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Exodus 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Posted by adventbiblestudy on June 4, 2011


Like other commandments, the ninth is straight forward, and impossible to misunderstand. A more modern version may read, you shall10 Commandments Bible study not lie. Bearing false witness is often associated with providing false testimony on a witness stand during a trial.

A typical Bible study compares scripture with scripture to reveal a spiritual meaning. Seeking the spiritual interpretation provides a far deeper meaning than a casual reading. Although Exodus 20:16 provides a clear, concise meaning, comparing scripture will reveal examples showing how grave the consequences of this sin can be when bearing false witness is allowed to remain unchecked by conscience.

Take Jesus’ trial for example.

Matthew 26:59-62 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; (60) But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, (61) And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. (62) And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?

This example only begins to show how matters soon reach an extreme. Jesus’ mock trial was deliberately arranged to introduce false witnesses with the sole purpose of condemning an innocent man. As always, one lie leads to another. At first the high priest condemn Jesus by twisting His comment concerning the destruction of the temple, and rebuilding it in three days. Later the same day the high priest once again twist Jesus’ words when requesting an attachment of guards from Pilate. This also shows a simple twist of fate. According to the priest’s law, they were forbidden to enter into the home of a Gentile on the Sabbath. They considered this a form of polluting the Sabbath. No such law exists in the Old Testament. This was a man made doctrine they chose to follow more stringently than God’s written law. They did of course break the forth commandment when requesting a company of guards to perform a service on the Sabbath, above and beyond their normal duty. The high priest took it upon himself to direct the security of the tomb. After Jesus’ resurrection the lies continued. To a lie, was added murder, more lies, and bribery.

Earlier in His ministry, Christ was asked which of the commandments was the greatest. In answer to the question Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40.

All of the commandments depend on loving God, and your neighbor, which is a summary of the ten. It is ironic, when you consider, the last two commandments, disregarding either one can lead to breaking all ten. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: Matthew 15:19.

Coveting is simply an overwhelming desire to obtain something at any cost. Lying is usually the first step. The desire to obtain a physical possession often results in stealing, which is breaking the eighth commandment.

The example of Jesus’ trial shows the priests and Pharisees regarded their position and control more than God’s tenth, ninth, sixth, forth, and first commandments. Coveting led to lies, which led to murdering the Son of God, breaking the sixth commandment.

Bearing false witness quickly becomes a neglected commandment once other laws are broken. Adultery is a sexual relationship outside of the marriage covenant. You can not commit adultery without first breaking the tenth commandment, coveting. After breaking the seventh commandment against adultery, the ninth commandment soon follows when the guilty person begins lying, in an attempt to cover up the matter.

Any lie brings dishonor upon the liar, as well as the family, breaking the fifth commandment.

How does dishonoring the Sabbath result in a lie? Placing your time above God’s is a form of coveting. Placing your needs and desires above God’s forth commandment is an example of breaking the tenth commandment. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 2 Timothy 3:2-5.

Having a form of godliness, while denying the power of God is living a lie. Pretending to honor God’s Sabbath, while breaking it is an example of showing a form of godliness, while denying the spirit of the law. Doing so also breaks the third commandment, taking God’s name in vain. Breaking any commandment is a form of taking God’s name in vain, because the commandments are a reflection of God’s character.

People often attach images to worship. Christian stores offer a wide variety of images. People desire, or covet these images. They may claim the images serve only as a reminder, but often the attachment to these images goes far beyond a minor attraction. When this happens, the Christian may be living a lie. At this point, breaking the second commandment is also breaking the ninth and tenth.

Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Coveting and lying disgrace God. They place the sinner at opposition to God. The priests and Pharisees placed themselves above God, and His commandments. By their endless rules, laws, doctrine, and demands placed upon their followers, they displayed their desire to be like God. The fact they refused to see, and understand Jesus’ teaching showed they placed their worldly desires above God. Their gods took on many worldly forms.

To one extent or another, many forms of religion display the same attributes. As Christians, we are commanded to carry the gospel to the world. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14.

The book of Acts contains over thirty examples showing the simple two part message. The first is the message of salvation.

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Acts 4:12, Acts 13:38, Acts 13:26, Acts 11:20-21, Acts 15:11, Acts 13:47, Acts 16:31.

The second part of the message is much like the first, teaching the prophecies of Jesus, His life, ministry, and message from the scriptures.

God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. Acts 13:33, Acts 15:15-17, Acts 17:2-3, Acts 18:28.

What was once a simple message has often been turned into an endless list of rules, regulations, and beliefs, mirroring the religion of the Pharisees to one degree, or another. Introducing false doctrine, tradition, and other forms of religion not supported by the gospel message is a form of false witness. It is adding context which was not part of the original message. The gospel message should be kept as simple, and straight forward as the commandments.

Another form of false witness is exercised when only a portion of the message is delivered. In the overall picture, God, and His character are on trial before the entire universe. If we believe it or not, we are witnesses in the trial of God. Are we presenting God’s message as a whole, letting the jury decide the truth? Or are we offering only a portion of the message, based on our predetermined views of what we consider truth?

More often than not, the message is not from God, but from a church or religion, focusing on particular points, and subjects they consider important. In this case the message has been condensed, and often manipulated to gain advantage for a particular organization, one of the mistakes committed by the priests and Pharisees, who killed Jesus. In a court of law people are asked to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Is this rule followed when witnessing for the Lord?

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