The Moment of Truth: Its Rejection
Today, it is often said, “I have my truth, and you have your truth.” Our generation likes to deny absolute truth, saying that something can be true for one person but not true for someone else. This view is not new. In John 18, our Lord stood trial before Pilate. It was the day before His crucifixion, and He would soon be sentenced to death. But before Pilate gives the final verdict, we read this conversation:
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:36–38a)
Pilate, standing before the Lord Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate, voices an age-old question. But it is not an honest question from one searching to know the truth. Rather, it is a defiant denunciation of the truth. It is spoken with a tone of derision. It is dismissive. It is spoken with contempt. This response is asserted mockingly by Pilate. It is a disparaging chide, dripping with sarcasm. It is a caustic rebuttal, intended to belittle the notion that there is any such thing in this world as a truth claim. This is a barbed jab by Pilate into the ribs of the Lord Jesus Christ, meant to deflate Him and denigrate any notion that Jesus could claim to know and speak the truth. Pilate objects to the very idea of an exclusive truth claim.
This question has echoed down the centuries and corridors of time, and it is growing louder and louder today. In this very generation in which we live, we hear this malignant mantra: “What is truth?”
The spirit of Pilate lives in our day. The spirit of Pilate is alive and well on college campuses. It sits in the halls of our government and legislates our moral code. It reigns in our media. It teaches in many of our seminaries. It stands in pulpits today. We live in a culture that is defiant of any notion of truth. We live in a day that not only denies truth, but is against truth. This is an age that is tolerant of anything and anyone except one who claims to know the truth.
In this blog series, we will examine these verses that contain this exchange between Pilate and Jesus in John 18. We will learn some key distinguishing marks related to truth: first, the rejection of the truth; second, the reality of the truth; and third, the reception of the truth.
What Is Truth?
We are surrounded on every side in this culture by the question “What is truth?” This is really the mother of all sins. It is a deliberate setting aside and an intentional rejection of the truth of God.
This is the way it was in the very beginning. In Genesis 3, Satan the serpent slithered on to the pages of human history, and he came to launch an attack on the truth. He said, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Satan knew very well what God had said, but he came to call God’s words into question—to dismiss the truth of God. The original sin was a rejection of the truth—a rejection of God’s way. Man chose to go his own way, to decide for himself what is true, to make his own choices in defiance of the truth.
Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Every generation—and every person—suppresses the truth about God, apart from being born of the truth. This tendency is inherent within man, part of the radical corruption and total depravity in human nature. A few verses later, in Romans 1:25, we read how people exchange the truth of God for a lie. That is the hour in which we live. We live in a culture that has exchanged the truth of God for a lie and has suppressed the truth. This is the demise of any life, it is the departure of any denomination, it is the destruction of any nation, and the disintegration of any society—it begins with the rejection of truth.
Nowhere is this more clearly seen than with our college students, who attend universities that, in many cases, intend to undermine the truth. A recent survey bears this out. Of those surveyed, sixty-four percent of adults age thirty-six and over said there are no moral absolutes. And only twenty-two percent said there are any moral absolutes. But among respondents who are eighteen to twenty-five years old, the percentage of those who reject moral absolutes increased to seventy-five percent. They have no moral compass because they have rejected the truth. And then when the survey was conducted with teenagers, the number jumped again. Eighty-three percent of teenagers said morality and truth depend upon one’s individual preference and upon the circumstances. The younger you are, the more you embrace the statement that there is no absolute truth today.
Men and women of our day are increasingly given to this idea: the only absolute is that there are no absolutes—the only truth is that there is no truth. The only intolerance is the intolerance of intolerance. All this gives popularity today to the approval of such things as abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, pornography, and all kinds of lewd behavior. It is all traced back to this point of departure: the rejection of the truth.
We see it everywhere today. Humanism says man is the truth; pragmatism says whatever works is the truth; pluralism says everyone has a piece of the truth; relativism says each situation determines the truth; mysticism says intuition is the truth; skepticism says no one can know the truth; hedonism says whatever feels good is the truth; existentialism says self-determination is the truth; secularism says this present world is the truth; positivism says whatever man confesses is the truth. This is the world in which we live: the rejection of the truth. In the next post of this series, we will turn to the reality of the truth.