This is the ninth part in the Beyond Today Bible study series: The Ten Commandments. Lying is one of the most corrupting traits of character. The contrast between truth and error, lying and honest is found throughout the Bible and is embodied in this command not to bear false witness. We’ll see how this commandment brings us closer to the essential character of God.
[Steve Myers] Good evening, everyone. Welcome to our bi-weekly Bible study. Glad to have you here with us. Glad to have those of you that are tuning in with us on the web, and those that’ll watch the archive program a little bit later on. We’re going to continue our study in the Ten Commandments, and we’re drawing near the end. We are on commandment number nine for tonight’s Bible study. So without delaying things any further, we’re going to jump right into the Bible after we ask God’s blessing on our study this evening. So if you would go ahead and bow your heads, we’ll ask God’s blessing.
Loving heavenly Father, God Almighty, we are so thankful for Your truth and Your love and Your plan. Thank You for Your Word. Thank you for opening our minds to Your truth. Father, we certainly pray that You would do that very thing tonight, that You would open our minds so that we can more deeply understand the meaning of Your truth and Your Word and Your way. We love You, we praise You, we honor You, we pray for Your presence here and with all of those who would come to study Your Word and Your will. So we thank You now, we put this study into Your hands asking Your presence and blessing and praying it all by the authority of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Commandment number nine. You can find that if you turn over to Exodus chapter 20, verse 16. Exodus 20, verse 16. I’ll go ahead and write that on the board so we’ll have that as a reference as we go through the study tonight. Exodus 20:16 Exodus 20:16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
American King James Version×, it’s very short. It just says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” If you looked up many different translations of this particular verse—I did, looked at 50 different versions, and it’s really great that you can do that because computers allow you to do that in a very short amount of time. So I didn’t get out 50 different books and do that, but I looked it up on the computer. And in 11 of those 50 translations, it says something like, “Do not lie.” Here in the New King James Version it says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
So in tonight’s study, what I’d like to do is take some time to look at the underlying principle behind this commandment. Not just to look at the surface, but try to get back behind the meaning that underlies this purpose that God spells out right here in Exodus 20, verse 16. What are those principles when it comes to bearing false witness? What exactly does that mean? And in order to do that, what I’d like to do is start with the Old Testament and then work our way through to the New. And as we do that, we’ll talk about what does it mean to be a witness, what are the implications of that and then hopefully be able to conclude with, what are the implications for us today? How does it impact my everyday life? That’s the goal of our study for tonight.
And in fact, if you thought about the examples in the Old Testament to begin with, examples of false witnesses throughout the Old Testament, can you think of any, of many, of a few? Maybe lots of things begin to come to mind. Maybe the first liar in the Bible? Satan was the first liar. It may not be recorded exactly as so exactly when this occurred, but even in the book of Genesis when he lies to Eve, he deceived her, “Take this forbidden fruit. You won’t surely die.” Yeah, that was one of the first lies told to human beings. But some time way before that, it seems he lied to other spirit beings. Because if you remember, the Bible tells us that Satan is the “father of lies.” John 8:44 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
American King James Version×says that very thing.
And so we could start with him. You could begin to think through a number of different examples in the Old Testament right from the beginning. We had Adam and Eve running through the garden, and they were hiding from God, lying about what had happened. We know that Cain lied about killing his brother. Just think of all the examples. Abraham lied about his wife, Sarah, and said, “No, this is my sister.” Remember that example? Joseph and his brothers may be another good example. The brothers lied and said, “Oh, some wild animal took care of Joseph and he’s dead.” And I think you could go through example after example after example of situations where there were lies that were told, where the witness to the events wasn’t very accurate.
And so many examples deal with those very things throughout the Old Testament. But one thing that’s interesting about Exodus chapter 20, verse 16 is this particular command is very specific. It’s very specific. When you look at it, it becomes clear it’s not talking in general about lying. It’s talking very specifically about false testimony or false witness. Remember I mentioned all those different translations you could look up that translate this particular passage. In those 50 versions that I noticed, 11 said, “Do not lie.” There were 15 versions that talked about not a false witness, but false testimony. False testimony. Now, where would you normally hear testimony today? Yeah, if you went to court, you would hear testimony because people come and they testify in court to certain facts or certain events that have happened.
And so this particular passage seems to point us in that way in the specifics that it begins to deal with. So testimony given in a court of law where someone is either found innocent or they’re found guilty. And this particular passage in Exodus 20 points to the fact, you should not commit perjury. Now perjury’s another way of saying “lying on the stand” in today’s courtrooms. You can’t lie in court. That is perjuring yourself.
Now, how critical is that in our world today? Maybe we don’t take it so seriously, do we? It doesn’t seem like it’s that big a deal today. And yet here is God in the Ninth Commandment saying very, very, very, very clearly, “This is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to perjure yourself. It is unacceptable to give false testimony. It’s unacceptable to bear false witness against your neighbor. That is unacceptable.” Now, why would that be so critical? I think there’s a couple of reasons why it becomes so critical and why God included this, and even the broader principle about false witness in His Word.
One thing that I think is so critical is the concept of a fair trial. The concept of a fair trial as it relates—and this is the important part—to truth. Whoops, spelled this wrong. Let’s get it right. As it relates to truth. Truth and fair trials. How important is truth to getting a fair trial? Yeah, you can’t get a fair trial without truth.
If you turn over to the Proverbs, come with me over Proverbs 19, verse 28. In Proverbs chapter 19, verse 28, it points to this very fact how truth is so critical to a fair trial. And God begins to give us a little bit of detail on this concept of bearing false witness. Proverbs chapter 19, notice verse 28. Proverbs 19:28 Proverbs 19:28An ungodly witness scorns judgment: and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.
American King James Version×, “A disreputable witness scorns justice and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity. Judgments are prepared for scoffers, the beatings for the backs of fools.” So He begins to draw this connection here that a disreputable witness—someone that bears a false witness, someone that has a lying testimony—He says, “Those individuals make a mockery out of justice.” You can’t have justice without truth and so truth is a basic requirement.
And if you were to put yourself back in ancient Israel at the time, and really throughout the time even in the Promised Land, there were basically three components to the judicial system of the day. The first component of the judicial system was law. You have to know, what are the rules? What are the rules that need to be obeyed? And with that, think about who established the laws in ancient Israel? God did. God established the laws in ancient Israel. So that should give us a little bit of insight of how good those laws were, how good were those laws that God gave? How good are the Ten Commandments? How good are those laws? If you read through the Psalms, it tells us that law is perfect, right? Paul said it’s holy, just and good. Those laws, those rules to live by, God gave for the people’s benefit. He gives us His law for our benefit. And so that was one of the components of the judicial system.
Now, secondly, there also had to be those that judge. When there’s a difficulty, a situation, a difficult disagreement that comes up, accusations that are made, someone’s got to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. So throughout the Bible, there’s times when the judges actually looked at these situations, listened to the witnesses, and came to conclusions. In other parts of the Bible sometimes it was the elders of the city that would judge those situations according to God’s law. And so those are two chief components. You got the law, you got the judges. But then the other aspect that becomes so critical are the witnesses. So those three things—the law, the judges, the witnesses—become critical because those witnesses give testimony as to what the facts really are. And so the testimony is a big part of the evidence. You hear a lot about it today. Circumstantial stuff is pretty difficult, but if you’ve got an eyewitness, when you have someone testifying—he saw what happened, he was there, he witnessed these things—you can recognize how important that is to rendering proper judgment.
And so when you think about the Ninth Commandment, we can see specifically it’s related to rendering a fair and just verdict. Coming to the right conclusion, rendering right judgment. And there has to be truth in order to render right judgment because without it… Well if you’re still in the Proverbs here, turn over a couple of chapters to chapter 25. Proverbs chapter 25. Notice verse 18, notice verse 18. It says, “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor.”
So here we are, right at Exodus 20:16 Exodus 20:16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
American King James Version×, a man who does that, bears false witness against his neighbor, “is like a club, a sword and a sharp arrow. Confidence in an unfaithful man in a time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint.” You’re not going to get a fair trial. You’re going to be hurting, in other words. There will not be judgment that is righteous that could possibly be rendered when there’s false testimony, when there’s a false witness to whatever the circumstances were. So I think that’s an important place to start when we consider this commandment in the very, very specific sense of the word.
Now, also an area that becomes critical when it comes to this whole concept of not bearing false witness is to recognize what the truth impacts. When you think about in the greater sense, truth impacts nations. Is it fair to say that? That the truth impacts nations. In the Old Testament, it becomes pretty clear that that is a fact. If there’s going to be a just trial, it’s essential. It’s absolutely necessary that righteousness has to prevail in that city, in that county, in that state. We think of today’s terms, right? In that city, county, state, in that nation, right? If justice doesn’t prevail, you take it on the big sense, in that nation, what happens to that nation?
And if you’ve traveled at all, you could probably begin to think of quite a few countries around this world that have a lack of justice. And when there’s a tyrant at the top, and when there’s someone that is just in it for themselves, for their version of what justice looks like, it could become a mess. And so there is this critical connection between justice and righteousness that this commandment points at. You can’t have one without the other. How can you have righteousness without justice? How can you have justice without truth and righteousness? It can’t exist.
And of course, think about what was Israel supposed to be? As God called them out of Egypt, that was a terrible system. They were enslaved in Egypt. They were called out of that system to be a different kind of people, to be a different kind of nation. They were supposed to be God’s model nation living by His laws, living by His ways, judged by those who uphold that law. And so they were supposed to be representative of what God was all about. And so they were to point out the fact that a nation that is righteous is just in all of its decisions. They’re just in their judicial decisions. They’re just in their decisions when it comes to trials. And that does become critical.
You think about that for a minute. Think about the outcome of the process in the judicial system. The outcome of whatever happens in the judicial process directly shapes understanding and application of the law. Think about that for a minute because I believe this is true. The outcome of the judicial process directly shapes our understanding and our application of the law. It was true in ancient Israel. I think it’s true today as well. It’s true in America as well.
Now, think about it for a minute, how in the world do you motivate people to obey the law? How do you do that? Is it even possible to do that? How can you move people to willingly, maybe even zealously, keep the law, whether it’s God’s law or our laws today? How do you do that? I think you do it, and think about the relationship to bearing false witness. I think you do it by strongly upholding law. Our judges have to uphold the rules, the regulations.
There has to be a zealous support of the law itself, because if you turn it around, what if we’re lax in upholding the law? Well, you can interpret it any way you want. Will people take the law that seriously? If you don’t get in trouble for perjuring yourself, is it really that big a deal? If I can get out of it or if I can get my wrist slapped and it’s no big deal, I don’t pay the consequences for the crime or the violation of the law, people aren’t going to be zealous to keep it. They’re not going to be willingly striving to obey the law since it’s not being supported. And that becomes a critical thing and I think it is so evident. Because if you thought of some of these third world countries that have a lack of law and it’s obvious that there’s these issues there because of maybe a tyrant that runs their country, maybe we better step back and look at ourselves for just a minute.
You think about zealously upholding the law, keeping the rules that are in place. What’s the impact? What is the impact of the truth on a nation? Think about our own Supreme Court. Not much more than 100 years ago, there was a decision that was called the Dred Scott decision. You studied history, you’d know what that’s about. What that decision was all about is it said that African Americans—didn’t matter if they were slaves, didn’t matter if they were free—they cannot be citizens of the United States, period. Is that truth? What did that do to our country? You think of the impact of the misapplication of a decision that the highest court in the land made.
We can fast-forward to more recent times, fast forward to 1962, no more prayer in public schools. Does that impact our nation? Does that impact how people look at the truth? A year later, “Get the Bible out of here. That’s unacceptable.”
So what has happened in those 50 years since that time? Well, fast-forward 50 years, June 26th, 2015, when truth is not upheld, when the law is not applied properly, doesn’t matter who you marry, right? Same-sex marriage is legal. And in fact, that decision was not only about same-sex marriage, but it overrided state’s rights, so that every state has to allow that same-sex marriage. You think things change when truth is not upheld? And we passive Americans, we tolerate these kinds of things.
And so when you have unjust rulings in court, it promotes unrighteousness in the land, period. The Bible is an amazing example of that, and today we’re living through that example in our very own country. When there are unjust rulings in court, it promotes unrighteousness in the land. Goes back to that whole process of, “How do we judge things? What is our witness? What is the testimony?” And it becomes so critical because when you have a witness that isn’t accurate, we’ll talk about that.
When you have a witness, we’ll just call that a lying witness for now. A lying witness is a barrier. It’s a barrier and a barrier in a number of ways. When you think of a wall, when you have a false witness, when you have wrong testimony, when you have lying testimony, you initially have a wall between the lie and the truth, right? There’s no getting over that wall because it’s opposite. They’re opposite things.
You can’t discover the truth when the lies are accepted. And so it becomes a barrier. It’s an obstacle. It’s one of those things that hinders you getting to the truth. And so as a people, if we can’t get to the truth, I think the first barrier is we can’t have access to God. Lies, false witness is a barrier between us and God. A lying witness, it hinders our relationship with God. It builds a wall between us and God. It blocks a truthful, righteous, just kind of relationship.
There’s a whole psalm that deals with this. If you go over to Psalm 15, Psalm 15 deals with this concept that a lying witness, false testimony, is a barrier to God. Let’s notice what Psalm 15 discusses. Psalm chapter 15, we’ll start right at the very beginning of the psalm. It’s a fairly short one. Poses the question, “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” So what we begin to see, we’re talking about a relationship with God. Who can have a relationship with God? Of course, if you’re abiding in His tabernacle on the holy hill, we’re talking about the ultimate relationship, an eternal one.
Well, who’s going to be there? Who’s going to be a part of the family of God forever? Well, it says pretty specifically, verse 2, “He who walks uprightly and works righteousness and speaks the truth in his heart.” So it points out this connection between righteousness and truth. You can’t leave out the justice that ties in. We have to live that way. We have to walk that way. That has to be who we are at our core.
Verse 3, “He who does not backbite with his tongue nor does evil to his neighbor.” Sounds like Exodus 20:16 Exodus 20:16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
American King James Version×, doesn’t it? He who doesn’t do those things. “Not a false witness nor does he take up a reproach against his friend, in whose eyes a vile person is despised but he honors those who fear the Lord.” Notice the connection to Exodus 20. “He who swears to his own hurt.” Sometimes it’s tough to tell the truth. Be a whole lot easier to prevaricate, to fudge, to compromise the truth. “But he who swears to his own hurt and does not change. He who does not put out his money at usury nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.”
So here we begin to see pretty clearly, that Ninth Commandment, if we don’t obey that, it puts a barrier between us and God, and it becomes so very clear. In fact, it doesn’t stop there. When you violate that Ninth Commandment, we got to look at all 10 for a second here. We’ve got a barrier between us and God, now we’ve violated the first four commandments. When we lie against our neighbor, what else is there a barrier? We put a barrier between us and others, other people. We’ve built that wall with a false witness, and so between us and people. So we violated in a sense, the spirit of all 10 commandments, especially the way Christ summarized them as love toward God and love toward neighbor. So we violated the commandments when we bear false witness, when we cannot be truthful. And so that become so critical.
Over just a few pages, I should have had you hold your place in the Proverbs. Look at Proverbs 11, verse 9. Proverbs chapter 11:9. Look at the barrier that that Ninth Commandment when it’s violated creates. Verse 9, “The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor” because he’s had a false witness against his neighbor. Says, “But through knowledge, the righteous will be delivered.” So we can destroy one another when there’s a lack of truth. And so we built this barrier between us and others. Being a hypocrite and a false witness does that very thing.
And what we begin to see and what I hope we can begin to see, is even though that commandment, that Ninth Commandment is very specific about false witness that is connected to the judicial proceedings, it’s not limited to that. Because here we are, outside of a court setting and this same application applies, so that this idea of a false witness includes other things. It includes being a hypocrite. We could go to other passages and talk about being a slanderer. When we slander someone else, we represent them in a wrong way. That is also part of violating that Ninth Commandment. When we talk about rumors and gossip. The Bible is pretty clear about that. If you wanted to look up Leviticus, it talks about that so very clearly. Leviticus 19 deals with some of that whole aspect of the lying witness. Gossip. Even way back at the beginning of Exodus talks about that, about being a gossip and how unacceptable that is.
And even right here in the Proverbs, there is an interesting one, maybe we focus on this for just a second. It is in chapter 29, look at verse 24. Proverbs 29:24 Proverbs 29:24Whoever is partner with a thief hates his own soul: he hears cursing, and denudes it not.
American King James Version×, look at the way that this commandment is expanded, you might say. So it’s not just stuck in court, that I don’t have to lie or that I’m going to be held accountable if I lie, but it extends to such a greater level. Proverbs 29, verse 24, it says, “Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life. He swears to tell the truth but reveals nothing.”
You ever been a part of situations like that or seen situations like that? Well, you probably do. If you’ve ever watched court proceedings someone might say, “Yes, I’m going to tell the truth,” and then they say, “Well, I take the fifth. I take the fifth.” They don’t say anything. They swore to tell the truth, but then they don’t say anything. So we know the truth and we’re silent. We’re silent when the facts are one way and we say nothing, we’re bearing false witness, we’re in violation of the Ninth Commandment. So I think that certainly helps us to have a little bit of an expanded view even right here in the Old Testament about the impact and the relevance of bearing false witness.
Now, one thing of course, with someone’s testimony, a person wasn’t executed with just one person saying, “Oh, he did this terrible thing and so let’s stone them.” It wasn’t just one person. You looked up in Deuteronomy 17, it says there has to be two or three witnesses. There has to be more than one. One isn’t good enough. And so what that tells us, it would take a conspiracy for someone to be, let’s say killed, someone to be put to death. It would take more than one, as my mom might say, more than one in cahoots with each other. You don’t hear that too often these days. A couple of people in cahoots, right? They would have had to have a conspiracy to put this person away. That would have had to happen.
So God made a way so that the truth could come out and that someone couldn’t be put away just for one individual. Now, there’s also an interesting part that’s connected to that. Who was the one that initiated the charges against the violator? Was it the district attorney? Was it the policeman? No, it wasn’t. You go back to the Old Testament, it was that individual’s duty who witnessed the event to bring the charges.
You might write down Deuteronomy chapter 13. Right at the very beginning of Deuteronomy 13, it spells out an individual’s responsibility. When they witnessed something that violated the law, it was their individual duty to bring charges. They didn’t have a police force at that time. So then it was their duty because there could not be allowed to exist this concept of violating the law, because once we allow that, we become lax in applying the law, we’re not going to take the law seriously. Can we have a just society? Can we have a righteous society when we take violation of the law in a lax way? We can’t.
So God wanted the best. God wants the best for all of us and He knows His law is the law of love. It’s a law that brings good things. It’s a law that will benefit us. And so it was that individual’s duty to uphold the law. Now, to try to break down some of those barriers, God tried to do, I think in so many ways, a lot so that people would have an opportunity to change and to repent and do what was right. He sent His prophets, and over and over and over again the prophets talked about being a witness. The prophets were a witness to this barrier that the people had erected.
There’s one example maybe we could turn to of the prophets being a witness. In 2 Chronicles 24, we’ll see an example of this as we’re zeroing in on the end of the nation of Judah. We’re zeroing in on that time. And this points us to something very clearly on how the prophets were sent, that they witnessed this particular barrier that was set up. Verse 19, 2 Chronicles 24:19 2 Chronicles 24:19Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again to the LORD; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.
American King James Version×, it says, “Yet He sent prophets to them.” Who is He? Well, if we go back to verse 18, we see the Lord God. “He sent prophets to them to bring them back to the Lord, and they testified against them, but they would not listen.” They would not listen. They would not listen.
Boy, talk about the best witness there could be, that was God. God testified. He was the witness through the prophets to that very barrier that their lying lives, the witness of their lives had constructed this barrier between them and God, and God wanted to break down that barrier. He wanted them to see and understand that so they could have a life that would be a good life. And yet, their reaction to that witness was to ignore it. They ignored it. They would not listen to it. And so, interesting that God was the true witness, was the right witness.
In fact, maybe in a way as we move to the New Testament, we could look at the ultimate witness, could look at the ultimate witness because God is truth. We know He cannot lie. The apostle Paul wrote to Titus and said, “God cannot lie.” In Hebrews 4:18 Hebrews 4:18
American King James Version×, I believe it is. It tells us it’s impossible for God to lie.
So what kind of witness is He? What kind of testimony would God bear? Well, it’d have to be truth, He can’t lie, He will not lie. He set His mind to never ever even conceptualize what that might be like. Can you imagine? That’s what God is. God is truth. He is truth.
And as you look to the very end of the Bible, go to the Book of Revelation. Look at the description that’s given here in Revelation chapter 1, verse 5. Think about the ultimate witness, Revelation 1:5 Revelation 1:5And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
American King James Version×zeroes in on the ultimate witness. It says, right at the start of the Book of Revelation it says, “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth, to Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” Think about the ultimate witness and turn over just a couple of pages and a little bit additional description given here in chapter 3. Where is that verse? Chapter 3, oh, verse 14.
Chapter 3, verse 14, as he writes to the church at Laodicea, he says, “These things says the Amen, the faithful, the true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.” So when you think of the ultimate witness, the one who ultimately bears truth, we’re looking at Jesus Christ, and we’re looking at God the Father as well. In fact, if you want to turn toward the end of the Old Testament, if you go to the book of Micah, puts it a little bit differently here, but I think we can kind of see this connection between what we just read there in Revelation.
The book of Micah, right at the very beginning, chapter 1, verse 2. Here we can see the description here of that ultimate witness, the best witness, the one that cannot lie. Micah, right at the very beginning, chapter 1, verse 2, as Micah begins to preach and warn, verse 2, he says, “Hear all you peoples. Listen oh earth and all that is in it. Let the Lord God be a witness against you, the Lord from His holy temple.”
When you talk about the ultimate Supreme Court, here we’re talking about the Supreme Court of heaven and here is God as the ultimate witness. He is a witness. And He’s a witness that’s a truthful witness, but one that’s against them. Why was He against them? Because they had constructed this barrier in their witness, the lying aspect of their lives. And so we see how critical that becomes because if you think about it, what’s one of the reasons that Christ came? Why did He come in the flesh? Okay, He had to die for our sins, yes, absolutely, but didn’t He come to bear witness to the truth? He came to bear witness to the truth. He was the truth. We say He is the truth.
The book of John, if you read through John, the Gospel of John, read through the Gospel of John chapters 14, 15, 16, 17, read through all of those, and make a connection between being a witness and everything that those chapters talk about. Because in those particular chapters, we’re getting near the end of Christ’s physical life. We’re drawing near to the crucifixion. And Christ emphasizes over and over again through His teachings that He is the truth, that He is light, that He exposes the sins of man, and His life itself was a witness to the truth. And so how critical does that become? He is the ultimate witness, the faithful witness.
And one of the things that He did and one of the things we recognize in the New Testament is that He set the example for us. So He didn’t just say, “Well, tell the truth. Don’t bear false witness,” but He lived an example so that we can. And some of it maybe seems pretty simplistic, but if we live this way as He did, it’s a powerful one, and that becomes something that sounds simple but can be so difficult.
Make truth a habit. In a way, this is the positive side of Exodus 20:16 Exodus 20:16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
American King James Version×. Instead of bearing false witness, make truth a habit. That has to be who we are. That was who Christ is, it is who He is. He is truth, right? He is the way. He is truth. He is the life, right? That’s what Christ is. And so He taught this over and over and over again, to make truth a habit. Make it our choice, make it our choice every single day. Every day.
If you look at Matthew chapter 5, verse 33, He succinctly stated it in a way that is so simple. It is so simple and yet oftentimes so difficult for us to put into practice. Now, Matthew chapter 5, verse 33 is where we can begin. Matthew 5:33 Matthew 5:33Again, you have heard that it has been said by them of old time, You shall not forswear yourself, but shall perform to the Lord your oaths:
American King James Version×. Sometimes this section might be called the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes are in here. It’s kind of interesting. In this section He talks about false witness and bearing the truth. Verse 33 says, “Again you’ve heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’” Hearkening back to Exodus chapter 20, but also some other things that are said in the book of Leviticus.
So He says, “You’ve heard this, ‘Don’t swear falsely,’ but I say to you do not swear at all neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is His footstool, nor by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great king. Nor shall you swear by your head because you cannot make one hair white or black. But,” verse 37, “Let your yes be yes and your no, no. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” I think in a way, Christ is saying, “Make truth a habit. Make truth your habit. It has to be yes. It has to be truth.”
If you think back to the Old Testament, there were times that they were put under oath. They swore to tell the truth and that sort of thing. But do we see what Christ is getting at? Truth has to be a way of life. Has to be a way of life. The commandment is getting at that very thing. It’s not just what we do, it’s who we are. Christ is truth. We’re to be truth, in fact to such a degree, that I never have to take an oath because you can count on me telling the truth.
Maybe in a way it’s like always being under oath. You’re always under oath. Well, is that true? Well, if you’ve committed your life to God, you are always under oath, aren’t you? You’ve made a vow to God. We’re always under oath. We have to make truth a habit, right?
Raising our right hand is never necessary because we’re living truth. We’re an example of truthfulness. And I think that also applies not only on a personal level, but if you look at some of the differences between Old Testament and New Testament, we move from the church in the wilderness, ancient Israel, the model nation they were to be, to God’s Church today. And in God’s Church today, truth must be a premium. It must be a premium. Truth must be maintained in the Church today. And so Christ gave guidelines for that as well.
We turn over to Matthew chapter 18, verse 15, just over a few pages to Matthew 18, in verse 15, he spells out how truth can be maintained within the Church. Matthew 18, if you look at verse, let’s see, where should we start? Verse 15, Matthew 18:15 Matthew 18:15Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother.
American King James Version×says, “Moreover, if your brother sins against you,” so we’re saying a fellow church member, a fellow church member sins against you, “go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you’ve gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more.” Why? Well, “by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established.” So hearkening back to instructions in ancient Israel, “mouth of two witnesses, every word may be established.”
Verse 17, “If he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.” We bring it to the entire church. “But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” And so we begin to see there’s a connection here to judicial proceedings, you might say. Could say kind of a court case in a sense because we have those that are judging and the law that’s being upheld, and we’re looking at the responsibility of the witnesses.
It’s very interesting. When we look at how it’s dealt with in the Church, is it that much different than the way that it was dealt with in ancient Israel? Whose responsibility, whose duty was it in ancient Israel to bring forth an issue that was violation of the law? Well, it was the one who witnessed it. It was their duty. It was their responsibility. Whose responsibility is it in the Church? It’s that individual’s responsibility.
If I witness a sin, it is my responsibility to go to my brother and work that sin out. It’s my duty. It’s not the minister’s duty—that’s not the first step that’s detailed here, not at all. Christ lays out how to deal with violation of the law. It’s the individual’s responsibility in that first step. So we see a consistency when it comes to sin and a consistency when it comes to violation of the law that’s carried over from the Old Testament into the Church.
And so if we were to do these things, how much better would we be able to solve our problems? You see, because the idea is we want reconciliation. If my brother has sinned against me personally, let’s work this out. Let’s work this out because we can have forgiveness of sin. We have a Savior who died for our sins. And we have to be willing then to work those things out.
So Christ established that pattern here that really was connected to the Old Testament process as well. In fact, as we look at that, it sets a tone I think, overall for all of us when it comes to our duty and our responsibility in relationship to the Ninth Commandment. It is our calling to be a witness on the positive side of things. It is our calling to be a truthful witness. Christ taught this over and over and over again.
One of the most famous prophetic chapters of the Bible is Matthew 24. If you’re still in Matthew 18, just turn over a couple of pages to Matthew 24. We’ll see what Christ taught when it came to being a truthful witness, being a truthful witness. Matthew 24, notice verse 14. Probably you have put this passage to memory in many cases. Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×, He says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, then the end will come.” Well, who’s supposed to be that witness? We are. We’re to be that witness, the Church. When you think collectively, we are that witness to all nations, which means as a collective body, we have to be representative of the truth, of what’s right and what’s just, so that the witness that we bear isn’t a false witness. The testimony that we give is truth. And that witness, it says, must go out to the entire world.
In fact, He said a similar thing in the book of Acts. So after the resurrection He says a similar thing. The very beginning of the book of Acts. Go to Acts chapter 1, verse 8. Acts 1:8 Acts 1:8But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come on you: and you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.
American King James Version×. We’re between the time that Christ is crucified and the day of Pentecost. And so He says something interesting to the disciples about this concept of being a witness and our calling. He says, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Now, you might try to argue, “Well, this is just for those specific disciples that were there at that time.” But I think it’s not that difficult to see that there’s a bigger picture here. That it wasn’t just for them, but it was a commission to the Church that they must do this as well. We must do this as well. And so we must be witnesses. Now, does that mean every one of us will be going out and preaching on the street corners and going all over? That’s not saying that.
How are we witnesses? Well, we’re witnesses by obedience to the truth. We obey His commandments. We are witnesses to the truth that is contained in His law. We are witnesses when it comes to love. Christ said, “I’ve given you a new commandment, to love one another as I have loved you.” We’re to be witnesses of that.
Go to John chapter 16, 17. It talks about that so clearly. He says, “We’re to be witnesses in unity.” So in the Church there must be unity. In John chapter 17, He said that so specifically when He talked about how Christ Himself and the Father were one and He prayed that we would be one. And one of the connections He makes there is, why would that be so important? Why would unity be so important as a witness? Because, He says, “That the world may know You and Jesus Christ whom You’ve sent.”
So the gospel can be preached by the unity we have in the truth, as living witnesses that bear the truth of God. And so it’s by the Spirit of Truth, right? Isn’t God’s Spirit called the Spirit of Truth at times? Yeah. And so we have that role as a witness. And in fact, Christ prayed, “Sanctify them by Your Word.” Your Word is truth, right? Sanctify them by truth. The Word of God is truth, and we are set apart or we’re sanctified by truth. And we can bear witness to that. And that’s the positive side of the Ninth Commandment. So it’s not just, “Don’t do this,” here’s all these wonderful things that God expects us with His Holy Spirit to be a witness to. And so it is a powerful thing.
And when the difficulties and those that would oppose us challenge us, we don’t have to sit idly by. 1 Peter describes that. The apostle Peter recorded I think something profound for us all. In 1 Peter chapter 3, verse 14, notice what Peter said when it comes to this concept of being witnesses for what’s right and what’s good. Peter definitely addressed it here in 1 Peter 3:14 1 Peter 3:14But and if you suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are you: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
American King James Version×. He says, “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.” And boy there’s lots of passages that’ll talk about suffering for righteousness’ sake, and that itself being a witness as well. Could maybe look up some of those passages later.
But he says, “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you’re blessed. And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled,” because in this day and age, there are going to be those that oppose us and oppose God and the truth. So he says in verse 15, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and with fear.” So Peter hearkens back to that judicial setting once again. Be ready to give a defense. Be ready to give that testimony. Be ready to be a truthful witness and stand for the faith. Stand for Jesus Christ. Stand for God the Father, and do it in a way with meekness and with fear.
But be ready, which means we’ve got to have that Word in us. We have to have that word of truth that’s in our heart and in our minds so that when it’s time to give a testimony, that’s what comes out. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth is going to speak, and that true witness can’t help but come out. And we will give an apt defense because we are a truthful witness because of the Word of God. So there’s quite a bit when you begin to think about this commandment that says, well, just don’t lie. No, there’s more to it, more than just bearing false witness.
We come, I hope, to see the underlying aspect, that underlying principle to the Ninth Commandment that, yes, false testimony is unacceptable. Being a false witness is wrong. Certainly, God points out on the greater scale that it’s not just being in a court case that’s critical, but it’s every aspect. All forms of lying, all forms of unfaithfulness, all forms of the lack of truth, are against the law of God, because it points to that principle that it undermines justice and righteousness. And that’s the underlying principle behind the Ninth Commandment, is righteousness and justice. Anything that works against righteousness and justice works against God Himself, works against the character and the way of God.
Maybe a passage that I think more or less summarizes this, look over at Psalm 89, verse 14. I think this particular passage is sort of a key when it comes to this whole concept of bearing false witness. Notice how it gets right down to that underlying principle of that command. Psalms 89:14 Psalms 89:14Justice and judgment are the habitation of your throne: mercy and truth shall go before your face.
American King James Version×. It says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne. Mercy and truth go before Your face.” And so you could say the underpinning of the Kingdom of God is truth, is righteousness and justice. That is that underlying principle to the Kingdom that God is going to establish on this earth. And so I think it leaves us with no doubt that the Ninth Commandment points us to the fact that God requires truthfulness from His people at all times and in every situation.
That will do it for our study tonight. I really appreciate the fact that you were able to join us this evening. Our next Bible study will be in two weeks. Mr. Gary Petty will lead us through a study of the Tenth Commandment and will close out this series on the Ten Commandments at that time. So we hope to see you in two weeks. We’ll see you next time.