Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE THIRD COMMANDMENT”

Exodus 20.7

My text is Exodus 20.7, where is recorded the third of the ten commands given by God on Mount Sinai. While you are turning to that verse, I will read from Spurgeon’s A Catechism With Proofs.[1]

47. Q. Which is the third commandment? A. The third commandment is, “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).”

 

If you have found our text, please stand and read along with me silently while I read aloud: “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.” It is obvious that this command has to do with the faculty of speech.

If you are the kind of mother or father you need to be, you will take as one of your most serious responsibilities the training and instructing of your child in this matter of speaking properly. I would suggest to you that to prevent the likelihood of your child stumbling over words and not knowing what to do or say in different situations, you train your child by means of role-playing. By that, I suggest that you stand up in the living room and act out what you want your child to say and do. Create scenarios that your child is likely to encounter. Pretend, mom, that you and your son are some place and you are introducing him to someone, with that someone played by dad. Then, dad, you do the same thing. “Mr. Jones, this is my son, Tom. Tom, this is my boss, Mr. Jones.” You show your child how to respond in that type of situation. “Hello, sir. It’s very nice to meet you.”

If you will train your children in this fashion you are far more likely to raise kids who are not socially awkward, and you will spare your child a great deal of embarrassment as a result of knowing what to do and what to say. “Honey, when I introduce you to someone I want you to stand up straight and tall, I want you to look that person in the eye, I want you to stick your hand out to shake, and I want you to say, ‘How are you, Sir? It’s very nice to meet you.’” If you do not take steps to train your children how to act in social situations, and if you do not role play to demonstrate what you want your child to do in those situations, you do not know what you are going to get, and you may leave your child open to embarrassment as a result of stumbling and mumbling and not knowing what to say or do. We have a number of young men and young women in our church who show obvious signs of having been trained in similar fashion by their mothers and fathers. I could also point out some who have obviously never been given sufficient instruction in this fashion by their parents.

“Pastor, what in the world does this have to do with the third commandment?” I am getting to that. Being responsible for training your child how to behave, how to stand, how to sit, how to look at people when they talk to you, how to listen, how to respond, how to engage in conversation, how to make eye contact without staring, how to avoid looking furtive, how to shake hands without hurting someone in a vice grip, I am sure that you lay a great deal of stress on what kinds of words are acceptable and what kinds of words are unacceptable. For example: I am sure that your children know that certain words are absolutely forbidden in your home. What kind of a mother or father would allow their children to use the words that are typically used by trashy young people these days? The fact that some parents use such language themselves is tragic. The fact that they do not object to their children using such language is equally tragic.

What I would now like to bring to your attention is the difference in language and speech between that which is vulgar and that which is profane. Not that either type of speech is acceptable, just that the two types of speech are not the same. Vulgar is defined as “indecent, obscene, crude, coarse, unrefined, lewd.”[2] The sounds and subject matter of grade school boy’s humor is typically, but unacceptably, confined to that which is vulgar. Vulgar language is socially unacceptable, shocking, and prohibited by conscientious parents. They do not want their children using that kind of language, and they typically do not use that kind of language themselves, unless mightily provoked. Mom? Dad? I am not suggesting that you tolerate vulgarisms in your home or by your children at all. If you want to spank your son’s backside for talking about his backside, using words other than backside then be my guest. I am all for parents reducing the level of vulgar speech used by their children. However, please recognize that there is speech that is vulgar, and then there is a whole other level of speech that is more than just crude, that is more than just embarrassing, that is more than just shocking. I speak, of course, of profanity. Profanity is speech that demonstrates irreverence or contempt toward God.[3] Profanity would include curses and oaths with direct references to God and to the Lord Jesus Christ. When God is called upon in a fit of anger to damn you or to damn him, that is an example of profanity. When “Jesus Christ” is shouted as an expression of surprise or to express disapproval, that is an expression of profanity.

Let me share with you folks a mistake that I think some well-intentioned parents make. They treat all forms of speech that are unacceptable to them equally. That is, saying four letter words are treated as if they are equal offenses to expressions of anger incorporating God’s name or the Savior’s name. However, the two are most definitely not equal offenses. One type of expression is socially unacceptable, or is unacceptable to you. God forbids the other kind of expression. Oh, you can make a Biblical argument against vulgarisms as not ministering grace to the hearers. However, profane references to God in expressions of anger or surprise are directly forbidden by God, and rise to a higher level of wickedness than expressions of vulgarity. A vulgarism is obviously and directly prohibited by you. You should, by all means, enforce your standards and prohibitions in your house. However, it should be an altogether different kind of matter in your home when someone profanes God’s name or when someone profanes the Savior’s name. A vulgarism is an offense to you and should be dealt with as rebellion toward you when vulgarisms are, if vulgarisms are, uttered by your children. On the other hand, profanity is an offense toward God, and should be dealt with by you as a profoundly serious act of wicked irreverence and blasphemy, should your children ever be guilty of using such language. As an aside, I have not observed children to have a problem with either vulgarisms or profanity except in homes where they regularly hear vulgarisms and profanity.

My purpose in preaching this series of sermons on the ten commands given by God on Mount Sinai is not to instruct you fully. To do anything more than survey the ten commands would take far longer than I am taking to deal with each of these commands. As well, recognize that there are more than 600 commands in God’s Law. We are reviewing only those ten commands given on Mount Sinai which are most familiar to us, and which are the most concise statements of God’s will regarding man’s responsibility toward God and our fellow man. To remind you, this series of sermons I am preaching on the Law are presented to address the problem of antinomianism, the lawlessness, the anti law philosophy that is unconsciously embraced by so many who call themselves Christians these days.

Decisionists[4] are very oftentimes antinomians, and here is how their antinomianism is seen: First, they are generally opposed to law work. That is, they are by personal conviction opposed to seeing the Holy Spirit convince a sinner of sin, working deep in his heart and soul over a period of time to prepare the heart for conversion by application of the requirements of the Law. For all practical purposes, Decisionists will not use the Law as a schoolmaster to urge sinners to Christ. They are too impatient. The kind of pre-evangelism sermon I will sometimes preach in our church, for example, would be abhorrent to a Decisionist. How wicked they would imagine me to be to preach like I sometimes do and then just dismiss people to go home without having them bow their heads and close their eyes before urging them to pray a sinner’s prayer, risking Hell for all those lost sinners. Far better, a Decisionist would think, to let an entire family come forward, deal with them in a perfunctory manner, and then brag about a whole family being saved at one time, as was recently done in an e-mail on a pastor’s e-mail list I read. Excuse me, but when was the last time you saw all the members of the same family under conviction and ready to come to Christ at the same time?

It is hard enough getting one sinner to seriously consider his own sin, and to seriously consider the claims of Christ, and that after preaching Law, Law, Law. The notion of an entire family being saved at once, as Decisionist pastors claim happens all the time, has never been known to actually happen, to my knowledge. Then, after the so-called conversion experience, the antinomianism rears its ugly head again, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness. Do not get me wrong. The Bible stands squarely against perfectionism, and any so-called Christian who claims he does not commit sins is a liar, and the truth is not in him. However, Christians do not live like lost people. The Christian is a new creature in Christ. Old things are passed away and, behold, all things are become new. Why do Christians not live like lost people? Because those who have experienced the miracle of the new birth know what sin is, while lost people have never really come to appreciate the sinfulness of their sin.

Let me quote Jonathan Edwards from a sermon he published: “Indeed, the want of a thorough sense of guilt, and desert of punishment, and conviction of the justice of God, in threatening damnation, is a good negative sign; it is a sign that a person never was converted.”[5] Edwards was commenting about the attitude and behavior of someone, after his supposed conversion, who lives rather like a lost man. Not that Christians do not commit sins, for we certainly do. However, not like lost people do. I think this is partly because the indwelling Holy Spirit of God in a believer leads that Christian away from disobeying the Law. The unconverted person flaunts the Law.

These things said, let us consider this third command: “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.” This morning I want to review the three commands we have thus far encountered:

THE FIRST COMMAND DECREED THAT GOD ALONE IS TO BE WORSHIPED

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

We recognize that there are no other gods, except in men’s minds. God’s intent in this first command was to forbid the Israelites, coming as they were right out of the Egyptian worship of many false gods, from worshipping any god save Him. The penalty for disobedience was death. By application, we recognize that this command addresses the common tendency today of elevating anyone or anything to a status of importance that is equal to or greater than God. Thus, God’s initial command intends that He be first in every man’s consideration, first in every man’s affections, first in every man’s concerns, first in every man’s attentions.

THE SECOND COMMAND DECREES HOW GOD ALONE IS TO BE WORSHIPED

4     Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

5     Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

6     And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Again, a negative command, describing what God’s people are not to do. We are not to worship God by means of externals using images or likenesses that we have crafted with our own hands. The penalties for violating this command? More severe than violating the first command, as we see. Of course, this command also forbids the worship of God using items of nature, such as trees or rocks or rivers. Being a jealous God, our God wants our worship of Him to be genuine, to be real, not artificial or limited to the external. In short, this command paves the way for the worship of God to be worship that is in spirit and that is in truth. Ours is to be a worship of the heart and the mind, not some mindless recitation of words that accompany an equally mindless adherence to ritual. Such praying as that Jesus called the “vain repetition of the heathen.”

“But,” you might ask, “what about all of the ceremony and ritual that was found in the ceremonial aspects of the Law? What about Tabernacle and Temple worship, and what about the priesthood and their sacrifices?” As Paul writes in Galatians 3.19, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” The Law governed a nation of sinful people until Christ came. During that time, the Law, especially the ceremonies, ordinances, and priesthood, taught about sin, taught about sacrifice, and taught about the coming Savior by means of types and shadows. Therefore, the ritual and the ceremony that God instituted in the Law was temporary, was highly instructive, and painted a beautiful picture of the coming Savior, always pointing to the coming Savior. Again, God wants to be worshipped how He wants to be worshipped. We have no right as His creatures to worship Him in a manner pleasing to us.

THE THIRD COMMAND DECREES OUR ATTITUDE TOWARD GOD AT ALL TIMES, NOT ONLY WHEN WE ARE ENGAGED IN WORSHIP

“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.”

Keil & Delitzsch, in their COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, say this about the third command:

“The Third Word, ‘Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain,’ is closely connected with the former two. Although there is no God beside Jehovah, the absolute One, and His divine essence cannot be seen or conceived of under any form, He had made known the glory of His nature in His name (Exodus 3:14ff., 6:2), and this was not to be abused by His people. . . The word prohibits all employment of the name of God for vain and unworthy objects, and includes not only false swearing, which is condemned in Leviticus 19:12 as a profanation of the name of Jehovah, but trivial swearing in the ordinary intercourse of life, and every use of the name of God in the service of untruth and lying, for imprecation, witchcraft, or conjuring; whereas the true employment of the name of God is confined to ‘invocation, prayer, praise, and thanksgiving,’ which proceeds from a pure, believing heart. The natural heart is very liable to transgress this command, and therefore it is solemnly enforced by the threat, ‘for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless’ (leave him unpunished), etc.”[6]

Listen to what John Wesley’s Notes say about this command:

“V. 7. The third commandment is concerning the manner of our worship; Where we have, 1. A strict prohibition. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain - Supposing that, having taken Jehovah for their God, they would make mention of his name, this command gives a caution not to mention it in vain, and it is still as needful as ever. We take God’s name in vain, First, By hypocrisy, making profession of God’s name, but not living up to that profession. Secondly, By covenant breaking. If we make promises to God, and perform not to the Lord our vows, we take his name in vain. Thirdly, By rash swearing, mentioning the name of God, or any of his attributes, in the form of an oath, without any just occasion for it, but to no purpose, or to no good purpose. Fourthly, By false-swearing, which some think is chiefly intended in the letter of the commandment. Fifthly, By using the name of God lightly and carelessly. The profanation of the form of devotion is forbidden, as well as the profanation of the forms of swearing; as also, the profanation of any of those things whereby God makes himself known. For the Lord will not hold him guiltless - Magistrates that punish other offences, may not think themselves concerned to take notice of this; but God, who is jealous for his honour, will not connive at it. The sinner may perhaps hold himself guiltless, and think there is no harm in it; to obviate which suggestion, the threatening is thus expressed, God will not hold him guiltless - But more is implied, that God will himself be the avenger of those that take his name in vain; and they will find it a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[7]

If you think a person’s theology makes much of a difference in the interpretation of this verse, listen to John Gill, as staunch a Calvinist as Wesley was an Arminian:

Ver. 7. Thou shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain, &c.] Make use of the name Lord or God, or any other name and epithet of the divine Being, in a light and trifling way, without any show of reverence of him, and affection to him; whereas the name of God ought never to be mentioned but in a grave and serious manner, and with an awe of the greatness of his majesty upon the mind. 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, as all profane oaths; imprecations, and curses by the name of God, which the mouths 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; (see Leviticus 19:12; Zechariah 5:4), this is the third command, and the reason enforcing it follows: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain; 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 and punish him, if not in this world, yet in the world to come; and so the Targum of Jonathan, by way of explanation, adds, ‘in the day of the great judgment;’ (see Malachi 3:5).”[8]

Finally, our old friend Matthew Henry:

3. The third commandment concerns the manner of our worship, that it be done with all possible reverence and seriousness, v. 7. We have here,

(1.) A strict prohibition: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. It is supposed that, having taken Jehovah for their God, they would make mention of his name (for thus all people will walk every one in the name of his god); this command gives a needful caution not to mention it in vain, and it is still as needful as ever. We take God’s name in vain, [1.] By hypocrisy, making a profession of God’s name, but not living up to that profession. Those that name the name of Christ, but do not depart from iniquity, as that name binds them to do, name it in vain; their worship is vain (Matthew 15:7-9), their oblations are vain (Isaiah 1:11, 13), their religion is vain, James 1:26. [2.] By covenant-breaking; if we make promises to God, binding our souls with those bonds to that which is good, and yet perform not to the Lord our vows, we take his name in vain (Matthew 5:33), it is folly, and God has no pleasure in fools (Ecclesiastes 5:4), nor will he be mocked, Galatians 6:7. [3.] By rash swearing, mentioning the name of God, or any of his attributes, in the form of an oath, without any just occasion for it, or due application of mind to it, but as a by-word, to no purpose at all, or to no good purpose. [4.] By false swearing, which, some think, is chiefly intended in the letter of the commandment; so it was expounded by those of old time. Thou shalt not forswear thyself, Matthew 5:33. One part of the religious regard the Jews were taught to pay to their God was to swear by his name, Deuteronomy 10:20. But they affronted him, instead of doing him honour, if they called him to be witness to a lie. [5.] By using the name of God lightly and carelessly, and without any regard to its awful significancy. The profanation of the forms of devotion is forbidden, as well as the profanation of the forms of swearing; as also the profanation of any of those things whereby God makes himself known, his word, or any of his institutions; when they are either turned into charms and spells, or into jest and sport, the name of God is taken in vain.

(2.) A severe penalty: The Lord will not hold him guiltless; magistrates, who punish other offences, may not think themselves concerned to take notice of this, because it does not immediately offer injury either to private property or the public peace; but God, who is jealous for his honour, will not thus connive at it. The sinner may perhaps hold himself guiltless, and think there is no harm in it, and that God will never call him to an account for it. To obviate this suggestion, the threatening is thus expressed, God will not hold him guiltless, as he hopes he will; but more is implied, namely, that God will himself be the avenger of those that take his name in vain, and they will find it a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”[9]

I will apologize to you once again for reading so many of these citations to you, but my reason outweighs my reluctance. Contemporary Christianity is so far removed from a healthy attitude toward God that I feel I must constantly reinforce in your thinking that I am not departing from historical Christianity, but that contemporary Christianity has departed from historical Christianity. God is to be feared. Reverence is to be showed toward Him at all times, and is never to be sacrificed on the altar of entertainment or lighthearted fun. This is God, whose name is not to be spoken vainly. This is God, whose place in our lives is not to be set aside while we let our hair down. You do not turn reverence for God on and then off again. You do not speak of Him in familiar terms and in a casual way.

I remember, as a junior high school boy, spending the afternoon at a friend’s house several blocks away. We sat on his back porch and laughed and joked all afternoon in a way that makes me shudder with disgust now. He would say something wicked and then feign fear toward heaven and say, “I repent! I repent!” Then we would laugh. I would then say something wicked and feign fear toward heaven and say, “I repent! I repent!” What a complete fool I was, and how our parents should have thrashed us had they caught us engaging in such blasphemy.

On page 16 of Spurgeon’s Catechism we find: “48. Q. What is required in the third commandment? A. The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works.”[10] A number of supporting passages are then printed in full. In our Christian school, and on Wednesday nights in the children’s catechism class, your children are taught to memorize such things as this. I am convinced that “The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word, and works.” I hope that you are as convinced as I am.

Perhaps you are thinking, in the back of your mind, “I agree with you in principle, pastor, but I think you have a tendency to go overboard on things like this. I understand, since you’re the pastor. I respect that.” May I say that if you are thinking such things about this subject of showing reverence toward God and not taking His name in vain you are in all likelihood lost? My opinion is a studied opinion, I assure you. It is not a reaction against condescending arrogance, although that type of attitude is the result of condescending arrogance.

Salvation is a matter of the heart. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness.” A new heart is given to someone when he is converted. The heart of a man or a woman that is not inclined to want to show reverence toward God, and is not inclined to see the necessity of being careful about God’s personal dignity and the worship that is due Him, is in my opinion a heart that is unchanged. There can be no doubt that you have taken God’s name in vain during the course of your lifetime. There can be no doubt that you are guilty of not making holy and reverent use of God’s names, God’s titles, God’s attributes, God’s ordinances, God’s Word, and God’s works. Thus, you are guilty of violating the spirit and letter of this third command.

God will not hold you guiltless. That means God will hold you guilty. Guilty in the sight of God. Guilty in the court of heaven. Guilty of a sin that is punishable by death. Not physical death, but spiritual death, the second death of being cast into the lake of fire. The Judge will pronounce that verdict against you on Judgment Day.



[1]Charles H. Spurgeon, A Catechism With Proofs, (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library), pages 16-17.

[2]Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 2133.

[3]Ibid, page 1544.

[4] Decisionism is the belief that a person is saved by coming forward, raising the hand, saying a prayer, believing a doctrine, making a Lordship commitment, or some other external, human act, which is taken as the equivalent to, and proof of, the miracle of inward conversion; it is the belief that a person is saved through the agency of a merely external decision; the belief that performing one of these human actions shows that a person is saved.

 

1 Conversion is the result of that work of the Holy Spirit which draws a lost sinner to Jesus Christ for justification and regeneration, and changes the sinner’s standing before God from lost to saved, imparting divine life to the depraved soul, thus producing a new direction in the life of the convert. The objective side of salvation is justification. The subjective side of salvation is regeneration. The result is conversion.

[5]William C. Nichols, editor, Seeking God: Jonathan Edwards’ Evangelism Contrasted with Modern Methodologies, (Ames, IA: International Outreach, Inc., 2001), page 398.

[6]C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, Vol I, (Peabody, MA: reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996), page 398.

[7]John Wesley, John Wesley’s Notes, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[8]John Gill, The Baptist Commentary Series Volume I, John Gill’s Exposition Of The Old And New Testaments, Vol 1 (Paris, Arkansas: the Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc., reprinted 2006), page 429.

[9]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[10]Charles H. Spurgeon, A Catechism With Proofs, (Pensacola, FL: Chapel Library), page 16.



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