Proclaim The Truth
By Jerry Jones
The early church was consumed with a desire to evangelize. Even before their eyes were opened to the fact that e Christian faith was more than a sect of Judaism, they read the news of the gospel everywhere. Just as Jesus said they would, they began at Jerusalem. After the Day of Pentecost, revival spread across the city, great miracles drew crowds including those who lived in surrounding towns, and thousands were filled with the Holy Ghost and were baptized in Jesus’ name. The disciples were arrested, threatened by a frightened council, released, rearrested, delivered from prison in the middle of the night, then arrested again, only to be released again. The most striking thing in the account of the Jerusalem revival was how powerless the council was to stop the revival and how utterly terrified they were of these uneducated and unsophisticated men. The Jewish leaders were simply paralyzed by their fear. It is also amazing to realize that the council was not afraid of the miracles the disciples worked, or the huge crowds that came to wherever they were. It was the preaching that they feared. Over and over the council commanded the disciples to stop the preaching and teaching: ”And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18).
Their threats did not stop the disciples; they continued to spread the good news everywhere. The result of their fearless and faithful preaching was incredible: people were filled with the Holy Ghost and baptized every day. It may be that in a matter of weeks as many as fifty thousand were saved. What was the secret of this great revival? It was not buildings, organized effort, or structure. Their secret was simple: the frustrated council itself described it best in Acts 5:28: “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us” (italics added). It was not personality, talent, or people skills. It was doctrine, pure and simple. The church in Jerusalem just would not quit proclaiming the doctrine, and God gave them revival.
“Ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.” The truth of the doctrine is the engine of revival; it is the hope of the world. Doctrine defines the church; it is what we preach, but it is much more: it is what we are. It is what makes us distinctive. To abandon doctrine is to abandon our very identity. In spite of what those who hate truth may say, doctrine properly preached and taught does not divide; it gathers people together; it turns their faces toward God. The powerful attraction embedded in truth calls to men and women in every culture and in every time.
Not so long ago I heard a preacher preaching from the sixth chapter of Hebrews. That happens to be a chapter that has long fascinated me, so I gave him all my attention. I was shocked and saddened by his comments on this wonderful passage. Here’s what the Word of God says: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit” (Hebrews 6:1-3).
The preacher focused on these first three verses of the chapter, and more specifically the first verse. He taught that what the Word was urging us to do was to leave behind our immature fixation on doctrine. It served us well in the past when we were small, weak, and needed protection from the enemies’ wiles. But now that we are grown up, we do not need to be so hard-nosed. All doctrine does at this point is to separate us from others from whom we could learn and who, in turn, could learn from us. So as the writer of Hebrews says, let us leave the principles of the doctrine behind us, and go on unto perfection.
What the preacher did, of course, was to pick and choose the expressions of the passage that fit his argument and ignored the rest. If we only read verse 1 up to the semicolon and stop there, the argument the preacher made that night sounds true. But the words that follow the semicolon modify the words that precede it; to ignore the words in the second half of the verse is to miss the meaning of the words in the first half.
Look carefully at the words after the semicolon: “not laying again the foundation.” Now we clearly see the meaning of the word “leaving.” It is not abandoning the doctrine, but building upon it. No building can ever be built if the foundation is constantly being dismantled and re-poured. The writer is telling us to stop re-laying the foundation, but to settle it once and for all.
It has been said that it is better to debate the issue without settling it, than to settle the issue without debating it. This may be true, but to constantly debate without finally settling the issue is surely the worst result of all. Especially when it occurs within our own hearts, it is evident that constant debate is paralyzing. Hebrews 6 is a clear call to end the debate. Certainly it is a scriptural concept to put ourselves in remembrance of our faith. But there must be some foundational truths that are inviolate. Some things must finally, and for all time, be settled. These are the anchor of our souls; they are the foundation upon which all other faith rests.
As a builder pours and finishes the foundation, and then completes the building, we must pour and finish the foundation of our faith. Hebrews 6 is not a call to move from doctrine; it is a call to establish doctrine. Not laying again the foundation is the imagery not of abandonment, but of settling with certainty, then building up from there. Foundations are not made to be abandoned; they are made to be built upon.
This matters because the most vital part of any building is the foundation. The importance of the foundation cannot be exaggerated, since the foundation provides stability for the entire structure. The Word of God uses this imagery to teach us that our lives must have a foundation strong enough to withstand the storms of life and to provide the basis of building a greater structure to the glory of God.
What happens when there is no good foundation? Sometimes the building collapses. This is what Jesus described in Matthew 7:24-27:
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it jell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
The foundation was so poor that the building collapsed, and all the labor of constructing it was wasted. We have all seen those who seemed to be doing well and who appeared to be strong in the Lord, yet they suddenly collapsed in a time of stress, almost overnight. Their dramatic demise took our breath away, and made us wonder how such things could happen. The truth is they simply had no solid foundation; they had never really settled their core beliefs. They had merely gone along with the way they were brought up, or had been taught when they first came to the Lord, but had never laid the foundation solidly and firmly in their own hearts. When our core beliefs are always up for grabs, our entire lives rest on a shaky foundation.
Sometimes the collapse is not so swift or dramatic but just a slow weakening until one day the structure is beyond repair. Usually this means the foundation is weak because it does not rest on biblical truth, or perhaps it is diluted by human opinion or the demands of the present culture. Michael Pollan, in A Place of My Own, describes the danger of a foundation that is not solid and true:
But long before our house would collapse, the shifting of its foundation would set in motion an incremental process that would doom the building just as surely. The slightest movement of the footings would ramify throughout the structure, gradually eroding one after another of its right angles; “trueness,” in the carpenter’s sense, is the first casualty of a poor foundation. First the door frame falls out of square, since it is braced on only three sides. Then the windows. A building is a brittle thing, and eventually its seal against the weather will be broken-through a crack in the roof, perhaps, or in the slight discrepancy that arises between a ninety-degree window sash and what has become an eighty-nine-degree window frame. Now a drip at a time, water enters the building and the process of its decomposition begins. As Joe put it, “Pretty soon, it’s termite food.”
What then should be our foundation? The basis of an enduring foundation is found in Ephesians 2:20: ”And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” The most interesting aspect of this passage is that Jesus is not the foundation; He is the chief cornerstone. The cornerstone is not part of the foundation, but rests on it.
Let me hurry to say that, of course, in one sense, Jesus is our foundation. “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:10-11).
But something else is in view in Ephesians 2. Among other things, Jesus is shown as the cornerstone because the emphasis is deliberately being placed on the apostles and prophets. This is to focus on the truth that our foundation is the Word, which God wrote through the apostles and prophets. The reason Paul was inspired to describe the “foundation” as the written Word instead of being Jesus Himself was that Paul wanted us to escape the trap the Jews fell into. The Jews did not recognize Jesus because they were looking for a Messiah who was the product of their imaginations, not the Word. You cannot build your life successfully on a Jesus of your own imagination. Our foundation is the Jesus of the Scriptures. A lot of people are in love with an idea, but not the reality. The question is whether your house is built on the Word. That determines whether it stands or falls.
The foundation for our Christian life is our “most holy faith” (Jude 20), which is the same as “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Doctrine is not just our introduction to God; it is the basis of our continuing relationship with Him. We cannot know Him outside His revelation of Himself, and that revelation is embodied in doctrine. That means to abandon doctrine is to abandon knowing Him. The church of the Book of Acts learned this truth very early: ”And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
Doctrine is as powerful as the engine of real revival and as essential as the foundation of life for a simple reason: it is the truth. There is a power to truth; it has a life of its own. There are some characteristics of the truth that are important for us to keep at the forefront of our thinking.
The truth is absolute. That means regardless of time, situation, or circumstance, the truth is the truth. It needs no one to agree with it to be true. It needs no one to believe in it to be true. This is astonishing to us who live in a society governed by polling data. If we read that 64 percent of Americans believe something, our subconscious reaction is to believe that makes it true. But 64 percent can be wrong. What percentage of people once believed the world was flat? What percentage once believed man would never fly? Indeed, the truth is that 100 percent can be wrong. “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:3-4).
The rejection of the concept of absolute truth has corrupted other fundamental aspects of logical thinking. One example is the change in the definition of the word “tolerance.” Tolerance means “to recognize and respect the rights, beliefs, or practices of others.” It does not mean one has to accept, or declare as right the beliefs or practices of others. If a preacher tells people they are saved without the Holy Ghost, or without being baptized in Jesus’ name, I respect his right to believe that, but I do not have to agree he is correct or that the Bible backs up that teaching. Tolerance does not require me to compromise my beliefs. We love people, no matter their lifestyle, no matter what they have done. But we must continue to point them in a better direction, toward God, toward the power that enables them to choose real righteousness. We must never be rude or hurtful; we must be tolerant, but we must stand for the truth.
This wrong idea about tolerance has led to another incorrect concept about truth; that is, the idea that everyone finds his own slant on truth and everybody is right. Look at II Peter 1:20: “Knowing this first that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” There is not one truth for me and another one for you. There is only one truth. Let us say someone decides it is only 50 million miles from the earth to the sun. Someone else believes it is 150 million miles to the sun. Now, they both cannot be right. In fact, they are both wrong. It is .about 93 million miles. One of them is burning up, the other is frozen, and it is still 93 million miles. The truth never looks back to see who is following; it just goes on being the truth. We must conform our opinions to the Word of God. If one preacher says that you are saved by faith alone, and another says that you must be baptized to be saved, they cannot both be right. And the truth is not affected by either of their opinions.
The truth is not only absolute, it is powerful-powerful enough to set men free. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). Falsehood and compromise cannot liberate; they only enslave all the more. To declare truth is to break the shackles that hold so many; it is to open the doors to the prison house. It is the only key. That is why we must proclaim truth. To do any less may gather a crowd, but it will not build a church because people are not set free from sin where there is no truth proclaimed.
The truth opens the way to God. Jesus met a woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar. After she realized she was speaking to a man with extraordinary insight into the things of God, she asked a question from deep in her heart: “Where can we find God? Some say Jerusalem, some say in a’ mountain near here, but I need to know where can I find Him?” Today many would tell her that it does not matter; God is not particular about what church or what faith you embrace; after all, all roads lead to God. That most decidedly is not what Jesus said. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). The truth is the only route to God. Not feeling, not sacrifice, not good works. Not even the presence of the Spirit, alone. There must be truth for men to find God.
Finally, truth alone will judge us. “The LORD, cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness and the people with his truth” (Psalm 96:13). We will not be judged by earthly standards of success, but by the truth. Not by the size of our congregations, the prominence of our ministries, or the number of those who know our name. We will be judged by the truth: did we preach it, did we live it, did we love it? The only way we will make a Global Impact is to preach the truth.
Man with his burning soul
Has but an hour of breath
To build a ship of truth
In which his soul may sail
Sail on the sea of death
For death takes toll
Of beauty, courage, youth,
Of all but truth.
This article Proclaim the Truth by Jerry Jones is excerpted from the book, Turning the World Upside Down, 2008.