“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Today we are going to be looking at the Ninth Commandment. Let’s go to Exodus chapter 20 and read it. It is very brief. Let’s go to Exodus chapter 20, verse 16. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” It is a very simple, straight-forward commandment, but when you reflect on it and meditate on it, it is actually extremely deep. It wouldn’t be one of the commandments if it wasn’t. There is tremendous meaning beneath the surface of those words.
OUR NEIGHBOR INCLUDES EVERYONE
I want to start with a question, who is our neighbor, because it says, you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor? That word “neighbor” in the Hebrew is reya (#7453, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), which means associate. It is translated in other places in the Bible as brother, companion, fellow, friend, husband, lover, or neighbor. So, reya, the word for neighbor, has the basic meaning of associate, but it’s a brother, companion, fellow, friend, husband, lover, or neighbor. It is translated all those ways in the Bible. It comes from the Hebrew word raah (#7462, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), which means to tend the flock, to pasture it, to graze it, and to associate with it. Now you see already this is getting very broad. It is going to have a lot of spiritual intent behind it, which is the way Christ meant it to be.
Christ was the author of the Ten Commandments, and in Luke 10 He defined neighbor for us through a story. Let’s go to Luke chapter 10. Of course this is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Luke chapter 10, beginning in verse 25: “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying [to Christ], ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What is your reading of it?’ So he answered and said, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all our strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’ But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
Continuing in verse 30 of Luke 10: “Then Jesus answered and said, ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
When we put this parable together with the full definition of neighbor from the Ninth Commandment, we can see why Christ chose this story and why He talked about a priest and Levite not helping the man who had fallen among thieves and was beaten almost to death. The Pharisees were asking this question and trying to test Christ with the religious elites of their day. Many were priests and Levites and teachers. The people in their care were the flock. They were told in the Ninth Commandment to pasture the flock, to graze it, to care for the sheep, and certainly do nothing to bear false witness against the sheep.
FALSE WITNESS IS A DECEIVER
When we look at the words “false witness,” we find that there is the key to understanding the Ninth Commandment, now that we know who the neighbor is. The word “false” here is sheqer (#8267, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), which means an untruth, by implication a sham. It is translated in other places as deceitful, a falsehood, and a liar. It comes from the Hebrew word shaqar (#8266, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), which means to cheat; by example to be untrue, usually in words. It is translated in other places as dealing falsely and lying. Now we see a sham is a false presentation of whatever a person is using to try to pull the wool over the other person’s eyes. It is a lie, a falsehood, an untruth.
“Witness” is a very interesting word throughout the Bible. Witness here is ed (#5707, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), which means to be a witness, testimony, specifically a recorder. In other words, a recorder of the truth. It comes from the word uwd (#5749, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), which means to duplicate or repeat, by implication to protest or testify as by reiteration, to encompass and restore. You are listening to something that you repeat and you teach from and you try to duplicate in your own life, which of course is the Ten Commandments. The Ninth Commandment being, Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor. Therefore a false witness is one who cheats or deceives or lies to or about anyone with whom they had an association—even, according to Christ, a total stranger.
According to Christ and His definition of neighbor we find that the Hebrew word raah (#7462, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), the most serious bearing of false witness would be against your brethren. That’s why He chose that story with the priests and the Levites. They were those who were in responsible positions to teach and care for the flock. He used that example as the premier example of bearing false witness, and He said it to the Pharisees. That He did because He was trying to demonstrate the seriousness of not telling the truth about God’s way of life, and specifically the Ten Commandments.
A WITNESS TO THE COMMANDMENTS
The word “witness” in the New Testament is replete. We have done studies on witness, the two witnesses, and what it means to be a witness, so we’re not going to go into all that today. Let’s just look at a few Scriptures. Revelation chapter 3, verse 14: “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God…”
Jesus Christ was the One who uttered the Book of Revelation to John. By going through the first chapter, we can see that He is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, and He gave the words to John. He is the Faithful and the True Witness. This word witness is martus (#3144, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), which, you guessed it, can mean martyr, or a witness judicially. In other words, what do you judge from? You judge from the Ten Commandments. He was a witness to the Ten Commandments. We can see that by going to the gospel of John. I am looking at chapter 5 of John where Christ says this in John chapter 5, verse 31: “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth.”
John bore witness to who Jesus Christ was, who is the faithful and the true witness.
Go over to John chapter 8, verse 18: “I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.”
He says, I bring My witness, and My Father does as well, as to who I am. John did as well. It is fascinating—martus, witness. As a matter of fact in John 5, the word “witness” is martureo (#3140, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) a derivative of martus (#3144, Strong’s Concordance, 1995), which means martyred, to be a witness, or to testify. Jesus Christ did all of that. It is related to the word marturion. Marturion means this: something evidential; by example evidence given; specifically the Decalogue. The Decalogue is the Ten Commandments.
The specific evidence that Jesus Christ gave us was the Ten Commandments—the law of the universe. Christ is the witness who gave evidence to the critical importance of the Ten Commandments. He said, they are good for My flock. They are food for the pasture. They are food and pasture for the sheep.
We can go back now to the gospel of Matthew chapter 5. Let’s do that. After talking about the beatitudes and the ways we should be in our character, Christ said this starting in Matthew 5, verse 13: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
He starts out after talking about the beatitudes to say, you are the light of the world. You are a light in My house. I want that light so bright that all mankind can see that you are My followers and you have the light for the world working in you. What does He go on to say in verse 17?
Continuing in Matthew 5, verse 17: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
He did not come to change a single thing about the Ten Commandments. But He is specifically speaking about the Ten Commandments, and He goes on to say so in verse 19.
Verse 19: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Here is another warning to the scribes and Pharisees who were the teachers of men, who were to uphold and teach and utilize in their life the Ten Commandments. He said, unless you have more righteousness than that, you are not even going to get into the kingdom.
The law of God—the Ten Commandments—are critically important to our salvation and for helping the whole world turn to God. His admonition here is, don’t change them, don’t tamper with them, and certainly don’t do away with them. Yet there are many Christian denominations and various groups that do exactly one or all three of those, to their peril. This is exactly like what the Pharisees were doing in their day.
A LIGHT TO THE WORLD
There are two critical points we want to draw from all of this. One: The light to the world is how we treat our fellow man. Two: The light of the world is how we tend the flock of God with the truth—with the Ten Commandments.
Christ bore witness to the Ten Commandments throughout His entire ministry. It wasn’t just Matthew 5. He said it over and over again. Let’s go to Matthew chapter 19. We will just look at a few places where He emphasizes keeping the law.
Matthew 19, verse 16: “Now behold, one came and said to Him, ‘Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?’ So He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’”
If we want eternal life, we have to keep the commandments. We have to make an attempt and do the best we can, and utilize the blood of Christ when we fall short.
Continuing in verse 18 of Matthew 19: “He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness [which is what we are talking about today],’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when the young man heard that saying, he want away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
He had one idol in His life: his money, his wealth, and his possessions, so he was breaking one of the Ten Commandments. But Jesus Christ saw some wonderful things in this young man. He said, you are doing what you said like honoring your father and your mother. You are doing all those things that you mentioned, and you could be a disciple. He was actually offering him the opportunity to follow Him! We don’t know his name, but just like we know the other apostles, he could have had his name recorded in the Bible as a follower of Christ. But he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t keep that one commandment. He loved his money and possessions too much.
The point is here, Christ said, keep the Ten Commandments if you want to enter into eternal life. Among them was don’t bear false witness.
Then in the gospel of John chapter 14, Christ says it very bluntly. We hear all the time to love the Lord and love Jesus. He says right here in verse 15 of John 14: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” It can’t get any more direct, yet apologetics or apologists, students of Scripture, and ministers and priests—the modern Levites—find a way around the law. They want to change it by doing away with the Sabbath or allowing idols in places of worship. Or they want to do away with them all together and say they are done away. It makes no sense.
As human beings we are deceived by, of course, the arch deceiver, and that is Satan, the master liar. But if we use God’s book, the Bible, the way it should be and let it speak to us, we will respect God’s commandments. We will grow because that is food for us. As His sheep, if we want to feed in His pasture, we do it by observing, learning, studying, and meditating on God’s laws.
We saw briefly there that Christ said that John was a witness to Him. Let’s go to John chapter 1. We are going to see that to be a true follower of Jesus Christ, we are to be witnesses. We are witnesses of the evidence of the Decalogue. We are going to John 1, which is a very famous set of Scriptures. We will start in verse 1.
John 1, verse 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness [martureo], to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me is preferred before, me, for He was before me.”’”
John bore witness of who Jesus Christ was, and that means he respected the Ten Commandments. Let’s go to the epistles now. John indeed was a successful witness of Jesus Christ, and we can see that right here.
John writes here in I John chapter 2, verse 3: “Now by this we know that we know Him [speaking of Christ], if we keep His commandments.”
We can know that we know Christ if we keep His commandments. That’s huge!
He goes on to say this in verse 4 of I John 2: “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
You can call that a pseudo-marturion, which means in the Greek a false witness. That’s why Christ said, he who teaches like the Pharisees and Sadducees against God’s law or doesn’t represent God’s law or says Christ came to change the Ten Commandments is saying a falsehood about something that is critical to the life of any Christian who wants eternal life—the keeping of the Ten Commandments.
Continuing in verse 5: “But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.”
We want to be part of the body of Christ. If we attempt to keep the commandments, we are showing Christ that we love Him. He will work in us, and we will grow in character. We are perfected. If we throw the law out or change it, we cannot attain anywhere near perfection because we don’t understand what the standard is. That’s how critical the law is.
Grace is another subject. That’s what saves us from our sins, because all of mankind has sinned. But to throw out the law and make no attempt to keep it is like going before a judge in the physical world after we keep breaking the law. Every now and then you read in the paper where somebody gets severely injured or killed by a person who continually gets DWIs (driving while intoxicated). If they get off the first three or four times, they get grace from the judge. Eventually they or someone else gets severely injured. Grace isn’t something to be abused. We have to follow the law. The physical examples are like that in life. Spiritually it’s the same. We must have the laws to know what we are supposed to do.
Turn to I John chapter 3, verse 21: “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.”
We want our prayers answered, so we need to be making an attempt to keep the commandments.
He concludes in verse 23: “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”
This does not say to do away with the Ten Commandments and just love each other. He says, as Christ gave the commandment. And Christ said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” You love your neighbor as yourself by keeping the commandments.
BE A TRUE WITNESS
The apostles were witnesses to Christ. Their Christian descendants, which come all the way down to our generation, are also to be witnesses of Christ (martus, marturion: witnesses to the law, the Decalogue). There are practical and spiritual applications to every one of God’s laws. We have been looking at that with each of the Ten Commandments. We need to be a true witness for Christ. We should not be a pseudo-marturion but a true witness.
We are going to look at a couple of proverbs for wisdom. Go to the Book of Proverbs, the book of wisdom. You will see now the physical things we should do with our neighbor and also the spiritual applications. We are representing Jesus Christ, His laws, and His light by how we treat our fellow man.
Proverbs chapter 6, verse 16: “These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.”
God loves His sheep, and He wants them to be a unified flock. It is by giving the sheep good food that we promote unity in the body of Christ. Those are the things God hates, and they are all based on breaking the Ten Commandments. If we keep them, we will have unity, and we will have peace.
Let’s skip over a few pages to Proverbs chapter 12, verse 15: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise. A fool’s wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame. He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness, deceit. There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health. The truthful lip shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but counselors of peace have joy. No grave trouble will overtake the righteous, but the wicked shall be filled with evil. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.”
Harsh words and a false witness in any form such as cheating, slander, deceit, and a sham are piercing. There’s that saying, “words do not harm me.” That’s not true. Words can be very, very painful. Words can lead people towards sin. A false witness can get people to believe a falsehood, which leads to harm in their lives. It is a serious thing. God wants us to take this seriously. The Ten Commandments are not to be trifled with in any way.
Proverbs chapter 14, verse 25: “A true witness delivers souls, but a deceitful witness speaks lies.”
If we want to deliver mankind from the predicament they are in, to save their soul and to bring them to salvation, we have to be a true and accurate witness of God’s Decalogue—the Ten Commandments. We need to speak of God’s grace and to show people what they need to change in their lives, so that they can love Jesus Christ and their neighbor the way they should. If we followed the Ten Commandments, we wouldn’t have the chaotic, dark world we have today. This is why I John says Christ came into a dark world and is the Light of the world. He tells us in Matthew 5 that light should shine in us, so that the whole world can find the truth.
Christ was betrayed by false witnesses. The false witnesses were gathered together among the crowd. They were deceived by those teachers that Christ had warned about. A man was on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among thieves. He was beaten half to death. The scribes, the Pharisees, the Levites, and the priests did nothing to help. Christ died between thieves and was beaten half to death before they hung Him on the cross. He was warning them not to leave Him or the truth, but they did it anyway. They incited the mob, so that they released Barabbas instead of Christ. Lies can move people to do terrible things. We see it all the time in the news. Deceit, a sham, and trickery can fool people into doing horrible things. The crowd actually wanted the murderer Barabbas released and Jesus Christ crucified. They tried to ruin His name and reputation while He walked the earth. They were constantly trying to trick Him. They told the crowd He only does miracles by Beelzebub, by Belial. The devil works these miracles! They were saying that of the Savior! We certainly don’t want to inadvertently teach people to go against God’s laws, because that’s what the Pharisees were doing by their example and their teaching. They were teaching the commandments of men rather than the commandments of God.
We need to apply the Ninth Commandment as well as the other commandments in our lives, so that the life that we have can shine for all of mankind. We do it by operating underneath the rules of the Ten Commandments in all of our associations with our neighbors whether we know them or not. All of mankind is our neighbor. It is our job to be a light to the world and to help take care of God’s flock.