By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error

by Mike Ratliff

5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:5-6 (NASB) 

Several years ago when I still worked in an office I had a fellow with whom I worked, when he found out that I was a Christian, demand that I listen to his “reasoning” why “everything is relative.” I told him I would listen to him if he could refute the following statement, “Aren’t you making an ‘absolute statement’ when you say, ‘there are no absolutes’?” He chuckled nervously and left my cubicle. I still pray that God will save him. My brethren, the scourge of relativism is a blight within the visible Church. It causes people to flee from the absolute. When truth is seen as relative then in what or whom can anyone have faith and trust? Do we read the words of our Lord in Sacred Scripture ever saying, “Well, it depends?”

33 Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” 37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 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 guilt in Him. John 18:33-38 (NASB) 

This is, of course, the Apostle John’s version of the trial of our Lord before Pilate. Pilate asks our Lord if He is a king. Jesus answered, “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.” Notice how our Lord ties His Kingship or Lordship to His bearing witness to the truth. The Greek word translated as “bear witness to” is martureō. It means to be a witness or testify. Our Lord’s purpose was to testify to what? It is the truth. This Greek word is alētheia. This word denotes the reality clearly lying before our eyes as opposite to a mere appearance, without reality. It is used in the New Testament as truth as opposite to falsehood, error or insincerity. When our Lord told Pilate a few sentences earlier that His kingdom is not of this world…” He was explaining the truth to him.

Jesus’ Kingdom is not in any way connected to the world system. This system is in rebellion against God. What do Kings in this world system do when their kingdoms are threatened? They fight! However, our Lord’s Kingdom does not originate by the efforts of people, but with the Son of Man forcefully and decisively conquering sin in the lives of those who are of the truth and listen to His voice. Our Lord’s Kingdom was no threat to Rome or any other earthly kingdom at that time. Oh yes, He will end all those Kingdoms when He returns, but while He was on trial by Pilate He was no threat to him or Rome.

He then tells Pilate that everyone who is of the alētheia listens to His voice. The Greek word for listens in this verse is akouō. It means to hear and understand. In this passage, this verb is in present tense, indicative mood, and active voice. This means that the hearing and listening to Jesus’ voice is taking place as He was speaking. What does it mean that those who are hearing Jesus voice are of the alētheia? These are the ones the Father had given to Him.  In John 10:1-5 our Lord had taught on Him being the Good Shepherd.

1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:1-5 (NASB) 

Here we have the same word for hear, akouō, in the same grammatical structure. Those sheep who belong to the Good Shepherd are hearing His voice right now.

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:37-40 (NASB) 

Those of the truth who hear our Lord’s voice “will come to Him.” All who come to our Lord are His forever. He will lose none of them because He is the Good Shepherd. All who belong to Him, He will raise up on the last day.

What is truth? Pilate asked this rhetorical question sarcastically. Jesus told him the truth, but since he was not “of the truth” he did not hear it. If you are in Christ then you are of the truth and you have heard our Lord’s voice and are hearing it right now. The Holy Spirit is bearing witness with your spirit right now. You are held firm in His hands. He will lose none the Father gives Him. This is the truth.

Soli Deo Gloria!

2 thoughts on “By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error

  1. So many professing Christians seem to be fascinated with making this world “heaven” – thinking they can build the kingdom of God here. now. Our focus must be on the heavenlies, not this present world.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Rainbow Trout and commented:
    Mike, I always find the John 6 passages so profound. It would be interesting to build a whole evangelistic study around that chapter, and some of the parallel passages in John.

    Good examples of “alētheia”, particularly profound Biblical truth can be seen in Luke 24, although Luke doesn’t actually say Jesus used that word. But for the disciples and first century Jews what could be more profound that that the whole Old Testament speaks about him!

    Luk 24:27  And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

    Luk 24:44  And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
    Luk 24:45  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.