Jun 26, 2012
neil

Everything that you believe as a Christian depends on your conviction that God does not lie

A. What is the 9th commandment?

Exodus 20:16 ‘You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour’.

This commandment refers, in the first instance, to testimony in a court. As one commentator has noted, what God most specifically condemns in the 9th commandment is a witness who is willing to lie. In the ancient world without forensics, DNA testing or CCTV, a court case depended on the testimony of witnesses.  To lie in court is lying in its worst form because if the charge were serious enough then in ancient Israel someone’s very life might be at stake all because of the testimony offered by a couple of witnesses. For justice to function at all in Israel, the innocent needed protecting and the guilty exposed by God’s people told ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’

With each of the commandments we see that the commandment can be thought of as a header of a particular kind of sin in its worst or most extreme form. When the commandment says ‘you shall not murder’ it is because murder is the worst kind of hatred, when the commandment says ‘you shall not commit adultery’ it is because adultery is the worst kind of sexual sin, but God hates all sexual immorality and tells us to flee from it. So the 9th commandment forbids what someone has called ‘the deadliest lie’ the one that condemns an innocent man for a crime he did not commit.’ But God hates all lies. In Proverbs 12:22 we read ‘The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.’ So the principle in the 9th commandment is that we are not to lie, to speak falsely, in any situation.

B. Why do we have the 9th commandment?

Behind this command stands the person and the character of God; the reality that God himself is truth and as such we worship a truth-telling God.

Romans 3:4 reads ‘Let God be true, and every man a liar.’ Titus 1:2 reminds us that God ‘does not lie’.

Jesus, is God’s word to us, and he is the embodiment of God’s truth ( John 1:14). He says in John 14:6 ‘I am the truth’ and also that all who are the side of truth listen to him (John 18:37). That God is a God who always and only tells the truth has massive implications for each one of us. If we are not Christians we may not be sure we can trust anyone enough to change our fundamental convictions but if the Bible is God’s truth then that changes everything. Philip Ryken summarises what is at stake: ‘Everything that God has ever said – including every word on every page of the Bible – is absolutely, unmistakably, and entirely true. Therefore, we can always take God at his word: ‘Your word is truth.’’

Everything that you believe as a Christian depends on your conviction that God does not lie. No wonder then that God demands that his people speak truthfully. We are to relate to God and then to one another on the same basis as God relates to us – with truth.

2 Comments

  • Neil,

    thanks for these posts. really helpful. just wondered if you could join the dots between this post (“we are not to lie, to speak falsely, in any situation”) and the previous one about it being legitimate for us to deceive people whom we regard as having forfeited their right to the truth or for the sake of preserving life/preventing crime?

    Does God deceive anyone in that way? assuming not and agreeing with your statement that “We are to relate to God and then to one another on the same basis as God relates to us – with truth” how can it be right for us to deceive others?

    If someone is planning or committing evil or harm, isn’t our responsibility to speak the truth to them (including the truth of the gospel) and not create a fiction to stop them doing it?

    Exegetically, is it really that clear that Hebrew midwives or Rahab are commended for their deceit? the fear of the Lord, singled out in Exod 1 is specifically expressed in their refusal to obey Pharaoh not their later deception (v17, perhaps a better precedent for civil disobedience than deceit?!)

  • [...] A Faith to live by – Everything you believe as a Christian depends on your conviction that God does not lie [...]

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