God Is Moral Part Sixteen
The Bible indicates that human speech can have powerful influence. Proverbs 18:21 states, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” In other words, the tongue can speak evil things with destructive results or good things with beneficial results. And those who love to talk will experience the consequences of what their speech produces.1
James observed that with the tongue “we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing” (Jas. 3:9–10).
These and other biblical statements prompt the conclusion that human speech has significant moral implications and, therefore, is of great concern to God.
The Scriptures refer to many different kinds of speech, but they all fall into two categories: negative and positive.
Negative Types of Speech
Lying. The Bible categorically declares, “No lie is of the truth” (1 Jn. 2:21). Lying is defined as “a false statement or piece of information deliberately given as being true; anything meant to deceive.”2
God is concerned about and opposed to lying, and His Word refers to lying at least 153 times.
The Bible also declares the following concerning God: He “is not a man, that He should lie” (Num. 23:19); He “will not lie” (1 Sam. 15:29); and He “cannot lie” (Ti. 1:2). It also declares, “Every word of God is pure” (Prov. 30:5).
Scripture reveals that God’s ultimate enemy, Satan, has a unique relationship to lies. Jesus told His enemies why they were unable to listen to or understand His speech: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He…does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (Jn. 8:44).
Jesus’ enemies were the spiritual offspring of Satan. Thus they wanted to do evil things contrary to God that their spiritual father, the Devil, desires to do. Satan does not belong to the realm of truth because there is no truth in him. All his lies originate exclusively with him. No one and nothing apart from him prompts his lies. He speaks from his own nature because he is a liar by nature and the father (instigator) of lying.
Satan contradicted God and lied to Eve when he told her, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). That lie led to mankind’s fall from God with its disastrous results for humanity and the world.
Furthermore, Satan’s ultimate world ruler, Antichrist, will be related to lying. Described literally as “the lawless one” and “the son of perdition,” Antichrist will oppose and exalt himself “above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Th. 2:3–4).
Verses 9 through 12 say the following:
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
As a result of lying wonders, people will believe the lie that Antichrist is God. And Satan, who will possess Antichrist, will receive worship as God through this proxy:
The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority….So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”…All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:2, 4, 8).
The following samples of the numerous biblical statements concerning lying reveal God’s concern about and opposition to it:
“You shall not…lie to one another” (Lev. 19:11). “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Ps. 58:3). “And they lied to Him with their tongue; for their heart was not steadfast with Him, nor were they faithful in His covenant” (78:36–37). “Remove from me the way of lying” (119:29). “I hate and abhor lying” (v. 163).
God hates “a lying tongue” (Prov. 6:17). “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lᴏʀᴅ, but those who deal truthfully are His delight” (12:22). “A righteous man hates lying” (13:5). “An evildoer gives heed to false lips; a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue” (17:4).
God described the people of Isaiah’s time as “a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lᴏʀᴅ; who say…to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits’” (Isa. 30:9–10). Later He said to them, “Your lips have spoken lies, your tongue has muttered perversity. No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies” (59:3–4).
Concerning the false prophets of Jeremiah’s time, God said, “Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,…and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all” (Jer. 23:32).
In the early days of the church God inflicted instantaneous physical death upon a husband and wife, Ananias and Sapphira, because Satan prompted them “to lie to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:1–11).
The New Testament presents a number of items that relate to lying. Romans 1:25 refers to people in ancient times “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” The lie was that God, who reveals His existence and eternal power through the physical universe He created, does not exist.
New Testament epistles contain the following commandments, exhortations, and statements: “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another” (Eph. 4:25). “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col. 3:9–10). “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth” (Jas. 3:14). “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:4).
“I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (vv. 21–22). “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (4:20).
The Bible groups liars (those who love and practice lying) with the lawless, insubordinate, ungodly, sinners, unholy, profane, murderers, fornicators, sodomites, kidnappers, perjurers, cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, sorcerers, and idolaters; and it indicates that they will not be allowed to enter the New Jerusalem of the future eternal state, but “shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (1 Tim. 1:9–10; Rev. 21:8).
False Witness. False witness involves speech that belongs to the category of lying but is distinct from other situations of lying. A witness is someone called on to testify concerning what another did or said. A false witness lies concerning the other person.
The Mosaic Law made the following statements concerning false witness: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20). “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness” (Ex. 23:1).
If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lᴏʀᴅ, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you (Dt. 19:16–19).
God hates as an abomination “a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19). “A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness will utter lies” (14:5). “A true witness delivers souls, but a deceitful witness speaks lies” (v. 25). “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies shall perish” (19:9).
Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (Mt. 15:19–20).
Paul indicated that perjurers belong to an evil class of people who are “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:10). The expression sound doctrine refers to teaching that “is reasonable and appeals to sound intelligence.”3 A perjurer is “guilty of swearing falsely, or of willfully making a false statement under oath or solemn affirmation.”4 Thus a false witness acts contrary to teaching that “is reasonable and appeals to sound intelligence.”
The next article will continue to observe the biblical view concerning different types of speech.
- Sid S. Buzzell, “Proverbs,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, ed. John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 945.
- Wick Broomall, “lie,” Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Charles F. Pfeiffer, Howard F. Vos, John Rea (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 2:1037.
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds./trans., “hugiaino,” A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1952: translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th ed.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 838.
- The American College Dictionary, ed. Clarence L. Barnhart (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948), s.v. “perjure.”