Socrates once said that one could never know the Truth about anything. His reasoning, briefly, was that if one did not know the truth when he started, how would he recognize it when he found it? Greek philosophers, brilliant as they were, strove to understand the purpose for man. But without divine revelation from God, it was an impossible task. A study of Greek philosophy will quickly attest to that.
The Bible clearly defines the essential truths that explain man’s purpose. Jesus said: ” . . . Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Earlier, Jesus had said: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). What did He mean by this remark? From what does the Truth free us? The answer: The Truth frees us of a number of things.
The Bondage of Sin
Perhaps a major cause of the world’s problems is the failure to understand human nature. Contrary to popular opinion, human nature is not plastic and changing, capable of unlimited amelioration. Human nature is a mixture of good and evil. And it has not improved since man was first created. Yet, with some few exceptions, the educated of this world refuse to accept the biblical truth about human nature, or that there is a right and a wrong.
Some 7,000 psychologists jammed into Cincinnati for their annual convention. The University of Illinois’ famed researcher O. Hobart Mowrer-how famed, the reader can presently determine for himself-declared, “We psychologists have largely followed the Freudian doctrine that human beings are too good. The patient ‘has within him impulses, especially those of lust and hostility which he has been unnecessarily inhibiting. And health, we tell him, lies in recognizing and expressing these impulses … As a result, we have largely abandoned belief in right and wrong, virtue and sin'” (Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications).
Jesus clearly described human nature. He said: ” . . . That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23). The Apostle Paul added: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
Did you catch that last clause? Those who manifest the works of the flesh cannot enter the Kingdom of God! What man or woman has not been guilty by varying degrees in at least some of this behavior? Absolutely no one! “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Jesus said this: “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34-35 NKJV). The fact is: Man’s nature is his own worst enemy. Yet men constantly refuse to face the truth about human nature. “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage” (2 Pet. 2:19). “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom.6:23).
But man can be released from the bondage of his own nature. This is one thing Jesus meant when He said “the truth shall make you free.” “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
The Apostle Paul wrote the Romans:
But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. (Rom. 6:17-22)
The Law of Sin and Death
Paul describes the law of sin and death:
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord . . . . (Rom. 7:14-25)
Once freed from the bondage of sin, how then does the Truth free us from the law of sin and death? The answer: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1-2). The law has a claim over our lives-the end result is death.
The fact is that all men die. It is the most certain thing in life.
The army which Xerxes conducted against Greece consisted of seventeen hundred thousand men, besides a numerous fleet. When the Persian monarch beheld, from an eminence, the Hellespont covered with his ships and the plains of Abydos filled with his troops of different nations he pronounced himself happy. Immediately after, however, he began to weep; and being asked by his uncle why he wept, surrounded as he was by so much glory, he replied, that he wept to think that of the vast crowd which he then beheld not one individual would be living in a hundred years. (Ency. of 7700 Illustrations)
There is hope, however. By means of the Holy Spirit Christians are given the Truth. Jesus said: “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17). Repentance and Truth go hand in hand. Every man must repent of sin-the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). Repentance, along with Truth, is an integral part of the plan of God. Paul explains: “Those who oppose him [God] he [the pastor] must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth . . . “(2 Tim 2:25 NIV). The consequence? “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:11-12). “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (v. 14).
Consider the last text above. It would make no sense whatsoever to interpret this text to mean that one who is under grace no longer needs to obey the Law of God. Why? We must repent of breaking the Law. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4). “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law” (Jas. 2:10-11). James clearly referred to the Ten Commandments. It would be senseless to assume Paul said that one who is under grace is free to do whatever he wishes-that after repenting of breaking the Law of God, he is free to break it over and over again. What Paul states is that one who is under grace (God’s free, unmerited pardon) is no longer under the penalty of the law-eternal death!
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, (that is, defined by the law) did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet . . . . Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. (Rom. 7:5-7, 12)
When we compare the former and present status of the repentant sinner, we read: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13). “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18). “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (v. 22). ” . . . If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law”-that is, not under the penalty of the law (Gal. 5:18).
Accepting and obeying the Truth frees the repentant sinner from the law of sin and death. Repentance of sin requires faith in Christ’s sacrifice. By accepting that sacrifice, the Christian realizes that Christ paid the penalty for his or her sins. This is why the Apostle Paul could say: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2). “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 5:21). Grace is free, undeserved, unmerited pardon.
Worldly Customs, Traditions
The Bible does not speak well of human civilization. Christians who understand what sin is know that the world is full of evil. The Apostle Paul referred to Christ “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world . . . . ” (Gal. 1:4) “And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness” (1 John 5:19). The Apostle John wrote: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16). Much of what is practiced today is the result of various customs and traditions. The Bible describes these customs and traditions as vain. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain [behavior] received by tradition from your fathers” (1 Pet. 1:18). There is much futility in following the customs and traditions of the world.
Some customs and traditions may be beneficial, but many are not. The reason many are not is because they are contrary to what the Bible teaches. For example, Jesus strongly criticized the Pharisees and Sadducees for their slavish traditions which they made more authoritative than the Scriptures. He said: “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:7-9). Much of modern day religion today falls into the same category.
The Apostle Paul warned: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8). It may come as a shock for some to realize that much of what is called Christianity is badly tainted with Greek philosophy. Church historians are very much aware of this fact. The truth is: Various pagan concepts make up a large part of professing Christian doctrine. This is why the Apostle Paul warned: “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6). But millions have been deceived by vain words-words of no profit. “The priests said not, Where is the LORD? and they that handle the law knew me not: the pastors also transgressed against me, and the prophets prophesied by Baal, and walked after things that do not profit” (Jer. 2:8). Many believe Jeremiah’s prophecies apply only to the time of Jeremiah, but many are yet for the future.
Many of the ideas and beliefs embraced by this world are based on human reasoning. The Bible says this about human reasoning: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Cor. 1:19-20)
What is the invisible source of inspiration for all that is in the world? The answer: “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:3-4). Who is the god of this world? None other than Satan the devil! (Matt. 4:8-9). His rule on this earth will soon end. “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev. 12:9). Few in this world have not followed the ways of Satan. Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “And you [Christians] hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:1-2). True Christians are no longer enslaved to “the course of this world” with its many man-made customs and traditions.
The Apostle John wrote:
I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:13-14).
True Christians recognize the source behind the customs of the world. They are now free from this enslavement-free to follow the Way of Truth revealed in the Bible.
The Power of Satan
Satan is called the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Many professing Christians fail to realize the extent of his influence. He has deceived the whole world (Rev. 12:9). Deceived people do not realize they are deceived. The reality is that the struggle Christians face is a spiritual struggle against Satan. “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against [wicked spirits] in high places” (Eph. 6:11-12). God sent the Apostle Paul to the Gentiles to free them from the power of Satan. “… For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me” (Acts 26:16-18). The Truth of God frees Christians from the power of Satan.
Can men be overcome by Satan? Absolutely! Paul instructed Timothy to help those under the snare of Satan. He wrote: “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive [into] him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:25-26). Recall that the Apostle John wrote that those who are in Christ Jesus have overcome the “wicked one” (1 John 1:3; 2:13-14). To accomplish this Christians must put on the armor of God which includes the word of God-the Truth (Eph. 6:13-14). Jesus said that in our prayers we should ask for deliverance from the “evil one” (Matt 6:13). Why did He say this? Because the minds of the unconverted have been blinded. Paul wrote “the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Cor. 4:4). Ministers who brag that they are going to twist “old Satan’s tail” have no idea what they are up against.
The time is coming when persecution against true Christians will be intense (Matt. 24:9). What will be the source of this persecution? “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him . . . . And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman [the Church] which brought forth the man child [Christ] . . . . “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 12:9, 13, 17).
Very near the return of Christ, there will be a martyrdom of saints.
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled” (Rev. 6:9-11).
God promises protection for those who fear Him and truly keep His Commandments (Rev. 12:14). But that protection depends on how much we appreciate the Truth God has given us and the degree to which we apply it in our lives. From what does the Truth free us? It frees us from the bondage of sin, from the law of sin and death, from the worldly customs and traditions of men, and from the power of Satan. Christians who understand this deeply appreciate what God has done for them and endeavor to walk worthy of the calling they have received (Eph. 4:1).