What is Truth? Is Certainty Possible?

In these times, “truth” is becoming a very debatable concept for some, and certainty is being treated with suspicion. But let’s be honest – is it even possible for anyone to know what is true? Many people know the famous verse, “…And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”, but not so many people are aware of the context of the verse, and critically, the sentence that is said directly before it…

The Gospel of John chapter 8 holds many interesting interchanges on the subject of truth, and it is in this chapter that Yeshua makes his famous statement, “The truth will set you free”. But take a look what he says first:

“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.””

IF you abide in my word…
IF you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples…
IF you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

He is saying these words specifically to the Jewish people who believed in him already, and he is giving them a condition. “IF you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” Only after that comes the promise. THEN you will know the truth. And THEN you will be set free. The Bible is often this way – a command and a promise. An instruction and the promised reward of doing things God’s way. In this case, the big condition is abiding in God’s word.

Yeshua the Messiah is the very embodiment of Truth, every word he ever spoke was true, and as he said of himself, he is “The Way, The Truth and The Life” (John 14:6). Of course we will never get our heads around all of the Truth or even come close, but we CAN know Truth, because we can know Yeshua.

More than that, Yeshua has left us his Spirit, so that we are not left alone, trying to figure it all out by ourselves. We who have accepted Yeshua as Lord are no longer just human beings thinking human thoughts, but we have the Spirit of God living in us, guiding us, and teaching us the truth. That is his job! And that is a promise to all who believe. Hear what Yeshua says:

“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; but whatever He hears, He will tell you. And He will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16:13)

In our relationship with him, we grow more and more in our understanding of truth as we get to know him and his word.

The Holy Spirit reveals truth to us as we walk with him and read the Scriptures.

Paul reminds us that this world is imperfect and partial, but that we will experience God's complete perfection in the age to come. He says,

“But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away… now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:10-12)

We cannot know Yeshua fully here in this age, but we can know him better and better as we walk with him and immerse ourselves in his words, and it is this that makes us his disciples, and leads to our freedom. Yeshua (the one who only spoke the truth) said this in a prayer to the Father: “Eternal life is knowing you, and knowing Messiah Yeshua, whom you sent” (John 17:3). We can know him, and in fact, knowing him is to receive eternal life. This joyful certainty is ours when we decide to accept Yeshua’s forgiveness and agree to follow him. This is what French philosopher, Blaise Pascal, wrote in exuberance when he first encountered the Lord for himself, and crossed over from the kingdom of darkness over to freedom and forgiveness in the kingdom of light:

God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,' not of philosophers and scholars.
Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ.
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
Thy God shall be my God.'
The world forgotten, and everything except God.
He can only be found by the ways taught in the Gospels.
Greatness of the human soul.
‘O righteous Father, the world had not known thee, but I have known thee.'
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy….
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent…He can only be kept by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Sweet and total renunciation.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director.
Everlasting joy in return for one day's effort on earth.
I will not forget thy word. Amen.1

Pascal finally understood that the truth was a person, and that person was Yeshua the Messiah, son of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. All the worldly wisdom he had immersed himself in could not give him that joy and freedom of the certainty of knowing truth, the way we can when we know Yeshua for ourselves. Truth is not something to be edged around as unknowable, but rather certainty that we can revel in and enjoy as we grow in our relationship with Yeshua and abide in his Word!

  1.  This note had apparently been sewn into Pascal’s inner jacket pocket, and was only discovered by his servant after his death – Pascal, Blaise. Oeuvres complètes. (Paris: Seuil, 1960), p. 618


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