The Word of God is Truth (John 18)
Dr. Domenic Marbaniang
Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”.. (John 18:37,38)
We live in a world of great confusion, skepticism, doubt, and uncertainty. The world today is embroiled in controversies of every sort from the efficacy of vaccinations, the reliability of government institutions, to the certainty of scientific discoveries. We hear of pristine Christian leaders fall, of prophecies gone wrong, of fake miracle-workers, of fabricated testimonies making some to stumble in faith and lose sight of the truth they had once ardently held. In the midst of such confusing voices, resounds the sharp, clear voice of Christ saying “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
The question then is: Whose voice have you been hearing? The Bible tells us that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom.10:17). There were many men and women who heard Jesus speak, but they did not receive faith. But, if “faith comes by hearing”, why weren’t they able to receive faith? Jesus explained, “Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word” (John 8:43). The Greek word for “speech” is lalian, which indicates words without any meaning; or babbling and chattering. Jesus’ words were like some babble or chatter to these listeners; the reason, because they were not able to listen to His word (logos). He further explains, “And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” (John 8:46,47). These people were hearing Christ’s speech (lalia), but were not hearing God’s word (logos), and so were not able to receive faith from the hearing of the word of God; and, the reason they did not hear was because they were not of God.
But, what does it mean to be “not of God”? There is no third option here. If one is “not of God”, one is from one’s “father, the devil” who “was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him…” (John 8:44). Thus, “everyone who is of the truth” (i.e. who is of God) hears God’s word; but everyone who is of the lie (i.e of the devil) does not hear God’s word. In fact, everyone who is of the devil “suppresses the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom.1:18) and is naturally the child of wrath (Eph.2:3; Rom.1:18) since he walks according to the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Eph.2:2). All of us who believe were also such before we heard the word (Eph.2:3), but when we believed, we were saved by grace and were born of the Spirit (Eph.2:4-10) so that we do not walk according to the spirit who works in the disobedient. To be of God means to be born of God and to do the works of God (1 John 3:7-10). To be not of God means to be a child of wrath and make the choice to remain so through rejection of Christ - the ultimate murder.
But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. …You do the deeds of your father....You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him…” (John 8:40-44. Emphatics mine)
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. (1 John 3:10-12. Emphatics mine)
For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, … if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. (Heb.6:4-6. Emphatics mine)
However, those who are of God hear Christ’s words, believe, and experience the fruits of faith in everyday life. Yet, it is only by living by the word of God that one can discern between the voice of Christ and the desires of the devil. It is not sufficient to just be born by the word (1Pet.1:23), one needs to also live by the word, beginning first like an infant feeding on pure milk (1Pet.2:2), and maturing on to be nourished by solid food (Heb.5:14). To live by the word does not mean mere reading of the Bible everyday; it means to live by pure and total faith in what God’s word clearly says. This faith is the shield against the fiery darts of the devil that, along with the sword of God’s word, (Eph.6:16,17) is crucial to the Christian’s stand in a world of turbulent falsehoods and uncertainties.
Shun those myths
In 1Timothy 1:4, Paul instructs to not pay attention to myths and endless genealogies that “cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.” A myth is any narrative that departs from, conflicts with, and contradicts the truth of God’s word. Such a narrative can even masquerade in the self-claimed gown of “science”. Evolutionism, for example, is one big myth that stands so popularly received that there are even very academic Christians who accept it as the truth and regard Genesis 1-11 as metaphorical, if not mythological. But, when Christ and the Apostles cited Genesis, they never cited it as allegory or metaphor but as the historical explanation for the fundamentals of doctrines such as marriage, sin, suffering, and salvation. When Christians fall for the myths of the world and start attempting to adjust their view of Scripture to accommodate the alternative narratives, adulteration of the word is the consequence. The Bible warns: “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you” (Deut.4:2).
Giving heed to myths not only thwarts sound growth (edification) in faith, but also can lead one away from sincere faith “from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” (1Tim.1:6,7). Paul gives two examples of such men, viz. Hymenaeus and Alexander (1Tim.1:20), who he said suffered shipwreck of faith and were delivered by Paul to Satan so that they may learn not to speak lightly of God’s truth.
Knowledge is desirable, but curiosities that breed controversial speculations (1Tim.1:4, NIV) undermine the voice of Christ and damage our spiritual hearing faculties. But, anyone who turns to Christ is saved, no matter how dead he spiritually has been (2Cor.3:16). If godless myths have been confusing and weakening your faith, please turn to Christ right now and you will be saved.
“the endless genealogies”
For those of us who are non-Jews, this should not have been a matter of concern; however, that has not been so. The world is so rife with ethnocentrism, racism, communalism, classism, casteism, regionalism, and nationalisms of various kind that when these make way into the church, there is clear violation of the purpose of God’s word, which is “love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere or unhypocritical faith” (1Tim.1:5). Jesus put a full-stop to such “our fathers” “you Jews” conversation when He told the Samaritan woman: “the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23,24).
It is very saddening when worship places become divisive based on ethnic, social, or cultural identifiers. The focus of worship is God. To worship God in spirit and truth means to transcend the boundaries of flesh. In fact, only those who are born of the Spirit can worship God in spirit and truth.
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. …The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:6-8)
Genealogies ceased with Christ. They become insignificant for the Church whose God is not remembered so much as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob after the flesh but as the “God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” according to the Spirit (Eph.1:3). In Christ, all reasons for divisions have come to an end. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal.3:26-28). We are the seed of Abraham, not according to flesh or any genealogical tree, but according to the Promise.
Hearing God’s word also requires guarding God’s word. In the conclusion to his letter to Timothy, Paul exhorts:
O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. (1Tim.6:20,21)
Guarding God’s word is the same as guarding one’s heart against unholy and profane thoughts and opinions of the world. In the current context of Covid-19 cases around the world, people have become very attentive to food and hygiene, to stay physically on guard. This is much more important in spiritual matters. The word for “avoid” in Greek is ektrepomenos, which means “to turn away”. We are continuously bombarded with profane, godless, and empty chatter on TV, internet, social media, news, and messaging apps. Children of God are responsible for turning away from the lies that ride on the imaginations, curiosities, and lusts of the world. Anything that weakens faith in Christ is anathema. False knowledge takes false wings of science and rationalism pretending to be the golden bird of liberation, and leaving a trail of increasing hatred, confusion, darkness, and death. But, whom the Son sets free is free indeed.
“What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus as he slipped away without waiting for an answer. How ironic in a person who was expected to be the adjudicator between truth and falsehood, between right and wrong. But, as was Pilate, so is the world. What matters is mere utility - for Pilate, temporary peace in his province. Truth does not matter. Immediate consequences and results matter more. One day Pilate the judge will stand before the Judge of the world; the governor of Judea will stand before the Governor of heaven and earth. We are not sure if he was saved at any point later in life; but, if not, does Pilate stand the chance to argue that he did not hear the truth?