Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Study Of The Third Commandment

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen

This is a simple and brief study of the third commandment.
All Biblical quotations are from the ESV (English Standard Version), unless otherwise noted.
The third command is found in Exodus 20:7 and in Deuteronomy 5:11. The command says: "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."
This command contains two main points:
1) A prohibition, and
2) A statement of the consequences for violating this prohibition.
What we want to learn from this command are these two things:
1) What does it mean to take God's name in vain, and,
2) What might be the consequences for doing so?
What Does It Mean To Take God's name in vain?
     As we think about what it means to take the Lord's name in vain, most of us will say it means to use his name vainly, which means to use it in an empty and inappropriate manner in conversation with one another.  And it is correct to understand it in this way. It is unfortunately-common to hear the Lord's name used in such an irreverent way. But who hears anyone say, "Oh Buddha!," or "Oh my Abe Lincoln!," or "Oh Tom Sawyer!," or "Oh my George Washington!," or "Oh Mohamed!" But who doesn't hear God or Jesus Christ referred to in these ways? The fact is, we should only use the words "Lord," and "God," and "Jesus Christ" in a reverent manner. All other uses of these words are wrong, and are a violation of this command.
But is that all the third command is about? No.
    It means that, and more. Here is what John Gill, the famous Baptist and Calvinist Bible scholar of many years ago wrote in his commentary on this command: "The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan restrain this to swearing by the name of the Lord; and so the Jewish writers generally interpret it either of swearing lightly, rashly, or falsely; and to this it may very well be extended, though not limited; and so forbids all profane oaths; imprecations and curses by the name of God, which the mouth of wicked men are full of, so swearing by it in matters trivial, and of no importance; for swearing even by the name of the Lord ought not to be used but in matters of moment and consequence, for the confirmation of a thing, and putting an end to strife, and where a matter cannot be determined and decided without an appeal to God. And great care should be taken that a man swears to that which is true, and not false; for false swearing, or perjury, is a very grievous sin, and as it is strictly forbidden, it is severely punished by the Lord, as follows," by which Gill means the punishment is stated in the command itself. His statements about this punishment will be found close to the end of this article.
We should be men and women of our word.    
     Since this command primarily means we should not invoke God in meaningless oaths, one important lesson we can learn from it is that we should be men and women of our word. Other persons should have such confidence in us that they know we say what we mean, and we mean what we say. This means that we will be trusted to keep appointments,  to pay our bills on time, and to always tell the truth no matter what the consequence.
Integrity and honesty are promoted in the whole Bible.
     We find this matter of integrity and honesty spoken of in the Old Testament, and also in the  New Testament. The Lord Jesus Christ referred to it in his famous "sermon on the mount," which is recorded in Matthew's Gospel, chapters 5, 6, and 7. His words are found in Matthew 5:33 - 37, which says: "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, 'Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair black or white. Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil." 
     So, too, the letter by James speaks to this subject. Here is what it says in 5:12: "But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your 'Yes' be yes and your 'No' be no, so  that you may not fall under condemnation." 
John Gill's comments on the punishment promised to the person who violates this command.   
      He said the Lord "will not look upon him as an innocent person, and treat him as such; will not acquit and discharge him as just and righteous; but on the contrary will consider him as a guilty person, a profaner of his name, and a transgressor of his law, and will  condemn him and punish him, if not in this world, yet in the world to come." Gill's words deserve serious thought.
The guilty person can be forgiven.
     The good news is, anyone who is guilty of violating this command can find full  forgiveness of this sin, and of all other sins, if he or she will believe the Bible's teaching on obtaining forgiveness. For instance, Proverbs 28:13 says: "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." And we read in Acts 13:38 and 39 these good words: "Let it be known to you, therefore, brothers, that through this man (the Lord Jesus Christ) forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses."

No comments:

Post a Comment