Why did Paul write, “I lie not?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

On four occasions (Romans 9:1; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Galatians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:7), the Apostle Paul wrote, “I lie not.” Why pen such a “weird” statement—especially four times? Was he implying that he was lying all the other times in his epistles? Dear friends, this puzzling phrase is quite easy to understand. Whenever we approach the Bible, God expects us to use a little common sense. It will go a long, long way. (I lie not!)

Let us pause and consider the meaning of, “I lie not.” Think about expressions we often use in our speech or writing. When we say to someone, “I am being serious,” are we implying that every other time we speak we are joking? Of course not! It is just that we want people to pay special attention to the words we have just spoken or the words we are going to speak shortly thereafter. The same is true of the expressions “I am being honest” and “I am telling you the truth.” In that light, we appreciate Paul’s phrase, “I lie not.” The Apostle Paul is endeavoring to tell us some very important truths. Yet, people are calling him a liar. They are not taking his words seriously. They are making light of God’s Word to them. The Holy Spirit is putting great stress on these four instances, so we need to look at them and see why these truths are just so difficult for people to grasp.

ROMANS 9:1-2
“[1] I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, [2] That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.”

As Saul of Tarsus, the Apostle Paul had gained a notorious reputation for mercilessly imprisoning and slaughtering Jews who followed Jesus Christ (Acts 9:13-14; Acts 26:9-11; Galatians 1:13,23; Philippians 3:5-6; 1 Timothy 1:13). Once he came to trust Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour, he realized just how wrong he had been for all those years. Now, a saved man, he was filled with regret, having killed his own brethren for believing the truth of their fathers’ God. For ever so long and ever so hard, he had fought against the JEHOVAH God he had thought he was serving in killing Messianic Jews. Many years were wasted serving Satan. Saul, a religious leader, was the primary figure for leading Israel’s rebellion against Jesus Christ, probably during the Four Gospels but especially during the early Acts period. We can read the closing verses of Acts chapter 7 and the opening verses of chapters 8 and 9 to see just how ruthless Saul was!

As the Apostle Paul, he was now preaching that Israel had fallen, and that salvation was now going to the Gentiles through his ministry without Israel (Acts 13:46-48; Acts 18:6; Acts 28:28; Romans 11:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). That infuriated unbelieving Israel. No wonder they persecuted him during his Acts ministry. The thought that Israel was no different from the pagan Gentile “dogs” that she had looked down upon for centuries. How offensive! The lost Jews called Paul “anti-Semitic,” some renegade Mosaic scholar now gone insane. They called him a “Jew-hater,” some “crazy man” with an “outlandish message.” (Do they not call us that today when we preach Pauline truths?) So, the Holy Spirit through Paul conducted his ministry during Acts so that unbelieving Israelites could be enticed to join the Body of Christ (Romans 11:13-14). Paul did not hate Israelites. Rather, he hated what he had done to them as a lost man, how he had led them to embrace such error. So, he would passionately preach in their synagogues, hoping to save them from that apostasy. Paul had such a heavy heart that his nation was literally going to hell, and worst of all, he had played a very vital role in it! (The unbelieving Jews were saying Paul hated them, but he reassured them, even saying that the Holy Spirit bore witness, that he was not lying when he said how he felt so sorry for them and felt so sad about their spiritual condition.)

2 CORINTHIANS 11:30-31
“[30] If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. [31] The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.”

It was very ridiculous. Whenever people ridiculed the Apostle Paul as being a “nobody,” he would defend himself, and then they would call him egotistical. (Sounds just like how people react to us today when we preach Jesus Christ according to Paul’s ministry!) In this chapter, Paul described the immense sufferings he endured to preach the Gospel of the Grace of God to lost and dying Gentiles. He was beaten, imprisoned, stoned with rocks, shipwrecked, and suffered various deprivations (hunger, nakedness, sleepless nights, et cetera). Read it for yourself, in the verses preceding:

“[22] Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. [23] Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. [24] Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. [25] Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; [26] In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; [27] In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. [28] Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. [29] Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?”

So, what are the “infirmities” that Paul found worth in in 2 Corinthians 11:30? It was all his troubles and hindrances delineated in the previous eight verses! He did not find value in being praised by men, receiving religionists’ approval, et cetera. He found value in remembering that Jesus Christ was strong when he was weak (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). In the grand scheme of things, Paul’s suffering was nothing. Gentiles were being saved from idolatry and hell, and God’s grace that was saving them from sin was saving him from misery and defeat! “[30] If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. [31] The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.”

“Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.”

Throughout the first 19 verses of chapter 1, Paul discusses his special apostleship and message. He continued this into chapter 2. We will only focus on chapter 1 here. In verses 1, 11-12, 15-16, 17-18, and 19, we see Paul giving five reasons why his apostleship and message are totally separate from the 12 apostles’ ministry and message.

“[1] Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)… [11] But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. [12] For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. [15] But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, [16] To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: [17] Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. [18] Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. [19] But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.”

Paul did not have contact with any of the 12 apostles for the first three years of his Christian life. He received divine revelation directly from the risen, ascended, and glorified Jesus Christ. The 12 apostles taught Paul nothing. Rather, he taught them something (Galatians 2:2,6-8). This “lie not” statement is related to the final “lie not,” which we now discuss.

“Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.”

There were various people—especially false teachers in Corinth (see 2 Corinthians chapters 10-13)—who denied Paul’s apostleship to the Gentiles. Jewish false teachers would especially try to discredit Paul, since his ministry was so radically different from the Old Testament prophetic program. Whenever Paul would claim that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ, his critics would call him a liar. Hence, he wrote “I lie not” in 1 Timothy 2:7. He lied not in that he was indeed—in faith and in verity—truly “a teacher of the Gentiles.”


Regarding these four instances, Paul was being accused of lying. He was affirming that he was telling the truth concerning these four issues. They were important truths that needed to be believed instead of being casually brushed off as falsehoods.

Also see:
» What about Romans 10:9-10?
» Why did Jesus forbid others from preaching that He was Christ?
» Who was Judas’ replacement—Matthias or Paul?