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September 5, 2012 3 Comments

by Peggy Pederson

Nikolai Ge's painting "What is truth?"

Pilate asked Jesus: “What is Truth?” But Truth was standing right in front of him, because Truth is a person. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

Now in the middle of US Presidential elections, “Spin” is flying fast and furious, and those of us in Canada cannot help but hear it all the way up here. “Spin” is a euphemism for distorting the truth to one’s advantage. We are presented on a regular basis in newscasts with some public person being caught out in a lie, and in between the news items are advertisements also filled with half-truths, near-truths, near-lies, and deception. Even the “independent” news organizations disagree on the facts.  Eye witnesses to events report different accounts and each swears that his or her own is accurate. Even formerly-believed “scientific truths” are replaced with new understandings. We might well wonder whether anyone can ever get to the real truth. No wonder Pilate asked, “What is Truth?”

One comment Christians frequently hear about the Bible is that people don’t believe it. When you ask why they don’t believe, they often remark that they have either their own truth or they don’t believe that absolute, capital “T” Truth exists. The phrases “whatever floats your boat” and “your mileage may differ” pretty well sum up the prevalent societal attitude toward truth.

Some of this may be the result of our own postmodern relativism, but certainly the roots were there already in the Garden of Eden. The Serpent questioned the Word of God right there in the beginning: “Did God say…?”  The implication being “Maybe He isn’t God after all, or the only God, or a good God,” and “How do you know He said it, or that your interpretation is correct?” The Serpent goes on: “Even if He is God and did say it,” he insinuates, “how do you know that it is good for you; maybe He is just egotistical or is trying to keep you from what would benefit and please you.” We do well to remember that Jesus described Satan as the “father of lies.”

We all could join in the lament of paradise lost—that time, in the words of a poet friend of mine, “before the lies were whispered in our ears.”

I know something about these whispers. For years I followed them down blind alleys trying to find meaning and truth in “empty nothings.” I became thoroughly confused wondering how I would be able to find real truth among so many voices. And the more paths I followed, the greater the maze became. That’s why, in addition to saying He is the Truth, Jesus says He is the Way. I prayed, “God, please help me know the Truth.” But though He had told me in His Word who Truth was, I kept thinking there might be another truth, another way. There wasn’t. There can be only one Truth. You must be willing to turn away from all other voices; truth is not a smorgasbord.

I kept thinking there might be another truth, another way. There wasn’t. There can be only one Truth.

What does it mean when Jesus Christ says “I am the Truth”? For one thing, it means He does not lie—all He has revealed about us, about the Father, about salvation, and about Himself is true. It means all He has promised He will bring about.  Beyond this, it means that, in my own life, I have an anchor, an unshakeable rock upon which to stand. Jesus’ Word is not just true for some or sometimes, but for all and always. Jesus is Truth because He is unchanging—the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He issues no retractions; He prints no errata. He Himself is the Truth. It’s not merely a matter of just speaking the truth. We all can do that, at least on occasion; but none of us can say “I am the Truth.” Being the Truth means that He is the ultimate ground of existence; He is That in which all things have reality and meaning.

Jesus also says He is the “Light of the World.” Truth is a light. It reveals the darkness of falsehood. It is the measure by which all things are measured. To walk in the Light is to walk in Truth, and it is to see and acknowledge all that is false within ourselves: all the lies we tell ourselves and others, all our pride, our judging, hypocrisy, and our eagerness to listen to the doubts whispered in our ears.

How do we know Truth? Not by experimentation, nor observation, nor by philosophical theories of truth, but by faith—faith, given as a gift, which grants understanding of things formerly incomprehensible. Faith is the willingness to believe and trust in God and His Word. Though it is a gift, it can be sought and desired:  “You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13). As Martin Luther said, “If we are to truly know Jesus Christ, then all books fall short, all teachers are too feeble, all reason is too limited. The Father Himself must reveal Him and present Him to us…’No one can receive me or know me, unless it is given to him by the Father’ (John 6:65).”

Why can we not recognize truth when we hear it or read it? Why can’t we discern it by our thoughts alone? Because, unlike material facts, Truth can only be discerned by the Spirit, not the intellect. The Bible says: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned”( 1 Corinthians 2:14). The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of Truth” and He leads us into all truth. It is He “whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him” (John 14:17). It is He who spoke through the Biblical writers, He who reveals the meaning of the Scriptures to us, and He who leads us to the incarnate Truth: Christ our Lord and Saviour. In this way, the very Truth comes and dwells within us: “You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you”(John 14:17).

Knowing the Truth begins with telling the truth. And the deepest truth we must tell is about ourselves, the truth (revealed to us by the Holy Spirit) that we are deeply flawed and sinful, and that we cannot correct this through self-improvement regimens or law-driven religions or anything else that relies on our own strength.

Jesus says that when we know the Truth, “the Truth will set [us] free.” When we acknowledge our sinfulness to Him and acknowledge what He has said about us and Himself is true, then we are set free from bondage to sin and self. We are forgiven–forgiven of everything–and the Spirit of Truth comes and dwells within us.

What is Truth?

Pilate asked, “What is Truth?” The Truth is that Jesus Christ, the One through Whom and for Whom we were created, has, in unmerited and unlimited love, taken our flesh and sin upon Himself. The Truth is that He died for us so that sin and the Great Lie may no longer have dominion over us. The Truth is that He rose again from the dead so that death no longer has power over us; we are free to dwell in eternal Truth and Love in Christ Jesus.

Truth is not in the eye of the beholder. Truth is the Beholder. He “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).


Peggy Pedersen is a writer living in Victoria, B.C. where she is a member of Redeemer Lutheran Church.


  • Nagina Khan said:

    <> When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”


    6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

  • Nagina Khan said:

    Beautiful Article. God bless you Peggy!

  • Steadfast Lutherans » Truth, by Peggy Pederson said:

    […] great post on CanadianLutheran.ca by Peggy […]

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