Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Study Of The Ninth Commandment

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen
This is a simple study of the ninth commandment.
    All Biblical quotations are from the ESV (English Standard Version), unless noted otherwise.
Where it is found, and what it says.
      The ninth commandment is found in Exodus 20:16, and in Deuteronomy 5:20. Here is what it says: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
What exactly does this command prohibit?
     We know what the word "false" means, but it will help us to know what the word "witness" means. The Hebrew dictionary in The Strongest Strong's Concordance says the word for "witness" means "witness, testimony; an object that serves as a memorial or a person giving of legal evidence." So, then, this command prohibits giving false evidence against our neighbor. However, we know that the prohibition applies to anyone else, even our enemies, for we are always to be truthful.
Why does anyone bear false witness against someone?
     Jesus Christ told us the answer in Matthew 15:19, in which he said: "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander." So the source of this sin, as with all sins, is a corrupt heart. Even if we are not guilty of bearing false witness, all the sins we have committed and will yet commit come from a corrupt heart.
How serious is the sin of bearing false witness?
    According to Revelation 21:8, it is very serious. It says:"But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death." To bear false witness is to lie. And Revelation 21:8 tells us what the result will be for those who face God as unforgiven liars. But any sin will be forgiven by Jesus Christ, if the guilty person admits to him their guilt and believes on him as Savior. If you are in need of salvation, the Bible says: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." (New King James Version)
The wisdom of this command.
      It is easy to see the wisdom of this command. It puts the brakes on our sinful natures which would lead us to be false witnesses for a variety of reasons. If a family member has abused us sexually or physically or emotionally or verbally, our sinful natures would prompt us to retaliate, which might be done by bearing false witness against them by knowingly stating they had done more harm to us  than they, in fact, did. We might do the same if we have been mistreated by a neighbor or a boss or a fellow-employee.
      However,  it is never right to bear false witness against someone. We must resist the urge to do so. We can go to the Lord in prayer and tell him that we are struggling with the urge to retaliate by being a false witness, and he will help us. We can claim the truth of 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says: "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."
What should we do, if we have borne false witness against someone?
       First, we must admit it to God. Proverbs 28:13 says: "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." Psalm 32:5 tells us of David's honesty with God about his sins, and its result. It says: "I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,' and you forgave the iniquity of my sin." David found forgiveness for his adultery and murder. We, too, can find it if we have been false witnesses.
      Second, we need to admit to the one or the ones about whom we have lied. This needs to be done, even if they have harmed us in some way.
      Third, we must admit our wrong-doing to the ones who were told our lie or lies. Making amends for being a false witness will be a very humbling thing to do, and it can get very involved. But it must be done. We would want our name cleared of false charges, if it happened to us. Why would we do less for someone else? In Matthew 6:12, Jesus Christ said: "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
What if we have been the victim of a false witness?
     This can be a very painful thing. It is perfectly normal and acceptable to want our name cleared. We can even take steps to get it cleared. But we have to forgive the liar of their wrong-doing, even if they do not do anything to set the record straight.
      Consider some Biblical statements that teach we must forgive those who have wronged us. In Matthew 6: 5 - 15, the Lord gave his disciples some instructions about prayer. In verse 12 he said we should ask God the Father to forgive our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. And then, after this model prayer was concluded, he returned to the subject of forgiving others and said: "For if you forgive others their trespasses (sins), your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
      Ephesians 4:31 and 32 says: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you." It is not always easy to forgive someone who has wronged us, but with the Lord's help it can be done.  Philippians 4:13 says: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (New King James Version.) Preacher Stephen, about whom we read in Acts 7, is a good example of one who forgave his enemies. While he was being stoned to death by them simply because he preached the Gospel of Christ to them, he prayed a remarkable prayer. Acts 7:60 says: "And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lord, do not hold this sin against them.' " May God help us to follow his example.
False witnesses must be forgiven and held accountable.
      Even though we must forgive those who have wronged us, it does not mean they should not be held accountable for their actions. They need to answer for what they have done. They need to make amends. They need to be brought to justice. But their victims, especially Christian victims, need to follow what Matthew 6:12 and Ephesians 4:31 and 32, quoted above, say.
Other Biblical statements about false witnessing.  
      Let us now consider some other Biblical statements about false witnessing. Some verses will just be quoted, and some will be commented on. They all deserve consideration.
      Ex. 23:1 says: "You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness."
      Psalm 27:12 is the psalmist's prayer that reveals his pain of being victimized by falsehood. It says: "Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence."
      Psalm 35:11 and 12 also reveal the pain felt by one who had been lied against. It says: "Malicious witnesses rise up; they ask me of things that I do not know. They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft."
      Psalm 120:1 - 3 is the psalmist's pain-filled prayer, pain caused by lying and deceit. It says: "In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. What more shall be done to you, you deceitful tongue? A warrior's sharp arrows, with glowing coals of the broom tree."
      Proverbs 6:16 - 19 tells us: "There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies,and one who sows discord among brothers."  We need to pay close attention when the God of love says he hates something.
     Proverbs 12:17 says: "Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit."
     Proverbs 17:4 says: "An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue."
     Proverbs 19:5 says: "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not  escape." While it is true that false witnesses and liars seem to get by with their sins, one day they will have to answer to God.
     Proverbs 21:28 says: "A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure."
     Proverbs 25:18 says; "A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow." This is not a flattering description of such persons. 
     Earlier in Matthew 15:19 we read that sins of speech, and all other sins, reveal a heart problem. D. L. Moody wisely said that what is in the well of our heart will come up in the bucket of our speech.
      Matthew 26:59 - 64 tell us of those who lied about the Lord Jesus Christ. It is remarkable to read that it was the religious leaders of the day, that is, the chief priests and the whole council, who sought false testimony against him in order to put him to death. Truth was not on their side, so they stooped so low as to get liars to help them silence Jesus. He who was truth incarnate was opposed by men who embodied falsehood. Those evil men sought to permanently silence the one who is "the way, the truth, and the life." But their success was only temporary, for he came back to life and proved that truth always wins in the end.
      Preacher Stephen, about whom we read in Acts 6 and 7, followed in the Lord's footsteps by being a victim of liars. Once again the religious leaders opposed the Gospel. Acts 6:13 tells us they "set up false witnesses" against him." The result was the same as when Jesus was lied about. That is, Stephen, too, was put to death. 
      What we learn from these facts about Jesus and Stephen is that when wicked persons are determined to get their way, they will even stoop to using lies.
Christians aren't false witnesses about Jesus Christ.
      1 Corinthians 15:12 - 15 makes reference to the sin prohibited by the ninth commandment. Those verses say: "Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God (The King James Version says, "we are found false witnesses of God"), because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised."
      From these verses we learn how important the resurrection of Christ is. It is the foundation of the Christian faith. It is not a falsehood to claim that he was raised from the dead. The evidence of it is plentiful and undeniable, and it is appealed to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. Belief in his resurrection is necessary if one wants to become a Christian.  That is, you must believe in it, in order to be saved. This is what Romans 10:9 and 10 says: "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved."
      The important question is: have you believed in Jesus Christ and confessed faith in his resurrection?  If so, you are saved. If not, you need to be saved before it is too late. Death ends all further opportunity to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore believe in him  at once, for you might die unexpectedly at any time!

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