The Ninth Commandment Forbids False Witness

4 October 2009 by Wes Bredenhof

During the Second World War, the ninth commandment was a topic of a lot of discussion among our Reformed forefathers.  When the Nazis come to your door and ask whether you’re hiding Jews or not, what do you tell them?  Some insisted that you’re not permitted to lie at all.  They said you have to tell the Nazis the truth and let the chips fall where they may.  God will bless our faithfulness to his commandments.  The ninth commandment forbids us to lie, and so we ought not to lie, even when Jews are hiding in the attic and the Nazis have come to send them to be gassed at a concentration camp.

Others were of a different mind.  On Sunday January 24, 1943 the minister of the Reformed church at Amersfoort came to Lord’s Day 43 in his catechism preaching.  Though Rev. Holwerda was wise and didn’t directly speak about the issue of hiding Jews, it was clear that he was giving direction to his congregation on such questions.  Rev. Holwerda, who was later Professor Holwerda, took his starting point in the text of the ninth commandment.  It does not say, “You shall not lie,” but “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”  He argued that this commandment is first of all about doing right for your neighbour, making sure that your neighbour is treated justly.  While he didn’t come right out and say it directly, Holwerda was arguing that Reformed believers for the love of their neighbour, can hide Jews and hide that fact from Nazis.  By the way, if you’re interested, you can find an English translation of this sermon on the Internet just by googling Holwerda and Lord’s Day 43.

But that was a long time ago.  Today we don’t have Nazis at our door looking for Jews.  However, there are always issues that crop with us and the ninth commandment, even if they’re not life and death.  Issues like how do you file your income taxes – do you declare that extra income you received or do you keep it “under the table”?  Or what do we do with gossip and gossips?   Of course, we could go on.  The ninth commandment is obviously still relevant to our lives.  As part of our sanctification, our growth in Christ, our thankfulness for the gospel, we need to consider it again this afternoon.  So, we will consider the ninth commandment and its prohibition against false witness.

To continue reading this Lord’s Day 43 sermon, please click here.

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