By James M. Rochford

The attribute of veracity (Latin veracitas) means that God tells the truth and cannot lie. Because we affirm a correspondence view of truth, this attribute “means that God represents things as they really are.”[1] God’s “knowledge and words are both true and the final standard of truth.”[2]

Biblical Basis

God’s nature is truthful. God is dependable because he is “faithful and true” (Rev. 3:14; 19:11). In fact, each member of the Trinity possesses a truthful nature:

  • God the Father is “truthful” (Jn. 3:33 NIV), “true” (Jn. 7:28; 8:26; Rev. 6:10), and the “God of truth” (Isa. 65:16).
  • God the Son is “full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1:14), he spoke the “truth” (Jn. 8:45), and he is the “truth” (Jn. 14:6).
  • God the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 14:17; 15:26; 16:13) and would guide the apostles “into all truth” (Jn. 16:13).

God’s moral nature makes it impossible for him to lie. God “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), and in fact, it is “impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). God’s prophets should speak “nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD” (1 Kin. 22:16; cf. 1 Chron. 18:15). God said, “Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David” (Ps. 89:35). Because God cannot break his promises, he cannot lie.

The evil king Balak wanted Balaam to curse Israel. However, God intervened into Balaam’s life, and under the inspiration of God, Balaam said, “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 it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19) The word “lie” (kāzāḇ) refers to “any speech that is factually untrue” or that “does not correspond to reality.”[3]

God’s truthfulness is our standard for telling the truth. It is a sin to lie (Jn. 8:44, 55; Col. 3:9-10; 1 Thess. 2:3; 1 Tim. 1:10; 2:7; Rev. 2:2; 21:8). God hates falsehood and those who spread it. God will “destroy those who speak falsehood” (Ps. 5:6). This is because “falsehood” is equated with “wickedness” (Isa. 59:3) and “evil” (Ps. 52:3). Hence, the psalmist writes, “I hate and despise falsehood” (Ps. 119:163). Solomon affirms, “Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight” (Prov. 12:22). Moreover, he writes, “A righteous man hates falsehood” (Prov. 13:5; cf. 14:25).

What about passages where God seems to lie?

(2 Thess. 2:9-12) A deluding influence? Paul writes, “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false…” (2 Thess. 2:11). The key to understanding this verse is the context. God gave them a deluding influence, because “they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” (v.10). In the following verse, it states that they were judged, because they “did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (v.12). In other words, this “deluding influence” only works on those who have rejected the truth and have chosen evil. Most likely, the deluding influence refers to the Antichrist (v.3, 9), and Paul depicts God as an active agent due to the fact that the releasing of the Antichrist is a form of judgment for those who reject the truth.

(Ezek. 14:9) Does God deceive people? Ezekiel states, “If a prophet is deceived into giving a message, it is because I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet. I will lift my fist against such prophets and cut them off from the community of Israel” (Ezek. 14:9 NLT). It’s possible that these Hebrew authors didn’t carefully distinguish first and secondary causes, and they “attributed events directly to the action of God.”[4] It’s also possible that this act is a form of judgment from God.[5]

(1 Kin. 22:23) Did God force the prophets to lie? (cf. 1 Sam. 16:14) In the book of Kings, we read, “The Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets” (1 Kings 22:23). This passage attributes the coming of an evil spirit directly and solely to God. The context, however, states that the evil spirit actually volunteered to do this (v.21), and God gave him permission to do it (v.22). While God does command the demon to “Go and do it,” this doesn’t necessarily mean that this is his active will. God also commands the people of Israel, “Go to Bethel and sin” (Amos 4:4 NIV). Clearly, God would never desire us to sin (i.e. his moral will), but he does permit this (i.e. his permissive will). The text tells us that God permitted this because this is what the people “loved to do” (Amos 4:5 NIV). We agree with OT scholar Walter Kaiser who observes, “Scriptural language frequently attributes directly to God what he merely permits.”[6] For more on the subject, see comments on Isaiah 45:7.

If God could lie, what implications would this have for our lives?

If God could lie, we wouldn’t be able to trust the Bible. Every time we read the Bible, we would constantly wonder which parts were inspired statements, which parts were merely inspirational stories, and which parts were inserted speculations of the human authors.

With the God of truth, we don’t have this problem. Jesus prayed, “Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17), and Paul writes that “all Scripture is inspired” (2 Tim. 3:16). The psalmist states, “All Your commandments are faithful” (Ps. 119:86) and “All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal” (Ps. 119:160 NIV). Elsewhere, we read, “The words of the LORD are flawless” (Ps. 12:6 NIV; cf. Prov. 8:8; 30:5; Prov. 8:8; 2 Sam. 7:28; 2 Tim. 2:15).

If God could lie, we wouldn’t be able to trust his promises. Perhaps you grew up in a home where you never knew if your parents were going to follow through on their promises. You might’ve learned that it hurts too much to look forward to the future when you were let down so frequently.

There’s good news. God never breaks his promises. Our hope for the future is not a product of wishful thinking—perhaps in the way that we “hope” the weather will be sunny tomorrow. As Christians, our hope of heaven is an anticipation and an expectation for what the future holds.

If God could lie, we would have a constant identity crisis. If God’s words couldn’t be trusted, then how could you know what he thinks about you? Without the stability of his transcendent words, you would be lost in a sea of relativity. Rather than looking to God to hear words of love, security, and affirmation, you would look to your feelings, intuitions, and desires to carve out an identity of some kind.

But when we know the God of truth, we don’t have these problems. We can trust that what he says about us is true. No matter what happens, our identity remains fixed as a deeply loved child of God.

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology., 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1998), 316.

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 195.

[3] See footnote. Wayne Grudem, “Scripture’s Self-Attestation and the Problem of Formulating a Doctrine of Scripture” in Scripture and Truth, eds. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 29.

[4] G.A. Cooke, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Ezekiel (International Critical Commentary, 1936), p.151.

[5] R. B. Chisholm, Jr., “Does God Deceive?” Bibliotheca Sacra 155 (1998): 23-25.

[6] Walter Kaiser, More Hard Sayings of the Old Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992), 132.