie (Titus 1:2).

It doesn’t take us long in this life to realize that we cannot trust everything and everyone. Some people are perpetual liars. Some businesses misrepresent their products. At times, even those who may seem close to us might not be truthful with us. God is always true; His word is always trustworthy.

The Truth Shall Make You Free

Earlier in John’s gospel, Jesus told us what the truth will do for us. We read:

As He spoke these words, many believed in Him. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ (John 8:30-32)

Again, the truth is God’s word. Jesus said we need to abide in it—dwell in it—live in it. We can’t be happy with a casual knowledge of the Bible. It must be an essential part of our life. Those who seek to know what the Lord has said and make application of it, Jesus identifies as His disciples or followers. Since they hear and live according to the truth, He promises they will be made free. Free from what? Sin, guilt, eternal punishment, the bondage of the devil. Hear what David wrote about 1,000 years before Jesus came to earth:

With my whole heart I have sought You; O, let me not wander from Your commandments. Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You! (Psalm 119:10-11)

If we have His word at the center of our lives, we will be equipped to overcome the advances of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-13).

John’s Focus On Truth

The apostle John wrote a lot about truth. In his three short epistles, there are 17 references to the truth. Most deal with our relationship to the truth. Here are two in particular where the apostle is as clear as he could be:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1 John 1:6)

He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4)

Are we practicing the truth? Do we keep His commandments? That is the only way for us to be His followers, to have the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of heaven. Will you hear, believe and obey the truth of God?

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