Truth is contrasted to law in John 1:17. The law was given by Moses, but truth came through Jesus Christ. The Old Testament is divided into two parts, the law and the prophets (cf. Matt. 7:12; Rom. 3:21). What we find in the Old Testament can be likened to a photograph, or a picture, of the truth. It is as though I were to send you a photograph of myself before I came to visit. In the New Testament the truth, or the reality, came through Jesus Christ, who Himself told us, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). The law was a shadow, but He is the reality.
Christ the Reality
For the church to be the pillar and base of the truth, it must bear Christ as the reality. Man in Genesis 1 is a shadow of the image of God; the reality of His image is Christ (Col. 1:15). All the offerings mentioned in Leviticus are types; the real offering is Christ (Heb. 10:11-12). The same is true of all the other positive things mentioned in the Old Testament; Christ is their reality. This is also the case with qualities like love and humility; their reality is Christ. The human expression of them is just a shadow. The church is the pillar to support Christ alone as the reality.
“God our Saviour…will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). It is not that God wants us acquainted with doctrines. Doctrines are like shells; the truth is the content. Behind the doctrine of foot-washing, for example, there is a truth. The truth is Christ Himself. If I wash my brother’s feet by myself, in myself, it means nothing. I have been crucified with Christ and no longer live; Christ lives in me. Thus, when I come to wash my brother’s feet, it is not I but Christ who is doing the washing. I actually had this experience over forty years ago. I found I could not wash another’s feet; I had to have Christ as my life in order to do it.
For us to come to the knowledge of the truth, we cannot stay in doctrine. Even the doctrine of salvation comes short. My mother was baptized as a teen-ager, yet she was not saved even when I became a Christian. She raised all her children in Christianity, teaching us Bible stories and insisting that we attend Southern Baptist Sunday morning services. We were all in Christianity, knowing the doctrine but not being in the truth. One day my second sister lost her fiancé. In her grief she turned to the Lord and got saved. Then she prayed for me, and I too got saved. I began to love and study the Bible. This influenced my younger brother, who was fifteen; he began to read the Bible in English, and he too opened to the Lord. A few years later my mother got saved. We all turned from the doctrine of salvation to its reality.
The Need in a Time of Degradation
These two Epistles contain eleven references to the truth (1 Tim. 2:4, 7; 3:15; 4:3; 6:5; 2 Tim. 2:15, 18, 25; 3:7, 8; 4:4). Paul exhorted Timothy to cut straight the word of truth. There were in Ephesus those who were destitute of the truth; who erred concerning the truth; who needed to repent and acknowledge the truth; who resisted the truth; and who turned away their ears from the truth. This repeated attention is given to the matter of the truth because, when the Apostle Paul wrote from prison in Rome, the church was degraded from reality to formal doctrines and vain teachings. His purpose in these two Epistles was to bring the church back to the reality.
(Life Messages, Vol. 1 (#1-41), Chapter 22, by Witness Lee)