We are studying what it means to "walk worthy." As we have been saying, "Our walk is our conduct, our lifestyle." Believers are called to live up to who they are in Christ. Our life is to match our position. We looked two weeks ago at 4:17-19, which tells us how a believer should not walk. We are not to walk as Gentiles, unbelievers, in the futility of the mind.
Paul then teaches in 4:20-24, that they had been taught that they had put off the Old Man and put on the New Man. Let's look at verse 22 again because the translations are misleading, and we need to understand this:
that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, Ephesians 4:22 NASB
The lexical verbs of "laying aside" and "putting on" in verse 24, emphasize accomplished events rather than the process in activities. So Paul is not telling them to lay aside the "Old Man," but that the "Old Man" has been laid aside, and therefore, they are not to live like unbelievers. This fits the context. In verses 22-24 Paul reminds them of what it was that they were taught, which was that they were in Christ, they have laid aside the "Old Man" and put on the "New Man." Now in verses 25-32, he is going to give practical applications of how the new person in Christ lives day to day.
So beginning in 4:25 (and going through 6:9) Paul gets specific. He names a bunch of specific sins characterized by the Old Man that are to be put off, and godly behaviors that are to be put on. While there are some exceptions, his usual method is to state the sinful behavior that we are to put off, the godly behavior that we are to put on, and the motive or reason for the positive behavior. In 4:25 he says:
Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25 NASB
"Therefore"—takes us back to the preceding context. Because we must no longer live like the Gentiles, and because we have received the teaching of Christ, that we have put off the Old Man and put on the New Man, "therefore," we have also "laid aside falsehood."
"Laying aside falsehood"—the words "laying aside" are from the Greek word apotithemi, which means: "to put away (lit. or fig.): cast off, lay apart (aside, down), put away (off)." It has the idea: "to take off like a suit of clothes."
Acts uses the verb apotithemi at the stoning of Stephen:
And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. Acts 7:58 NASB
The metaphor is one of taking off clothes. Apotithemi in our text in Ephesians is in the aorist middle participle and is better rendered, "having laid aside falsehood." The English Majority Text Versions correctly renders this:
Therefore, having put off falsehood, "Let each one speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. Ephesians 4:25 EMTV
This shows us that it is a completed action. This took place at conversion when they put off the Old Man. But the Apostolic Bible Polyglot does an even better job when it translates:
Therefore having put aside the lie, let speak truth each with his neighbor! for we are of one another members. Ephesians 4:25 ABP
"Falsehood"—is from the Greek word pseudos. Literally what he says is, "having put off the lie." Paul uses this same expression in:
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Romans 1:25 NASB
In the Greek here it is "the lie." They exchange the truth of God for the lie. So Paul uses the same expression as in Ephesians 4:25, but here is Romans it refers to idolatry. So Paul may be using "falsehood/the lie" in the sense of that which is opposed to the truth of the Bible. He's just said, "the New Man... has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." Now he says, "having put away the lie." And it's possible that what he means is everything that is contrary to the truth of the Word of God. All of the philosophy that is contrary to holy Scripture might be called "the lie."
But "the lie" also speaks to anything that might be spoken plainly or insinuated by our words or actions that are known by us not to be true—when we purposefully mislead someone away from the truth.
"SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR"—the word "speak" here is a present active imperative indicating that they are to make a habit of speaking the truth. Do Christians need to be told to tell the truth? Don't we automatically live right after we are saved? If practical righteousness was automatic as so many teach, Paul wouldn't need to tell us to speak the truth. But because practical righteousness is not automatic the New Testament is loaded with commands for believers on how to live.
Did you notice that this is in caps? Why is that? This is a quotation from:
'These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Zechariah 8:16 NASB
In Paul's day the great teachers used a technique which is today called "remez or hint," in which they used part of a Scripture passage in discussion, assuming their audience's knowledge of the Bible would allow them to deduce for themselves fuller meaning.
If we are familiar with the context of this quotation it will have much more meaning. This verse follows immediately upon the divine promises regarding the New Jerusalem:
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.' Zechariah 8:7-8 NASB
This is speaking of the gathering of the remnant, the promise of the New Jerusalem, which is synonymous with the New Covenant according to Scripture:
This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. Galatians 4:24-26 NASB
Paul speaks here of two Covenants—the Old and New. The Old is Mount Sinai, and the New is the Jerusalem above. So, the New Jerusalem is in the New Heaven and Earth, which is the New Covenant. And what does Zechariah say was to be their conduct in the New Jerusalem?:
'These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Zechariah 8:16 NASB
This is exactly what Paul tells the Ephesians to do because they were in fact in the New Jerusalem. Paul, by quoting Zachariah in this passage, is saying this is how citizens of the New Jerusalem are to conduct themselves. Believers inhabit Zion, which is called "the City of Truth" because of the indwelling presence of Yahweh:
"Thus says the LORD, 'I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.' Zechariah 8:3 NASB
There are six references to truth in this prophecy of Zechariah. Yahweh's people who dwell with Him are to be people of truth.
Then Paul gives the reason that we are to speak truth to our neighbors: "For we are members of one another"—although we must follow biblical principles of ethics at all times and toward everyone, Paul focuses on our behavior within the family of God, since the context has to do with maintaining the peace and unity that Yahweh has produced among His people through Christ.
John Chrysostom, the 4th Century preacher wrote, "If the eye sees a serpent, does it deceive the foot? If a tongue tastes bitter, does it deceive the stomach?" The Christian who lies is in reality hurting the body of which he is a part.
The health of your physical body depends on truthful communication between the members through the nervous system. If you put your finger on a hot stove and your nerves do not relay to the brain, "this is hot," you will suffer severe injury. A person with leprosy lacks this communication between the nerves and the brain. He can actually destroy his own hand without knowing it.
This means that if you lie to your mate or to another member of the body of Christ, you are injuring yourself, and, even worse, you are injuring Christ, because He is one with His body.
Believers, as Yahweh's children, we are to only and always speak the truth. Truth is an accurate representation of the facts. Especially, truth is conformity to Yahweh's standards as revealed in His Word:
"Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. John 17:17 NASB
Yahweh is the truth and He always speaks the truth, and He calls on His children to do the same.
One of the greatest moral issues that we all struggle with is that of telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Lying is one of the most prevalent sins that we face on a daily basis. It is the default practice of most. Government officials do it. Teachers do it. Parents do it. Children do it. We have come to expect it.
The book, The Day that America Told the Truth, states (p. 45) that 91 percent of us lie regularly. Of the people interviewed, 92 percent said the main reason for their lying was to save face, and 98 percent said the reason they told lies was so as not to offend people.
Another survey of 20,000 middle and high schoolers indicated that 92 percent admitted to lying to their parents in the previous year, and 73 percent said that they told lies weekly. Despite these admissions, 91 percent of all respondents said they were, "satisfied with my own ethics and character" (Reader's Digest [Nov., 1999], pp. 81-82).
And if you think this is a problem only with the unsaved, George Gallup says, "Church attendance makes little difference in people's ethical views and behavior with respect to lying, cheating, pilferage, and not reporting theft" (cited by Vernon Grounds, "Focal Point" [Summer, 1995], p. 8).
Does everybody lie? Well if you did a Bible study on lying, and you began in Genesis, you might be inclined to think so. Satan lied in deceiving Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:45). Cain lied to Yahweh after murdering Abel (Gen. 4:9). Abraham lied, claiming Sarah was his sister instead of his wife (Gen. 12:1119; 20:2). Sarah lied to the three angelic visitors (Gen. 18:15) and to the king of Gerar (Gen. 20:5). Isaac lied by denying that Rebecca was his wife (Gen. 26:710). Rebecca and Isaac lied in their conspiracy to defraud Esau of his birthright (Gen. 27:624). That list does not even get us out of Genesis.
Even Peter, the supposed first pope, lied:
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, "You too were with Yeshua the Galilean." But he denied it before them all, saying, "I do not know what you are talking about." Matthew 26:69-70 NASB
So it is not unnecessary for Paul to tell Christians to stop lying to one another.
If you look at our society, it sure seems like everyone lies. The politician and the salesman, the customer, the doctor, and the boss; all in their own way misrepresent the truth, exaggerate the hurt done to them, minimize the wrongs they've done. It's just the way today's society functions. We're part of this society, and so we take part in the misrepresentations too. Your son has to go to court, and so you phone his boss and report him sick for the day. You know full well that you were going 72 in a 55 zone, but you insist to the officer that you were only going 60. When a friend wants to know what we think of her new dress, we have our thoughts, but see no need to offend, and so we flatter and tell her that her new outfit looks absolutely stunning. Etc, etc, etc. Lying is part of society, and all too often we get caught up in the practice too. Probably many of us feel pressure from time to time to distort truth in order to survive in our culture.
But though our society gives ample place to the lie, the Lord does not. The Bible teaches us that telling the truth is a necessity for survival of life as we know it. Chaos always results when lies replace truth. Can you imagine living in an environment where there is no TRUTH—no truth on labels, contracts, guarantees, promises, commitments? Relationships would dissolve, because there would be no trust holding people together.
How vital for us as followers of Yeshua to spend a few moments thinking about why it's important for us to always be truth tellers. Do you understand that Yahweh hates lying? God hates lying and commands us to deal truthfully with each other:
There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19 NASB
Did you notice that out of these seven abominations, two of them deal with lying? Yahweh hates lying!:
Truthful lips will be established forever, But a lying tongue is only for a moment. Proverbs 12:19 NASB
Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, But those who deal faithfully are His delight. Proverbs 12:22 NASB
Do you want to be an abomination to Yahweh, or a delight?:
Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet to a man, But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel. Proverbs 20:17 NASB
The acquisition of treasures by a lying tongue Is a fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death. Proverbs 21:6 NASB
The ninth commandment is clear in its intent:
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 NASB
Leviticus 19 repeats Yahweh's emphatic instruction to Israel:
'You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. Leviticus 19:11 NASB
Psalm 15 asks the question, "O Yahweh, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?" and gives this answer:
He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. Psalms 15:2 NASB
In a word, lying was to be rooted out of Yahweh's people Israel. And Yahweh, who never changes, hates lying equally much today:
"He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Revelation 21:7-8 NASB
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. Revelation 22:14-15 NASB
He places outside the New Jerusalem, which represents the New Covenant, "everyone who loves and practices lying." This is not saying that everyone who lies is kicked out of the New Jerusalem and thrown in the lake of fire. It is saying that lying is characteristic of the unsaved. This is similar to what Paul is saying in Ephesians, believers have put off falsehood, therefore, we are always to tell the truth. These Scriptures should make it clear that Yahweh hates lying and commands us to tell the truth.
The first sin that was judged publicly by the Almighty Yahweh in the early Christian church was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, which was lying!:
But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? ... And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. Acts 5:3-5 NASB
Most of us would agree that lying is not a good thing. However, we have a problem. To some degree, most of us lie! Telling the truth is difficult, particularly as we live in a society that increasingly discounts the value of telling the truth. Lying is so much part and parcel of today's society that many Christians feel they need to lie from time to time if they're going to survive, let alone function, in this society.
How do we apply the norm of Scripture in the culture of today? To answer this question, let's look at the book of Titus:
For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, Titus 1:5 NASB
We learn from this passage that the Apostle Paul, had left his servant, Titus, on the Island of Crete to appoint church leaders and build up the local church in that place. The task wasn't easy for Titus, and so Paul wrote him a letter. In his letter, the apostle interacted with the circumstances as they were on the island. Those circumstances are described in:
For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, Titus 1:10 NASB
Here are people who have heard the Gospel, but now talk in a way that misrepresents the Gospel. As a result, verse 11 says, "whole households" are subverted. In that context, Paul says, "It's the way the Cretans are."
One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." Titus 1:12 NASB
Paul quotes one of their own poets to confirm, "Cretans are always liars," and he adds, "This testimony is true" (vs 13). Here then, was a culture not all that different from our own. But now notice; Paul does not tell Titus to put up with it, as in: "Hey, it's the way things are, it's in their nature, it's their culture, and you can't change it." Rather, Paul is emphatic:
This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, Titus 1:13 NASB
Paul does not tolerate lying amongst the people of Crete, even though these people have been brought up with lies as part and parcel of daily living.
Now the question for us is this: Why does Paul tell Titus so bluntly to "rebuke them sharply"? Why does Paul not tolerate any lying? Should he not recognize that in the circumstances he's asking too much with such a standard?
The apostle himself tells us why he does not tolerate lying. Notice how he starts his letter to Titus: in verse 1, he sets truth over against lying. Look at his opening line:
Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Yeshua the Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, Titus 1:1-2 NASB
Paul, you see, knows himself to be a servant of Yahweh "who cannot lie."
"Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind." 1 Samuel 15:29 NASB
so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. Hebrews 6:18 NASB
Yahweh is a God of truth! Why did Yahweh want them to know that He cannot lie? "In order that...we may have strong encouragement." He wanted them to be so sure about His promises that they would be encouraged. If Yahweh cannot lie, then there is no room for lying among His children. If Yahweh, then, does not lie, but is "the God of truth"(Is 65:16), what place ought Paul to give to lying? None! Lying is to be put away.
Another reason to be truth tellers is that, as Christians, we are called to imitate Yeshua:
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB
Paul was imitating Christ, and he calls all believers to do the same. Christians are not to lie, because we are to be imitating Yeshua. I wonder if we fully realize how a skeptical public judges the merit of trusting Yeshua by observing our behavior. Yeshua identified Himself as Truth, saying:
Yeshua said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6 NASB
Since Yeshua is Truth, His cause is injured by even one lie. Christianity is made contemptible in the eyes of the one to whom you lied. He not only sees you, but he sees the whole cause for which you stand, and he writes it off as worthless.
I think that if we all took a tally of how often we stretch the truth, it would be totally humiliating to learn how often and how easily we can compromise being totally honest.
Because the reputation of Yeshua is at stake in our behavior, God is calling us to be pro-active in carefully scrutinizing our habits of exaggerating, telling white lies, and separating our business ethics from our personal ethics. The secular world loves nothing better than to catch a Christian in some form of dishonesty, followed by this usual litany: "And you are a Christian. If that's the impact Yeshua is having upon your life, I'm not impressed."
What are white lies? They are called that because they are considered harmless. But, when you see this in the light of the Scriptures, you see that a white lie, so-called, is still a lie. White lies usually occur in circumstances where we are asked to give our opinion about one's dress or personality, and we feel negative about it, but do not want to say anything for fear of hurting their feelings, so we lie, we say the nice thing, the pleasant thing, and their feelings are not hurt. We think, "I've saved them from hurt, therefore no harm was done in lying to them." But what is happening here is that we are deciding what is a "good" time to lie and when is not. This boils down to situational ethics.
Many years ago, back when I was a lot younger and a lot dumber, I was at a meeting with a couple, and the woman said to me, "What do you think of me?" I don't think that someone should ask that question if they are not prepared for the answer. What I could have said to her was, "I think you are a person who tries too hard to please people. Because you try to look good in everybody's eyes, you end up seeming somewhat artificial." What I did say was, "I think you are a phony and a hypocrite." Needless to say, that didn't go over too well. I believe that we can speak the truth without being cruel. We are to be truthful, because Yeshua, whom we are to imitate, was always truthful. But let us not forget that He was also always loving.
So, one reason to be a truth teller is to reveal to the world that following Yeshua creates a new breed of person committed to being truth tellers even amidst a crooked environment.
Another reason we are to be truth tellers is that telling lies has horrible consequences:
He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. Psalms 101:7 NASB
Taking detours from truth destroys relationships. At the national level, Gallup polls reveal that widespread public distrust of politicians and the media has resulted from so many lies being exposed. Cynicism has become a national disease. It has come to the point, for me anyway, that I can't trust what I see or hear from political leaders and the media!
Consequences become even more painful at the relational level. Can one articulate the pain when a person we trust lies to us? Relationships are devastated. Isolation, anger, and suspicion rush in to fill the vacuum. How can you trust someone who lies to you? How can you have a meaningful relationship with someone without trust?
I have been lied to so often by so many people that when someone tells me something, I assume they are lying, unless I know differently because I know their character.
Focusing on the personal consequences of habitual lying, we find increasing devastation. A liar lives under the pressure of always having to remember what was said, coupled with the fear of exposure and the necessity of telling more lies. Truth becomes relative. Truth becomes what we want it to be. Lying becomes a kind of personal prison.
Needless to say, the Bible urges us to tell the truth because of the dire consequences of telling lies. Cal Thomas was right when he wrote regarding God's laws: "In reality, these moral laws have all the certainty of physical laws. When they are violated, a society always discovers the revenge of the offended absolutes."
You might be thinking, "How in the world can we survive if we always tell the truth in today's climate? Will we not quickly find ourselves poverty-stricken or even unemployed if we diligently see to it that we speak only truth with our clients, our boss? Will we not quickly find ourselves in deep trouble if we answered truthfully to Dad's question about where we were last night, if we answered truthfully the teacher's questions?"
Why do people lie? For the most part it's to escape unwanted consequences, so basically, self preservation. It is a fact that our finite minds drive us to the conclusion that we'd simply not survive if we made it our business to be truthful in every word we spoke. But that's because our minds do not give Yahweh the place He needs in our thinking. Solomon tells us in Proverbs 3 that we are to:
My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep my commandments; Proverbs 3:1 NASB
Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 NASB
You see, believer, we think, "If we tell the boss the truth, we'll be up the creek." But Yahweh says, "Trust in Me!" I think that a root cause of our lying is this: we really don't understand, nor like, God's sovereign rule over the details of our lives. We don't like God's providence for our circumstances, so instead of speaking truth and trusting Yahweh to take care of us, even if that means our being humbled and facing discipline, we lie.
It is true that to our sinful minds, telling a lie is the obvious way out of a fix; it will save us our job, will get us off the hook with the law, will prevent a hassle with our teachers, etc. But God's Word tells us differently. He wants us to trust Him and to tell the truth, only the truth, always the truth.
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