When I was a young pastor and one particular man would pray for me, he would pray, “keep him in the truth of your Word.” His fear was that I would stray from the pure milk of the Word and substitute it with something false. That has stuck with me and become even more important for all of us in these days when lies and confusion in our world seem to be more prevalent than ever.
Because we fallen people are living in a fallen world, everything, even so-called truth has been corrupted. That means the only source for absolute truth is revealed truth which we have in the Bible. Jesus said, “I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). He also said to His Father about His followers, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17, emphasis added).
Believers have the Holy Spirit to illuminate us to the revealed truth of the Word. But we have a responsibility to make it our purpose to be a truth-seeker with the Word. We must be like the Bereans of Acts 17:11–12, “They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.”
Facts versus Meaning
One essential aspect of being a truth-seeker with Scripture is understanding the relationship between individual facts and meaning. There is an important distinction.
It’s like the difference between a pile of bricks and a brick building. The bricks are like the individual facts, the building is the truth they form. An isolated fact is like a stray brick. It’s a fragment of information. The truth, on the other hand, is all about meaning.
As it relates to the truth of Scripture individual words in a verse are like those bricks. And they are connected to other words in the verse to form a larger block of facts. And while the facts they convey may be true and even helpful by themselves, until we see them in their larger context, we won’t know their meaning because context determines meaning.
One of the cardinal sins of Christians is proof-texting—pulling a single verse or phrase out of context to prove a point. While the verse may provide facts to prove a point, it may not be true in relation to the larger meaning or truth that verse is part of. Seeking and discerning truth is a matter of interpreting the facts in their context. A text without a context becomes a pretext. The correct meaning emerges when the real relationship between the facts and their context becomes clear. This is why Scripture asserts that Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6). He is the Truth because all things “hold together” in Him (Colossians 1:17).
Questions versus Assumptions
The other essential aspect of being a truth-seeker with Scripture is about asking questions. Asking questions is the truth-seeker’s main tool for uncovering one’s ignorance, assumptions, biases, misconceptions, prejudices, and attitudes. If we think we already know the truth we won’t find more truth. A truth-seeker asks questions and wants to understand and know. They’re not afraid to admit they don’t know something. A truth seeker takes the attitude of a learner.
Some of the most profound and beloved truths of Scripture came in response to questions by truth-seekers. Here’s a few from John’s gospel.
Think of Nicodemus (John 3:1–20). When Jesus told him, “…unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean? How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” (v. 4). When Jesus explained spiritual birth Nicodemus asked, “How are these things possible?” (v. 9).
In the next chapter the Samaritan woman asked Jesus, “Why are you asking me for a drink?” (John 4:9). When Jesus spoke of living water she asked, “Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?” (v. 11–12).
Jesus’ great pronouncement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” came in response to Thomas asking “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5–6).
Finally, read John 18:28–19:16. Pilate asks a whole string of questions as he tries to seek out the truth about Jesus.
Jesus wants us to seek truth and ask questions as we do. “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)
Purpose to be a truth-seeker with the Word.