Defining Truth

Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” But he didn’t give him a chance to answer. Too often we do that too. There can be various reasons that we don’t want to hear truth.

  • we are afraid of the truth
  • we don’t think truth exists
  • we have heard so many people claim to know what truth is that we are all mixed up inside
  • we just don’t want to think about it, or
  • we don’t think it matters.

I think truth does matter. So, let’s define it a little.

Truth is reality, not hypothetical. When something is always the same, we call it a fact. If it is an unchallengeable fact, we call it a law. The law of gravity would be an illustration of this. The opposite of truth in this sense is a theory; something that might be true but which we can’t prove. Often people mistake theories for truth, but there is a distinct difference between the two. For instance, during the nineteenth century scientists thought that the universe was filled with a gas they called ether. Most academics accepted that theory, even though no one ever proved it. Today we know that this theory was never true, no matter how many highly educated people believed it.

Truth is an absolute. It doesn’t change. What is truth for Amos is truth for Shirley, and for Charles. What was truth in 1465 is still truth in 2017. It was truth in 782, and will still be truth in 2045. Many people do not like absolutes. They prefer to be able to bend the “truth”. But if you can bend it, it is not truth. The opposite of this sense of truth would be situational ethics, where an action is considered right or wrong because of a given situation, rather than because of truth.

Truth has the power to set us free. (John 8:32) Ignorance of truth often results in superstition. Superstition is also an opposite of truth, and it binds us with chains of fear. We could list many superstitions, some of which are still widely believed the world over. But knowledge of the truth sets people free from superstition. You do not need to fear a black cat crossing your path. The truth is that a black cat has no power to harm you or to predict the future. Knowing this truth can set you free from the fear of black cats.

But truth can set you free from a lot more than just superstition. If you come to Jesus and accept him as the embodiment of truth, his teachings will set you free from spiritual fear and doubt and failure.

The Source of Truth

So where does truth come from? And how do we find it? Jesus listed three sources of truth, all recorded in the Gospel of John.

First, Jesus is the truth. (John 14:6). Jesus became a man so that He could tell us the truth, and show it to us. Then He died for us so that we could follow the truth He taught us. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are important sources of Jesus’ truth.

Second, The Holy Spirit is truth. (John 16:13) Jesus promised His disciples that He would send the Spirit of truth to guide them into all the truth. The Holy Spirit is a channel of communication between God and mankind. The Spirit can bring us truth in many ways, such as:

  • Helping us to understand the Bible
  • Speaking through our conscience
  • Giving us premonitions
  • Using other people to give us guidance

It is important that we pay close attention when the Spirit speaks to us. However, this is also the easiest way to misunderstand truth, because sometimes our desires and fears get in the way. So it is wise to double check with other people, and the Bible when we feel that the Spirit is telling us truth.

Third, God’s word is truth. (John 17:17) In this passage, Jesus named God’s message as truth. God used the Holy Spirit to enable the apostles to remember the truth He had taught them so that they could write it down. This truth became our New Testament. The New Testament is the foundation for all spiritual truth and should be our final court of appeal when we are trying to find truth.

The Proof of Truth

You may wonder how we can know that what Jesus said was truth. Anyone can make big claims. The Pharisees felt that way about it. They came to Jesus one day and asked Him for a sign (see Matthew 12:38 – 42). Jesus had already given them many signs. He had healed the sick, he had cleansed lepers, and He had raised the dead, but they still didn’t believe. So He told them that He would give them one more sign—He would die and be buried, but after three days He would rise again. This was a very bold claim, but it happened. (He made the same prediction in Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:32 – 34.)

The apostle Paul also wrote about this (see 1 Cor 15:3-7). He stated that five hundred people had seen Jesus at one time, after His resurrection. Most of these people were still alive at that point and could easily have refuted Paul.

About Lester Bauman

Free lance writer and editor. Author of a dozen books, husband of one wife, father of six, grandpa of ten.
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