What Is Truth?
Ken M. Denney
“I would become a Christian if I ever met one”…Mahatma Gandhi
According to World Christian Encyclopedia (2001) there are over 38,000 Christian denominations worldwide. We would have to presume they all believe they know the truth! With all this confusion who knows the truth? Jesus said only a few are going to enter the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:14). I would like to encourage you to consider this message; each of us will have a special day with God to answer if we know the truth! So…what does it mean to know truth?
Doctrine Verses Truth
Knowing doctrine and knowing truth is not the same thing. Doctrine is to know facts about the truth; truth is reality and bears fruit. We can be 100% accurate in doctrine and not know the truth. If we teach “the truth will make us free” this is doctrine (John 8:31-32); when we are set free we know the truth of that doctrine. It is possible to have false doctrine, it is not possible to have false truth (Matt. 16:12, 1 John 2:21). Even if our doctrine is true it does not mean we know the truth (1 Thess. 1:5-7, Phil. 1:18).
Let’s simplify; a college professor asks for 300 copies of your doctrine and drops them on the desks of his students informing them there will be a test the following week. Test day arrives and all of the students score a 100! Do they know the truth? No! They know your doctrine. Truth does not come instantaneously it begins as a seed planted in our heart and it grows until it bears fruit causing us to become a living testimony to the truth (Matt 13:23)!
Where does false doctrine come from?
False doctrine began in the Garden of Eden and it has spread like wildfire throughout the history of man. How did it begin? God planted trees in a Garden and told Adam they could eat from any of them except one “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. Lucifer being envious of God’s new creation set out to destroy God’s relationship with man (Genesis 3). The beginning stages of false doctrine start with Lucifer’s discourse with Eve.
Genesis Chapter 3
Lucifer said: “Did God really say, ‘you can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”
Lucifer begins by asking Eve a question to find out if she is really listening to God. Lucifer’s opportunity for deception comes when God’s voice begins to fade and his word becomes distorted.
Eve said: “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’” Eve added to God’s command; God did not tell Eve she could not “touch it”. She apparently figured it was best to be on the safe side and add to what God said. She meant well but she misrepresented God. False doctrine has good intentions however when man starts adding to God’s word and more men add to God’s word you end up with a lot of confusion. We are warned to beware of men who add commandments God did not give (Col. 2:20-22).
Lucifer said: “No! You will not die.” False doctrine teaches excerpting our will over God’s will is not fatal as long as we are promoting the furtherance of God’s cause! False doctrine shy’s away from teaching we must do the will of God and obey his commandments to be saved (Matt. 7:21, 1 John 2:3-6).
Lucifer said: “in fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” False doctrine lures us into thinking the righteousness of God is mental. It suggests our relationship with God is not a factor for us to know what is good and what is evil. False doctrine teaches if you do what our doctrine says you will be like God and He will know you! False doctrine makes it appealing to bypass maturing at the hand of God and suggest we can be like God in our own time.
One Doctrine – One Truth!
Doesn’t it make since the Spirit of Truth is going to lead all true believers to the same place in truth (John 16:13)! Is God going to lead people into 38,000 different doctrines or even two different doctrines? There is only “one” true doctrine and it points to the truth! What the trees represent!
1. The tree of life represents wisdom and righteousness which come from God (Proverbs 3:18, Proverbs 11:30, James 3:17).
2. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents self-knowledge and self-righteousness which come from sources other than God (James 3:15-16).
Adam and Eve could also eat from other trees in the garden which may also represent knowledge. These trees may represent God’s word digested at different stages of spiritual maturity (Heb. 5:13-14). Have you ever wondered why they did not eat from the tree of life first? Most likely it did not appeal to them at this stage of their spiritual maturity. Typically a toddler does not care much for carrots or green beans until you mix in a little fruit. Each tree may represent a deeper understanding of God’s word until we are prepared to eat from the Tree of Life (Proverbs 3:18)!
Who teaches true doctrine?
Jesus said whoever does the will of God will know if the doctrine is from God or man (John 7: 16-18). The only way we can know for sure who is a teacher from God is if we are doing God’s will. To do God’s will we must listen to his voice and follow the Spirit of truth (John 16:13, 1 Jn. 2:27)! If we are doing God’s will He will tell us if a teacher is of the truth or not.
Do we know the truth?
We know the truth if we exhibit the truth (Luke 6:43-46, Gal. 5:22-25)! We must be careful not to mistake knowledge over truth. If we love the truth the seed of truth will grow in our heart and we will bear the fruit of truth! Those of the truth listen! Those who seek the truth are drawn to it, they hear the voice of Jesus (John 18:37). Those who are not of the truth cannot hear him (John 10:26-28, 2 Tim. 4:3-4). Those of the truth come to the light!
Those who are true come to the light and manifest they are God’s workmanship (John 3:21, Isa. 64:8). The light exposes our sin and we become aware of what God already knows, we are a sinner in need of him. We must come to a true understanding of ourselves and in humility believe God to deliver us from sin and trust him to mold us into what he wants us to be. Others walk away from the light not wanting to see themselves for who they truly are therefore establish their own righteousness (John 3:20, Rom. 10:2-3).
Truth is birthed out of death!
Jesus said; “If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it” (Luke 9:24). What does it mean to lose our life for Jesus sake to save it?
When Adam and Eve sinned they died to “life in the spirit” and began living “life in the flesh”. What that means is they chose to set their mind on earthly life rather than spiritual life (Rom. 8:5-6). As a result God lost his place in their heart. Up until the time of the messiah God was limited to the relationship he could have with man because he had to develop it from the outside inward. God’s life which is life must come from the inside, the heart. When Jesus died on the cross he paid the price for sin and when he rose from the dead he provided a way for God to regain his place in our heart. Jesus said “I am the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Truth and Life are summoned up in Jesus!
Having this knowledge alone is not enough; the life of Jesus must be formed in us for us to know the truth! The truth becomes a reality as we identify with Jesus which includes dying with him (Phil. 3:10, 2 Cor. 4:11, Gal. 2:20, Gal. 5:24, Matt. 16:24, Matt. 10:38). We can know about the truth but we cannot know the truth until Jesus is formed in us! If we are not bearing the fruit of truth we do not know the truth (John 12:24). Either a tree will bear good fruit or it will bear bad fruit it cannot bear both (Matt 7:18).
This is why so few people find the truth because it only comes by dying to our carnal nature so the life of Christ can be manifested in us (Rom. 6:5, Phil. 3:10). Jesus died so we could die with him, it is no longer us that lives but it is Christ that lives in us. Adam died to the spirit; we must die to the flesh (our carnal nature) through Christ to regain our union with God! Our carnal nature will put up quite a fight because it does not want to die (Rom. 8:5-8, Gal. 5:17) it wants to be religious on its terms. The more Christ is formed in us the more truth we know because he is the truth!
Reckon yourselves dead…Rom. 6:11
“Reckon” in Romans 6:11 is an important word to understand, it means “count”. When God leads us to his word we are to “count” it as done! God calls things which are not as though they were (Rom. 4:16-17). Instead of simply promising Abraham he would make him the father of many nations, it was of such certainty God spoke of it as already done (Gen. 17:5). This also explains Apostle Paul’s concern for the Colossians “If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?” They were counted as dead with Christ but the fruit of their faith had not yet appeared (Col. 2:20). They were still trying to obey the commandments of men which means they had the doctrine of dying with Christ but they had not actually died to know the truth (Phil. 3:10).
Who is deceived?
Those not doing God’s will cannot enter the Kingdom of God (Matt. 7:21) and they are not guaranteed the doctrine they are receiving is from God (John 7: 16-18).
Who are the deceivers?
Deceivers transform themselves into the apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:13-15). They focus on the outside rather than the inside (Matt. 23:25-27). They themselves are blind thinking they are doing the work of God (Matt. 15:14, John 5:39-40). God himself will send a strong delusion to some who do not love the truth and they will believe a lie and be damned (2 Thess. 2:10-12, 1 Cor. 6:9-11).
A vital mistake is to place our soul in the hands of a religious sect based on doctrine only, no matter how true their doctrine is. The greatest of deceivers are those who lead spirit filled Christians with true doctrine but do not know the truth.
The doctrines of men!
Jesus quotes Esaias who prophesied of the religious leaders of his time calling them hypocrites because they worshiped with their lips but their heart was far from God. Their tradition and doctrine came from the commandments of men and not God therefore God’s commandments had no effect (Matt. 15:6-9).
Paul asks the church at Colossae why they still submit to ordinances (Touch not, taste not, handle not). On the outside it promotes ascetic practices and humility but they have no value curbing self-indulgence. He warns this is the doctrine of men (Col. 2:20-23)!
Deception in the last days!
Jesus said there will be great deceivers in the last days who appear to be ministers of Christ and if possible they will deceive even the elect but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (Matt. 24:21-24). When God’s voice begins to fade his word becomes distorted and we become open game for deception!
Who are the true!
God is love! He created us to commune with him and be like him. Apostle Paul beautifully shares with us what it means to be a true Christian…“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears al things, believes all things, hopes al things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)! God wants all men to come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4)!
This article “What Is Truth?” by Ken M. Denney was uploaded to AIS by the author. June 2011. It may be used for study & research purposes only.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”