Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness
Today I have the privilege of continuing our incredibly erratic series that I’ve been doing on the 10 commandments. I think I’ve done this twice in the past year, and I’m really excited about going about it. I apologize for the complete just … I haven’t gone in order at all. I’ve been jumping around, and you guys have been patient. I know everyone’s favorite passage of scripture is the 10 commandments. Everyone loves rules. So I picked this because I knew you guys would love it.
Now, I want to start out this time by asking us all a question that I hope we think about is, how do you know who God is? How do we know? We gather every Sunday together to worship God, to draw near to Him, to worship Him. But how do we know who He is? Well, I’d like to ask this question, too, to kind of illuminate that. How do we know who anyone is? By spending time with, by being alongside of, by seeing their actions and their behavior, yes. These are all witnesses to someone’s character and their personality.
But if you really want to know someone, if you want to know what is inside them, how they are feeling, you must first listen because words reveal the heart more than anything else ever could, whether it is written, spoken, or signed. Have you ever had someone ask you or you ask someone how someone’s doing and they respond with, “Actually, I haven’t talked with them in a while, I haven’t heard from them in a while?” Even if it’s a good friend, like a brother or sister, even if you know them well, if you haven’t listened to them recently, you won’t really know what’s going on in their life, even if social media paints their life as perfect.
You may think right now, “Duh, this is obvious. We all know this.” But it’s something I believe we need reminding of. For in the same way we know people, know others, we learn who God is. To know His heart is by knowing His Word. It’s how He has always interacted with His creation. In the very beginning, Genesis 1 says, “And God said, let there be light,” and so on and so forth until He created everything by His Word. And then He spoke through the prophets and His Word has always been interacting with His creation, which brings us to scriptures.
What the Bible says about it in 2 Timothy 3:16 is, “All scripture is God breathed,” meaning the intimate Word of God, “and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The Bible, the Word of God that we have is God’s heart revealed to us, but remarkably so is Jesus. Jesus is also the Word of God.
John writes in John 1:14-18 saying this. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out saying, ‘This was He whom I said, He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ For of His fullness, we’ve all received grace upon grace, for the law was given through Moses. Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten God who is in the bosom of the father, He has explained Him.”
Jesus explains who God the father is. How? Because He is the Word of God made flesh. His Word reveals His heart, His character, His personhood of our Creator. Why? So that we may know Him. John 17:3, Jesus says this, “Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God in Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” How precious, how beautiful, how important is His Word? Well, I frankly do not have enough time that I’ve been given to really demonstrate or show you guys how important His Word is. So I will just encourage you. If you want to know the Maker of heaven and earth who came down and died on your behalf, know His Word. Listen. Read it.
Now I’m going to say something that might be a little uncomfortable. You guys ready? Okay, cool. You guys gave me a great reaction. I want to say, if we know God by His Word and other people by their words, what do others know about you? Another way to put it, what is coming out of your mouth? What is the picture that you’re painting with the words you use? Now, I want to make this clear, this isn’t just a challenge for you. This is a challenge for me as well, because this is not what I’m saying. This is what Jesus says.
In Matthew 15:17:18, He says this. “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated. But the things that which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart and those defile the man.” Listen, our words reveal our intentions, our plans, our feelings to others who would otherwise be in the dark. For through words, we catch glimpses of who someone really is at their core. Words are revelations, not just about others, but also of our own hearts and where we’re at.
Words illuminate what is underneath, and your tongue acts as a gateway of your heart. For what is in your heart is the only thing that can come out of your mouth. Don’t just take my word for it. Take Jesus’ word for it. In Luke 6:45, He says this. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good. And the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil, for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” All that said, I hope we’ve gotten a small measure of the importance of and power and meaning that words have in our lives and how God views them.
Because there is a mindset that is alive and well today that perhaps has always been around throughout history that underestimates the weight and force that words have, that they don’t really have true impact on anything, that they can’t really harm anyone. We’ve all heard the saying, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. We’ve all heard that before. Disclosure, I agree with the heart of this saying. But I believe that it can be grossly misinterpreted.
What I think it’s saying is if you constantly take the worst-faith interpretation on what people say to you and personalize criticism or what strangers say to you, especially on the internet, you’re not going to be able to function. You will have a perpetual pity party that you will live in, and you won’t be able to form lasting relationships because you’re going to take it all as personal. But let’s be real. There is nothing that cuts deeper, sticks in the mind more clear, or torments us than the words of a loved one who reject us, who insults us, who lies about us or lies to us.
Words, whether we like it or not, possess the most potent force that we can wield, and God’s Word has plenty to say on the power of the tongue. Listen to what James says in James 3:6-12, now quoting, “And the tongue is a fire, the very world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our body parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of life and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one among mankind can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison, whether with it we bless our Lord and Father, with it we curse people who’ve been made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way. Does a spring send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, bear olives or a vine bear figs? Nor salt water produce fresh.”
We should not be fooled by the illusion that our words are harmless, for they’re everything but. For our words bear testimony to our hearts, which finally brings us, I know you guys were waiting for this because it’s been a long introduction, but it finally brings us to the commandment that we are talking about today. You guessed it. It has to do with our words. The commandment is found in Exodus 20:16, which reads this way. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.”
Now, that is a very short, concise statement, but let’s remember a couple things. Let’s remember what we just talked about, that God’s Word reveals His heart, and His law unveils His character. So what do we learn about God through this short, concise statement? Well, if we think on this verse, it’s clear that there are two things that God is against, possibly more. I can think of maybe one more, but I want to focus. We see demonstrated in this passage, as well as the rest of scripture, that there are two transgressions that come from bearing false witness, two.
What do I mean by that? Well, there are two ways that this falls short of God’s character. Sin or transgression, as we mentioned months ago, is anything that goes against the nature of who God is. Sin means to miss the mark. Transgression means to cross the line. They are synonyms. The mark or target that we are aiming at, as people, is what we were created to be, which is image bearers of God. Read Genesis 1, which tells us that. Sinning is hitting anything else apart from that.
So what are the two ways that God’s character, the image that He gave us, is violated or crossed with the bringing of false testimony? Well, it has to do with two offices that God holds by extensions of who He is. The first one is that He is the Creator of the heavens and the Earth. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light and so on and so forth until heaven and Earth were filled. As Creator, He is the maker of reality, He is the author of truth. Thus, when we lie, we are missing the mark because we are misrepresenting the reality that God has made.
God is truth. The Bible tells us that God cannot lie, and He is the creator of all truth. Therefore, when we lie, we miss the mark. But He is not just the Creator. The Bible also tells us that He is judge. Many places in His Word bring up the idea, but we’ll just bring up one verse for right now. Psalm 98:7-9 says this. “May the sea roar and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it. May the rivers clap their hands. May the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the Earth. He will judge the world with righteousness and the people with equity.”
Bearing false witness, which we call perjury today in our legal system, is a twisting of the truth which leads to a perversion of justice that inevitably brings about the guilty being found innocent and the innocent being found guilty. God is truth, and He is just. So He despises falsehood and injustice. Proverbs 6:16-19 displays this so well. It says this. “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to Him, haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who declares wise, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
God’s heart is for truth and justice, and it is revealed through His Word. This is why you shall not bear false witness. All right. How many of you guys grew up with siblings? All right. A few of us. Some of us were blessed by being an only child, but I didn’t. I grew up with three other brothers. I had two older brothers. I had one younger brother, and I feel like I got the worst end of the deal. All right. As is expected with such an arrangement, there were many conflicts, and I was usually the weaker one.
These conflicts led to wrestling matches to punches to bruises to tears to concussions to broken bones and destroyed property. I know it sounds really bad, putting all those together. But, fortunately, for us, me and my brothers had two judges who reigned and operated the courtroom known as our house. They were fair, and they were loving. They desired to raise us with love and respect for one another, although we failed time and time again. This system worked really well, for there was love and justice and, no matter how rough things got, we knew that, in the long run, the judges would give proper justice and judgment resulting in peace for a time.
Now, this state of affairs was more delicate than I thought growing up, for it all rested on the truth. A lie from my brother convicting me of instigating a fight or breaking a window or whatever it was would result in unjust punishment and an untried perpetrator, quickly tearing down any peace and justice, building instead a house of resentment with blueprints for revenge, a cycle that once begun is almost impossible to stop. For a family, it is damaging. For a society, it is devastating because lies breed injustice. Injustice breeds resentment.
When resentment is fully grown, hate and death are what is left. People get killed and vengeance replaces justice, which is partly why this commandment, thou shall not bear false testimony, is in the big 10. I’m not talking about the football conference, the big 10 being the 10 commandments. I think we all realize how important this is because it has been so applicable to what has been happening in America for the past few years and even previously, that there is a battle for what is true, what our story is, where we come from.
The main reason for that is establishing a justice system that is based on the truth. This war has been made knowing the truth difficult to see because all the different narratives and spin that is used to support whatever truth people want. Many people, no matter what political persuasion, left or right, are becoming far more resentful and embittered because of lies that have proceeded in justice.
We’ve seen a few very public trials in the past few years that have led to riots and to violence. This should inform us that no matter where we stand without truth, there can be no justice. That is why this commandment and God’s character has to do with both and how God’s nature and His justice work together and how interlinked and necessary they are. Even people who reject the idea that they are created in the image of God are still bound by their nature being made in His likeness to desire both truth and justice even though they might not believe that there is such a thing.
Inversely though, when truth is known, justice can be done and peace in life will follow. The ninth commandment that Moses received, you shall not give false testimony, is a linchpin in which the Israelite nation in its ability to live at peace with one another rests. Because without obeying this commandment and a dedication to truth, justice becomes a cynical joke and belief is lost. It has always been this way. 1 Samuel 8, Samuel appoints his sons as the new judges in Israel.
Samuel has gotten too old. He’s been a just judge, but now he’s retiring. So he sends his sons to judge Israel, and they end up taking bribes. They end up abusing their power, directly resulting in false testimony, and truth is distorted and injustice happens, leading to the Israelite people to reject God as their king and asking for Samuel to instead anoint a king for Israel so that he may be judge over them.
1 Samuel 8:6-7 says this. “But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed to the Lord. The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.'” Did God fail? Did He fail them? No. They had made a covenant with God where they swore not to bear false testimony.
Question, who was bribing the judges of Israel? Who was distorting the truth? It was Israelites. Yet they rejected God and chose for themselves a king, one of themselves to be their judge. Why did they do such a thing? Well, they, like us, have a hunger and thirst for justice, for the truth to prevail. But if we’re to be honest with ourselves, and I mean truly honest, we often only desire justice when it’s others who are doing the wrong.
When we’re the ones who fail, we all too often reject the responsibility of our failings and of the punishment that we deserve. We all desire mercy for ourselves and justice for others. Why? I mean it’s really simple. We’re all biased. We can justify white lies, exaggerations of truth, or just straight-up lying to others as well as ourselves because of our great capacity to justify what we do, to justify our own sin. But when others are guilty of doing such a thing, we are appalled and can get angry and wrathful.
If it’s against us or our people, we truly desire justice or wrath. This is one of the reasons why I believe that some people are comfortable with a God that would send someone like Hitler to hell, but would never send anyone to hell. The contradicting belief exists because for God to be good, He must be just. Evil must be dealt with, otherwise God could not be good. Yet we refuse to accept any part of our own wrongdoing before God. We all easily justify our actions and minimize our sin.
But, fortunately, for us, and simultaneously unfortunate, God is truth, and no truth is hidden from Him. He is just and has no bias. He is an impartial judge who judges based solely on the truth, which is terrifying and beautiful. For He is as much just as He is love, as He is truth, as He is faithful, as He is gracious, and they all work together. His Word proclaims it. Psalm 89:14 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Loving kindness and truth go before you.” Psalm 111:7 says, “The works of His hands are truth and justice. All of His precepts are sure.”
Psalm 101:1, “I will sing of loving kindness and justice to you, oh Lord. I will sing praises.” Perhaps the scariest and most beautiful passage in the Bible, Galatians 6:7, “Do not be fooled. God cannot be mocked. What a man sows, he shall reap.” Here’s the truth that so blatantly confronts us when we read God’s Word. We desire the worst of humanity, those who have committed genocide or unspeakable acts, to be the standard of which we’re judged against.
But the truth is we’re all judged by the standard of the character of God, therefore, we all stand guilty before a holy God. Romans 3:23 says this. “We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” We’ve all missed the standard, for we are created in His image, to bear His image rightly. But truthfully, we’ve all missed the mark and instead of displaying who God is, when we sin, we, in fact, bear false testimony to the nature of our Creator by bearing His image wrongfully or sinfully missing the mark in His world.
Romans 6:23 tells us of the consequences for breaking His law, His nature, His character. It says, “For the wages of sin is death.” Now, I have lied before. I’m guessing, but I’m guessing you guys have as well. Lies breed injustice. God is just and He doesn’t put up with injustice, and we wouldn’t want him to. For He desires people to love justice, Micah 6:8. What is the consequences for rebelling against an eternal God and breaking His law? Death, to be separated from Him and His presence forever, for He is holy.
But the amazing thing is, the awesome thing is, it’s the end of Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” For He is not just just, but He is also love. We ultimately see the culmination of God’s love and justice on the cross when God became flesh and dwelt among us, taking the form of a servant and becoming the perfect sacrificial lamb so that we could receive the love of God and become a part of His fold, a part of His kingdom and become His child, all the while He still delivers His justice by receiving the punishment that was for us upon Himself, by dying on the cross in our place.
2 Corinthians 5:21 puts it this way. “For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Sin separates, but righteousness means a right standing, a right relationship with God, no longer separated by sin by the penalty of death. This is why the gospel is such good news because where there was no hope, there is hope. That hope is found in Christ. Which brings me to one of, if not my favorite word in all of scripture.
Maybe this is a word you’ve heard of, maybe it’s not because a lot of modern translations don’t use this word. it only appears a couple times in the Bible, but I love it. The word is called propitiation. Propitiation means the complete satisfaction of the wrath of God. 1 John 4:10 summarizes why I love this word so much. Oh man, did I not put that? Oh, shoot. Oh, it’s right there. All right, sorry. 1 John 4:10 says this. “And this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
God’s wrath, His justice is satisfied completely in the work of Jesus on the cross, where love and justice, instead of being separate things, are made perfect in Christ. We, as believers, become recipients of the mercy of God and are forgiven, not because what we have done, but solely based on what Christ has accomplished for us. This is the gospel. But what does this all have to do with thou shall not bear false witness? Well, Jesus, while He was on Earth, told His disciples that He came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law. How He did that was in a way that we could never do.
He fulfilled because we couldn’t fulfill the law. He bore witness of the truth. What truth? The truth of who God was. Colossians 1:15 states, “He is the image of the invisible God.” Where we have failed, Jesus has succeeded. He even says it is the reason for His coming. Read John 18:37 with me. It says, “For this, I’ve been born and, for this, I’ve come into the world,” this is Jesus speaking, “to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”
That ultimate truth that Jesus is displaying and testifying to is the very nature and character of who God is. He explains Him. Jesus proclaims this truth, and our response to it is what separates us to those who know Christ from those who don’t, those who accept the testimony that He brought into the world and those who reject His testimony. John 10:27-28 says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. And no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
Colossians 1:13-14 states, “For He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” His truth and justice have everything to do with the gospel. The Bible right here says that there are two kingdoms. One kingdom is Christ, who bears witness to the truth. What truth? The truth of who God is. The second mention is the domain of darkness, who also has a king.
You guys know who I’m talking about. The ruler of the domain of darkness is Satan. He goes by many names in the Bible, but some of them, and some of the ones that we know really well and the strongest are the ones that fits with what we’re talking about right now. For he is known in scripture as the father of lies, the accuser, and the devil. Now, do you know what devil translated as means? It means slanderer. It’s an apt name, for he bore false witness to Eve in the garden by slandering the character of God, by saying, “God lied to you. God doesn’t have your best interests at heart, but is instead holding out on you.”
He directly opposes the truth and seeks to see as many possible become guilty before God as the accuser. His most effective strategy that he still uses today is not to convince people that there is no God, but to slander God’s character and to get us to question His goodness, His justice, His love, and His mercy. Which begs the question, what witnesses are we listening to when it comes to who God is? Is it His Word, which bears witness to the truth of His heart or to the world and the devil who constantly slanders Him?
Here’s the thing as well. Not only are we called to believe the truth of the witness of Christ, but we are also called as followers of Christ to bear true testimony to who He is in the world who doesn’t know Him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 clarifies and summarizes this in a way that I never could. It says this. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away. Behold, the new things have come. Now, all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them. And He has committed to us this word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God.”
We have been reconciled by Christ to be ambassadors, to be representatives, to be witnesses to the world for the gospel. The gospel so profoundly demonstrates the gracious, merciful, loving, and just nature of who God is, that has made salvation possible. The call that He gives us is to proclaim this truth wholeheartedly, truthfully, in word and deed, as though God was making His appeal to the world through us.
Jesus never broke a law. He didn’t break the law, for He never bore false testimony. But ultimately, He did so much more than that. He fulfilled the law by living out the truth and bearing witness to the truth of who God is, which is what we, as followers of Christ, are now called to do. Peter in 1 Peter 2:9 says this, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light.”
This message has been brought to you by Alpine Bible Church in Lehi, Utah. If you’d like more information, please visit us online at alpinebible.com.