Oaths

People lie. They always have.
This is the human condition so we moderate it to make it more comfortable and manageable. We classify lies:

  • little lies and big lies,
  • cruel lies and harmless lies,
  • vicious lies and merciful lies, and on and on it goes.

Once someone we trust is caught lying to us, it is unlikely that we will even trust them again. Trust is what truth-telling is all about and trust is broken when lies are told. When people lie to each other they put their lives on shaky ground. When lies are told on TV or in government, society is shaken. Art is supposed to tell us what the artist believes is true. When it is used to spread lies it is called propaganda, not art.

Lying to God
When people lie to each other it is bad but when someone lies to God, the results are far worse. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus dealt with truth telling and it is in this context that He addresses divorce. The marriage contract is more than a legal document, it is a vow made to God Himself. If one of the partners breaks this vow, that person has lied to God. We may take our vows before God lightly but He does not. Just as He is bound by His Word and His character, He expects us to be bound by our words.

In the early church we are told of a couple who lied to God. This couple sold a piece of land to raise money for the church. The man, Ananias, made a great show of placing part of the money at Peter’s feet. The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that this was a lie. Peter confronted the man, making it clear that he had lied, not to men, but to God. Ananias fell dead and people wrapped his body and buried him. Three hours later, his wife, Sapphira, was not aware of these things. When she was asked about the amount, she lied as well, fell dead, and was quickly buried next to her husband. Dr. Luke adds this postscript:

“So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.”

I would imagine so. Obviously this was a one-time warning to the church since nothing like this is recorded elsewhere. We can be thankful for God’s grace!

“Do not swear at all.”
Jesus makes a nearly impossible demand of those who would follow Him—

“But I say to you, do not swear at all…”

How can we live by this command? Oaths are demanded from us at crucial times in our lives. The last statement in this teaching reveals the principle behind the instruction: Tell the truth!

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’
For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

The reason we are made to swear oaths before the law is because people are liars. The law demands truth so to lie after swearing an oath is a crime. If people were truthful, there would be no need for oaths.

We who follow Christ must be a people of TRUTH. We must be true to our words and to our vows.

Scriptures:
Matthew 5:31-37
“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.
Acts 5:1-11
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I wish that I could boast that I have true to all the vows I have made to You. Thank You for forgiving my failures and shortcomings. Help me be a person of truth, known by all that my word can be trusted. I stand on the solid ground of Your trustworthiness; help me to be as trustworthy to others. “O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end; Be thou forever near me, my Master and my friend.” For Your glory, Lord. Amen.

Song:
O Jesus I Have Promised
Words: John E. Bode; Music: Arthur H. Mann

1. O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end;
Be thou forever near me, my Master and my friend.
I shall not fear the battle if thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if thou wilt be my guide.

2. O let me feel thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me, around me and within;
But Jesus, draw thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.

3. O let me hear thee speaking in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will.
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, thou guardian of my soul.

4. O Jesus, thou hast promised to all who follow thee
That where thou art in glory there shall thy servant be.
And Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend.

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

2 thoughts on “March 18, 2018: “Oaths”

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