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April 17, 2010 Q & A

Who owns the truth?

Question

Often these days I hear the phrase, "no one owns the truth" as a response to Bible interpretation. What is your opinion?

Answer

When I was growing up some 75 years ago I never heard a slogan such as the one you mention. In those days everybody that I encountered seemed to agree that there were fixed standards of right and wrong, truth and untruth. It is not that way today. And, as you suggest, it is now quite common to hear people say things like this, "no one owns the truth."

As your question implies, it is not easy to dismiss this slogan out of hand. Why? For two reasons. (1) First, because our knowledge is limited. Neither you nor I know everything, so the question that can't be evaded is this: how can we know anything for sure? (2) And, second, because this slogan is a rather accurate description of where many people are today. These words remind me of a descriptive phrase used by wise Solomon to describe the situation for many people living in his day. He said, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" (Eccl. 1:2). To say the same thing in our modern tongue it would be "emptiness of emptiness, all is emptiness!" And that pretty well describes the condition of many people today who are without God and without hope in the world!

But we know that these slogans (however true they may be as descriptions of the spiritual state of those who are lost) are not true for Christians. They are not true because the true God has communicated his truth to us in Jesus Christ and the Bible. The apostle John, who spent considerable time in close contact with Jesus, said, "we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). John also says, "that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full" (1 John 1:3-4).

When we come to see, from God's inspired Word, who Jesus is and what God has done in sending him to save us, there is a true sense in which we know all things! Of Christian believers John says, "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things" (2:20). This does not mean that we suddenly know everything exhaustively (like someone who might memorize the entire content of Encyclopedia Britainnica). But it does mean God has given us, in Christ, a true grasp of his awesome plan for the world, and our place in it. We see the whole picture, in other words, because Jesus is the light of the world, and those who know him do not walk in darkness.

To his disciples Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). He also said, "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). So believers do possess the truth (or perhaps it would be better to say the truth possesses them).

 

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