Paul's Ponderings

Spiritual Formation. Discipleship. Christian Living.

Obey Jesus and Know Truth

Knowing TruthOne of the questions that haunts my life is: How do we come to know and understand truth?

In John 14: 17 Jesus said that the Holy Spirit leads his followers into all truth.

If we are to take Jesus at His word (which I think is a good thing to do), then we are incapable of understanding truth, apart from the Holy Spirit working in our lives. Now there a many people who do not follow Jesus, and do not have the Holy Spirit guiding them that know many things. So what exactly is truth?

Truth is all that Jesus embodied in Life and the doctrines He taught ( This definition of truth comes from Paul Butler; The Bible Study Textbook: The Gospel of John Volume 2, p. 55). Facts and figures maybe true, but they are not the truth that Jesus desires us to know and live. Education and intellectual pursuits are important, but they are meaningless unless we are living by the truth.

Just because the Holy Spirit guides people into truth doesn’t mean that we don’t have a part to play in discovering truth.

In John 8 we read about a large crowd who followed Jesus.  Among the crowd were Pharisees and other religious Jews, so the crowd contained wide spectrum of people, but they all had some sort of belief in Jesus.

Butler in his commentary describes the crowd as:

a group of the Jews here at the Feast of Tabernacles who had, in some way, manifested a superficial belief in Him. They wanted to believe in a Messiah, but not the Messiah. They were willing to follow, fight or die for a temporal King, but they would have none of a spiritual King who demanded sovereignty over their motives and deeds. They would gladly serve Him with their lips, but not their hearts. (p. 54)

This was not the most sympathetic of crowds. They were willing to listen as long as Jesus told them what they wanted to hear. If you didn’t there would be hell to pay, and so we see this crowd turn from belief to one with murderous intentions (John 8:59). It was in this context that Jesus made this statement; “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32; NLT).

Jesus tells us that a true disciple obeys his teachings. I believe this is why in the teaching of the Final Judgment (Matthew 25) God separated the redeemed from the unredeemed based on their actions. A true disciple of Jesus lives out the teachings of Jesus.

This pondering, however, was motivated by the simple word “and”. It seems to me what Jesus taught in this passage is that when we obey we gain a greater understanding of truth. In other words: without obedience we cannot hope to know truth. Obey Jesus and know truth.

Aside from having an intentional time to read and study Scripture, our part of knowing truth is found in obedience. Only through obedience do we experience God’s truth as a reality in our lives. (Tweet this)

If we want to know truth then we have to actively obey Jesus. Why would this be the case?

My guess is that it has something to do with throwing pearls before hogs (Matthew 7:6). If we are not going to obey the teachings of Jesus that we already know, then we are not going to obey a new teaching or truth that the Holy Spirit reveals to us. Truth would be a waste on us.

I think it also has to do with faith.  Remember our faith is not limited to what we believe, but it is how we live. A person of faith trusts Jesus enough to obey him.  Our trust demonstrates that we will not let God’s truth go to waste.

The question that we need to ponder is this: Am I doing my part to know truth?

If we are struggling to hear from God, it could be that we are unwilling to obey Him. Obey and allow God’s truth to become a real part of your life.

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  1. Indeed, “trust and obey” and know (“for there’s no other way”). Other verses that come to mind: “Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God” (Jn. 7:17 in NRSV); and “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life” (Jn. 3:36 in NRSV).

  2. Thanks Lucas for the additional Scripture passages. There is this idea throughout the Bible that our ability to discern and know truth is connected to our obedience.

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