The Truth is Obtainable
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
We live in a world where truth has come into question. Many people live their lives searching for truth wondering if they will ever find it. Some struggle with an inner conflict of what truth actually is and others resolve that it is simply either impossible find or always up for interpretation. This results in a false concept that no one can ever know the truth. In this article we show that spiritual truth can be obtained and known beyond any doubt, and that one's spiritual eternity can be staked upon God's truth without hesitation or regret.
Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say...?”
The book of Genesis teaches us a great deal about the craftiness of the devil in his ploy to tempt Eve to sin. He knew he could not change the truth so he tried to cause her to doubt as to what truth was. The Bible warns us that Satan is active in his schemes to distort the truth. When Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, Pilate asked Him,“What is truth?” (John 18:38). Personally, I have had many conversations with people who, like Pilate, question the possibility of there being a supreme truth.
It is important to understand that there are absolute truths. There are innumerable examples of absolute truths that we encounter every day. For example, it is undeniable that two plus two equals four. Just as there are absolutes in the physical realm, there are also absolute truths in regard to spiritual matters. So, when we examine all the evidence regarding the Bible and what it claims, we find that it clearly points to a divine truth that is not human in origin. A careful examination of the Scripture reveals that it's teachings are true, authoritative, accurate, without contradiction, and trustworthy. The Bible is the only document that withstands every scrutiny. In it we have pure truth in absolute form. Anyone can read and understand it with diligent study. It was not designed for only an elite group of theological intellects, but for everyone to be able read it. So when we make a claim to have faith in what the Bible teaches, that does not mean it is based upon blind hope but rather our faith is based upon solid and strong evidence.
Let's look at the meaning of the word “faith”. The New Testament Greek word that is translated as faith is pístis. In the Key Word Study Dictionary Spiros Zodhiates, a Greek Scholar, defines this word:
to win over, persuade. Faith. Subjectively meaning firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality or faithfulness (though rare). Objectively meaning that which is believed, doctrine, the received articles of faith.
This definition uses the phrase “firm persuasion or conviction”. It also tells us that it is a belief in the truth. To have a firm persuasion of anything our conclusions would need to be based upon solid evidence to support our faith. For example, I have faith that if I drop a rock from my hand- it will fall to the ground. This faith is based on solid scientific evidence that gravity exists. Even though I cannot physically see gravity, the evidence is overwhelming that it exists. Faith is always going to be based on some type of evidence. When we take a step of faith, we are basing our step on a firm persuasion of the evidence. The Bible in Hebrews 11:1 helps us understand exactly what is meant by faith. The NIV translates this verse as, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” The NASB “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The KJV, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” All of these translations do an excellent job translating this verse. Faith is being sure of, certain of, having assurance of, the conviction of, and evidence of things not seen. Going back to my example, if I drop the rock that I am holding in my hand, I know it will hit the ground because the evidence for gravity has assured me that it will cause the rock to hit the ground. Again, I cannot see gravity but my faith is in the truth that gravity exists. Biblical faith mentioned in the Bible is never a blind faith where we simply hope for the best. The Bible clearly tells us that we must have a saving faith in Jesus before we can have eternal life in heaven.
We believe that we can know the truth now and we do not have to wait for death to find it. Without question, humans are fallible and can make mistakes in our thinking and beliefs which is why we are blessed to have God's infallible Word. We can be certain of Biblical teachings, for example; salvation, baptism, the church, eternal security, free will, hell, trinity, Satan, prophecy, the law, Godly living etc. Finding or comprehending the truth is not any less probable, simply because people (or denominations) may disagree on any of these subjects. Satan can never change the truth so he tries to make us feel it is impossible to find or to know. His goal is to confuse people and he accomplishes this by making what is false appear to be true just as 2 Corinthians 11 teaches us. People who teach false doctrines do so by making them seem true, “I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments” Col 2:4. Proverbs tells us that we should investigate further on any matter that may at first seem to be true, because it may in fact be counterfeit: “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him” Prov 18:17.
But why are there differences of opinion when it comes to Biblical doctrines? How can different people or even denominations that are looking at the same text come to different conclusions? Here is one answer that Ron Rhodes gives from the website “Reasoning from the Scripture”:
Why do spirit-filled Christians interpret Scripture differently?
Scripture is clear that one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit is to illumine the minds of Christians so they can understand Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:13-14). This being the case, why do spirit-filled Christians sometimes have different understandings as to what certain Bible verses mean? In answering this question, one might liken the Holy Spirit to a radio station that is transmitting a perfect signal. Even though that radio signal is transmitted perfectly, there are all kinds of different quality radio receivers out there. Some have good reception; some have poor reception. Some have a good antenna; others have a broken antenna. Some have good batteries; others are low on energy. The point is, different radio receivers have varying degrees of success in receiving that perfect signal. Christians are much the same way. The Holy Spirit's "signal" (that is, His illumination) is always perfect. But because of varying circumstances (perhaps sin, or not fully walking in the Spirit, or being overly concerned about the affairs of the world, or being blinded by Satan), Christians have varying degrees of success in properly receiving the Spirit's illumination.
The idea is that our sin, or being overly concerned about the affairs of this world and other such factors, results in a faulty understanding of the Scripture. I will also add that our own personal bias, unwarranted faithfulness to tradition or family, and misplaced loyalty to a Church affiliation or denomination also causes us to be less receptive to the truth if it is different from what we have come to believe. But other factors also need to be considered, such as a person’s failure to simply read and study the text in context – understanding the meaning as it flows from the entire thought of the author. When there are “disagreements” they usually stem from a basic ignorance of the Bible all-together. It is not so much that people disagree about what the text says, but that people are basing their belief upon mere speculation and have never truly studied the Bible at all. A prerequisite for finding Biblical truth is a desire to find it. We must put all biases, preconceived ideas and traditions aside to be a good recipient of divine absolute truth. Another problem in solving disputes is the false notion that we have to somehow interpret the Bible. The Bible is not up for interpretation, it says what it says. The Bible does not say one thing to you and another to me; it says the same thing to all of us.
The Bible teaches us that when we seek the truth, we will find it.
Deut 4:29 But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Prov 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. [speaking of wisdom]
Matt 7:7 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find ; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Acts 17:26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
This is an important fact to see. No matter how difficult or how long it will take, if we sincerely desire to know the truth, I have faith that God (through the Bible) is going to fulfill that promise and guide us into the the truth.
The word “truth” (not counting it's equivalents) is found over 200 times in the Bible; clearly this alone shows us that truth is obtainable. Sometimes finding the truth about certain subjects can be difficult. It is not that God is trying to hide the truth, but He desires for us to search for it as we would labor for a hidden treasure. It is a discovery that results in a blessing.
Prov 2:1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
Searching the Scripture, and understanding what it teaches should never be considered a chore, but a joy and privilege. It can be very enjoyable and exciting to study the Word of God and learn all of the rich teachings it contains. Most doctrines are clearly understandable and while some teachings come easy to us they are also designed to have such rich meanings that we can continue to discover something from them each time we study God’s word.
Some people may hesitate to be assertive in stating they know what Scripture is teaching on a particular subject because they fear it will make them appear arrogant and presumptuous. However you can be humble and still confidently believe in what the Bible teaches. Would humility be lost to say that you know for certain that two plus two equals four? No. In the same manner we can be confident in certain teachings of Scripture. The Bible was written to communicate the truth to us in a way in which we can be conclusive about what it says. Otherwise, any attempt to read the Bible to discover its meaning would be in vane. God would not have given us His revealed Word and expect us to live by it if it were distorted and beyond our comprehension. Some people insist that if “scholars” cannot agree on a matter, then they cannot be capable of figuring it out either. This type of thinking, however, often squelches a person desire to study the Bible at all. I can appreciate a humble approach to searching the Scripture, but the truth can be found even when others, including scholars, cannot seem to agree. Again, some doctrinal truths may be difficult to understand, but they are certainly not impossible. It simply means we must study harder, dig deeper, think through passages, meditate, consider context in every way and pray for God to illuminate us through our endeavors. We have something greater than scholars, we have the source itself – let us start there and let it teach us. Just because other people have misconceptions and have been led into erroneous conclusions, does not mean that the truth is not possible to find, to know, and to live your life by.
Does God want us to know the truth and be conclusive about it? Yes! In fact it is vital to our eternal salvation. What we believe is crucial to where we spend eternity. We need to be sure that what we believe is right, without any doubt, when it comes to salvation! This is why our faith is based on solid evidence. Heb 11:1 - Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. We cannot enter eternity by hoping we got it right or relying on someone else's opinion. We must believe in the Biblical Christ and His truths. Not only is truth obtainable, but God desires for us to know it. Here is what John says,
1 John 5:13. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
The word “know” appears about 40 times in first book of John, many of which deal with our ability to know God and His truths. He also says:
1 John 2:21. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth.
Jesus says: To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth , and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32.
Jesus is teaching that we can know the truth. Neither Jesus nor John is showing a lack of humility by teaching us that we can and should know the truth. It is simply God’s desire that we come to the knowledge of truth, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim 2:3-4 Understand that we do not have to search aimlessly for the answers to life. It seems people search for answers in every kind of place or way, looking in places in which the evidence does not point to. The answers to life are in the Bible and God does not desire for us to be ignorant concerning what it says. Consider the following phrases that come from Scripture:
Romans 11:25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery… 1 Corinthians 10:1 1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact…
1 Corinthians 12:1 …I do not want you to be ignorant.
1 Corinthians 15:34 …for there are some who are ignorant of God — I say this to your shame.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about…
To be ignorant about something is to say we simply lack knowledge. We gain knowledge by taking the time to study and learn. God would not express to us His desire for us to be knowledgeable if finding the knowledge was impossible! This does not mean that we will always know every single detail about every single subject. While it is vital to know the truth about some issues, such as who Jesus Christ is, not every truth is vital in determining where one spends their eternal destiny. Nonetheless, every part of God's word is important.
Naturally there are some things that I still do not understand, but I believe with more study it is made possible for me to do so. There are also certain doctrines that I have firmly come to a conclusion on. While I am open-minded to Biblical evidence, there are times when the clear teachings of the Scripture and the exploration of its content will reveal an absolute truth. Since we know that two plus two equals four, it would not behoove anyone to continue searching all other possible equations to see if it is possible to make two plus two is not equal to four. All absolute truths follow the same logic, including Biblical truths. It is Biblical to be open to learning the truths of God’s word, but it is also Biblical to stand firm in those truths once they are discovered. Paul wrote:
Eph 4:14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, NASB
To say we are open minded to God’s Word is to say that we are open to a continual learning of the rich teachings within it. When we are presented with evidence from Scripture, with context and proper application, then we are able to correct our thinking. This does not necessitate that all our thinking is in error, and some obvious, clearer teachings of the Word of God can never truly be challenged; such as the deity of Christ. There are some plain teachings of Scripture that are fairly easy to apprehend; though it is possible that the student of God would desire to learn more about these truths. When we are introduced to a new friend, it is our desire to learn as much about that friend as we can. The same should be true of Jesus and His word. To study it will not reveal anything contradictory, but rather it will compliment what we have already discovered. Learning more about Him and His word does not change the truth, instead it enhances or amplifies the already existing truth. There may be something in Scripture that we can apprehend, but find hard to comprehend. As an example, we can know and understand that there are three persons within the Godhead – but to fully comprehend this truth is difficult. Another example is that of eternity. While we know there is an eternity without time or without end, it is hard to comprehend this truth. Peter writes:
2 Peter 3:16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Peter is speaking primarily about the fundamental ability to comprehend some of Paul’s letters, not the inability to ascertain the meaning of the text from an academic level. Again it is true, it seems that there are simply some passages that are difficult to actually understand. This only challenges us to dig deeper and try harder, utilizing the resources that God has given us – including our thinking ability. Obviously, there are some things that are foolish to attempt to find the answers to. To spend a lifetime searching debatable matters that hold no possibility of biblical growth, is futile, such as; exploring what the thunders uttered in Revelation chapter ten, if Adam had a belly button, or what color eyes the apostle Peter had. Many more examples could be given, but logically we must discover the truth that is relevant to life and godliness.
Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.
In our search for truth we must also recognize the fundamental fact that if the majority of people believe something this does not automatically make it right. It is easy for all of us to fall into this type of group thinking. Sometimes I feel better when I am researching a subject and find that someone other than me has come to the same conclusion. To a degree, this is beneficial as it can add confirmation, but this is not the way in which we find truth. There are many large organizations and religions, such as Mormonism, that teach false doctrines and are wrong in their beliefs. This illustrates that a majority of an opinion does not make it a truthful one. A person’s status, intellect, understanding, position, or the number of people following them does not make a doctrine correct! As an example, the most intelligent, well known, experienced doctor in the world could be wrong when diagnosing a patient. Likewise, the most thought provoking, intelligent, knowledgeable theologian can be wrong in his doctrinal conclusions. Though they may help guide us into the truth and we can learn from them, we cannot rely upon mere man to give us the truth. The Pharisees were the most elite, religious sect during Jesus' ministry and He continually told them that they were doctrinally wrong and blinded by their traditions. We have the most valuable resource available to us, the Bible, which teaches truth. We can read and study it on our own and come to correct conclusions after we have researched the text.
A common question is, “Who is to say that what you believe is right and everyone else is wrong?” The answer is very simple - the Bible teaches the truths that I so fervently believe. Our source for truth is ultimately always found in the Word of God alone. You may have heard of the familiar illustration of the blind men and the elephant where people conclude that everyone can have an opinion about who God is and suggests that all roads lead to Him. Many people agree this is indeed true. Let us look at the poem from which this orginates:
American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) based the following poem on a fable which was told in India many years ago.
It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind
The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”
The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, “Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”
The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”
The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee.
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
“ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”
The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”
The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
Moral: So oft in theologic wars, The disputants, I ween, Rail on in utter ignorance Of what each other mean, And prate about an Elephant Not one of them has seen!
Here is the problem, all of these men were blind – none of them could actually see the truth! They were all wrong about the elephant, but had they been able to see they would have surely agreed about what an elephant was like. The Bible is an illuminating force that allows us to see the truth about God. When we study and read it we will not be like the blind men and the elephant, we will realize the truth. Satan blinds those who do not believe:
2 Cor. 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.
Jesus can cause our blindness to disappear as we learn from Him by studying His word. When we actually do this, we will see the falsehoods of those who teach erroneous doctrines much like the blind men would realize the ridiculous notions they had before they were able to see. The more of the Bible we study, the more we will recognize and discern truth from lies. Bank tellers do not learn what counterfeit money is by just studying counterfeit money. Instead, they handle the true money so much that spotting counterfeit money comes easy. The same is true of the Spiritual truths.
There are resources that are available to help us in our endeavor to study the truth. As I end this article I want to share some of the basic helps, without getting too specific:
Ø The Word of God alone is the most valuable of any other resource. By simply reading through the Bible we can learn and grow in knowledge. I would suggest studying the Bible with different trustworthy translations such as the NIV, NASB, ESV, KJV, NKJV, NET. The standard comes from the original Greek and Hebrew.
Ø Internet – This is such a valuable resource that we can research endlessly. For example, to study the truth about evolution or creation, there are countless sites devoted to this. Of course there are many dangerous sites that espouse false teachings, but there are also a vast number of great sites and ministries that offer good solid teachings and studies. Test all teachings by the whole Word of God.
Ø Computer programs – I use a Bible computer program that allows me to research any Greek or Hebrew word, search any phrase, search any topic, search different commentaries all with a few clicks of the mouse. My most valuable resource.
Ø Commentaries and Dictionaries are in abundance, but we have to make sure they are credible.
Ø Study Bibles today are full of cross references, maps, notes, and charts. Again, make sure they are accurate.
Ø Most of all the Holy Spirit - God promises that He will illuminate us and guide us into all truth. This is accomplished through His word, understood in context.
John 8:32 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free ."