WHAT IS TRUTH?
PART FIVE – THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH
What is truth? This is the question we have been asking for several weeks now, and it is absolutely a critical question for the hour we are living in. The reason why is because we are living in the last of the last days and this is a time period where the truth will be harder to come by, as deception will be more prevalent. So, what we are learning is what the truth is and how to know it even in the midst of this dark and perverse generation.
A few weeks ago, we began answering the question—What is truth?—and I gave a specific definition that the Holy Spirit gave me when I asked Him this same question that Pilate asked Jesus. He told me that the “Truth is—that which is not hidden, which makes God known.”
So, as we considered this definition, we saw that the Holy Spirit began by telling me what the truth was not. In other words, truth is the exact opposite of a lie as God and the devil are the exact opposite and contrary to one another.
Then two weeks ago, we got into the second half of this definition of truth where the Holy Spirit said that the truth is that “which makes God known”: I explained how when the Holy Spirit shared this with me that I began seeing how all the examples of truth that I had come to know in the Scriptures all illustrated this.
And the first one of these biblical examples we covered was JESUS. Yes, I suppose that most of us would immediately gravitate towards Him first because in John 14:6 we have one of the most powerful proclamations of Himself that He ever uttered— “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” That’s right, Jesus didn’t just have truth or speak truth; He was the truth. So as Hebrews 13:8 states that He was the same, yesterday, and forever, then that means that the truth does not change. So, as Jesus came full of truth—He showed us that God is good and merciful and loves the sinner, but it is also to tell the sinner to repent and to declare the true way to God. Amen.
Last week, we looked at another example of the truth from the Scriptures—the Word. We looked at John 17:17 where Jesus told us that God’s Word is truth. We also saw in Psalm 119:160 that the entirety of His Word is truth.
Church, this is something we can absolutely hang our hats on—that God’s Word is the absolute truth. If we want to find truth, we go to the Scriptures. If we want to be better equipped to avoid the lie, we give heed to the Scriptures. His Word—the entirety of it—is truth. Of this, we can be certain.
We also learned last week that His Word is what breaks up the fallow ground of one’s heart and what thoroughly equips us for any storm of life. Yes, His truth—the Word of God—has the power to set us free from both the power and the deception of sin.
THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE
And that’s where I would like us to pick up today—in John chapter 8 where Jesus gives us some powerful words about the power of His Word.
You see, it’s important for us to realize that we are not just talking about having heard His Word in the past. The way that we stay equipped and prepared is continuing in His Word. Jesus spoke along these lines in the Gospel of John:
In John chapter 8, we have a powerful statement by the Lord: In verse 30, we are told— “As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.” So, notice that as He testified to the truth of who He was, many of the Jews that heard His words believed in Him. This is when we are told what we are in verses 31-32— “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’”
So, these Jews heard the words He spoke to them and believed as a result. But then, Jesus said to those who believed His words, “If you abide (i.e., remain or stay) in My word …”—meaning, if then they would continue in His Words and not allow themselves to be moved away from them. Then what would happen? Jesus said, “you are My disciples indeed.”
You see, there is a difference between believers and disciples. Believers might believe when they hear something, but disciples follow after that word they’ve heard. They stay in it! They abide in it! And it is those disciples who are given the following promise— “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
So, who is it that’s going to know the truth? No, it’s not just any believer; it’s those who are really His disciples. You see, in order for one to really know the truth, they must really follow after the truth. These are those who are promised to know the truth, and these are the ones who are also promised to have that truth make them free.
THERE IS FREEDOM
Now when we hear about the truth making us “free,” that might bring to mind something else—How about Second Corinthians 3:17 where we are told that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (i.e., liberty).”
And this certainly is right in line with everything else we have seen the truth to be because Jesus has absolutely been the One responsible for having us free, the Word also makes us free, and where we find the Spirit of truth, we also find freedom.
So, this week, I want us to move into looking at this other One who brings freedom in our lives. Let’s look over at John chapter 16:
In John 16:12, Jesus told His disciples— “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” And the word “bear” here literally describes taking something up with the hands. Therefore, you could translate this phrase as— “I still have many other things I want to tell you, but you cannot handle them at this time.” And the reason they could not handle these other truths Jesus had to share with them was because they were still carnal and could not handle these spiritual truths. In other words, this describes their inability to receive certain spiritual meat because they had not received the help of the Holy Spirit.
Now many of us could attest to this as well: There was a time where we might have been Christians, but the spirit, life, and truth of God’s Word alluded us. We could read our Bible and not understand what we were reading. But when we received the Spirit of God, it was like the Bible opened up to us like a flower in the springtime. That’s the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives!
That is why Jesus went on to say in John 16:13, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…” So, when Jesus starts off by saying “however” in verse 13, He was again pointing them ahead to the ministry of the Holy Spirit coming in His place and picking up where He left off. So, while they could not handle the spiritual truth that Jesus desired to show them because they were still unregenerate and unspiritual, the Spirit of truth’s soon arrival would unlock all of these truths for them.
What this shows us is that the Holy Spirit is our key in being ushered into spiritual things. Without Him, we will be severely limited in understanding spiritual things—which is what I believe the Lord wants to teach us about today.
Now notice that Jesus calls the Holy Spirit here “the Spirit of truth” and said that He would guide us into all truth: You see, the Holy Spirit came to bring the revelation of God the Father and God the Son. As Jesus said, He speaks not of Himself but came to glorify Him (Jesus). So, His intentions are certainly not hidden. He is here on the earth today to make the truth Himself known to us. Amen!
So, the Holy Spirit’s commission to “guide us into all truth” means what? It means to guide us into all of Jesus, as He is the Truth. We have seen that it also means to guide us into all of the Word, as His Word is truth as well. But one could also say that the “truth” that the Holy Spirit guides us into is the opposite of the “lie”—meaning, if we are walking in the truth, we are not walking in a lie.
HOW TO BE GUIDED
Now unfortunately most Christians are like many of us men—we don’t like to ask for directions. We would rather waste an hour trying to find it ourselves rather than simply stop and ask someone who has been there for directions. Humility will acknowledge when it needs guidance.
So, it all goes back to asking for directions and inviting the Holy Spirit to lead & guide us into all truth. But another important truth that Jesus gives about the Holy Spirit’s ministry to direct us is found in the word “guide.”
Notice John 16:13 does not say—the Holy Spirit will “drive” us into all truth, or He will “drag” us into all truth. No, Jesus said He will “guide” us into all truth. To guide someone carries more of the idea of leading them. On top of that, you cannot guide something or someone that is not already moving.
Take for instance, a boat: You can turn the rudder one way or another, but if the boat is not already moving it will not make a difference in the direction that the boat goes. Yes, you can turn a rudder as far as it will turn, but if the boat never leaves the dock, it will remain pointed in the same direction. Likewise, we have to be “moving” in order for His guidance to become effective.
What do I mean by “moving?” I mean that there must be cooperation on our part because some of the responsibility has been given to us. Say, for instance, if we desire to know the truth of God’s Word. Well, we can’t just sit back and do nothing and expect the Holy Spirit to guide us into the truth of His Word. No, we must seek the truth through reading, studying, and meditating God’s Word. When we get our “boat” started in that direction is when the “Rudder”—the Holy Spirit—can guide us through teaching us and bringing things to our remembrance. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate study guide!
But this is what we must understand: The Holy Spirit’s job is to guide us, not to drag us. In other words, His ministry is to help us stay on God’s path, not to tell us every little step to take.
You see, He is not interested in “making” us do anything. He is not “the good cowboy”—driving and corralling His flock and making them go in the direction He desires. No, the Holy Spirit—similarly to Jesus’ proclamation of Himself because they are one and the same—is the Good Shepherd. Yes, like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is commissioned to lead us beside the still waters and into greener pastures. And, just as a shepherd does, He leads us, but we are responsible for following Him as He guides us.
This describes the Holy Spirit’s ministry toward us! His nature is to gently guide us in the direction that we need to go—whether that be leading us into a fruitful, abiding relationship with Jesus or leading us into increasing in our wisdom and understanding of the Word. He guides us into all the truth!
GUIDED FROM SAMARIA TO ETHIOPIA
This word for “guide” is also used in Acts chapter 8 in the story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. You remember the story: Philip was in Samaria preaching Christ in many villages and an angel spoke to him to go south, to the road which goes from Jerusalem to Gaza. And when he went, he saw this eunuch travelling in his chariot, reading the Book of Isaiah (vs. 28). So, as he saw him, the Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake the chariot.”
So, we pick up now in verse 30: “So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read was this: ‘He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth. In His humiliation His justice was taken away, and who will declare His generation? For His life is taken from the earth.’ So, the eunuch answered Philip and said, ‘I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?’ Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:30-35)
Philip’s question to the eunuch is very practical to what we are talking about today—for I have come across many Christians who do not feel like they understand what they are reading. Well, just as the eunuch answered Philip, I believe this is true for all of us as well— “How can we, unless someone guides us?”
You see, the reason many believers do not understand the Word like they can is because they have never taken advantage of this particular role of the Holy Spirit—to guide us into all the Word. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the key to understanding the Bible.
So, as we’ve said, being guided into all truth would be (and is) being guided in all the Word of God, based on John 17:17. Which we know is at least part of what Jesus was saying here, because of how these verses parallel what we saw in part two of this series when we learned that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things.
So, when we read our Bible, we don’t have to do it alone. We ought to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us throughout our reading and studies—inviting Him to unfold the truth that is behind every passage of Scripture. Amen.
For example, we wake up in the morning, get our cup of coffee, and sit to read, but before we do, we might say, “Good morning, Holy Spirit! Thank You for being my teacher, and I thank you that one of your assignments in my life is to guide me into all truth. Well, Your Word is truth. So, as I read Your Word—Your Truth—this morning, I thank you for guiding me. YOU are my study guide! Amen!”
Again, would it make any sense for me to expect the Holy Spirit to lead me through the truths contained in the Bible if I never occasionally read my Bible? No, if I want to capture a spirit of wisdom and revelation of God through His Word, then I must first seek to grow in knowledge which comes through reading and studying (Ephesians 1:17). While certainly He could reveal the truth to us through some sort of miraculous revelation if we were in a situation where the Word of truth was not readily available to us, this is not the common way He will reveal His Word to us. I would be foolish to expect God to instruct me this way if I have the Word of God sitting on my nightstand collecting dust because I never take the time to read it. No, in order for me to take advantage of this ministry of the Holy Spirit, I must give Him something to work with. I must begin reading, studying, and meditating the Holy Scriptures. Then, and only then, will I be in position for the Holy Spirit to guide me through the Bible’s books, chapters, and verses and into all the truth contained in them.
But there is also another lesson regarding being guided by the Holy Spirit in the account we are looking at: How was Philip guided by the Spirit to have this encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. It began as Philip was busy about his Father’s business. Now not only was Philip preaching the gospel and doing his part in fulfilling the Great Commission, but when the angel spoke to him and told him to go even further south to the “deserted place,” he went. It was then that the Holy Spirit gave him the reason for this particular assignment and spoke to him about overtaking the eunuch’s chariot.
So, here’s my point: What if Philip would have still been in Jerusalem hiding out in a house, and not doing what Jesus had already commissioned us to do? Further, what if, even though he had gone to Samaria, he hadn’t heeded the instructions of the angel of the Lord and not gone down to the desert? Well, I can all but guarantee you that he would have not heard “the Spirit said” in verse 29.
So, I believe this shows us how the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth—because if Philip would not have already been moving, the Holy Spirit would have not been able to guide him to minister to this eunuch. Amen?
But the Holy Spirit is not only with us to guide us into all truth but also to guide us out of all error.
So, let’s go back to First John, where we began this series from, because this is one of the main points that we see the apostle John making in his first epistle.
Beginning in First John 2:18, we see how John let his readers know that there were many antichrists already present with them in that it was the last hour. So, how many do you suppose we have in these last minutes of the last hour?
As he states in the following verse, the spirit of antichrist would not just be in the world but would come from the church itself—showing us that this spirit of error is found both in the world and in the church.
Then John makes a powerful point in verse 20—that we all have an anointing from the Holy One and know all things, meaning that because we have the Holy Spirit, we have the capability of knowing what we need to know. And in the context here, that would be knowing the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.
So, some of the key points John makes that show us how to know error is that we already know the truth (verse 21), so we don’t need to go looking for it. Number two, the truth is found in Jesus. That means that it will always point us towards His deity and Lordship. Number three, as we learned earlier, it is abiding in the Word we had in the beginning. In other words, not deviating from the Word we received in the beginning. Error will always try to introduce something new and exciting, but just because it appeals to our senses, doesn’t mean it is true.
In verse 26, John again reiterates that these things He was writing to them about are concerning those trying to deceive them (and us). But in verse 27, He shows us how the Anointing Himself has become our teacher and we don’t need someone else to interpret truth to us—for He is the Spirit of truth and will always lead us into abiding in Him.
THE TRUTH WE HAD IN THE BEGINNING
Then if we move on to First John chapter 4, where we began this series:
Again, John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore, they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (First John 4:1-6)
So, we can clearly see how we know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error. It is by knowing the Holy Spirit—for when we know Him—the Spirit of truth—we will know the truth and that truth will make us free. Amen.