Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord Thy God In Vain

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7)

Commandment 3: Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord In Vain

The First Commandment instructs man to reverence the Person of God, serving Him alone. The Second Commandment instructs man to reverence the worship of God by not identifying the eternal, invisible God with an idol; we are forbidden to substitute any image for the Living God. The Third Commandment, which we now come to, reminds us that even the name of God is sacred and must be treated as such.

Although the Third Commandment surely includes such, it is not simply limited to using the holy name of God as a curse, byword, or utterance of profanity. The term in vain refers to any false use or misuse of the name of God. Nor was the original intention to prohibit the swearing of an oath by the name of the Lord. The Lord Jesus taught His followers to abolish the practice (Matt. 5:33-37), but God was precisely the One by Whom the Hebrews were instructed to swear in their oaths (e.g., Deut. 6:13, 10:20, and Ps. 63:11). We understand that, under the New Testament, we should not swear at all, but under the Law of Moses a person was only guilty of profaning the name of God when they either lied by His name or failed to honor an oath wherein they had bound themselves by that name.

To take the name of the Lord in vain is a sin committed whenever the name of God is invoked or uttered in any manner that blasphemes or dishonors it. Obviously, to speak the name of God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, or even the Holy Spirit in a filthy or profane connnotation violates the Third Commandment, but so does uttering these names in insincerity, disobedience, or deception. The atheist who calls upon the Lord to “damn” his golf club after he slices a tee shot is guilty of taking God’s name in vain, as is the travelling “faith healer” who uses the name of Christ to enrich himself, or the unconverted church member who happily prays in the name of Jesus yet does not even know Him. The name of the Lord is grossly misused and abused in all of these cases.

Should We Use His Name At All?

 “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30)

Many modern Jews, and even some Christians, refuse to even write out the name “God” on paper or on their computer for fear of inadvertently taking His name in vain. They will write “G-d” or some other substitutionary spelling to keep from accidentally blaspheming the name of the Lord by writing it insincerely. I have also heard that some people believe that if the paper on which God’s name is written is ever destroyed or disposed of, His holy name will be dishonored and blasphemed — I don’t know if there are those who really believe this, but such a belief is more akin to pagan superstition than orthodox Judaism or Christianity.

It became the practice of ancient Hebrews to substitute the word “Adonai” (Lord) for “Jehovah” (God’s proper name) in order to prevent the misuse of that name by simply forbidding it to ever be spoken or written. To this day, no one is even certain how to correctly pronounce the four letters of God’s Hebrew name (YHWH, sometimes said as Jehovah, other times as Yahweh) because of the taboo against speaking the name aloud. Yet, in Scripture, it is the misuse of God’s name that is prohibited, not the reverential, proper use of it. In fact, we see repeatedly in both Testaments the admonition to praise the name of God and to give thanksgiving to that name.

God’s name is sacred and holy and we blaspheme that name when we misuse or abuse it. But the Lord never intended man to not speak His name, on the contrary, He shared His name with mankind that we might give Him glory by praising that name. It is right and proper to honor the name of the Lord when we worship and serve Him. But the Lord will not hold them guiltless who take that name in vain.

To God goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

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4 responses

  1. Thank you , Loren, for giving me further insight into this commandment. You are such a blessing! God bless you as you love Him and lift His name in praise!

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  2. well this doesn’t really apply today. we’re not under law, but under grace

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  3. “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.” (Romans 6:15)

    You are absolutely correct — we are under grace, not law. I do believe, however, that many Christians have developed the exact attitude which the Apostle Paul cautioned us about. Because we are not under the Law of Moses, the Law of Moses is scarcely mentioned in our churches today; much less preached upon. But we must understand that the Law of Moses has never been repealed, it has only been superceded by the Law of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The only reason that Christians are not judged by the principles of the Law is because of our Salvation in Christ.

    With that in mind, the focus of this study series is not to attempt to bring Christians under the requirements of the Law of Moses, but to remind us of the spirit under which that Law was given. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His followers of a higher standard of conduct to which He was calling them. We are not under Law, but something greater. We obey God, not out of fear of condemnation and punishment, but out of love and respect. Those of us in Christ are to let the Holy Spirit work in us, bringing not just our actions into line with His will, but our thoughts and attitudes. Our character is to be conformed into the image of our Lord’s, not just our outward behavior.

    It is quite unfortunate that there has been so much misinterpretation and abuse of the role which God’s Commandments play in the life of those in Christ because it has engendered in us a knee-jerk reaction whenever the Law is mentioned. Because so many have sought to blend the requirements of law into the freedom of grace, we have disregarded any thoughtful consideration of this important aspect of our spiritual heritage, promptly brushing it aside with the affirmation “we are not under law, but grace.”

    I agree with you that we are under grace and not law, but I disagree with your assertion that the principles in this article do not apply today. No, we will not be condemned to an eternity in Hell for blaspheming the name of God, nor will we be put to death by the leaders of our community for such a violation. But God’s name is still holy and should be reverenced, especially by those of us who claim to love Him. Though we be forgiven, we still are guilty of sinning whenever we take His name vainly upon our lips.

    Thanks for reading this and taking the time to share your thoughts. May the Lord bless you and keep you.

    Loren

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  4. [...] Thou Shalt Not Take The Name Of The Lord Thy God In Vain (answersfromthebook.org) [...]

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