28 Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”
30 “If He were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed Him over to you.”
31 Pilate said, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him by your own law.”
“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected. 32 This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death He was going to die would be fulfilled.
33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked Him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” Pilate asked.
In this conversation between Jesus and Pilate, we see two men with opposing agendas.
Pilate is actually a bit fed up, because he finds himself in the middle of what he considers to be nothing more than a trivial religious dispute amongst the Jews. His sarcasm and short answers reveal his irritation.
Jesus, on the other hand, uses this conversation to reveal His true identity to Pilate. When asked if He really is the King of the Jews, Jesus tells him very plainly that He is.
He then goes on to tell Pilate that His purpose in coming to this world was to testify to the truth.
Pilate now asks a question born out of pure cynicism and frustration, but he could not have known at the time just how profound his question was: “What is truth?”
This was a rhetorical question – in other words, he wasn’t really expecting an answer, but was being deliberately dismissive of Jesus.
In essence, he was saying, “What is true for you may not be true for me.”
For a brief moment, Pilate stood face to face with the source of all truth, but he missed the opportunity to hear it.
He looked truth in the face, refused to see it and walked away.
The world needs to ponder Pilate’s question. What is truth? Do a quick snap survey and you’ll find all kinds of different answers.
“You need to find your own truth. What is true for you might not be true for me. There is no absolute truth.” These are the kind of things we hear in the world today, but they are not new.
Ever since we decided to rebel against the God of all truth, human beings have been trying to redefine and redesign truth. And we have made a sorry mess of the whole thing. And to make matters worse, the non-believing world continues to make the same mistake that Pilate made. The answer is there to see, but they walk away.
The single minded determination of those who oppose Jesus to remove Him from all aspects of life and society has left the world with nothing on which to base its beliefs and philosophies.
The result is what we see in the world today. Anything goes. Find your own truth.
But the Bible gives us enough information about truth to enable us to find the answer to Pilate’s question for ourselves.
The words ‘true’ and ‘truth’ are used 250 times in the NIV translation. The Bible reveals what and who the truth is.
Pilate’s question shows us that he had no grasp of the truth. Maybe he was confused by the empty philosophies of his time that said truth was unknowable and unattainable. Pilate had come to believe what many in his day and many in our day believe: there is no absolute truth.
In one of many surveys done in the USA recently, 67% of people agree that there is no such thing as absolute truth. Worse is the fact that 52% of born again Christians think truth is relative - what is true for one person may not be true for another.
Another survey found that more than 75% of professing Christians don’t accept the idea of absolute truth. This is scary stuff. It’s quite understandable that the non-believing world has no idea of what truth is, because they have deliberately and systematically removed the truth, but if three quarters of the people sitting in Christian Churches every week are confused as to what the truth is, and doubt that it even exists, we have a lot of work to do.
The truth is that there is such a thing as absolute truth.
Jesus Himself said that He came to testify to the truth. He would not be able to testify to something that does not exist, so it follows that absolute truth is a reality.
So, what is truth? A simple dictionary definition is “that which is accurate or true or in accordance with reality. The opposite of that which is feigned, fictitious or false.”
For instance, suppose I tell you that there is a truth called the Law of Gravity. This law states that what goes up must come down. Now, suppose you reject that as being just “my truth,” and you decide to test your theory by jumping off the roof of your house. It won’t take you very long to learn that there is such a thing as absolute truth, and that truth can be known.
Just because you may believe with all your heart that the law of gravity is relative doesn’t make it relative. Truth is something that is always true. That dictionary definition is interesting. It calls truth “that which is in accordance with reality.”
Absolute truth can be known, it can be learned and it can be taught to others. Scripture reveals God’s truth to us.
But how do we actually learn truth? It starts with God. He is, after all, truth. His Spirit is a very real presence in the lives of Christians, and one of His tasks is to reveal truth.
Jesus tells us three times in John’s Gospel that the Spirit of God is the “Spirit of Truth” – in chapters 14, 15 and 16.
John 16:13 is especially important. “When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.”
This verse tells us that the Holy Spirit will reveal the things of God to us, teaching us the truth. So as believers we are in a far better position to learn the truth because of the Spirit of Truth who lives within us.
The world, on the other hand, has a spirit within them that blinds them to the truth. There two verses in the Bible that makes this very clear.
2 Corinthians 4:4 – “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
And 1 Corinthians 2:14 – “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
There is also an underlying message in these words to Christians: We cannot and must not criticise and ridicule those who do not believe. This whole faith thing is illogical to them because they have been blinded by satan. Don’t throw stones at them; love them with the love of Christ instead, and at the same time thank God for the way He has removed your own spiritual blindness.
I left a well-paid job with all kinds of perks and possibilities of promotion to go into the ministry, and I clearly remember my boss’ reaction when I told him I was leaving. He had this strange smile on his face as he shook his head and said, “You know, I’ve seen this coming, but I just don’t get it.”
Of course, he wasn’t to know it, but he was simply confirming what we’ve just read from 1st and 2nd Corinthians. Non-believers ‘just don’t get it’ but by God’s grace, Christians do. We have seen the glory of Jesus Christ, because He has revealed Himself to us.
There is also tremendous power in truth.
When God’s truth enters our hearts, we begin to experience its power in our lives. In John 8:32 Jesus says, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The question is, free from what?
What were we before we came to Christ? Condemned. John 3:18 says “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already.”
But when we come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, we come to know the truth, and that truth sets us free from condemnation – from eternal death. That is the power of God’s truth. Knowing the truth is not simply knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is having God-given power to defeat death itself.
When you come to know the truth, you come to know something that sets captives free, opens blinded eyes, heals broken hearts, transforms shattered and ruined lives and fills people with the love of God, the peace of God and the joy of God.
The truth of God, once it takes root in our lives, changes everything. Last week we looked briefly at Jesus’ wonderful prayer in John 17. In verse 17 He prays “Sanctify them by the truth.” The word sanctify means “to render something holy; to dedicate or consecrate something to God.” So what Jesus is saying in this prayer is that the truth of God has the power to cleanse us and draw us closer to Him. When you yield yourself to the truth of God’s Word, and walk as the Spirit directs you, you will find your life becoming cleaner and more pleasing to God.
In John 4 Jesus has a conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and as He guides her into a deeper understanding of who He really is, Jesus says something of profound importance to all believers in verse 23 and 24: “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
What is He really saying here? The truth will make you want to worship. You see, real worship is us acknowledging Him to be our everything. Real worship is a heart thing, and it comes from a heart that has been saturated with His truth. Real worship is not about singing choruses or hymns in loud voices all in the same key and with perfect timing. Real worship happens when the Holy Spirit takes the truth of God and makes it clear to us. When we comprehend who Jesus really is, what He has done for us and what He is doing, it will leave us at His feet in humble, simple worship of Him.
But if we don’t understand the truth about who God is and what He has done, then our worship will be incomplete. We will continue to think that worship is only about singing. Until we know the truth about Him, we cannot truly worship Him. Do you want to really worship God? Then ask Him to move you to a deeper understanding of His truth.
So far today we’ve looked at what truth is and how important it is in our lives, but where do we really find it? The answer to that question is simple: Scripture.
Everything either stands or falls based on what we read in the Bible.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
If the Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God as it claims, then it and it alone is the final authority and standard of living for all of life. Not the opinions of men, the musing of great philosophers, or the teachings of great religious leaders. The Bible is the final word for all aspects of life.
In the preamble of the UPCSA manual of Faith and Order, it says of the Bible, “This Church accepts the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as inspired by the Holy Spirit to be the uniquely authoritative witness to Jesus Christ and as such the Word of God and the final rule of faith and life.”
However, and we need to spend some time considering the alternative - if the Bible is wrong and cannot be believed, then our foundations are destroyed and we have no faith, no hope and no rules. If the Bible is a lie, then there is no absolute truth. We are raising a generation that has been taught to doubt the truth of the Bible. When a child sits in a classroom and hears that the earth is billions of years old and that man evolved from a single-celled organism over millions of years, the foundations have been destroyed.
Let’s put it another way. If God’s truth does not exist, and we live in a survival of the fittest world, then why should sin bother us? If God did not make man in His image then it is not wrong to kill babies through abortion. It is not wrong to rape and murder other people because at the end of the day we’re all just animals. If man evolved, then there is no sin, there is no right and wrong, and there are no absolutes. You might as well live like you want because there is no Hell. There is no accounting to God and there is no after-life.
This is the absurdity of a world that refuses the truth of God. If there is no truth and it’s all just a matter of opinion, then what’s wrong with sin? What about Adolf Hitler? Why should the extermination of 6 million people whom he believed to be a sub-species bother us? Surely he was merely applying the principle of survival of the fittest, defined by his relative understanding of the truth?
But it does bother us, doesn’t it? Sin does bother us. And this is the gaping hole left in a world that insists on living without God. There are some highly intelligent atheists out there who will argue until they are blue in the face that God doesn’t exist. Those same people will also tell you that Adolf Hitler was wrong and that he is the embodiment of all that is evil, and they’d be right. But where does that understanding of right and wrong come from? It can’t have evolved, because evolution is about survival and nothing else. Kill or be killed. Eat or be eaten. That’s the mission statement of evolutionism.
But deeply rooted within the heart of every human being is an understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Where does that understanding come from? It comes from God.
When we take God’s Word and His commandments that set the standard of life and how we are to live our lives, and we say they are no longer relevant in modern society, we have undermined the foundations.
When we tell the world that the Bible cannot be trusted, we undermine the foundations. When we treat the Bible like a giant buffet and choose the parts we like and ignore the parts that bother us, we undermine the foundations.
There is a price to pay for that choice, and the price is the absence of absolute truth in the world today.
God’s truth, revealed in the Bible is so important. It is in this book where we learn about God, the creation of man, sin and the plan of salvation in Jesus.
If that foundation is destroyed, then there is no basis for truth, and if there is no truth then everybody is right and nobody is wrong.
But we can thank God for His truth, because without it we would have nothing to build our lives upon.
In John 14:6 Jesus tells us that He is the way, the truth and the life.
I was doing some research on this verse and came across this commentary that I thought was excellent: “Jesus plainly calls attention to the fact that He and He alone is the real deal. Jesus was and is the embodiment of truth. All other would-be saviours are merely pretenders. It doesn’t matter how many followers they have or how sincere their followers are. Jesus and Jesus alone is the way the truth and the life. Jesus and Jesus alone is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. Jesus and Jesus alone is the truth. All other men are liars and all other methods are lies, and they all lead down the broad road of destruction. They have their terminus in the fires of Hell. Jesus and Jesus alone is the door onto the narrow way that leads to life everlasting. Our world doesn’t like that truth, but it is still true, regardless of whether they like it or not!”
So what is truth? It is the difference between night and day, the difference between black and white. It is the difference between saved and lost.
What is truth? The Bible is truth. Jesus Christ is truth. And if you accept this as truth in your life, you have a standard for living and a purpose for your life. But if you reject them as your standard, then you have no absolutes and you can do as you please. But your attitude to the truth never has and never will define the truth. It has always been about God, and it always will be.
“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
We live in a world where the existence of absolute truth is denied.
Truth has become relative and “what is true for you may not necessarily be true for me.”
How do you understand the difference between absolute and relative truth?
It has been said that the principle of relative truth is fundamentally flawed, and cannot logically exist. Do you agree with this statement or not?
Discuss in your group some of the problems of relative truth.
Read John 8:31-36
What is Jesus really saying here?
What does He mean when He says that the truth will set us free?
In John 4 we read about the conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. Read Jesus’ words from verse 21 to 24.
What does the word ‘worship’ mean to you?
What does Jesus mean when He says we must “worship in spirit and truth?”
As we read through the Bible it becomes clear that knowing the truth is much more than having a mere understanding of what is right and what is wrong.
Truth is something which indwells us as Christians, and has the power to transform and shape our lives.
How have you experienced God’s truth in your life?
Close by praying for your non-believing friends and family.
Ask the Lord to bring them to an understanding of the truth of Jesus.