Shorter Catechism Qs. 76–78
Q. 76. Which is the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment is, Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Q. 77. What is required in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing.
Q. 78. What is forbidden in the ninth commandment?
A. The ninth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s, good name.
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16 ESV)
“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19 ESV)
“A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.” (Proverbs 14:5 ESV)
“These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.” (Zechariah 8:16–17 ESV)
“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1Peter 2:22 ESV)
The ninth commandment deals with our two-fold duty to speak the truth and to refrain from deceitfulness. This commandment, like others, confront us by reminding God’s character we were created to reflect, but have sadly fallen from. God is truthful and he never lies. He is in fact Truth himself, and he cannot deceive or mislead. His holy character does not allow any hint of deceit in all his speech, acts, and purposes. He is true, and we were created to reflect his truthfulness.
But who among us has not lied? We have lied to save face. We have lied to make ourselves look better at the cost of others’ reputation (gossip). We have lied to be liked (flattery). Although we profess to be God’s children, the sad truth is that we are so often more like the children of the devil, the “father of lies” (John 8:44).
How, then, should Christians honor the ninth commandment? First, we need to stop playing word games. There are no “white lies.” All lies are black. We need to repent for all the ways our lips have expressed deceit and withheld truth. We need to recognize that every lie is an affront to God’s holiness. So we must strive with all our might to change our thought patterns and habits which make it so easy for us to be less than completely truthful. Repentance, in other words, is more than simply saying “Sorry I lied.” Repentance means turning away from sin in the pursuit of holiness.
But you will soon find that repentance alone is simply not enough. For the power of repentance is our faith in Jesus Christ, in whom there was no deceit (1 Peter 2:22). Jesus made atonement for our lying lips on the cross, and he credited his perfect truthfulness to our account. With this righteousness on, we can strive in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then, armed with faith and repentance, we can grow to honor the ninth commandment.
The beauty of the good news of Jesus Christ is that as he redeems sinners, he restores the lost. True faith is an amazingly powerful thing, because it keeps us tethered to the powerful savior and to the almighty Holy Spirit who delights to change us to the glory of the Father. Pray to be rescued from your lips. May we all glorify God with our lips.