Yes or No: Truth in the Christian Life
1. Truth matters because of who God is.
2. Truth is demanding because of who we are.
1. The Problem Addressed
a. What the law envisioned
i. A vow would be a special event rather than a habit.
ii. Any vow made would be in the name of God. (Deut. 6:13)
iii. Every vow, once made, would be kept.
(1) Ex. 20:7
(2) Lev. 19:12
(3) Num. 30:2
b. What the people were engaging in
i. Commonly swearing oaths, even over trivial things, just in order to be taken seriously. “Oaths arise because men are so often liars.” (Hunter, quoted by Stott, 102)
ii. Invoking things other things so as to avoid taking the name of God in vain.
(1) They shifted attention away from the vow and the need to keep it to the formula used in making it.
(2) False swearing became a profane use of the divine name, not a dishonest pledging of your word.
iii. Considering those vows taken on other bases less binding. (Mt. 23:16-22)
2. The Principle Advised
a. The Lord saw the real issues.
i. The point of the law about truth was being missed.
ii. God was being used as an object under the control of man. “Who are we to require God to notarize our fallible human statements? Oaths and vows essentially reduce God to an object of human manipulation.” (Dockery and Garland, Seeking the Kingdom, 61)
iii. This both came from, and contributed to, evil. (Js. 5:12)
b. The Lord set the right course.
i. Face reality about the person and presence of God: we are bound to God in all of life, and there is no way to avoid some reference to him.
ii. Be realistic about yourself and your limits.
iii. Speak reliably and straightforwardly so that your word can be taken without an oath. “Honest truth needs nothing to shore it up.”
3. The Practical Application
a. This is not about whether an oath may be entered in a legal setting.
i. Such oaths are imposed by authorities who hesitate to believe, not asserted by a self who cannot be believed.
ii. Jesus himself, the apostle Paul, and even God are said to have entered into oaths. (Matt. 26:63; 2 Cor. 1:23; Heb. 6:13)
iii. The issue to which the Lord was speaking is personal conduct.
b. Personal integrity is what God wants in our lives.
i. He wants what seems to be to correspond to what really is. (Ps. 51:6)
ii. This means authenticity: honesty, sincerity, and reliability.
iii. Truth like this is what makes trust and relationship possible.
c. That is what makes one other point so important: the responsibility of truth taught here requires the rest of what the Lord taught.
i. Truth is to be spoken with the tone of the Beatitudes.
ii. Anger or lust or retaliation are still not proper controlling motives.
iii. The Golden Rule must always be applied.
1. A wonderful liberation comes with truth.
2. “Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel” (Col. 1:5b).