God Cannot Lie
Can God be limited? Many Bible passages proclaim that God is all-powerful, all-seeing, and all-knowing. While God is unlimited by time, space, or force, His very character has determined that He will never do some things, because to do them would be inconsistent with His principles—viz., God’s nature prevents Him from such things. For example, God cannot lie. Observe what the Bible has to say about God’s honesty and, therefore, His reliability.
Numbers 23:19: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
1 Samuel 15:29: “And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent.”
Psalm 92:15: “To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”
Malachi 3:6: “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”
Romans 3:4: “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.”
Titus 1:2: “[I]n hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.”
Hebrews 6:18: “[I]t is impossible for God to lie.”
James 1:17-18: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
God is the only being Who is incapable of lying. Everything that God said would happen before now, has happened—just as He said it would. Since God knows all things past, present, and future (and since He is completely honest), it is impossible for Him to speak untruths (see Colley, 2004). One striking characteristic of the Bible is that it contains a large collection of statements attributed to God. Some of these statements are predictions of future occurrences, some are warnings, some are instructions, some are revelations concerning the Divine character, and some are statements of simple fact. One common thread runs through all of God’s recorded statements: they are all true. God has never “gone back” on a promise. God has never lied—He has never even made an “honest mistake.” God, in revealing His message to humans, has not held back truths that we need (2 Peter 1:3). Likewise, Jesus was completely honest, even when telling a hard truth meant putting Himself in danger (Matthew 23:28-33; 1 John 3:5).
God is not tempted to lie. No one can catch Him in a compromising position, or give Him an opportunity to make Himself appear more impressive by making up false accomplishments or attributes. He is perfect in every way, so even if His character did permit Him to lie, the potential for personal gain, which serves as many people’s motivation to lie, would not affect Him.
Paul, who stated so boldly in his letter to Titus that God cannot lie, wrote to Titus while he worked among the Cretans, who were known for their dishonesty. Furthermore, Cretans were accustomed to a pantheon, which included various gods, all with different personalities, so when Paul emphasized that God does not lie, he not only was giving Titus a practical teaching tool, but also was showing that Christianity is distinct from the polytheism that surrounded the church of Christ at Crete (see “God Cannot Lie,” 1996; “Why Crete?,” n.d.). People are more likely to serve a God upon Whom they can unquestionably depend. In fact, take away God’s trustworthiness, and He is no longer God. Philosopher René Descartes, in his fourth meditation, wrote:
To begin with, I recognize that it is impossible that God should ever deceive me. For in every case of trickery or deception some imperfection is to be found; and although the ability to deceive appears to be an indication of cleverness or power, the will to deceive is undoubtedly evidence of malice or weakness, and so cannot apply to God (1984, p. 37).
Humans often lie. God made humans in His image and likeness, but, unlike God, humans commit sin (see Lyons and Thompson, 2002a,b). On occasion, we say things that are false, not because we intend to lie, but because we lack accurate information. Sometimes, while we know the truth, we choose to relay false information to others. Often, we are not comfortable with frankly telling people what they need to know. The words of humans are frequently so undependable that we sometimes use lie detectors in attempts to determine who is telling the truth, and who is not. Apparently, some humans are so “good” at lying, that even the polygraph test has now been proven ineffective in detecting lies (Vergano, 2004).
The devil is the father of lies. Jesus said: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). The dishonesty of Satan is one of the features that makes him the complete opposite of God; God speaks the truth exclusively, while Satan speaks only lies. The angels who, at one time, chose to follow Satan, are partakers in his deceit (see Thompson, 1999). Satan does not tell lies because he wants humans to avoid the pain that truth often brings. Rather, he lies because he hopes that humans will believe falsehoods and, eventually, be damned because they reject the truth of God (1 Peter 5:8). The fact that the devil keeps “no truth in him” is one of the reasons why heaven and hell are so far separated (Matthew 25:41; Luke 16:26). God cannot associate with the impurity that dishonesty brings.
How should we respond to the truthfulness of God? We should be grateful because we serve a God Who will not go back on His word. God’s honesty means that He will fulfill His promise of eternal life for those who serve Him. Imagine a scenario in which you approach His throne on Judgment Day, having fulfilled the requirements for appropriating the redeeming blood of Christ to your soul, only to find that God has changed the rules! You no longer would be able to enter heaven, because God had not been honest with you. We should be grateful because God is not required to be forthright with us, anymore than He is required to love us enough to offer His Son as a sacrifice for sin. Nonetheless, He is all-merciful, all-caring, and fortunately, completely honest. We are assured that every word of God is a “sure word” (2 Peter 1:19), because we know God has a detailed history of making His word good.
As we strive to be godly, we must be honest with ourselves, and with others (Luke 8:15; Romans 12:17). If we practice deceit, no one will believe we are truly followers of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 8:21, we read: “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (KJV). Following this precept will earn us “high esteem” in the eyes of God and men (Proverbs 3:4).
Colley, Caleb (2004), “The Omniscience of God,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2562.
Descartes, René (1984), The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press).
“God Cannot Lie” (1996), [On-line], URL: http://www.ivmdl.org/wil.cfm?study=117.
Lyons, Eric, and Bert Thompson (2002a), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God’ [Part I],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/123.
Lyons, Eric, and Bert Thompson (2002b), “In the ‘Image and Likeness of God’ [Part II],” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/125.
Thompson, Bert (1999), Satan: His Origin and Mission (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Vergano, Dan (2004), “Telling the Truth About Lie Detectors, [On-line], URL: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2002-09-09-lie_x.htm.
“Why Crete?” (no date), World Health Organization, [On-line], URL: http://www.nsph.gr/who-harvard/whyCrete.html.