Pillar Journal

To bear witness to the truth

For a few weeks in December, people with a variety of views—often contradictory—unify in the “spirit of Christmas.”

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. — JOHN 18:37

During the Christmas season, people who give little thought to Jesus Christ and His incarnation most of the year come together, despite their radical differences. Many of them would say that truth is relative—that what you believe to be true may or may not be true for them, that there is more than one way to God, and that your truth is not necessarily superior to theirs. But for a few weeks in December, people with a variety of views—often contradictory—unify in the “spirit of Christmas.” Ironically, they are unknowingly celebrating the coming of Jesus who, shortly before His death, declared to Pilate that He had been born “to bear witness to the truth” and, by implication, expose everything else as false.

In cultures and thought systems that reject the very idea of absolute truth rooted in Christ, speaking the truth is not necessarily a virtue, and lying is not necessarily a fault. In Hinduism certain forms of lying, deceit, and theft are considered virtuous. Today, even in Judeo-Christian contexts, people frequently question the existence of truth itself. Some people wonder whether truth matters. In a similarly relativistic culture two thousand years ago, the ultimate expression of truth appeared on this earth in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Standing before Pontius Pilate, Jesus declared, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” Earlier He said, “I am the truth!” (John 14:6). Truth is intimately connected with Christ and His coming into the world.

When we think about Christ’s coming, we should consider the truth to which Jesus’ birth testifies. He came to testify that all men pervert the truth and justice of God. As Paul says in Romans 3:4, “Let God be true, but every man a liar.” The truth of God in Christ shines light upon our hearts and exposes the lies we use to justify a life at odds with God. But He also came to address this problem. Christ bears witness to “the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation” (Eph. 1:13). When we look to Christ by faith, we are overwhelmed by the radical truthfulness of God and the radical deception that is found in each one of us (Deut. 32:4; Jer. 17:9). But we also begin to hear Christ teach the way of God in truth (Matt. 22:16). As we walk in this way, we will find great freedom.

Pilate questioned the existence of truth, and his life bore the fruit of his doubts. He lived in fear of losing his position. Against his conscience, he gave deference to the mad requests of the people. He disregarded the advice of his wife, who urged him to have nothing to do with Jesus’ death. Pilate was in bondage because he didn’t know the truth. Even though he spent many years bound in prison, the apostle Paul declares, “Stand fast…in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free” (Gal. 5:1). So you can be a prisoner and yet be truly free, or you can be a king and live in bondage. As Paul testified in chains before kings, it was clear that he, not they, knew true freedom (Acts 24:16, 25). You can almost hear the chains rattling on Pilate’s wrists when he asks Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).

Jesus testifies, “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37) and promises that “the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Do you experience true freedom in Christ? Or are you living in bondage to the fear of men, to the demands of your flesh, and to the guilt of lies? As we experience salvation in Christ, we begin to see that truth and lies are like oil and water. In Christ we can reject everything that is false and begin to live freely in the truth. We find healing for our deceitful hearts in His truth. We learn to hate lies and deception because they attack Christ as surely as nails pierced His hands and feet. A tremendous series of lies sent Christ to the cross! We love the truth because it is a reflection of Jesus Christ, who is truth incarnate (John 14:6).

Excerpt from
Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation
By Joel R. Beeke and William Boekestein