Truth, How Much?
There is absolutely no doubt as to the necessity and utility of the truth. Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8: 32). Peter taught that purification of the soul takes place in the environs of the truth. Hear him, "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently" (I Pet. 1: 22). Just one chapter later, Peter exhorts babes in Christ to receive the pure word of God that they might "grow thereby" (I Pet. 2: 1, 2). In order to be Jesusí disciples and to be made free of the bondage of sin, we must continue in Jesusí "word" (John 8: 31, 32). Jesusí words are "spirit and life" (John 6: 63). The Spirit further revealed all truth through the apostles and others in the First Century through whom he spoke (John 14; 26, 16: 13, cp. I Cor. 14: 37). Furthermore, they did not "lie" (Rom. 9: 1). As a result, we are to abide in "the doctrine of Christ" and failure to do so results in having neither the Father or the Son (2 John 9-11). The question some ask is, "Just how much truth do we have to have?
In my many years of preaching, I have been asked, sometimes told, to leave off certain truths or to simply not present all the truth on a given subject. I have known of a number of fellow preachers who manipulate the truth, withholding certain truths or "facets" of biblical truth, depending on the circumstances. I have been told, "We cannot take all the truth!" Some local churches would implode if the truth in its entirety were ever preached to them. The concept of unity under which some labor is, "If the whole truth were presented, there would be division within the local church; therefore, we must withhold sections of truth in order to preserve unity." Hence, in some churches, just enough truth is present in order for them to say, "We preach and practice New Testament truth." If one does come along with the whole truth on every relevant subject and teaching found in Godís word, he is usually attacked and charged with being divisive and a trouble-maker. "Brother Love preached here twenty years and there was never a problem, you come and within a few months, we have many problems!" Concerned reader, I submit that it just could be that "brother Love" manipulated and withheld the truth. Some are willing to accept some truths, but not other just as necessary truths (cp. Acts 22: 22). Again, the question we raise is, "truth, how much?"
The plan of salvation. It is evident from a study of the book of Acts that there was something that the lost had to do in order to be saved (Acts 2, 3, 8, 16, 19, etc.). Based on a composite consideration of these accounts of salvation in Acts, belief, repentance, confession of Jesusí deity, and baptism for the remission of sins are observed in people coming to God. Some will concede that there is "something," but they greatly restrict it, claiming to still believe the truth. A preacher acquaintance of mine once told me that Billy Graham told him that he knew there was more to being saved than the "sinnerís prayer" (such is totally absent in the scriptures). "The people will not come if we require any more," he was reported as saying. I recall preaching a sermon on the plan of salvation and a wife of one of the deacons coming to me after the sermon saying, "You go too far in presenting salvation, it would appear that you believe that if one does not believe, repent, confess Christ, and be baptized, they will be lost. My mother has never obeyed the plan of salvation; yet, I believe she is saved!" This deaconís wife wanted the truth, but not all the truth! Belief, repentance, confession, and baptism are all presented as essential and necessary to salvation (Acts 16: 30ff., Acts 17: 30, 31, Rom. 10: 9, 10, I Pet. 3: 21). I was called into one situation where the elders of the local church included unbaptized people in their new membership directory and had thus extended fellowship to them. They wanted the truth, but not all of it, not the fully applied truth!
The church Jesus built. Jesus promised to build his church and he did (Matt. 16: 18, see Acts 2: 47, KJV and Acts 5: 11). He is the head or boss, if you will, of his church (Eph. 1: 22, 23). The only creed for Jesusí church is his word (Gal. 1: 6-9). When assembled in the local circumstance, Godís people publicly worship on the Lordís Day by singing praise to God; prayer; preaching; giving of their means; and remembering Jesusí suffering and anticipating his return by partaking of his memorial, the Lordís supper (Eph. 5: 19; Acts 4: 31; Acts 20: 7; I Cor. 16: 1, 2; Acts 2: 42, 20: 7). Since Godís people are under the wonderful obligation of Bible authority (doing what the Bible teaches), they only observe these acts in the way they are presented to be observed. "I believe in public worship, but I believe we need to stress sincerity and not be concerned about doctrine." Others word it on this wise, "We see nothing wrong with having the Lordís Supper on Monday." Still others, "We believe in giving on the Lordís Day into the local treasury, but we also want to have bake sales in order to make money for the church." Yes, such want the "truth," but not all of it. You see, once God specifies, man has no say in the matter, but is to humbly do what God has said (cp. Heb. 7: 14).
The government of the local church is clearly seen as autonomous and the local church as being superintended by God appointed elders (Acts 14: 23). The work of the local church is edifying the saved, preaching to the lost, and exercising benevolence for needy saints (Eph. 4: 15, 16; I Tim. 3: 15; I Cor. 16). This is the truth of Godís word. Some say they want the truth, but they seem to have limitations or additions, as the case may be. "We want to be a member of a church, but one of many, none of this exclusion business." "We believe our human foundations and organizations can actually do a better job preaching and edifying," others are heard saying.
Some preach the law of admission into the church, but elect not to talk about Godís law of exclusion from the local church (Acts 9: 26; 2 Thes. 3: 6). Preaching on "withdrawal from those who walk disorderly" is not very popular and there are churches and preachers who have not addressed or practiced withdrawal in many years, if ever.
Marriage, divorce, and marriage to another. "I believe one man, one woman for life, fornication being the only exception," I was told by a well respected preacher in the church. Sounds like the truth, doesnít it? (Gen. 2: 21-25, Matt. 19: 5ff.) Such a statement is very misleading, as being made by some. Indeed, the scriptures do teach one man, one woman for life, fornication being the only exception. However, the scriptures point out that there are requirements for one to be eligible for marriage (cp. Matt. 5: 32). The "fornication" is also viewed as an option allowed to the "innocent party," not for the guilty to be able to marry another. Moreover, fornication is seen as the absolute only reason or exception. Some may tolerate one man and one woman, but buckle under "for life." Some are now advocating simple shacking up as being acceptable. Some have introduced a number of reasons they believe to be valid in terminating a "marriage" (failure to pay bills, mental cruelty, etc., they refer to such as "divorcement for the Kingdomís sake). Yes, they want the truth, but not all the truth.
The matter of putting the Kingdom first. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness," Jesus taught, "and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6: 33). To put first the Kingdom and his righteousness means that we supremely enthrone God in our lives and place him above and before all others. Some want Matthew 6: 33 preached, up to a point. In some abstract, vague way they think they believe and practice Matthew 6: 33. They may even be heard providing an "amen" when the preacher quotes Jesusí teaching. However, when the preacher says, "Jesusí teaching necessitates putting spiritual matters before your family, even your own wife and children, even to the point of division, they buckle and deem such as "going too far." Yet, such is precisely what Jesus taught (cp. Matt. 10: 34ff.). Some provide lip service and claim belief regarding Matthew 6: 33, but when the preacher says that the spiritual must be put before the so called "unity" of a local church, even to the point of division, they dare not agree. Yet, such is what is taught in the scriptures (cp. I Cor. 11: 19).
Beloved, it is not a matter of the truth being establishable and intelligible; it is a matter of the truth, how much? It seems that most of us want just enough truth to make us conformable in the belief that we are pleasing to God, but not enough to result in persecution or sacrifice (cp. Luke 8: 13). Many of the early Christians viewed the truth so important as to suffer and be beaten for it (Acts 5: 17-42). Some were put to death because of their dedication to the truth and refusal to change it in any way (Acts 12: 1, 2). Friendships were often severed due to putting truth over all else. "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?," Paul asked the Galatians, people who before greatly esteemed him, but now due to the relevant truth he was teaching them had become his enemies (Gal. 4: 16, see context). The truth is so uncompromising and unique that Jesus thus warned the twelve when he sent them out on what we call the limited commission: "And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matt. 10: 21, 22).
In closing, the apostle Paul was able to make the following statement, a claim that we pray we all can legitimately make: "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20: 26, 27). The command to not add to or take away from truth shows that truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth is requisite (Rev. 22: 18, 19). To truth seekers, seekers of the whole truth, Jesus made this promise: "Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine" (John 7: 16, 17).