Loving the Truth
Recently reading Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians, I was struck by a word that immediately arrested me.
Paul has been writing about the ‘coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thess. 2:1). He assures the church that the Lord had not yet come, and would not come, ‘unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed’ (verse 3). But when this man of lawlessness is revealed, the ‘Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming’ (verse 8). On that day, the wicked will be confirmed in their perishing state ‘because they refused to love the truth and so be saved’ (verse 10). It is the word ‘love’ that arrested me.
Almost uniformly Paul uses the word ‘believe’, or its synonyms, when he speaks of the truth. But here it is the word ‘love’ that he uses. Paul is telling us something deeply significant about the faith that alone unites us to the Lord Jesus and the salvation of God that is wrapped up in him. The faith that trusts Jesus alone for justification is not a bare, clinical, mathematically deduced faith. God’s truth concerning his Son is not only true, it is glorious, full of grace, rich in wisdom, profound in execution. In other words, the truth that is unto salvation is found in all its grace in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is himself ‘the truth’ (John 14:6). So, when we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we believe not only with our minds, but no less with our hearts, embracing the Lord Jesus as our perfect Prophet, Priest, and King.
It is this truth that lies embedded in Paul’s words, ‘we preach Christ crucified’ (1 Cor. 1:23). Paul did not preach mere propositions, though he did preach propositionally. He did not merely preach that justification was by faith alone, in Christ alone—he preached Christ our righteousness, whom we receive by faith alone (Phil. 3:8-9; 2 Cor. 5:21). It is because Jesus is glorious, generous, ‘full of pity joined with power’, that believing the truth can never be a cold, calculating, unaffectional exercise.
As our Prophet, God’s final, best and last word to humanity, Jesus is embraced with thankfulness and delight. As God’s Priest, his final, best Mediator and ultimate sacrifice for sin, Jesus is trusted with no less thankfulness and delight. As God’s King, God’s Son rules and reigns over us with kindness, mercy and tenderness (see Isa. 40:9-11). I am not saying that all this truth is immediately understood by every sinner who casts themselves wholly upon Jesus Christ for salvation. But salvation comes to us in the person of the God-Man, and he is ‘all glorious’. It is Jesus Christ himself who is held out to us in the gospel—indeed, he is the gospel.
Some years ago I was struck by this perhaps surprisingly lyrical passage in the works of John Owen. Owen has been expounding the Christ-centredness of the Song of Songs. Jesus Christ is, writes Owen,
Lovely in his person,—in the glorious all-sufficiency of his Deity, gracious purity and holiness of his humanity, authority and majesty, love and power.
Lovely in his birth and incarnation; when he was rich, for our sakes becoming poor,—taking part of flesh and blood, because we partook of the same; being made of a woman, that for us he might be made under the law, even for our sakes.
Lovely in the whole course of his life, and the more than angelical holiness and obedience which, in the depth of poverty and persecution, he exercised therein;—doing good, receiving evil; blessing, and being cursed, reviled, reproached, all his days.
Lovely in his death; yea, therein most lovely to sinners;—never more glorious and desirable than when he came broken, dead, from the cross. Then had he carried all our sins into a land of forgetfulness; then had he made peace and reconciliation for us; then had he procured life and immortality for us…
Lovely in all those supplies of grace and consolations, in all the dispensations of his Holy Spirit, whereof his saints are made partakers.
Lovely in all the tender care, power, and wisdom, which he exercises in the protection, safe-guarding, and delivery of his church and people, in the midst of all the oppositions and persecutions whereunto they are exposed…
Lovely in the pardon he hath purchased and doth dispense,—in the reconciliation he hath established,—in the grace he communicates,—in the consolations he doth administer,—in the peace and joy he gives his saints,—in his assured preservation of them unto glory.
What shall I say? There is no end of his excellencies and desirableness;—‘He is altogether lovely.’ This is our beloved, and this is our friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
This indeed is our Beloved. Who would not love the truth that supremely concerns him, even better, that is him! Jesus himself told us that he is ‘the truth’ (John 14:6). Loving the truth means loving him who is the truth. The faith that savingly unites a sinner to the Saviour, is not a mere assent to the Saviour’s power to save. Saving faith embraces Jesus as the Father holds him out to us in the gospel. Not to ‘love the truth’ would expose us as someone who had never truly understood the truth ‘as it is in Jesus’ (Eph. 4:21).
Ian Hamilton is Associate Minister at Smithton Free Church, Inverness, and until the Spring of 2023 served on the board of the Banner of Truth Trust. He is the author of The Gospel-Shaped Life, Salvation: Full and Free in Christ, and Words From the Cross.
This piece first appeared as an editorial in the November 2020 edition of The Banner of Truth Magazine.
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