John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

38 (John 18:38)

Verse 38

38.What is truth? Some think that Pilate puts this question through curiosity, as irreligious men are sometimes accustomed to be eagerly desirous of learning something that is new to them, and yet do not know why they wish it; for they intend nothing more than to gratify their ears. For my own part, I rather think that it is an expression of disdain; for Pilate thought himself highly insulted when Christ represented him as destitute of all knowledge of the truth. Here we see in Pilate a disease which is customary among men. Though we are all aware of our ignorance, yet there are few who are willing to confess it; and the consequence is, that the greater part of men reject the true doctrine. Afterwards, the Lord, who is the Teacher of the humble, blinds the proud, and thus inflicts on them the punishment which they deserve. From the same pride arises such disdain, that they do not choose to submit to learn, because all lay claim to sagacity and acuteness of mind. Truth is believed to be a common thing; but God declares, on the contrary, that it far exceeds the capacity of the human understanding.

The same thing happens in other matters. The principal articles of theology are, the curse pronounced on the human race, the corruption of nature, the mortification of the flesh, the renewal of the life, the reconciliation effected by free grace through the only sacrifice, the imputation of righteousness, by means of which a sinner is accepted by God, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. These, being paradoxes, are disdainfully rejected by the ordinary understanding of men. Few, therefore, make progress in the school of God, because we scarcely find one person in ten who attends to the first and elementary instructions; and why is this, but because they measure the secret wisdom of God by their own understanding?

That Pilate spoke in mockery is evident from this circumstance, that he immediately goes out. In short, he is angry with Christ for boasting that he brings forward the truth, which formerly lay hidden in darkness. Yet this indignation of Pilate shows that wicked men never reject the doctrine of the Gospel so spitefully as not to be somewhat moved by its efficacy; for, though Pilate did not proceed so far as to become humble and teachable, yet he is constrained to feel some inward compunction.

- John Calvin's Commentary on the Bible