What does it mean to buy the Truth and not sell it?


The question refers to Proverbs 23:23 which reads: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.”

Before we review and answer the question, it is important to clarify our teaching and understanding about faith and works.

Over the years, the true Church of God has been falsely accused of teaching that works are necessary for salvation; not, that it is a free gift from God.   This is a case of either misunderstanding or deliberately avoiding that which we have made clear over many decades.  Let us make this again abundantly clear NOW!

The Word of God dogmatically states that salvation cannot be earned through works.    We read in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” 

We read in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The footnote of the New King James Bible states, “free gift.”

In Acts 2:38-40, we read: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.’ And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’”

In short, we believe that salvation and eternal life are NOT earned in this life – they are free gifts of God. However, our reward is dependent on our works. In the Kingdom of God, when we have eternal life, we will be rewarded according to how we lived and how well we did with what God had entrusted us.

In the Parable of the Ten Minas (or pounds) in Luke 19:11-27, we read about a man of noble birth (verse 12) who went to a distant country to become appointed king and then to return.   This was obviously a parable that Jesus gave about Himself and His followers.  They were given ten minas to put this money to work in His absence (verse 13).   The first two “traded” with the money but the third one didn’t (verses 16-24) which clearly shows that we have to be about our Father’s business and the reward will be to those who do that, and those that don’t, who should have known better, will lose out.  (See also the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25).

Faith and works are thoroughly covered in James 2:14-26 showing that both are necessary.

In our booklet “The Meaning of God’s Fall Holy Days,” we read on page 43 the following: “Verses 11 and 12 (of Revelation) describe the SECOND resurrection—the resurrection of those who will live again AFTER the thousand years are finished—the time which Paul called ‘the end’: ‘Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, STANDING before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”  

Let us all be about our Father’s business (as was Jesus at the age of 12 as we read in Luke 2:41-50), living the life to which we have been called, keeping God’s Commandments and being obedient to Him and His Way so that we will receive the GIFT of eternal life and be rewarded with these words of Jesus when the Day comes: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (compare Matthew 25:21). He tells us in Revelation 22:12: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”

Having set the record straight as above, let us now answer the question that was asked.

The phrase “to buy the truth” is an interesting one.   The Berean Bible Society has these interesting comments to make:

“Every true Christian should understand that the truth costs. If you don’t think so, make it your own, value it, defend it, stand for it, and see if it doesn’t cost. Before you are through it may cost you far more than you had thought — hours of ease and pleasure, friends and money. Yes, the truth costs. Salvation is gloriously free but the truth costs — that is, if you want it for yourself. Many who know the truth won’t buy it. They won’t pay what it costs to say: ‘This is what I believe. This is my conviction.’ The truth isn’t worth that much to them.” 

How true this is.   How many people have asked for a minister to visit them only to find that the price they would have to pay is far too much for them?   The keeping of the weekly and annual Sabbaths are very often an obstacle that many are not prepared to come to terms with.   There may be other stumbling blocks that would seem difficult to overcome.   We see such a situation in Matthew 19:16-22:

Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘“You shall not murder,” “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “Honor your father and your mother,” and, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”’

“The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

In this particular case, it wasn’t the Sabbath that was a stumbling block but his “great possessions.”  In our Q&A: “Did Christ really offer the rich ruler a ministerial position? (compare Luke 18:18-23),” we conclude by stating the following:

“Returning to Christ’s statement to the rich ruler to follow Him, it appears that He was indeed willing to call him into the ministry, but sadly, the ruler loved money more than God and he rejected this unique opportunity to follow Christ as a minister and to perhaps later become even one of His apostles. In refusing to accept his ministerial calling, Christ pointed out that it will be very difficult for a rich person to even enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:25-26; Mark 10:23-25).”

The Sabbath, the annual Holy Days, wealth and other things have stopped many from following God.   Anything that comes before God is breaking the first Commandment which simply says: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

But in Proverbs 23:23, God’s Word urges us: “Buy the truth!” Not, “Buy it if you can get it at a bargain; if the price is not too great.” No, “Buy the truth!” Buy it at any price. It is worth far more than anything you can give in exchange for it. And when you have bought it: “sell it not.” How many, alas, have bought the truth only to sell out again! 

Isaiah 55:1 is instructive. In the New King James Bible, the headline is given: “An Invitation to Abundant Life.”  The passage reads:

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price.”

“Buy” can mean “to acquire.”   One commentator stated that “In the original Hebrew, the word translated as ‘buy’ here means ‘to get something, often through one’s efforts or as compensation’ which is pretty much the same as acquire.

Also, we read in Revelation 22:17: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Compare also John 4:10).

However, certain “things” cannot be purchased with money or otherwise. We may recall in Acts 8:18-20 that Simon the Sorcerer offered money for a gift that he coveted:

And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’ But Peter said to him, ‘Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!’”

Some may think that if something is free that it doesn’t cost anything—or that just anybody can obtain it. Both buy and acquire indicate that a person has to make an effort, or give up something in order to get or acquire something that he considers valuable.   And when God calls us, we have to give up the world and its ways.

As we have already pointed out, the gift of Jesus Christ is not available to be purchased and cannot be bought by anyone. Jesus came to offer Himself for the sins of the world and is God’s free gift that can never be purchased. There is no way that we can “buy” or earn our way into His presence, into His Family.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges Commentary says this about the Truth: “Procure it at any cost: part with it on no consideration.” 

The Pulpit Commentary has this to say about Proverbs 23:23: “Buy the truth, and sell it not (comp. Proverbs 4:5, 7; Proverbs 16:16). Consider truth as a thing of the highest value, and spare no pains, cost, or sacrifice to obtain it, and, when gotten, keep it safe; do not barter it for earthly profit or the pleasures of sense; do not be reasoned out of it, or laughed out of it; ‘sell it not,’ do not part with it for any consideration.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary’s contribution reads as follows:

“The gracious Saviour who purchased pardon and peace for his people, with all the affection of a tender parent, counsels us to hear and be wise, and is ready to guide our hearts in his way. Here we have an earnest call to young people, to attend to the advice of their godly parents. If the heart be guided, the steps will be guided. Buy the truth, and sell it not; be willing to part with anything for it. Do not part with it for pleasures, honours, riches, or anything in this world. The heart is what the great God requires. We must not think to divide the heart between God and the world; he will have all or none.”

Biblestudytools.com gives a comprehensive and lengthy view of how important buying the truth is:

“‘buying’ it supposes a person to have some knowledge of it, of the excellency, usefulness, and importance of it; and shows that he sets a value upon it, and has a high esteem for it: it is to be understood of his using all means and taking great pains to acquire it; such as reading the word, meditating upon it, attending on the public ministry, and fervent and frequent prayer for it, and a greater degree of knowledge of it; yea, it signifies a person’s parting with everything for it that is required; as with his former errors he has been brought up in, or has imbibed; with his good name and reputation, being willing to be accounted a fool or a madman, and an enthusiast, or anything for the sake of it; and even with life itself, when called for; and such a man will strive and contend for it, stand fast in it, and hold it fast, and not let it go, which is meant by ‘selling’ it; truth is not to be sold upon any account, or for anything whatever; it is not to be slighted and neglected; it should not be parted with neither for the riches, and honours, and pleasures of this life, nor for the sake of a good name among men, nor for the sake of peace, nor for the avoiding of persecution; it should be abode by, and not departed from, though the greater number is against it, and they the riots, the wise, and learned; and though it may be traduced as novel, irrational, and licentious, and be attended with affliction, that is, buy these also, and sell them no.”

It then goes on to show that buying it does not have to be a financial transaction: “it is to be prized above everything; it is the principal thing, and should be got; all means should be used to obtain it; it may be bought without money; it should be asked of God, who gives it liberally, and, being had, should be held fast:”

We know that we cannot buy the Truth, the Holy Spirit, or salvation.   They are not for sale; they are free gifts from God.  The NET Bible translation is: “Acquire truth and do not sell it–wisdom, and discipline, and understanding.” 

The passage in Proverbs 23:23 and many other Scriptures also explain why we do not charge for our literature. Please read the following Q&A in its entirety. https://www.eternalgod.org/why-do-you-not-charge-for-your-literature-and-your-other-services/

Proverbs 23:23 is a vital piece of understanding for the true Christian: “Buy (acquire) the truth, and do not sell it, Also wisdom and instruction and understanding.”   And we can do nothing less! 

Lead Writer: Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

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