by Bob Wheeler
YOUR WORD IS TRUTH
Jesus has been praying for His disciples, and for the entire Christian church by extension, and has been especially mindful of their position in the world once He has physically departed from it. “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15; NKJV). But how is that accomplished?
Jesus goes on, two verses later, to lay down a basic foundational truth of the Christian life: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your world is truth” (v. 17). Again He says, another two verses later, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” (v. 19). To “sanctify” means to set apart from common use and consecrate to God. When applied to Christ or to believers, it means to keep unspotted from the world and to be completely devoted to God. But how is this accomplished? We still have to live in the world. As human beings we are social creatures. We are very much affected by what goes on around us. The world pressures us to conform – through the educational system, through the media, and through the legal system. We face economic pressure. All the while the world is pressuring us to conform to its debased values – its greed, its selfishness, its devotion to pleasure. How can the Christian resist?
The answer, Jesus says, is “by Your truth. Your word is truth.” We might ask, first of all, whether or not there even is such a thing as “truth,” in the sense of a comprehensive explanation of reality. Secular philosophy began by arguing that truth can be arrived at through pure reason alone. But as time went on it became evident that there was a problem with this. We are finite, mortal human beings. Our range of observation is limited; we cannot possible know everything. Philosophers have been had to question whether an objective, external reality even exists; and if it does, how can we know it?
To make matters worse, we are all subject to prejudice – we have a tendency to believe what we want to believe, whether it is demonstrably true or not. In the end many philosophers finally concluded that there is no truth at all, in the sense of a comprehensive explanation of reality. All ideologies are founded on prejudice, and the universe itself is essentially meaningless.
But Jesus said, “Your word is truth.” Here Jesus is echoing the language of Psalm 119:160: “The entirety of Your word is truth,” and verse 142: “And Your law is truth.” In the psalm “Your word” refers to what God has spoken, what God has revealed to us in verbal propositions. And “Your law” is the whole body of instruction given to us, originally in the first five books of the Bible – the Torah (“torah” means instruction, direction, doctrine, precept, law).
And God’s word, Jesus says, is “truth.” It is the explanation that completely corresponds to reality. It is true because it comes from the Creator Himself. There is nothing false or misleading in it at all.
Jesus prays, “Sanctify them by Your truth.” Here again He is echoing the words of Psalm 119, especially Psalm 119:9: “How can a young man cleanse his way? / By taking heed according to Your word.” And again in verse 105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet / And a light to my path.” The world bases its values on a false and distorted view of reality, one that tries to exclude the Creator from consideration – a worldview that was fabricated to justify mankind’s rebellion against God. To live differently from the world we need a true and accurate view of reality, one that sees the true and living God as the Creator of the universe.
The Bible challenges the secular worldview in its very first verse; “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” It is God who gives the created world its meaning and purpose. And thus to understand things properly we are dependent upon the revelation which He has given us in His word, the Bible. Thus God’s word helps us sort through all of the conflicting demands and false values of the world, and choose the path that leads to what God intended for us in life. It is only in this way that we can find genuine happiness and fulfillment.
It should go without saying that true Christianity must be based firmly on the Bible as God’s infallible word and our only rule for faith and practice. The great tragedy of modern church life is that the major Protestant denominations, which were originally founded on the principle of “sola Scriptura,” have largely abandoned their confidence in Scripture. The result has been a profound confusion about the nature of Christian morality, and a lessening of influence on American society at large. The mainline churches can no longer say “Thus says the Lord” because they themselves are no longer certain about what the Lord actually said. The result has been disastrous for American society as a whole, as the nation sinks more deeply into the moral abyss.
As individual Christians, then, we need to meditate carefully on God’s world – to seek to understand it, and to apply it to our lives. As a result we will live differently from the rest of the world around us. We may encounter a certain degree of animosity. Social an economic opportunities may elude us. But in the end we will be received into heaven by our Savior with open arms.
“It will be worth it all
When we see Jesus.”
Esther Kerr Rusthoi