Truth or Life?

Updated: May 16, 2019

Peter McArthur

"No longer do I call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing; but you I have called friends, because all things which I heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15:15)

In the New Testament there seems to be a difference between “disciples” and “friends”. This is partly based on John 15:13-17. We could describe DISCIPLES as “students” because a disciple is a follower and student of a mentor or teacher. FRIENDS on the other hand are “beloved ones” - literally. The Old English word frēond is related to the old verb frēon, which means "to love, to like, to honor, to set free”. It is in fact a permanent state of a new dignity recently given by the Lord. What an amazing insight!

  • Friends are those who go up mountains with Him (Matthew 17:1 Luke 9:28).

  • Friends walk on water at His voice (Matthew 14:29).

  • Friends lean on His breast (John 13:23).

Disciples are concerned with Truth and Knowledge. Friends are more concerned with Life issues.

If the heavenly Father gave you a choice, what would you want more, Truth or Life? We can have “truth” but still not possess “life”. It’s important to understand that Truth (or knowledge) without love and discernment is nothing more than criticism and gossip. It seems however that if we possess “life” then we’ll automatically have “truth” along with it.

Note the order in which Jesus tells us about this in John 14:6. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” It is a sequence of progressive reality that leads to the Father.

Here we see that Truth teaches us the knowledge of God, and having done so directs us in the way to Life. The end result is that this Life will enliven all those who seek and serve the Lord. A life which is to be enjoyed eternally at the end of the way.

Let’s unpack this three-fold sequence a little more.

  1. Way = the means of the journey (it’s a progressive path).

  2. Truth = nothing is now concealed or hidden (John 15:15)

  3. Life = something possessed of an eternal vitality.

Remember Thomas didn’t know where Jesus was going, so he couldn’t possibly know the way. It seems so obvious, but there’s a very special point here. When we get the “where” bit right (to the Father – not to a “place” but to a person), we then get the “truth” of it, and that brings us to possess the “life” of it.

  • It’s the way (=where) first,

  • then the truth (=nothing’s hidden),

  • followed by the life (=vitality of truth).

Therefore we should desire Life more than Truth. Of course we recognise that Truth is so very important, but we all know people who sprout Biblical Truths, but who lack spiritual “life”.

Jesus desires us to know that we’re his friends, his “beloved ones”. Remember when Jesus started his ministry John penned these words, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. But Jesus, on His part, did not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:23-24).

Jesus didn’t put “any trust” or reliance in the people who saw the miracles. He didn’t leave himself in their hands so to speak. He acted cautiously because he knew the fickleness of man’s heart. One commentator said that “many trusted in His name but Jesus didn’t trust Himself to them.’ Apparently the Greek puts it this way: “But Jesus himself kept on refusing (negative imperfect tense) to trust himself to them.”

“Trust” in the verse above means “to have confidence and hence to give your spiritual well-being to another”. Quite an insight isn’t it! These people had some limited knowledge about Jesus, even the disciples. But they were not yet "friends". But, when you are “friends” Jesus will have confidence in you, and also be concerned with your spiritual well-being. Jesus looks beyond where we are now; He is looking at the Father.

So we see that the basis of our friendship with the Father is that we BELIEVE in His beloved Son. “This is His (the Father’s) commandment that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” (1 John 3:23).

The basis of our friendship with the Son is that we BELIEVE what the Father told him so say. “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:10).

Let us therefore not only be disciples, but friends.

Let’s stick to the Truth revealed to us in Jesus, but above all, pursue Life that makes that Truth a truly living thing within us!

Peter McArthur