Afternoon Sermon: What Is The Ninth Commandment And What Does It Require?, Baptist Catechism 81-82, Zechariah 8:14–17

Baptist Catechism 81-82

Q. 81. Which is the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment is, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)

Q. 82. What is required in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing. (Zech. 8:16; Acts 25:10; Eccles. 7:1; 3 John 12; Prov. 14:5,25)

Scripture Reading: Zechariah 8:14–17

“For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the LORD of hosts, so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not. These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.’” (Zechariah 8:14–17, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

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We have developed this tradition at Emmaus over the years to answer the question, “have you kept this law (that is God’s moral) perfectly?” with the answer, “no, we have violated this law in thought, word, and deed.” 

We didn’t come up with this tradition. The Reformed have been saying this for a long time. But it is a very helpful saying, and so we have adopted it as our own. By it we are reminded that we are violators of God’s law. Left to ourselves, we stand guilty before God. True, we are no longer guilty if we are in Christ! But we stood guilty before we placed our faith in him. And that is the point! We need Christ! And we are reminded of that fact everytime we hear God’s law and say this saying. 

And this saying is also helpful because it reminds us that God’s law is to be kept, not only externally, but also in the mind and with our words. “Thou shalt not murder”, the law says. And most men would probably think that they have kept this law… that is, until they remember what Christ said about it. He said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)

Let that sink in for a moment.

The law, “thou shalt not murder”, also forbids unrighteous anger in the heart, and all insulting. And the same sort of thing is true of the sins of idolatry and adultery, etc. So these moral laws forbid and require certain actions, but they also forbid and require certain thoughts and words.

The thing that I would like you to notice about the ninth commandment is that it has to do with our words, and not our actions. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”, it says. And what does this require of us? Answer “the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing.” The Christian — indeed, all people — are to use their tongues to promote truth. 

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Baptist Catechism 82

Clearly, this forbids lying. Don’t lie, brothers and sisters, but rather speak the truth. This is especially important in witness bearing, our catechism says. If ever you are called to testify in a court of law, or if ever you are called upon to serve as a witness in some other civil or churchly matter, it is especially important that you tell the truth. For what you say will affect the judgments  that are reached, and these judgments will likely have a significant impact on other people’s lives and reputations. 

Our catechism says that we are to tell the truth so as to promote and maintain our own and our neighbors good name. Perhaps you have noticed how common it is in our day for men and women to tell lies about others, or to twist the truth regarding others, so as to damage their reputations, and thus gain some advantage over them. This is particularly common in politics today, and this is vile. We should have nothing to do with this. 

And notice that our catechism does not here deal with what is forbidden — namly, lying — but with what is required. The ninth commandment requires that we promote the truth between man and man. Not lying and promoting the truth are related things, but they are not the same things. It is one thing to not tell a lie. It is another thing to promote the truth. Not telling a lie may involve refraining from speaking, but promoting the truth will require speaking the truth whenever it is our responsibility to do so. 

To illustrate, if a person has wrongly been accused of a crime, and you know they are innocent and can provide information to demonstrate that they are innocent, then it would be a violation of the ninth commandment to refrain from speaking. Again, “the ninth commandment requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing.”

So do not only not lie, but be resolved to use your words to promote the truth. 

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Zechariah 8:14–17

Think of how happy our families, churches, and societies would be if men and women promoted the truth with their lips. 

This is what the LORD commanded Old Covenant Israel to do in that Zechariah 8 passage that I read earlier: “These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”

As we have been studying these Ten Commandments I have often been struck by the thought of how wicked our society is. When Christians think of the evils of our society they often think of the great evil of abortion and how it violates the sixth of the Ten Commandmnet, though shalt not murder. But if we were to consider our society with eyes wide upon I think we would see that sin is truly rampant. Men and women do often tell lies, and fail to promote the truth with their tongues. This happens in the media, in politics, in law, and in day to day life. 

And where we will learn to speak the truth in love except in our families and in our churches. Parents, we must teach our children to not lie, but rather to speak what is true. And this we must also do in the church. I’m afraid that many within the church break the ninth commandment, not by lying, but by failing to tell the truth.  Sometimes Pastors are guilty of this, for sometimes it is easier and safer to withhold the truth — speaking the truth is sometimes risky and scary. But do not forget what Chrst said: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, ESV). 

The truth is very powerful, friends. The truth brings life, whereas falsehood brings death. And so we must be committed to promote the truth with our tongues. We must learn to speak “the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15, ESV). And do not forget what James said regarding the tongue. It is most unruly. But those who are mature in Christ will learn to control their tongues, to use their words to build up, and not tear, by speaking the truth lovingly and skilfully, for the glory of God, and for the good of others.

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Conclusion 

Q. 82. What is required in the ninth commandment?

A. The ninth commandment requireth the maintaining and promoting of truth between man and man, and of our own and our neighbor’s good name, especially in witness bearing. (Zech. 8:16; Acts 25:10; Eccles. 7:1; 3 John 12; Prov. 14:5,25)

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that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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