Why is it that you do good things? This is assuming, of course, that you do good things. But what is your motivation? Do you stumble upon them? Do you seek to please someone else, even God, by doing them? Our motivation for doing good is of utmost concern in our passage tonight as we look at Paul’s direction to speak the truth.
Lying is one of the most prevalent sins that we face on a daily basis. It is our default practice. Government officials do it. Teachers do it. Parents do it. Children do it. We have come to expect it. We don’t even have to teach it, do we? Children just somehow know that they can get around telling the truth, maybe even averting the rod.
Lying is openly and brazenly confessed in our culture. It is almost as if you are expected to lie. Lynard Skynard sings out the popular opinion: “So don't ask me no questions, and I won't tell you no lies.” Implying, if you ask questions, I will tell lies. With all this lying going on, no wonder we are so cynical! How could we trust anyone?!
Consider a recent study of high school students, where 83% of religious public school and private school students admitted to lying to their parents about something significant, verses 78% of non-religious students. What’s more, 26% of those completing the survey admitted to lying on at least 1-2 of the survey questions! Yet, some 93% of students said they were satisfied with their own character and ethics, with 77% saying that “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”
But resorting to lying is not something new to our world. Consider Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They sold a piece of property and gave a portion of it to the church, giving the impression that they were giving a larger portion of the sale price. Peter scolds Ananias, and later his wife, because they lied needlessly. There was no law as to how much they needed to give! They could have given whatever amount and had no regrets! But instead, they chose to lie, and because of their pride-full lie, they fell dead.
Lying is a pandemic in our world. It is our default practice. We’ve been doing it since the beginning of our existence. A lie was the external cause of the first sin, straight from the father of lies’ forked tongue - “You will not surely die...” We’ve been joining in and lying ever since. But in this verse that we will examine tonight, Eph. 4:25, we see that Paul calls the church to replace lying with a different default practice, speaking the truth, and gives us a helpful motivation to do it.
Vs. 25 is a simple verse to understand. It has three parts: a negative assertion, a positive assertion, and the motivation behind both assertions. Easy to understand, got it, so lets move on to the next verse. That is how we might usually approach this verse. But we must be careful not to pass over the depth of application that God the Spirit has embedded into this verse of Scripture. How could we pass over this verse! As we’ve already seen, lying is all over our lives! As those who are being remade in the image of God the Son, how can we not take advantage of this opportunity to worship God by setting our minds, our hearts, and our actions on giving Him glory through what the Spirit will do through this verse in our lives?
If you look at the context of this verse, you will see in vs. 22 and vs. 24 Paul’s commands to “put off the old self, which belongs to your former manner of life,” and to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Our verse tonight is Paul’s first example of how we should do this. And he begins with telling us what to put off.
While most of our translations interpret what we are to put off as “falsehood,” Paul says that we are to put off “the lie.” And the meaning of this command is broad. What is “the lie?”
1. “The lie” speaks to anything that might be spoken plainly or insinuated by our words or actions that are known by us not to be true. When we purposefully mislead someone away from the truth.
2. “The lie” also extends to a common form of lying, one that many of us commit, that of exaggeration. We tend to want people to pay attention to our words, so we say things like, “that was the hardest test ever!” Or, “I’ve got the meanest parents in the history of the world!” You may think these are trivial statements, but they all lead to a culture of untrustworthiness, where what we say isn’t really what we mean, and what we mean isn’t really what we say.
3. We also put on “the lie” when we withhold the truth. We may think we’re showing love by guarding someone’s feelings, when what we’re really doing is being frightened off by the possibility of confrontation - a godly, healthy confrontation that could guide them back to the cross.
4. We are also to put off the lie of unbelief. We are to stop lying about the absence of judgment when we sin. We are to stop deceiving ourselves about our innocence and our mostly-good-ness. This is the ultimate lie under which we live. The lie that there is no God, or, if there is a God, then He is more like a senile, gullible grandfather than an all-knowing, holy, just God, who will not forget or ignore our sins.
5. We are further called to put off the lie of self-sufficient attempts at gaining reconciliation to God. There is but one way by which we can be saved from God’s holy wrath against us for our sins, and that is for Jesus to have taken that wrath upon Himself at the cross, and for His perfect righteousness to be put on our account through the means of faith.
Well, we’ve seen what range of “falsehoods” Paul is including here, and so next we need to ask the question, “Why is it that we lie?” If we don’t understand why we lie, it will be near impossible to stop doing it. So why do we lie?
1. Often, we lie to keep from facing the hard actions that might need to be taken if the truth were known. “How are you doing in school, son?” “Oh, okay, I guess.” Now, you know that you just failed three straight quizzes, but it is easier at the moment to pass off confrontation until a later time, when, as experience shows us, the confrontation does not get any easier, and is usually much worse!
2. Another reason we lie is that we think we can get a better result by lying than by telling the truth. This is what we do when we cheat on our taxes. If we put down a false number, we can get more money. Or if we take information straight off the internet and insert it into a research paper to pass it off as my own thoughts. The teacher will think I’m a genius! Or when we write down false expenses on our expense reports. They’ll never know, right? The chances of me getting caught are so slim on all of these, so its worth the risk! Right? Wrong. Our materialistic culture is lying to us, and leads us to believe that if we can get what we want by lying, then it is ok! But then people are infuriated by the Bernie Madoffs of the world when they do this very thing, but it adversely affects the them.
3. But I think that a root cause of our lying is this: we really don’t understand, nor like, God’s sovereign rule over the details of our lives. Well, we like it when He brings us good things. When we read, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). We like that. But when it comes to facing the tough realities that the Lord sometimes leads us into, like having to face our authorities for wrongs we’ve done or being held accountable by a friend or spouse, we often don’t like God’s sovereign hand that led us there. So, instead of glorifying God by humbly seeking His will in our circumstances, we pridefully take charge, falling back to our default practice, what we know best, lying. We weave a story that can seemingly beat the toughest truth test. All so that we don’t have to face the tough reality in which He has put us.
And it is important to see that lying, no matter what its causes are, does effect us.
1. It causes us to rely on ourselves. We don’t like God’s providence for our circumstances, so instead of speaking truth and seeing God take care of us, even if that means our being humbled and facing discipline, we lie. And in doing so, we find our identity with the serpent in the garden, the father of lies, Satan himself. This is how sin effects us - it separates us from God, and puts us under the tutelage of the Law. But more on this a little later.
2. Lying also causes us to be cynical. We assume that since we lie about most anything, that others are lying, too. And this is deathly among the saints of God. How can we live with each other, pointing each other to Christ, if we are not telling the truth to each other? How can we respond to the kind stepping in of a brother or sister to point out sin in our lives if we don’t trust them? How can we see the Holy Spirit work in us to remake us in God’s image if we are more willing to lie to those He is useing to keep us accountable than to do the hard work of telling them the truth?
We must put off “the lie.”
We could spend a lot of time on lying, and there may be some fruit in it, but that is not what Paul does in this verse. In fact, “having put away falsehood” is a passing phrase that leads us to Paul’s main verbal phrase in this verse, “speak the truth.” And it is not by accident that this phrase is the emphasis of Paul’s exhortation. We know about lying. We know that it is wrong. And Paul has already told us in vs. 22 to put away that old manner of life! We’re done with it! Now is the time for putting on the Christ-like life that is born in us by the Holy Spirit.
And note that we are all to do this. “Speak the truth each one of you to your neighbor!” This is not for the religious elite only. This is not for adults only. This is not for the non-stressed-easy-life-plenty-of-money-smart people. It’s not only for those people who have level headed bosses, and even-tempered spouses. It is not written only to those kids who have parents who don’t care what their grades are like or whom they hang out with. This command to speak the truth is for all who are in Christ Jesus, who are putting on the new self, “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
But when that time comes, where we face the decision to lie or speak truth, what do we mean by “truth?”
1. Well, it at least means thinking and saying true things. Those things that actually line up with reality. Not embellishing a story to make yourself seem more heroic or special. Not speaking of events in a false way to make someone be on your side in a fight. And I purposefully say “thinking” and “saying” because it is not simply the saying that keeps us from being in the image of God. When we continually choose to think the wrong thing about someone, even after we have learned the truth, we lie to ourselves. And eventually, those self-lies will spill out of our mouths and hurt others. So, always seek the truth. This is why gossiping is so hurtful - often, we do not even seek the truth, we just like a good story, even when good is nowhere near what is spoken. We should always seek truth.
2. Another way that we speak the truth is by being fearful of the right things. Often, we do not speak truth because we are afraid. Afraid of the outcome. Afraid of the person to whom we’re speaking. Afraid of the loss of control. Afraid of having to face ourselves for who we really are. But all of these fears are wrong-headed! Other people did not create us! Our circumstances do not rule us! We are in control of nothing! Why would we fear these things?! If we are going to fear, let us at least fear Him who has the power to create and destroy! Let us fear the one who is truth, and with Him is no falsehood at all! Let us fear the One who died to bear the wrath of liars, who knows our sins personally as a result, and who knows each time we do not think or speak the truth! It is God in Christ who we should fear, and as a result of fearing Him, we should speak the truth!
3. And we should speak this truth in love. Vs. 15 of this chapter clearly says that love is the realm of our truth speaking. We are not to just let true facts come out of our mouths, with no aim or reason. If we are to speak truth, it is to be from a heart of love for others and for God. We don’t tell truth in order to hurt. Imagine a teenager, who feels like he or she cannot meet his or her parents expectations, and as a result, they are struggling with a lot of anger. This is a truth in their life that needs to be expressed to their parents. But the expressing of this truth could easily be done with hate and malice, rather than in love. And the parents response could be just as truthful, but show as much lack of love as their child’s communication. But as those who are being remade in the image of Christ, we must have love as our microphone when we speak truth.
4. And ultimately, we should be sure to speak truth by saying whatever we say all for the glory of God. It is this desire that should tenor all of our communication. Our chief end, our main purpose in life, is to glorify and enjoy Him forever. And this purpose extends to our speech, as well. When we speak, the gospel should be on our tongues, not only going through the different truths of the gospel, but also in how we discuss truths. Are we overly focused on the truth of failings in someone else’s life, to the degree that we lose sight of what God may be doing in them? To the degree that we derive more joy from speaking of the truth of their sin than in extending grace to them and calling them to repentance? Are we so focused on the truth of their sin that we’ve lost sight of our own?
God has put us in relationship with everyone we are around on a daily basis for the purpose of bringing Him glory. The random person you meet in the grocery store - not random, but an opportunity to speak truth. The person you “happened” to sit next to tonight was divinely appointed for you as an opportunity to speak truth in love to them. Your family that gets on your last nerve, or your coworker that struggles so much that you don’t know how to approach him - they are all in your life for a single purpose, for you to glorify God by speaking to them the truth in love.
But now let’s step back and see the reason that speaking the truth is important. There are two motivations that we might be seek to speak truth.
One way to approach truth is through the Old Covenant law. It is a negative approach. “You shall not bear false-witness against your neighbor.” Now, as we’ve been studying in Galatians, the Old Testament Law had a purpose, and its purpose was to kill you, to bind you, to wrestle you down so that you have no recourse but look to the only non-bound person that ever was, Jesus. The Law shuts you up to your sin. You were not meant to escape it, nor could you. It was to drive you to the cross where true righteousness could be found.
And I bring up this approach of Law only to point out that Paul doesn’t turn to Law to argue his point of why we should speak the truth and put away falsehood. He doesn’t even come close. Instead, he goes another, more helpful and gospel saturated direction for why we are to speak the truth.
Instead of Law, Paul points to a truth that he has already brought out in this epistle: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Consider Paul’s words in 4:1-6. And 4:15-16. Or consider Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in 12:12-14, 25-27. Paul’s metaphor, that by union with Christ we are each members of the body of Christ, drives his reasoning as to why we are to speak truth to one another.
We are to speak truth because we each are a part of the body of Christ. We are not our own. Christ is the head, and we are the body parts, the members. And we are becoming one with His character. Christ never lied, and neither should we, not because we are afraid of punishment, but because we love Him and want to honor Him. So when we speak truth, we are not glorifying ourselves or earning righteousness for us, but we are pointing to the New Covenant reality that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” That “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
But what is more, the New Covenant reality that was brought to bear in Christ gives us another reason to speak truth, and it is one that is necessary to understand, even feel, if we are really going to live out a truth-filled life. Here it is: If Christ is our propitiation by His blood, and we are nothing more than sinners who are saved by grace, then we have no reason to lie! Being a Christian by definition means that we recognize that we are sinners who have no righteousness before God but that which is imputed to us by Christ! And even that is not from us! So, we should expect to mess up! We should not be surprised to sin! And we should expect the same of others! So, there is no reason to lie! If you sin, tell the truth about it and repent!
But what does this have to do with being members of one another? We read this morning: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body” (Eph. 5:29-30). When we understand that, even in our sin, God is sovereign over the details of our lives, and that when we sin He gives us opportunities to repent from our sins, then we need to recognize that lying is actually working against us. We are “hating our own flesh.” We think we are averting discipline or embarrassment, but really what we are doing is denying our need for a savior and thus pushing away the grace He shows us through the discipline of others. Not simply formal church discipline like we see in Matt. 18 or 1 Cor. 5, but informal, brother to brother, sister to sister discipline that occurs whenever we are faced with truth. And for this kind of truth telling to occur, we must be in continual community with one another! We must be in each others lives, because we are members of one another! Note the way that Paul phrases it; not members of Christ’s body, but members of one another. He is trying to urge us to see the personal dimension of our connection to each other, thus the necessity of speaking truth to each other.
Let’s say I let out an out of line comment to one of you about another person. I was wrong. I should not have done it. I have harmed that person by doing it. When they find out that I said it, and come and ask if I did, I could easily say, “No, I didn’t say that. The other person must have misunderstood me. What I really said was...” Now, you might say, well that’s ok! You were wrong for saying it to begin with, you understood you were wrong, and you are not wanting it to get any worse. What’s wrong with that? What is wrong with it is that you are missing an opportunity to speak truth for the sake of glorifying Christ by admitting that you are a sinner, and that your only righteousness is in Him. But even further, you are missing an opportunity to receive the discipline that can only come when truth is spoken.
What’s more, the person to whom you were speaking has an opportunity to glorify Christ and show love to you by lovingly confronting you by speaking truth about what it is you are actually doing - gossiping.
And do remember this is not an option for the believer. This is a command of the New Testament. We are to speak the truth! We must all recognize our propensity to sin. We must see that we often do that through lying. We must see that our lying points to our sinful bent, and that we are dead apart from Christ’s life and righteousness. We must see that we need a Savior, and that He has put us into relationships with other sinners saved by grace in His body, the Church, that we might better come to know Him through them. So that in our truth telling, we are inviting other people to enter our lives and be the instrument of Christ that does surgery on the cancer of sin, and we are invited into their lives to do the same. No doubt it is painful at times, but there is also joy and peace knowing that you have nothing to hide! Christ has paid your sin-debt! So you have no need to hide from your sin! “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” Let us be about this work.
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be explicitly approved by South Woods Baptist Church.
Please include the following statement on any distributed copy:
Copyright 2011, South Woods Baptist Church, All Rights Reserved