What does it mean to walk in the truth?

The Bible speaks a lot about truth. Jesus says He is the truth (John 14:6), Isaiah calls the Lord “the God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16), and the apostle John rejoices to find Christians “walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father” (2 John 1:4). So, what is truth, and how can you walk in it?

The need for absolute truth

There are multiple definitions of truth. We will focus on the Biblical descriptions. In the Bible, truth is closely connected to God. Apart from Him, there is no absolute truth – as many philosophers and scientists have experienced. Apart from God, we can’t get beyond truth as a subjective, cultural construct. Therefore, many consider truth an invalid and outdated concept. And that has huge consequences for ethics, to name just one field, since there is no longer an absolute starting point on which to base our moral decisions. Without absolute truth, there is no absolute right or wrong, good or bad.

The absence of absolute truth also leads to religious relativism: everybody can choose which beliefs he or she prefers to follow, but nobody can claim that his or her faith is the only true one. This clearly clashes with Jesus’ claim “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Nowadays, many people search for “their own truth”. But the Bible makes clear that there is absolute truth in God. Truth is the reality God has created and defined. All truth must ultimately be defined in terms of God. This truth is both doctrinal and moral in scope.

Doctrinal truth

God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). It is reliable and never changes. Knowing and accepting the truth about God, about our own sinful hearts, and about God’s salvation plan is of life importance. This truth can set us free (John 8:32). Therefore, it is crucial to not believe everything we hear, but to test whether a doctrine or teaching is in line with Scripture (1 John 4:1-3). We should not be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14), but stand firm in the truth (2 Timothy 3:14-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 2 Peter 1:12).

Satan tries to deceive people

God’s enemy Satan always tries to lure people away from the truth. He did that with Adam and Eve, when he told them lies about God’s character and intentions, and so tempted them into disobedience (Genesis 3:4-6). And he is still trying to deceive people. The Bible is full of warnings of false teachers who are actually serving Satan instead of God (see e.g. Acts 20:30; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 John 1:7).

God leaves no room for “different opinions” or “alternative facts” when it comes to Jesus’ identity and His ministry of salvation. He announces His wrath against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18, see also Revelation 20:10 for God’s final judgment on Satan as the ultimate deceiver).

Moral truth

Truth is not just about keeping the right doctrines. It has a moral component as well. In the Bible, truth is closely connected to faithfulness and trustworthiness. It is the opposite of deception and wickedness. That’s why the Lord is called “a God of truth” (Isaiah 65:16, see also Deuteronomy 32:4 and Psalm 31:5). He is utterly trustworthy. And so also should His children be. We should speak the truth and our words should be righteous, not twisted or crooked (Proverbs 8:8, James 5:12, Psalm 15, Colossians 3:8-9, Ephesians 4:25). We can’t bend the truth to our own advantage, or bear false witness against others. God hates a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16-17).

Speaking the truth is sometimes hard

Speaking the truth may harm our reputation or career. There are occasions on which we should lovingly speak the truth even when others don’t appreciate it or might be hurt by it. An example is given in Galatians 4:16 and in 2 Corinthians 7:8-9.

The apostle Paul saw how some Christians were being deceived by false teachers, and told them the plain truth about their theological mistakes. He knew they would be grieved by his words, but concludes: “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting”. People’s eternal well-being was at stake, and therefore Paul used harsh words to correct their false and deceptive teachings.

Summary: to walk in truth

Walking in truth means to bring our lives into conformity with God’s revealed truth. We should stand firm in the truth of God’s Word, teach the truth plainly, and take it as the starting point for our moral decisions. Moreover, we should reflect God’s trustworthiness and faithfulness in our daily lives.

“Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart”
(Proverbs 3:3)

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