Your Word is the Truth (John 17:17)

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Relativising the Truth

The other day I was leafing through a birthday album on the counter of a bookstore. Each day of the year carried a ‘saying’. A long row of names mentioned the wise of the earth who lived during the many centuries of her history. They all contributed something of their wisdom: Confucius, Socrates, Erasmus …

And then …  suddenly: Solomon! He, too, was there, in the long list. And a little further on … Jesus, saying: “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).

It gives you a bit of a fright. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the line of the many who mean so well and who offer a snippet of wisdom to help us on the path of life. Just as if He were just one of the many! By the way, the same also applies to Solomon. For the words he spoke were really not his own but Christ’s, whose Spirit gave them to him to speak. What we read from Solomon in the Bible has divine authority.

That’s why it hurts when a word of Solomon – or of Jesus – is put together with words of people, whatever ‘noble spirits’ and ‘deep thinkers’ they may have been.

This does, however, not hurt only because the honour and the authority of God’s Word are involved; no, it also touches the foundation of our life, the firmness of our existence. Intuitively we feel that something is being broken when people no longer speak about ‘what God the Lord is saying’, but rather of ‘what Solomon says’ and ‘what Jesus says’ and ‘what Paul and Moses are saying’.

There is, of course, no problem if what Solomon is saying is not being stripped of the divine authority which his words in the Bible have. And this is precisely what the spirit of our days (the strongest spirit, the mainstream in apostate christianity) has in mind. For it’s in that way that the truth of Scripture concerning God’s covenant with us is being made questionable and placed on the same level as human thought.

Such a birthday album (as above) or school agenda or similar diary is a symptom of the relativism that we frequently come across and find almost everywhere when it is important to ‘speak the truth’.

Moses and Solomon and Paul were men, and for very many people, Jesus, too, is also merely a man. In the end their thoughts have no more authority than what we think ourselves. While we do not have to accept them, we can also not rely on them if they were only their words.

But what God Yahweh says has divine authority. It is the truth. It binds us in our conscience. He does not mislead us, and it is the most precious gift God could ever bestow on us: to know the truth about Him and ourselves.

Unity at the cost of the Truth

There was a meeting, a conference of ‘Christians’. Not only of ‘liberated reformed’ people, but also of those who are ‘open minded’ and ‘tolerant’: Synodicals, Baptists, Barthians, Remonstrants, Salvation Army people, and so on.

The topic? Yes, what shall it be. What topic can you not discuss in such a wide circle of Christians of all stripes, types, and ecclesiastical ‘denominations’.

Someone said something about God’s majesty and of His sovereign decree of election and reprobation. But the Methodist brother did not agree. He found it an old-fashioned opinion which he did not begrudge the speaker as his private opinion, but he himself had a different view.

Moments later, infant baptism was discussed. In a friendly remark the Baptist explained that his view on infant baptism was totally different. He believed that it was not in accordance with God’s Word.

This is how the discussion turned to God’s Word.

When someone confessed the truth about Holy Scripture in accordance with article 5 of the Belgic Confession of Faith, the Barthian spoke up and drew attention to the fact that we could not bind God to a number of black-on-white printed books. It was OK with him if people wanted to believe this, but he found it intolerant to bind a church preacher to it.

When the jolting discussion-wagon got to God’s sure covenant promises in Holy Baptism given to all the children of the congregation, the Synodal member of the forum observed that he should be allowed to regard this as a deviating opinion. Finally, the Salvation Army man noted that Christians had to be much more tolerant and not believe that outside of the church no salvation was to be found. Moreover, he regarded the church sacraments of Baptism and Holy Supper as unnecessary – so long as people just loved Jesus.

This last remark gained widespread approval. That’s what it was all about: love Jesus Christ the Lord, Jesus as God and Saviour.

So there was a lot of talk. One gave this opinion, another this vision, and out of politeness to the others they added that this was of course private, and that everyone was given the freedom to think as desired and to have a different understanding.

The above is just one example that typifies the ecumenical spirit of this century. It is broad and wide with regard to all kinds of private opinions. But the truth God has revealed to us in His Word is being kept under wraps. God the Lord Himself is not allowed to contribute.

For those who want to confess the truth of God’s Word the atmosphere in such circles is suffocating. If you do not want to destroy the pleasant atmosphere you must keep silent about the truth. ‘Intolerant’ is the label attributed to anyone who wants to hold fast to the truth of God’s covenant and words as the church of the LORD confesses that truth in its confessions, especially in the Three Forms of Unity and in so many forms and prayers in our Psalm book. They speak a glorious and resolute language; and it has pleased God (in the course of the centuries until today) to keep for Himself a family of God’s children who, in the struggle of life which was heavy and difficult for many generations, found comfort and strength in that truth. Our fathers in the 16th century, despite the sins that may have clung to them, stood firm in the truth and therefore did not crumble under the spirit of their age.

To be sure, it is possible to have ‘private opinions’ and ‘views’, according to the extent of one’s faith and belief. Not all true children of God have the same opinion on everything. According to His sovereign order, God the Lord distributes the gifts. One has the gift of great knowledge, the other the gift of wisdom, or the gift of boldness in confession, or the gift of a great trust or of strong love and godliness. The tribe of Issachar was known for its ability to understand the times, to know what Israel was to do (1 Chron. 12:32). Therefore, it is good to listen to each other.

But what makes the church of the Lord Church is not the belief in private opinions, but the faith in the truth about God’s covenant with us in accordance with Holy Scripture.

by Rev P K Keizer (Translation of an article Rev Keizer published in his church bulletin around 1965.)