“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ “But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. “Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” (Matthew 5:33-37)

Truth is the center piece of our walk in the Christian faith, as Jesus is the truth. We cannot live a Christian life to the fullest until we learn to live in absolute truth. This is fundamental in our relationship with God our Heavenly Father as He searches the heart of a man. “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10) This is true in our personal relationships, as people desire and expect that our word be our bond. Nothing destroys a relationship more than to violate the trust of one’s word and action. A broken trust is sometimes not mendable. If we value our relationship with God, then it must be in the Spirit of Truth. It is the only way that we can worship God, as He sees the truth of our heart. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) As Christians this should be the way of all our relationships.

The natural tendency is to play our cards close to our chest. There is a thought that we do not have freedom to speak the complete truth for whatever reason. We may take a truth and add to it or subtract to it in order to make it seem more palatable. If we speak beyond the truth or do not tell the whole of truth, then what we have said is not the truth but a lie. The truth of our word has been compromised and when found out our truth has been broken. In our text Jesus is addressing this very flaw in our natural character. To correct that which is at the very heart of what it means to be a child of God.

Because of this behavior within the family, which grows into our society, there is a natural distrust in the word spoken amongst us. Thus, there is a need for a large population of lawyers and a multitude of contracts for each and every transaction in our world today. This is to legally bind us to what we have said or agreed to. Our society was founded on Christian principles and as time has moved ahead has abandoned these principles. We no longer live by God’s Law but by common law controlled by popular opinion. Man’s opinion against God’s eternal order is short sighted and always flawed and in constant flux.

Statistics bear this out as only 22% believe in absolute truth in our society today. Of the professing Born Again Christians only 32% of adults and 9% of teenagers believe that moral truth is unchanging or absolute. (Barna Research) In 1962 the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in Engel vs Vitale that the state could not sponsor prayer or Bible teaching in Public Schools. This decision is in opposition to the very foundation of morality our nation was founded upon and it has removed it from future generations. Now today people cannot identify truth because they do not know what truth is. As the founding fathers have advised, John Adams in a speech to the military in 1798 warned his fellow countrymen stating, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams is a signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and our second President. Noah Webster, author of the first American Speller and the first Dictionary stated, “The moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. . . All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”

Today our society operates on the pretense that one’s reality determines ones truth. This pretense has destroyed people’s relationships and has created a society that lives in a forest of broken trust. There is no truth because there is no rock for our nation to stand on. “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) If the Church is to be revived and reformed into the Light of Jesus that it was called to be, then it must communicate in the truth of His Word as the family of God.

God gave His law to the people in order that we would know how to live in His light and with each other. Otherwise the world would be governed in complete anarchy. As we read in the book of Psalm. “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3) Yet we live in a world that bears false witness towards each other. To give false testimony to others is what it is, a lie. We lie to ourselves, we lie to others, and we lie to God.

There is so much distrust that we have to swear oaths that we are telling the truth under penalty of law. We stand in the court, place our hand upon the Word of God to tell the truth, then hire lawyers to twist that truth to our own advantage to escape accountability for the actions we have committed. This is in violation of the third commandment that we all are to live by. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7) We cannot swear by the name of the Lord and then lie, as an oath in the name of God is binding and as He is just then we must be just as well. We may well avoid the punishment of man but none will escape the judgment of God. “You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:12)

James in his Epistle mirrors this verse that Jesus had spoken. “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.” (James 5:12) Earlier in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount He had already dealt with murder, adultery, and divorce. The Law given to Moses had already spoken to these issues but the scribes and Pharisees miss taught the Law of God and completely missed the spirit of the law. The purpose of Jesus was to focus on the spirit of the law and bring it to a reflection of the character of a holy God. The Word of God is the power of the universe and it is not only to be seen in a physical sense, which is passing away, but in the eternal sense which is spiritual, as God is a Spirit. God’s Word penetrates the very being of a man. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)

We must recognize this power as the One who spoke these words is the truth. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) Jesus who is the truth came into the world to testify of that truth. (John 18:36) His truth is eternal and will endure forever and is the standard for what truth is and what it is not, for what is righteous and what is unrighteous. “The sum of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting.” (Psalm 119:160)

It is not the point that we should never make a vow or take an oath. We read in the Old Testament that we are to swear by our Lord’s name. “You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.” (Deuteronomy 10:20) There is a relationship here to the first and second commandments. “You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:3-4) We are commanded to worship and serve God alone. If we are His children, then we have His infinite power at our disposal. By His Holy Spirit He dwells within us and we live in His power. We are not able to accomplish His work apart from Him. If we are living in His power, living in His truth, then we can invoke His name to secure our word.

There are those who will not take an oath because of this text. But that would be saying that Jesus came to abolish the Old Testament scripture and that is not the truth. As a few verses prior Jesus said that He came to fulfill the law. “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17) The words of Jesus’ teaching never places the emphases on the outward actions of a person. We can discipline ourselves to stop doing an outward action without our hearts being any purer. The teachings of Jesus are concerned with the heart of a person and its purity.

God Himself swore and because He could find nothing greater than Himself He swore upon Himself. “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself.” (Hebrews 6:13) The Apostle Paul swore to the Corinthians with God as his witness. “But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth.” (2 Corinthians 1:23) We must recognize this principle that in the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth and all of creation belongs to Him. If God swears by Jerusalem He swears by His Holy City. If He swears by the earth He swears by His footstool. If God swears by Heaven He swears by what is His, as it is His throne. All belongs to God as He is the Creator.

We have no control upon our life. We are stewards of our life and the world that we live in but God is in control. We have no control over the advancement of our age or the color of our hair. All the issues of our life are in the hands of God. On our own we have no right to swear because we do not have the power to fulfill what we have promised. Our dependence is completely upon God our Heavenly Father. But, as God’s servants we are God’s agents. As His agents we act upon His authority. We pray to God in the power of His Son’s name, Jesus. It is the power of Jesus that makes us capable to do the good work for the Kingdom. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4)

This is the power that the Christian has and should use for the advancement of the Kingdom of Heaven. That we operate under the power of the Creator through the name of His Son Jesus Christ. That’s what it means when Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) We may swear by the name of God when the truth is being defended.

We must understand the uses of the double “yes” and “no” in the last verse. Jesus was speaking to the Jew of His day. When we study the rabbinical teaching of the day we see that the use of a double yes or no was a form of an oath. If a Jew said yes he was not bound but if he said yes twice it was as an oath. This is why we must bridle our tongue and speak only that which is true and wholesome. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)

The truth itself is as binding as an oath and we are under spiritual obligation to obey and follow. It is one thing to believe the truth but we must also obey the truth in faith. “To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.” (Romans 2:7-8) Faith is established in the truth, a truth that you believe and obey. The Lord Jesus says that anything more than truth is from the devil.

This is what the Christian strives for in their Christian walk in the Lord Jesus Christ. The perfection of the truth in their life. This is how we worship God the Father in Spirit and Truth. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:13)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 29, 2016

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