It is rich within the Psalms. There is a “path” and a “way” that the righteous walk in. In a couple places, that “path” is defined with the word truth. Psalm 25:5 says, “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me…” The previous verse is asking God to show His ways, and to teach His paths. Here there is a parallel happening, where the paths and truth are being considered related, and the last segment both speak “teach me”. Psalm 43:3 puts God’s light and truth together, asking that they would lead the psalmist. Where exactly are they leading? The verse ends with the answer: unto thy holy hill, and thy tabernacles. Psalm 86:11 asks that God would teach His way, and I will walk in your truth.
Notice that in all of these cases in the psalms, the truth that is being walked in, or is leading, is always in some way synonymous with God’s paths and/or ways. Jesus had spoken to enter through the narrow gate, and spoke of a difficult path for the righteous to walk. In the Hebrew mind, the paths and ways of God are the ways of righteousness, the manner of living and thinking like God lives and thinks. It is about learning what it means to be a living sacrifice, and now that we are no longer dead in our sins and trespasses, how ought we to live to reflect that we’ve been raised with Christ? The Psalms might not specifically give all of those details, but that is precisely what is being conveyed.
Colossians 3 begins by telling us to put our focus upon the things above. This makes sense, because we are not any longer of the earth, but now have been made in union with God through Christ Jesus, seated with Him in heavenly places. The old habits and lifestyle has been done away with; we are new creations. Maybe this is why the psalmist perceived that light and truth would be leading him to Zion, the holy hill of God, and the tabernacle where God dwells. The path of truth will ultimately lead us to God’s abode, the very place described in Revelation 4-5, which the writer of Hebrews calls the Holy of Holies, and tells us that we’ve been given access into that Most Holy place.
An infamous verse in John says that the truth shall set us free. What is the nature of truth to set free? What is the nature of truth to lead us unto Zion? What is the nature of truth to be what causes us to live in eternal life, rather than in the ways of death? The Holy Spirit is even called the Spirit of Truth in the Gospel of John, both in chapter 14 and in chapter 16. John 16:13 doesn’t give us the isolated term, but even says that one of the roles of the “Spirit of Truth” is to lead us into all truth. While it might be easy to say that this was only for those gathered around Jesus in that moment, I simply cannot believe that. If truth is not merely a matter of knowledge, but is a matter of reality and perception, a matter of a way in which we walk before the Lord, then certainly the Spirit of Truth shall indeed lead us in all things.
John rejoiced that the truth was in his disciples – a statement that should be dwelt upon for a while – and that they were walking in truth. He even says that he has no greater joy than to know that his children are walking in truth.1 In all of these things, the point is to say that truth itself must be something beyond a factual knowledge. While factual knowledge of how God demands that we live might be a part of it, I think that it misses the fullness of what God is speaking. There is a way that seems right to a man, even a studied man who has an impeccable Christian ethics, but the end thereof is death.
From my earliest time in church, when I was first saved, I was able to recognize two different types of Christians. There were they who had all of their ducks in a row, and they knew the Scripture, they knew doctrine. Yet, in all of their knowledge they seemed to lack the fire. They knew the Scripture, debated the Scripture, demanded that we walk according to the Scripture, had all of the seamless and pristine doctrines lined up, and yet in all of their ‘being scriptural’, it did not make them Christ-like. While all of their theology was in tact, and they were heralded by many as being elders and men of renown, something was strangely missing. It was assumed that in having all of the right understanding was what made them Christian, and made them mature in the faith. Yet, there were others who might not have been as deep in their understanding, and yet they walked like Jesus walked. They cried, they loved, they visited the orphans and widows, they gave richly to the saints who had need, they lived as if the things that they own were not their own. In all things, they communicated the wisdom of God, and the very heart of God oozed out of them in almost all matters. Why was it that the truth of the educated led them to making sure people believed correctly, but the truth of the less educated seemed to lead them to love?
Are there exceptions? Absolutely yes. Is this the guide by which you should measure? God forbid that you should think this. Paul, being educated beyond anyone that I know, was able to have the intellect and theology, and at the same time have emotion and compassion. It might be the common reality, but that doesn’t mean it should be. It is often the untrained that make the most impact. It is often the unorthodox that bring the most radical reformation. And, I would add that it isn’t always bad when they do. Let us not forget that our own patriarchs, the Twelve that Jesus chose, we mostly fishermen and louts, men trained in their father’s trade instead of theology. And the ones who Jesus most vehemently chastised were the Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees who were the elite few. Of all people, they were the ones who knew their Bibles. If they didn’t have the whole Old Testament memorized, you better believe they weren’t a Pharisee or Sadducee. They were more studied than our greatest theologians, more familiar with the Scriptures than our sages, and more familiar with the interpretations of their fathers than our most scholarly church historians. And yet, in their own day, we see the same cycle that it did not cause them to know the heart of God and live in that “truth”.
1 3 John 1:3-4