What Is Truth? “Truth” in Paul, Part 2

jesus-the-way-the-truth-the-life“Truth” in 2 Thessalonians

(2 Th 2:9-13)  The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. 13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

Again, plainly enough, the truth is what we believe to be saved — it’s the gospel.

“Truth” in 1 Timothy

(1 Tim 2:3-7)  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle — I am telling the truth, I am not lying — and a teacher of the true faith [literally: faith and truth] to the Gentiles.

“Truth” is what we know when we’re saved and what Paul was appointed to teach. It’s the gospel.

(1 Tim 3:15)  if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.

(1 Tim 4:3)  They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.

(1 Tim 6:3-5)  If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

Pillars and foundations support and hold up the truth — which is what the church is to do with the gospel. We are to hold it up to the world and support it by our lives.

“Those who believe and know the truth” are Christians, as all Christians know the gospel.

False teachers have been “robbed of the truth” because they reject Jesus’ teachings, fight, and seek gain in this world from the word.

“Truth” in 2 Timothy

(2 Tim 2:15)  Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.

The “word of truth” is, of course, the gospel. Paul is not speaking specifically of the scriptures but of the Word.

(2 Tim 2:17-18)  Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.

Hymenaeus and Philetus aren’t rejected because that taught just any error. They left the gospel! Indeed, they are destroying faith.

(2 Tim 2:24-26)  And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

The Lord’s servant is to teach, not quarrel, with the aim of bringing repentance and knowledge of the truth — the gospel. This is what will free them from the devil. Again, Paul is not talking about how to support orphan’s homes or missionaries. He’s talking about what he was sent to teach — the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(2 Tim 3:6-9)  They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth — men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

These false teachers deny the gospel, even opposing the gospel! They are rejected from the faith because they haven’t accepted the truth.

(2 Tim 4:3-4)  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Again, by now we can be very confident in what “truth” means. And “sound doctrine” (literally, healthy teaching) is parallel to the truth/gospel. Paul is not speaking of those disputing over the day of the week on which to take communion.

“Truth” in Titus

(Titus 1:1)  Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness

Any guesses on what “truth” means here? It’s parallel to faith in Jesus and it leads to godliness.

(Titus 1:12-14)  Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth.

“Truth” is parallel to faith, and rejecting the truth is the opposite of being sound in the faith. “Faith” in the New Testament is always faith in Jesus. And truth is the gospel.

Conclusions

Do you notice how many passages we’ve read that deal with false teachers? My conservative brothers repeatedly use these to damn those who worship with an instrument or take communion on Saturday night. But by now it’s obvious that Paul is defending the gospel — faith in Jesus — not a body of instruction about how to worship or organize a church.

Paul will. of course, reject and drive from the community those who deny the truth of the gospel. Do these passages tell us to damn our brothers over missionary societies and orphans homes? No. Not even close.

In fact, these passages show the centrality of the gospel and faith in Jesus to Paul’s teaching and doctrine of discipline and fellowship. He removes from the community those who deny the truth, because denying the gospel can cost people their souls.

And so we see that “sound doctrine” is the gospel — not an elaborate body of inferences about laws of specific and generic authority.

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One Response

  1. Jay,

    Excellent and fair treatment of the texts and the subject.

    Royce

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