Can God lie?

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Question: "Can God lie?"

Answer:
God is holy (Isaiah 6:3), and that quality makes it impossible for Him to lie. The holiness of God is His moral and ethical perfection, His absolute integrity that sets Him apart from all His creatures. God’s holiness is thus related to His transcendence. God does not conform to any standard of purity; He is the standard. God is absolutely holy with an infinite purity incapable of being changed. Because of His holiness, when God speaks, He will not and cannot lie. He never deceives; He never distorts or misrepresents what He says or does. Lying is against His nature.

Because God cannot lie, God’s Word, the Bible, is completely trustworthy (1 Kings 8:56; Psalm 119:160). “Every word of God is flawless” (Proverbs 30:5). God’s character and the communications that proceed from His character are purer than anything this world can produce: “The words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6).

The basis of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 was God’s own unchanging nature; that is, God’s rock-solid attribute of truth makes everything He says utterly trustworthy: “Since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, ‘I will surely bless you and give you many descendants’” (Hebrews 6:13-14). The text continues with the statement that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:18).

If God could lie, He would not be transcendent; in fact, He would be just like us—humanity has a reputation for hiding, misrepresenting, and distorting truth. But “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19).

From the very beginning, God has rewarded faith in Him (Genesis 15:6; Hebrews 11:6). Faith, or trust, can only be a good thing if its object is worthy of trust. Faith in an unreliable person or thing is a disadvantage. If God could lie, then His words would be suspect, and He would be unworthy of our trust. But, as it is, He is wholly dependable: “The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy” (Psalm 111:7).

Jesus, who is “in very nature God” (Philippians 2:6), is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Everything Jesus said and taught was the absolute truth. Everything He did reflected the truth. People such as Pilate will always be confused by the truth (John 18:38), but Jesus came “to testify to the truth” (verse 37). Jesus is, in fact, the Truth itself (John 14:6). Jesus cannot lie because God cannot lie, “and everyone who belongs to the truth knows [Jesus’] voice” (John 18:37, CEV).

God, who cannot lie, is of transcendent moral purity. He wants moral purity in His children as well. God cannot lie, and the followers of Christ should not lie: “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body” (Ephesians 4:25). “With whom does God dwell?” the psalmist asks. The answer, in part, is that God dwells with “the one . . . who speaks the truth from their heart” (Psalm 15:2). May we love the truth as God does.

Recommended Resource: Knowing God by J.I. Packer

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Related Topics:

What does the Bible say about lying? Is lying a sin?

Why did God kill Ananias and Sapphira for lying?

Why did God use a lying spirit to deceive Ahab?

Does God change His mind?

Is it ever right to lie?

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