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What Is Truth (St. John 16.5-15)

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Cantate

“What Is Truth?”
Seminarian Andrew Keller, Vicar

St. John 16.5-15

10 May 2020


Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

There is a line of philosophy called postmodernism, which rejects the notion of absolute truth. Gaining traction around the 90’s, this philosophy has shaped the thinking of many in our country. There was a poll released that around 66 percent of Americans believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth, and among young adults 18-25, this number jumps to 72 percent. Truth, to a postmodernist, does not reign over all people, but is relative to each individual. Their attack on Christianity isn’t an accusation that it is untrue, but rather that Christians claim to have the only truth. In their eyes, any faction claiming absolute truth is intolerant and must not continue in such errant thinking.

A life without absolute truth is an attractive one for sinners. Without right or wrong, one may choose to live how they want without any guilt. Living with a boyfriend or girlfriend? Why not? Sexual relations before marriage? No big deal. Aborting the child conceived from such relationship? Guilt free. This lie, disguised as a philosophy, allows the world to revel in sin and do what is good in their own eyes. It jumps at every chance to destroy the truth found in Scripture, and celebrates it as ‘progress.’ Perhaps we even find it attractive to follow such thinking. After all, living without consequences sounds like an easy, carefree existence. There is no judgment and people can live how any way they see fit. However, we must turn from this thinking, for we are to fear, love and trust in God above all things. To think otherwise is to break the first commandment, and deny His Word. Satan, the prince of lies, uses such deceit to tempt many to stray from the path of truth found through Christ. Rather than listen to the words of Jesus in John 18, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice,” many like Pilate, question critically, “What is truth?”

In the Gospel reading for this morning, the disciples were filled with sorrow at the news that Jesus would depart from them. He, who spoke to them in John chapter 14, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” would soon go on the path to the cross, giving up His life as a ransom for many. Imagine their concerns: If their Lord who illumined their paths departed from them, how would they know the ways of truth? Jesus, knowing their fear, said to them, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Jesus would bestow on them the Spirit of truth. His authority proceeds from the Father and the Son whose will is of one accord. The way to all truth is inseparable from the Word of the Triune God. This Word speaks that through Christ alone comes eternal life. It promises that all who believe and are baptized shall be saved, that apart from the Spirit of truth, the way is darkened and obstructed, but through the Spirit, their way is guided and illumined.

How do we know that this is true? Why should we put our trust that Jesus will do what He promised? He backed up His promise through His ongoing work of salvation. Through the incarnation, His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, He has fulfilled all that God promised to His people. We know this is true because the inspired writings of Scripture attest so, as the holy evangelist, St. John wrote, “We have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Torah, writings, and prophecies were upheld by Jesus’ salvific work on the cross, dying to redeem us from our sins. Yet, the story is not finished. God continues to work through the Holy Spirit that we might not stray, but remain in the truth.

The Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel out of darkness into the paths of truth. He calls us to repent of our old ways, which would gladly stray from the truth of Christ into the lies of this world. Instead, we cling to the Gospel of Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of our sins, that as He is risen, we too will rise again. Apart from this call, we cannot believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him.

The Holy Spirit enlightens us with His gifts of the Sacraments. We are saved through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, who is poured out on us in baptism by Christ, that having be justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. We receive the forgiveness of sins through the eating and drinking of the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We receive absolution for our sins from the pastor as from Christ Himself.

The Holy Spirit sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith. We are made holy through the precious blood of Christ shed for us on the cross. The wrath, which should have been ours, is taken from us and put upon Christ, and we receive Christ’s righteousness instead. Jesus spoke about this great exchange, saying, “He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” Rather than death and hell, through Jesus, we receive life and life abundantly. The Holy Spirit guides us just as Jesus promised. On this path, we do not fear deception or lies, for its only path is to eternal life.

What is truth and how can we know it? Be certain, dear Christians, that through the work of the Holy Spirit, we are led into the true path to eternal life. Do not be tempted by the guiles of this world. Do not listen to Satan’s cunning. Their way has no foothold. Their way leads to sin, death and eternal judgement. Remember what St. James wrote in the epistle, “Do not be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” Through Christ, we have a firm foundation, for He kept His promises, dying and rising again for us. He will continue to keep His promises as well. He promised to be with us always to the end of the age. He promised through baptism, even though we might die, we will live eternally. He promised that what is His, namely righteousness before the Father won on the cross, would be given to us. Through the faithful preaching of the Word, we hear the truth and know His will. The way of truth continues even through death, for Jesus, the way, the truth and the life will call us from the grave and into eternal life. Having heard His Word and received His Spirit, we know the truth.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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