Calvary Road Baptist Church


Exodus 20.16

Please turn in your Bible to Exodus 20.16, where is found the ninth command given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. When you find that verse, please stand for the reading of this morning’s text: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”

One of my great delights has been to obtain the reprint of the late B. H. Carroll’s set of commentaries titled An Interpretation of the English Bible.[1] Carroll was the founder of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and a prominent Baptist leader in the 1800s. I will read excerpts from his very fine and extremely insightful comments on this ninth command.[2] You will notice as I read that Carroll’s format is one of asking a question or making a statement followed by his response. Of course, I have edited his comments a bit.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Ex. 20:16).

1.   As an introduction to this commandment, what two antagonistic forms rise up before us? Ans.- Jesus, the Son of God, and the devil.


2.   Show their respective relations to this commandment. Ans. - All obedience to this commandment is inspired by Christ; all disobedience is inspired by the devil.


3.   What great titles of the Son of God bearing on this commandment? Ans. - He is called the “Logos,” the Word of God, the True Witness, The Truth, as, “I am the Truth.”


4.   What titles of Satan bearing on it? Ans. - “The Devil,” which is translated from the Greek diabolos, and means a calumniator, a slanderer, an accuser, a false witness; he is also called a liar, and the “Father of Lies.” Jesus calls him that in John 8:44. I therefore consider it very important that we shall notice the relation of Jesus and the devil to this commandment.


5.   What gift of the Creator to man which, next to his spiritual nature, most distinguishes him from the brute? Ans. - The gift of speech, to talk, to witness.


6.   What and why the two miracles of exception? Ans. - On one occasion God endowed a dumb brute with the power of speech in order to convey the truth to a prophet who was going astray [Balaam]. Another exception: the devil conferred the power of speech upon the serpent in order to make Eve bear false witness against God and against man.


7.   What is the true office of words? [Note: Carroll means by this question, What are words properly used for?] Ans. - Words are (1) signs of ideas, and are intended (2) to reveal the inward nature of the speaker, just as “Jesus, the Logos,” the True Witness. Thus Jesus was to reveal the inward nature of God to man; his witness concerning God was true; there was no falsehood in him, but the devil’s witness concerning God was false.


8.   According to the Italian diplomat, Machiavelli, what is their true office? [Note: In other words, According to Machiavelli, what are words to be used for?] Ans. - To conceal ideas and to hide what is on the inside.


9.   What sins may be committed by words? Ans. - Blasphemy, that is, to speak evil of God; sacrilege, that is, an offense against God; perjury, to bear false witness in the limited, legal sense, to tell a lie when under oath; slander, flattery, backbiting, whispering, and everyday lying, prevarication, false suggestions, using words with double meaning, words that deceive, exaggeration, depreciation by speech, suppressive speech. Those are among the sins of evil speaking.


10. What says Jesus about words? Ans. - In Matthew 12:37: “For by thy words shalt thou be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” And “For every word (idle) that man shall speak he shall give an account in the judgment.”


11. What is the New Testament law on the use of words, and what Old Testament prayer concerning words? Ans. - The New Testament law is: (1) “Let your communications be yea, yea, and nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.” (2) “Let your speech be seasoned with salt.” (3) “Speak the truth with thy neighbour . . . speaking the truth in love.” The Old Testament prayers are: (1) Psalm 19: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Jehovah, . . .” (2) “Set a watch, O Jehovah, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).


12. Mention some biblical testimony to good words. Ans. - Isaiah 50:4, has the expression: “The Lord Jehovah hath given me the tongue of them that are taught that I may know how to sustain with words him that is weary”; Psalm 45:1, makes the declaration: “I speak; my word is for a king; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer,” and . . . “Grace is poured into thy lips”; Proverbs 10:11: “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life”; 15:4: “A gentle tongue is a tree of life”; 16:24: “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones”; 25:11: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in network of silver.”


14. What says the psalmist about a deceitful tongue? Ans. - Psalm 120:2: “Deliver my soul, O Jehovah, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. What shall be given unto thee, and what shall be done more unto thee, thou deceitful tongue?. . . Sharp arrows of the mighty with coals of juniper.”


15. What does James say about the tongue? Ans. - James 3:2-12: “For in many things we all stumble. If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also. Now if we put the horses’ bridles into their mouths that they may obey us, we turn about their whole body also. Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by rough winds, are yet turned about by a very small rudder, whither the impulse of the steersman willeth. So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire! And the tongue is a fire; the world of iniquity among our members is the tongue, which defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the wheel of nature, and is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beasts and birds, of creeping things and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed by mankind; but the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God; out of the same mouth cometh forth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth the fountain send forth from the same opening sweet water and bitter? can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? neither can salt water yield sweet.”


16. What says the psalmist about duplicity of speech? Ans. - Psalm 55:21:


His mouth was smooth as butter, but his heart was war:

His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.


And as an illustration of that, when Joab assaulted Abner he said, “How is thy health, my brother?” Then he took him by the beard as if to kiss him but smote him under the fifth rib, so that he died.


17. What says Proverbs on evil speech? Ans. - Proverbs 6:18-25: “As a madman who casteth fire-brands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport? For lack of wood the fire goeth out; and where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth. As coals are to hot embers, and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to inflame strife. The words of a whisperer are as dainty morsels, and they go down into the inner most parts. Fervent lips and a wicked heart are like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross. He that hateth dissembleth with his lips; but he layeth up deceit within him; when he speaketh fair, believe him not; for there are seven abominations in his heart.”


18. What says Sheakespeare of slander? Ans. - In Cymbeline, Act III, Scene IV, he tells of a deceived husband, who, believing his wife to be disloyal, writes his servant, accusing her of nuptial infidelity, and commands him to kill her. The servant shows the letter to the accused wife, whom he believes to be innocent. Watching the effect of the letter on her, he says:


What shall I need to draw my sword? The paper

Hath cut her throat already. - No, ‘tis slander;

Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue

Outvenoms all the worms of Nile; whose breath

Rides on the posting winds and doth belie

All corners of the world; kings, queens, and states,

Maids, matrons, nay, the secrete of the grave

This viprous slander enters.


20. What couplet did the great theologian, Augustine, write over his table? Ans. -


Quisquis amat dictis absentum rodere vitam

Hanc mensam vetitam moverit esse sibi.


A couplet translated thus:


He that is wont to slander absent men

May never at this table sit again.


A good thing to have hanging over your table: “With such an one no, not to eat.”


21. What says Jesus of Nathanael? Ans. - “Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile.”


22. What says Shakespeare of a true man? Ans. - Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act II, Scene VII:


His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles;

His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate;

His tears, pure messengers sent from his heart;

His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth.


24. What does Pope say of an indirect lie? And what example of indirect false witness is given by Edward Eggleston in The Hoosier Schoolmaster? Ans. - Listen:


Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,

And without sneering teach the rest to sneer;

Willing to wound and yet afraid to strike,

Just hint a fault, and hesitate - dislike?


Eggleston represents Dr. Small as bearing false witness against the Hoosier schoolmaster by silence, just lifting his eyebrows; for not speaking when he should have spoken, and by just lifting his eyebrows so as to make a false impression on the one to whom he was talking. He ruined the reputation of the schoolteacher. Shakespeare says that anyone is false who just “ums” and “ems,” or gives a shrug of the shoulders that way; it kills, and is without true speech.


25. How does the New Testament characterize evil speakers? Ans. - “Liars, slanderers, flatterers, backbiters, whisperers, idlers, busybodies, boasters, who speak great swelling words of vanity; who in covetousness use feigned words,” and so on.


26. What does Tennyson say of a lie which is half a truth? Ans. - In “the Grandmother” he wrote:


A lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies;

A lie which is all a lie may be met and fought with outright;

But a lie which is part a truth is a harder matter to fight.


27. If you would be strictly truthful, what part of speech must you handle carefully? Ans. - There are said to be nine parts of speech in the old grammars. One answers, “the personal pronoun I”; another, “the verb.” The correct answer is “the adjective.” Beware of the adjective, especially in the superlative degree. You can tell more lies with the adjective than with anything else, and especially if you have a very vivid imagination and are impulsive, e.g., “the greatest man in the world!” “the best man you ever saw,” and “the sweetest girl in the universe; so infinitely good.” Well, that will do.


28. Now in its fulness, what does this commandment forbid and inculcate? Ans. - Of course you can see on the face of it that it forbids, when giving evidence in a case, bearing false witness against your neighbor. But it also forbids every method of bearing false witness against a neighbor, as has been explained in these numerous examples cited. You may tell a lie on your neighbor, bear false witness against him, by a sigh, or a shrug, or even just putting your tongue out, or a kind of gesture, or a mere intonation of voice; by slandering, biting him in the back, and this sub rosa, “just between you and me,” and you lean over and whisper; that whisper starts out and grows bigger and bigger as it goes; it first says that this man got sick and threw up something that was as black as a crow; the next time he threw up a crow, and the next time he threw up two crows, and still later, three crows, and it goes on increasing that way. It forbids every kind of lie: blasphemy, sacrilege, perjury, flattery, deceiving words, distortion of meaning, using words with double meaning. You say a thing concerning a man that is capable of being understood in two contrary senses - duplex words, multiplex words, insincere words, uncandid words. What now does it inculcate? Every thing the opposite of this. It inculcates truth when you speak of God and man; it is expected of a witness that he be found faithful, to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, not by a shadow of wavering to convey false impression.


29. What is the legal name of bearing false witness? Ans. - Perjury, i.e., telling a lie under oath.


30. What is the triple nature of this offense? Ans. - (1) Because it was an oath to God, it is a sin against God; then (2) it is a sin against yourself; and (3) against the one whom your testimony was calculated to injure.


31. What was the Mosaic penalty for a false witness? Ans. - He must be made to suffer whatever his false testimony would have led the one to suffer had his testimony been accepted. That is the Mosaic penalty.


32. What is the New Testament penalty? Ans. - “All liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.” A little girl once reading that passage read it: “All lawyers” instead of “all liars” - “Hold on!” said the teacher. “Well, go on; you are not very far from it.”

As you can see, B. H. Carroll was a man of incredible spiritual insight. His discernment related to the sin of bearing false witness, of the human tragedy of taking God’s wonderful gift of speech and perverting it to do great harm, should give each of us pause. Do you tell complete lies, mostly truths, or half-truths? Listen to a portion of the 15th Psalm:

1     LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

2     He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

3     He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

4     In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

So, who is truly converted? The person who speaks truth in his heart. The person who does not backbite with his tongue. The fellow who does not take up a reproach against his neighbor. And this is important, The person who swears to his own hurt, and does not change. That is, the guy who tells the truth even when he knows the truth will hurt him. However, be mindful that such things are not done to secure one’s salvation. Rather, such things are done by one whose salvation is already secured.

My friends, we are so prone to wrongdoing. The human race is, and you and I, individually, are, so sinful. This is why James wrote in James 3.2, “For in many things we offend all.” However, our worst problems are usually what comes out of our mouths, which is why James followed that with these words: “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” It is a rare individual, indeed, who does not sin with words. That being the case, we will focus on one aspect of this sin of bearing false witness against your neighbor, for that is the prohibition of this 9th command, bearing false witness against your neighbor.

What is the greatest crime and most serious sin committed by professing Christians in the United States today? In my opinion, it is a violation of this prohibition. So-called Christians violate the prohibition against bearing false witness against their neighbor when they claim to be Christians, but are not truly born again.

We will consider this matter in three parts:


·         “I am a Christian.” That’s a lie.

·         “I’m born again.” That’s a lie.

·         “I know Jesus as my Savior.” That, too, is a lie.

·         “But I know that when I die I will go to heaven.” Another lie.

·         “But I love Jesus.” Yet another lie.

·         “I’m converted.” No, you’re not.

We are told in opinion polls that some 70+% of the citizens of the United States of America claim to be born again. Yet the Lord Jesus Christ indicates to us in Matthew 7.14, and in a number of other passages, that the number of people who will be converted will be few. That would mean that the vast majority of Americans quite simply lie when they say they are born again, unless you believe Jesus to be mistaken and think opinion polls reflect the truth about people’s opinions of their spiritual condition.

To bear false witness is to give false testimony. It refers to asserting the truthfulness of something that is false. It refers to making a claim that is illegitimate. The result of bearing false witness is people believing something that is not true, believing you when you are not true, and believing something about you that is not true. Not that there is not a single sin that is not serious. Every sin is a violation and an offense of infinite magnitude and seriousness that cries out for God’s harshest punishment. However, this sin is more obviously sinful than many other sins, and more obviously cries out for God’s wrath than some other sins. Therefore, let no one fool himself into thinking that this ninth command is not a command of the profoundest importance.


I submit that this ninth command is grossly violated whenever someone claims to be a Christian and is not, whenever someone asserts his Christianity who is not truly born again. I insist upon this because whenever a sinner claims to be a Christian he is simultaneously lying, bearing false witness if you will, to and about a number of others.

First, the false professor has born false witness against the Lord Jesus Christ. He claims to be a disciple of Christ when he is not. He claims to be blood bought and blood washed when he is not. He claims to be redeemed by the blood of the crucified One when he is not. He claims to be forgiven all his sins when he is not. He claims that he has trusted in, believed upon, placed his faith in, Jesus Christ when he has not. He claims to have embraced a Savior who he has not embraced, fled for safety and salvation to a Savior he has not fled to, found refuge in the cleft of the Rock when he has not, drunk freely of the Water of Life when he has not, eaten the Bread of Life when he has not, become a partaker of the divine nature when he has not. He thereby claims to be crucified with Christ when he is not, claims to have Jesus as his advocate with the Father when he does not, claims to be a soldier of the cross when he is not, claims to be a joint heir with the Son when he is not, claims to have the mind of Christ when he does not. How many more lies must I rehearse about the false professor, the fellow who claims to be a Christian but who is not? How many more lies can the unconverted false professors be guilty of when they insist, wrongly, that they know Jesus Christ as their own personal Lord and Savior? Oh, many more, I promise you.

Because false professions also bear false witness against the Holy Spirit of God.  Are you a pretender? In addition to the lies about Jesus Christ I have just made mention of, such people lie about the Spirit of God when they say they are Christians but are not. They claim that they have yielded to Him when they have actually resisted and grieved Him. They claim they have bowed to His will when they have not. They claim that they have been convicted of their sins when they have not been. Such a person claims that his heart has been broken by the Spirit and that it is no longer callused, seared, and hard, but in actuality it has not been broken by Him, and it is still callused, is still seared, and it remains hard, as hard as stone and just as cold. Christians are indwelt by the Spirit of God, so a false professor deceives in that regard also. He claims to be indwelt when he is not. He claims to have the joy of the Holy Spirit, yet that is impossible. The Spirit of God gives no joy to the lost, since there is no reason for joy in the lost man’s life. The fruit of the Spirit is all pretense with him, since there is no life to produce the fruit, which only the Spirit of God can produce. The love, which such a one claims to have for Christians and to exhibit toward Christians, is actually deceitfulness, since love for Christians comes only when it is shed abroad in a Christian’s heart by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God. By claiming to be a Christian a professor claims to be regenerated, a particular and vital ministry of the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion. Yet this person is not regenerated. There is no life in him. There has been at best only outward reformation seeking to pass as regeneration.

Then there are those who are genuinely converted Christians. I will pass by the wickedness of that one who claims to be a child of God when the Almighty is no Father to him, focusing instead on the false witness he bears toward those of us who are genuinely converted. He is not in our family, yet he pretends to be. He has not our destiny, yet he pretends to have. He has not our Father, yet he pretends to have. He has not our Savior, yet he pretends to have. He is not indwelt by the Spirit, yet he pretends to be. He has not our confession of sinfulness, but has only pretended as much. He has not our humility of the soul to depend only upon Jesus, yet he pretends he does. He has not our allegiance to the Savior, yet he says he has. He will not stand up for Jesus when persecution comes, though he says he would. And he will betray us when the going gets tough, though he denies that he will.


Every sin causes damage of some kind. Since bearing false witness is lying, do we need to be reminded that it was the serpent’s lies that resulted in Eve sinning and led to Adam’s fall? Lying always causes tremendous damage. So, what kind of harm can be done by a person who falsely claims to be a Christian?

First, there is the harm done to the person of Christ and the cause of Christ. There is a difference between the converted person and the unconverted person, is there not? Even though we are living in the great apostasy, and even the most dynamic Christian is not all that spiritual, there is still an eternity’s difference between the saved and the lost. Thus, when a lost man claims to be a Christian, and when he is actually taken to be a Christian by lost people and even by real Christians, there is tremendous harm done to the cause of Christ and there is a tragic and criminal slighting of the person of Jesus Christ. Consider the Corinthians. In First Corinthians, their confusion about who was saved and who was lost, in part stemming from the young Corinthian man guilty of fornication in chapter 5 who claimed to be a Christian, resulted in the church and even the city thinking that a Christian was committing an unspeakable sin, First Corinthians 5.1, the sin of having his father’s wife. The Corinthians were so fooled by such a false profession that Paul had to warn them in 6.9-10 so they would not think people exhibiting such behavior were Christians:

“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

The damage that was and is done by such who bear false witness? Such great damage by such lies that many in our own day think a person can commit such sins and yet maintain his testimony as a Christian. However, what kind of a Savior must Christ be if He cannot save sinners from such sins? Do not deny that claims to be converted by unsaved people reflects poorly on the Lord Jesus Christ’s name and reputation as One Who is ready to save, as One Who is able to save. Those falsely claiming Him as their own do irreparable harm to our Savior’s reputation.

Next, there is harm done to the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit of God. How it must reflect on the supposedly indwelling Holy Spirit for a supposed Christian to have no real joy, to have no real love, to have no discernible zeal, to live a life that is unconsecrated and unholy. This third Person of the triune Godhead, the Unnamed One, is first holy. So, what reflection on His work and ministry by someone who is unholy and defiled, by one who is unclean and unwashed, yet who claims to be a recipient of the Spirit’s good work? My friend, I am not talking about going to bars and committing fornication, though those things are extremely bad sins. I am referring to some fellow who will not witness to a dying neighbor. I am talking of a man who will not serve God in front of a son who has no respect for him or his faith. I am talking about a daughter who has no awareness of her mother ever praying in the Spirit for her. What a pitiful reflection it is on the Spirit of God that He is credited for living in the bosom of a man who will not tithe, that He is credited for living in the bosom of a woman who will not submit to her husband, that He is credited for living in the bosom of a lazy good for nothing who will not get off his rear end and work hard for a living, that He is credited for living in the bosom of a fellow who cannot take pressure and who unravels when someone is a little bit nasty to him. Excuse me, but the Holy Spirit of God would rather not take credit for such things. He wants to take credit for the lives of those He has something to do with, the man who is filled with the Spirit, the woman who is bold in the faith, people who are energetic in their Christianity, in whom the Word of Christ dwells richly.

Finally, the damage that is done to Christians. Ephesians 2.10 shows me that I have been saved to serve. The deal before I was converted was that if I were saved I would be saved by faith apart from works in order to work. The verse reads, “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” As well, I have been saved from my sins. Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. I know that. However, I have spent my entire lifetime as a child of God working to overcome the negative impressions left on people by these pretend Christians. I and others in this church get weary from time to time of carrying the entire financial load, carrying the entire workload, carrying the entire prayer load. Not that we mind anything that we do, but we do object to having spend so much time and effort compensating for the negative effects of those who claim to be Christians but who will not support the work of the ministry. I have no problem with a soldier who has been wounded in battle. Amen? We can minister to those who are wounded in the battle and scuffed up in the rough and tumble of the Christian warfare. My heart goes out to the lost that are despondent and discouraged in their sins. However, when some fellow insists that he is a Christian and sits around giving a negative impression of the Christian faith, that we have to work to compensate for, . . . then I get tired of it.

What we need are real Christians, not pretend Christians. We need men and women who do not bear false witness to God, to the Savior, to the Spirit of God, and to other Christians by their false testimony. Therefore, this ninth command is a very real prohibition. Violating this command is a very real sin. Sinners need to be saved from this sin, and from other sins, as well.

However, you need to be really saved, and you will only really be saved when you really come to Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible who died for our sins according to the scriptures, who was then buried, and who then rose from the dead in victory over sin, death, Hell, and the grave.

[1]B. H. Carroll, An Interpretation Of The English Bible, Volume I, (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2001)

[2]Ibid., vol 2, pages 212-220.

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