Tag Archives: truth

The Spirits of Truth and Error

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“We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6)

Here we are given assurance that we will be able to tell the difference in people by the way they respond to the Word of God. The emphasis is on the believer’s ability to discern a spirit (attitude or character) of truth or error among those to whom we witness.

This is important because we are told not to cast “pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6) and to “shake off the very dust” from our feet against those who will not receive our witness (Luke 9:5).

Others disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness when they are really the ministers of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). How can we tell which is which?

The spirit of truth is relatively easy to discern. Those who hear the Word (Mark 4:18-20) and receive the Word with all readiness of mind (Acts 17:11) are of the truth (John 18:37). Such people come willingly to the light (John 3:21) and ask for a “reason of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

The spirit of error can be more difficult to discern. Its source is Satan (John 8:44), who deceives (Revelation 12:9) and uses his servants to manipulate and mislead (Ephesians 4:14).

Some of these run among God’s family and live “in error” (2 Peter 2:18). They can be fruitless trees and “raging waves . . . foaming out their own shame” (Jude 12-13), or like “tares” among the wheat that even the angels have trouble recognizing (Matthew 13:38-40). These won’t listen to truth.

Our job is to be ready to give the answer to the one and to reject the other. HMM III

How to Know the Truth

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“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17)

The apostle Paul, in his last epistle, wrote about certain philosophers who would be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). In the next verse, Paul makes it clear why such people, no matter how scholarly or well educated they seem to be, are still incapable of accepting real truth. “So do these also resist the truth,” he says (v. 8). They could not learn the truth because they were not willing to believe or obey the truth when they learned it.

For example, a very vexing controversy among modern Christians is whether or not the Genesis account of six-day creation can be so interpreted as to accommodate the billion-year, geological-age system of Earth history.

Perhaps the difficulty, in this as well as in other such doctrinal controversies, is a basic unwillingness to believe doctrines plainly revealed in God’s Word when they conflict with doctrines based solely on human reasoning. When the Lord Jesus spoke the words of our text, He was speaking to arrogant religionists who regarded Him as nothing but an itinerant preacher, rejecting His teachings, even though they knew these teachings were fully biblical.

His rebuke of these hypocrites is truly a timeless criterion for recognizing God’s truth and knowing His will. Such a heart does not try to twist God’s Word to accommodate a human philosophy, nor does it try to accommodate one’s personal will by persuading himself that it is God’s will. God’s will is always consistent with God’s Word, which is written to be easily understood by anyone who is willing to believe His Word and do His will. HMM

Sinning Against the Lord

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“And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13)

A basic truth is expressed in this confession of David’s: Every sin—not only the sin of blasphemy or of unbelief—is essentially a sin against the Lord and His nature of absolute righteousness.

This does not mean, of course, that sin hurts no one except God. In David’s case, his sin resulted in the murder of a faithful soldier, Uriah; the implication of Bathsheba in David’s adultery; and then the death of his infant son. It probably also contributed to the subsequent sins of two other sons of David, Amnon and Absalom. Furthermore, as Nathan said, it had “given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme” (v. 14).

Nevertheless, it was, above all else, a sin against God. God had chosen David as king and had blessed him abundantly, yet David was not content and elected to make his own decisions in rebellion against the will of God and the Word of God. But when he was made to realize, by Nathan, what he had done, he immediately repented of his sin, and thereby received forgiveness.

God, in His grace, has made a wonderful provision for forgiveness and restoration because “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Therefore, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7, 9).

Confession must be specific and sincere, of course, not general and superficial, to be effective. But if this is done, then we can exclaim joyfully with David: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered,” because he first, as he said, “acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid” (Psalm 32:1, 5). HMM

Our Assurance Before God

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“And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.” (1 John 3:19)

There is a chain of reasoning in this context that is important to understand. Our hearts will be “assured” before God (1 John 3:19) if we love the brethren in “deed and in truth” (v. 18). A lack of that heart assurance condemns us (v. 20). If our heart does not condemn us, then we will have “confidence toward God” (v. 21).

It is worth noting that John uses the word “love” 26 times in this little letter. The word “know” is used 31 times, but the word “assure” is used only once (our text) and the word for “confidence” just four times. In each case, the promises of boldness in prayer or trust in answered prayer are based on our obedience.

Apparently, the key to an effective relationship with God, especially the key to a confidence in our prayer life, is a ready, visible, and instant response to God’s requirements for the believer. To the degree that we abide in Him (2:28), we will be confident when He returns. Our ready love for the brethren will keep us bold before God in our prayers (3:21), and our Christlike lifestyle will give us boldness at the judgment (4:17).

Meanwhile, absolute and steady belief in God’s salvation will remove any doubt that God hears us when we pray (5:14).

There is a continuing loop in these messages. We gain confidence as we “do” truth. We find more boldness as we understand God’s answers to our needs and prayers for others. That, in turn, increases our confidence that God is listening to our prayers, making our hearts all the more confident in our relationship with our heavenly Father. HMM III

In Him There is no Darkness

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“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

Light is the most fundamental and important form of energy, and energy includes every phenomenon in the physical universe. It is appropriate for John to affirm that God is light, because everything created must reflect the character of its Creator. The term “light,” therefore, has come to be applied not only to light in the physical sense, but also to that which is true in the intellectual realm, and holy in the moral realm as well.

In terms of truth and genuine knowledge, “the entrance of thy words giveth light” (Psalm 119:130). “In thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

Without God’s truth, there is only darkness. “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The Bible also speaks of light as moral holiness. “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light. . . . And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:8, 11).

There are still other analogies:

“In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Not only is light symbolic of life itself, but it also depicts God’s daily guidance for our lives. “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Since there is no darkness in God, “if we walk in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7), there remains no excuse for any darkness in our lives.

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). HMM

Praise the Lord

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“O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.” (Psalm 117:1-2)

Psalm 117 is especially noteworthy for two reasons: First, it is the middle chapter of the Bible, and, secondly, it is the shortest chapter in the Bible, consisting of only the two verses cited above. Thus, it is significant and appropriate that its theme be that of universal and everlasting praise.

The very purpose of human language is that God might communicate His word to us and that we might respond in praise to Him.

The word “nations” in verse 1 refers specifically to Gentiles, while “people” seems to refer to all tribes of people. Two different Hebrew words for praise are used, so that the verse could be read: “Praise the LORD, all ye Gentile nations; extol him all ye peoples of every tribe.”

In any case, the sense of the exhortation is to urge everyone to praise His name.

The Hebrew word translated “merciful kindness” is also rendered as “loving kindness,” or simply “mercy” or “kindness.” Whichever is preferred, the significant point is that it has been great toward us. This word (Hebrew gabar) is not the usual word for “great” but is a very strong word meaning to “triumph” or “prevail.”

An example of its use is in the story of the great Flood. “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth” (Genesis 7:19). In fact, it is used four times in this account of the “overwhelmingly mighty” waters of the Flood (Genesis 7:18-20, 24).

In other words, God’s merciful kindness has prevailed over our sin and the awful judgment we deserve in a manner and degree analogous to the way in which the deluge waters prevailed over the ancient evil world.

God’s mercy and truth are eternal, and this will be the great theme of our praise throughout all the ages to come. HMM

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