Author: Ron Graham
The first of five lessons on the theme “Anchors in the Storm”. In this lesson, we consider truth as an anchor when we are buffeted by storms of pagan ideas.
Paul opens his letter to the Romans by expressing his love for the gospel. He also expressed his disgust at the pagan delusions that worked to "suppress the truth" (Romans 1:13-32).
Our society embraces the same foolish ideas and actively pursues and promotes them. Just as one little example, shops are selling “Kid’s Astrology” books that indoctrinate children into believing their life and destiny is controlled by the sun, moon, and planets, not by Christ who created them.
The voices of paganism howl like a gale, driving people away from the truth. However God provides an anchor for those who don't want to drift with the storm. That anchor is God’s word of truth. It provides us with a true Saviour; a true religion; a true sexual morality; and a true world view.
What is the most important point that we must understand about this anchor of truth? I don't have any hesitation or reservation in giving you the following answer:
The anchor of truth does not arise from within ourselves, but is mediated to us from above by Jesus (Hebrews 8:6). The truth originates from outside of ourselves. More than that, this truth is unchangeable and eternal (1Peter 1:25). It is external, eternal, absolute truth.
Of course people will quibble that the Bible is full of relative truth. For example, in one place God is pleased with animal sacrifice (Genesis 8:20-21), in another place he takes no pleasure in it (Hebrews 10:5-6).
Such instances are no more arguments for relative truth than they are for contradictions in the Bible. Rather, such instances demonstrate the unfolding of God’s eternal plan.
God’s plan had stages, and progress through each stage required some great changes, including the bringing in of a new covenant (Hebrews 8:8-9). However these changes were immutably decreed in the original plan. They were not alterations to the plan. Yes, you could say they were “unchangeable changes”.
The pagan idea of relative truth is that each person has a unique truth; your truth is not my truth, and my truth is not someone else’s, any more than my clothes are yours, or yours mine.
There's an example in Plato’s Protagoras. Protagoras says to Socrates, "What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me." This pagan notion, that truth is always personal and relative to self, is widespread today.
“As a whole, Paganism offers no pre-given purpose of existence. Although mythological wisdom from around the world offers suggestions as to the purpose of life, no dogmatic idea of one eternal, unchanging truth is universally accepted among Pagans. Even within mythology, many different ways of approaching the question of life’s purpose can be found. Honor and virtue often are revered within mythic stories, but even these values are culturally relative —in other words, different cultures understand them in different ways.” (Carl McColman, in Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence)
This pagan idea is thinly disguised by many professing Christians as the leading of the Holy Spirit. They mean that the Holy Spirit, by inner promptings, leads each person to understand truth. One person’s truth might differ from another, but what each one believes is supposedly right for that individual, because it is the inner enlightening by the Spirit.
This of course leads to confusion and provides no anchor in the storm. But when we are assailed by "wild waves of the sea" (Jude 1:13), we don't have to rely on “gut feelings”, or subjective inward whispers, for we have an objective and sure anchor from God to “keep our souls steadfast and sure while the billows roll”.
As Paul declared, "[God] is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past, but now is manifested, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, has been made known to all nations, leading to obedience of faith" (Romans 16:25-26).
Our anchor of truth is made and guaranteed by Jesus Christ the Son of God. Nobody makes an anchor like his.
Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). We are set free from the grip of the storm by being anchored to "the truth in love", so that we are not "carried around by every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14-15).
In our Lord’s promise, "You shall know the truth" (John 8:32), the first word is “you”; the middle word is “know”; and the last word is “truth”.
The first word is “You”. We hear it said that the scriptures were written to certain people; in certain places; at certain times; in certain circumstances; and that by making “you” mean “me” we are violating the context. In this case, that is not so.
John testifies of Jesus, "In him was life and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4). Men here means humankind, for we don't dare add words to God’s word and make it say some men, or certain men. It simply says “men” so if you are a member of mankind then you are included.
The glorious light of Christ’s "grace and truth" (John 1:14) is for every human. John himself uses the word “you” to indicate anybody who is reading or hearing his written testimony. You may know the truth from John’s testimony, and thus you may believe in Jesus and have eternal life (John 20:30-31).
This contradicts the pagan idea of sealed and unchangeable destiny.
The middle word is “know”. There are degrees of knowing. You can know something or someone as simply facts stored in your mind. Or you can know intimately and with passion.
You may know, for example, that a cyclone has devastated a city on a Pacific island. But you may feel no obligation to do anything much about it. However, imagine the city is where you spent your childhood, where you have some property, and where some of your family live. Knowledge of the devastation would stir you to a passionate course of action.
Jesus said to the religious leaders of his day, "You search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life and these scriptures testify of me. You are unwilling to come to me that you might have life" (John 5:39-40). They “knew” the scriptures but did not act on their knowledge. To know Jesus is to love him; to love him is to keep his commandments (John 14:15).
True knowledge is commitment. "The one who says, 'I have come to know him', and does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him" (1John 2:4-5).
This contradicts the doctrine that the New Testament truth is a gospel of love, but not of law. As part of the truth Jesus gives us, there are commandments to keep. If we love Jesus, we will acknowledge and keep the laws of his covenant and not deny that they exist.
The last word is “truth”. When Jesus says “truth” he means his Father’s word (John 17:17). Furthermore, Jesus spoke of himself as the embodiment of truth. "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). The truth is not an subjective or relative matter.
In this truth there are promises in which to anchor our souls; facts to believe with all of our heart; commandments to keep with all our love (John 14:15).
This contradicts the idea that anything communicated in human language cannot be objective and absolute truth, because human language must be interpreted by the hearer. In other words you and I cannot have the word of Christ as such, but only our own personal, subjective, and limited understanding of his word.
Jesus saw no such problem. He believed that the truth vested in him was the very word of the Father, and that this word could be preached to everyone, and everyone could know that truth with a full assurance of its veracity and purity. Jesus stakes his own reputation on that. “I am the truth... You shall know the truth.”
Jesus had no doubt that the words he spoke in human language could be perfectly understood. He promises that no storm can prevail against the wisdom gained by "Every one who hears these words of mine and acts upon them" (Matthew 7:24-29).
Against the raging storm of pagan ideas, we have the anchor of absolute truth —fashioned for us by the only Anchor Maker who can guarantee that his words are God’s words; words of truth unchangeable; words for life eternal.