Answering Deception with the Truth
In John 18, hours before our Lord’s crucifixion, we find an interesting exchange between Jesus and Pilate. After Pilate questions Jesus about His kingship, we find the following dialogue in verse 37:
Then Pilate said, “So you are a king!” Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world—to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
And Pilate, echoing humanity’s scorn heard through the ages, retorts, “What is truth?”
Devotion to the truth is foundational for walking with God. But Scripture is full of examples of people who were lost to the lies that blinded them to the knowledge of God. The opening chapters of Genesis illustrate this first deviation from God’s clear path. The setting is the paradise of Eden, and the repeated phrase throughout the creation narrative reminds readers that God’s creation was good. Yet, after the serpent enters, it doesn’t take long for the beautiful scenes of God’s relationship with Adam and Eve to fracture.
Deception characterizes the first interaction recorded between the serpent and humanity. In John 8:44, Jesus describes the harsh reality of the serpent’s identity: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” Jesus identifies Satan as a murderer: he murdered Adam and Eve when he enticed them to eat the forbidden fruit, an action that doomed them and their descendants to death, painful toil, and mortality. But how exactly did he murder? Through clever and cunning deception, he twisted and perverted the truth.
Rewinding to the serpent’s entrance in Genesis 3, we see his deceptive plan on display as he converses with an innocent Eve. He begins by raising a simple question in Genesis 3:1: “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?” His initial ploy plants untruth from the first sentence and presents God as the One who withholds good and desirable things. Attentive readers can see from the surrounding text that God abundantly provided every other tree in the garden for their eating enjoyment and nourishment. But the serpent exploits the weakness in Eve’s timid response and boldly lies, “Surely you will not die.”
Of course, this was a lie, and the rest of the story is a downward spiral. Cain refuses the truth offered him when God confronts his jealousy of Abel, leading Cain to murder him. Soon after, we see humanity caught in the cycle of death throughout the generations that increasingly embrace murder and violence.
Satan still slaughters with clever and cunning deception. The world has remained blinded to God’s vision since the Fall of humanity, and we now live in a time of a skyrocketing assault on truth. Lies circle the world at the speed of light. Misleading ideas travel faster and more easily than ever. Truths once widely accepted face redefinition and replacement by lies that infect and destroy people not prepared to mount a defense.
The Fall reminds us that seeking and loving truth is at the heart of a relationship with God. Teach truth. Love well has been the Dallas Theological Seminary slogan for several years. Its foundation is the nearly century-old mission of the seminary: “to glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders for the proclamation of His Word and the building up of the body of Christ worldwide.” All people still ask, “What is truth?” So our slogan and mission remain relevant. Thus, we must allow God’s truth and love to strengthen us to obey.
What is truth? It is the crucified and risen Son of God. Dallas Theological Seminary has the privilege of carrying the timeless truth of Jesus Christ into the world to answer the burning question of truth with compassion and boldness. We bring light and hope to those in darkness and bondage. In a world that, with Pilate, scoffs at the authority of truth, let us lift high the torch of Jesus’s words in John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
About the Contributors
Mark M. Yarbrough
Dr. Mark Yarbrough serves as the sixth President of Dallas Theological Seminary and is a professor of Bible Exposition. He has been in a variety of positions during his tenure at DTS: Research Assistant to the President, Executive Director of Information Technology, Associate Dean for External Education, Vice President for Communications, Academic Dean, and Vice President of Academic Affairs.
His love for the classroom draws him to the Bible Exposition department where he serves as Professor. Along with his responsibilities of leading DTS, he serves as an elder of Centerpoint Church in Mesquite and travels extensively leading tours and speaking at conference centers. Mark has recently authored Jonah: Beyond the Tale of a Whale and Tidings of Comfort and Joy. He has been married for thirty years to Jennifer, his high school sweetheart. They have four adult children, one son-in-law, and reside in Sunnyvale, Texas.