Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness
The appeal to objective truth
In a world that locks out God there is no objective truth and if there is no objective truth then the whole conversation about bearing either true or false witness is a non-sequitur.
So before we can talk about commandment #9 we have to presuppose that God is.
However, our culture with its evolution in biology its existentialism in philosophy and its deconstructionism in literature we have denied God as the creator, God as the giver of meaning, and God as the author and as such we have denied that true truth exists.
“Today not only in philosophy but in politics, government, and individual morality, our generation sees solutions in terms of synthesis and not absolutes. When this happens, truth, as people have always thought of truth, has died.”
C. S. Lewis gets at our problem regarding bearing true witness without God when he notes,
“Suppose there was no intelligence behind the universe, …. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. … When the atoms inside my skull happen for physical or chemical reasons to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call ‘thought’. But if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It’s like upsetting a glass of milk and hoping that the way the splash arranges itself will give you a map of London. But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course I can’t trust the arguments leading to atheism; therefore I have no reason to be an atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I can’t believe in thought, so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God”
– C.S. Lewis in The Case for Christianity
If there is no God, then talking about the bearing of either false or true witness is gibberish. If God does not exist and all we are is matter in motion then all I can say in terms of witnessing is whatever bio-chemical charges that occur in my head allow me to say.
It is true that despite the wide scale denial of God there remains an expectation of bearing true witness among modern Western man, but how modern man justifies that idea is impossible to gauge. We clamor for the bearing of proper witness and yet by our denial of the God of the Bible we render such an ethic impossible.
The expectation among modern men that the truth be told is a hangover from the Christian moral tradition that built the Western world. The expectation of proper witnessing is inconsistent with a time plus chance plus circumstance world. What the modern pagan West has done is to wrench the flower of a Christian ethic — an ethic that includes forbidding false witnessing — from the theological soil that makes such an ethic possible, and have then transplanted that Christian ethic into the non-Christian theological gravel that is the theology that now informs the West.
Or to put it another way, we have cut the flower of truth telling from the theological soil where it grows and yet we still expect the flower to remain full of life. To paraphrase Lewis,
We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We scorn the notion of God and are shocked to find false witnesses in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
So our first point this morning is if we are to be a people who care about truth telling, and if we are to put off false witnessing and put on true witnessing we must have a vibrant belief in the God of the Bible who is Himself the God of Truth (John 16:13).
Our second point as we consider the 9th commandment is to remember that the prohibition against bearing false witness should be thought of vertically before it is considered horizontally.
We are a Christian people. We are called not to bear false witness. Our primary concern, given that commandment then should be that we not bear false witness concerning the triune God. Our passion should be to be found to be faithful witnesses regarding the character of God.
There is a great need for God’s people to not give False witness concerning God today.
There are many ways that this is done. We bear false witness of God when we talk about God’s unconditional love outside the context of faith in Christ.
“Unconditional love separates God’s love from His Law. The love of God is never lawless or unprincipled, never separate from His holiness, justice, and righteousness. Unconditional love is love with no strings attached; no requirements for change, no recognition of evil or acknowledgment of right and wrong. Unconditional love is a more revolutionary concept than any other doctrine of revolution. Unconditional love means the end of discrimination between good and evil, right and wrong, better and worse, friend and enemy, and all things else. Whenever anyone asks you to love unconditionally, they are asking you to surrender unconditionally to the enemy.
Ministers and laymen alike are causing tremendous confusion and damage in the modern church by bearing false witness concerning the character and nature of God. It is true for those in Christ that nothing can separate us from the Love of God, but it is also true that the Love of God makes us a people who are zealous for good works. We have no business telling those who are unconcerned with flagrantly violating God’s standard that God’s love is unconditional as if in making a claim on God is the same as revealing that God has a claim on us.
That God’s love anticipates fruit in keeping with repentance among His people is seen in passages like,
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3,4).
Note here that we here strains of the false witness against God that his love does not expect a certain walk. These people that Jude writes about had turned the grace of God into lasciviousness.
Lasciviousness” is translated from the Greek word aselgeia, which means “unbridled lust, excess, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence.”
So, the false witness against God’s character (gracious = promiscuous) is no new thing and yet that danger is something we need to keep before us.
Likewise false witness concerning God is born when Christians deny His exhaustive sovereignty.
When Christians deny, as many do, Grace Alone Through Faith Alone in Christ Alone as our rescue from sin, when we deny the doctrines of Grace that teaches that redeemed man contributes nothing to His right standing before God, when we deny the exhaustive providence of God of the kind taught in our Catechism, or when we deny the necessity to esteem the use of God’s law as a guide for life for Christians, in both the private realm and the public square, we bear false witness concerning God’s sovereignty and so violate the 9th commandment most egregiously.
When Scripture’s teach, “The Lord God Omnipotent Reigns,” it means that God is all powerful — is Sovereign.
There are other ways that we can bear false witness concerning God. We can question God’s word as being inerrant and infallible. We can divide God’s word up so that the Old Testament has an expiration date that no longer requires us to take it seriously. We can bear false witness concerning who God’s people are mistakenly teaching that God’s people are still the Jews when Scripture teaches that the Church is the people of God.
So, when we consider the necessity to not bear false witness perhaps what should go through our minds of utmost importance is pray that God would grant us grace not to bear false witness against Him.
Our third point this morning is to consider the 9th commandment as a requisite for justice in courts of law.
The ninth commandment, as it applies to a horizontal level (man with man) involves, first of all, judicial or courtroom matters. That is not its only sphere, in man’s relationship to his fellow man but it is its primary one.
The ruling chieftains of a set place exercised justice in ancient Israel. The system that was organized for the pursuit of justice was based upon witnessing. If God’s justice was to be had in this system then it required truth telling in the courtroom setting.There was no fingerprinting. No genetic testing. What was required and what was relied upon were truth telling witnesses.
Dt. 17:6 On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the]evidence of one witness.
Dt. 19:15 “ A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin [a]which he has committed; on the [b]evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.
We see then with the 9th commandment how serious God was about the issue of justice among men. What established justice among men was the testimony of two witnesses. If witnesses were false the gravest of consequences could occur and the pursuit of justice would lead to injustice.
I Kings 21:13 Then the two worthless men came in and sat before him; and the worthless men testified against him, even against Naboth, before the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones.
In this incident we see why Proverbs says,
8 Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow
Is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.
So, given how serious this witnessing was we can readily understand why God gave, as one of the 10 words, the prohibition of false witnessing. God also put teeth in this prohibition against false witnessing. If one were caught giving false witness that person would receive in themselves the penalty that was designated for the person who they were trying to convict with their false witness.
Dt. 19:16 If a malicious witness rises up against a man to [a]accuse him of [b]wrongdoing, 17 then both the men who have the dispute shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office in those days. 18 The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and he has [c]accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
So the prohibition against false witnessing was aimed at insuring justice and justice is something that God loves.
So, the 9th word reinforces the 6th, 7th, and 8th word. In order to protect life, marriage, and property you need legal institutions that can bring justice to bear but in order to bring justice to bear you need a prohibition against false witnessing since witnesses are instrumental in arriving at justice.
The ninth commandment involves a crucial issue — the safeguarding of honor, life, marriage and property. Where there is no justice because false witnessing abounds liberty vanishes and fear and injustice (Remember Naboth) reign.
72 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
Of course we still see the importance of the 9th commandment in our perjury laws. Being found guilty of perjury can land a person in a boatload of trouble. The reason for this today is the same as it was when the 9th commandment was given. If a court can not get at the truth, there will be no justice and where there is no justice every man will do what is right in his own eyes.