Should You Speak With a Forked Tongue?
Dr. Joe Temple


Will you open your Bibles, please, to the book of Exodus, chapter 20, that we may spend some time looking at the Ninth Commandment as it is stated simply here. We will have to look elsewhere in the Word of God for some things that we need to learn about it.

Shall we bow our heads together for prayer, please:

Our Father, we are grateful that we have the opportunity once again of gathering together around the Word of God. We pray that Thou wouldst open the Word to us, and grant that we will be able to see within it that which Thou wouldst have us know. For we pray in Jesus' name, and for His sake. Amen.

The Ninth Commandment

We have learned as we have studied the Ten Commandments that there is much more to them than a simple statement such as, “Thou shalt not steal.” or, as in the Commandment we are going to consider now, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” This Commandment is familiar, I suppose, to all of us, because at some time or other we have committed to memory the Ten Commandments, but I wonder how seriously we take this Commandment. Have we taken the time to examine what the Word of God has to say about it, so that we might know exactly what the Holy Spirit had in mind when He gave this particular Commandment?

Guarding Our Reputation

You have probably noticed as we have been thinking about the Commandments together that each one was given for a specific purpose; each Commandment was given to guard something of very great value. This Commandment at which we look now was given for that same purpose. It was given to guard something that should be of great value to all of us, namely, one's reputation; the only way one's reputation can be guarded is by the observance of this Commandment.

We are going to see before we are through with our discussion that Christians have a special relationship to this Commandment, in that when, through no fault of their own, this Commandment is broken, and they suffer as a result, they are particularly blessed of God. That is what the Holy Spirit means when He says, “Blessed are ye, when men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake” (Mathew 5:11). The think that we need to be careful about is the thing that Peter reminds us of in his Epistle–that when we suffer as the children of God through false accusation, we should be sure there is no grounds for that accusation. (I Peter 3:15, 16). All too often, there is.

The Tendency Toward Lying

I wonder why it was necessary for the Lord to give a Commandment such as this among men? And why is it necessary for it to be repeated in the New Testament perhaps more than any other one Commandment? If you will turn to Psalm 58, I think you will find the answer to this question, and I believe that only as we recognize what is here are we going to be able to understand this Commandment:

Psalms 58

3The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

Notice the last part of that verse. The wicked go astray from the womb as soon as they be born, bearing false witness, for that is the meaning of the verse. Why did God have to give a Commandment like this? Because, Beloved, it is natural for men to lie. It is natural for them to bear false witness. Sometimes, you know, we say concerning chldren, “We don't want them to associate with certain groups because they might learn to lie.” They will lie; they won't have to learn it. The sooner you realize that, the better off you are going to be, because you can start in early teaching your children the value of the truth; if left to themselves, they will lie. They go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

Things Which Defile Man

Will you turn with me, please, to the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 15. We have looked at this passage of Scripture in connection with some of the other Commandments, because they are referred to here, but we call it to your attention once more:

Matthew 15

16And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
17Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
18But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
19For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
20These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Notice particularly verse 19:

Out of the heart proceeds lying. Why was it necessary for God to emphasize this Ninth Commandment? Because men, in their unregenerated state, lie naturally. They become adept at lying before they do anything else. Why? Because those lies do not come out of their minds. You talk about people manufacturing a lie. They don't come out of their minds; they come out of their hearts. As long as the heart is in an unregenerated state, you can expect people to bear false witness.

Will you turn with me, please, to Psalm 116, and notice once again a reason why it is necessary for God to give this Commandment and to re-emphasize it throughout the New Testament. This is the testimony of a man who had learned to know men; after a careful observation of mankind, David said:

Psalms 116

11I said in my haste, All men are liars.

All men are liars. Somebody said, “He didn't need to be in any hurry about it, because nobody could disagree with the opinion that he expressed.”

The Father of Lies

Will you turn with me, please, to chapter 8 of the Gospel of John. We are looking at these passages of Scripture because I want you to see the seriousness of the violation of this NInth Commandment; all to many of us break it consistently and with very little concern. If we could realize the seriousness of it, perhaps we would feel differently about it. Why do we bear false witness? Why do we lie? Why is it necessary to emphasize this Commandment? Listen to the Lord Jesus Christ as He speaks to a group of people who are afflicted with this habit:

John 8

44Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Do you realize the company you keep when you bear false witness? You are keeping company with the Devil. He is the father of all lies. He told the first lie recorded in the Bible. Oh, no, he didn't tell a malicious lie. He did what you and I do so often and then excuse it. He planted a doubt by a simple question. All he said was, “Hath God said?” Then he said, “Ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). That brought sin into the world The Devil is the father of lies.

The Seriousness of Lying

If you will turn to chapter 5 of the Acts of the Apostles, you will find that the Devil is bent on prompting people to lie. He stirs them up to it. He reminds them of it. The sad thing about it is that he doesn't limit his activities to his own children–that group to whom the Lord Jesus was referring in John 8. He crosses from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, and he suggest this very thing to the children of God:

Acts 5

1But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
3But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?

Yes, this is one way of bearing false witness. Not only may you bear false witness in relation to your neighbor, but you may bear false witness in relation to God. Ananias did this. Satan prompted Ananias to lie to the Holy Ghost. I repeat: I am emphasizing this now because I do not believe that we, as the children of God, realize the seriousness of lying.

I am going to ask you a question. Are you guilty of lying? Well, if you are, you are treading on very dangerous territory; you are exposing yourself to the Devil for his use. If he uses you for one lie, he will use you for another, and it won't be long until you will be putty in his hands.

Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Ghost. You say, “Sapphira? I thought it was Ananias.” It was Sapphira as well; you will notice as you read the rest of the story that Sapphira lied by being a party to a lie, and that is one of the ways in which you can bear false witness. You can bear false witness by simply being a silent partner to the false witness that is borne.

Warning to Christians

Will you turn to Colossians, chapter 3, as I suggest to you another reason why it is necessary for the Commandment to be given, and for the Holy Spirit consistently to emphasize it. We mentioned to you that it is possible for the Devil to put it into the hearts of the children of God to lie. We want you to notice as we look at this chapter that not only is it possible for the Devil to suggest to Christians to lie, but Christians have to be constantly on their guard lest they fall into this sin:

Colossians 3

8But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

Notice verse 9 particularly:

We will stop right there. Notice again verse 9:

To whom is this addressed? To Christians. He is not talking to sinners. He is not talking to the unsaved. He is talking to born-again believers. In the original text the tense is such that we must translate it, “Stop lying to one another.” This was something they were doing, and the Spirit of God said, “Now, stop it.” Why? “Because lying belongs to the old man, and you have put on the new man.” You are familiar with the fact that “the old man” and “the new man” are phrases to describe the old nature and the new nature, or the flesh and the spirit. We are reminded that if we walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Meaning of Bearing False Witness

What do we mean by bearing false witness? What all is included in this simple Commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor?” Well, let's see what God has to say about it as He amplifies the suggestion. Will you turn, please to the book of Exodus, chapter 23:

Exodus 23

1Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.
2Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:

Notice the first statement in the first verse: “Thou shalt not raise a false report.” We call it a rumor today. Have you ever been guilty of starting a rumor? Have you ever been guilty of starting a rumor about another child of God? Oh, not a rumor in which you told all the details; if you had told all the details it might have been so ridiculous nobody would have believed it. But with faint praise you damned the individual concerned, the rumor was started, and nobody could stop it before the damage was done. Have you been guilty of raising a false report about somebody? If you have, you are guilty of bearing false witness.

All we have time to do is just mention these things and trust that the Holy Spirit of God will use them to search our hearts.

Backbiting and Whispering

Will you turn, please, to the second Corinthian letter, chapter 12. The Apostle had been planning to visit the Church at Corinth. He was hoping that when he got there things would be better than seemed to be indicated in the letters which he had been receiving. He suggested that if things were not better, he would almost as soon not make the trip. In making these suggestions, he deals with the matter we have been thinking about:

II Corinthians 12

20For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:

Will you notice the two words “backbiting” and “whispering.” If you follow those words back to their source, you will find that they fall under the heading of bearing false witness. Backbiting is saying things about people who have irritated you, whom you don't like, just to get even with them, with out giving serious consideration to the damage that will be done. The suggestion is not that the things may not be true, but that you tell them with the purpose and intent of damaging the person about whom you speak. Whisperings are those things you say behind your hand, increasing the interest of those who can't hear what you say by the suggestion that the thing you are saying is something juicy and different from what you would say if you should say it out loud. Whispering is bearing false witness.

Judging the Motive of Another

Will you turn, please, to James, chapter 4. This Epistle deals in great detail with the matter of the tongue and the damage this little member can cause. But we are thinking especially about one verse:

James 4

11Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
12There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?

When we looked at this paragraph in detail, we found that it was related to judging the motive, not the individual concerned. When you are guilty of making a blank statement about why an individual does what he does, you are guilty of bearing false witness against him, for you are incapable of judging the motives of his heart. You don't know why he does what he does. It may appear to you that that is the reason why he does it, but this is not necessarily right. That is the reason why the Spirit of God reminds us, in speaking of motives, that we should judge nothing before the time; the day itself will declare it, when the secrets and the councils of men will be made open, clearly seen by all individuals (I Corinthians 3:13; 4:5).

A Lack of Love

Are you guilty of bearing false witness? Turn, please, to the book of Proverbs, chapter 26, verse 28:

Proverbs 26

28A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it……..

Pause right there; let that sink in. Do you realize the real reason you lie? Do you realize the real reason you bear false witness? There is a lack of love in your heart. If the love of God were shed abroad in your heart as the Holy Spirit wishes to shed it abroad (Romans 5:5), there would be no lying. You cannot love folk to whom you lie, and you cannot love fold about whom you lie. Notice the last part of verse 28:

Beware of Flattering Others

The last part of this verse suggests to us that another way to bear false witness is to flatter without any basis of fact. I am not talking about encouragement. I sometimes think that Christians fail in the ministry of encouragement. There is a real ministry to encourage folk in the things of the Lord. Don't be afraid to do it. Don't be afraid you are going to spoil somebody by encouraging him conerning the things which he is trying to do for the Lord. That is good, but beware of flattery. Beware of saying things that are not so, even though the individuals to whom you say them want to hear them. If you do, you are bearing false witness.

Overcoming the Sin of Lying

I would like to make a few suggestions to all our hearts as to how we might overcome this sin of lying which the Word of God says will increase in the last days (I Timothy 4:1,2 II Timothy 3:1-5). I think we are able to see if we are very observant that it has increased tremendously in the days in which we live.

Do you realize that the Fifth Amendment to the American Constitution has become better known in the last ten years than it was in all the history of the United States previously? Before people started to take refuge in the Fifth Amendment, which is just another way of bearing false witness, many people could not have told you what the Fifth Amendment was. It is a convenient “out” to lie without saying a lie, and its use has increased in these last days before the coming of the Lord.

Seeking Help From God

Will you turn with me, please, to Psalm 120, as I suggest a few ways by which the sin of lying may be overcome. One thing is certain: Hearts that are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), lips that are prone to lie, are not going to overcome this problem without Divine help. That is the reason we have asked you to turn to Psalm 120:

Psalms 120

1In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me.

What did the psalmist cry to Him about?

You must recognize the reality of a false tongue, and you must ask the Lord to do something about it. But that in itself is not sufficient, for you can pray about a false tongue consistently and accomplish absolutely nothing. It must fall to your lot to judge your lying, your bearing false witness, your raising of false report–to judge it in the same manner that God would judge it. you will notice in chapter 12 of the Gospel of Matthew, verse 36, a very solemn thought:

Matthew 12

36But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
37For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

You understand that we are talking about the accounts that must be settled at the Judgment Seat of Christ. You can settle them before you get there if you want to. But you will never be able to deal with a lying tongue unless you look upon it as seriously as God looks upon it.

Old Testament Practices

It might be helpful for us to turn back to the Old Testament for a moment and to notice in chapter 19 of the book of Deuteronomy how the bearing of false witness was dealt with in the Old Testament. I would not suggest to you that any of us is capable of dealing with one who bears a false witness in the manner that is suggested here, but I am going to suggest to you that I believe there is a principle contained here by which the Lord will deal with us if we persist in bearing false witness:

Deuteronomy 19

16If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;
17Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;
18And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;
19Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.
20And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.

Stop there and notice particularly verse 19: “If a man bear false witness—then ye shall do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother.” I repeat, I would not suggest that any of us is capable of administering this judgment, as were the judges and the priests of the Old Testament, but there is a principle here. That principle is that with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (Matthew 7:2). That principle is that whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).

Reaping What is Sowed

Mark what I tell you: IF you do not judge your lying before the Lord for what it is, you can expect God Himself to judge you with His chastening hand. Oh, yes, you may get away with a great many lies, and you may congratulate yourself that the people to whom you have lied are so innocent they don't know you have lied. But God knows, and He has a way of seeing to it that you will suffer the same thing that you had in mind when you lied.

There are parents today who are reaping a harvest of what they sowed years ago. Their children are lying to them. Their children are bearing false witness and they don't know why. They cannot understand it. I have seen this happen over and over again in my conferences with people. If they delve far enough back, in many cases they will find that they sowed the seed. They lied to their parents and they never judged it. They never acknowledged it before the Lord as sin, and they are reaping the harvest in the lives of their children. This is God's principle: Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.

The Word of God says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and to emphasize the seriousness of so doing, He reminds us that false witnesses don't keep company with people who are on their way to Heaven. They keep company with people who are on their way to Hell. For without are the sorcerers, the whoremongers, the unbelievers, and the liars (Revelation 21:8; 22:15).

Shall we bow our heads together for prayer:

Father, we never deal with any subject such as this without realizing the need for mercy for each one of us. We know that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked, so that no man can know them. We do believe, our Father, that a sin that is robbing Christians of their power is the sin of bearing false witness. Grant conviction where conviction is needed; grant deliverance where deliverance is needed; and grant that the Holy Spirit may lead each one of our lives full and completely. For we pray in Jesus' name and for His sake. Amen.

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