We Can Do Nothing Against The Truth

Toward the end of the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, there is a verse of Scripture that has tremendous meaning but is rarely noticed or quoted.  In this one obscure verse is the meaning of life and the explanation of life’s problems.  If we would make this verse the guiding principle of our lives, then life would be filled with lasting meaning and importance.  How sad it is that very few people are aware of this beautifully simple yet profoundly powerful message of the Bible.

This verse is 2Corinthians 13:8 – "For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.”

What does this verse mean?  At first glance, it may appear that Paul was claiming that Christians cannot sin, but that is a false impression.  In the preceding verse, he wrote, "Now we pray to God that you do no wrong…”, so it is obvious that Christians are capable of doing wrong and sinning (see also 1John 1:8-10).  To get the true meaning of this verse, let us take a closer look at each phrase.

The phrase "we can do nothing” in this context does not describe total inactivity or inability to achieve anything in this world, but rather has reference to the lasting worth of our actions.  It means that we can do nothing of importance, nothing of consequence, nothing meaningful, nothing of significance, and nothing that matters as long as we act against the truth.  This is the same meaning that Jesus had in John 15:4-5, when He said:

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

This is not to say that we cannot be active in this world against the truth and apart from Jesus, but rather it is that without the truth and without Christ our lives mean nothing.

The next phrase, "against the truth,” describes the opposition of vain living.  A way of life that is opposed to the truth of God accomplishes nothing of lasting value.  The context of this verse suggests that the truth of God is a force that is moving this world and man’s history.  Those who attempt to act against the truth will fail in their opposition, for God’s truth is an irresistible force that cannot be stopped.  To say "we can do nothing against the truth” is similar to saying that we can do nothing against time, gravity, wind, or any other irresistible force.  Opposing the truth of God is like trying to stop the sun from rising – you can try, but you will always fail.  No effort made against the truth will ever succeed in terms of eternity.  Such efforts are vanity, futility, and striving after wind (Eccl. 1:14, 17; 2:11, 17, 26; 4:4, 6, 16; 6:9).  Resistance to the truth will bring only problems, heartache, disappointment, failure, and punishment.

The final phrase, "only for the truth,” identifies the object of meaningful life.  All satisfaction, joy, and achievement for human life can be found when one conforms to the truth of God.  Only then can any of us accomplish anything of real worth and value.  Every good work that will matter for eternity occurs when people respond positively to the truth of Almighty God.  This is exactly the answer that Solomon found when he looked for the meaning of life in this world.  He wrote his findings in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14:

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.

Those good works that will be brought into judgment before God are those that are for the truth.  For them, we will receive an eternal recompense from our Lord (Rom. 2:5-10; 2Cor. 5:10).

Now that you have considered the meaning of 2Corinthians 13:8, ask yourself, are you living for the truth or against the truth?  Search yourself carefully to determine what purpose you are really serving.  Is it the truth?  Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).  Is your life about Jesus?  Can you say, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21; see also John 11:25; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4)?  The Lord also said, "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37).  Do you hear Christ’s voice?  Pilate heard Christ’s words and asked, "What is truth?”  Like Pilate, some men today believe that there is no absolute truth and that everything is relative to the individual (humanism).  Some say that the only truth is Charles Darwin’s natural selection (evolution).  Some say that Karl Marx’s economic determinism is the truthful force behind everything (communism).  However, the Lord says that God’s word is the only truth (John 17:17).  What do you say?

Stacey E. Durham


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