“TWO WITNESSES” DOES NOT CONVICT
byPastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 13 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Justice)
"Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine." I Timothy 5.17
I have heard preachers say for many years that two witnesses upheld a conviction in a Jewish court. That is not true. Two witnesses made a cause worthy of investigation, but it did not convict a person as guilty. Any time two or more people accused someone of being guilty of something, it simply meant that they would investigate the matter to find out if the person was truly guilty. It does not mean that they were automatically assumed guilty. In this chapter I am going to use several passages of Scripture to prove that to be true.
II Corinthians 13:1, "This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." The word, "established," means "strengthened." It is not saying that in the mouth of two or three witnesses something is true. If one person makes an accusation, that is weak; but if two or three say it happened, the case is strengthened, and an investigation follows.
No one should be considered guilty until it has been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that that individual has done what he was accused of doing. I would rather allow ten guilty people to go free than to convict one innocent person. As long as God gives me breath, I refuse to declare anyone guilty unless there is positive proof that the person is guilty. I refuse to declare recklessly that someone is guilty just because it appears that way.
I believe that it is wrong to have the appearance of evil. However, if a person has the appearance of evil, that is the wrong; it is not proof of the evil actually being committed. The Bible says that the appearance of evil is to be avoided, so the sin actually committed is appearing to be evil. We must not automatically assume that another evil was committed.
If two people witness something, that means it is strong enough to take into consideration the possibility of it being true, but it does not mean that it is automatically true.
Deuteronomy 19:15, "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established." The word, "established," used in this passage is the same word we found in I Timothy 5:17. Here again the Bible is saying that if only one person rises up as a witness against somebody, we are not even to consider it or investigate it. I am amazed at the way people believe things because one person says it's true. Even if you say that you saw it with your own eyes, I am not to believe it or even investigate it, according to the Bible.
I am not surprised when the pastor of a soul-winning church is accused of terrible things, for the Devil is not going to ignore a great ministry. I trembled right before I announced to our church that we were going to have a big Pentecost Sunday and try to have more than 3,000 people saved. In some ways I did not want to do it because I knew that all havoc would break loose! I knew Satan was not going to overlook that!
Right after Pentecost in the book of Acts, persecution began. Later, when 5,000 people got saved, things got even worse. The Devil will not ignore a church that means business and is trying to get souls saved. Jesus came to earth, lived, died and rose again to get people saved, so anytime a person, a preacher or a church give themselves to what Jesus died to do, persecution is going to follow quickly!
Stephen did incredible things for Christ, and then trouble came. Acts 6:8-15, 'And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake. Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us. And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel."
The key word in this passage is the word, "then," at the beginning of verse 9. Stephen did great things for Christ; then false accusations came. The word, "suborned," in verse 11 means "to secure a person to take a false oath." These men, under oath, claimed that they heard Stephen speak blasphemous words. Did Stephen speak blasphemous words? NO! Yet, these witnesses said that he did, and they even claimed under oath to have heard it with their own ears! They were lying!
Stephen was wrongly stoned because those people judging him were like many Christians today who take as fact the accusations of two false witnesses and condemn an individual as being guilty. You can reject this, or you can wake up and accept what God says in His Word!
Matthew 26:57,59-61, "And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days."
There were at least two false witnesses who accused Jesus of blasphemy for saying that He could destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days. Jesus was talking about His body; yet these false witnesses were accusing Him. If two witnesses convict a person, then Jesus was guilty, deserved to be tried and deserved to die. Yet we know that He was falsely and wrongly accused, tried and convicted!
The Bible does not teach that an accusation is true just because two witnesses say it is true; it merely means that that makes it solid enough to look into it further.
In I Kings 21 we have the story of Ahab, the king who was married to Jezebel. Ahab wanted Naboth's vineyard, but it was sacred to Naboth because he had inherited it from his father. Naboth refused to sell it or to trade it to Ahab. Ahab was so angry that he went home, went to his room, laid on his bed and pouted, refusing to eat anything.
Jezebel came to Ahab and asked him what was wrong. Ahab told her what had happened. When Jezebel heard the story, she promised Ahab that she would get him Naboth's vineyard.
People who will spread slander and lies have no conscience! Jezebel wrote letters sealing them with Ahab's seal! She had Naboth put on trial for blaspheming God and the king, and she secured two sons of Belial to witness falsely against him. Naboth did not blaspheme. All he did was to refuse to sell his vineyard to the king because it was sacred to him.
Ahab was the king. He had the entire kingdom; yet, he wanted one small vineyard that he could not have! Naboth was guilty of nothing, but because of two false witnesses, he was stoned to death. Was that just? Did that mean that Naboth was guilty? After all, they did have two witnesses. No, he was not guilty! Each one who convicted Naboth was guilty of being unjust! Every time a Christian mentally convicts someone today merely because two people say something happened, they also are guilty of being unjust!
God made sure that the same penalty which Jezebel caused to be inflicted on Naboth was later inflicted on Jezebel.
All three of these cases involved situations where two or more witnesses accused someone who was innocent. That is not justice. Stephen was wrongly stoned because of two witnesses; Jesus was wrongly tried because of two witnesses; and Naboth was wrongly tried because of two witnesses.
Tragically most Christians do not even need two witnesses to believe an accusation is true. They only need someone to tell them that he heard something, and they accept it as truth. It is wicked to take an individual's reputation in your hand because of something you heard! The Bible teaches that you are not to even investigate it without two or more witnesses, and you are not to believe it until it has been proven to be true. Nothing is more tragic than for someone to ruin another individual's reputation because of hearsay.
Deuteronomy 19:18, 19, "And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you." The Bible teaches that whatever the punishment would be for the crime an individual is falsely accused of committing, that same punishment should be inflicted instead upon those who accused him and sought his hurt. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Daniel 6:24, "And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den." Daniel was falsely accused and thrown into the lion's den. God protected him from harm, but notice what happened to those who falsely accused him! They were cast into the lion's den as were their wives and children! The king was obeying the law by punishing the false accusers in the same fashion they intended for Daniel to be punished when they falsely accused him.
Esther 9:25, "But when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letters that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows." Haman falsely accused Mordecai and conspired to have him put to death. He persuaded the king to build gallows upon which he could hang Mordecai. One night the king was reading and came upon a story about a certain man who had saved his life. He discovered that it was Mordecai, the man he was about to hang. As a result, Mordecai's life was spared, and because Haman falsely accused Mordecai, Haman was hanged on those gallows! Again we see God's law being enacted.
It is time for Christians to give people a fair chance. It is time for all to quit delighting in hearing bad about someone. The Bible says that love believes good reports, not bad ones. It is time for us to give our neighbors, our families and our Christian brethren the benefit of the doubt. It is time we decided to be just!
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