Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 4:25a “Wherefore. . .”
Paul has been soaring, writing of lofty theological concepts, but now returns to mundane household duties. In his mind, the two went together. He easily shifted from the transcendent to the everyday level. Not satisfied to discuss our old man and new man in general terms, the Apostle presses ahead to delineate particular articles of clothing to put off or on. He gives specific examples of old-man rags and new-man regalia he is referring to.
Christianity is intensely practical, but some believers seek to make it totally ritualistic and formal. They want to do only “officially religious” things, such as pray, go to church, take the Lord’s Supper, etc. We are often like the nobleman who heard a preacher expound on the virtues of Christian behavior. The nobleman left the service in a huff, saying religion had gone too far when it began to meddle in our personal lives.
Paul would disagree with this. It matters little to talk of living in heavenly places if we live like worldlings. Conduct is vital. In the next few verses, Paul will provide detailed examples of how Christians should behave. Most of these illustrations are stated negatively and positively, providing a striking contrast of Christian virtues versus heathen vices, and reminding us we do not deal solely with the negative. For every article of the old man we have to put off, something of the new man is to be put on.
Eph. 4:25b “. . .putting away lying,. . .”
The Greek word “pseudo” refers to every type of falsehood, of which spoken lies are a prominent example. Paul’s admonition is to put away all pretence and sham. No sin was more typical of paganism than lying. Darius said, “When telling a lie will be profitable, let it be told.” Plato advised, “He may lie who knows how to do it in a suitable time.” Maximus Tyrius said, “There is nothing decorous in truth but when it is profitable. Yea, sometimes truth is hurtful, and lying is profitable to men.” A lie which gave self an advantage was preferred to a truth which hurt one’s situation.
Lying remains a vice deeply characteristic of heathenism. It is a way of life in many cultures. Lost people in our own country often share this attitude. Even worse, some believers do, too. “I wish that none but heathens had ever taught so loose and dangerous a doctrine” (Doddridge). We sometimes feel we can relate to the ancient philosopher who walked the streets of Athens and held up a lantern to the face of all he passed. When asked why he did this, he replied, “I am looking for an honest person.”
Lying abounds because it is part of our nature, our old man. One of the earliest vices to appear in children is deceit. Blessed be the parent who recognizes this, and deals with it quickly and decisively.
Lying abounds also because the old man convinces us it is a minor matter. The new man can never accept this premise. Dishonesty is serious business. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (PR 12:22). The story of Ananias and Sapphira was God’s way of calling the attention of early believers and ourselves to the terrible character of this particular sin.
The world is what it is because of a lie. The first sin of man was the result of a lie. Mankind fell from paradise to perdition because Eve believed Satan’s lie against God. Even liars themselves confess lying is atrocious. They deny their own lies, which in turn is another lie. They also expect others to speak the truth to them, and complain when it is not done.
Lying is awful, yet we are sometimes almost trivial and flippant about it. A statue once presented Truth as a woman with a helmet and sword. At her feet lies the conquered Slander. Even as she steps on Slander, she lifts her robe to avoid its polluting touch–a sermon in stone worth heeding.
Lying abounds also because it is difficult for us to deal with. Confronting our lies forces us to come face to face with our own real, worst selves. No sin better reveals the true essence of evil. What is the cause of all sin? Self! In no evil is self more conspicuous than in lying. Through a lie, we seek to turn circumstances to our advantage. We lie because we want to be highly thought of, be praised, be the center of attention, be important, project the image of ourselves we want people to believe. We build up the facade, put on camouflage, appearing to be something we are not.
Because lying significantly gratifies self, the old man tries to be a genius in creating ways for falsehood to be committed. Lying comes in many shapes and sizes–betraying a confidence, excessive flattery, making excuses, cheating in school, falsifying income tax returns, whispering a rumor carelessly in some corner among combustibles, breaking promises, slander, statements made to mislead, not paying debts on time.
The most heinous lies are those which bring open reproach upon God and Christianity. We are enduring the agony of watching religious charlatans drop like flies. TV preachers have fallen into disrepute, well-known pastors have come under the cloud of suspicion, Catholicism is grimacing under the sex abuse scandal being revealed against its clerics. Baptists are also sharing in these days of shame. My dad once had to kindly rebuke an evangelist whose testimony was getting more dramatic and more embellished as time went by. Just this week we learned that one of our most respected educators, a college president in one of our highly distinguished institutions of higher learning, may have embezzled as much as three million dollars from the school during his tenure. An employee of Midwestern Seminary has been released after admitting to stealing some fifteen thousand dollars from the school. Falsehood, misrepresentation, pretending to be something we’re not–these sins abound around us, and unfortunately, among us.
Brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be. Others may deem falsehood as acceptable, but the believer never has this option. We can fall into lying even as we can fall into any other sin, but it is not to be the ordinary everyday experience of a believer. Habitual lying is characteristic of the devil and his children (JN 8:44).
Eph. 4:25c “. . .speak every man truth. . .”
In this quote, taken from Zechariah 8:16, Paul gives us a positive to encourage in addition to a negative to discourage. One of the best ways to lose a negative trait is to displace it with a positive. To help us overcome lying, we need to rigorously cultivate the habit of speaking truth.
Work on speaking truth in trivial discussions of life. Beware exaggeration. Learn to be punctilious, honest even in little things. A Christian’s speech is to be adorned with candor and simplicity in all situations.
In small, informal settings we often deem it harmless to embellish stories, our intent being solely to attract attention and entertain. Even here we need to practice truth. Forming a good habit better enables us to stand when temptation hits. Be careful about seemingly harmless sins. All bad habits tend to grow. The whitest lie ever told is as black as perdition.
In every part of life, the Christian should exude truth. This is our only adequate response to being filled with God. Our Father is “a God of truth” (DT 32:4), “not a man that he should lie” (NB 23:19). It is “impossible for God to lie” (HB 6:18). Since it is a trait of God Himself, truth has an intrinsic excellence which makes it worthy of being manifest in our lives.
Honesty is the only proper form of conduct for people who are taught by Christ, “as the truth is in Jesus” (4:21). Jesus is “the truth” (JN 14:6), and the Spirit He sent to dwell within us is “the Spirit of truth” (JN 14:17), and the Word He gave us to live by “is truth” (JN 17:17).
Being in Christ placed us in the realm of right. Truth is our element. Only believers understand the facts about God, life, salvation. We must be careful to speak truth in every area of life. Falsehood is always designed to mislead, and this is the one thing believers must never do, whatever the topic. Otherwise, the lost will not believe us when we speak of God and salvation.
Does speaking the truth mean we need to tell everything we know? Absolutely not. Love often conceals matters. Some things need to be forgotten and dropped forever.
Does speaking truth mean we should be totally open, and unload all our feelings of anger and bitterness on others? No. Let God soften the hurt before you talk straightforwardly. Speak “the truth in love” (4:15).
Speaking the truth means the word of a Christian should be as good as his bond. Every syllable and action should be an expression of “truth in the inward parts” (PS 51:6). The truth we exhibit truth on the outside is an expression of the truth which resides inside.
May God make us people of integrity, and enable us to work out what He has worked in. May He give us a burning desire to be known as people of truth. Clovis Chappell used to tell a story from the frontier days. A Texas minister retired due to bad health and went to work for a wealthy farmer who trusted him. The minister was one day bringing $5000 from the bank on pay day. A passerby suddenly pointed a gun toward the man’s face and demanded the cash. The minister replied to the robber, “All I have to leave my boys is this team of mules and my good name. That good name is worth more to me than my life. Therefore, if you want this money enough to murder me, shoot. You will get it no other way.”
For the sake of our children yes, and even more for the sake of Christ, to a believer “a good name” truly “is rather to be chosen than great riches” (PR 22:1). Therefore, “putting away lying, speak every man truth.”