“Buy the truth and sell it not.” Prov. 23:23
John Bunyan’s incomparable story, Pilgrim ‘s Progress, sees Christian and Faithful passing through Vanity Fair (this world), where all kinds of merchandise are displayed for sale: houses, lands, trades, businesses, titles, public and ecclesiastical offices, countries, kingdoms; lusts, pleasures and delights, as whores, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold and all earth’s natural resources. One finds there the Italian Row with its beads, crucifixes, masses and Marian cult. There is the German Row with its philosophies and destructive higher critical mutilations of the Bible. The French Row has its fashions, art, skepticism, atheism, communism. debilitated immorality and blot of St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. The nation’s best no longer appear at this Fair. There is the Russian Row with its atheism, godlessness, its American-built-and-furnished factories, its Marxism upheld by lofty supporting columns of the wealth of American capitalism, its encroaching colonialism and expanding military machinery. There is the American Row with its opulence, agnosticism, apathy, crime, its moral decrepitude and political and military ineptitude. The merchants along these rows cry to passersby, “Come, buy! buy! Why don’t you buy?” To this hard-sell pitch the pilgrim’s answer, We buy the truth! We buy the Pearl of great price. We buy the Treasure hidden in the field. We will buy the truth at any cost. No price is too dear for it. Buy the truth! That commodity you must buy and never sell, give all for it and never exchange it.
It is having the truth which makes a man good. There was a man who, calling Jesus good, asked what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life. But he himself was not good for he was unwilling to buy the truth at the expense of all that he had. Others, too, thought the price of truth too steep, as Herod and Agrippa. Some had it (at hand, but not in heart), yet sold it, as Esau, Judas and Demas. The ungodly world lives, loves and worships the lie, while it holds the truth down in unrighteousness. It thinks the lie, desires it, speaks it, eats it, sings it, prints it, paints it and educates in its depths.
The false church, too, is especially devoted to the lie, much more so than the profane world. It operates the lie mill with a vengeance, corrupting the truth and its membership, so that it never buys the truth. It has sold out every vestige of it. Therefore, the great masses of people everywhere no longer know what you mean when you testify, I buy the truth! Nevertheless, consider:
- The Commodity. Negatively, be not deceived by any substitute. Beware of counterfeits. Accept no paper money, no debased coin. That is, have nothing to do with a “gospel” debased into “another gospel.” That is not “truth” which is thought to be so in man’s judgment. The following have not the truth: the philosopher, the modern politician, the atheist scientist, the well-educated but sans church news media man. “Thy Word is truth,” therefore, Buy the truth though it knocks your prejudices in the head, though it prove you foolish.
Positively, this priceless commodity is the truth. In its confessional form, it appears objectively in the Belgic Confession, subjectively in the Heidelberg Catechism and antithetically in the Canons of Dort. Buy up all that! Don’t sell any of it. Doctrinal truth it is. There is no truth without doctrinal truth. They err who tell you it is not a doctrine, but a person. It’s both! The scripture is profitable for doctrine, and by means of it to exhort with all longsuffering. II Tim. 3:16; 4:2.
Experiential truth is “truth on the inward parts, truth in the heart” (Ps. 51:6; 15:2). Only when the truth is rooted in the heart will there be a walking in the way of truth. There is a truthful way of doing everything and a lying way of doing things. There is a truthful way of peddling newspapers and a lying way of doing that. There is a truthful way and a deceitful way of doing business. Someone always asks, Must I go broke to be a Christian? I have to eat! I have to live! But no, it is not absolutely necessary to eat or to live. It is absolutely necessary to obey God and to live in strict conformity to the standard of truth. There is a truthful way and a hypocritical way of living the Christian life. The truthful way is in buying the truth and selling it not. The truth is not going to win the world (postmillennialism); it will shame the world! The truth is too sharp for the world. Yet do not compromise the truth by blunting its double-edge, nor by filing down the defensive-offensive fighting weapon it is to a harmless dress sword.
The command, “Buy the truth” implies that by nature we do not have it. We need not buy what we already have. By nature, we neither have it, nor love it, preferring to be flattered with clever myths and fictions. Therefore, we need grace to heed the injunction or we shall be destitute of the truth. (I Tim. 6:5).
Il. The Purchase of it means a parting with everything else. Does this mean that Christ, the gospel and salvation can be bought? In the sense of our text, yes, but not in any other sense. The only way to “buy” eternal life is not as Simon Magus thought to do, with money, but in the gospel sense, “without money and without price, ” and in harmony with the injunction, “Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves” (Matt. 25:9). Doing so, we heed the counsel, “Buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed.” (Rev. 3:18).
This means we shall be glad to part with all for the sake of the truth. We shall be willing to part with every sin, for we cannot hold with sin and buy the truth. We sin, yet can be saved, for God saves sinners; but we cannot love sin and be saved. For the saved are saved from the love of sin. To buy the truth is to depart from evil and do good.
Then procure nothing but the truth. Buy only the truth. Don’t waste time nor energy on anything other than the truth. Millions are spent on buildings for the doing of evil. Think of the properties owned and operated by the curious new cults. Many pulpits pour out a sugar-coated but deadly spiritual cyanide. Don’t buy that “evangelism” with the fancy “you can choose” label. (This means that the natural man can choose either the lie or the truth. But “the natural man receiveth—chooseth—not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know them—so how could he choose them?—for they are spiritually discerned”—it takes discernment to make a choice, and spiritual discernment to make a good choice. I Cor. 2:14.) No one has a natural, native desire for the truth. One must by God’s gift and grace be given the desire for it. He will never choose the truth who has no desire for it. Never will he choose it until he has a desire for it. Then to desire it is to choose it. Then he will say, in the love of the truth, “I have chosen the way of truth” (Ps. 119:30). Likewise of the natural man it is said, Prov. 17:16, “Why is there in the hand of a fool money to buy wisdom when he has no heart for it?” or, “no mind for it!” Why is a rich playboy packed off to college to secure an all-expense-paid education when his heart is not in it, or worse, he has no mind for it? Just so, no one will ever buy the truth as long as he has no heart for it.
Buy only the truth and it won’t be that ersatz truth of easy-believism or only-believism or the “just say ‘yes’ to Jesus” stuff. If it is not the truth it is not genuine. Frippery and flummery are for fools. When you know a thing is a fake, you hardly want it as a gift. Buy all the truth. Why pick and choose, buy a half truth? You won’t be satisfied with even a prime cut of truth; you must have the whole beef of truth. One truth balances another. Omit a truth and you become unbalanced. Calvinism is the truth. Then buy all of Calvinism. To mix half Calvinism and half Arminianism, or 70 per cent Calvinism with 30 per cent Arminianism is not to buy the truth but to sell it. “Buy of Me” Christ commands. To seek the truth elsewhere is to seek it in vain. The truth of His blood will wash away the false in you. The truth of His Spirit will blot out the darkness in you.
Ill. The Warning against selling the truth. Some do sell it. Some do because they deem the cost of truth too great, the price to quit sin too high. They talk about the truth, express a desire for it, but do not buy it. Some sell the truth because it’s fashionable to do so. They sell it because “everybody’s doing it.” Have you ever pled before your parents a course of action on such a “ground”? The answer to that is, That’s right! Everybody is doing it; but not in our family! Some sell the truth in the interest of what they think is respectability, which lesser commodity lies with the complex and the vague. But modern sophisticates are satisfied with less than the truth, which is too simple, too plain for them. Some sell the truth for the crowd, for comfort, for bread, or even for nothing. Others tire of the truth, become weary of it, like the man who deserts his wife because, with the novelty of married life worn off, he has grown tired of her.
What fools people are concerning wisdom and truth! For the one many turn to Theosophy, and for the other to Astrology. But where the gospel is purely preached they have no heart to buy what they simply cannot afford to be without. They’d sooner lose it than labor for it. Fight to get into the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 11: 12)? They go sleeping to hell! Some leave the oasis where the gospel is purely preached, and go sell the truth. As for those brainwashed cultists who remain in a “church” where they cannot discern that “the moon is not the sun,” they never buy the truth, but always sell it! The hypocrite will have it-for show-at the least expense possible. We have the truth, but it is not as though it cost us nothing. Sometimes it costs a job; it costs friends and relatives. Part of the price paid is the opening of the ear, the removal of the stony heart and transplant of a heart of flesh. It costs earnest, incessant prayer to God in the spirit of, “Lead me in Thy truth and teach me” (Ps. 25:5). It takes daily laborious searching of scripture, but nothing must stand between you and the truth; not money, pleasure, occupation, hobby, aesthetic interests, opportunity for marriage, girl-friend or boy-friend. Nothing must be dearer to us than the truth of God. We belong in the church where the faith of our fathers is living still, where the perfect doctrine of salvation is preached, taught and preserved. You do not buy the truth when you say something like, “Well, this or that church is close enough to the truth. ” To take such a stand is to place some man, or some woman, before God. The “close enough” contention sells out the truth. No church which is creedless, or with only a six-point or ten-point creed, or which has relegated its creed to the archives or to the glass case of the museum is “close enough. ” No church which is a reeking system of pagan superstition is anywhere near “close enough” to the truth. Buying the truth includes insisting that the pure, unadulterated Word of the gospel be in the pulpit. Be not content with proximity to truth, with fragments of truth, little pieces of truth. Get the truth itself!
Then is what you read the truth? Is what you hear the truth? Is your work and activity in harmony with the truth? Do you play according to the rules of truth? Are you so wholeheartedly on and involved in the truth that you have no “back room” of your consciousness devoted to something else? How far along in the truth are you?