A Vital Question for the 21st Century

John 18:36-38

My kingdom is not of this world…

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then?

Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth?

And when he had said this, he went out…

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): It is uncertain with what design Pilate asked this question.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Some think it is vox admirantis―as if Pilate wondered at Christ, that when his life was in question he should talk of truth; “Your life is in danger, and talk you of truth?”

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): Some think that Pilate puts this question through curiosity, as irreligious men are sometimes accustomed to be eagerly desirous of learning something that is new to them, and yet do not know why they wish it; for they intend nothing more than to gratify their ears. For my own part, I rather think that it is an expression of disdain; for Pilate thought himself highly insulted when Christ represented him as destitute of all knowledge of the truth. Here we see in Pilate a disease which is customary among men.  Though we are all aware of our ignorance, yet there are few who are willing to confess it.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679):  Truth and error are all one to the ignorant man, so it hath but the name of truth.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I do not think he asked the question, “What is truth?” as if he seriously desired to know what it really was, for surely he would have paused for the divine reply and not have gone away from Christ the moment afterwards.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): This famous question, in my judgment, can only admit of one interpretation. It is the cold, sneering, skeptical interjection of a mere man of the world, who has persuaded himself that there is no such thing as truth, that all religions are equally false, that this life is all we have to care for, and that creeds and modes of faith are only words and names and superstitions, which no sensible person need attend to. It is precisely the state of mind in which thousands of great and rich men in every age live and die. Expanded and paraphrased, Pilate’s question comes to this: “Truth indeed! What is truth? I have heard all my life of various philosophical systems, each asserting that it has found the truth, and each differing widely from the others. Who is to decide what is truth and what is not?” The best proof that this is the right view of the sentence is Pilate’s behavior when he has asked the question. He broke off the conversation at this point.

 WILLIAM GURNALL: Truth is loved and prized only of those who know it. And not to desire to know it, is to despise it.

 TERTULLIAN (160-240): Our Lord Jesus Christ called Himself  “the Truth.”―“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” John 14:6.

JOHN CALVIN: It is not to one age only, or to one nation, that the saying of our Lord applies, for He adds, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

C. H. SPURGEON: If this Doctrine is true, then that which contradicts it cannot be true! It takes a good deal of courage to say that, nowadays.

LORD SHAFTESBURY (1801-1885): The larger portion of those who profess to believe, are eagerly eliminating from their creed all dogma and doctrine.  They accept the Scriptures just as far as it suits their philosophy.  Such will be the religion of the future, in which Vishnu, Mahomet, Jupiter, and Jesus Christ will all be upon a level; with some, all equally good, and with others, all equally bad.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Christianity is an exclusive religion; it claims that it, and it alone, is the truth of God. And not only is it the one and only way, it also does not need any help or assistance. There is no need to add a little Buddhism, or Mohammedanism, or Confucianism, or any other ‘ism’ to it. It is itself the way, and it is complete, it is entire.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): Christ is the only way of access to God, and acceptance with Him.

C. H. SPURGEON: Jesus is the Truth―“Now be very careful upon that point,” says one. “Do you mean to say that there really is such a thing as the Truth?” By your leave, dear Sir, or without it, I will venture to assert that there is! “That reply is a very bigoted one because if there is a Doctrine that is the Truth, then that which is contrary to it is a lie.” Precisely so, and by your leave, or without your leave, I say again that it is so and it must be so in the natural order of things―If God has spoken thus, that which is opposed to God and His Truth, is not from Him and cannot stand on the same footing with that which is Divinely revealed.

RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): This is God’s Word, therefore it is true.

JOHN CALVIN: There is nothing holier, or better, or safer, than to content ourselves with the authority of Christ alone…It is to be noted, that the Word of God is set in opposition to all human counsels. What the world judges right is often crooked and perverse in the judgment of God.

C. H. SPURGEON: The age extols no virtue so much as “liberality,” and condemns no vice so fiercely as bigotry—alas!—honesty!…Our blessed Saviour is honestly intolerant! He says, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but He that believes not shall be damned.” Because He loves the souls of men, He will not bolster up the fiction of universal charity. And even before the Broad-church or No-church Pilate—He says that He has come to bear witness to the Truth. So there is the Truth, and that which is contrary to it is not Truth!

WILLIAM GURNALL: As we deal with truth, so we deal with God Himself; he that despiseth that, despiseth Him. He that abandons the truth of God, renounceth the God of truth.

C. H. SPURGEON: Christ came into the world to bear witness to the truth, and He has sent you to do the same—take care that you do it.


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