Each of us are prone to different sins, but if there is one transgression that we all have committed, it is the sin of lying. Those who have raised children know that while you have to teach a child to tell the truth, children know how to stretch the truth almost as soon as they start talking. The great American man of letters Mark Twain was surely onto something when he said, “A man is never more truthful than when he acknowledges himself a liar” (Mark Twain and I, p. 34).
Twain’s statement, no doubt unintentional on his part, captures an essential biblical truth: “All mankind are liars” (Ps. 116:11). Born in Adam, we come into this world with a view of truth that winks at the twisting of facts for the sake of personal benefit. Since Adam was our representative, we cannot help but lie and earn for ourselves eternal death (1 Cor. 15:22), just as our first parents lied to themselves when they thought that they could eat the forbidden fruit and protect themselves from the consequences (Gen. 3:6–7).
There is hope, however, for the Christian, since those who trust in Jesus alone for salvation are not in Adam but in Christ. We who believe in the name of the only begotten Son of God no longer belong to Adamic humanity but to the new humanity that our Father is forming in the image of Jesus. This is Paul’s main point in today’s passage — we have put off our old self, that is, our Adamic nature, and have put on our new self, that is, our Savior (Col. 3:9–10). Having been given this new status in conversion, we no longer have to lie or commit any of the other sins of the tongue (included in the immediate context of verse 9; see v. 8). In fact, we betray our new status in Christ when we forget that we have put on His righteousness and behave as if we are still members of Adam and not members of Jesus.
Paul’s view, however, is based in reality; he believed that putting on Christ meant total perfection was unattainable this side of glory. Though there is a decisive change in conversion, we are still tempted to take out our old, ratty Adamic wardrobe every once in a while. But when we are tempted to do this and lie once more, we are to resist in the power of the Spirit, knowing that through personal renewal He continues to make the clothing of Christ fit us better day by day (v. 10).