Sermon, Leichlingen,


Bible passages

Exodus 34:6; Truth as the mark of God

Psalm 25, 10; Truth as the mark of God's ways

Psalm 33:4; God's word and work are straight in truth.

Psalm 119, 142; God's law is truth

Psalm 119, 160; The sum of God's word is truth

1 Cor. 13, 6; Love rejoices with the truth.

Joh. 9,16; discord between the Pharisees because of the healing of the man born blind

Psalm 115, 1; God's glory for his goodness and truth

Joshua 24, 14; Truth as a mark of service

Psalm 26:3; Psalm 86:11; Living in God's Truth

Joh. 3, 21; He who does truth comes to the light.

Joh. 4, 23; Worshiping the Father in Spirit and in Truth

Joh. 8, 32; Truth makes free.

Joh. 8, 45; The truth is not believed.

Gal. 4, 16; enemy because one speaks the truth?

Joh. 6, 13; The spirit of truth guides into truth.

Joh. 17, 17; Sanctification through truth

Joh. 18, 38; "What is truth?"

2 Cor. 4, 2; By revelation of the truth recommendation for the conscience of others

Eph. 4, 15; Holding fast the truth in love, thereby growing towards Christ.

Eph. 4, 25; Put away lies, speak truth to one another

Eph. 6, 14; loins girded with truth (spiritual armour)

1 Tim. 2, 4; All shall be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

2 Tim. 3, 7; Always learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth

2 Tim. 4, 4; Fables instead of truth

1. Joh. 1, 8; Truth before ourselves

1 John 3:18; Loving in deed and truth

Joh. 1, 14; Jesus full of grace and truth

Joh. 1, 17; grace and truth was given through Jesus

Joh. 14, 6; Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

Joh. 14, 7; Holy Spirit as Spirit of Truth

Joh. 18, 37; Jesus' mission is to bear witness to the truth

Acts 28, 23; The message is called truth.

What is truth?

Why this question?

There are many areas where people are still very interested in this question, for example in politics.

Around the Gulf War, for example, the question of truth or lies came up again and again:

Did Hussein have weapons of mass destruction? Did the USA invade there only for economic reasons? Did the secret services of the USA and Great Britain deliberately lie in order to prepare the war in public?

And it is still the case today that credibility is important for a politician. If a politician is caught in a lie, it can still result in him having to give up his post and resign to the second row.
Some politicians therefore avoid making clear statements so that this does not happen.

The question of truth is also incredibly important in science and research. Wrongly manipulated research results can have far-reaching consequences.

The decisive factor here is always: What is provable?

And this question of provability runs more and more through all areas of life.

In the past, the secular and the spiritual authorities were largely believed.

If the ruler said we were going to war, everyone went along. There was little questioning of whether the war made sense. Certainly, it was also difficult to have and represent one's own opinion in dictatorial regimes.

Also in the spiritual sphere: what the priest said was true, there was no doubt about it, at least not in matters concerning faith. In some countries this is still the case today. I experienced this 10 years ago in Romanian villages, where the word of the local priest was practically law.

For us Germans, this obedience to authority culminated in the Third Reich, where a large proportion of Germans really believed in Hitler.

I think because of our history, we are therefore particularly sceptical and don't want to see evidence until we are told something.

In science and politics it works somehow, but what about when we talk about God?

You can't prove God.

In this subject area of faith and religion, the question of truth has become very unpopular anyway. Most people probably do it like Pilate, here in conversation with Jesus during his delivery: (Joh. 18, 37.38)

Pilate said to him, "So you are a king? Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this cause was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice .

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them: I find no fault in him at all; "

Pilate asks "What is truth?" and does not wait for the answer and goes out.

It's the same today: What is truth? Everyone says something different, no one can know. I don't want to hear your answer. Aren't they all right in some way?

So Pilate was a very modern person in this respect.
He thought Jesus was innocent, maybe even a good person, a role model, as some also say today, but he was not interested in what Jesus called the truth.

That's also very modern, isn't it?

In today's age of provability, what counts more is the question of effectiveness, also in the area of faith. Does it work?

And somehow that is also the case with us.
So it's no longer: What is the true teaching? but: How can I make it so that I can experience God?
What good is the truth if I don't experience it?

Or: What is the recipe for church growth? What methods work?

I do not want to badmouth new ideas. The church of Jesus, with its way of sharing the Gospel with the surrounding world, must of course continue to develop and, in a certain sense, move with the times.

But I think you see the tendency: no longer: What is true? but: What works?

But this question is also very old.
When Jesus healed a man born blind, the Pharisees argued about how to deal with it (Joh. 9, 16):

"Then said some of the Pharisees: This man is not of God, for he keepeth not the Sabbath: and others said, How can a sinful man do such signs? And there was dissension among them."

The Pharisees had made up additional commandments around the Bible in the course of their history and were also quite strict about the Sabbath.
Healing on the Sabbath contradicted their teaching and was therefore wrong for some of them, plain and simple.

But a cure is basically a good thing, so some others thought, it worked, so Jesus can't be a bad person.

Which view is correct here?

One can make it very easy for oneself and say:
Sure. Jesus' deeds were the proof that Jesus comes from God, that is obvious by the healing, isn't it?

But there are also cases where we keep a very low profile despite proven effectiveness.
I'm thinking of spiritual healing and treatment, e.g. of warts.
I have seen serious-looking documentations that such practices have really cured some illnesses. But in such cases the effectiveness does not necessarily convince me that such healings are from God.
In such cases we put truth before efficacy.

With different views on doctrinal issues between congregations or even denominations, the question of truth has become extremely unpopular.
I was talking to an old - Protestant - uncle of mine a few months ago and he couldn't believe why the Catholic Church was still separating from the Protestant churches. It was about the Catholic Church banning communion at the ecumenical church congress in 2003.
I could not really understand his bewilderment. We talked about it for a while.

I don't share the teachings of the Catholic Church - I find them wrong on many points - but I can understand in principle that they act according to their teachings. In the eyes of the mainstream, that may be reprehensible, but if you always follow the mainstream, then you just become arbitrary and useless.

The application and living of basic beliefs - I'll use the dirty word "foundations" - has become so unpopular today that one must only believe in a supernatural, sexless energy so as not to offend anywhere.

Even in some so-called Christian churches, one gets into trouble when one claims that Jesus is the only truth, the only way to God (Joh. 14, 6).

And if you then go on to say that you believe the Bible to be true, then it's all over.

But let's stay on the subject of "truth and the Bible".

Is the Bible true?

Or should we rather say that the Bible contains the truth?

You can also rinse it even more smoothly: The Bible contains the divine and the human.

I know more such phrases: (read with special emphasis)

It is not a question of whether the miracles happened that way, because the authors only wanted to figuratively emphasise the importance of Jesus.
(According to my confirmation records, one cannot assume that the miracle stories with Jesus really happened that way either).

The contradictions in the Bible are not a problem because the authors did not claim to transmit exact information.

The Bible has no scientific pretensions.

Etc. etc.

I once dug such statements out of my memory.

In the end, all these statements mean that the biblical authors sometimes did not take the truth very seriously.

Is that so?

Because we regard the Bible as our foundation, this question already plays a weighty role for us.

When the Bible speaks of God's Word, His commandments and Jesus' message, it often speaks of truth:

For example, in Psalm 119, which has God's Word itself as its theme:

V. 142;" Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law is truth. "

V. 151;" You are near, Yahweh; and all your commandments are truth. "

V. 160;" The sum of your word is truth, and all the righteousness of your justice endures forever. "

Ultimately, it means that everything God says is true.
This includes commandments, promises, prophecies, etc.
Everything is true.

Jesus also always made it clear that what he proclaimed was the truth.
This also became clear in the conversation with Pilate mentioned earlier (Joh. 18, 37):

Pilate said to him, "So you are a king? Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this cause was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice."

Or Joh. 1, 17.18;

"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath made him known."

Grace and truth have been given to us through Jesus.

And this means the truth about God.

But is the whole Bible true?

Jesus himself also seems to consider the Old Testament to be true; there is at least no indication that he considers any of the incidents handed down from the Old Testament to be untrue or a made-up legend.
When he quotes something, he always considers it to be true.

E.g. Elijah's provision for a widow by means of the miraculous multiplication of flour and oil (Luk 4:25);

"But in truth I tell you, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, so that a great famine came upon all the land; and to none of them was Elijah sent but to Sarepta in Sidonia, to a woman, a widow ."

Obviously Jesus assumes that this incident really happened.

But these are assertions for the time being. The question of provability arises again.

If the Bible says of itself that it is true, that doesn't mean anything.

What about the many contradictions in the Bible?

These "contradictions" seem to preoccupy many.
If you enter "Bible, contradictions" in a search engine, countless pages appear where attempts are made to resolve contradictions or where contradictions are listed.

On Islamic sites, apparent contradictions are presented as an argument that the Bible is falsified in comparison to the Koran. Yet there are much more serious contradictions in the Koran.

What do we do with such "contradictions"?

You can certainly explain all the contradictions somehow, but some of it seems to be pulled out by the hair, doesn't it?

Let's take any example: the end of Judas the traitor.

Matth. 27, 5 says that he hanged himself.

Acts 1:18 says that he fell headlong and was broken in two.

One could explain this by saying that perhaps the rope broke when it was hung up, or that it fell off the rope when it was cut and broke in two.

Neither of these sounds particularly credible, but they could have been.
Such explanations, however, are far from plausible enough for Bible critics.

I would like to describe an experience to you and justify why the Bible is true despite the apparent contradictions.

Many years ago I was still working in Bonn.

I was programming there, in a programming system called Delphi, and I exchanged information with other programmers via an Internet newsgroup. Such a newsgroup is comparable to a forum, where you can write something and someone else responds to it in writing. This sometimes leads to real written discussions.

Now my boss at the time was a bit apprehensive about security issues and only provided one computer that could be used to access the internet. This computer was not connected to any other computer in our office.
So if I wanted to read something in the newsgroup or write a post, I had to leave my work computer and go to another office, to the internet computer.

Now someone in the newsgroup asked a question that I could partly answer.
I did that and wrote that the rest of the solution could be found in Delphi's online help (you may know this, a help window opens with F1). I also wrote that I don't have access to the online help here on this computer, which was true.

A little later I came across a super-interesting question. I started to answer it, but then I needed information from Delphi's online help. Because this question was also very interesting for me, I went to my work computer - in the other office room - where I was programming, and looked up the online help. Then I copied a text passage from the online help onto a floppy disk and went back to the Internet computer in the other room with the floppy disk and copied this text from the online help into my answer.

How does this look now for someone who reads along in the newsgroup?

First I say that I don't have access to Delphi's online help and then in a later post I copy a text from the online help.

That is a contradiction. Did I lie? No. But it looks that way.

Well-meaning people might assume that I laid a cable to get access to the Internet from my work computer. But that's not true.

It's hard to figure out from the outside what really happened.
Only I know how to resolve this contradiction because I was there. And now you know it too.

When you look at your life, some actions will certainly seem contradictory to outsiders because they don't know all the background.

The Bible reports, among other things, about how people live with God. And the Bible often reports from the point of view of a human being.

In my opinion, it would be extremely strange if some things did not appear contradictory. You can't always give all the background to an event in a book so that everything is always clear. That is not possible at all.

With so many events that have been handed down, there must always be some that seem contradictory and can only be resolved by quite improbable explanations; just as improbable as I used to run from one computer to another with a diskette just to answer a question.

To sum up on the question "Is the Bible true?":

Consequences of the truth

I believe that no one can be made a Christian by plausible argumentation.

I once had a student who was tutoring me and I gave him a book by Peter Hahne.
He told me later that it was all very well argued, but that this argumentation didn't appeal to him at all. It didn't matter to him whether it was true or not.

The zeitgeist that effectiveness is more important than truth is evident here.

Jesus spoke of his testimony of truth and in him this truth became effective. He also lived his preaching.

Perhaps my preaching has so far come off a little worse in the comparison of truth and effectiveness.
Effectiveness is of course important. A faith without efficacy (James 2:17) is dead in itself and thus useless.
If you believe something to be true and do not live it, then it is of no use.

What consequences does it have for us that what God tells us in the Bible is true?

If it is true, then we can rely on the Bible in principle, no matter what the zeitgeist or the mainstream says about the Bible.
It is worth living by it.

I would now like to conclude by briefly quoting and commenting on some biblical passages on this point of "consistency of truth".

Psalm 86:11;"Teach me, O Yahweh, thy way: I will walk in thy truth: make mine heart fear thy name. "

It means that God's truth should also shine through into our lives and we should live a life of truth.

Joshua 24:14;" And now fear Yahweh and serve Him in perfection and in truth; "

The truth should determine our service and our lives.

Sometimes a conflict is seen between truth and love; this is what the Bible says.

Eph. 4:15;"but holding fast the truth in love, let us grow up in all things unto him who is the head, the Christ."

1.Joh. 3,18;" Children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth."

Of course, it is not always easy to tell the truth without hurting, but if we align ourselves with Jesus, we will always be able to resolve this conflict better.
Jesus also always told the truth.

Joh. 4, 24;" God is a spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. "

Our worship too, and this includes our Sunday service, is to be conducted in spirit and in truth, by all involved.

And finally, a Psalm verse that summarises the most important consequence of God's truth:

Psalm 115, 1;" Not to us, Yahweh, not to us, but to your name give glory, for your goodness' sake, for your truth's sake!"