This year on December the 25th, there will be a direct conflict between a popular day of man’s devising and the weekly day that God sanctified by his own example at creation and commanded us in his moral law to remember and hallow.
Some church officers are cancelling the public worship of God on Sabbath, December 25, 2022. Such men are forsaking the public worship of God’s house on his day and encouraging the souls under their care to observe an anniversary day that purports to be a religious observance unto Christ, but which lacks any Biblical warrant and is attended by fleshly excess, direct violations of the Second Commandment in the form of purported images of Jesus Christ, and pagan-tinged trappings like special trees.
Such men should beware that they are tempting God to make his wrath fall upon the church under their care. “And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass.” (2 Chronicles 24:18)
At such a time, Christians should search the Scriptures, where they will find a rich development of the theme of the weekly Sabbath in the Old and New Testaments. Of course, they will find nothing about Christmas, nor any hint of Christ establishing the anniversary remembrance of his own birth as an observance of worship.
Besides the Scriptures themselves, Christians who have sincere questions about the perpetual, binding nature of the Fourth Commandment can find help in writings such as this one by John Murray.
Besides the positive testimony of the Westminster Standards on behalf of the Christian Sabbath referenced in Murray’s article, Westminster bore a faithful testimony against holy days of man’s devising, as seen in the Appendix to the Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God: “There is no day commanded in scripture to be kept holy under the gospel but the Lord’s day, which is the Christian Sabbath. Festival days, vulgarly called Holy-days, having no warrant in the word of God, are not to be continued.”
Rev. Brent Evans Pastor, Reformation Presbyterian Church Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)
“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” Ephesians 4:25
We turn to Ephesians 4 and to verse 25, “Wherefore putting away lying speak every man truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” And we considered last time the initial words of that verse, “Wherefore putting away lying.” As we now turn to the second, the positive commandment that the Lord lays upon us of speaking truth, I’ll remind you of the words of the wise man when he said that “The lip of truth shall endure, or be established, forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”
That saying of Solomon can be applied rightly to individuals, and we rightly say that the lip of truth shall be established forever—the truth-speaker shall be in heaven and shall stand, whereas the lying tongue is but for a moment—he shall pass like a vapor, and the liar shall be in the lake of fire.
We rightly apply that to individuals, but also this saying of the wise man describes the members of the body: the lip and tongue. The believer in this present life, to his own distress, realizes there is a constant warfare that affects every member and faculty of his person, that his tongue is sometimes acts for the old man, though in the main it is the instrument of the new man. And in that sense the believer takes comfort from that saying of Solomon, that “The lip of truth shall be established forever, but the lying tongue is but for a moment.” So the believer should take confidence and realize that the body of sin shall be destroyed, that this lying tongue that he must bridle,— he must watch,—he must aim at its utter destruction, and use means to see its death furthered, he does so in the confidence that it shall pass away, but the lip of truth shall be established forever.
So in that sense when we look at our text we see that it’s telling us, “Putting away lying, speak every man truth,” in a sense everything we considered last week about the mortification of lying and the lust underlying it—in a sense all of that is preparation, in a sense that is clearing the ground. That the old man is to be mortified in order for something else to happen, and that something else is continuing, abiding, and indeed will be the exercise of the saints to all eternity, which is—the speaking of truth. And then we take up our text, noticing that it contains an imperative. We especially want to focus on that positive imperative in the second part of the verse, “Speak every man truth with his neighbor,” and the reason, “We are members one of another.”
This is an imperative that is addressed to all believers in our Lord Jesus Christ: “Speak every man truth with his neighbor.” This is an imperative that is binding upon the most advanced in grace, and the smallest weakling in grace. The most newborn babe in Christ is commanded by the Lord to speak every man truth with his neighbor. It is an imperative that is binding upon one whose gifts and fluidity of speaking are of the highest kind; it is an imperative that is binding upon one whose gifts and ability of speaking are of the least and lowest kind. All believers are bound by this imperative. And notice that this is to the believer, whereas [with] the unconverted man there is a night and day difference. The unconverted man doesn’t have the new nature dwelling within him. He doesn’t have the inward continual enmity and perpetual warfare between the new man against the old. All he has is the old man—he is not able to obey this imperative. And what he needs to do is to make his tree good, and then the fruit will be good. He needs to be converted out of death and sin, unto life in God and by the Spirit of Christ. And so he would be misapplying what he hears if he takes this and thinks, “Well, I have ability to speak truth.” If you’re out of Christ, your first duty is to go to him and to gain life freely given to you by him. I want to address particularly the believer this day as to his duty. We’ll consider four things about this imperative, “Speak every man truth with his neighbor.”
The first thing to consider is the believers’ renewal unto speaking truth.
Where Paul says, “Speak every man truth with his neighbor,” we need to notice immediately before he has also said that we are to “Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” The reason why the believer has any faculty at all for speaking truth is because of what God has done in regenerating him, in making him born again and planting within him this new nature that is called a new man.
The miracles of the Lord Jesus Christ enable us to see things in an outward way. In Mark chapter 7 we read of a man that was deaf and had an impediment in his speech. The Lord Jesus put his fingers in his ears, sighed, and looked up to heaven and said, “Ephphathah,”—Be opened, and immediately the man was able to hear, the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plainly. And that is a picture of one aspect of the result of what happens in regeneration. When God regenerates a dead sinner, then all his faculties are renewed, including his tongue—so that he is able to speak for God. The string of his tongue is loosed. His tongue was under a bond, it was under bondage to sin and Satan before; but now it is set free, it is able to speak for God and to speak truth.
We need to study a little then this mystery of regeneration whereby there is a new man in the believer. What is the pattern of this renewal? The pattern after which God renews in regeneration is himself. We read of the “new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” What a privilege to be made anew in the image of the God of truth! Pilate, you know, asked the question, “What is truth?” To answer that question we begin with God. God is truth. The false gods are but sham and pretense. They put on an appearance of some shadow of god-ness, but our God is not false like them. He is the true and living God. He declares, I am that I am. God is the most true thing that exists. He exists necessarily and eternally, and he needs no witness to his existence and perfections except himself. He is truth, he knows truth, he is the revealer of secrets and mysteries. He speaks truth—his Word is truth, whether it be histories or parables or proverbs, whether commandments or promises or threatenings—the whole word of God is truth. You may and you ought to lean the whole way of your soul body time and eternity upon a single word of God, because he is true and he speaks truth.
Now, what a privilege that the believer is renewed in his regeneration after the image of such a Father! The unbeliever has the Devil for his father, who is a liar and the father of it. But in being born again, the Christian now has the truth within. He has truth—David said that God desires truth in the inward parts. Now the unbeliever, he has certain bits and pieces of the truth, but they are forced upon him. It is like a man who is trying to sleep in the daytime and he shuts his blinds but he can’t keep the light entirely out, it penetrates through the shades. And so [with] the unbeliever certain things he knows are true, but against his will. He doesn’t, with his will, love the truth. If he could, he would separate the God of truth out from any particular truth that he knows. He desperately tries to do so. Anything he knows, knows for instance about the creation—he tries to separate it from Creator who is the God of truth, but it’s a vain endeavor. He doesn’t truly love the truth. But it’s different with the believer, because he doesn’t just have truth forced upon him, but he loves the truth; he has a principle of truth within him. So when he hears the truth of God, he gives his hearty amen to it. He appeals to God as a Father, and he loves to hear the voice of God his Father, his own Father in heaven. He echoes the truth of God from his own bosom. He is created after God’s likeness.
And what is the means of this renewal that has happened? Well, you know that the creation of the world was a powerful work of God. You know that God made all things of nothing—we emphasize of nothing because we’re saying that there was no latent ability that the world had towards existing before God created it. All of the ability came from God himself, by his almighty power. He by an infinite amount of power raised the world out of nothingness and to existence. But if possible, when we consider the new creation— the creation of the new man in the new birth—it required a greater demonstration of God’s power, because not only does the new man need to be created where he didn’t exist before, he needs to be created despite the previous existence of the old man. This is the state of the Christian in this life, in a way like Rebekah who had two men in her womb who were jostling and fighting with each other. And so the old man resists with everything that is within him the new man, but God created the new man by grace, as it were on top of the old man. And how does he do that? By his Word of truth, by which he begat us, James says, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. By his Word and by his Spirit, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost—these are the mighty means by which God regenerates. Something that the Christian needs to know is that those means are still mighty now. God’s Word and Spirit are still able to renew him. There are times when the believer, as it were, needs to call in his Creator all over again. David, in his prayer in Psalm 51, said, “Create in me a clean heart.” He said that at time when his sins—what kind of sins? Well, yes, a dreadful sin of uncleanness, but also he was entangled in a web of deceit and lies, and so he cries to his Creator all over again as it were “Create in me…” And so the Christian needs to know that the Word and Spirit of God are able to renew him. At the first it was by the Word and Spirit that he was renewed at his root, but now as he fights the battle of the mind he needs to know that the same means are still mighty.
There is a battle of the mind that needs to be fought—there are remaining errors and lies, that’s how the old man works, as we were considering last time—but notice it is not inevitable for the Christian to be carried before the flood of a wrong idea. It feels that way at times to the believer. There’s a falsehood that comes to him with power that entangles his thinking. He has been many times before carried before the power of this error, this lie, and he may begin to despair and think, “Well, there’s no use in resisting that,” but it’s not so, because the Christian has these almighty means of the Word of truth and the Spirit of truth, by which he was begotten again at the beginning. So the Christian needs to say, “I will be renewed in the spirit of my mind. Whatever that particular lie is that has intertwined itself with the deceitfulness of my heart, I will lay siege to it like they laid siege to Jericho, I will surround it with the word of God. I will ask God to send down his Holy Spirit, and I won’t give up until that false idea comes falling down flat.” The Christian makes war as David in Psalms 42 and 43,— he keeps telling his soul, “Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him,” or Asaph in the 73rd Psalm, who makes war against this idea that the wicked prosper and get away with it—“Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are of a clean heart.” Or, Mordecai tells Esther to fight the battle of the mind when she’s afraid and she fears the king more than God, he tells her what she should think, he says, think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house—you should fear what God will do to you if you don’t stand up for his people, and you should recognize, what if he’s put you in this spot for just a time as this? But she needed to fight the battle of the mind. And here’s the thrilling truth of the Christian, that in fighting the battle of the mind, he uses the same means by which God begot him to new life when he was dead. He employs the Word and Spirit of God.
In this renewal of the Christian we also need to grasp that this has been a thorough renewal, because in our text proceeding it, in the context we read about a new man—“That ye put on the new man.” Now I was telling you before about the old man, and why the old nature is called a man, and that’s because he has, fully formed, all his parts and faculties. He is, as it were, ready for action, able to do anything a man can do. The different lusts of the old man work together, strengthen together, cooperate, and so on. Now the same is true of the new man, called a new man because all the parts and faculties are there. He’s ready for action, he can do anything a man can do. And so while on the one hand, I was laboring last week to convince you that there yet remains in the holiest of men in this life, there remains a complete and entire old man, the seed of every lust is present there,—though the old man is in a crucified state, still the seed and principle is there, so the old man needs to be constantly watched and kept on the rack, et cetera. The same however is true of the new man, that the seed and principle of every grace is there. The new man is not missing his tongue, and so the believer has been renewed to speak truth and speak for God. This is a truth that is actually staggering, because Isaiah, when he sees the Lord, he says, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips,” and he should say that—and it’s true. It’s true in what respect? It’s true of a holy Isaiah in terms of the old man, which is still there, and still sinful, still wretched, still a matter of his humiliation and godly sorrow.
But it’s not the only truth there is. I am a man of unclean lips, the believer says. What does Christ say to the believer? The words we were reading before: “Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb. Honey and milk are under thy tongue.” That’s what Christ says to the believer, and you dare not be wiser than Christ. You dare not, believer, say, “This isn’t really speaking to me.” You need to receive that because of who says it, and because he’s wiser than you. Indeed, it’s a mystery of free grace, isn’t it? We would think—and it’s because our thoughts are not as God’s thoughts, neither are our ways his ways—our thoughts of his mercy are cramped and small and narrow, but he has better thoughts than we do. We would think, “Well, it can’t possibly be that anything truly pleasing to God would be found in me, until such a time as everything that is displeasing to God is totally gone. We would think, surely Christ couldn’t plant his own likeness in us while we still have the old man. Christ says he’s the lily of the valleys, and so he comes and plants his beautiful lily-likeness in the believer while their old sooty chimney of the old man is still there, still spewing out all that dirty stuff. And we could say, doesn’t he know what he’s risking? How could he possibly put a new nature in me next to an old nature? And see, he’s done so because there’s no possible way for him to manifest the utmost degree of the freeness of his love other than by doing what he’s done. Lest we should think the new nature is something that we could merit or work towards, he says, “No, let me show you, while the corruption of sin still remains, but the guilt of sin is gone, as far as the east is from the west, while my spouse is under no condemnation, but while that old nature still remains in her, I will plant my likeness within her.” And this should embolden the believer, because as we sing, “Thy beauty to the king shall then delightful be,” this should encourage and draw the Christian to exercise that new nature in the speaking of truth.
We’ve seen something about the believer’s renewal unto speaking truth, but we also need to consider the believer’s exercise in speaking truth.
In Christ renewing and making the believer to be a new creature, there is a principle of grace that is planted—that’s what we’ve been considering, but we need to know something more. It’s not enough simply to have the seed and principle of grace planted within. The Spirit of Christ must come, and as we were reading in Song of Solomon 4, “Come, O north wind, come O south, blow upon my garden.” The Spirit needs to come and stir up those fragrant graces in the Christian, so that their savor will flow out, so that they are exercised in whatsoever he does. So when we say that God requires us to speak truth—“Speak every man truth with his neighbor.” We live in pretty technologically-advanced days, so we can imagine that we could program a robot to speak truth. We could set up a computer with speakers and make it read the Bible, and then—would the robot or computer be speaking truth? In a certain sense, but this is not the requirement of God. God requires far more than a robotic parroting or sending forth certain sounds and syllables; that’s only the form of speaking the truth, and we know that with our God he requires not only an outward form, but he requires the heart of the matter. And that’s why, for the Christian to be doing what God requires, it means he needs to be exercised in his heart with certain graces.
And what graces need to be acting with his outward act of speaking the truth? Well to simplify things, I’ll say that there are two, which are faith and love. The Christian needs to exercise faith in order to be speaking the truth as God requires. And it’s true that we need to make a sanctified use of our senses and of our reason. They are faculties that God has given us to know truth, and we should use them as sanctified. However, it is principally faith by which the believer knows truth and speaks truth. Psalm 116, “I believe therefore I have spoken.” And whatever we speak we ought to speak because we believe what we’re saying. Speaking the truth by faith means that we are speaking in the sight of God. Suppose that it’s one of the lesser consequential things that we’re speaking about, suppose that we’re engaging with someone and speaking about the weather. Well then, we should still do so in faith, otherwise how can this be pleasing or acceptable to God? Whatever’s not of faith is sin. When you speak about the weather, you should speak about the weather according to the strict standards of truth, but it should also proceed from faith. So that when you say, “It’s a pleasant day today, isn’t it?” Then you should think, I know the God of heaven that causes the weather. And as we speak to one another, even if it’s not explicitly acknowledged right out of the gate, we’re speaking about God’s providence, I am speaking truth in the sight of God. That should always be the Christian’s exercise. The Christian should speak the truth by faith because it’s faith by which he gets a treasury of truth within. How is it that the Christian has anything to say, that he’s not just blank? It’s because he’s a man of Psalm 1, he’s meditating in the law of the Lord day and night. And he holds fast, meditates upon, and brings forth by faith. He speaks the truth by faith in imitation of his God. You see, the fact that the Christian lives by faith affects the way that he converses with others. The Christian lives by faith because he says, every word of God is true, like silver refined in an earthen furnace. The Word of God is utterly reliable. Everything I do, I do because I believe the Word of God. And if the Word of God were not true, I would be the most miserable of all men, because I am staking everything that I think, say, and do, and refrain from doing, on the Word of God being true. Therefore, he that lives by faith will speak words that will be reliable to other people. If God’s Word were not reliable, I’m sunk; therefore whatever I say to another will be golden and reliable. So the Christian speaks the truth by faith.
But the Christian also speaks the truth in love. These are the two great graces, the first and the last, as it were, among the graces. We saw in verse 15 where that’s explicitly said, “But speaking the truth in love, may now up into him in all things.” 1st Corinthians 13, “Charity rejoices with the truth.” Why is that? There’s a connection between the truth and charity. Just think for a moment about how the world speaks about these things. So the world speaks about communication. What is communication? It is a way of making something common to someone else, namely in this case by words. Communication is a way of sharing by speaking. Why should we communicate at all? We should communicate out of charity, or love. Why should we make something common to someone else? Why should we take what we have and give it or share it? It’s love that dictates that. Now malice would take something that is evil and push it upon someone else, but charity would take that which is good and impart it unto another. So what does charity do? It’s faith that goes to a God of truth and receives his truth, and truth is good because God is true. Faith receives truth from God; charity gives forth truth to others because truth is a good, and charity seeks the good of a neighbor.
This tells us—one implication of that is—to be unduly silent would be uncharitable. Now we’re not always supposed to be speaking; there’s a time to speak and a time to be silent. However, if we were to be silent when we’re called upon, either by a direct duty of the Word of God or by circumstance where it becomes evident that the thing to do to glorify God and to do good unto my neighbor, is to speak,—if we were to remain silent when we should be speaking, that would be uncharitable. That could take several expressions. Someone who is malicious toward another—we sometimes speak about giving a cold shoulder to someone, withholding certain communications from them, communications of affection or understanding. And this we all recognize (or should) that that is an expression of malice. It is the opposite of charity. In other cases, undue silence may arise through cowardice or fear, and unwillingness to stand for the truth because I might suffer harm if I speak, or I don’t know how I’ll be perceived. That is not a noble thing, that is flatly uncharitable to your neighbor. Also, sometimes through laziness, through not exerting oneself, there is an uncharitable and undue silence because it does take work to communication or to give. No doubt our Lord Jesus, his great labor was to give himself and lay down his life. To clam up just because it’s hard to speak, is flatly uncharitable and contrary to the law of love. Now it’s charity that is the great rule. If we want to know, when should we speak, how should we speak, what should we say, the one part of God’s rule is truth. It needs to be strictly in accordance with things as they are, whatever we say. The other part of God’s rule is charity. This will teach me, if I think I want to do unto my neighbor as I would have done unto myself, if I love my neighbor as myself, this will teach me when and what and how to speak. So faith and love—the Christian needs to exercise these in speaking truth.
To continue, we also need to consider the believer’s neighborliness is speaking truth, because our text says, “Speak every man truth with his neighbor.”
Now this, on the one hand, it implies that God is at work in his providence, and God chooses our neighbors for us. He places certain people in our lives, in proximity to us. That’s of course the most basic idea of a neighbor, someone who is close to us, near to us. Sadly a lot of times our literal neighbors, we don’t have much that we share with them, but our neighbor is anyone with whom we cross paths in this life. Anyone with whom we have a shared life and experience to one degree or another. And wherever there is shared life with someone because I’m this person’s neighbor, there should also be a communication and a mutual interchange of truth, of speaking truth every man with his neighbor. And we know that we need to do deeds as well, we need to serve our neighbors by love, but we also have this duty of speaking to them. And that can begin at a very simple level. I referenced before, you’re speaking to someone about the weather. “A pleasant day, isn’t it?” you say to the person across the counter. Well, make sure that that is a truthful communication. Even in such a simple interchange of a comment, we ought to make sure that what we say is true because any kind of report is a report about what? A report about the providence of God. If we say this thing happened, we are speaking to our neighbor in that shared communion of life we have with our neighbor, to bring them a report, so they will know God in his providence. And so we need to ensure that what we say is truthful. Likewise, promises. When we live with others in a family, in the church, also in the midst of the world, we need to be able to expect what’s coming next and to make plans— therefore, whatever promises we make to one another should be truthful promises. Also, living in proximity to others, inevitably we’re going to sin against them. And what kind of speaking truth with our neighbor is called for when we’ve sinned against each other? That is confession of sin. And therefore we ought to be truthful in our confessions of sin, one with another.
God chooses neighbors and places them near to us, and notice how he requires of us a mutual interchange of truthful speaking with our neighbors. So he might have said, “Speak every man to his neighbor,” but he didn’t. He said, “Speak every man truth with his neighbor.” This implies that there is to be a mutual intercommunication with our neighbors. We are to make sure on our own parts, that we are contributing only truth to this interchange. It also means that we’re to speak every man with his neighbor. Notice how that makes it personal and individual .We could say, “Speak every man truth to every other man.” We could think of it in terms of a megaphone. And if we’re going to pick up a megaphone, then by all means we need to speak truth into the megaphone. But what’s stated in our text is a little more focused in. We have one individual, and he has a neighbor—his neighbor. And there’s to be a communication from one to the other, and then back again. We remember about Joseph when he was in the prison, he noticed the facial expressions of his fellow prisoners, and he ended up speaking life-changing truth to both of them. To one of them, the butler, he said, you’re going to put the cup in Pharaoh’s hand again. [To] the baker, Pharaoh’s going to lift up your head; he was executed; the birds came and at the bread off the basket on his head. Now this, he spoke truth to his neighbor, but first he noticed something about his neighbors, he drew out what they were thinking. He drew out their circumstances and then spoke truth to them, personally fitted to them. The wise man said, “Counsel in the heart of a man is deep waters, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” And so the first part of our duty of speaking truth with a neighbor begins with noticing and observing our neighbor and drawing them out, so that we can speak personally and appropriately to them, remembering that we ourselves are flesh and blood, like they are; shaping what we say, when we speak the truth by our own experience, sympathy, and understanding. We ought, in speaking the truth with our neighbor, to remember our particular relation with each neighbor. Is this a particular neighbor, is this neighbor my superior, my inferior, or my equal? I must always speak truth, but if to a superior, then with greater meekness and deference and so on. We ought to think of the various needs of each particular neighbor. Does this neighbor need to be instructed in something? Has my neighbor revealed that there’s something he doesn’t know? Or misunderstands? Then let me speak to instruct. If my neighbor needs to be stirred up to a duty, then let me exhort him. If he’s been taken in a sin, I should reprove him. If he is sinking under the weight of troubles, then I should encourage and comfort him. But we need to speak, when we speak truth, we have to speak personally to each one; each man, truth with his neighbor.
But there is yet another thing. Having considered the believer’s neighborliness in speaking truth, we need consider the believer’s special encouragement in speaking truth.
The last words of our verse, “Speak every man truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” We have neighborly duties towards anyone that we meet, in the world, to speak truth to them, but this is focused upon the relation believers have one with another within the body of Christ. And I told you briefly last time, that one reason lying is so deadly is because it cuts the sinews of the organic body of Christ. How can we edify each other if lying words are spoken? This destroys trust, it dismembers the body of Christ to lie. By the other token, to speak truth is that which edifies the body. The speaking of the truth is the lifeblood that carries the nourishment between all the members of the body of Christ. To say that we are members one of another reflects the great mystery that believers are united unto Jesus Christ. He is the Head; faith is that which knits every believer to the Head. But then because of that there’s a second mystery, which is that there’s a mutual union of the members one with another within the body of Christ. Those that we know most closely, and even those in other periods of time and history, and other places on the planet. But there is a spiritual union and knitting together of the whole body, and it’s through speaking truth that the body edifies itself, as we saw earlier in the chapter.
There are several things to consider here, and one is that if you are but even the lowest member of Christ, if you are even but the weakest and newest of believers, then you have a duty and also an ability to speak unto the edification of other members, because look how this is two directional. We are members one of another. It doesn’t say, now Christ ascended up into heaven and he gave some to be apostles, pastors and teachers, and it’s a good thing that everyone else can be linked to the pastors and teachers, so that edification can flow in one direction from the pastors and teachers to everyone else. This is not what is being said. There is a mutual connection, there is a two-way street between the members of Christ. Paul when he says that he’s coming to Rome to preach the gospel to them, he says that he wants to be comforted together by their mutual faith. So who was greater in the church than Paul? Who more gracious, who more gifted? But he says when I come to Rome, I am going to receive comfort by observing, hearing of your mutual faith with me. You have an ability to edify others. If you’re knit to Christ, then you may profit every member of the body.
And to take that a step further, notice how wisely the Lord has framed together the body of Christ so that every member’s duty is important. There is a distribution of the body edifying itself. Even in our physical body there are some members that are at the extremity; the foot for instance is far away from the heart and head and so on. But there are other members that closer down to that foot, to where it is at the extremity of the body. And just so, it often is the case within the body that there are some other members of the body that you yourself personally are in the best position to speak the truth unto, unto their edification. There are some for whom your experience has particularly suited you, to speak to them in a way that will be able to open their hearts, and they will be able to receive. Providentially, you might be the one who has the greatest contact with someone else or a history with them, et cetera. But how will every member of the body be edified, except if each one of us, every man set himself on speaking the truth with his neighbor? We ought not to think, well we’ll sit back and let the pastors and teachers do everything. This edification of the body, it happens in the context of an ascended Christ having given official and stated teachers of his word to the church. We’d be sunk if we closed our eyes to that, if we despised preaching. We’d be sunk, but by the same token let’s not think, the preachers will do everything by what they say. Exercise your own faculties and your own mouth to speak truth.
You have an ability to edify, you have also Christian, a motive to edify. So whatever you lay out in terms of labor to edify your brother is really in a sense done for your own profit. You’ll never fail to be profiled yourself if you promote the furtherance of your brother’s salvation. In fact, you need to promote your brother’s salvation as earnestly as you seek to promote your own. That’s true obviously within the physical body, that we don’t say, “Well, this member is unimportant, even though there’s been an abrasion in the skin and there’s infection setting in,” and “That member of the body, what does it matter to me if there’s an infection down there?—as long as my face still looks hale and hearty.” That’s abominable thinking, and just so we ought to say, I shouldn’t be content to be in a flourishing state myself when another member is diseased. There’s some sin that needs to be purged out of him by timely and loving reproof. Likewise we should say, the weak member of the body that’s not at times taken much nourishment, let me spend myself on nourishing that member of the body because I’ll never lose my labor, because where the one member of the body is made stronger, then the whole body is made stronger. You yourself will never advance the way you ought to, and the way you long to, in your sanctification, if others aren’t advancing with you. And so this his a motive to seek to speak the truth in love.
There is implied in this description also a naturalness, if you will, in the work of edifying through the speaking of truth. The members of the body, they have a constant interchange through blood vessels and nerves, and who knows whatever layers of things that science only begins to peer into dimly. There is a natural, living, warm and organic connection between the members of the body. And that is in contrast of the way, if we have even flesh and blood relative who doesn’t know the Lord, there is a wall there, there is a blankness there, there is an absence of ability to communicate and share. Sometimes we hear of things about organ transplants, sometimes we hear about them failing. A member in a physical body that is rejected by the body. And so with someone who’s not a member of Christ, there’s not a naturalness of communication, there is a gap—an inability to interchange with them. However, with the brethren in the Lord—even if we don’t have a long personal history with them, they’re from a different place—yet there is a readiness, in which they love and receive the same truth which we feed our souls upon. And this is a special encouragement unto the believer speaking truth, for we are members one of another.
May the Lord then use these things. I believe we were convicted last week as the Lord shone the spotlight of his Word and told us to put away lying, yet we’re grateful even that took us to the cross of Christ. But even that work of mortification, we ought not to stop there, but we ought to recognize what God has done for the believer in making a new nature in him by regeneration, and we ought to exercise that new nature. We ought to, at the same time, starve the old man, and see that tongue of the old man withered and dried up, and to feed the new man by the means of grace, exercising all the members, especially as we’ve seen this morning, the speaking of truth—which is our duty. Amen.
O Lord our God, the God of truth, in whom there is no darkness at all, —the God who cannot lie and who promised before the world began, who promised the life that is in Christ Jesus to be given to us in time, —the God, none of whose words have ever fallen to the ground, and who brought the seed of Abraham into the land, who brought the seed of the woman into the world, and whose Word shall yet be fulfilled in the future when the very heavens are rolled up as a garment—we pray, make us to be a people who speak the truth. And we ask it for Jesus’ sake, Amen.
“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” Ephesians 4:25
We come this morning to the preaching text, Ephesians 4:25. Last week we considered a text which encompassed all the way from verse 17 down to verse 24. I did so because we have a united whole within those verses, in which, as you heard, the Lord charges us to not walk in Gentile darkness but rather, to walk in Christian light. We considered that the person of the Lord Jesus and his gospel are opposed to iniquity, and how in the person of Christ lies all power, the only power that there is to put off and mortify the deeds of the body. We considered this great theme of the Christian life, which has two parts—that of putting off the old man, and that of putting on the new.
Truly there is much to absorb within those verses. And partly because of how much there is to absorb, I want to intentionally slow down this morning, and bring to you a concrete instance that has to do with putting away lying. I want, in fact, to slow down to the point where we will just consider the putting off, and then Lord-willing next week consider what we are to put on to the contrary. The reason I want to do so is because this matter of mortifying sin by the Spirit and drawing by faith from Christ, is a spiritual mystery that is contrary to our natural way of thinking about how sin should be mortified—and so it bears repetition. Also, we tend to be more affected by things that are concrete and specific than by things that are general.
When you hear “put off the old man and put on the new,” you might wonder, what does that mean? So here we come to a specific divine injunction to “put away lying.” It’s interesting—this is the very first particular thing that the apostle names, when he speaks of putting off the old man. When he was speaking of the unbelieving Gentiles, we noticed how much he emphasizes their vanity, their blindness, their darkened understanding, their absolute absence of truth within. And the new man by contrast is said to be “after God created in righteousness and true holiness.” So the last word in verse 24 is that of truth. And so, there’s a natural progression to why he now commands us to put away lying.
We were considering last time that the Lord commands us to put off the old man—why is the body of sin called an “old man”? That’s because of Adam, the First Man. And it’s through Adam that the old man has been propagated to us. He’s called a man because it’s not just one member or another, but a completebody of sin. It’s sobering to consider this, but how was the old man “begotten,” if you will? The seed by which the old man was begotten was a lie. You remember in the garden, how the Tempter told a lie, a lie first of all about the word of God: “Yea hath God said?” And also, a lie about God’s character: “God knows when you eat your eyes will be opened and you will become as gods.” The world is the way that it is, as Martyn-Lloyd Jones rightly said, because of a lie. And that gives a priority, a kind of zeal, to the spirit of a Christian, whereby he is determined in some sense as the first order of business, to put away lying.
So what truth is God teaching us this morning, even simply in the first few words of verse 25? Through his knowledge off and abiding in Christ by faith, that the believer must put off and mortify all lying. I want to do several things to unfold that.
The first will be to give you the EXPLANATION of this duty.
What does it mean “ Wherefore putting away lying”? Let me give you some things that are not lying. So for instance, a just concealment [of the truth] should not be accounted lying. There are concealments that would be unjust, as for instance if a lawful authority demands to know certain things that are within the purview of his oversight of us, then we are required to disclose; but especially when it comes to enemies. We are not under obligation to tell them everything we know. So Samuel is told by the Lord to go and anoint David, and he says “but Saul will kill me if he finds out.” The Lord tells him, “bring a sacrifice with you and say that you’re going to offer a sacrifice.” And so he did, and when he said, “I’m here to offer sacrifice,” it was the truth. It wasn’t everything that Samuel knew, but Samuel was not under obligation, particularly in view of danger. He had no obligation to say everything. So it shouldn’t be accounted as lying when there is a just concealment of information.
Likewise, one who makes an expression of their sincere future intention should not be accounted as lying. Like the angels who came to Lot, and Lot says, “Come into my house,” and they say “No, we will stay in the street,” and he insists and they come in. We shouldn’t say they lied when they said they were going to sleep in the street. We shouldn’t say that Paul lied when he told the Corinthians, “I’m going to come visit you,” but then later he said “I’m not coming to visit now because I’m going to spare you all the difficult things I’d have to deal with if I came right now.” So, we should apply that standard to others. If they’re sincerely expressing their future intent, oftentimes that is with the understanding “barring some unforeseen circumstance” I will do this or the other. So we shouldn’t account that to be lying.
We shouldn’t account it to be lying if an allegory is employed or a parable. Even as our Lord Jesus did, in which the letter of the allegory or parable is nonfactual, but yet the sense inculcated is in fact the truth. Also there is some place for the use of irony. For instance Elijah to the priests of Baal, as they’re calling on Baal: “Cry aloud, for he is a god, maybe he’s asleep and you need to wake him up.” And so taken strictly according to the letter, Elijah said the opposite of the truth, Baal is not a god; but Elijah actually promoted the truth by saying the opposite. And it was obvious that this was his intent, and so on. So a proper use of irony should not be counted as lying.
That said, what is God telling us to put away? What is a lie? Or, as we could also render this, a “falsehood.” And notice that he tells us, “Putting away lying, speak every man truth to his neighbor.” So God’s requirement is that we absolutely eliminate untrue content from our speech, that what we speak not be false. And there are two big categories of lies. The first is the mental lie, in which the tongue doesn’t agree with the heart. The heart thinks one thing and the tongue says another. There is, however, another category of lie, the Bible calls it a lie. The material lie, which is not that there’s a discord between what is thought or believed and what is said, but there is a discord between what is said and what is factual. So that this material lie may be a sincere lie, but it is still a lie. The Lord tells the Ephesian church, Revelation 2 that they had “tried those who said they were apostles, and who are not, and had found them liars.” Now there cannot be any conceivable process, that I can think of, in a church court where you could—apart from someone saying, “I said X but I really thought the opposite of X,”—the only thing that could be demonstrated by evidence would be the material lie. That when they said “We’re apostles,” they were lying—they might have really thought that they were apostles, but rather the facts and the evidence demonstrate that what they said was false and therefore a lie.
Now here’s why I’m insisting on this. There’s a danger today that you might let this all sail over your head and say, “Why insist on this? Why do I need to be told to put away lying?” You may have overlooked the importance of this second category of lies, the material lie. The best of men in this life has a huge reservoir of remaining ignorance. There is a lot of stuff you do not know, and there are remaining errors in your heart and mind. Those remaining errors and ignorance stand ready at any moment to betray you into lying. Until you can say, “I know all truth perfectly and have no errors remaining within”—until you can say that, you cannot say, “I am past the need actively and daily to put off lying.”
Other categories of lies: what God is forbidding here includes both the pernicious lie and the officious lie. Pernicious—that’s obvious, a lie told with a malicious intent to harm someone. But God is also forbidding us the officious lie, the so-called dutiful or charitable lie. The reason why I believe that God forbids us the officious lie is because he simply says, without any limitation, “Putting away lying (falsehood).” What’s evil in its nature cannot be amended by its supposed end or purpose. We would not reason in other cases that something that is repugnant to the nature of God in and of itself, like a falsehood is, is justifiable by its intent. So we would not say, there’s a need to publish Bibles, so therefore we will steal someone’s money in order to publish Bibles. Don’t you know how important its is to have Bibles? Their souls could be ruined if they don’t have Bibles, and so we’ll steal money. Obviously we wouldn’t reason that way. And also if we look at history, we could see how much David’s lies to Achish got him in trouble. Then he sent Hushai, who made false statements to Absalom—but what trouble could have followed from that, if Hushai’s advice had been followed in such a way that David would have been killed by the large army that Hushai told Absalom to amass and go after David? So for these reasons the Lord tells us also to put off the so called officious or dutiful lie.
But now that we understand what is a lie, what is it to put it off? That’s God’s command: “wherefore putting away lying.” Now God tells you to put away lying as lying. To put it away because it is sinful before God. He does not say, put away the consequences of lying or shame of lying. All of us are influenced by that—praise the Lord, that there’s a kind of shame attached to lying. We would be embarrassed to be found out in a lie. But God says put it away as lying, as sin before God. Not only put away the act of lying but also the lust of lying. Because, notice in this whole section how he’s telling us that the thing that we need to do is put off the old man, that is the body of sin that remains within, the corruption that remains within. Suppose a dam has leaks—we need to not only put our thumbs in the holes in the dam— we need to not only stop the outflowing of this or that act of lying—but we need to dry up the fountain itself, kill the old man.
What member of the old man are we talking about? Lying is the tongue of the old man. We need to not rest from our warfare until we have laid the axe to the root of the tress and we have mortified the lust of lying. This is an act of the whole man, an act of the tongue which is the outward member by which the lie could be told. But also, the mind needs to be involved in putting away lying, so that falsehoods are not contemplated or remain in the fancy and imagination, but rather, what the mind holds on to and meditates upon is truth, truth, truth. The lying needs to be put away with the will, that God calls you to refuse the evil. This is the Christian’s way, the believer’s way of putting off lying. And it’s different from what appears to be mortification in something that an unregenerate man would do, in which his will still loves lying, and his will is still pleased with lying, but his conscience comes and lashes him and stings him. So in his will he loves falsehood, but he dares not step very far along the path of outwardly telling falsehoods because of his conscience and his sense of the anger and wrath of God against liars. You see the Christian is different from that—he puts away lying with his will. He refuses lying and hates it as sin, he puts it off with his affections. He hates and despises it. When Job came to his lowest point of humiliation, when he said “Wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes,” what was he repenting for? “Because I’ve spoken words without knowledge.” He spoke what wasn’t true, and he abhorred himself for the lying lust that expressed itself in his ignorant words. That’s what God calls you to—put off lying.That’s an explanation of the duty.
Next consider the DIFFICULTY of this duty.
This is a hard duty, putting away lying. You can see that it’s difficult by looking at the world and the people around us. If we were to ask someone on the street, “Do you think a liar is a despicable person?” Ten out of ten would say yes, a liar is a despicable person. However, the world runs on lying. Half-truths, play-acting and show—everyone says they hate lying but everyone’s doing it, apart from the grace of God. That demonstrates for us that the light of nature is quite clear on this point—the purpose for which God has given you a tongue and mouth is so you might speak what is true. Otherwise we may as well grunt and groan like animals. Why should we have lips if not to speak what is true? So everyone understands that at some level but yet it goes no distance at all towards making the world a truthful place. That shows us this is hard, this is a gospel duty. This is what can only be done by the Sprit of God.
Another manifestation that this is difficult is that most professed Christians, or many, are ignorant of how much work they need to do in this area. To hear a sermon to saints, to brethren in the Lord, chosen by God before the foundation of the world, the ones to whom Ephesians is written—to hear a sermon that you have a continual duty to be putting away lying, I fear there are many who would say, “What? Not me, I’ve conquered this one, I don’t have work in this area, that’s for someone else.” However, just to meet that head on, let me tell you this. If you say “I don’t have much work to do” and “This is for someone else,” my friend, you have just told a lie. You are a liar, if that’s what you say. Because what you are saying isn’t true. God says, you saints, you’ve got work to do. Here’s what I want you to do, put away lying. And the truthful man begins by saying, “Yes, Lord. I have work to do. And I will by thy grace do this work.”
Let me illustrate it for you more. Why is it that you have so much work to do? Continual work to do? It is because the old man is still there in the believer. The old man, a fully formed body of sin with a multitude of members, a multitude of strong lusts that are ready at any moment to betray into a lie, is there within—though crucified in Christ, and we’ll consider this. But there is remaining in the believer a proud lust. Your proud lust stands ready at any moment to betray you into lying. When you are telling a story, your proud lust will whisper within and say, “Put that touch of exaggeration on the story to get more attention unto yourself.” And you have just lied, if you obey the proud lust. There is a covetous lust that wants to grab, take hold of, and hoard. When you enter into bargaining and buying, selling and dealing as we must do in this world, the covetous lust will come and say about the thing you’re selling, “Exaggerate its value a little bit.” Or when you’re buying something: “Portray yourself as poor, poorer than you are. Twist the story a little bit to get buyer to come down on the price. Say, ‘You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve lost this and that.’” The covetous lust betrayed you into lying. There’s an angry lust within that gets heated up and flows from the proud lust. This angry lust is ready to betray you into lying. In the heat of friction, the angry lust will tempt you to overreach the mark of truth. Because you want to hit someone, you will push words farther than truth will warrant, and you’ve just lied. There is a fearful lust within, because the saint is not yet perfected in the fear of God. If we were perfected in the fear of God, we would have less temptation of lying. But Sarah lied through fear. The Lord came to her tent and said, “Sarah will have a child at the time of life,” and she laughed. But then, when the Lord said, “Why did Sarah laugh?” she denied because she was afraid. She didn’t want to be found out, and just as quick as that, she told a lie. This woman who is commended to us as, “by faith Sarah received strength to conceive seed,” and “Sarah, whose daughters you are as long as you do well and are not afraid with any amazement.” A holy woman betrayed into a lie at the blink of an eye, by her fearful lust.
There is a vain lust within, whereby the mind is filled up with a whole lot of nothing and hot air. We know that there is a vain lust because people speak idle words. The Lord Jesus has said that we’ll answer for every idle word that we speak. And where words are many, sin is not wanting. And so it would be just on God’s part to hand over him that speaks idle words into speaking lying words. His words are about nothing and nothing, and then before he knows it, he has told a falsehood amidst all the other nothingnesses that he’s speaking. There is a lust of enmity whereby this lust tempts us to blacken the name of our enemy. There is a man-pleasing lust that’s ready to betray you into a lie. Hosea 7 says, they make princes glad with their lies. That desire that you have to look on someone else’s face, and see a ring of faces around you, for people to be pleased with you, smile at you and laugh and accept you, can betray you just as quick as that, into saying something that isn’t true, to please them.
You have, in fact, in this one divine commandment to put away lying, a kennel full of lusts that you need to mortify in order to carry though with what God tells you. Not only can other lusts within come and stir up the lying lust, but also the lying lust works overtime to protect all the other lusts. The lying lust is like the gatekeeper of the old man, that keeps the old man from being touched because, verse 22 says that the old man is “corrupt according to the deceitful lusts.” So you bring yourself under the word of God, you’re reading something and it’s an arrow from the Lord that’s aimed at one of your inward lusts, and it looks like it’s about to strike home… but then the lying lust steps in and says, “No, that belongs to someone else, someone else is worse than I am, after all it’s only a little small thing, something else is more important to think upon and focus on. If it’s kept, it won’t disturb my peace very much, or if it does I’ll be able to get my peace back afterwards,” and before you know it there have been a thousand falsehoods the lying lust has produced, to keep the old man from being touched by the sword of the Spirit.
We have work to do putting away lying. The Lord tells us, Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things. It is the most crooked and slippery thing that there is, man’s heart. And it is allied with the tongue. The tongue is the most fluid of man’s members whereby it is the widest highway for letting forth what’s in the heart—man’s tongue. We have a deceitful heart, and the tongue is accustomed to venting what is in the deceitful heart. The tongue which is that by which God distinguished us and made us better than the creatures, the tongue which is man’s most glorious member, the tongue which is endowed with rare abilities, has become the exhaust pipe of a deceitful heart. That is man’s desperate condition. And if that accursed lying lust—if you’re going to stop it from wheedling and pleading and evading and excusing and inflating and dodging, you’re going to have to kill it. “Mortify the deeds of the body, and you shall live.” James says that the tongue is a fire, therefore you must quench it. It is world of iniquity that you must conquer. It is an unruly evil that you must tame, and a deadly poison that you must heal. This is the work that a believer has to do.
If you’re hearing this today but you’re not in the Lord Jesus Christ, then you have all the same duty, but you haven’t yet laid hold upon the resources that I’m about to tell the believer that he has for killing this lust. You need to know that there’s no truth in you. You need to know, as sobering as it is, that you are dry wood for the lake of fire where liars will go, and you need to flee to Christ. It is not inevitable for you to stay where you are. There’s no need for you to stay where you are, because the Lord does offer you freely, for the taking, everything in his gospel that I’m about to tell the believer that he already has. So come and take what is described, take it freely. God gives liberally and upbraideth not. Come and take these things and, by their strength, mortify lying.
Thirdly, the PRACTICE of this duty of putting away lying.
To help you understand how to practice it, I want to refer to another text we read which is Romans 6:6. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Knowingthis. So how does the believer mortify sin? By knowing something. The believer mortifies sin through the truth received and rested upon by faith, which then enables him in the strength of that truth to rise up and to go make successful warfare against his lusts and sins.
Now in those simple words of Romans 6:6, there are several things implied. One of those things is a severe judgment. When it says “crucified with,” then (italics) him, it’s clearly implied crucified withChrist. The thing that we’re being told is that Jesus Christ was crucified. If it were not for the fact that Jesus Christ were crucified, no one would have any power at all to mortify any sin. Sin was not inherent in Jesus Christ, but the guilt of sin was imputed to him. So when Romans 6:6 says, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified,” notice the preposition doesn’t say in him, as if the old man had been in Christ, because it was not in Christ. He is the spotless Lamb of God, the Seed of the woman, who came without the stain of original corruption. Why then was he crucified? Not because sin was in him, but sin was on him by imputation, because he stood as our covenant head and surety, liable and responsible for the penalty of the sins of his people. And so when Christ was crucified, it was together with that crucifying of Christ that the merit and virtue was provided whereby the old man should be crucified—so that when Christ was crucified with sin on him, then our old man was crucified with him; together with that action, the virtue and power was secured for mortifying the deeds of the body.
Now Isaiah, when he tells us in that wonderful chapter about Christ and him crucified, in the 53rd of Isaiah, you know one thing that he says about the Savior when he sums up the innocence and sinlessness of Jesus Christ—he says two things about that: “though he had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in his mouth.” Completely spotless because he had done no wronging, no violence with his hands, and because his mouth was spotless from any lie. This is the one who was crucified, and we ought to think upon that—that Jesus Christ, the innocent and sinless one was crucified, that God spared him not. So take your first look at the cross and see how much a holy God hates lying. We were singing that “God cuts off them that liars be.” That is an assured truth because even the beloved son of God, when sin was imputed to him, including the sins of the lies of his people, he was cut off. God was far from him, he was cut off out of the land of the living. If you want to see how contrary to the holy nature of God lying is, then take a look at the cross. The first look at the cross teaches you that.
But then there’s a second look at the cross. You see now, we’re understanding it’s only the believer in Christ that can mortify sin—because the believer in Christ looks at the cross and he’s sees that now my curse and my damnation for the lies that my mouth has told, is gone from me. No more can I be cut off by the curse of God, because this innocent and spotless One was crucified. The strength of sin is the law, Paul says. The law and its curse cannot cut me off from the life of God. The believer triumphs in this knowledge. The severity of the penalty upon Christ tells the believer this. So there is a severe penalty, a severe judgment—Christ was crucified. But notice Romans 6, because it says, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him.” So Christ’s crucifixion is the thing that brought something else about, and what is that something else? That is that our old man is crucified. Now this is a mystery that we need to receive by faith. And what does that mean? Well the old man that we’ve been speaking of with all his members still indwelling the believer is there in the believer, but he is in a state of crucifixion. The old man is crucified. And just as Jesus Christ died a painful and lingering death on the cross, so the old man in the believer dies, and dies, and dies a painful and lingering death. Our old man is crucified. So if we think of this, a man who is crucified begins to cry—he gasps—he asks to be relieved. “Let me come down, I don’t deserve this!” He’s very vigorous, he’s crying with everything in him for life—he’s struggling for breath, and that’s what the lusts of the old man are like. The believer sets his face to say, “I am going to put off lying,” and the old man says, “No, you can’t do this to me! I’ve been here too long, you need to let me live.” But the believer needs to reckon and say, “No. I know that you are crucified, and O lying lust, you are the tongue of the old man—but you are crucified. You must hang until you die. You must hang, just like my dear Savior for me did hang under the hot sun, until his strength was dried up like a potsherd, and until his innocent tongue did cleave unto his jaws. O lying lust, you must die. You are crucified. If you say, ‘I thirst,’ I will give you nothing but vinegar. As my dear Savior was brought to the dust of death, so I look upon you, O lust, and I pity you not. You must die. You are crucified.”
And this is a protracted struggle. The old man is there in the Christian. And he needs, all the time, to be put off and put off—he’s there, but he’s there in a state of crucifixion. He is growing weaker. There’s a protracted struggle implied. There’s also an eventual destruction of the old man. Again Romans 6:6, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed.” Christ’s accomplishment at the cross must have its appointed end. And what is the appointed end of the cross of Christ? Not only pardon of sin, but also, the destruction, the absolute destruction of the body of sin. When is this accomplished? There’s a protracted struggle all through the life in which the old man dies a lingering death, but there’s an eventual and complete victory. This takes place partly at death, in which “the souls of believers made perfect in holiness do immediately pass into glory and their bodies still united to Christ do rest in their graves” (WSC Q.37).
And so at death, the believer gets a complete victory over the lying lust and every other lust. He goes perfect into the immediate presence of God in his soul. And his body—yes, his sin-defiled body—yes, his unclean lips—yes, his tongue, that had by the grace of God began in this life to speak truth (he got victories over lying, praise the Lord), yet that tongue that he did defile by telling lies, goes into the grave. It needs to consume in the grave, indeed rot in the grave. The vile body shall pass away into dust until no more trace or resemblance of the old man be found upon it anymore. And then there’s another stage of the destruction of the body of sin, which is at the resurrection. Then, our Savior comes from heaven and raises up his own. As surely as Christ is already risen from the grave, as his public vindication from every charge that was laid upon him—he was publicly cleared from every charge of the guilt of sin in his resurrection from the death—so surely shall the believer arise in his likeness, now clear from the inherent corruption of sin. The tongue of the believer shall surely be his glory to all eternity. His tongue shall resound with the high praises of God. He shall praise God as freely and fully as if he had never spoken a falsehood. Think of that—a clean-mouthed choir singing the high praises of God with all abandon, yes, using the very tongues that the Lord shall raise up and renew and glorify! There will be no more poison of asps, not even a hint shall be under the lips of the Christian anymore in that day. This hope, it purifies the Christian. The Christian says, I know that my old man is crucified with him that the body of sin might be destroyed, that the crucifying of the old man shall have its end. My lusts within the old man shall be destroyed one day, and in that hope the believer presses on.
But there’s more isn’t there? In Romans 6:6 there’s something that is now present—“the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Here is the position of the believer presently. The believer has the old man still within, constantly needing to be put off. The old man is in a state of crucifixion, dying a lingering death, and he has the hope that it will one day be utterly destroyed. As he waits for that hope to be accomplished, how then does he live? God forbid that he should say, because such a thing will happen in the future, that I’ll be free from corruption of sin, let me give the reins to sin, to live now in sin—God forbid! The Christian does not think that way. That is a falsehood. He is living a lie who thinks that. No, the Christian thinks this, he says, “Presently and now I am not the servant of sin. Christ is the Redeemer of my tongue and the Lord of my tongue. Sin at times may overtake me and beguile me, and I may be overtaken in a fault, even such a grievous fault—David as a believer was—of lying. Yet with all my heart I do hate and abhor lying.” The believer hates lying with all his heart. The unbeliever would do it if he could, but he is restrained by shame and the stings of conscience. But the believer says, “I am Christ’s freeman,” and the more clearly he sees this the better. “I am not under any debt or obligation to go back to my old ways. I am not the slave of my lying lust. I will walk at liberty because I belong to the Lord. However much there may be old habits, long established, I am Christ’s freeman.”
And then the Christian uses the means of liberty from this lying lust. Chiefly, God has given his Word of truth as a means of mortifying and putting off lying. So we can recognize a Christian that way. How do we know if someone is intent in putting off lying? Because he is intent upon the Word of truth—devouring it, understanding it, meditating upon it, bringing it forth upon his lips. We can tell, because he is going forward and speaking the truth. What is the Christian man’s attitude toward the Word of truth? That’s the means whereby he puts off lying. The Christian exercises himself in reading the Word of God. At some basic level, he decides that he is going to fill his head with the Word of God, and he fears, “Lest my head be filled with vanity and emptiness, I end up by the vanity of my mind speaking idle words and wandering into lying. Because I’m determined that I will not do that, therefore I fill my mind with the Word of God and the truth of God. Because I am determined that I’m in danger, if left to myself, of speaking out of the errors of my mind, therefore I am determined I will immerse and saturate myself in the Word of God, asking him to rout out and destroy my errors so that my mind might be filled with truth in hearing the Word of God.” The believer comes under the preaching of the Word of God as that sharp two-edged sword, knowing that this is the thing that is appointed by God to be the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and divide between soul and spirit. He comes to the Word of God and wants to be searched. He says, “Search me O God, and see if there be any wicked way in me.” He wants the preaching of the Word to touch him as close to the quick as possible, because he wants to spew out the lying lust when it is exposed by the Word of God. He sings the Word of God, like the Apostle tells us to, in this very epistle in chapter 5, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” He saturates himself, he’s thankful God has given him a book of songs that is true in every part, entirely inspired—it is the production of the Holy Spirit, and therefore he has it upon his lips, singing it so that he might not be betrayed into lying. The believer meditates upon the Word lets it soak into his bones. He watches against temptation by using the Word of truth. “By what means shall a young man learn his way to purify? If he according to thy Word thereto attentive be.” The believer says, “I am determined that I won’t be caught off my watch, I am determined that I won’t be betrayed into speaking untruth and so I will think upon, use the word of God to help me discern, what are the ways that temptation has overtaken me in the past, what are my vulnerable places,” and he watches over his ways using the Word of God. And in this way he puts off lying by a preventive watching against temptation.
We’ve seen the explanation of this duty, the difficulty, the practice by drawing all from Christ and him crucified, and we’ve seen something of how that works out in the means. Let me briefly stress the IMPORTANT CONNECTION of this duty of putting away lying, and we’ll come back next week.
“Speak every man truth to this neighbor for we are members one of another.” And so this whole matter of putting away lying is a preparative unto speaking the truth. We can readily recognize, for instance, in a marriage, if even one lie were to be spoken from husband to wife or vice versa, how much that would damage the truth and the unity of the marriage. It’s like that in the church. We’re members one of another—we’re supposed to be bound together by love, so as to be able to edify each other by speaking the truth. If we speak untruth, we are severing the members. How can we mutually trust and edify each other? Therefore this is a reason to put away lying, for we are members one of another. The Lord has given us, I trust, something each one to practice, and may He cause his word to bear fruit in us. Amen.
O Lord our God, and Father in heaven, we confess that even when we lift up our voice to Thee to pray, we dare not trust our own heart or that slippery member the tongue. When we hear the sound of our own voice, O Lord, we pray, help us to search ourselves. Keep us even in our acts of devotion from being false and from putting on a front. O deliver us, by the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. We ask that the Word would bear fruit. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
It is likely that in a recent trip to the grocery store or the gas station, you have noticed rising prices. Or perhaps you have read about the UGA scientist who found a gene in bacteria in our sewer water here in Georgia that could migrate to other bacteria and make them resistant to the last-ditch antibiotic, Colistin. You may be concerned about yourself or a loved one getting sick with covid. Has your small business weakened or failed due to covid restrictions, or have you been forced to miss work and pay after getting sick?
These are some of the realities of life today. Do they make you anxious? Perhaps you are anxiously searching for ways to relieve your anxiety. You may have tried some of the strategies in the image above, or turned to a medication. As a Christian minister, I would like to offer a different answer to the problem of anxiety by telling you about five things.
God. God is a most perfect, blessed, and boundless spirit who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Unto this God David said, “Thou art good, and doest good.” (Psalm 119:68) James said that he is “The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) Man’s problem is that he has revolted from God: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) When man tries to live upon the creature rather than the Creator, he finds that any created thing will give way like a rotten bridge when he trusts upon it. This causes anxiety.
Sin. In the beginning God made man holy, innocent, sinless. He also blessed man and granted him the use of the created things to sustain him in his service to God: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed …” (Genesis 1:28-29) But now, our first father Adam has sinned against God, and has brought us with him under God’s curse. Men must labor by the sweat of their brow to get bread, and women must bring forth children in sorrow. In the end, we must all die and return to dust. (Genesis 3) Therefore, your anxiety is telling you something true. How can man be easy and happy when God is angry with him for his sin? How can man be at peace in the world when he is not at peace with God? Understanding sin is an important clue to finding an answer to the problem of anxiety.
Christ. God, in love, sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world. The diseased and demon-possessed flocked unto him, and he compassionately healed them. Matthew wrote that in doing so he fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” (8:17) Yet, how could he remove sicknesses from people when God’s justice still demanded that man, for sin, be bowed down with troubles and return to the grave? The answer is that the Lord Jesus did not simply come to pluck off a few of the bitter leaves from the weed of human misery, but he came to pluck up the root of this plant, which is sin. This he did by bearing in his own person, as the sinless God-man, the wrath and curse of God for sin in his death on the cross. When he had done this, he said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
Repentance and faith. What must you do, then? The Lord Jesus preached: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Repentance is turning from sin unto God. Repentance is necessary because God commands it, because the pardon of sins could never be sweet without it, and because it is a God-given remedy for man’s malady, sin. God promises that he will pardon every one who repents: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) God also commands men to believe the gospel, and truly, no one ever repented without also believing the gospel promise of pardon.
God has taken great pains to show man how willing he is to pardon freely all the sins of the turning, repenting sinner. He says that however great the sinner’s sins are, or however high the sinner’s doubts and fears loom, his thoughts of pardon are higher: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:7-9)
However, man is by nature very antagonistic toward the thought of receiving pardon by faith, or believing, because he is always wanting to put his own works in the place of that faith that God requires as the only means of obtaining forgiveness. Therefore he hesitates to believe the promise of pardon until he thinks he has some goodness of his own to show. But God is jealous for the glory of his free grace, and insists: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5)
Adoption. The one who believes the gospel is blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. One of these blessings is adoption, and this particular gospel benefit is a mighty, invincible antidote to anxiety. A Christian can only become anxious by losing sight of his adoption. He who believes the gospel can call God his own Father. He can expect to be pitied, protected, and provided for by God. He can say, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1) His God and Father will turn all his adversities into blessings that increase his holiness and draw him closer to his home in heaven. God cares for his adopted sons in the bosom of his church, where he feeds them the milk of his Word to make them grow up unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, his only-begotten Son.
What anxious soul can possibly refuse such gracious offers? Where else will you go other than to Christ, who does not have a medication or technique that might possibly help you with your problem, but who has the words of eternal life? “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
As the group from our church recently stood outside the Planned Parenthood center and watched woman after woman enter, it was painful to realize that the Word of God had so much to say to them, and that we had such little opportunity to say it.
As the unwilling mothers took a dozen or so steps from their cars to the doorway of that place of death, we hurriedly called out to them phrases like:
“Don’t hurt your baby,” or “Come and talk it over,” or “Come see the ultrasound pictures of my own baby.”
Rev. Warren Gardner spoke from Leviticus 20:1-5 about the sobering truth that God himself will take vengeance against those who give their children to Molech and who do not repent.
While we stood speaking to women entering the clinic, there was a Planned Parenthood worker standing on the sidewalk to escort them inside and away from the pleading words of truth that we were speaking. Since this woman, the doorkeeper, was outside the whole time that we were there, I watched her and pondered what she was doing. The words of David came to mind: “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10)
I spoke across the parking lot to the doorkeeper at this place of death to tell her that it is a sweet and wonderful thing to be a doorkeeper in the house of God, to keep out all that is unfit for the presence of God, but to welcome in penitent sinners into the blessed presence of God. However, it is a fearful thing to be a doorkeeper for the tents of wickedness, upon which the judgment of the Lord will fall when he comes again.
Does Abortion Give True Liberty?
When we arrived just before the abortion center opened, there was a couple getting out of their vehicle to head toward the door. I called out to them in the words of Reuben when he was pleading against the plot to murder young Joseph: “Do not sin against the child.” (Genesis 42:22) The man responded angrily, which was difficult for me. However, this same couple came back through the door a little while later to smoke on the sidewalk. I called out to them and quoted Genesis 49:21, “Naphtali is a hind [deer] let loose: he giveth goodly words.”
Having recently heard a helpful sermon on this text by one of our denomination’s ministers, I used the text to describe the believer’s freedom from the guilt and power of sin and to ask this couple whether abortion can give true liberty. No, indeed, it cannot. It is a sin that entangles the one who commits it in a thicket of guilt, just like Naphtali was entangled in guilt for those long years during which his part in the sin against Joseph went unconfessed. True liberty is found in turning from sins committed and sins intended unto Christ!
Speaking “Goodly Words” About the Saviour
An abortion center is one of the “lurking places of the villages” (Psalm 10:8) where lions lie in wait to catch the poor and make the poor fall by their strong ones (verses 9 and 10). Inside of an abortion center, parents and doctors agree together to employ poisons and knives against the lives of helpless infants, while rulers and judges fail to stop the bloodshed. This is an unfair fight. We should speak out against it. Some might consider it too aggressive to call upon strangers to repent.
However, the call to repentance is also a call to liberty! An abortion center is a fitting place for the Lord’s people, as “Napthalites,” to be present speaking “goodly words” about the liberty that is to be found only in turning from sin and turning to Christ.
We want our neighbors to be as hinds let loose! We want their young endangered children in the womb to be like hinds let loose, rejoicing and perhaps in time learning to praise God for delivering them!
Lord willing, members and friends of Reformation Presbyterian Church plan to conduct a Gospel-centered pro-life ministry at abortion facilities in the metro Atlanta area on a monthly basis. For more information or to attend, please contact us at 770.789.7001.
-Pastor Brent Evans, Reformation Presbyterian Church, September 2018