“Truth” in the Gospel of John Essay

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“Truth” in the Gospel of John

Introduction

     There are many key words in the Gospel of John and all of them express certain themes which are deemed important by the author (Apostle John). Some of the key words include Word, light, water, life, witness, love, abide, glorify, darkness, the Counselor, and truth. These words reflect teachings which are latent in the Old Testament whereas here in the Gospel of John are clarified. For example, in the Old Testament, the significance and frequent reference to water[1] was noted by John in Jesus’ many conversations and used to reinforce Jesus’ claim to have fulfilled what water symbolizes.

Jesus is quoted as telling the Samaritan woman He could give her “living water” which satisfies, in contrast to the temporary relief that the water of Jacob’s well could provide[2]. Once, during the Feast of Tabernacles, Jesus said these words: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”[3]. Jesus, John would say, is the long awaited Messiah, the One who could truly quench Israel’s many needs. Jesus is the Living Water. He is the fulfilment of the Old Testament symbolism of water.

    Another key word which needs to be understood in the Gospel of John is the word “truth.” What is the meaning of truth in the gospel of John?

Definition

    Truth (Pronounced ALETHEIA in GK.) when used in the New Testament signify “the reality lying at the basis of an appearance; the manifested, veritable essence of a matter”[4]. It is used to distinguish the true gospel teachings from the perversions of it[5], to point to the realities about God – the reality of his existence, etc.[6], and the truthfulness of His promises as they are fulfilled in Christ[7]. Adam Clarke, commenting on Jn.8:32, says that the “truth” referred to by Jesus was the Jewish Law since it had become a maxim among the Jewish people, “That no man was free, but he who exercised himself in the meditation of the law”[8].

On the other hand, another commentator (Albert Barnes) with equal calibre said that “truth” in Jn.8:32 mean the whole “doctrines of the Christian religion[9].” In any ways, when John uses the word in his Gospel, it pertains to the law and its fulfilment in Jesus (Jn.1:18), the words of Jesus and the Father (Jn.8:45-55), and Jesus himself as the personification of truth (Jn.14:6).[10]

  1. What John Says About The Truth?

     For John, first and foremost, all truths come from God (Jn.1:1-18). God is the absolute truth. He has the Word (Jn.1:1) and that Word was Christ. God was, from the beginning, had been trying to communicate His truths to His people (Jn.5:45-46), until eventually He sent His one and only Son (Jn.1:14).

Thus, Jesus was, in one sense, a Testifier of the absoluteness of God and His word. At times, John would refer to Jesus and the Word interchangeably in his Gospel. As an infallible Witness, Jesus testified of the verity of God but was rejected by His own; nevertheless, being the Truth Himself (Jn.14:6), He will judge people in the last day according to His Word (Jn.12:48). Jesus’ words are trustworthy and can be relied on for eternal life (Jn.1:12, 17:3).

     Another thing which John had been trying to convince his readers about is the truthfulness – the reliability of his own witness (Jn.20:31). In a separate letter (1 John), he assured the addressee of his letter at the very beginning of the letter, that what would follow (the teachings) are authoritative and worthy of anybody’s full trust as the Word of God because they were written from an eyewitness’s point of view. He said:

     “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard,

     which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked

     upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of

     life, (for the Life was revealed, and we have seen it

     and bear witness, and show to you the everlasting Life,

     who was with the Father and was revealed to us), that

     which we have seen and heard we declare unto you, so

     that you also may have fellowship with us. And truly

     our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son

     Jesus Christ. And we write these things to you so that

     your joy may be full” (1 Jn.1:1-4).

  1. What Do the Rest of the Scripture say about the Truth?

~ Old Testament

    When Paul said of Scripture as “God-breathed,” and therefore profitable or beneficial for teaching, for reprimanding, for correction, and “for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim.3:16), what he was saying, essentially, is that the whole body of the then canonized Scriptures (the Old Testament) proceeded from God. Having its origin from God, it is truthful and authoritative for everything that it is teaching; it is the absolute “truth” when it comes to instructions or rule of life. “The Word of God shall stand forever” (Isa.40:7-8)[11].

     In Deuteronomy 28, the Law or the Commandments of God, have its binding effect in life generally. It promises blessings to the obedient, whereas its curse will be upon those who are disobedient. Hence, it was the common cry of Old Testament saints, that they be led in the truth (Ps.25:5, 26:1-3, Prov.23:23).

     True, as often said, God’s revelation in the Bible is progressive. He started with the beauty of creation account and the disruption and the curse that the fall of the first couple have triggered over all creation (Gen.1-3). God started with the ABC of salvation when He revealed to Adam and Eve the way to be propitiated from their sins (Gen.3:21). Since then, little by little, He taught every man He has ever called the principle that “without the shedding of the blood, there is no remission of sins.” From Noah, Abraham, until finally, in the days of Moses, He had formally instituted the Tabernacle and animal sacrifices (Exodus and Leviticus).

Before and after the exile (Jews dispersion to Babylon), God continued to speak through His prophets. He warned and reminded them of the terms of the covenant which He established with them through Moses. Prophet Isaiah, throughout his book, has stressed that God takes pleasure in people whose hearts are “humble” and “contrite” before Him (Isa.66:2)[12]. God’s consuming desire throughout the years was that His people – the Israelites – would learn to love and follow the truth which He revealed and entrusted to them[13].

Isaiah reminded them that if they were to enjoy the blessings that the Mosaic covenant promises, they would have to obey its commandments; there was nothing short of obedience or any other way that they could do. God longs to bless His people but His people would not[14]. They remained disobedient until God had to allow for their scattering among the nations. For Israel primarily, truth refers to the Mosaic covenant. Its terms are absolute and demands absolute obedience[15].

     God proceeded, nevertheless, with His plan of redemption. Along with the warnings are many promises regarding the coming Messiah who would ultimately bring salvation upon His people, and would do away with the shadows (rituals) and bring about the truth (realities of Old Testament symbolism) – the fulfilment or culmination of God’s revelation.

   ~ New Testament

     In the New Testament, truth is synonymous of God, Jesus, the Scripture (O.T. & N.T.), and the Gospel message[16]. When New Testament authors speak of “truth,” depending on the context, they might be referring to the Christian doctrine in general as in Gal.2:5, or the revelation of the character of God (Rom.1:25), or God’s being truthful with regards to His promises (Rom.15:8)[17]. Apostle Paul summed up all truths as being embodied in Christ (Eph.4:21). He is the wisdom of God (1 Cor.1:24) and is the final Word of God (Heb.1:1-2).

Conclusion

     What does God want us to know about the truth? As this paper has endeavoured to explore, truth has finally come in Jesus Christ. At the very beginning of John’s Gospel, the writer directed his readers to the fact that the essence of all truths is in the Person of Jesus[18]. He was the Word who was with God in the beginning (Jn.1:1), and who has incarnated in human flesh to make possible salvation for humankind. Whatever man wants to know about God, His word, His salvation, now he can know as he looks to Christ. Everything that any person needs to know about eternal life, righteousness, and judgment, is settled in Christ.

1.) He is grace and truth where the law of Moses pronounces     judgment and condemnation (Jn.1:17).

2.) He is God’s disclosure of Himself to man (Jn.1:18).

3.) He is salvation to those considered high and mighty of      society (Jn.3).

4.) He is salvation to the downcasts of society (Jn.4).

5.) He is the Bread of Life who can satisfy man’s true hunger   Jn.6).

6.) He is the Rivers of Living Water who, not only quenches     thirst for thirsty humanity, but    promises to fill those   who believe with so much of this living water that they    themselves would become source of it (Jn.7).

7.) He is the “I am” of the Old Testament (Jn.8).

8.) He is hope of salvation to the humble and condemnation to

     the hypocrites (Jn.9).

9.) He is the Good Shepherd and the giver/source of abundant    life (Jn.10).

10.) He is the resurrection and the life (Jn.11).

11.) He is the Messiah and the coming Judge (Jn.12).

12.) The ultimate example of service (Jn.13).

13.) The Way, The “Truth” and Life (Jn.14).

14.) The source of fruitful life (Jn.15).

15.) The giver of the Holy Spirit (Jn.16).

16.) Our Mediator before the Father – our high priest (Jn.17).

17.) Bearer of Truth/good witness before Pilate (Jn.18).

18.) He is the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah – our Savior (Jn.19).

19.) He is the Lord God (Jn.20).

20.) He is the Truth and complete message of our salvation.

Works Cited

  1. Barnes, Albert. 2001. Bible Commentary.Power Bible CD.
  2. Clarke, Adam.2001. Bible Commentary. Power Bible CD.
  3. Kaiser, Otto. Isaiah 1-12. A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.
  4. Martin, John A. Book of Isaiah. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.
  5. Mauchline, John. Isaiah 1-39. London: S.C.M Press, 1962. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.
  6. The New King James Bible. 2001. Power Bible CD.
  7. _____ Who Wrote Isaiah? Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Erdsman Publishing Co. 1958. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.
  8. Vine, W.E. 2001. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p.1171.Thomas Nelson Publishers. Tennessee.
  9. Westerman, Claus. Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.
  • Young, Edward. The Book of Isaiah. 3 vols. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Erdsman Publishing Co. 1958. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.

[1] Exo.17:1-6, Ps.1:3, Isa.12:3.

[2] Jn.4:7-15.

[3] Jn.8:37-38.

[4] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p.1171.

[5] Gal.2:5. The New King James Version Bible. 2001. Power Bible CD.(Throughout)

[6] Rom.1:25.

[7] Rom.15:8.

[8] Adam Clarke’s Commentary.

[9] Albert Barnes’ N.T. Commentary.

[10] Kaiser, Otto. Isaiah 1-12. A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1972.In    Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.

 

[11] Westerman, Claus. Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.

[12] Westerman, Claus. Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1969. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.

[13] John A. Martin, book of Isaiah, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.

[14] _____ Who Wrote Isaiah? Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Erdsman Publishing Co. 1958. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Mauchline, John. Isaiah 1-39. London: S.C.M Press, 1962. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.

[17] Martin, John A. Book of Isaiah. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.

[18] Young, Edward. The Book of Isaiah. 3 vols. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Erdsman Publishing Co. 1958. In Walvoord and Zuck ed.The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p.1120.

 

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