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Matthew 21:23-27

To Tell The Truth

23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? 24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? 26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. 27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.


Truth is not always a welcomed guest. It might be lauded as the most desirable ingredient of speech, it might be portrayed as an honorable virtue, but most people secretly prefer not to know it. Truth is too perfect, and we are too imperfect. "... yea, let God be true, but every man a liar;" (Rom 3:4) Truth has a divine origin and nature.

These characteristics make truth a very formidable weapon in the spiritual warfare that has engaged mankind since the fall of Adam. Wickedness is exposed and perishes in truth's light, and wicked men avoid it like a plague.

In our scripture passage, Jesus uses truth as His weapon against His enemies. Jesus returned to the temple daily and, being followed by many people who were eager to learn, He taught them the gospel. (Luke 20:1) The gospel is truth, and knowing the truth would set the people free from the burdens of religious law. This was not something that the religious leaders wanted to become popular. Their power over the people was rooted in those laws.

But if they were to have any hope of victory over Jesus, they could not go face to face with truth. Instead, they questioned His authority, thinking that this was a trap from which He could not escape. If He claimed that His authority had a divine source, they would call Him a blasphemer and a fraud. If He claimed that His authority was of human origin, He would be rejected by the people.

Jesus countered their question with a question of His own. Where did they think that John the Baptist's authority came from? When they answered that one, He would answer their question. This placed the same burden on them with which they had sought to trap Him. John the Baptist was very popular with the people and was loved by them as a prophet of God. If they held that his authority was from God, they would have to explain why they did not follow his teachings. If they claimed that his authority was from man, they would anger the people, whom they feared.

However, this was more than just a ploy to avoid answering their questions. John the Baptist had preached repentance and baptism in order to prepare the way for the Messiah. He had identified Jesus as the Messiah. That was the truth with which the chief priests and the elders had to deal. To acknowledge John's authority as being from God would mean that Jesus' authority was also from God.

Now notice how the wicked consider situations of this sort. They did not consider which answer was the truth, but only what each would do to their popularity with the people. Truth had no standing with them, unless it could be used for their profit. Since they could not answer with the truth, Jesus would not answer them.

Christians must always stand by the truth of God. It will expose our faults just as it will expose the faults of any sinner, but we should correct those faults and grow in our relationship with God. Our authority stands on the truths of God's word, in which we read, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Mt 28:18)

Before The Throne:

Pray that God will help you to recognize the truth and to live by it. Ask Him to give you the wisdom to use truth as Jesus did. Pray for those whom you know to have rejected the truth of God's word. Pray for your enemies.

For Further Study:

(v.23)
** when. Mark 11:27-28; Luke 19:47-48; Luke 20:1-2; ** the chief priests. 1Ch 24:1-19; ** By what. Exod 2:14; Acts 4:7; Acts 7:27;

(v.24) ** I also. Matt 10:16; Prov 26:4; Prov 26:5; Luke 6:9; Col 4:6;

(v.25) ** baptism. Matt 3:1-12; Matt 11:7-15; Matt 17:12-13; Mark 1:1-11; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 1:11-17, 67-80; Luke 3:2-20; Luke 7:28-35; John 1:6, 15, 25-34; John 3:26-36; ** Why. Luke 20:5; John 3:18; John 5:33-36, 44-47; John 10:25-26; John 12:37-43; 1John 3:20;

(v.26) ** we fear. Matt 21:46; Matt 14:5; Isa 57:11; Mark 11:32; Mark 12:12; Luke 20:6, 19; Luke 22:2; John 9:22; Ac 5:26; ** for. Mark 6:20; John 5:35; John 10:41-42;

(v.27) ** We cannot tell. Matt 15:14; Matt 16:3; Matt 23:16-28; Isa 6:10; Isa 28:9; Isa 29:10-12; Isa 42:19-20; Isa 56:10-11; Jer 8:7-9; Mal 2:6-9; Luke 20:7-8; John 9:30, 40-41; Rom 1:18-22, 28; 2Cor 4:3; 2Thess 2:9-10;

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