Honesty is more than the best policy. It is an essential principle of the Christian’s standard of life. Lying is not some little misdemeanor. It is a grievous sin that can prepare one for the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. “All liars shall have their part in the lake, which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev 21:8).
“That you put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another” (Eph 4:22-25). We would all be pleased if others would put away lying and speak truth. Absolute honesty would make a better world.
While honesty is an excellent trait, which we appreciate everywhere we find it, dishonesty often becomes something of a habit. Note the sad message of Titus 1:12, 13: “One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are always liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” Imagine the difficulty of trying to establish a faithful congregation among such people, and yet that is the very task at which Titus was to work so diligently. Souls were and are in danger. The sharp rebuke and all other efforts that the Lord recommends should be made to save people from the soul-destroying evil.
Some speak things, which they ought not for filthy lucre’s sake (Tit 1:11). The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. There are, and always have been religious racketeers. The most dangerous deceivers are the religious deceivers. These false teachers subvert whole houses. They should be convicted by sound doctrine so that their mouths are stopped.
Liars must sear their conscience to have any rest. This can be done. Men may destroy this precious part of their make up if they are determined to walk the false way. Those who depart from the faith, and sear their conscience as with a hot iron, may speak lies in hypocrisy. (1 Tim 4: 1, 2). Liars are among those who cast their fiery darts at the faithful soldiers of the Lord’s army (Eph 6:10- 17).
The love of money or covetousness is often the motive of those who speak evil of the way of truth. They make merchandise of men. They speak things, which they ought not for filthy lucre’s sake. They speak feigned words, or lies in hypocrisy. Such men are false prophets. This is the form of dishonesty with which the New Testament deals most often.
Some seem to think that a man who claims to preach could not be dishonest. He is a gospel preacher, they say. Could he be a false teacher? Have there been such in the past? Notice 2 Peter 1:21-2:3: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: But holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: Whose judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not.”
Note the Lord’s commendation in Revelation 2:2. “I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and how y0u cannot bear them which are evil: and you have tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars.” It is wonderful that they discovered that they were liars. Their words would have been damnable heresies. Their words would “eat as cloth as does a canker” (2 Tim 2:17). It is easy to see that such men should be marked, avoided, and rejected (Tit 3:10, 11 f; Rom 16:17, 18).
False teachers or deceitful workers serve not our Lord Jesus Christ. They deceive and destroy. They are enemies of the cross of Christ. It is as appropriate now as it was in the day of the great apostle to the Gentiles for men to weep as they behold their soul destroying efforts. Think seriously of these words from this apostle. “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as you have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly’ and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things)” (Philip 3:17-19). Such enemies of the cross of Christ should not be supported as gospel preachers. They deserve no honor. They are as wolves among sheep. The sheep should be warned.
Is there any difference in speaking perverse things and in speaking lies in hypocrisy? Paul was speaking of such deceitful workers when he warned the elders at Ephesus of the grievous wolves who would enter in among them, destroying the flock. He wept as he warned day and night. He commended them to the word as their great protection. By it they could test the teachers and recognize the perverted ones.
The church at Ephesus later had liars to appear among them who said they were apostles, or men sent of God. The church learned the truth on these liars and was commended for it. Could you be trusted to discover, mark, avoid, and reject a dishonest preacher today, or would you be among the number fighting those who speak the truth in love?
Consider the warning of John when he wrote in 1 John 4:1. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” It is very urgent that we all try the spirits whether they are of God. One who may once have been a true teacher may now be false. Read the story of the prophet Balaam. Many false prophets are gone out into the world, the apostles said. Evidently he was right, and that sad situation still prevails.
Men are not always what they seem. They transform themselves into another image if they speak lies in hypocrisy (2 Cor 11:12-15). “But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion, that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”
Were there those who would seek or desire occasion to hinder work done by Paul? Of course, there were. That was a common problem that he faced. Would some today seek occasion to hinder a good work? If not, why not? Men are still prone to covetousness, ignorance, pride, envy, and jealousy. Men still find pleasure in unrighteousness. Would you recognize a satanic influence even if it should appear as an angel of light? Would you soon recognize one who speaks lies in hypocrisy even if he claimed to be a minister of righteousness? Are you sure? Please be watchful or vigilant as the Lord so often requested us to be. It is no wonder the apostle Paul wept as he warned of the false prophets in his day. Many did not recognize the wolf-like nature. They saw only the sheep like clothing of hypocrisy.
We all can fall from grace (Gal 5:4). No one is guaranteed eternal life until after they have endured faithfully until the end (Rev 2:10). Satan is seeking to devour each of us by whatever means at his disposal. Notice the warning of the apostle Peter: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who has called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that you have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you” (2 Pet 5:8-10). Many highly educated preachers of today will deceive you by the philosophy and traditions of man. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col 2:8). Tremble at the danger of losing your soul to a lying and perverted preacher. This is an ever-present danger for each of us. Defend yourself even as did the Bereans. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Put on the whole armor of God and be set for the defense of the gospel and doctrine of Christ (Eph 6:11-18 f; Philip 1:15-18).