At face value, the 9th commandment could be read as merely a prohibition against committing perjury or lying under oath. However, this commandment encompasses so much more. According to both the Westminster Shorter and the Baptist catechisms, “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.” This “promoting of truth” is fleshed out even further in Q&A 144 and 145 of the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC), which discuss the duties required and sins prohibited by this commandment. It leaves no stone unturned regarding the thoughts and heart motives that fuel our speech in addition to the actual words themselves. “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) We will also stand before God on judgment day and give an account for every idle word, which is convicting and sobering. (Matt. 12:36)
When I first read these sections in the WLC, I immediately thought of the toxicity of social media and the ease with which fake news is spread far and wide. If there ever was an environment that spurned the 9th commandment and encouraged its breaking, this is it. But while it is easy to point the finger out there, I need to ask myself, not if, but where have I broken the 9th commandment? Are my words motivated by a desire for my neighbor's best, or am I cold and indifferent? Are my assessments impartial with every attempt to portray the situation as accurately as possible to the best of my ability, or are they biased to put myself and my interests in a more favorable light? Do I uphold the truth or conceal it or give it a certain spin? Do I pursue honesty, truth, and justice at all costs even if the spotlight shines closer than I would like? Has God been honored by my words and underlying attitude or dishonored? Regardless of the culture's decline and the venues that feed it, the bar remains unchanged because the 9th commandment reflects the character of God who is THE standard of truth and reality. Thus we are all without excuse and have fallen far short of his perfection. But I am thankful that he has not left us to ourselves but has shown mercy to 9th commandment breakers in sending his Son.
Jesus Christ was the only person who perfectly upheld the truth and kept the 9th commandment. The prophet Isaiah and Nathanael describe him as having “no deceit in his mouth.” (Is. 53:9, John 1:47) He was “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) He “did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:49) He was righteous in every thought, motivation, and word, and every interaction was carried out with integrity. And though he never sinned, Christ bore the penalty for our sins on the cross, which included our 9th commandment breaking. In turn, he has imputed to us his perfect record of 9th commandment keeping.
Because of the gospel, the 9th commandment does not carry the impossible weight of “do this and live or else.” We do not earn our salvation or even maintain our standing before God. Rather this commandment now becomes a way to honor the One who saved us and testify of his goodness out of love. Because of what Christ has done, stony hearts that formerly suppressed the truth have been replaced with hearts of flesh that learn to love God and his Word. The Holy Spirit is at work, changing our desires and renewing our minds to esteem others in our attitudes and speech. And when we do sin, we can run to Christ as our only hope. Therefore, we can pray these words believing that God will answer them for his glory and the sake of the gospel -
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Persis Lorenti is member of Grace Baptist Chapel in Hampton, VA where she serves as bookkeeper and deacon of library/resources. She blogs at triedbyfire.blogspot.com and out-of-theordinary.blogspot.com. You can follow her on Twitter @tea_et_books.