“Thy Word is truth.” John 17:17. In the Lord’s (high priestly) prayer the complete thought is, “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth.” People are always saying, Why so much doctrine? We need more practical teaching on how to live the Christian life! But why this separation of doctrinal truth from practical truth? For neither the Bible nor the gospel in it make such a disjunction. This text and the entire Bible join inseparably holiness and truth. So that it is far from right to have as a maxim or motto, No creed but Christ! Or to think Christianity is not a creed, but a life. Christianity is the right kind of life which grows out of right doctrine. So that without truth there is no holiness. Truth always promotes holiness. False doctrine and error lead to sin. Paul in writing to Timothy (I Tim. 1:6, 7) warned of certain would-be teachers warped with a twisted understanding. From the simplicity of faith they “turned aside”, or “twisted out” of the way, and as a result their life and conduct was dislocated and distorted. Therefore, the mind must be filled with truth or the life will be filled with filth. Truth must be conceived as a straight line which, drawn through the heart, sets man, from the very center of his being, to walking (living) in the truth. It is just not possible to go ahead and live a godly life while neglecting sound doctrine. Where good doctrine flies out a vacuum sets in which poisonous error will fill. It is plain from this chapter that a sanctified life is a reality only when God sanctifies us through His truth.
Truth, or what we mean by “doctrine”, is brought to us from God’s Word as revealed in Holy Scripture. False doctrine is a perversion of the truth of God’s Word, has no congruence to truth and cannot sanctify nor be a means to sanctification. There are all kinds of sophisticated errors in doctrine which inflate your pride to make you think you are sanctified. Will we be satisfied with the boast of sanctification when the fact of it is not a reality? The religious cults boast a spurious morality. Their boasted acceptance before God is just as counterfeit. For God sanctifies His people by the truth and by nothing but the truth.
The question is, What is the truth? Is that the truth which comes to men by some private medium? That is the way the “Mooneys” get their “truth.” Is that the truth which comes by some bizarre, extra-biblical revelation? Will we be imposed upon by some silly story of a self-made prophet who found a “divine revelation” written in re-formed Egyptian (whatever that is) on golden plates? Do we today get the truth via dreams, visions, voices or extra-sensory perception? Is it possible that genuine revelation from the true and triune God may come from some ancient, scrawny “holy” man under the influence of peyote? Such delusions are for the deceiver and the deceived. For us, God’s word of truth is to be found in the canonical scripture. Truth which sanctifies in a godly life is, and is found in, God’s Word. Religious cult members come to our doors saying, Lo, here is Christ! Believe it not. They tell us that they are sent of God to us with His message. We may answer them with the reply that the Lord has already been here for years and remains the Head of our home. Further, He has already written the eternal truth of His word upon our hearts. They tell us that Christ is not the true God, but was the first creature which later became a man. Then answer them. You tell us what the Spirit does not tell us. How then can you be sent servants of God’s Spirit? Tell them that although they go from door to door with the old lies of the Arian, Socinian and unitarianistic heresies which deny the deity of Christ, the church has always fought and repudiated these heresies and it will continue to do so. But to answer the question at the beginning of this paragraph, we say, “Thy word is truth!” Forty-one years ago a seminary professor faithfully taught me the meaning of these beautiful words from John 17. More recently, in connection with a sermon of his entitled, “What is Truth?” he composed the following poem.
How glib thou witnesseth to Truth!
The aged Athenians’ wisdom’s skill Have sought to mine that hill,
One nugget of certainty to find,
But could not with their mind!
Speakest thou thus to me—so soon to be thy judge To live—or kill?
I’ll answer with the question that ends all,
For nought we find ‘til first we frame its shape within the mind:
What is truth, O Youth?
How can his officer of Rome behold and see that I, even I, am He?
The one Eternal God who knows and sees Myself eternally to be,
The ground and Cause of All—
Invisible to eye—
Yet Man, I came to die!
Out from the Father’s Throne I’ve come To reveal His truth to men—
And caused them to know By My words written true,
In Revelation’s Book,
Mine through and through,
The One to whom no man can come But by his faith in Me.
Yea, I am the Truth, and He Who with Me didst command
So all things came to be—
E’en souls and lands and sea—
The truth are we!
In Him I am, and He in Me!
The Bible is God’s Book For everyone to see Eternal, changeless things.
The truth men seek;
But faith’s the fee!
—Rev. Prof. R. K. Rudolph
The truth is fixed. The scripture cannot be changed or broken. The eternal truth has always been in the world. Not so error, heresy and the lie. They crept into the church; but every form of them on the basis of scripture has been refuted and condemned as false. These heresies change, take new forms, creep back into the church, if they can. But the truth remains the same, remains perfect! The Holy Spirit, the Author of scripture, has never had to revise or retract anything He has said. He never adds nor subtracts from His Word. But He pronounces plagues on those who do.
“Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth” expresses the motto and stand of our families, our churches, our Christian schools, our seminary, our missions, our publication and Reformed committees. This is not the stand of the religious cults, of theological modernism or of the public schools. It is also different in the modernist seminaries and in the universities. Very different it has always been with the various schools of philosophy. These all operate on the basis of presuppositions which have absolutely no place for the being of God, His creation of the universe and His upholding and governing it all. Nor do their presuppositions include the fact that God has in His word of truth also given an infallible interpretation of all created reality. This is sadly wrong. But nothing of this shakes us one bit from our stand on the impregnable rock of holy scripture. As to the enemies of the truth, Psalm One tells us that they shall not stand in the Judgment. But he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.
That brings us to say that we must be just as unbending in our stand that not only does the truth make us free, but it also surely makes us holy. “Ye shall know the truth” means to hold and prize the truth in more than an intellectual knowledge of it. It means to understand it in the love of it. So that we just do not know the truth aright unless it makes us holy. We do not walk in the truth unless it directs us in a sanctified life. Dare we claim to be men of truth, unless we are a holy people? Where there is a failure in the holiness of our church members, or in the sanctified conduct of our Christian school pupils, what has happened to the truth among us? Has it fallen in the streets? When behavior in these spheres is not according to scripture, shall we say that in such a case there is no doctrinal issue? Can it be that the truth is still held even though true godliness is in a serious decline? We can never be without a doctrinal issue, for the truth, and faith in the truth, must always motivate our every thought, speech, action and emotion. Where this is not the case, then on the practical side too there is decline from the truth. Looking everywhere in the Reformed community we still find the Reformed confessions, the creeds, the Three Forms of Unity; but are we, practically, walking in obedience to that glorious body of truth? We have lost our testimony to the truth before the world when we cannot commend it with a holy life. We have the infallibly inspired Book and the faithful preaching of the Book. Do we also have the hallowed influence of the Book and the pulpit in the pew? A minister friend, now in Glory, loved to say, “I believe the Bible from cover to cover. I believe the cover too. It says, Holy Bible.” He was a man who longed and strove for perfect holiness. Do I? Do you?