There can be no justice without truth, and there can be no truth without justice.
Truth proves a man is righteous, and he helps matters of controversy for righteousness. Therefore, a man who speaks the truth is valuable for court and friendship.
A witness that misrepresents the truth has a deceitful spirit, and he affects controversies by confusing justice and righteousness
(Pr 14:5,25; 19:28; 21:28).
Truth and righteousness are inseparable. There can be no justice without truth, and there can be no truth without justice. Equitable relationships among men, whether private or public, require honesty and truth. If these are compromised, then righteousness is also compromised. If less than the truth is presented, then deceit has entered to that degree. From economic transactions to religious declarations, righteousness depends upon truth.
The God of the Bible, Creator of heaven and earth, is a God of truth (Deut 32:4). So much is He a God of truth, He cannot lie (Heb 6:18; Titus 1:2). His Son Jesus Christ is the Faithful and True Witness (Rev 3:14; 19:11). His written revelation, the Bible, is very sure and true in every word and all it declares (Pr 30:5; Ps 19:9; 93:5; 119:128,138).
Shortly before Jesus ascended into heaven, He told His disciples, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). This isn't a command, it's just a statement of fact. Peter will validate the salvation of the Samaritans (Acts 8:14–17) and Gentiles (Acts 10). John will write his Gospel (John 21:24). Paul will insist he has no choice but to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16).
Jesus told His disciples that as they preached, the authorities would persecute them. But He also explained how much they are worth to God, and to remember that their earthly tormentors may kill their bodies, but God forever holds their souls. He said that He would remain faithful to those who are faithful to Him, up to and including claiming them as His own before Father-God (Matthew 10:16–33).
By the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–4), Peter and John have reached the place where Jesus wants them to be. They value their eternal souls more than their lives. They value Jesus' instruction more than their religious leaders. They trust God's plan more than they fear the ungodly authorities. They must speak, and they must speak what they know about Jesus. To obey the Sanhedrin's orders would be to directly disobey Jesus, and they are past the point where that is an option.
Once we experience the power of God’s love and recognize his fatherly presence in our personal and community life, we cannot help but proclaim and share what we have seen and heard. Jesus’ relationship with his disciples and his humanity, as revealed to us in the mystery of his Incarnation, Gospel, and Paschal Mystery, shows us the extent to which God loves our humanity and makes his own our joys and sufferings, our hopes, and our concerns (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 22). Everything about Christ reminds us that he knows well our world and its need for redemption, and calls us to become actively engaged in this mission: “Go therefore to the highways and byways and invite everyone you find” (Mt 22:9). No one is excluded, no one need feel distant or removed from this compassionate love.
The experience of the Apostles
The history of evangelization began with the Lord’s own passionate desire to call and enter into friendly dialogue with everyone, just as they are (cf. Jn 15:12-17). The Apostles are the first to tell us this; they remembered even the day and the hour when they first met him: “It was about four o’clock in the afternoon” (Jn 1:39). Experiencing the Lord’s friendship, watching him cure the sick, dine with sinners, feed the hungry, draw near to the outcast, touch the unclean, identify with the needy, propose the Beatitudes and teach in a new and authoritative way, left an indelible mark on them, awakening amazement, expansive joy and a profound sense of gratitude. The prophet Jeremiah describes this experience as one of a consuming awareness of the Lord’s active presence in our heart, impelling us to mission, regardless of the sacrifices and misunderstandings it may entail (cf. 20:7-9). Love is always on the move and inspires us to share a wonderful and hope-filled message: “We have found the Messiah” (Jn 1:41).
With Jesus, we too have seen, heard, and experienced that things can be different. Even now, he has inaugurated future times, reminding us of an often forgotten dimension of our humanity, namely, that “we were created for a fulfillment that can only be found in love” (Fratelli Tutti, 68). A future that awakens a faith capable of inspiring new initiatives and shaping communities of men and women who, by learning to accept their own frailty and that of others, promote fraternity and social friendship (cf. ibid., 67). The ecclesial community reveals its splendor whenever it recalls with gratitude that the Lord loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19). “The loving predilection of the Lord surprises us, and surprise by its very nature cannot be owned or imposed by us… Only in this way can the miracle of gratuitousness, the gratuitous gift of self, blossom. Nor can missionary fervor ever be obtained as a result of reasoning or calculation. To be ‘in a state of mission’ is a reflection of gratitude”
Even so, things were not always easy. The first Christians began the life of faith amid hostility and hardship. Experiences of marginalization and imprisonment combined with internal and external struggles that seemed to contradict and even negate what they had seen and heard. Yet, rather than a difficulty or an obstacle leading them to step back or close in on themselves, those experiences impelled them to turn problems, conflicts, and difficulties into opportunities for mission. Limitations and obstacles became a privileged occasion for anointing everything and everyone with the Spirit of the Lord. Nothing and no one was to be excluded from the message of liberation.
We have a vivid testimony to all this in the Acts of the Apostles, a book which missionary disciples always have within easy reach. There we read how the fragrance of the Gospel spread as it was preached, awakening the joy that the Spirit alone can bestow. The Book of Acts teaches us to endure hardship by clinging firmly to Christ, in order to grow in the “conviction that God is able to act in any circumstance, even amid apparent setbacks” and in the certainty that “all those who entrust themselves to God will bear good fruit” (Evangelii Gaudium, 279).
The same holds true for us: our own times are not easy. The pandemic has brought to the fore and amplified the pain, the solitude, the poverty, and the injustices experienced by so many people. It has unmasked our false sense of security and revealed the brokenness and polarization quietly growing in our midst. Those who are most frail and vulnerable have come to feel even more so. We have experienced discouragement, disillusionment, and fatigue; nor have we been immune from a growing negativity that stifles hope. For our part, however, “we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake” (2 Cor 4:5). As a result, in our communities and in our families, we can hear the powerful message of life that echoes in our hearts and proclaims: “He is not here, but has risen (Lk 24:6)! This message of hope shatters every form of determinism and, to those who let themselves be touched by it, bestows the freedom and boldness needed to rise up and seek with creativity every possible way to show compassion, the “sacramental” of God’s closeness to us, a closeness that abandons no one along the side of the road.
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.”
Explanation and Commentary of Ephesians 5:11Paul begins his letters with the indicative truth about who Jesus is and what he has done. This is particularly true of the book of Ephesians, which contains some of the most beautiful language in its description of the gospel. The second part of each letter, including this one, contains those imperatives which flow from the truth of the gospel. This means that after telling us what God has done, Paul tells us how we should respond. Within the imperative section of Ephesians, Paul begins to warn against “the fruitless deeds of darkness.” What some of these deeds are is indicated in verses 3-6; sexual immorality, foolish talk, dishonesty, impurity, greed, coarse joking, and disobedience. Paul says to have “nothing to do with them.”
The Christian is saved by faith in Christ, by the grace of God. We are saved because of what he has done, not by our own works. But this does not mean that Jesus or the New Testament writers did not want us to be concerned with our works. James said that faith without works is dead (Ja 2:26). In our effort to grow into the likeness of Christ, by the Holy Spirit, because of what Jesus has done for us, we will be concerned for the fruitful deeds of light, rather than the “fruitless deeds of darkness.”
To “expose them” means to see them for what they are. The most productive way to expose the deeds of darkness is through the confession of sins. The Bible says to confess our sins (Ja 5:16). It can also mean to confront and rebuke brothers and sisters in the church when they are willfully sinning. This is a means of grace for the church, as we can find all sorts of ways to keep our sins in the darkness. Exposure to the light will bring healing and transformation.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of
Ephesians 5:11#1 “Have nothing to do…” It is an affront to the God who took on our sins and paid for them for us to trample grace by continuing in sin. The Christian should not even get close to performing these deeds.
#2 “…with the fruitless deeds of darkness,”
Good deeds are fruitful and produce good. The deeds of darkness, lying, foolish or coarse talk, sexual immorality, greed, etc, are fruitless, or they bear the fruit of evil.
#3 “…but rather, expose them.”
Rather than engaging in sin, we should be bringing the truth to bear on our sin and even the sin of others. This does not mean to be ungracious and judgmental, but honest about what God wants and how he calls us to conduct ourselves in light of his salvation. Confession for our own sin and rebuke for others is how to bring them into the light. The confrontation of others should be done lovingly.
The Bible is brutally honest in exposing the failures of some of the great men and women of faith when it comes to lying. Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Aaron, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel, and David all lied, along with Peter in the New Testament. If these saints struggled with being truthful, then none of us is exempt! So we all need to take Paul’s exhortation to heart (Eph. 4:25): “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
“Therefore” takes us back to the preceding context. Paul has told us generally how we are to be different from our former life of corruption “in accordance with the lusts of deceit.” Since God has changed us through the gospel, we are to live in light of the truth by putting off the old life, being renewed in the spirit of our minds, and putting on the new life (4:22-24). But, it’s easy to hear that and think, “Amen, preach, it Brother Paul!” But we leave it out there in the realm of generalities and don’t apply it specifically.
So beginning in 4:25 (and going through 6:9), Paul gets specific. He goes from preaching to meddling! He names a bunch of specific sins from our old life that we are to put off and godly behaviors that we are to put on. While there are some exceptions, his usual method is to state the sinful behavior that we are to put off, the godly behavior that we are to put on, and the motive or reason for the positive behavior. In 4:25 he is saying,
We who have experienced the new birth must lay aside falsehood and speak the truth, because we are members of one another.
To define our terms, truth is an accurate representation of the facts. Especially, truth is conformity to God’s standards as revealed in His Word (John 17:17). God is the truth and He always speaks the truth. Falsehood or lying is any deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.
Also, keep in mind the directive of Ephesians 4:15, that we must speak the truth in love. We must be kind and gracious when we speak the truth. We need to phrase the truth in a way that is least offensive and most sensitive to the other person’s feelings. We need to apply the golden rule: how would I want someone else to tell me this truth? I must speak it in the same manner.
Also, being truthful does not mean that we need to reveal everything we know about a matter. God does not do that with us. If you need to keep a confidence or if you think that making the truth known would be damaging, you may simply reply, “I’m not free to talk about that matter.” Being truthful does not require sharing your thoughts on everything. If being silent would imply agreement when you disagree, you may need to clarify things. But, sometimes wisdom requires keeping your thoughts to yourself (Prov. 10:19).
With that as a background, let’s explore Paul’s thought here:
1. The new birth is the starting point for a life of truthfulness.As I said, “therefore” takes us back to 4:22, where Paul has just said that we are to “lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit.” Deceit permeated the old life. We were deceived by sin and we deceived others by our self-serving hypocrisy and greed. It also takes us back to 4:24, where Paul said that we are to “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Truth characterizes our new life in Christ. We are to live in accordance with the truth which is in Jesus (4:21). And, we are now to live as truthful people.
Some unbelievers are truthful people, but usually their truthfulness is self-serving. They take great pride that their word is good. Or, they are truthful because they fear the punishment or shame that comes if their duplicity comes to light. But, only those who have received new life through God’s grace can be truthful out of the motive of pleasing and glorifying Him.
One of my seminary professors told us about an incidence where he was at the bank with another of our professors. The teller gave this other professor too much change. He called it to her attention and gave the money back. She exclaimed, “Thank goodness that you’re honest!” Many of us would have taken the credit, but he quickly replied, “I’m not honest by nature. I would have ripped you off, but Jesus Christ is now my Savior and Lord. He makes me honest.” He gave the glory to Christ, as we should do. His saving grace is the starting point for a life of truthfulness.
2. Those who are new creatures in Christ must lay aside falsehood and speak the truth.Maybe you’re thinking, “Great, but how do you do it?” I suggest five strategies for becoming a person of truth.
A. RECOGNIZE THE SOURCE OF TRUTH AND THE SOURCE OF FALSEHOOD.
God is the source of truth.
He is the only true God, whose word is truth (John 17:3). As such, He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the truth (John 14:6; Eph. 4:21). He spoke the truth (John 8:45). The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17). On the other hand…
Satan is the source of falsehood and lies. Jesus called Satan “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan introduced “the lie” in the garden, when he implied that God was lying in the threat of punishment if Eve ate the forbidden fruit. He deceived Eve with the lie (Gen. 3:4), “You surely will not die!”
We need to keep in mind who is the source of truth and who is the source of falsehood because our culture strongly pressures us into compromising the truth. This is especially true with the postmodern philosophy that tells us that there is no such thing as absolute truth. I was talking last week with a pastor who lives near a major evangelical seminary. The seminary requires chapel attendance, which the students must report on. He was talking with the seminary chaplain, who said that many of the students skip chapel regularly and then just lie on their report. They excuse it by saying that they don’t get anything out of chapel and it’s a better use of their time to do something else! This is a conservative, Bible-believing seminary! But I wonder how many of those students would glibly lie if they thought about the fact that when they lie, they are in league with Satan, the father of lies!
B. RECOGNIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF TRUTHFULNESS TO GOD. Truthfulness is important to God because He is the God of truth who hates lying and falsehood. Since falsehood is contrary to God’s holy nature and is, in fact, a part of Satan’s rebellious nature, God hates it. In Proverbs 6:16-19, Solomon lists seven things which God hates. Two of the seven have to do with lying. Proverbs 12:22 states, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.”
Truthfulness is important to God because truth is the basis for all communication. The instant that Adam and Eve sinned, they experienced a breakdown in the close fellowship with God and with one another that they had known before the fall. They tried to hide from God and they were uncomfortable with their nakedness before one another. When God confronted Adam, he blamed Eve for his sin and she blamed the serpent. We all have struggled with communication ever since. When you think about it, it’s ridiculous not to be honest before God, because He knows our every thought. But, we still try to hide our sins from Him!
At the heart of good communication and close relationships is trust. If you do not trust someone, you instinctively draw back and protect yourself. If you think that he will take personal matters that you share in confidence and broadcast them to others, you will not open up and share your heart. Distrust results in distance in relationships and dishonesty causes distrust. You can spend a lifetime building trust in your marriage or on the job, but one stupid lie can erode that trust in an instant. So, truthfulness is very important to God, because it is the basis for all communication.
C. CHOOSE TO OBEY GOD BY MAKING A PRIOR COMMITMENT NOT TO LIE, BUT RATHER TO SPEAK THE TRUTH.
First, you must choose to obey God. When Paul addresses this subject, he does not say, “Go to a therapist and try to figure out why you are prone to lying. There must be something in the way your parents treated you at the root of this problem!” Nor does he say, “Pray for victory in this area.” Rather, he says, “Stop lying and start speaking the truth!” In other words, choose to obey God.
Second, make a prior commitment not to lie. In other words, you must decide not to lie before you get into a situation that hits you broadside. Paul says here that you must decisively throw off lying as you would throw off dirty, smelly clothes. It’s part of the old life of corruption and deceit, so as a new creature in Christ, commit yourself to say no to the temptation to lie.
You have to make this commitment before the temptation hits because it’s easy to get trapped into lying. Note how Satan set up Peter for his fall. The servant girl who kept the door said to Peter (John 18:17), “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” The question begs for a negative answer. Peter fell into sin by replying, “I am not.” Maybe your dad says, “You don’t know how this scratch got into the fender of the car, do you?” Be careful! It’s so easy to say, “No, what scratch?” And then, once you’ve lied, it’s even more difficult to correct yourself and tell the truth the next time. So, you dig yourself in deeper with another lie and another one, until it becomes a habit pattern of sin.
Third, make a prior commitment to tell the truth, even if it makes you look bad. Usually, we lie because the truth will expose our sin. Or, we fear what will happen if we’re honest. When Abraham went down to Egypt to escape the famine, he told Sarah to say that she was his sister, because he was afraid that if the Egyptians knew that she was his wife, they would kill him in order to take her (Gen. 12:10-20). He justified the lie because it was half true. She was the daughter of his father, but not of his mother. But, the truth was that she also was his wife. Not learning his lesson the first time, Abraham repeated the same lie years later with Abimelech (Gen. 20:1-18). Isaac later followed dad’s steps with the same sin (Gen. 26:7-11). Each time, it was out of fear of what might happen if they told the truth. Such fear never stems from faith in God.
One way to begin this battle to become a person of truth is to resolve to speak the truth even in small matters. Invariably, those who fail in major ways, such as perjury, fraud, or illegal cover-ups, don’t begin there. They lie about small things, until their conscience is callused. Lying doesn’t bother them anymore. Then, they get hit with a major temptation that could send them to prison. Out of habit and panic, they lie. It is far better to be scrupulously honest about everything.
So, to lay aside falsehood and speak the truth, recognize the source of truth and of falsehood. Recognize the importance of truth to God. Choose to obey God by making a prior commitment to speak the truth in every situation.
D. CONFESS YOUR SINS IMMEDIATELY, FIRST TO GOD AND THEN TO THE ONES YOU HAVE SINNED AGAINST.
We fall into a habit of lying because we don’t want God or others to know about our sin. As I said, it’s ridiculous to think that we can hide our falsehood from God. He sees the hidden thoughts of our hearts (Heb. 4:13). But, we mistakenly think that it is to our advantage to hide our sins from others. But it is not, because invariably the truth comes out and our sin is exposed. The more we have covered up, the more it erodes any sense of trust. It’s far better to ask forgiveness even after a minor falsehood, to keep your conscience tender and to maintain trust in relationships. Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.”
E. CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES OF LYING.
Proverbs 19:5 warns, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will not escape” (see, also, Prov. 19:9; 21:28). Although you may be able to cite cases of those that have lied and gotten away with it, they didn’t get away with it before God! If you sow falsehood, you won’t reap God’s blessing. Ask yourself the following questions about lying:
How could my lying bring glory to God? Our chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Everything we do should be for His glory (1 Cor. 10:31). It is hard to conceive of how a lie could glorify the God of truth who cannot lie!
How will my lying affect other believers? We will consider this more in a moment. But, since lying erodes trust and leads to breakdowns in communication, lying is not for the good of others. You may think that it protects them, but invariably it hurts them.
How will my lying affect my family? If your mate has reason to doubt your truthfulness, it will create distance between you. If your children see you bending the truth, they won’t need to be taught to follow your example! Rather, they should see you telling the truth even when it costs you. Use the occasions when a clerk gives you too much change to teach your children the value of honesty.
How will my lying affect my testimony before unbelievers? People read your life. They know that you profess to be a Christian and attend church. If they see you lying on the job, or keeping quiet about the truth when it is to your financial advantage, you have no basis for telling them about the Savior. If a boss asks you to cover for him by lying, you need to be ready graciously to refuse and explain why. He may not like you and he may even fire you. But your testimony is worth much more than a job!
How will my lying affect my eternity? I am not saying that you will lose your salvation by lying. As I said, some great men and women of faith were guilty of lying. But I am saying that if you claim to be a Christian, but you continue to live as you did before you became a Christian, you need to take a serious look at whether your faith in Christ is genuine. Those who are characterized by lying or who always excuse it in some way are not giving any evidence that they have been created anew in righteousness and holiness of the truth. Revelation 21:8 warns with regard to all liars, “their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” As Christians, we must fight our fleshly tendency towards lying. We must become people of truth. At the end of our verse, Paul tells us why:
3. The motive for laying aside falsehood and speaking the truth is that we are members of one another.Paul already used the analogy of the body of Christ in connection with speaking the truth in love (4:14-16). Here, he brings it up again, citing Zechariah 8:16, where the Jews as the restored people of God are exhorted to speak truth with one another. But, Paul adds this reason, that we are members of one another.
The health of your physical body depends on truthful communication between the members through the nervous system. If you put your finger on a hot stove and your nerves do not relay to the brain, “this is hot,” you will suffer severe injury. A person with leprosy lacks this communication between the nerves and the brain. He can actually destroy his own hand without knowing it.
This means that if you lie to your mate or to another member of the body of Christ, you are injuring yourself and, even worse, you are injuring Christ, because He is one with His body. So if you would not deliberately injure yourself, and if you don’t want to injure your family, and most importantly, if you don’t want to injure the Savior who gave Himself for you on the cross, you must develop the habit of laying aside falsehood and speaking truth, for we are members of one another.