During her acceptance speech at the 2018 Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey opined that the ability to speak “your truth” is the most powerful weapon that each of us possesses. Many heartily cheered this idea, while others more cautiously challenged it. Should we all be free to speak “our truth” if our truth conflicts with known facts, or with someone else’s truth? Is “your truth” really a suitable replacement for the truth?
Anyone familiar with the Bible knows that this is simply not the case. The Christian faith makes startlingly exclusive truth claims. John goes as far as to say that those who deny the truth claims of Scripture are liars and that the truth is not in them (see 1 John 1:5–10).
But it is not only the New Testament that makes these astonishing claims to exclusive truth; the Old Testament is equally clear on the matter. Psalm 96 is a case in point.
Israel’s God, writes the psalmist, is great and greatly to be praised. He is to be feared above the gods of the nations because he is the living God while they are worthless idols (vv. 4–5). This is not his (or his people’s) truth; it is the truth.
Since this truth is absolute, it must be embraced not only by Israel but also by the nations. Israel, in fact, must share this truth with the nations and invite the peoples to worship God exclusively. The exclusive truth claims of the biblical God must be embraced by the “families of the peoples” and by “the nations” (vv. 8–10). It is a missional psalm. God’s people are to share the truth with the nations and call them to confess it.
This responsibility remains the church’s today. Christians are privileged to know the truth of the gospel and are called by God to share that truth with a lost and dying world. And it is truth that is unapologetically exclusive. This psalm teaches us something of the uniqueness of the gospel of which we are ambassadors. We live in an increasingly pluralistic society in which we are ever pressured to embrace pluralism, which will necessarily require us to downplay the exclusive claims of the gospel. We are labelled bigots if we do not heartily embrace and affirm the validity of competing truth claims. But Christianity’s truth claims leave no room for competition.
The gospel is a call for sinners to come. The gospel calls sinners to come and drink the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17). It calls sinners to come to Christ and take his burden on their shoulders (Matthew 11:28–30). It calls sinners to come boldly to the throne of grace for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 4:16). The gospel is an invitation. But it is an invitation that sets its own terms.
The picture in Psalm 96 is of an open and welcoming community that will not compromise on the exclusivity of its gospel message. May we learn from this psalm to boldly invite sinners to believe the gospel message. May we do it in such a way that we lovingly, yet uncompromisingly, invite sinners to believe the absolute and exclusive truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.