The Ninth Commandment: Truth as a Way of Life

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The Ninth Commandment

Truth as a Way of Life

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“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16 Exodus 20:16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
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What do the Scriptures tell us about God, His Word and truth? Notice what several verses tell us: “Every word of God is pure …” (Proverbs 30:5 Proverbs 30:5Every word of God is pure: he is a shield to them that put their trust in him.
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). Daniel refers to God’s Word as “the Scripture of Truth” (Daniel 10:21 Daniel 10:21But I will show you that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holds with me in these things, but Michael your prince.
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). Jesus Christ said of God the Father, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17 John 17:17Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
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The Bible throughout teaches that “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19 Numbers 23:19God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: has he said, and shall he not do it? or has he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
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). It explains that “the word of the Lord is right, and all His work is done in truth” (Psalms 33:4 Psalms 33:4For the word of the LORD is right; and all his works are done in truth.
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) because He is a “God of truth” (Deuteronomy 32:4 Deuteronomy 32:4He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
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). And “His truth endures to all generations” (Psalms 100:5 Psalms 100:5For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.
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As the source of truth, God requires that His servants always speak truthfully. Under God’s inspiration, King David writes: “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbour no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow-man … [and] who keeps his oath even when it hurts” (Psalms 15:1-3 Psalms 15:1-3 1 Lord, who shall abide in your tabernacle? who shall dwell in your holy hill? 2 He that walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart. 3 He that backbites not with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

God expects truth to permeate every facet of our lives.

Christ and the truth

Restoring regard for truth as a universal way of life will be a priority when Jesus Christ returns to establish His rule. “Thus says the LORD: ‘I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, The Mountain of the LORD of hosts, The Holy Mountain’ ” (Zechariah 8:3 Zechariah 8:3Thus said the LORD; I am returned to Zion, and will dwell in the middle of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.
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Looking forward to Christ’s rule in the Kingdom of God, Psalm 85 reveals the emphasis God will place on righteousness and truth. “Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yes, the LORD will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway” (Psalms 85:9-13 Psalms 85:9-13 9 Surely his salvation is near them that fear him; that glory may dwell in our land. 10 Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11 Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. 12 Yes, the LORD shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. 13 Righteousness shall go before him; and shall set us in the way of his steps.
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).

At that time Jesus Christ will insist that all of mankind follow His footsteps in accepting, believing and speaking the truth.

Truth in our relationship with Christ

Our personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, begins with our acceptance of and surrender to God’s Word as truth. “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13 Ephesians 1:13In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
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When Jesus stood trial, just before His crucifixion, the Roman governor Pilate asked Christ if He were truly a king. Jesus responded by summarizing His mission and noting who would respond to His message: “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37 John 18:37Pilate therefore said to him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.
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Jesus Christ’s character was (and is) a perfect reflection of the character of our heavenly Father, the God of truth. In response to a question from one of His disciples, Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6 John 14:6Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.
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). His disciples, by “speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:15 Ephesians 4:15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
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To be disciples of Jesus Christ we must resolve to consistently speak the truth, demonstrating the sincerity of our love for others. We must also accept and obey, as “the way of truth,” the commandments and teachings of God (Psalms 119:30 Psalms 119:30I have chosen the way of truth: your judgments have I laid before me.
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Psalms 119:151 Psalms 119:151You are near, O LORD; and all your commandments are truth.
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Psalms 119:160 Psalms 119:160Your word is true from the beginning: and every one of your righteous judgments endures for ever.
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). Samuel tells us, “Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you” (1 Samuel 12:24 1 Samuel 12:24Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he has done for you.
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Lying abounds

It is almost impossible nowadays to be certain who, if anyone, is telling the truth. Almost everyone tries to balance the risk of being caught against the perceived benefits of lying.

Some businesses display amazing creativity in camouflaging deceit when they advertise their products. Almost everywhere we can spot individuals, businesses and other organizations involved in a sophisticated game of seeing how deceptive they can be without attracting lawsuits or alienating potential customers.

Lying is an accepted way of life. Our world is accurately described by Isaiah’s description of ancient Israel: “No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity” (Isaiah 59:4 Isaiah 59:4None calls for justice, nor any pleads for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.
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How did God view the Israelites’ epidemic of lies? “So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the LORD their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth’ ” (Jeremiah 7:28 Jeremiah 7:28But you shall say to them, This is a nation that obeys not the voice of the LORD their God, nor receives correction: truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.
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Then as now, people routinely inject deceit into their relationships—personal, social, political, religious and economic. The dearth of honesty is so widely accepted that public censure no longer even discourages lying. That demand must come from within.

Are you truthful?

Now comes the important question to you personally: Do you lie?

Maybe it would be kinder to word the question a little differently: Just how important is being truthful to you? Or, reversing the coin: Is lying repugnant to you? These questions are crucial. You need to ask and answer them truthfully to yourself.

Temptations to lie never cease. They are always present. Lying is such a quick and effortless way to gain an advantage over others. It appears to offer easy and swift escape from embarrassment, fear and guilt. But the Bible says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (Proverbs 12:22 Proverbs 12:22Lying lips are abomination to the LORD: but they that deal truly are his delight.
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We face a fundamental choice. We follow God’s example of truthfulness and honesty in our actions and communications, or we follow the example of the originator of lying, Satan. Jesus tells us that the devil is “a liar and 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.
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, NIV). He deceived Eve, then she talked Adam into partaking of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-6 Genesis 3:1-6 1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yes, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. 4 And the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die: 5 For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat.
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, Genesis 3:17 Genesis 3:17And to Adam he said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: cursed is the ground for your sake; in sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life;
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). This act of disobedience brought suffering and death on our first parents. The devil has relentlessly misinformed and misled people ever since. Satan’s malicious influence is so great that he “deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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). It is all too easy for us to follow his example in our dealings with others, especially when lying is so commonly practiced all around us.

Human nature is deceitful

Learning to be firmly and consistently truthful requires self-discipline and courage, and in our firmness and consistency we must rely on help from God.

We often find ourselves doing things that we know are wrong. So why, then, do we do them? The prophet Jeremiah gives us the answer. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 Jeremiah 17:9-10 9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
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, NASB).

God understands our nature and reveals how to combat it. Jesus explained that, even though we may be willing to obey, our flesh is weak (Mark 14:38 Mark 14:38Watch you and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
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). We lack the resolve and strength to resist temptation. How, then, can we neutralize this weakness?

God, through the pen of the apostle Paul, explains the cause of and solution to this universal human problem. Citing himself as an example, Paul described the timeless human struggle: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (Romans 7:14-15 Romans 7:14-15 14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.
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We can relate to Paul. We have experienced the same frustration and remorse. Paul continues: “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:22-24 Romans 7:22-24 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
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). Paul had learned that people need help to rise above the weaknesses of human nature.

Overcoming deceit

Another apostle, Peter, denied Jesus Christ and even lied, on the night of His betrayal, about being acquainted with Him (Matthew 26:69-74 Matthew 26:69-74 69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came to him, saying, You also were with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what you say. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said to them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came to him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely you also are one of them; for your speech denudes you. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
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). Like Peter, most people find it almost impossible to abandon all forms of deceit until they surrender their lives to God and begin sincerely seeking His help. That help is readily available, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 Philippians 2:13For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
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We must ask for that help. And how can we get it? God’s Word tells us: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 Hebrews 4:14-16 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
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We have at hand the solution to this pervasive and insidious human weakness. Paul urged Church members in Ephesus to “put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” How were they to do this? By “putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:24-25 Ephesians 4:24-25 24 And that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25 Why putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.
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The way of truth

Those who willingly believe and obey the truth of God can, by being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit, become members of the Church that Jesus Christ built. He refers to them as the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
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). They represent “the way of truth” (2 Peter 2:2 2 Peter 2:2And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
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Paul calls God’s Church “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15 1 Timothy 3:15But if I tarry long, that you may know how you ought to behave yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
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). Its members are the servants of “the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9 1 Thessalonians 1:9For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God;
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). By “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 2:15Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
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), it is commissioned by Christ to preach “the truth of the gospel” to all the world (Galatians 2:5 Galatians 2:5To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
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; 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.
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; Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
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Everything in the life of a Christian is anchored to truth. God wants us, as His children, to commit ourselves to truth and reflect it in everything we do. That is why God commands us: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16 Exodus 20:16You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
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).