Sunday, 14 April 2013

Are we guilty of taking the Lord's name in vain?

The words of the third commandment are well known to most believers; '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'. The application of these words in the lives of many is however very limited. There are few Christians who would believe themselves to be guilty of breaking the third commandment for their view is that it only refers to those occasions when people will use the name of God, and that of the Lord Jesus Christ, as a swear word. As such they believe that they are not guilty of breaking this commandment. To use the Lord's name in such a manner most certainly is to break this commandment, including the popular abbreviation of 'OMG' as so often used today in text language. The scope of the third commandment is however much wider than that of simply using the Lord's name as a swear word, so much so that in truth we must confess that we are often as guilty as those who will use the name of the Lord as a swear word. Questions 54 and 55 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism give us some insight into what the Lord requires of us in obedience to the third commandment:

Question 54. What is required in the third commandment?
The third commandment requireth the holy and reverent use of God's names, titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works.

Question 55. What is forbidden in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh himself known.

We can see here that not only is the name of God itself to be used reverently, but also those titles, attributes, ordinances, his word and works also, indeed any means by which God has made himself known to us. To approach those things in anything but a holy and respectful manner is to take the name of the Lord in vain. Its clearly extends beyond that misuse of his name as a swear word. How often have we approached the worship of God, taking his name upon our lips, yet doing so cold heartedly. We have sung the praises of God, speaking of our Saviour, yet truly our thoughts have been far from him. They have been nothing more than empty words to us. Psalm 29:2 instructs us to 'Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness'. Though our words and actions may seem right in eyes of men, the Lord looks on the inward man. What is the attitude of our heart? As we worship God our thoughts must be holy and reverent towards him, meditating upon the one who is thrice holy. Do we have that spirit of holiness in mind as we come to worship God, or are our thoughts carnal, far from the things of God. 

All too easily we speak lightly of God's word and of his holy ordinances. As the first commandment spoke of God as the object of our worship, the second focused of the means of worship, so the third commandment centres around the manner of our worship. Thomas Vincent in his explanation of the Shorter Catechism says concerning this question that our worship should be 'performed with humility and holy fear, with sincerity, fervency, and all kind of holy affections'. Surely when we fall short of this it must be said that we have taken the name of the Lord in vain, and fall short we certainly do. We have partaken of the Lord's supper with almost indifference towards the sacrifice of our Lord, in doing so we are guilty of profaning that which he has instituted to be a remembrance of him, we have broken his law. How we have conducted ourselves during times of prayer, when under the preaching of God's word, our very manner, and the thoughts of our heart on occasions of spiritual solemnity has often been in truth a taking of his name in vain.

No, we have not taken the name of Christ on our lips in the irreverent manner of those who will use it as a curse, yet we are guilty all the same. As we sing God's praise, as we read his word, as we attend to the ordinances of the church, do we do so in a manner that is pleasing to God? Or are we like those in the book of Malachi, guilty of despising his name with our polluted sacrifices? Let us approach God with reverence, not casually as we would the normal events of life, but with the awareness that his name is holy and is to be honoured above all things. May our thoughts truly dwell on those things we speak of, and worship God from our heart, not just from our lips. 'Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing'.


  1. "but also those titles, attributes, ordinances, his word and works also, indeed any means by which God has made himself known to us"

    Like the term "Reverend" used by ministers of many churches, especially in Northern Ireland. Surely this is also a blasphemy against the name of God. Psalm 111:9

    Yet so many are double-minded, very quick to criticise the ignorance of young people, and ignore the folly of the so-called 'learned' men of God. It is frustrating.

  2. Anonymous
    Consideration could be given to answering the issue you raise were you willing to add your name to your comments