Knowing God, Chapter 11

God’s Word is Truth

God is the majestic King of kings. He is unchanging and all-wise. But for all his greatness, he does not separate himself from mankind. He made us so that we might walk with him in fellowship and mutual love. To that end, he has not only created the world by his word, he has spoken to us. Packer points out that God must tell us of himself, if we are to be able to know anything about him. He says that God speaks to us, “not only to move us to do what he wants, but to enable us to know him so that we may love him.” He is, therefore, the God who speaks, and, “The whole Bible maintains…that God’s word is his executive instrument in all human affairs. Of him, as of no one else, it is true that what he says goes.”

God’s word is the instrument of creation, but it is also the means by which human beings are acquainted with him, and in this, the word of God reflects the character of God. We say that God’s word is truth, but what does that actually mean? Packer explains it this way: measure-tape-5101“It means stability, reliability, firmness, trustworthiness, the quality of a person who is entirely self-consistent, sincere, realistic, undeceived. God is such a person: truth, in this sense, is his nature, and he has not got it in him to be anything else.” He further says that God’s words are “the index of reality: they show us things as they really are.” It is not just that we should take God’s word to heart, but that his word declares the way things actually function in this world. If we are going to live in it, then his words are the only standard by which we can judge what is true.

Packer fleshes this principle out in two connections. First, that God’s commands are true. This means that we can only understand who and what we are as human beings in light of what God says about us. An analogy is helpful here, so Packer writes, “We are familiar with the thought that our bodies are like machines, needing the right routine of food, rest and exercise if they are to run efficiently…What we are, perhaps, slower to grasp is that God wishes us to think of our souls in a similar way.” What does this mean? That the practices of worship, obedience, honesty, self-control, and service to the Lord are intended to be the fuel on which our souls depend. “If we abandon these practices, not only do we incur guilt before God; we also progressively destroy our own souls. Conscience atrophies, the sense of shame dries up, one’s capacity for truthfulness, loyalty, and honesty is eaten away, one’s character disintegrates. One not only becomes desperately miserable; one is steadily being dehumanized.” I think this is a vital and all-too-often misunderstood concept, that being truly human corresponds to our obedience to the word of God, because God has defined what it means to be truly human in his word.

The other connection which we must make in order to understand that God’s word is truth is that God’s promises are true, for God keeps them. God’s word declares his faithfulness, but how does God display his faithfulness? “By his unfailing fulfillment of his promises. He is a covenant-keeping God; he never fails those who trust his word.” This is, ultimately, what sets true Christians apart. They are those who believe that God’s word is true and commit to live in obedience to it. Packer ends the chapter with a challenging conclusion: “Christians are independent folks, for they use the word of God as a touchstone by which to test the various views that are put to them, and they will not touch anything which they are not sure that Scripture sanctions. Why does this description fit so few of us who profess to be Christians in these days? You will find it profitable to ask your conscience, and let it tell you.”

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