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If they did, it might look something like what the Westminster Divines outlined in the Westminster Larger Catechism’s answer on the duties required of the ninth commandment (“”You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”).

Question 144: What are the duties required in the ninth commandment?

Answer: The duties required in the ninth commandment are,

  • the preserving and promoting of truth between man and man, and the good name of our neighbor, as well as our own;
  • appearing and standing for the truth;
  • and from the heart, sincerely, freely, clearly, and fully, speaking the truth, and only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice, and in all other things whatsoever;
  • a charitable esteem of our neighbors;
  • loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name;
  • sorrowing for, and covering of their infirmities;
  • freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces, defending their innocency;
  • a ready receiving of a good report, and unwillingness to admit of an evil report, concerning them;
  • discouraging tale-bearers, flatterers, and slanderers;
  • love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need requireth;
  • keeping of lawful promises;
  • studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely, and of good report.

Similarly, consider the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 112 expresses the aims of the ninth commandment, both positively and negatively:

That I

  • never give false testimony against anyone,
  • twist no one’s words,
  • not gossip or slander,
  • nor join in condemning anyone rashly or without a hearing.

Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should

  • avoid lying and deceit of every kind;

these are the very devices the devil uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense wrath.

I should

  • love the truth,
  • speak it candidly, and
  • openly acknowledge it.

And I should

  • do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.

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7 thoughts on “What Would Would It Look Like If Christians Took the Ninth Commandment Seriously?”

  1. Eric says:

    These are purposefully vague. What happens when one fails? Nothing?
    Is there no accountability for wrongdoing.
    If I was in charge of building a house and I ran out of money then I would have failed.
    If I was trying to get to a hospital and I ran out of gas and energy then I have failed.
    There are natural consequences to those things.
    Therefore if I am trying to keep the 9th commandment and fail are there consequences?

    If we say no consequence for failure then try try again. Like a man spending millions of dollars to build a pencil that won’t break, but breaks every time he tries to write with it so he keeps pouring money in. Is he making progress really? So if a man fails over and over at keeping the 9th commandment should he keep pouring his effort in? Are there men that you know that keep this commandment so perfectly that God himself will say to them, you never break my commandment anymore because you have gotten so good at doing what I say. No that doesn’t happen, this kind of man doesn’t take the commandment seriously. He thinks it is just nice and hopeful words and keeping them is optional really even though sometimes he tries harder than other times to do it.

    If we say yes consequences will be incurred without mercy for law breakers. Then if a man fails to at any point to appropriately think well of his neighbor in his heart then he is condemned to death. He is a man on death row. All hope of getting the sentence cleared is gone. That man should lose his job, lose his family, friends, and his God because he didn’t keep the commandment that was his sworn duty. This is taking the commandment seriously. Very very very seriously.

    So if a man finds himself on death row, having finally taken the command seriously, then he will give up hope of ever fulfilling it and look for a hope to rescue him outside of performing this law. That hope is faith in Jesus Christ.

    So yes you can pursue seriously this law. If you do you will abandon hope of ever doing it and pursue trusting Christ more fully. If we keep on trying to do something that we keep failing at we do not take it seriously at all. Sure you can be serious about trying harder, but that is like being serious about pretending. We are professionals at imagining that we are good people.

    Rom 3:19-20 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
    Rom 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
    Rom 3:31 Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.

  2. jason estopinal says:

    I agree that we should not bear false witness exactly as the 9th commandment describes, however, I thought we were no longer “under” the 10 commandments as they were given to Israel?

    1. Roy Muster says:

      Are you not in error because you do not know the scriptures?
      Jesus said “I did not come to abolish the Law”.
      The law still stands as the standard for which we are to adhere to. The bible NEVER says that New Testament Christians are no longer under the law. Where did you get this ridiculous idea? Certainly not from the bible.

      1. Jason Estopinal says:

        But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. – Romans 7:6

        14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility
        15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, – Ephesians 2:14-15

        1. Miahq says:

          So now that the law is no longer valid, there is no longer a need for repentance, right?

  3. Ryan Fishel says:

    Jonathan Edwards has a great sermon on this—with a lot of great examples and illustrations from daily life. I reread the sermon at least twice a year—and not because I’m that methodical but because I need the reminder to often.

    From his sermons on 1 Corinthians 13—

  4. Manny Fleurmond says:

    Love this article. Just heard a sermon the other day about the 10 commandments that they are less things we don’t do and more guidelines for attitude and love; first two show us how to love God specifically and the rest show us how to love our neighbors as ourselves. In this case, if we truly loved our neighbor, we would never lie about them or to them. Also, every commandment has an opposite; instead of false witness, we should give a truthful witness, tempered by love.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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