The Third Commandment

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Let us examine ourselves this morning in light of the Third Commandment:

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes his name in vain (Exodus 20:7).
The commandment has to do with using the Lord’s name in an oath or vow; not that doing so is sinful in itself. There are occasions when swearing an oath or taking a vow in the name of the Lord is appropriate and necessary (marriage vows, oath of office, giving testimony in a court of law, etc.).

What the commandment forbids is using his name in this way in vain—meaning using his name to deceive, that is, using his name when swearing an oath or taking a vow in order to give credibility to your statements, when in fact you have no intention of following through.

The breaking of any vow is a very serious matter. All the more so when the vow was made in the name of God.

But the implications of the commandment are very far reaching and extend far beyond swearing oaths and making vows. As the catechism says, the third commandment requires of us that we make only a holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, words, and works. In other words, we are to treat everything having to do with God with the utmost reverence. We are not to use his name, or the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, as a curse word; or even as a mere exclamation. How many times do you hear people say things like, “O my God!”? We should not speak of him or to him in a casual or flippant manner.

And so how is it with you? Are you careful to honor the Lord in the way you speak of him? In the way you speak to him? Have you misused the name of the Lord? Have you taken the name of God in vain? Have you spoken disrespectfully of the faith?

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