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  • Writer's pictureDr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.

Using Truth to Further Evil

For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened,

and you will be like God, knowing

good and evil. – Genesis 3:5 NKJV

We continue our study of Question 145 of the Larger Catechism, which asks,

“What are the sins forbidden in the Ninth Commandment?” The fifth part of the

answer states, “The sins forbidden in the Ninth Commandment are… speaking the

truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong

meaning, or in doubtful and equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of truth or

justice.” Last time we looked at sinful silence. Today we consider the sin of using the

truth to further the cause of evil.

Speaking the truth unseasonably is to say something truthful, but at an

inappropriate time. Thus, sharing the gospel with a woman in the middle of

childbirth is not being very sensitive to her condition! Here the intention was good

but the timing was bad. In the rest of today’s Catechism section the intentions are

not good. The verse at the head of this article could be called Satan’s closing

argument in his successful attempt to deceive Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.

For in the very next verse, Eve reaches out her hand, takes from the tree, and eats.

Satan had promised Eve regarding them both (the pronouns are all plural in Hebrew)

that by disobeying God, they would become like God, knowing good and evil. Later

in the chapter God summarizes what Adam and Eve have done in listening to the

serpent: “Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to

know good and evil’” (Gen. 3:22a). Thus, God seems to confirm what Satan promised

had come to pass. Is that the case? Did Satan tell the truth? If so, how do we square

the teaching of Jesus, who said of Satan: “He… 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 8:44b). If Satan really has “no truth in him,” then

how could he promise something true?

The fact is Satan did not tell the truth truthfully or plainly, but he used “doubtful

or equivocal expressions to the prejudice of truth or justice.” Satan’s words could be

construed as being technically accurate, and yet he spoke them with the intention of

Eve taking them the wrong way in order to destroy her. His words prejudiced the

truth in that they made the way of truth, which is obedience to God, appear

unattractive to her. The fact is that by tempting Eve to disobey God in order to know

good and evil, Satan, without explicitly saying it, was proposing that she become like

God (i.e. sovereign over her own choices) in a sinful way, by a sinful act. For God

knows good immediately from His own character, for He is the essence of goodness

itself. Thus, in God’s expression of Himself (in all His works), He perfectly wills and

delights in good and only good, and he fully and justly hates every form and degree

of evil. In every act God adheres to no standard of good and evil outside of Himself,

for He Himself is the ultimate perfection of good so that anything that goes against

Him is, by definition, evil.

Accordingly, Adam and Eve acted as gods unto themselves when they decided

to know good and evil for themselves, on their own terms, rather than humbly &

submissively understanding good and evil by the Word of God. This act of defiance,

wherein they in effect take the place of God as arbiter of good and evil according to

their own wills, would not stand, as Satan knew it could not stand. Thus, in addition

to using expressions that could be taken more than one way, Satan was “speaking

the truth maliciously or to a wrong end or perverting it to a wrong meaning.” Eve

understood Satan’s promise in an entirely positive way and was thus deceived.

Satan, however, knew that it would not turn out as Eve thought and that was what

he was aiming at with every word he spoke.

Thus, Adam acted as if he was God, determining for himself and from his own

character what would be good for him and what would be evil for him. The problem

with Adam’s acting this way was that he had no right to do so. He was still a creature

under God, subject to God’s authority, and therefore, to God’s definition of good and

evil. Satan, neglected to explain that part in his counsel to Eve. In this way his

technically accurate words were spoken to accomplish a deception. Reformed

Theologian J. G. Vos said it this way, “The real, essential nature of a lie is the intention

to deceive some person. Even though what we say may be itself true, if our intention

is to deceive others we are really liars in God’s sight.” Amen. And may our good God

grant that you and I be delivered from such false, Satanic speech.


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