THE SIN OF LYING IN GOD’S NAME
A Call to Repentance
By Gary Ray Branscome
“Do not add to his words, lest he reprove you, and you are found to be a liar. // All liars, will have their part in the lake that burns with fire”
(Proverbs 30:6, Revelation 21:8).
On more than one occasion I have encountered someone who was very intent on keeping God’s law, and yet came across to others as harsh, unloving, critical and rude. Because such people want very much to believe that they are righteous they often wind up being critical of others while blinding themselves to their own sins. They usually have certain rules that they follow, while ignoring or justifying sins that they do not think are important. At the same time, there are those who go to the opposite extreme of tolerating open and manifest sin in the name of love, while being critical of anyone who openly condemns such sin. In either case, it is hard to help such people or counsel them because they tend to become angry when shown their faults.
That being said, the purpose of this essay is to expose one area of sin that is usually ignored, the sin of speaking falsely in God’s name. Some may get angry with me because they do not want to believe that they are guilty of that sin. Others may condemn what I say because my approach does not fit their ideas of tolerance. However, what I am going to say needs to be said, because falsehood and deception are tools of the devil, and they hinder the work of the Gospel.
The Sin of Adding to God’s Word
One of the most obvious ways in which people add to God’s Word is by claiming that they have a new revelation. Such claims are common among the cults. However, I have often heard Christians say, “God told me” to do this or that. Now, while such claims may come across as pious, they open people up to satanic influence. Many years ago I heard a radio preacher say, “God told me that Jesus will return in 1985”. Yet it is obvious that he was lying in God’s name. I heard another preacher who, in talking about his call to the ministry, said that because he did not obey the call when God first called him to preach, God caused his firstborn child to die. Have you ever heard anything worse! What kind of ogre does he think God is? That is pure slander of God. What would an unbeliever in the congregation think? Yet that kind of thing goes on all of the time. In some churches people are being taught that God will speak to them through feelings and impressions, and that they must “obey” what “He says,” or He may punish them. However, that is a lie! Those who teach that would place people back under the law, with this one difference; they have replaced the written law with an unwritten law. In either case, the curse that Paul warned about in his epistle to the Galatians still applies (Galatians 1:6-9).
Other ways in which people add to God’s Word have to do with reading ideas into the text of Scripture, coming up with explanations that are not in Scripture, teaching their own interpretations and conclusions as the Word of God, and claiming that the words mean something other than what they say.
For example: The seven churches spoken
of in Revelation 1:10–3:22, were seven actual congregations that existed in
We see another example at the beginning of Revelation chapter four. There John hears a voice saying, “come up here”. Now, there is absolutely nothing in the text to indicate that anyone besides John heard that voice. In fact, we are specifically told that the voice John heard was the same voice that he heard in Revelation 1:10. And, that clearly was not a future voice, but a voice that he heard almost two thousand years ago. Nevertheless, there are people who claim that the words “come up here,” which John heard are calling the saints from the grave. If that is what you have been taught then read the text, for it says no such thing. That idea is pure imagination, and again those who teach it are committing the sin of adding to God’s Word.
Another example can be found in Revelation 7:14-17. Those verses speak of a “great tribulation”. However, the claim that that tribulation is yet in the future, and will only last seven years is pure fantasy. The Bible says no such thing. Those who teach that doctrine are adding to God’s Word.
At this point we need to ask. How can people be so blind? Why are they unable to see that the text does not say what they claim it says? And, the reason for their blindness lies in a delusion, a delusion that leads them to think that they can figure out the meaning of prophesies the Bible has not explained. As a result, they cannot tell the difference between what the Bible plainly says and what they think it means.
The Sin of Subtracting from God’s Word
Since I just explained why those who
read a resurrection into the words, “come up here” are adding to God’s Word;
let me show how those same people subtract from God’s Word (Revelation 4:1). When
people add an idea to God’s Word, it usually winds up contradicting what the
Bible says elsewhere. And, in this case, that idea contradicts Christ who
plainly said that He would raise up believers, “on the
last day” (John , 40, John ). When those who contradict Christ (by telling others
that He will raise up believers before the last day) are shown those verses,
they should submit to Christ by giving up any ideas that contradict what He
said. However, they are usually so blinded by self-righteousness that they
explain away what Christ said rather than give up their own pet ideas.
There are a number of passages in Scripture that plainly tell us that Christ is God. Cults that deny He is God subtract from Scripture by explaining those passages away. (See John 1:1-18, 1John , Revelation 1:8.)
Christ plainly said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John ). Those who do not want to believe Him explain His words away, and by so doing cease to be His disciples (John -32).
First John 2:1-2 says, “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” However, those who deny that Christ died for the sins of all men subtract from Scripture by explaining that passage away. Moreover, by explaining it away they make it of no effect, at least for those who are deceived by them (Mark ).
Both those who add to God’s Word and those who subtract from it are lying in God’s name, because they are either claiming that he said what He did not say, or denying that He said what He said.
The Sin of Self-deification
Deep down, the motivation of those who add to and take from God’s Word is always the desire to make themselves God. When they add to God’s Word they are trying to make themselves God by teaching their word as God’s Word. When they take away from God’s Word they are attempting to make themselves God by overruling what He has said, as if they are the real authority (Genesis 3:1).
Sometimes they use Scripture in order to manipulate people, by telling them that they have to dress a certain way, wear their hair a certain way, or only marry people of the same race. At other times they twist Scripture to support the bogus claim that church members must obey the pastor, or that ordained pastors are the only ones who are able to understand Scripture. Instead of leading people to turn from man’s word to God’s Word, they teach their own opinions and private interpretations as if the ministry existed to exalt them rather than Christ and provide them with a forum for advancing their own opinions. In any case they are trying to make themselves into God by exalting themselves over others. And, when they twist Scripture to do this they wind up lying in God’s name.
The Sin of Professing Oneself to be Wise
Although the entire body of doctrine (all of the teachings necessary to the work of the ministry and the salvation of souls) is stated in Scripture in words so clear that they need no interpretation, sin often blinds people to what the Bible plainly says. At the same time, Satan uses the many passages of Scripture that are difficult to understand to lead people away from what the Bible says. One way he does this is by having them profess themselves to be wise, profess to know more than they possibly could know, claim to have the answers to questions that the Bible does not answer, and in general confuse the distinction between man’s word and God’s Word.
No one denies the fact that many things in Scripture are hard to understand, or that the Bible leaves us with many unanswered questions. However, the Biblical approach to these difficulties is to humbly admit our ignorance, and concentrate on those teachings that are so clearly set forth in the words of Scripture that they need no interpretation.
“The Holy Ghost has arranged Holy Scripture in such a magnificent and wholesome way that through the clear passages He appeases the hunger and through the dark passages He prevents loathing. For hardly anything is derived from those obscure passages but what is stated elsewhere most clearly.” (Augustine, Quoted in Baier-Walther, I, 168.)
“Correctly defined, open questions are such questions as inevitably arise in our study of Scripture doctrines but are not answered by Scripture at all or at least not clearly. And Scripture enjoins us to let them remain open questions. If we presume to answer them and ask men to accept our opinion as divine truth, we would be rejecting those Scripture passages which forbid us to add anything to God’s Word (Deut. 4:2; ; 1 Pet. ). Every true theologian must learn not only to speak, but also to keep silence. He should speak where and as far as God’s Word speaks; he should hold his tongue where God’s Word is silent.” (Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. 1, pages 93-94)
Whenever we go beyond the plain teaching of God’s Word, whether it be in regard to Bible prophesy or any other topic, if we add to or take from what the Bible says then we have departed from the Word of God and are lying in God’s name.
If we are to be faithful to God, we must first learn to be our own worst critic. We must be intent on finding and eliminating our own mistakes before anyone else does and before teaching them to others. And, the clear passages of Scripture, the doctrinal truths so plainly stated that they need no interpretation, are the standard by which every opinion is to be judged (Isaiah 8:20).
Because Jesus said that He would raise up believers on the “last day,” every interpretation that says otherwise is to be rejected (John ). Because the Bible says, “In six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything that is in them,” every opinion of man that contradicts that truth is to be rejected (Exodus 20:11). And, those who refuse to conform their thinking to God’s Word should be regarded as troublemakers and rebels against God (Psalm 107:11, Romans 12:2, 2Corinthians 10:5).
“The first and foremost duty of the exegete consists in holding the flighty spirit of man to the simple word of Scripture and, where he has departed from it, to lead him back to the simple word of Scripture.” [From “Christian Dogmatics”, by Francis Pieper, Volume one, page 360]