The Truth as it is in Jesus
God’s way of deliverance from an evil walk is the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus Paul, speaking to the Ephesian saints, contrasts their behaviour with that of the unbelieving Gentiles who “by reason of the ignorance which is in them … work all uncleanness with greedy unsatisfied lust” (Eph. 4: 18, 19). “Ye” the apostle says “have not thus learnt the Christ, if ye have heard him and been instructed in him according as [the] truth is in Jesus” (vs 20, 21). Now the language here is interesting: first Christ, then Jesus. Of course we all know that Jesus is the Christ and Christ is Jesus, but God never uses one word in vain. Furthermore, the difference between the terms is heightened all the more on account of the fact that both terms are used in the passage. Paul first of all puts the word Christ—“ye have not thus learnt the Christ” (v20), because his focus there is on the whole panorama of what belongs to the Christian. Christ is the special name when I look at Him as the risen, exalted man in heaven: in Him I have got all my blessing. Jesus, however, is the personal name that He bore on earth. In the earlier part of the epistle, the Spirit makes known all the greatness brought before us in Christ, but when He is about to speak of the practical knowledge which would apply to the duties of our walk here below, He says, “If ye have heard him and been instructed in him according as [the] truth is in Jesus” (v21, my emphasis). Now Paul is speaking more of the Lord as that Person who in His walk down here was the perfect presentation of man according to God. By “[the] truth … in Jesus” the apostle means the truth that we see in all the Lord’s ways, obedience and service on earth. It refers to His patience, His earnestness, His zeal for God’s glory, His suffering love, His tender care for the children of God, His compassion for perishing sinners, and every word He ever uttered. All this and more, we find in Jesus. Only there do we have all truth fully perfectly told out. Neither God, as such, nor the Father, is ever called the truth, nor could be. Jesus is the truth (see John 14: 6) because He is the One who shows in Himself the bearing and relationship of everything, both to God and to man. If I want to test anything, I can never arrive at its full character till I view it in connection with Him. Of course the Holy Spirit is also called the truth (see 1 John 5: 6) since no man can find the truth without the Spirit, but the actual presentation of the truth is in the Lord Himself.
Let me illustrate the value of the truth as it is in Jesus. Where, for example, shall I learn the truth about man? Shall I look for it in Adam—a man that listened to his wife after she had listened to the devil? A man who, when God came down ran away from Him, and even dared to insult God by laying the blame upon Him? Shall I look at his sons—at Cain, the murderer, or at Abel, whom he murdered? Even the beautiful features seen in Abel were not of himself, but of God. So it is with all Adam’s descendants: some worse, some better, but none without flaw. Go through the history of man and you will only find evil, pride and presumption and you will eventually cast aside the whole sad story in shame and disgust. So it would all end but for the Second Adam. In every step that Jesus took, and in every word that He said, I find One perfect in all His ways. There I learn the beauty and the wonder of a man who never did His own will—one wholly subject to God upon the earth. Yet if God delighted in Him, how He was despised and hated of men! Thus in Jesus I see an order of man according to God’s heart, while in His cross, and the hatred displayed there, I see another order of man—man as he is away from God. Such is the truth as it is in Jesus.
Take another example: if I look up and think of God, where shall I find Him told out? In creation? Certainly in all that God has made upon the earth we see the impress of His majesty, wisdom, goodness and power, but I also find characteristics of another kind: weakness, decay, suffering, and death. The question arises then: From where have these come? Creation is ruined by sin! There I see the effects of another hand as well as God’s—the hand of a destroyer and liar. Thus instead of rising up from nature to nature’s God, as poets foolishly sing, you are liable to sink from nature to the devil who has ruined it all. Observe those described in Rom. 1. They had the witness of creation, but “they became fools” (v22) and instead of being further enlightened in the knowledge of God, their “understanding was darkened” (v21). No, I need some other way to learn God. To gather evidence of His being is one thing, but to know Him is quite another. Through “the things that are made” I see evidences of His “eternal power and divinity” (v20), but what are His thoughts, feelings, and ways—especially to me the sinner? Creation has nothing to say on these questions.
Then I may come down to the law. Does it give me the truth? In no way. It is not that the law is not good and holy, but it is never called the truth, nor could it be. Its design was more for making known man than for revealing God. Its purpose was that man might thereby learn what he is himself, laying bare what he never knew was in his heart. But the law cannot give the truth as to what God is to man in grace. At the best it declares what a man ought to be, but this is not the truth.
You will never find truth, even in the Bible, if you sever it from the Lord Jesus. The clouds break and the difficulties vanish only when He has shown me in His own life and death what man is and what God is. As a believer, I know God, beholding Him in His Son. In Him I receive all that I want and all that God intends for my soul because the truth is in Jesus. I know that which the heathen never did nor could reach. Their understanding was darkened and having no knowledge of the Lord Jesus, they had no full or saving means of knowing God. Yet this is precisely what the Gospel offers. What is it then, that I learn of God when I look at the truth as it is in Jesus? I learn a God that has come down to me, and seeks my soul to do me good. I learn a God that looks on me with love, and pities my ignorance, and is willing to instruct me in spite of my wilfulness and stupidity. I find One who spent Himself in love upon me, in order that I might know Him, and One who undertook to bear the judgment of my guilt and all that I am as a sinner. If my soul believes that God is good enough to do all this for me—to suffer all this for me, to take the whole consequence upon Himself in the Person of His beloved Son—if I see this and bow to it, and receive it from God, what can trouble my soul? How marvellous then, is the truth as it is in Jesus!
Only in the Person of Jesus can I see the full truth about anything. You will find the value of this not simply in the great lessons of what God or man is, but also in life’s trials and difficulties. What is the one test whether anything is right or wrong? The truth as it is in Jesus. He has left us a model that we should follow in his steps (see 1 Pet. 2: 21). Spiritual power depends on the degree to which we turn to Him and view things in Him. It is this which constitutes strength and maturity in Christ. “I write to you, fathers, because ye have known him [that is] from the beginning” (1 John 2: 13). Who is this? The Lord Jesus! The more we know Him, then the more we will know intuitively what to do in any given circumstance. Let me illustrate: most of us can talk intelligibly in our own language, but there is an immense difference between the capacity of different persons to speak. It is not everyone who can speak according to what the subject calls for. A man who has a mastery of the language proves it by applying it appropriately to all manner of subjects. In a similar fashion all saints have laid hold more or less of the truth in Jesus, but then the power to know it well, to use it rightly, to bring it out on fitting occasions and turn it to profit for ourselves and others—this is the true secret of our progress in the things of God. Such is the value of the truth as it is in Jesus.