Thinking More About the Third Commandment

The third commandment reads:

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.

Several years ago our pastor preached a sermon about using the phrases “Oh my God!” or “OMG” while speaking. And while I personally had made it a point not to say  “Oh my God!” saying “OMG” or even “Oh my gosh!” was not something that I censored coming out my mouth. I figured if I wasn’t actually saying God’s name in this manner I was doing ok. When someone is yelling in frustration “Jesus Christ!” I knew that they weren’t honoring the Lord but didn’t really think about the bigger message of the third commandment until this sermon.

The third commandment has been discussed numerous times over the last few months in our home. And then I recently read the book Christian Ethics by Dr. Wayne Grudem and felt even more convicted by this verse.

I received a copy of this book from Crossway to review. All opinions are my own. Source: Crossway

WHAT IS CHRISTIAN ETHICS?

It is vitally important for Christians to apply Bible passages wisely and study ethics. The main reason to study ethics from this perspective is that we can know God’s will for us. Jesus taught his followers to keep his commandments (Matt. 28:19-20, John 14:15, John 15:10) and in order to understand how these commandments apply to us today we have to know what they are, including their Old Testament background and further explanation in the New Testament.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work….”. God gave us the Bible in order for us to know what he views as morally right and wrong . When studying the Bible from an ethical viewpoint it is necessary to understand and study all relevant scripture related to the topic. It is also important to remember that because the Bible is God’s word it is the highest authority over all other authorities for ethics.

THE MEANING OF THE THIRD COMMANDMENT

Names are super important in the Bible. So important that God would sometimes designate the name of a person. This might have been a name change to account for their new role or to more accurately describe them. We see this happen in Genesis 17 when Abram becomes Abraham and also Sarai becomes Sarah. Taking all this in to account I have begun to see that the “name” of God not only refers to his actual name (like the Lord) but also to everything that is said about God in terms of his character and reputation. The third commandment goes far beyond foolishly using God’s name and has much greater implications then I ever realized.

“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1

On the basis that names are important to God, and that a name can also refer to the entire reputation of a person, then the third commandment also prohibits any false and unworthy speech about God. Christian you should be challenged by this. I know I have been. We need to consider how we speak about God and how we worship God. God’s name should be spoken with reverence and his character accurately honored by what we say.

“but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” James 3:8-10

Earlier this year I heard a new worship song on the radio that I really liked. The music, the beat, and the overall feeling the song gave was great….but then I started focusing on the lyrics and now have a difficult time listening to this song. I know there are much bigger issues to be concerned about, yet at the same time I am thankful to have become aware of just how flippant, or dare I use the word reckless 😉 , I have been even with how I was worshipping God with song. I want to make sure that the lyrics I am singing match with the theology I believe and also speak about God’s nature and character Biblically. In no way do I see how it is honoring to God or his character to describe him as something that is not Biblically accurate.

Being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) means that my life and yours proclaims something about the Creator. God made us to be like him and represent him on the earth. When we as God’s creation sin we violate the third commandment. As an image bearer of God we reflect him with our words, thoughts, and actions, our sin portrays him in an evil and sinful way.

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:4

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

In his book Chrisitan Ethics, Wayne Grudem says “In practical terms, this understanding of the commandment means that if I act in a fair or just way, I proclaim that God, my creator and Lord is fair and just. If I act with kindness and mercy, I proclaim that God is kind and merciful. But if I tell lies, I proclaim that my God is a liar and cannot be trusted. If I am cruel and vindictive, I proclaim that God is also cruel and vindictive. This perspective helps us understand why God takes sin so seriously and why it must be punished. All sin dishonors God.”

I highly recommend, Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical and Moral Reasoning, this extremely well written and thought provoking book from Wayne Grudem.  At the end of each chapter there are questions for reflection, a memory verse, additional reading references, and a hymn, because Christian ethics should result in praise because God’s law flows from his character and his character is just that good.

“Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” Psalm 119:97

“My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes.” Psalm 119:171

If you are looking to apply a biblical worldview to difficult ethical issues, including wealth and poverty, marriage and divorce, birth control, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, business practices, environmental stewardship, telling the truth, knowing God’s will, and understanding Old Testament laws like the third commandment be sure to check out Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical and Moral Reasoning. 

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