by Mike Ratliff
38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” (John 18:38 ESV)
John MacArthur has a new book out called The Truth War. Al Mohler wrote a short review of this book that is on the back cover.
“[The postmodern age] is the age of no truth, an age that has reached a point of deadly fatigue when it comes to facing the truth-a generation that no longer believes truth can be known. Dr. John MacArthur knows better, and he is armed with the courage to confront this age with a bold defense of truth….His argument is compelling, his defense of truth is brilliant, and his concern for the church is evident on every page. The evangelical church desperately needs this book, and it arrives just in time.” – R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
I have deep respect for both of these men. I use Dr. MacArthur’s studies myself. I bought this book in order to get a better handle on the Emerging Church Movement. I also agree completely with Dr. Mohler and Dr. MacArthur that the truth can be known. The world says that it can’t be known and each man’s perception of truth is just a valid as the next man’s perception of the truth. Tragically, this lie has crept into the Church.
There are many men who have “Christian Discernment ministries” that proclaim that they act as “watch dogs” against false teachers in the church. While that is a much needed ministry and many do it correctly, there are also many in this group who have been contaminated by the subtle lie that the truth cannot be known completely by any person. They say that the Bible is too intricate and real Bible teachers should never proclaim Biblical truth as if it is the truth. Instead, we are supposed to say this is what the Bible says and here is what I think that means instead of saying this is what the truth is from God’s Word. Is that how our Lord build’s up His Church?
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if ser-vice, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12 3-8 ESV)
The Greek word translated as “prophecy” in v6 means “speaking forth.” Since the New Testament is complete and further revelation is not going to be given by God because of that, this gift simply identifies the skill of public proclamation of the Word of God. It is used by God to encourage and strengthen hearers or to rebuke those who are holding to a false interpretation of the truth. Do all believers have this gift? No, our Lord equips His saints differently according to His Sovereign Will. No one can acquire the gifts they desire by asking for them. How does the person who has this gift “get” the truth?
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)
The phrase “Do your best” is one Greek word that denotes zealous persistence in accomplishing a goal. That is why some Bible translations say, “Be diligent” here. Paul was instructing Timothy to devote all of his efforts to impart God’s Word fully and accurately to his flock. Why? We go back to one of the roles of those with the gift of prophecy in that God uses that to rebuke false teaching and address the debilitating results of it. The focus of v15 from Paul for Timothy is that he must “rightly handle or rightly divide” the word of truth (all scripture). The Greek for “rightly handle” means “cutting it straight.” This refers to exactness. When it comes to things like carpentry, I am not very good at measuring for exactness. That is why I’m not a carpenter. This phrase is speaking of how critical it is to be precise when handling scripture. That is why we must not expound scripture esigetically, but always exegetically. The former reads into the text what we want it say while the latter simply reveals what the text says. In the context of v15, we see that to not diligently and exegetically expound scripture will result in shame because Bible teachers have the highest level of accountability before God. That is how serious this is.
Those of us who are Bible teachers must understand that we are dealing with the truth and we must carefully and diligently exposit scripture to get the truth that God gives us then faithfully present that truth as the truth to the “hearers” or “readers” whom God has given us. Here is a definition for “Biblical truth” from John MacArthur.
“truth is that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Even more to the point: truth is the self-expression of God.” – John MacArthur – The Truth War page 2.
Therefore, when those with the spiritual gift of prophecy study the Bible correctly, rightly handling God’s word, then teach or preach the truth, then lies are exposed, God’s people are edified, the enemy and his seed are shamed and God is glorified. Why? God’s mind, will, character, glory and being are taught to God’s people fully empowered by the Holy Spirit through the gifts God has given. God’s truth is sharper than any two edged sword. It exposes lies and causes God’s people to see the truth and repent. This does not happen when the truth is handled as if it is subjective. Those that have fooled themselves into believing that they have discernment, but, in fact, are only following expository rules that guarantee that no one will be offended or limit the teacher to only presenting the truth subjectively, are enemies of God’s truth instead of the guardians of it. The following is a quote from a dear friend addressing this.
“… in this time when quite frankly spiritual pride is rampant among professing Christians it is even worse now. Part of God’s 1 Peter 4:17 judgment, which is tied to His current Romans 1:18ff judgment is abandoning people to their own sin. As such you will have no doubt noticed in various aspects of your ministries it is very hard even to disagree with other believers – let alone apostates.”
My friend is right. It is almost impossible these days to have a discussion about certain theological subjects without offending someone if we tell the truth objectively instead of subjectively. The rule seems to be that we must force everyone to be benign by never allowing any one to proclaim the truth from God’s Word as the absolute truth that it is. What happens when we ignore those who demand our silence about the pure doctrine from God’s Word like the Doctrines of Grace for example? We are accused of being arrogant and prideful because we say, “This is the truth!” This is the very same thing that the Emergent Church Movement people say when we use scripture to correct them. Those who have the appearance of Orthodoxy, but also demand only subjective truth from us are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are the ones that demand that we agree with them or submit to their diatribes, or give their view equal time, but when we don’t, we are called arrogant and prideful or worse. However, we must not allow them to use their mean-spirited, extortion tactics to silence us.
1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 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, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)
Therefore, we must continue to remain firmly affixed to God’s Word as the absolute Truth. It is complete and inerrant. When we study it to teach or preach we must do so diligently and faithfully. We must not read into it what sounds good to people. Instead, we must present it complete as God’s truth not subjective truth. We must not fall for the lie that we cannot know God’s truth. Soli Deo Gloria!
Addendum: I wrote another post in October of last year with the same title as this one (What is Truth?). You may find it interesting as well. 🙂
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