Sermon for Sunday, June 26th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Psa 111:1-10 ESV] 1 Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. 2 Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. 3 Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful. 5 He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. 6 He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations. 7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; 8 they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. 9 He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
New Testament reading:
[3Jo 1:1-15 ESV] 1 The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 5 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, 6 who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. 7 For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8 Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. 9 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. 10 So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. 11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. 12 Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true. 13 I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. 14 I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. 15 Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.
[Jhn 8:31-38 ESV] 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
Humility, Charity, Prudence, and now Verity.
And Verity is just a fancy word for truth. It comes from the Latin “veritas.” You’ll see that Latin word used in logo of many universities. My old University of Michigan, for example, has the slogan “Artes, Scientia, Veritas.” (Art, Science, and truth). Harvard, for their logo, has just the word “Veritas” on a shield. Of course, it has been a long time since Harvard sought truth. It was originally a training school for Puritan Congregationalist ministers, and once had the longer slogan “Veritas Christo et Ecclessiae” meaning “Truth for Christ and the Church.” But in the early 1800s Harvard veered into unbelieving Unitarianism and lost Christ and the Church from their slogan, leaving just “Veritas.” But what is truth without Christ? It is nothing, for Jesus IS truth.
When Pilate asked to Christ “What is truth?” Pilate was looking right at Truth; Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
So it is that Truth is a central concept in the Christian religion, in the Biblical faith. We might start with noting that one of the commandments is, in fact, “Thou shall not bear false witness.” Thou shalt tell he truth! God commands us to speak truthfully. We are commanded to have the virtue of Verity. And it is not just in a courtroom that you should be truthful. You should be truthful at all times.
As we seek to be Christlike, we should not only seek to be Holy as He is Holy, but to be truthful as he is truthful. We are to be known for our truthfulness, to be trustworthy, to be honest, to exemplify the virtue of verity.
Like many of these virtues we have been studying, the word “Verity” is not used in our modern Bible translations. But it is twice in the King James. Once in the Old Testament (Psalm 111:7 KJV), and once in the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:7 KJV). And in each case it is just the standard word for truth (emet in Hebrew, alethia in Greek). These terms are translated as “truth” in all other places, but only in two places, due to context, the translation was made as “verity.”
So verity is truth, or as the dictionary says more specifically “Verity is the state or quality of being true.”
When we speak truthfully we have the virtue of verity.
I. Because God is Verity, we can trust Him.
We are to put our trust in God, not in people.
There is a joke, and I have 2 today in my sermon (which is about 2 more jokes than I usually have in a sermon). There is a joke about a pastor, which shows that we should trust only in the Lord.
A pastor, they say, noticed a group of boys standing around a small stray dog. “What are you doing boys?” he said. They answered “We are telling lies, and the one who tells the biggest lie gets to keep the dog.” The pastor was shocked, “Why, when I was your age, he said, I never thought of telling a lie.” The boys looked at one another, and finally one of them shrugged and said, “I guess he gets the dog.”
Verity is not a natural quality in fallen man.
Verity, like the other virtues, is first a quality that God has. So we must start there.
[Psa 111:7 KJV] 7 The works of his hands [are] verity and judgment; all his commandments [are] sure.
God is truthful. He has verity. He IS verity. Truthfulness in its full measure and very foundation is God himself.
This means, as the Scripture tells us, God never lies (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2) In fact, Hebrews 6:18 says that it is “impossible for God to lie.”
He is truth.
And his law is truth.
And his word is truth. John 17:17
Specially, in the New Testament that word which is the Gospel is called truth. It is emphasized because it is the most important of truths.
Because God is trustworthy, we can trust in Him. And because the Gospel is the truth, we are called to believe it. When we know the Gospel, we know the truth.
Those who do not know the Gospel, do not have the truth within them. If you say you have no sin, you deceive yourself, and the truth is not within you. But the in the Gospel, we confess our sins to the Lord who is faithful and just forgives us of all iniquity.
If you believe in Christ, you have the truth within you.
II. We are Called to Verity
Having then trusted in Christ and His Gospel, we are then called to truthfulness. We are called to verity.
We are to speak the truth. We are to be honest. And we are do away with all deceit.
[Pro 6:16-29 ESV] 16 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Twice among those 6 things do we have lying. There is “the lying tongue” and “the false witness.” The God of truth hates lies.
Therefore, we are called to verity.
[Eph 4:25 ESV] 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Put away falsehood …. speak the truth. This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
We must not cover up or obscure the truth.
This reminds me of an old Russian joke about truth. See there were two newspapers published in the communist period. There was Pravda (Truth) and Izvestiya (News). And a man asks, “Why are there two newspapers if they are both under control of the same people? Well, another man answered, because in Pravda there isn’t any truth and in Izvestiya there isn’t any news.
Of course, there wasn’t likely much truth in either newspaper.
Well, this is what you get in atheistic communism. Truth is not paramount.
And we’ve gotten in somewhat of a similar situation today. While for some 40 or more years the post-modernists told us that “there is no truth,” or “all truth is relative” (which is nonsense) the new philosophic regime (made up of many of the same people who spread the post-modern lie) tells us that they do in fact have the truth, only we all know (like in communism) that it is patently false. They repeat such nonsense as saying “men can have babies.” And they try to pass this off as a necessary statement to prevent prejudice.
It is not good to have a mixture of truth and lies. A trustworthy person speaks only truth, for even SOME amount of lying will cause you to totally lose trust in that person.
We should embrace and love the truth, rejoicing in seeing others living by that same standard.
In our text from 3rd John we find the Apostle rejoicing. He rejoices that in the truth of the gospel being preached and in that those who he writes to are “walking in the truth.” He writes to Gaius, a brother in Christ, with a strong emphasis on truth. Throughout John’s Gospel and now in this Epistle, a primary concern is Truth.
Because of the Gospel he wishes (in verse 8) that others may be supported as “fellow workers for the truth.” John writes to Gaius promoting the support of workers of the Gospel, evangelists and missionaries. They are to be given hospitality on their travels. The opposite example is Diotrephes who refuses to welcome the brothers. His actions shows that truth is not in him.
All Christians — including those in the early Church and those today — are “walking in the truth” when they know the Gospel and it changes their life so that they then “walk” in it.
The greatest thing may hear from the Lord might be “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” But, I pray we hear from the Lord, just as John writes to Gaius, the words “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
There is an emphasis that Christianity is the truth. And therefore there is no other true religion. Many other systems of belief fail to even argue that they are the truth. Or, they will argue that “everything is equally true” or some sort of nonsense like that. But if you contest them on some point, you’ll find out that they in fact do think that only their view is right. There can only be one true faith, and it is faith in the one true God.
And this faith, this belief in the truth, leads us to walk in truth.
We are called to speak the truth:
[Zec 8:16 ESV] 16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;
We are called to “fasten on the belt of truth”:
[Eph 6:14 ESV] 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
And, like John, we have no greater joy than to see a brother walking in truth. We can congratulate someone for success in life, for accomplishments and for financial gain. But these things are trivial compared to seeing someone come to Christ. That is where we have the greatest joy.
When someone is walking in the truth — when they know Christ and obey the commandments — we worry not for their soul. We take great comfort that the Lord has called them to Himself, and given them a love for truth.
Thus all Christians have the virtue of verity at least in some measure. We are given verity from the Lord. He causes us to believe in Him, to know the truth, and as a fruit of the spirit causes us to walk in that truth.
We might summarize some of what I’ve said so far by saying
(1) He cannot lie
(2) We should not lie
(3) Even when we sin by lying, God saves us and brings us into the truth. The truth shall set you free.
III. The Truth shall set you free.
Perhaps the sin of lying isn’t as frequently mentioned as some other sins. But it is indeed a sin. It is harming your neighbor. It is not trusting in God. Not willing to accept the His truth.
And like all sins, lying leads us to despair and guilt. We know not to lie, but what if we have lied? Are we then hopelessly lost? Indeed not, for (as with all sin) we have the promise that the Truth will set you free.
This doesn’t mean that saying something true will balance out your lies. Rather, it means that Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, frees us from the bondage of our sin. He brings us freedom from condemnation and from death.
Though we have lied, all who believe in Jesus Christ have been forgiven, are forgiven, and will be forgiven.
If you have struggled with the sin of lying, you are commanded to repent. You are commanded to leave that life, and to pursue the truth of God.
[Jhn 8:31-32 ESV] 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
[1Jo 5:20 ESV] 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
Truth frees you from error, from the slavery of sin.
Having been freed by Christ, do not go back to lying. That is no longer who you are. Lies are of the devil, but truth is of God.
In Christ you are freed in order that you may live free. So do not fall back into sin. Do not take liberty to be license. But praise God for freedom by using it to walk in the holy path.
Applications: How can we grew in Verity?
1. We should avoid the lies of this world, whether from the news or from zealous advocates of lies that surround us. The media no longer reports facts but constantly gives opinions masquerading as facts. They are often at best “truthy” (sounding like truth) without being actually true. But we need absolute truth, and we need it absolutely.
So, seek the truth. Read the Word of God and believe it.
2. Strive to speak with truthfulness and honesty.
Let us have truth that we may walk in truth.
3. Pray for the Lord to lead us into all truth. And trust in Him who promises to do so. John 16:13 – “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.”
Finally, let us pray with the Psalmist: [Psa 86:11 ESV] 11 Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.