The Proverbs writer once challenged young men to, “Buy the truth and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
One might wonder why Solomon needed to challenge any young Israelite to appreciate the truth. Is it possible that Israel suffered from the very issues that plague Christians today? Namely, there will be times when the truth is not popular and you will be pressured to “sell” it. Paul would instruct his “child in the faith” to “preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Marshall Keeble explained that preaching the word, as used in this verse was “…preaching when they want to hear it and preaching when they don’t.”
Solomon’s challenge is still pertinent to preachers today: “Buy the truth and sell it not…”
There is considerable pressure for a preacher to just use pleasing words and not disrupt the status quo. A preacher, however, is a proclaimer of God’s Word. With that thought in mind a preacher ought always to let God have His say in every lesson and sermon given. Let us consider this challenge issued by God’s inspiration.
“Buying the truth.” What should this mean for the preacher, especially the preacher who is involved in a new work? Naturally with a new work there can be great pressure on the preacher and his family. This man has many new faces and names to learn and alongside those faces there are personalities for this preacher to understand. There exists a desire in every man to be accepted and appreciated. To meet these pressures, a man might think to soften his Sunday morning sermon or to skip certain verses in a Bible class.
But we are to buy the truth, which gives the idea of making an investment. When it comes to truth (i.e., God’s word, the Bible, the gospel) no expense is too high. “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).
Men, in order to “take heed…unto the doctrine” you must know the doctrine. You must know the truth! Because you cannot proclaim what you do not know, the challenge is to invest time in studying God’s Word. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Timothy was challenged to study, to give diligence to the truth of God’s Word. There is a sense of urgency in Paul’s admonition. Do not put off knowing God’s will, do not put off doing God’s will, and do not put off teaching God’s will!
“Buying the truth” also means that you might, at times, be at odds with people. In Romans 1:18 Paul described some people as holding down the truth by their unrighteous behavior. When mankind shrugs off the truth of God’s word they certainly do not appreciate a reminder of God’s counsel. It becomes offensive to such a darkened heart. Those at Galatia had listened to false teaching and Paul reminded them again of the truth. “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
If there is a choice to make between pleasing God or men, make sure to please God. It is difficult to know which way the winds of men are blowing. What is popular one day has perished tomorrow, but truth is always right. The preacher’s challenge is to buy the truth.
Solomon’s warning is two-fold. It is not enough to make an investment in the truth, but never, ever sell it. In other words, the challenge given is to not be a sell-out. Balak, the king of the Moabites, had a problem. The Israelites were coming. Balak had heard about a man who lived a long way from the Moabites, in Mesopotamia. Balaam was a man whose talents were for hire. do you remember this man? Balaam had a reputation for blessing people or cursing people. His reputation was such that representatives in Moab would make the journey to Mesopotamia to secure the services of Balaam. Balaam had a great opportunity to stand firmly with the Lord and he wasted it. Both 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11 mention Balaam and how he sold the truth for financial gain. This man had a price. Do you? Do not sell the truth, no matter what!
A preacher sells the truth when he fails to teach all of God’s commands. Paul confidently declared to the Ephesian elders, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
When Paul declared the whole counsel of God, was there anything that he left out? What would happen if Paul felt fear of being rejected and shunned? Preachers have put a price tag on godly counsel by refusing to preach on Matthew 19:9 where Jesus stated there is only one reason which a person can seek a divorce and be remarried without living in adultery. Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they add to God’s word by teaching that the inclusion of mechanical musical instruments in worship is acceptable to God. This is not God’s counsel because there is no authority for it anywhere in the New Testament. Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they bind their own scruples on others. There are those who feel it is wrong to eat “in the church,” so they wrest and twist the scriptures to their satisfaction. Either way, whether a preacher is taking away from the counsel of God or adding to the counsel of God, he has auctioned off the truth.
There are members of the church who will attempt to persuade preachers to teach and preach their own way. There is only one thing that will save souls and that is the pure, unadulterated gospel of God. Consider Paul’s thesis statement for the book of Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).
To hear some preachers teach, it is obvious that they think their abilities are the power to salvation, because in their lessons they make more references to their personal stories than to scripture.
There is one path that is always right, there is one message that is always true, and it is found in the Bible, not in the minds of men. “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23).
The challenge stands to everyone in the Lord’s body, whether preacher, teacher, elder, or deacon: buy the truth, and sell it not. Now what will you do?
Broad Street Church of Christ, Statesville, NC