Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Exodus 20:16
And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. Rev 12:10
As food and water are to physical health, So Truth is to the Soul and the Spirit. We all need the Truth to live.
Obviously we need the truth about God, we cannot live without the knowledge of God, for that is the very definition of Eternal Life,
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
Notice that Jesus spoke of the knowledge of “The only True God...”. emphasizing that precision and accuracy of that knowledge is essential. Eternal life is specific knowledge, of the one true God, who has fully revealed himself in sending His Son Jesus the Messiah.
Man was made to know God, thus one could say, man was created to receive Truth into his soul. Each one of us only have so much time to open our hearts and receive the truth, is it is very important that what we let into our souls really is true.
The fall of man came about because Satan bore false witness against God, and our first parents were willing receive it. He called God’s goodness into question, implying that God was holding back things which would have enriched and fulfilled the first couple. When they entertained such a notion, they broke away from God, and took the whole race with them into estrangement and separation. Such is the power of false witness.
Adam and Eve needed the truth, but were misled, choosing to believe the Serpent rather than the Word of God.
People are never more like Satan, then when they promote false witness against their neighbor. False witness is literally the Devil’s work, for He is the “accuser of the brethren”.
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. ( Proverbs 6:16-19)
Because of false witness, nations are ruined, wars are started, families are destroyed, people are alienated and estranged, in short Satan’s Kingdom is established. The Kings of the earth, and the ruling elite routinely employ false witness to “divide and conquer” those whom they rule over. Truly the scripture correctly asserts, that “The Whole World lies in the power of the wicked One”.
It is bad enough when sinners bear false witness against each other, but the spectacle of Christians doing so is heartbreaking.
I have seen false witness employed to split churches, separate chief friends, destroy ministries, defame godly and well intentioned people, and to ruin the spiritual lives of those who indulge in or are affected by it.
What is false witness?
It can be the telling of outright lies, mistruths spoken about a person’s character, or it can occur more subtly, such as telling a truth, but keeping pertinent parts out of it, to make someone look bad, or to diminish a person to those who hear it. Sometimes it is not what someone says, but what they don’t say or what they withhold, or emphasize or de-emphasize that paints a false picture about a person.
False witness kills. It is a form of murder, not physical murder, but it is the Spirit of murder, because it alienates, and can destroy a person’s name and reputation. This is why those who indulge in it, are actually guilty of murder.
A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow. ( Proverbs 25:18)
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence. (Psalm 27:12)
There are many people who suffer greatly because mistruths and outright lies have been told about them, and there is little they can do to set the record straight.
Another form of suffering comes by believing such lies and being separated from possible friends and allies because of the Power of false witness.
Love is only possible in Truth. We need each other, and we need the truth about each other. To be denied the benefit of the doubt due to someone else’s talebearing. or to lose the trust of those who we once fellowshipped with, is by definition the destruction of God’s work.
Truth and Love are inseparable. We are told to “Speak the Truth in Love…” . The Church is the “Pillar and ground of the Truth”, and the demonstration of God’s Love in this world. “No man hath seen God at any time but if we Love one another God dwells in us…”
Spiritually speaking there is no real truth without Love.
Many of God’s servants have rightly seen that false prophets and false teachers had become a destructive bane on the church, and were raised up to expose them, and to defend the Faith once delivered for the Saints. They are used, to expose flaws and misrepresentations in the teachings of false prophets and teachers, and thus become extremely critical, for a good, righteous cause.
But in those cases, the temptation is to become angry, and to forget Love in the cause of Truth. This is what happened to the Ephesian church Jesus wrote to in the Revelation,
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (Revelation 2:2-4)
“Discernment Ministry” often legitimately requires debate, argument, the marshaling of facts, rebuttal and open reproof. When those who are used in this ministry “lose their first love” they become cranky, abusive, they often rejoice at the discovery of evil in an “opponent”, and delight to expose them, rather than mourn. At times they can easily slide further, not being accurate in their accusations, or shading things to put allegedly false ministers in a worse light, and not being careful to be precise in quotations of those they seek to “expose”. This is no longer discernment, it has become “false Witness”.
Apologetics is one thing, but false witness is something else entirely. It is not hard in the fight to drift from one to the other. Sometimes apologetics can actually serve as a cover for malice, anger, frustration, and even jealousy. These are the works of the flesh, there is nothing of the Holy Spirit about them.
At the end of that spectrum is the angry, bitter spectacle of ministers actually seeking to ruin one another, damaging the names and reputations of those they consider as rivals. A local pastor once confided in one of my elders, that he “prayed regularly that (our) so called Church would shut down and that I would have to leave the ministry…”. Someone had borne false witness about us to him. He never talked to us, He just ran with it.
We could not get further away from the ideal of the Christian ministry than by practicing false witness, the very work of the Devil himself.
Let us remember that one of the names of Jesus, our LORD and Messiah, is “the Faithful Witness”, He is the true witness of and to God the Father, and He bears true witness about all men, thus his witness leads to Life, peace and true communion.