The ninth commandment says, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). As noted previously, this commandment is about far more than a prohibition against lying. It not only calls us to cease from lying, but the commandment calls us to a positive affirmation of walking in the light, speaking the truth, and presenting a Godly testimony to a skeptical world.
The Apostle Paul directly applied the ninth commandment to the daily lives of New Testament believers in Ephesians 4:25: “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.”
In the wider context of this exhortation, Paul was encouraging new Gentile believers that they were now new creatures in Christ. In the first verse of this same chapter, he called them to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.” He reminded them that they have been taught by Christ Himself, “as the truth is in Jesus” (verse 21). As such, Paul also instructed them to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind” (verse 23) and to “put on the new man” (verse 24).
One of the distinguishing marks of a new (redeemed) man is that he puts away lying and learns to speak the truth. In the same way that the old (unredeemed) man habitually tells lies, the new man consistently speaks truth. Let’s consider some of the practical ways that we can speak the truth.
- Proclaim the Gospel
The most important universal truth is that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. This truth is the “Good News” that Jesus commanded all His disciples to proclaim everywhere. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). When was the last time that you personally shared the Gospel with someone? This obligation is not only for pastors and missionaries; every Christian has the duty and privilege to proclaim the truth of God’s saving grace to the lost. Sharing the Gospel is the first and most important way that we can speak the truth.
- Confess sin
Another vital way that a Christian can speak the truth is to learn to honestly confess his sins to the Lord when He convicts him by His Holy Spirit. The Apostle John was writing to Christians when he stated in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Greek word for confess literally means “to say the same thing.” When we confess our sins to the Lord, we are agreeing with Him that He is right and we are wrong. Thus, to confess our sins is to speak the truth. God alone can grant eternal forgiveness; we must confess our sins to Him. But it is appropriate to admit our failings to those we have offended or deceived and humbly seek their forgiveness also. Do you regularly confess your sins to God and endeavor to have a conscience void of offense toward your neighbor? This manner of confessing to God and maintaining a clear conscience is an honest way to speak and live in the truth.
- Keep your word
A practical way that we can speak the truth with others is simply to keep our word when we make a promise. Jesus taught His disciples to “swear not at all” when making a promise (see Matthew 5:34). We should not be like the Pharisees who would swear with an oath, such as “by the Temple,” to emphasize their promises. No! Our word should be reliable and steadfast. Our promises are to be kept. Jesus said, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matthew 5:37). Are you known in your community as a man of his word? Do your children trust what you say? What promises have you perhaps made to your wife or children that you have not kept? If so, go to them and make it right. Be careful what you promise. But when you do make a promise, be diligent to keep your word. This consistency of speech will affirm that you are a man of truth.
- Rebuke error
A necessary aspect of telling the truth is the courage to rebuke and expose error and falsehood wherever they are found. When Paul was warning Titus about liars on the island of Crete, he said, “This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). A man who genuinely loves the truth will hate error. Our rebuking of error cannot be motivated by pride or a spirit of vindictiveness; however, a proper rebuke often demands firmness, perhaps “sharply” as Paul encouraged Titus to do. In a day of lukewarm Christianity, we need men of God who are willing to wisely and boldly rebuke error wherever it is found. When was the last time that you observed and rebuked error? How do you respond when you hear falsehood: do you speak up or simply let it slide for the sake of peace? Be a lover of truth! Stand up against those who spread error and “rebuke them sharply” in order that God’s people might be sound in the faith.
- Teach other disciples
Another Scriptural way to “speak truth with your neighbor” is to patiently instruct other Christians in the truth of God’s Word. Maturing Christians should always be seeking out other Christians to mentor, to encourage, to disciple, and to teach. Paul told Timothy, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2). Truth must be passed from one generation to the next one. Fathers, how are you teaching your sons on a daily basis to love and walk in God’s truth? Have you sought out young men in the church to disciple and encourage in the paths of righteousness?
These are five important ways that every Christian man can learn to speak the truth. Because we are “members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25), we should be eager and willing to proclaim truth to other Christians, even when it is inconvenient or painful. May God help us to put away lying and speak the truth in these practical areas of daily Christian obedience.