Does God Lie?
Short answer: No. God never says anything like: “I am not God.” Or: “You are not sinful.” Or: “Christ is not a great Savior.” Or: “If you believe in Christ, you will not be saved.” Or: “It is foolish to follow my counsel.” Or: “My word is unreliable.”
But God does ordain that lying happen as part of his judgment on the guilty. That is why the question comes up.
- The prophet Micaiah stood against all the prophets of Ahab and said that the king would fall in battle. To explain why all the other prophets were saying the opposite, Micaiah says, “Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you” (1 Kings 22:23).
- Similarly, God says he will punish those who try to use prophets to buttress their sin. In that situation he says, “If the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike” (Ezekiel 14:9-10).
- And at the end of this age, God will ordain a “strong delusion” as part of the punishment for those who “refused to love the truth.” “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
When we say that God never lies, but ordains that lying happen, we do not mean that he approves of lying or that his law permits lying. We mean that God governs all things in the universe, including the sins of sinful men. Sin does not cease to be sin because God governs it and guides it for the good of his people and the glory of his name.
That is what he did in the sin of Joseph’s deceptive sale into Egypt—and Judas’ deceptive kiss of betrayal. The one led to the greatest act of salvation in the Old Testament (the Exodus from Egypt), and the other led to the greatest act of salvation in history (the death of Christ for our sins).
When God says, “I have deceived that prophet” (Ezekiel 14:9), he means that he can and does govern a sinful prophet’s mind so that the prophet believes a lie; but God does it in such a way that he himself is not lying. God is able to superintend a thousand circumstances and influences so that a sinful prophet will think a lie, without God himself lying or in any way compromising his perfect truthfulness.
Let the word of God about the word of God stand firm:
- “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19).
- “The Glory of Israel will not lie” (1 Samuel 15:29).
- “The word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.” (Psalms 33:4).
- “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true” (2 Samuel 22:31).
- “Every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5).
- “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Psalms 12:6).
God can be trusted. But do not play games with him. Do not begin to be careless with the truth. Do not “take pleasure in unrighteousness” and forsake the “love of the truth.” If you do, you may be abandoned to a strong delusion and never be able to see again.
For God’s truth and your safety,
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org