Jesus said, in John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Free from what? If freedom is the goal, then bondage is what must be overcome, and if the truth would set us free, then a lie holds us in bondage. There seems to be no one-sided issues out there—it’s yes or no, right or wrong, good or bad, up or down, front or back, etc. Some wise person figured it out—for every action there is a responding reaction.
The truth has greater authority than a lie, therefore it can break the hold of bondage and set a person free. Therefore, when Jesus answered the devil’s temptations with quoted Scripture (i.e. “it is written”), He was also showing believers how to combat the lies of the enemy—Satan. Jesus made the astounding claim, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6) yet many otherwise intelligent people deny emphatically that it could be so.
I submit that if someone could produce viable evidence that their alternate provider of salvation has died on a cross in fulfillment of those foreshadowing blood sacrifices recorded in the pages of the Old Testament, then show us the nail marks in his hands and we perhaps could be swayed toward that possibility! There is not even a shred of a possibility for that to happen. The only alternatives ever produced are merely guidelines for human effort. Cain saw that would not work, even at the very beginning of humanity!
John wrote in his first epistle, “…no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:20), that is, the truth cannot have any shadow of doubt in it. That is why the Ten Commandments are not just ten suggestions, and why Jesus affirmed God’s edict in His answer to the devil’s first temptation, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
In that John 8 passage, Jesus began at verse 31, saying, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed,” and in verse 36, He adds, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” It is the lie of Satan that opposes the truth, with deception continually repeated over the centuries to bring people into bondage to sin through lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Because the truth of Jesus Christ, claimed by a person, Paul could write in Romans 6:14, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
In the pursuit of the truth of God, one must come to realize a very basic starting point. Recently I posted a three-part article on the Beatitudes from Matthew 5, and that first Beatitude nails it down pretty tightly. One must realize he is spiritually in deep poverty and in great need of God’s mercy and grace. To the religious scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17). Jesus was seen eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, and they were critical of Him for it. I suspect that Jesus may have been giving them a back-end message in saying that, for He knew those self-righteous hypocrites needed repentance as much as did those with Him.
Considering Some Key Principles
One of my uncles once was frustrated about the structure of the Bible (he was not a born-again believer). He complained that it would have made more sense to organize it like an encyclopedia, with everything about a topic in its own section. I admit that he had a point, but the organization of the Bible could very possibility be a unique ploy of the Lord to protect His truths from easy manipulation and fraudulent modifications. (It is still not immune from those tactics, as we have seen happen over the centuries.) So, the Lord has scattered His truths throughout the Bible, available to the serious seeker of truth as one who would search for it as for “hidden treasures”(Proverbs 2:1-5).
Jesus seemed to accept the “search and find” concept, and it seems to have worked out that people tend to find what they want to find and not what they should find. He said to the religious leaders, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). This might just pinpoint the major problem some have in their “pursuit of truth,” in that a pre-conceived position could (and does) lead them to only the “truths” that support their mindset.
We need to have the attitude of the people of Berea, of whom Luke wrote in Acts 17:11, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” The original King James Version calls them “more noble,” and it occurs to me that perhaps that is why Paul wrote two letters to the Thessalonians and none to the believers of Berea. Nevertheless, it is the standard rule, in a nutshell, of finding God’s truths. Someone has pointed out that the Bible is its own best commentary.
At Rapture Ready, Kit Olsen edits, coaches, and helps get these articles in better shape for posting. She recently sent me the following long-standing guideline for Bible interpretation, which I had seen years ago but did not have handy for reference:
The Golden Rule of Interpretation
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate content, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicates clearly otherwise.
Following the teachings of early church leaders may not be the ideal source for Bible truth. As Acts 17:11 tells us, see what the Word, itself, says. Remember, the earliest church fathers were those who wrote the Scriptures, “as moved by the Holy Spirit of God.” Would it not be them who would have the final say? Church traditions have found their way into church doctrine over the centuries, and some have been invented and followed, having no Biblical basis. If the practice is of the flesh, not of faith and biblical truth, it will lead to undesirable results. Three times the New Testament reminds us that “the just shall live by faith,” and once, plainly, “for we walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
To many church people, much of the Old Testament is allegorical, that is, not actual or historical, but symbolic. It plays well when a prophecy doesn’t fit into a preconceived idea. But when tested by the whole counsel of God’s Word, there are unanswered questions that seem to have nowhere to go for answers. For an example, those who tell us that John’s vision of Revelation, or the end-times prophecies, took place in the first century, mainly tied in with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D. leave us with such questions.
What do we do, then, with Daniel 9:27, which says there will be a covenant confirmed for seven years, and in the middle of that period, a sinful person will enter the Temple and declare himself God? But the Temple had been destroyed, yet how did the desecration happen three and one-half years later in a Temple that was no longer in existence?
Other Key Scriptures
Heavy duty mathematics boggles my mind; I can’t go there. But the simple stuff makes sense to me—adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing. When Paul advised Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), he introduced a key principle for Bible understanding. For instance, there should be no question that God has related with mankind in general and His believers in particular, along with the Hebrew people, differently in different periods of time over the centuries.
A current example was specified when Jesus answered that final question of the disciples in Acts 1:6, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).
In saying that, He turned their attention to the more immediate era that must precede that restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Paul calls it the “dispensation of grace” (Ephesians 3:2), and in connection with verse 8, it was described in Acts 15:14 that “God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.”
Now that the initial steps have been made to restore the kingdom to Israel, we know that era is about to be closed. If these things are not lined up right–rightly divided–the result is a false doctrine that does not match scriptural truth. As I quoted 1 John 2:20 earlier, “…no lie is of the truth.”
Other Scriptures I hope and trust to be the foundation of my search for truth and its expression in my articles:
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and isprofitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Hebrews 4:12-13 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must giveaccount.”
Isaiah 28:10 – “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept,line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.”
Daniel 2:20-22 – “Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His, and He changes the times and the seasons. He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him.”
Amos 3:7 – “Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.”
John 16:13 – “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.”
Obviously, these are not conclusive. It begs the question of what Paul meant when he told the elders from Ephesus, “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God ” (Acts 20:27). (Emphasis mine.)
A passage that should foster a considerable amount of the fear of God in us any time we embark on a writing exercise is this one:
“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).
And, in conclusion:
“In all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrineshowing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:7-8).