Pilate asks a very important question, one he, unfortunately, does not appear to have really been interested in getting an answer to. But the question of what is truth really is an important question that should be pondered by all of us.
And, of course, in light of the particular purpose for which we are gathered today, we want to take special note of the relationship of truth to religion. Is it possible to have one without the other?
Look up “Truth” in the dictionary: “The body of real things, events, and facts. The body of true statements and propositions. The property of being in accord with fact or reality. In accordance with fact.”
Real truth is based in reality and fact. We have observed it ourselves, or learned it from a source whose reliability is confirmed by known facts.
Truth is not subjective and dynamic, but objective and inelastic. Reality of jumping out a 20 story building. Truth will not change just because I may believe that I can fly. Important to know truth, because it is important to deal with reality.
Now consider what we would find for “Religion:” “A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. A cause, principle, or set of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”
Any set of beliefs, attitudes, or practices fervently and faithfully held to can be described as religion. Unlike truth, a person’s religion can change.
Answers our earlier question. Truth and Religion do not necessarily go hand in glove. I can be religious without having truth. Paul in ACTS 17:22 – They had religion, but it was not a religion based in the truth.
JOHN 8:32 “. . . You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Note in previous verse, He stated what is involved in knowing truth – JOHN 8:31-32. I want to be free from condemnation/consequences of sin. So this all tells me that à
I. TRUTH IS IMPORTANT. The truth itself, and my knowledge of it. Indifference of many in the religious world toward truth is amazing – and disturbing. All kinds of things that people do, or do not do, because they know the truth (Exercise, touch the eye of a hot stove). Recognize the importance of truth in the physical world.
Mission to space. Every minute is planned. Every conceivable condition that may be faced is anticipated. Because Cold equations of physics do not change, just because we neglect to think of something. Even the launch (sway of the orbiter).
People don’t think the same idea applies to spiritual matters. Don’t step in front of an oncoming bus, but practice whatever religion you want. Don’t worry about seeing if that religion will save you.
Just as errors in physical truths can result in physical destruction, errors in spiritual truths result in spiritual destruction.
1. Christ came to bear witness to the truth – John 18 (text). And He noted in John 8:31-32 that it is the truth that makes people His disciples.
2. Because He wants people to know the truth, He sent the Holy Spirit – JOHN 16:13. H.S. who moved the apostles and writers of the New Testament to say what they did. Gave an objective standard by which we can evaluate the things taught. He knew the importance of truth, we should as well. So à
II. WE THUS NEED TO KNOW WHAT IT IS IN MATTERS OF RELIGION AND FROM WHENCE IT COMES. Religious practices are worthless if they are not based in truth – MATTHEW 15:7-9. Jesus here speaks to people who were very religious. Their religion was based more on traditions than the commands of God.
Even today, many people look to their religious traditions – their church – for truth. Sounds like a good idea at first. But note that different churches are teaching different things.
1. Even in New Testament times, we find that churches were sometimes found to be in error – GALATIANS 1:6-9. Think also of several of the churches addressed in Revelation.
2. Membership in these churches will not provide the salvation that we all need, as the churches themselves are alienated from God – 2 TIMOTHY 4:1-4.
3. The point is that it is not the church, whatever church we’re talking about, that establishes truth, or determines what truth is.
The church described in the Bible is to be the “Pillar and Ground of the Truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15.
1. The terms Paul uses refer to things that provide support to a structure. The church is the support of the truth. God has given truth to the world, and established the church to be the custodian and dispenser of that truth. If the church is doing its job, then this is what it does.
2. Too many churches are not doing their job in this regard. Rather than being the support of the truth in the face of doctrines that oppose it, they are often formulating those doctrines themselves.
C. There is a difference between being the support of the truth and being the “Source of the Truth.” The church is not the source. The authority of the church does not supercede the authority of God, or of His word.
1. The Lord is the source – JOHN 17:17. Not left to the early Christians to figure out how they wanted to do things. That wouldn’t lead them to the truth. He sent the Spirit to guide them in the word of God.
Revealed to us through His word – 2 TIMOTHY 3:16-17. These verses provide enough material for an entire sermon by themselves.
a. For doctrine – To know what the church ought to teach, because what the church teaches matters, if we want to know the truth.
b. For reproof – For testing and proving that which is true, and identifying that which is not. Think of the Bereans in ACTS 17:11.
For correction – For providing information we need to correct error, or sin.
For instruction in righteousness – Sometimes hear discussions on how it can be that so many good and righteous people can be wrong. But how has it been determined that these people are good and righteous? Only God has the authority to make that determination, and He shows us what is good and righteous through what is written. The scripture instructs us in righteousness. God is the source of truth in this regard, not humans, and not human organizations, even religious organizations.
Once we know how important truth is, and from whence truth comes à
III. WE SHOULD HAVE AND DEMONSTRATE THE PROPER REGARD FOR THE TRUTH. Note the praise Paul heaps on the Thessalonians in 1 THESSALONIANS 2:13. They knew the importance of truth, and they knew from where truth came. Therefore, when they heard the word of God, they gave it its proper regard.
Respect for the truth demonstrates a respect for its source. When Eve chose to believe Satan, she set God aside as the source of truth and authority. The real question being determined on that day was not about eating a piece of fruit.
1. LUKE 6:46-49. Do you hear the frustration in Jesus’ voice? If you hear the word of God, and demonstrate a lack of respect for it by not doing it, you demonstrate a lack of respect for God Himself.
2. LEVITICUS 10:3. Nadab and Abihu had religion. But they didn’t treat God as holy. By setting aside what He had commanded in this regard, they demonstrated a lack of regard for Him.
3. If we would demonstrate our love for the Lord, we must demonstrate our love for His word.
Because I do want to demonstrate my love and reverence for God, I should apply the same zeal to knowing His word that I would to knowing Him. Because you cannot know Him without knowing His word.
1. PSALM 119:11 – “That I might not sin against thee.” Verse 148 says that his eyes remain awake in the night watches, so that he can meditate on this word. As for those who do not have regard for the Lord’s word, verse 158 describes them as treacherous. Think there’s any room in heaven for the treacherous?
2. 1 TIMOTHY 4:13 – Reading what? The scripture. Glean all that you can from what God has provided.
Desire for information like this should supersede all ideas of pride or personal glory. Gazing intently into the truth, you may find that it will provide you with disturbing information. May call upon you to acknowledge error. If so, just do it. The truth will not change, no matter how much you wish it would. Best just to demonstrate respect for it, and its Author, by getting your life in line with it. PHILIPPIANS 3:8-11. This all tells me that à
IV. ANYTHING THAT WOULD STAND BETWEEN US AND GETTING TO THE TRUTH SHOULD BE CAST ASIDE. So many factors can stand between us and getting at the truth. Based on what we’ve looked at this evening, we should allow none of them to do so.
A. Man-made creeds – REVELATION 22:18-19. May even include some of the things “we have always done,” congregational tradition.
B. Human reasoning – 1 CORINTHIANS 1:21-25. What makes sense to us does not necessarily indicate that it is God’s chosen way.
C. The scorn of the unbelievers. Could be those who scoff at religion in general, or those who are religious, but scoff at the notion that the truth may exclude some religious people – EPHESIANS 4:4-6
Truth is important. If we can recognize that fact, find the proper source, and go after it with all we’ve got, casting aside anything that will keep us from getting to it. Then we will be well on our way to our home with God. MATTHEW 7:13-14. The truth will exclude a lot of people from heaven. Make sure it doesn’t exclude you.