June, 2012

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Buy The Truth

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Buy The Truth

By: Keith Keyser

 

Buy the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” Proverbs 23:23

Pontius Pilate’s cynical query “What is truth?” could be the motto of the modern age. The very concept of absolute truth is disbelieved, negated, or ignored by people of all walks of life. Once upon a time moral relativism was the unique worldview of ivory tower academics, overly speculative philosophers, and libertine authors and artists. From the avant-garde and the intellectual elites, however, this way of thinking has now trickled down to the masses – a phenomenon witnessed in countless contemporary songs and films, as well as in the shifting standards of public and private ethics. Against this devaluing of moral absolutes stands the eternal God of truth, who counsels us to “Buy the truth and do not sell it…” (Prov. 23:23.)

The Source Of Truth

Deuteronomy 32:4 describes the Almighty in this manner: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” Isaiah also calls Him “the God of truth” (Is. 65:16.) Another psalm gives a similar description: “But You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious, Longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth” (Ps. 86:15.) Elsewhere He is addressed as the “Lord God of truth” (Ps. 31:5.) When God manifested Himself in flesh in the person of His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, He affirmed “I am the way, the truth, & the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6.) Put negatively, the Scripture says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2.) Clearly these verses teach that truth is an aspect of the Divine nature. It is in keeping with who God is, what He says, and everything that He does. Moreover, apart from the Lord, man’s comprehension of the truth is skewed by his sin and incomplete as a result of human fallen-ness.

If people are to discover the truth, they must learn it from the God who is truth. Happily, He discloses Himself in His written Word, the Bible. His usage of the commercial metaphor of purchase for the acquisition of this knowledge demonstrates the seriousness of this pursuit. It is not an endeavor for the half-hearted or the dilettante. A seeker of the truth must be serious and willing to pay a price for gaining the truth.

Appraising Something Priceless

Truth commands a high price: it demands a genuine reception of the living God and His Word at the expense of human thinking and personal preferences. Three quotations from a trio of classic expositors show that nothing is too dear to be given up for the joy of obtaining this greatest of all treasures. As Brooks points out: “Remember you can never over-buy it, whatsoever you give for it; you can never sufficiently sell it, if you should have all the world in exchange for it.”[1] The celebrated Prince of preachers agrees, saying:

the text seems to tell us, that truth is the one pearl beneath the skies that is worth having, and whatever else we buy not, we must buy the truth, and whatever else we may have to sell, yet we must never sell the truth, but hold it fast as a treasure that will last us when gold has cankered, and silver has rusted, and the moth has eaten up all goodly garments, and when all the riches of men have gone like a puff of smoke, or melted in the heat of the judgment day like the dew in the beams of the morning sun…You may give all for it, but you may take nothing in exchange for it, since there is nothing that can be likened unto it.[2]

Lastly, the eloquent words of Matthew Henry manifest the incomparable value of the truth:

When we choose rather to suffer loss in our temporal interest than to deny or neglect the truth then we buy it; and it is a pearl of such great price that we must be willing to part with all to purchase it, must make shipwreck of estate, trade, preferment, rather than of faith and a good conscience…We must not sell it. Do not part with it for pleasures, honors, riches, any things in this world. Do not neglect the study of it, nor throw off the profession of it, nor revolt from under the dominion of it, for the getting or saving of any secular interest whatsoever. Hold fast the form of sound words, and never let it go upon any terms.[3]

An Investment That Breaks The Bank

Personal knowledge of Christ transfers one into His kingdom (Jn. 3:3, 5; Col. 1:12-13.) The Lord Jesus described this kingdom in terms that evoke images of tremendous resources being expended, comparing it to a treasure hidden in a field and a pearl of great price (Matt. 13:44-46.) To obtain the former, the purchaser sells all that he possesses to purchase it; to acquire the latter, he buys the entire field where the treasure is hidden. In both metaphors, no price is too great to gain the kingdom; this is how it is with all aspects of God’s truth.

Paul understood this principle, asserting that “…what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8.) Reputation, religious attainments, and a carefully cultivated self-righteous façade were all cast aside in favor of “the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus…” Indeed, in comparison with the personal knowledge of the Savior, Paul considered everything else in the world to be garbage, worthy of being discarded in order to gain the true treasure of the truth.

In Times Of Economic Uncertainty, Invest In The Truth

Buying the truth requires a revaluation of everything in life: God must be viewed as supreme, and everything else seen as subsidiary. Personal convictions need to be formed based on the Bible, not merely on one’s own opinions. On the other hand, the truth should never be sold for self-gratification, private comfort, and public reputation. Ironside aptly summarizes the issue:

…he who desires the approval of God above the praise of men will value…[the truth] nevertheless, and be ready to purchase it at the cost of friends, reputation, possessions, yea, life itself. Nor will he part with it whatever the suffering that may result from contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Rationalists may sneer, and the superstitious persecute; but he who possesses the truth will find with it wisdom, instruction and understanding such as all the wise men after the flesh are strangers to.[4]

The believer’s attitude must be: “God’s Word is true; I will obey Him though it costs me everything in this world – even my life itself.” One who buys God’s truth as revealed in Christ discovers that it gains one entrance into an eternal and unshakeable kingdom (Heb. 12:28-29.) As Jim Elliot famously put it: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”[5]


[1] Thomas Brooks,  “Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices,” The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), p. 58.

[2] C.H. Spurgeon, “Buying the Truth,” Sermon No. 3449, June 26th 1870, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Vol. 61; Electronic edition: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/3449.htm  Accessed on 6/26/12. Italics original.

[3] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Pr 23:19–28 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), Electronic ed. (Logos.) Italics original.

[4] H. A. Ironside, Notes on the Book of Proverbs, (Neptune, N. J.: Loizeaux Bros, 1908), pp. 324-325. Brackets mine.

[5] Jim Elliot, Journal entry October 28, 1949, The Journals of Jim Elliot. (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1978), p. 174. See here for background on the quote: http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/faq/20.htm

To download in pdf., click here:  Buy The Truth

New Tools For An Ancient Task

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

My new post on proper Christian behavior online may be read here.

Analyzing Temptation

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

My new article on temptation may be read here.

Steering around danger in the electronic world

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

To avoid pitfalls in cyber-behavior, see this post.

Indulging A God-Complex

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

My latest article dealing with this issue may be read here.

Godly pilgrim behavior on the web

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

My new article may be read here.

Patience Produced By Love

Monday, June 11th, 2012

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her.” Genesis 29:20

Despite his scheming spirit, Jacob was a first class lover. Even after he was duped into marrying weak-eyed Leah by his new father-in-law, Laban, he still sought to wed his first love, Rachel. Seven additional years of sweat equity is the price that he paid for this honor.[i] Nonetheless, the Bible comments on the strength of his affection for this maiden, saying: “…they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Gen. 29:20.) This quality is a worthy description of the spiritual devotion that Christians may experience as they serve the Lord Jesus while awaiting His return.

Worthwhile Work

  Some things merit hard work. Parents who migrate to a new nation in hopes of giving their children a better life and more educational and commercial opportunities exemplify this principle well. They toil for long hours in difficult conditions because of their love for their families. In like manner, believers are to live for the Lord, laboring diligently in His service, even if it means suffering hardships, privations, and persecution. Nevertheless, in all of these troubles, they must always keep in mind that His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Mt. 11:30.) This is because Christian work for the Lord is motivated from their possession of salvation by faith in Christ – not as a means of obtaining salvation or favor from Him (as in the Pharisees’ teaching.) Thus, believers do not work to be saved; rather they work because they are saved (Eph. 2:8-10.) Like Jacob’s attitude regarding his work, their service – as fatiguing as it sometimes is – comes from hearts full of loving gratitude towards the God of grace who has given them eternal life.[ii] Additionally, in all of their trials and sorrows they have the assurance of the Holy Spirit’s help and the risen Christ’s abiding presence.

Paul sums up the worthiness of rigorous service for Christ in these words: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58.) The underlying Greek word for “labor” in this verse comes from the root for a beating or a blow[iii], and the word-group is defined in this manner by two authorities: “To engage in hard work, implying difficulties and trouble—‘hard work, toil, to work hard, to toil, to labor.’[iv] The able classicist Mr. Vine adds: “[It] primarily denotes ‘a striking, beating’ (akin to kopto, ‘to strike, cut’), then, ‘toil resulting in weariness, laborious toil, trouble’.”[v]

Someone might ask: “But how do we know that this labor is not in vain?” The context of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 gives the answer: The Lord Jesus’ triumphant resurrection, which opens the way for His people’s resurrection, proves that God will ultimately be victorious over evil. Work for the Lord will abide for eternity, because the Son of God has conquered every foe. The universe merely awaits His return to reveal the comprehensive nature of His victory.

Ye Fearful Saints, Fresh Courage Take

Imagine the joy of Jacob coming home after a difficult day at work to the one who motivated it all: his beloved Rachel. Similarly, Deck’s classic lyrics describe the consummated pleasure of the saints when the Lord returns in the air for them:

‘A little while’ — He’ll come again;

Let us the precious hours redeem,

Our only grief to give Him pain,

Our joy to serve and follow Him.

Watching and ready may we be,

As those that wait their Lord to see.

 

‘A little while’ – ‘twill soon be past,

Why should we shun the promised cross?

O let us in His footsteps haste,

Counting for Him all else but loss;

For how will recompense His smile,

The sufferings of this ‘little while’!

 

‘A little while’ – Come, Savior, come;

For Thee Thy bride has tarried long:

Take Thy poor waiting pilgrims home

To sing the new eternal song,

To see Thy glory, and to be

In everything conformed to Thee![vi]

 

In the same vein, the Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks also eloquently depicts Christian hardships in perspective against the backdrop of heavenly glory with God: “Though the work be hard, yet the wages is great. Heaven will make amends for all. Ay, one hour’s being in heaven will abundantly recompense you for cleaving to the Lord and his ways in the face of all difficulties. This carried the apostle through the greatest difficulties. He had an eye ‘to the recompense of reward;’ he looked for ‘a house that had foundations, whose builder and maker was God,’ and for ‘a heavenly country.’”[vii] Paul himself puts it this way: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18.) Let the saints then be impelled to labor out of their great love for the Lord who loves them, died for them, and is taking them to glory.

 

 



[i] A close reading of the passage demonstrates that he was able to wed her prior to the seven year period, but that was the time that he afterwards labored as his payment for his bride. Additionally, he labored for seven years for marrying her sister Leah and six for his flocks, bringing his total time of servitude to twenty years. See Gen. 29:19-30 & Gen. 31:41.

[ii] Unlike Jacob, believers do not work to gain their Beloved. Christ is the prime mover in seeking His church; He secures their place with Him as the Bride through His work on the cross as well as the resurrection, ascension, and coming again that follow it. See Eph. 5:22-33.

[iii] Friedrich Hauck, “kopiazo/kopos,” in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 3. Edited by Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Gerhard Friedrich. electronic ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), p. 827.

[iv] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, “kopos,” in Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, Vol. 1, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), p. 514.

[v] W. E. Vine, “Labor” in Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Vol. 2. Eds. Merrill F. Unger and William White (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson, 1996), p. 349. Brackets mine.

[vi] James G. Deck, “A little while, our Lord shall come” found here: http://www.stempublishing.com/hymns/ss/173  Accessed on 6/9/12. Emphasis mine.

[vii] Thomas Brooks, The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Volume 1, ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart, (Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; G. Herbert, 1866), p. 76.

To download in pdf., click on Patience Produced By Love.

“Atheists For Religion”?

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

For a podcast responding to Alain de Botton’s recent comments, click here: GWW – _Atheists for Religion.k

Does God want to rob us of joy?

Saturday, June 9th, 2012

My new article addresses the issue here.

Questions to consider in being a Digital Pilgrim

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

A brief piece of mine is up on Digital Sojourner here.