Link back to index.html
All the passages below are taken from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book “Darkness and Light” published in 1982.
`Wherefore, putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.' (Ephesians 4:25 KJV)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is intensely practical, and it is practical, as we have seen, for its own special reasons, which are far removed and remote from the reasons which the world gives for its culture, its moralities, and its codes of honour and of behaviour; the reasons found in the Epistles of the New Testament are always peculiarly Christian.
Let us now look at the first detailed injunction that the Apostle gives to the Ephesian believers. We have remarked on his method before: first of all the negative injunction, `putting away lying'; then the positive injunction, `speak every man truth with his neighbour'; and then the reason for doing both, `for we are members one of another'. The first thing, then, that Paul includes in his list is this lying or falsehood, falsehood in general, for as we all know, alas! you can lie without saying a word. You can lie sometimes by not speaking, by allowing something to be said which you know to be wrong, you can lie with a look. So that the term lying really does cover falsehood in general. But why does Paul start with falsehood and lying? Doubtless for many reasons, but he gives us one which in a sense sums them all up, here in this verse. But we shall divide the verse up, the better to show how the Apostle was in a sense driven to put this in the first place.
One reason seems to be almost a mechanical one. We have noted what he has been saying in the previous verse, correctly translated: `that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth'. We are thus reminded that the most essential characteristic of the Christian life is truth, the Truth. This is the thing that makes the Christian life such a complete contrast to the non-Christian life, to the life of the world. Also, in describing the old man, the Apostle has been speaking about corruption and the lusts of deceit, which are the greatest characteristic of the sinful life. Nothing is so characteristic of the Christian life as the fact that it belongs to the whole realm of truth. We describe what has happened to a man who has become a Christian by saying that he has seen the truth, or he has seen the light. That is what we claim, is it not, for the Gospel and for the Bible? This, we say, is truth! and nothing else is truth! All other views of life and of man and of existence and of the purpose of life and what lies beyond, are lies! We thank God that we have been delivered out of the realm of the lie by which the world is governed. But we have been brought into the realm of truth, and we glory in it. `God our Saviour,' says Paul in writing to Timothy, `will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth' [1 Timothy 2:4]. John in his First Epistle argues repeatedly that the Christian is in the realm of truth; the darkness is past, the light has come. Clearly, therefore everything about us should be indicative of the fact that, having arrived at a knowledge of the truth, we are now living in the truth, and are seeing the whole of life in a true manner. So naturally, having ended with the word truth, Paul takes it up again. And this therefore is the thing that comes first, `Therefore, putting away lying . . .'; it is utterly incompatible with the realm to which you now belong.
This, of course, leads us of necessity to other aspects of this matter. Is there anything that ultimately is so vital and so essential a part of the character of God as truth? The Bible is full of this teaching. Have you noticed the extraordinary statement that the Apostle makes at the beginning of his letter to Titus: `God who cannot lie . . .' God cannot lie! That is God! God is the `Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning'. What a tremendous statement! There is one thing that God can never do, God can never lie. It would be an essential contradiction in His very nature and being. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. He cannot be tempted with sin, neither can He tempt anyone. God is the essential, everlasting, and eternal Truth. And to be a Christian means that we have been brought into fellowship with such a God!
When the Apostle says that we must put away lying, he is not interested in it as the moralists and the humanists are; he does not merely say that lying is a terrible thing, it can do a lot of harm, etc. etc. Of course, it is a terrible thing, but, as Christians, we have better reasons for putting it away. We have been reconciled to God, we say that we know God, we say that we are in fellowship with God and in communion with Him. The Apostle John stresses the fact that if a man says `I know him', but does not keep His commandments, `he is a liar'. It is impossible, he says, at one and the same time to walk in the light and in the darkness; and to know God and to have fellowship with God means, of necessity, truth and truthfulness. David understood this, even with the lesser light of the old dispensation. It was the thing that troubled David after his most terrible sin; so he cries out of the agony of his heart, in Psalm 51, `Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts'. He knew that no pretence, no sham, no lie can avail in the presence of God. He says, It is no use pretending, it is no use trying to hide anything, 'Thou desirest truth in the inward parts'! And if I am not open here, he seems to say, and absolutely, utterly truthful, it is of no value at all. Men can deceive their fellows, but God is all-seeing. He demands, insists upon, this honesty, this truth in the inward parts. So naturally, at the very top of the list, you must have this with which the Apostle starts: `putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour'.
But we move on to the next words of the Apostle. As it is true to say that there is nothing that so represents God as truth and truthfulness, it is equally true to say that the devil is a liar, and that that is of the very essence of his nature and of his being. The Lord Jesus tells us so in the eighth chapter of John's Gospel. To those Jews who were arguing and wrangling with Him, and objecting to the truth because it condemned them and searched them, He says, `You are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father you 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.' This is how the New Testament deals with speaking the truth and refraining from lying. It requires the Christian to see what it means and what it involves, not merely for the sake of being a gentleman and a man of his word, and being truthful. The world can do all that, but it is not Christianity. We Christians are required to see the lie in all its evil character, and you can only do that as you put it into the Christian context. So that all the moralising that passes in the name of Christianity is finally the greatest denial of Christianity. It does away with its uniqueness, which is its central glory.
Take the terrible case of Ananias and Sapphira as an illustration of the vast difference between the lie and the truth. It had been agreed amongst the early Christians that they should sell their goods and their possessions and bring the proceeds to the common pool. It was quite voluntary, there was no compulsion, and a number of people had done this, and among them Ananias and Sapphira. They had come to the apostles and said, We have done what we promised to do and here are the proceeds. But they had kept back some of the money; and the Lord moved Peter to say to Ananias: 'Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost?' Satan had filled the man's heart! It was not just a question of telling a lie! When you are a Christian the sin does not stop at that, it goes beyond it. `Satan hath filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost'; and in order to show what a terrible thing it was, he was struck dead at that very moment, that God might there call the attention of the early Church and of all Christian people in all places to the very end of time, to the terrible character of this particular sin. From our standpoint as Christians, to lie is to indicate that we have an affinity with the devil. And a liar, an habitual liar, belongs to the kingdom of the devil, whose whole being is a lie. He is the father of lies, there is no truth in him. He is the embodiment of evil, and to lie is what he teaches others to do.
So, says the Apostle in his Epistle to these believers, As new men and women, put on the new man that is in you; and in this
`Putting away Lying' respect, first and foremost, stop lying, and speak every man truth with his neighbour; because if you do not, you are conveying the suggestion that you are still in the grip of the devil and that you belong to his kingdom. But that is not true of us as Christians! As again the Apostle John puts it in his First Epistle: `We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one.' In this, and in similar scriptures, the Apostles take us back to the very foundations of our faith. I keep on saying this because it will help us not only with this first injunction but with all of them. We have got to learn to look at these things in a Christian way, and the moment we do this, no matter what the subject is, we are taken back to the very foundations of our faith. So when you tell a man in the Christian Church to stop lying, you are doing something that is altogether different from the way it is normally done in the world, which is simply concerned about a facade and an appearance; for you cannot do it in a Christian way without going back to your doctrine of God, back to your doctrine of the devil.
The next thing we come to is this. We must stop lying because the very first sin of man was the result of a lie. In other words, the world is as it is because of a lie. Here again, we are back to a fundamental, foundational truth. Why is the world as it is? The Apostle Paul, writing his second letter to the Corinthians, puts it in these words, `As the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety' (11:3). The cause of that first sin was the lie that the devil whispered to Eve. It was a lie about the character and being of God. 'Hath God said?' God pretends that He is good to you and that He loves you and that He is out for your best interests, says the devil; but the actual truth is, said the liar and the father of lies, that He is against you and that He is keeping you down for His own interests, because He knows that on the day in which you eat of the forbidden fruit you will become as gods yourselves, and you will be equal with Him, and then you will really have your rights; He is against you! Such was the devil's lie! That was the whole cause of the trouble. It was the thing that led to the Fall, and that began the process that has led to the whole of human history as we know it. That is the thing that accounts for the state of the world today. The original sin was produced by a lie. We have got to realise that here we are looking at something that is a full representation of that which led to the rebellion of the devil himself and then through him to the rebellion of man. This is the thing that has brought the world down from being a paradise to being the world in which you and I live at this moment. And it is as we thus look at it in this doctrinal way and see its fundamental nature and character that we can truly deal with it in a radical manner.
I would say, in the next place, that lying is the most prominent and the most common characteristic of the life of sin. Consider the sequence of events. You commit a sin; you do not want to be found out, and you do not want anybody to know it, so you tell a lie. Because you have told that lie you have to tell another one to cover it; and on and on it goes, by a horrible process of geometric progression. It multiplies and multiplies until the whole life becomes a lie and a sham. Is there anything which is more characteristic of the non-Christian, sinful life than this element of lying? Deceit and lying, sham and pretence, are more obvious in the life of the world than anything else. Have you ever tried to analyse life from this angle? Think of a company of people on what is meant by the world to be some happy occasion, some reception, some party. Look at the affability and the friendliness. But then just watch the glances, just listen to the whispering! Ah! the camaraderies, the friendship and the affability, how delighted we are to meet . . ., and oh! how fond they are of one another!---and yet they are muttering beneath their breath. Is not that the life of society? What if people really spoke the truth to one another and told one another what they really think of one another and what they really believe? I can safely say that the whole life of society, in any realm or at any level---no matter how polite it is, no matter how exalted it is---is run on this principle of deceit and of lying. And we all know it to be so. But the pretence, the sham, and the play-acting goes on. This is, without doubt, the most characteristic thing about the life of sin.
In the same way, is not the addiction to lying one of the chief causes of the complications of life? Why does life become so involved and complicated and so difficult? The answer is because of this element of lying, because the moment we depart from the truth, as I say, that in itself has got to be covered by another lie, and that by another, and so the whole life becomes such a complex and complicated tissue of lies. Sometimes we see this very plainly in an occasional criminal prosecution that is reported in the press. A man starts by making one mistake, perhaps a very trivial one, but it does not matter how small the thing was, it was wrong and he should not have done it; but because he has done the wrong he feels that he has got to cover it, and the whole thing develops and snowballs, as we say, until the poor man finds himself in a court with a tremendous charge against him. Due to the original lie his life becomes involved and complicated; he has to cater for this and to cover that, to manipulate this thing and to be careful at that point, and so the whole of his life which was meant to be, and had been, comparatively simple, becomes involved, and he is juggling; he has got to keep it going somehow, and all his difficulties are due to a lie.
Is there anything, any single thing, I wonder, that causes so much unhappiness and misery in this world as lying? Again, we simply need to know life and the facts of life to know this. Lying, and pretence, and dissimulation, and shamming---oh, the unhappiness they cause, the suspicions they arouse, the lack of ease and repose and quiet, and the lack of trust! If only lying could be entirely banished, what loads would be lifted off minds and hearts! Oh, the havoc that is caused by lying, the heartbreak, the sadness, the unhappiness, the suffering to innocent people that is caused by this lying. It is no wonder that the Apostle tells us to put it away at once as the first thing we deal with!
Can we not also say that there is nothing which shows us the real nature and character of sin as lying does? What is the real essence of sin? what is at the back of it all? what is the cause of it? There can be no doubt about the answer to that question! Self! Self is the ultimate cause of sin. And it manifests itself in self-regard, self-centredness, and selfishness. Well, you say, what has all that got to do with lying? I can tell you. We express ourselves most profoundly in our speech, we express ourselves more in our speech than in anything else. It is the one thing perhaps of all things that differentiates man from the animal. The animal can express its nature in its behaviour; you can have a quiet dog or a fierce, angry dog; and so with all other animals. But man has this unique capacity of speech, and it is in a sense his glory. There is nothing through which a person expresses his or her personality more profoundly than in speech. This gift of speech and communication, linked with fallen man's self-regard and self-centredness and selfishness, leads to a desire to be highly thought of, to be praised, to impress people, to be important. We want everybody to think well of us. We want everybody to praise us. We want to be important, to cut a figure. And how is this to be done? In the world that is found in the wicked one, it is often accomplished by the lie, enabling you to build up the personality that you think you are and that you want to be, and that you want other people to think you are. You have got to be important, so sometimes you make deliberate misstatements, you invent `facts'. The anatomy of sin, the anatomy of lying! At the moment I am engaged in dissecting it, and is it not an ugly thing that we have uncovered? I am doing it in order that we may so see it that we shall put it away once and for ever, as the Apostle is exhorting us to do.
So we make our deliberate mis-statements and inventions, or again we may lie by saying nothing. We just conceal the truth by withholding it. And then another very common way---exaggerations! You have got a story to tell, and it is quite a good story, but you rather feel that if you embellish it a little it will be still more wonderful, it will make you still more wonderful, so you exaggerate. And every time we tell the story it grows with the telling. We told it the first time and it produced a good response; ah! we thought, that is good! We add a little to it, still better response! And on and on it goes. In the end, what we are now saying has really never happened at all; it has been so exaggerated that it is nothing but a lie. Why does mankind do this? Why exaggerate? why add to things? why withhold? why fabricate? why invent? Trace it out, pick it up at any point in yourself or anybody else, and you will always find that its purpose is to minister to this self and this self-importance. It is our aim to win the good opinion of others, and to be praised and to be highly thought of; so we pursue a course of lying and building up the facade, putting on the camouflage, appearing to be something that in reality we are not. There is nothing that finally shows the real, foul character of sin so much as lying, because speech is ultimately the supreme way of manifesting our personality.
But to go further, nothing shows more clearly the utterly despicable character of sin and the nature of sin as lying. If you were to canvass the opinion of any group of people you may happen to meet, if you were to ask them, What do you think of a man who is a liar? they would be unanimous! There is nothing that human nature, even in sin, so despises in its judgments as a liar. We will excuse a man many things, but we have no use for a man who is a liar. The whole of mankind, fallen and debased in sin as it is, agrees that a liar is the most despicable kind of man. And yet, though we may all agree about that in theory, lying is the commonest, the most universal of all sins. Some are guilty of certain sins, some commit others, but here is something that is common to all men. Though we hate it and despise it and denounce it, we are guilty of it. It reveals the radical nature of sin, because it is not merely a matter of acts on the surface, but an expression of that which is the essential being and personality of man since the Fall. And it all revolves around this self.
What a terribly deep and subtle thing sin is! And at this point I must again denounce superficial moralists who treat a lie as if it belonged to the surface of life, and say that it should not be regarded too seriously. On the contrary, a lie is a thing that comes out of the depths of a man's being. What a hateful, foul thing it is! There is nothing that shows more clearly what a terrible hold sin has upon human nature, it does not matter how refined, it does not matter how cultured. Visit the highest circles, visit the most base, you will find it everywhere. Of course, the way in which it is done differs. You can lie, as it were, with the horny hands of the sons of toil, and you can lie softly with kid gloves. The way it is done is not the thing that matters. As it becomes more refined it becomes more subtle, and to me more hateful because it becomes much more hypocritical. There is almost something to be said for the barefaced liar rather than for the one who so cleverly and cunningly hides it, perhaps with an innocent expression. And thus, I say, lying shows more clearly perhaps than anything else the depth of sin, the hold and the power of sin. Though with our minds we despise the thing, we do it! And thereby we show that sin has introduced a dualism and a false dichotomy into us. It demonstrates that we are slaves and serfs.
Lastly, I would underline the thing that the Apostle picks out here, namely, that there is nothing which is so opposed and so inimical to the doctrine of the church as lying. As we have seen, the first section of this fourth chapter of the Ephesian Epistle is entirely devoted to the doctrine of the church--- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one body, one Spirit, we are called in one hope of our calling. The church is like a body fitly joined and compacted together, all members joined to the Head and receiving the same blood supply. Indeed, the body is one! Is there anything that is so destructive of this truth as lying? Lie not one to another, says the Apostle, but `speak every man truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another'! And I believe he was thinking particularly here about the church. There are those who suggest he was thinking in a more general manner, but I am not persuaded of that. Certainly it is true in the general aspect, but it is particularly true of the church, and here Paul is dealing with the whole thing in the context of the life of the church. We are all members one of another! If you tell a lie to another member, you are really damaging yourself; in a sense you are lying to yourself. There is no such thing as an independent existence. `No man liveth unto himself, no man dieth unto himself,' says the Apostle to the Romans. So that to lie to another member of the same body of Christ is to be lying to yourself. You are doing harm to yourself because you are doing harm to the body to which you belong. You can say, `I can cut my finger without doing any damage to myself.' But the fact is that you cannot! If you cut your finger, you will suffer. It is not your finger only that suffers, you suffer, the whole suffers. We are members one of another.
Think of it like this: How can there be fellowship if there is lying? It is the exact opposite to true fellowship, is it not? What makes fellowship possible is trust, mutual trust, mutual reliance, a feeling that you can trust one another, and therefore you can speak, and speak freely and openly, one to another. But the moment the element of lying comes in, fellowship is destroyed: you are no longer free; you do not know how much you can believe, or what you can believe; you do not know how much you can trust the other person. And if fellowship is broken, you are in a kind of police state in which everybody is spying on everybody else. You say, I wonder whether so-and-so really means that; I wonder whether that is really true. In this way fellowship is destroyed. Lying is destructive of fellowship. And what happens to us as Christians is not so much and not only that we are saved individually; we are all saved and made members together of the body of Christ; we are like a building that is being constructed as a habitation of God; we are all individual stones in that wonderful building; but it is the unity of the building that matters. Lying makes unity impossible, for it cuts at the very root of the whole doctrine of the Christian church at its most essential point. If you like you can add to that a more general statement. A lawyer once came to our Lord and said, `Master, which is the great commandment in the law?' And the Lord replied, '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' [Matthew 22:36-39]. Love thy neighbour as thyself! You do not believe in fooling yourself, do you? Well then, do not fool your neighbour! If you love him as yourself, you cannot; you will stop lying to him; you do not believe in lying to yourself, then do not lie to him. Love thy neighbour as thyself!
So much for the general aspect; but, as in the Epistle, our chief attention must be devoted to the realm of the Church and the redeemed. When we say that we were once under `the power of darkness' but have been delivered and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, what course is open to us but to put away lying, and speak every man truth to his neighbour? Let it be known and obvious to everybody that we are no longer children of the devil; we are no longer children of darkness and of night; and of the sham and pretence that is so characteristic of the world with its diplomacy and its affability that nobody believes in! I suppose that nothing does such great harm to the relationship between nations as the expression of this very thing that I am talking about. Statesmen write their memoirs after a war comes to an end; during the war we read about their meetings and how wonderfully well they are getting on together; later their memoirs appear and give quotations from their diaries, in which they tell us the things they were saying about one another secretly. How can you have trust while that sort of thing goes on? How can there be confidence when the whole thing is pretence and sham and acting, and is based upon lies and dissimulations? It is wrong in the whole of life, it is what makes the world what it is today. But among Christian people such conduct should be unthinkable. We are the children of God, the children of light, we belong to the truth, we are the children of One of whom it is written, `God, who cannot lie', and we are to be like our Father and to tell forth His praises, to manifest His virtues and His glories; and we do so by putting away lying and speaking truth one to another, thereby proving that we are indeed new men and women, that we are brethren, and children together of the living God.
`Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another.' [213-224]
Link back to index.html