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Authority for Truth

Matthew 21:23

By: David F. Reagan

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INTRODUCTION: Authority for truth is the right to determine what the truth is.

I.          WHAT IS TRUTH? (John 18:37-38)

A.       An exact and faithful expression of the facts.  ILLUSTRATION: On the witness stand – “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

B.        The standard by which to judge all else; a final authority

C.       The real answers to the real questions; those thing that remain (Hebrews 12:26-28)


A.       Man is Unfulfilled Without the Truth – He is to:

1.        Seek the truth (Jeremiah 5:1)

2.        Buy the truth (Proverbs 23:23)

3.        Know the truth (John 8:31-32)  NOTE: knowledge of the truth must therefore be possible

4.        Serve in truth (1Samuel 12:24)

Purpose of Doctrine – “[E]very truth, doctrine, and proposition in the gospel aims at subduing sin in the heart, and, bringing the heart to God, seeks to make us better rather than wiser. The design of the Scripture is not to amuse and puzzle us, but to reform and sanctify us; not to confound our heads, but to conform our hearts and reform our lives to the holiness of its principles; not to make us lose our wits, but to save our souls.” –from Practical Godliness: The Ornament of All Religion by Vincent Alsop (p.9).

B.        Truth is Often Disregarded by Man

1.        Truth is fallen in the street (Isaiah 59:14-15)

2.        Men are not valiant for the truth (Jeremiah 9:3,5)

3.        There is no truth in the land (Hosea 4:1,6)

4.        Men turn their ears away from the truth (2Timothy 4:4)

Danger of Creeds – “Men who are morbidly anxious to possess a self-consistent creed, --a creed which they can put together, and form into a square, like a Chinese puzzle, -are very apt to narrow their souls. Fancying that all truth can be comprehended in half-a-dozen formulae, they reject as worthless every doctrinal statement which cannot be so comprehended. Those who will only believe what they can reconcile will necessarily disbelieve much of Divine revelation; they are, without knowing it, following the lead of the Rationalists.

“Those who receive by faith anything which they find in the Bible will receive two things, twenty things, ay, or twenty thousand things, though they cannot construct a theory which harmonizes them all. That process of theory-making is an expensive folly, the invention of middle terms is a waste of ingenuity; it were far better to believe the truths, and leave the Lord to show their consistency.” –from An All-Round Ministry by C. H. Spurgeon (p.23-24).


A.       God is the Source of Truth

1.        God the Father is truth (Psalm 31:5)

2.        God the Son is truth (John 14:6)

3.        God the Holy Ghost is truth (John 14:17)

B.        God has Promised to Reveal the Truth – His Truth is:

1.        To endure to all generations (Psalm 100:5)

2.        To be known with certainty (Proverbs 22:21)

IV.     WHAT ARE THE ENEMIES OF TRUTH? (Genesis 3:1-5; Roman 1:25)

A.       Philosophy: the authority of man’s greatest wisdom (Colossians 2:8; Acts 17:18, with v.16,22,23)

B.        Tradition:  the authority of man’s long-time practice (Colossians 2:8; Matthew 15:1-9, esp.v.3,6,9)

C.       Science: the authority of observable facts and repeatable physical laws (1Timothy 6:20)

Just the Facts – “We are invited, brethren, most earnestly to go away from the old-fashioned belief of our forefathers because of the supposed discoveries of science. What is science? The method by which man tries to conceal his ignorance. It should not be so, but so it is. You are not to be dogmatical in theology, my brethren, it is wicked; but for scientific men, it is the correct thing. You are never to assert anything very strongly; but scientists may boldly assert what they cannot prove, and may demand a faith far more credulous than any we possess.

Forsooth, you and I are to take our Bibles, and shape and mould our belief according to the ever-shifting teachings of so-called scientific men. What folly is this! Why, the march of science, falsely so-called, through the world, may be traced by exploded fallacies and abandoned theories. Former explorers, once adored, are now ridiculed; the continual exposure of false hypotheses is a matter of universal notoriety. You may tell where the learned have encamped by the debris left behind of suppositions and theories as plentiful as broken bottles.

As the quacks, who ruled the world of medicine in one age, are the scorn of the next, so has it been, and so will it be, with your atheistical savants and pretenders to science. But they remind us of facts. Are they not yet ashamed to use the word? Wonderful facts, made to order, and twisted to their will to overthrow the actual facts which the pen of God Himself has recorded!” –from An All-Round Ministry by C. H. Spurgeon (p.97-98).

D.       Scholarship: the authority of academic learning and agreed upon knowledge (2Timothy 3:7; Isaiah 29:9-12)

Classical Nonsense – In 17th century England, a chorus of radical voices “had joined in denouncing the universities’ presumption that classical learning was a necessary part of the training of the preacher. Antichrist, said William Dell, ‘chose his ministers only out of the universities.’ John Bunyan, in “a Few Sighs from Hell (1658) attacked ‘carnal priests…who muzzle up your people in ignorance with Aristotle, Plato and the rest of the heathenish philosophers.’ In another early work Bunyan told his readers that he wrote without ‘fantastic expressions,…light, vain, whimsical scholar-like terms’ because ‘I never went to school, to Aristotle or Plato, but was brought up at my father’s house, in a very mean condition, among a company of poor countrymen.’ If those who knew Greek were alone capable of understanding the Scriptures, he exploded, ‘then but a very few of the poorest sort should be saved.’” –from A Tinker and a Poor Man by Christopher Hill (p.140).

E.        Pragmatism: the authority of what brings the desired results (1Corinthians 18-25)

F.        Experience: the authority of personal experience (Romans 10:2-3)

E. M. Bounds on Seeking Experiences – E. M. Bounds wrote many books on prayer. “The Preacher and Prayer, begun in 1905 and published in 1907, was the result of Bounds’ notes on insights on prayer and information gathered from the revivals. As he recalled and meditated upon the great spiritual movements of God and made observations as a student of the Word of God and John Wesley, he found weaknesses in the experiences that were coming out of the meetings of 1904-1905. Revival and spiritual awakenings often assault the emotions of people. For this reason, Bounds felt that a foundation of biblical doctrine must be taught to the new converts. Otherwise, they would begin their spiritual walk seeking additional experiences rather than seeking God. The great influx of converts into the churches during the 1904-1905 Awakening was a phenomenon to experience and study. But the effect of the revival dissipated rapidly among the newly converted. Those who were already Christians developed a deeper walk and a greater understanding of the ways of God, but they were negligent in sharing it effectively with the new disciples.” –from E. M. Bounds by Darrel D. King (p.137-138).

Excesses in the Great Revival – David Benedict, in his Baptist history, tells how the Baptists fared during the Great Revival of 1800 (also known as the Second Great Awakening). Although they were greatly blessed in conversions and increases in membership, they did not experience as much of the emotional excesses as was common among the Methodists and Presbyterians. “Garner McConnico, a noted pioneer Baptist minister in Middle Tennessee, was once preaching and a man began jerking. McConnico paused, and then in ‘a loud and solemn tone,’ said: ‘I command all unclean spirits to leave this place!’ At once the jerker became still, and the report went abroad that Mr. McConnico ‘cast out devils.’ It is a fact worth observing and remembering that the excesses under consideration either did not prevail at all or were manifested in only a very small degree except where they were favored and encouraged.” –from Early Tennessee Baptists by O. W. Taylor (p.171).


A.       The word of God: the only God-given authority (John 8:31-32; 17:17) 

B.        Called the word of truth (John 17:17; 1Thessalonians 2:13; 2Timothy 2:15)

C.       The authority a person accepts when two authorities disagree becomes his supreme authority

1.        Theistic evolution (Bible vs. Science)

2.        “Praying through” for salvation (Bible vs. Tradition or Experience)

3.        Concerts and Drama (Bible vs. Pragmatism)

D.       Only an absolute authority can give absolute truth; all other truth is relative and changeable (Ps.119:128)

CONCLUSION: More Light to Come – While the Pilgrims were still in the Netherlands and before they came to America in 1620, John Robinson was their pastor. He was not able to come with them to America. What follows is part of his departing exhortation to them: “We are now quickly to part from one another, and whether I may ever live to see your faces upon earth any more, the God of heaven only knows; but whether the Lord has appointed that or no, I charge you before God and his blessed angels, that you follow me no farther than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. If God reveal any thing to you by any other instrument of his, be as ready to receive it as ever you was to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily persuaded, the Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of his holy word… I beseech you remember, it is an article of your church covenant, that you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written word of God… But I must herewithal exhort you to take heed what you receive as truth; examine it, consider it, and compare it with other scriptures of truth, before you receive it; for it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick anti-christian darkness, and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once.” –quoted from The History and Antiquities of the Dissenting Churches: Volume One by Walter Wilson (p.33-34). See Daniel 12:8-9.


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