Have you ever had to give testimony under oath? You made a solemn promise, you affirmed that you would tell the truth. That is the setting of the 9th Commandment, Exodus 20:16.
Do not lie. Do justice. God’s law outlines basic principles of justice: judges and public trials were established, Deuteronomy 16:18. Justice was not to be swayed by outside considerations, Exodus 23:1-9. The duty of witnesses was important. There were to be a plurality of witnesses, and they were to be participants in the judgment. Maliciously false witnesses were to be punished. True witness is impossible without the fear of God. Nothing but the truth must be spoken in testimony. Justice needs God’s law, 2 Chronicles 19:6,7. In an age when the name of God has become an expletive, is it any wonder that the truthfulness, even of sworn testimony, is often in doubt?
Reflect God’s truthfulness in all your life. As God’s people, speak the truth, Ephesians 4:15. Reflect his truthfulness. A Christian’s “yes” should really mean that! Truth-speaking is crucial to growing up into Christ. God requires truth in all your relationships. Gossip is forbidden, as is slander. Go to your brother, instead of speaking to others, Matthew 18:15-17; 5:23,24. God takes lying seriously, Revelation 22:15. Included are “little white lies.” Instead of lying, remember that God expects you to speak the truth. Examine what comes out of your mouth. Ask yourself, before you speak, whether what you are about to say will build up or tear down, Ephesians 4:29. Notice how the warning against grieving the Spirit is bracketed by admonitions about the tongue. There are some who have no right to the truth, for example Samuel’s stated reason for visiting Bethlehem, 1 Samuel 16:2. There are times to be justly silent. False prophecy is an especially serious violation, punishable by death in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 18:20. False prophecy can be known by its failure, Deuteronomy 18:22, and opposition to God’s law, Deuteronomy 13:1-3. Some churches today are guilty of this sin—false teaching, denial of the resurrection, etc.
Be a true witness. Your Lord and the Spirit are witnesses. Jesus is full of grace and truth, John 1:14. He is the fullness of the Old Testament shadows. He is the truth, John 14:6, the only way to God. “’What is truth?’ said Pilate. The irony of his question is that truth, ‘the truth,’ stood before him. . . . Pilate’s question is inescapable and none is more basic. If the question is to be oriented properlyit must, first of all, take the form, ‘What is the truth?’ Our Lord’s answer to Thomas, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6) points the direction in which we are to find the answer.” (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, p. 123). The truth is identified with Jesus Christ. Christ is the Savior in his prophetic office, as well as priest. He is the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18. John calls Jesus “the Word,” John 1:1. The author of Hebrews reminds you that God has spoken, finally and definitively, in his Son, Hebrews 1:1,2. He is the faithful and true witness, Revelation 3:14 (and 1:5). You cannot come to the Father without listening to Jesus Christ, without receiving him as the full revelation of God. Christ’s mission was one of truth, John 18:37,38. His Spirit of truth is in you, his people. The function of the promised Spirit was that of a witness, John 16:7-15. It is explicitly the coming of the Spirit that equips the disciples to be witnesses, Acts 1:8. The same Spirit inspired the Scriptures, which serve as a witness to God.
Be the witness that you are. Telling the truth is not just a matter of guarding your tongue. It involves trust in the one who is the Truth. It involves being filled by the Spirit who enables you to be a witness. You see that in Acts, as the Spirit-filled church continues to do the work of the risen, exalted, ascended Lord. That work certainly included “witnessing” in the way that the term is used in religious circles. But it was broader. It included a life, a way of living that drew questions, that pointed people to the Savior. They, and you, are called to live as transformed people. Be ready to speak. Use the witness of Scripture as you speak. Depend on the Spirit, who promised to enable you to speak. Witness is something corporate as well. The church gathered in worship, is a witness to the world, 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. That means that how you worship is important. Being present in worship is part of the testimony of Christ to the perishing world.
We began with reference to a courtroom. Keep in mind that all of your truth-telling (and your failures to tell the truth) happen in the context of the final courtroom. If you have acknowledged Christ before men, he will acknowledge you before his Father in heaven, Matthew 10:34. In the heavenly courtroom, in the final judgment, you have a faithful witness testifying on your behalf. Each time you open your mouth this week and are tempted to come out with something less than the truth, remember the Witness.