The Timelessness of Truth

John 8:31-36

September 30, 2023 | Brian Bill

Do you remember the scene from “A Few Good Men” when Jack Nicholson said to Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth?”  That’s a good description of the society we live in today where it’s common to hear statements like this, “I have my truth and you have your truth,” and “Whatever works for you is true and whatever works for me is true.”  The problem with “this is your truth” is that it may not be the truth – and that’s not just my truth but the truth.  Simply because I insist something is true “for me” does not necessarily make it true.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is such a thing as absolute truth, which is defined as inflexible reality.  For instance, it is a fixed fact that there are absolutely no square circles and there are absolutely no round squares.  Water is wet, not dry.  Cheese curds are the best invention of all time.  

Or, when I knock something off this table, the law of gravity will cause it to fall to the ground.  One can disbelieve in gravity but that doesn’t change its affects when something crashes to the floor.  No person would say, “Gravity works for you, but not for me.”

In the trusted source called Wikipedia, truth is defined as, “being in accord with fact or reality.”  That’s pretty good.  Merriam Webster defines it this way: “Fidelity, constancy, fact.”  In a word, truth is reality.  It’s how things really are.

The Greek word for truth literally means, “to unhide” or “hiding nothing.”  The idea is that truth is always there.  Truth may be evaded but you can’t make it evaporate.  The Hebrew word for truth means, “firmness, constancy and durability.”  True truth is timeless and can be relied upon.  

In short, truth is simply what is, and telling the truth is telling it like it is.

Let’s note what truth is not…

  1. Truth is not simply whatever works.  That’s pragmatism.
  2. Truth is not what makes people feel good.  That’s hedonism.
  3. Truth is not what the majority says is true.  That’s relativism.
  4. Truth is not believing all truth claims are equally valid.  That’s pluralism.
  5. Truth is not simply what is believed.  That’s gullibility.  A lie believed is still a lie.  Chamberlain Ogunedo from Nigeria writes: “Falsehood is so appealingly packaged that without good knowledge of the truth, one could be misled and ensnared.”  

The place to begin is always with the question: What does the Bible say?  Steven Lawson lays it out clearly: “Truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God.  All truth must be defined in terms of God, whose very nature is truth.”

  • God the Father is “the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16).
  • Jesus Christ is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
  • The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17).
  • The Bible is “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Let’s consider some distinguishing properties of truth.

  1. Truth is divine.  Truth is from above, not determined by opinion polls.  Ultimately, all truth is God’s truth because He is the sole author of truth.  Romans 3:4: “Let God be true though every one were a liar…”
  2. Truth is eternal.  Truth is not here today and gone tomorrow.  What was true yesterday will be true next year.  Psalm 119:160 says, “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.”
  3. Truth is absolute.  Truth is exclusive, not inclusive.  Truth is real, not relative.  Truth is incompatible with, and intolerant of error.  Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”
  4. Truth is objective.  The Bible is objective truth that is always true in every place and at all times.  Romans 1:18: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”
  5. Truth is immutable.  God does not change and neither does His truth.  Right is always right and wrong is always wrong.  Truth is never outdated or obsolete.  Psalm 119:89 says, “Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven.”
  6. Truth is authoritative.  When Jesus says it, that settles it.  John 12:48: The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”

I like the wit and wisdom of Winston Churchill when he said, Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.  The truth is incontrovertible.  Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” 

We’ve seen that truth is propositional, but even more than that, truth is wrapped up in a Person.  Jesus rises above our cultural confusion and shouts out, “I am the truth.  Get to know me and you will discover that which is totally true and transforming.”  As we learned last weekend from John 14:6, Jesus is “the way, THE TRUTH, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Him.”

Here’s our main idea: Since Jesus is truth, we must be ready at all times to tell others the truth about Him.

Please turn to John 8:31-36: So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ 33 They answered him, ‘We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?  34 Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’”

I see three truths about truth in this passage.  

1. Be at home in the truth of God’s Word. 

We don’t just come to the Word as an occasional guest but we’re to move in and live there

The second half of verse 31 introduces a conditional clause: If you abide in my word…”  The word “abide” means, “to dwell in, to remain in, to continue in, and to live in.”  It referred to staying in a house and becoming so in love with the place that the house became your home.  We don’t just come to the Word as an occasional guest but we’re to move in and live there.  The idea is we’re to sit and soak in the truth of the Scriptures.  Notice Jesus uses the singular “my word,” not “my words,” meaning He is referring to the sum total of all He taught.

  In John 14:23, Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  Here’s a question: Is God’s Word at home in your heart?

As we learned in week one of our Unshaken and Unashamed series, What you believe about God’s Word will determine how you view the world around you.  If your worldview does not come from God’s Word, it will come from the world.

The only way to identify truth and detect error is to dwell in God’s Word.  True disciples live in God’s Word and allow God’s Word to live in them.  When Jesus challenged His disciples with unfettered truth, including some difficult discipleship demands, He asked if they wanted to stop following Him, like others had done.  Peter spoke up for the team in John 6:68: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”

The word “truly” means, “really” or “certainly.”  A “disciple” is literally a “learner,” one who is being mentored by the Master.  It also denotes “one who follows another’s teaching.”  Thus, a disciple is a life-long learner who lives out the truth of what he or she is learning from the teacher.  

2. Get to know the truth found in Jesus. 

Look at the first part of verse 32: “And you will know the truth…”  Incredibly, Jesus references truth seven times in this section.  Since this verse is often taken out of context, it’s important to realize truth is not primarily a principle or a philosophy or a platform; it’s a person and His name is Jesus! 

If you want to know the truth, get to know the One who is Truth and then follow the truth of what He says in His Word of truth.  Jesus always tells the truth about our condition, our need for salvation, how to be born again, how to pray, how to forgive, how to love, and how to live on mission.

In a world filled with lies, half-truths, confusion, and uncertainty, Jesus prays this prayer for His followers in John 17:17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

3. Find freedom in the truth of salvation. 

Now hear the second half of verse 32: “…and the truth will set you free.”  Jesus came to set us free from sin as spelled out in Romans 6:22: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God…”  2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

The Jewish leaders, who were listening to the Lord, didn’t like hearing they needed to be set free, so they pushed back in verse 33: “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How is that you say, ‘You will become free.’”  They must have forgotten their history because they were slaves in Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon and were now living under Roman rule.  Also, they had a warped view of their own goodness, thinking that because they kept some rules, they were good to go.

Before leaving this passage, Jesus gives a warning and then a welcome.

  • Sin leads to bondage.  In verse 34 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”  I’m fascinated by how many times Jesus used this phrase, “Truly, truly,” which means, “Very truly, most assuredly, so be it.”  In John’s gospel alone He said it 26 times!  This expression is like an exclamation point.  It was the way Jesus introduced something incredibly profound and monumental.  In the original language, the word is “Amen,” which is a word of finality as in Revelation 3:14: “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness.” 

These religious guys thought they were spiritually superior, but Jesus made it clear that apart from a true relationship with Him, the only One who is truly, truly, the truth, everyone is in bondage to sin.  You cannot be freed from sin until you admit the truth that you are enslaved to sin.

  • The Son is the bondage-breaker.  Listen to verse 36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  This is more evidence that the Son is truth itself because verse 32 says, “the truth [the Son] will set you free.”  Galatians 5:1 puts it like this: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

The Christian faith is liberating since we don’t have to build our lives on ‘our truth.’  Instead, when we repent and receive the One who called and proved Himself “the truth,” we will be set free.

Developing Discernment

This week I intentionally listened carefully to the messaging in my newsfeeds and on the news.  While doing so, I came across a verse from Isaiah 59:14 which captures our cultural condition, “Truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter.”   Because truth has stumbled and tumbled, it has become the scarcest commodity in the world.  

Without the clarity and consistency of absolute moral truth, we are reduced to doing what seems right, what feels good, what produces the least resistance, and what provides the greatest personal fulfillment

Researcher George Barna has discovered that nearly 75% of Americans do NOT believe in absolute truth.  Here’s the sad part about that.  Without the clarity and consistency of absolute moral truth, we are reduced to doing what seems right, what feels good, what produces the least resistance, and what provides the greatest personal fulfillment.  

In a world which no longer believes in absolute truth and embraces outright and egregious error, it’s imperative for followers of Christ to be discerning.  We should pray the prayer Solomon prayed in 1 Kings 3:9: “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil…”  This prayer was answered in 1 Kings 4:29: “Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore.”  We need “very great discernment” today, don’t we?

Truth is not always convenient, nor is it popular.  I like what Adrian Rogers once said, “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error.  It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills…It’s better to stand alone with the truth than to be wrong with a multitude. It is better to ultimately succeed with truth than to temporarily succeed with a lie.”

The Bible tells the truth about God as Creator, how our gender is determined by God at conception as either male or female, that marriage is a covenant commitment between one man and one woman for life, that life begins at conception and therefore the preborn must be protected, that the Scriptures are sufficient, and that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved from our sins and the judgment we deserve.

Here are 5 ways we need to develop discernment today.

1. Settle the source of truth.

Psalm 119:151 says, “But you are near, O Lord, and all your commandments are true.”  As we learned from the Faith and Reason Seminar with Rick McGough a couple weeks ago, our society holds scientists up as authoritative experts.  It was helpful to be reminded how the Bible and science are not against one another, because all truth is ultimately God’s truth.  While science has helped us discover amazing facts about God’s creation, and most of the pioneers of science believed in God as Creator, we must ultimately decide whether Scripture is true, or what some scientists say is true.  For instance, Darwinian evolution is a theory, it’s not a fact.  

2. Tell the truth about right and wrong. 

John Stonestreet is right when he says, “Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims…it is getting harder for Christians to say not only what is courageously true in the public square, but also not co-opted into saying what is not true…a tension that we all have to hold together is to say what is true, along with the courage to love like Jesus.” Stonestreet also describes how the waves of cultural change are washing over us and the undercurrents and riptides of an untethered culture are knocking us off course and sweeping many out to sea.

Earlier this week, my wife and I were watching the news out of Philadelphia highlighting how hundreds of looters broke into stores in the middle of the day.  The reporter was struggling to put into words what he was seeing, until he finally landed on this phrase: “we’re living in a society of lawlessness.”  

Some stores have locked up deodorant and toothpaste because there is so much theft.  Because of crime, Walmart has closed or is closing 22 stores in North America just this year.  This week, I came across this headline in Fortune magazine: “Retail theft has gotten so bad Walmart is building a police station inside an Atlanta store.”

We’re living in days similar to those described in Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel.  Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  Isaiah 5:20 says, Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”  Jesus predicted what we see in our world today in Matthew 24:12: “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”

Fellow followers of Jesus Christ, it’s time for us to be unshaken in our faith and unashamed of the gospel!  

Here’s a statement I’ve been working on and adding to over the months as I see our society slipping into lawlessness and lewdness as more and more people throw off restraint and live without limits.

What used to be considered an ABOMINATION which led to LAMENTATION has become a CELEBRATION demanding PARTICIPATION and AFFIRMATION.  What was formerly UNTHINKABLE has become UNQUESTIONABLE.  Since Christians are often CANCELLED when they tell the truth, many have chosen to CAVE, COMPROMISE, or remain QUIET.  We can no longer be silent.  We must be UNSHAKEN in our faith and UNASHAMED of the gospel.  It’s time for us to be CONVICTIONAL about sin, COURAGEOUS for our Savior, while being COMPASSIONATE toward sinners as we witness to the TIMELESS TRUTH of Jesus, who alone can set us free from our sins.

Let’s take courage from the words of Martin Luther: “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

3. Test the teaching you hear. 

Not every bestseller is the best book to read, not every podcast is worth your time, and not every popular preacher is worth listening to.  1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  That means you should check what I say as well.

Even pastors trained in our conservative Bible schools and seminaries are watering down the gospel, no longer preaching about sin, redefining marriage, and capitulating to the LGBTQ+ agenda.  According to 1 Timothy 4:1-2, we shouldn’t be surprised by this: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.”

Listen to the warning from 2 Timothy 4:3-4: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

When our daughter Megan was around eight years old, I sat down with her to review a video from a popular preacher.  While I was eagerly taking notes and nodding at his tremendous insights, she turned to me and said, “Daddy, this doesn’t sound right.  I don’t think he’s being biblical.” She was spot on and had detected error before I did.  This man is now a full-fledged heretic.  

We need to know the truth of the Bible if we’re ever going to spot error.  I’m told when bank tellers are being trained to recognize counterfeit money, they simply are given genuine money and told to familiarize themselves with how it looks, how it feels, and how it smells.  That way, when counterfeit cash shows up, they can spot it quickly. 

Listen to these words from A.W. Tozer: “Each generation of Christians must look to its beliefs.  While truth itself is unchanging, the minds of men are porous vessels out of which truth can leak and into which error may seep to dilute the truth they contain.  The human heart is heretical by nature and runs to error as naturally as a garden to weeds…the heart that fails to cultivate truth and root out error will shortly be a theological wilderness…” 

One reason we are to guard our doctrine and speak up for truth is because 1 Timothy 3:15 calls gathered believers, “the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”  Pillars strengthen a building and buttresses provide support and protection.  Remember, the church is God’s Plan A.  There is no Plan B.

4. Recognize Satan is a liar. 

Satan’s first lie is found in Genesis 3:4 when he said to Eve, “You will not surely die.” Satan and his evil forces always attack truth and are behind the telling of lies and the taking of innocent life.  Jesus said it clearly in John 8:44: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  That’s why Ephesians 6:14 calls us to, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth.”  James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

5. Live on mission in our messed-up world. 

We can find encouragement from the words of Corrie ten Boom when describing the deplorable conditions of her imprisonment: “And I would know again that in darkness, God’s truth shines most clear.”  Stonestreet adds, “This is the cultural moment God has placed us in.  We don’t find ourselves in this time and place by accident…we might not like it, and we might get angry about it, but here we are.”  This makes me think of what was said about the men of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32: “All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” (NLT)

Since Jesus is truth, we must be ready at all times to tell others the truth about Him.

Who is Truth?

Think with me about the famous exchange between Jesus and Pontius Pilate.  Jesus made clear He is the true King and Pilate was really on trial, not Him.  Listen to John 18:37: “You say that I am a king.  For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate’s question to Jesus still echoes down through the centuries as recorded in John 18:38: “What is truth?”  Sadly, Truth incarnated was standing right in front of him, and he missed it!  For Pilate, was this just a rhetorical question he didn’t really want to answer?  It’s hard to know if he was curious or cynical, indifferent, irritated, or insincere.  What is clear is that he acted on what was expedient when “He went back outside.”  He didn’t stick around for the answer.  

Truth is not so much a “what,” but a “who.”  Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus.  

  1. Warner Wallace’s testimony is all about how truth penetrated his life: I’m not a Christian because it ‘works’ for me.  I had a life prior to Christianity that seemed to be working just fine, and my life as a Christian hasn’t always been easy.  I’m a Christian because it is true.  I’m a Christian because I want to live in a way that reflects the truth.  I’m a Christian because my high regard for the truth leaves me no alternative.”

Can you handle the truth of the gospel?  Because we are sinners, Jesus offered His life in our place, taking the blame for all our sin and shame.  His amazing grace obliterated our atrocious guilt.  When His blood was shed, God the Father accepted the sacrifice of His Son’s life as full and final payment for all our sins.  God’s righteous and holy wrath was fully satisfied by the death and resurrection of our living Lord Jesus.  He’s the truth and He can set you free.

Don’t go outside today until you can answer this question, “What is truth?”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?