The Third Commandment

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” (v. 7).

- Exodus 20:7

The first command tells us who we are to worship, the second how we are to worship, and the third in what manner we are to worship. Central to this third command is respect for the name of God, which speaks of His very being. Any detraction from His supreme wisdom, His power, justice, or truth takes His name in vain.

We take the name of the Lord in vain whenever we abuse it by making a vow of falsehood, for when we do this we are calling the God of truth to witness to our lies. We take His name in vain when we make frivolous vows. We, of course, take His name in vain when we make a vow by anything other than Him, for when we do this we are setting up something else as the standard of truth; God is the only standard of truth and the only one who can bear witness to the veracity of men’s hearts.

The taking of God’s name in vain, however, has to do with more than vows. Any time we use His name in derision, or whenever we insult or profane His name through irreverence in our manner or speech, we are treating His name as if it meant nothing. We also treat Him derisively when we make a profession of Him but do not live up to that profession. Those that name the name of Christ but do not depart from a life of iniquity, name it in vain. Their worship, therefore, is vain (Matt. 25:7–9) and their religion is vain (James 1:26).

We take God’s name in vain when we make promises to God and break those promises (Matt. 5:33). Many people have made rash promises to God in times of trial only to forget those same promises when things improve. This is taking the name of God in vain, and Jesus teaches against this when He says, “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ ”

We might think ourselves free from committing any great crime when we worship God only with our mouths and not our hearts, when we make false promises, when we profess the name of Christ but still harbor iniquity in our hearts, when we use God’s name lightly or for swearing. God, however, does not hold us guiltless. So serious is this crime, that God says that He Himself will be the avenger of those who habitually take His name in vain. Then they will find it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Coram Deo

The third commandment involves more than just using God’s name as if it were a swear word. It goes much deeper, to our very attitude in worship, to our worshiping sincerely and truthfully. Examine your life for the ways that you have broken this commandment. Confess them to the Lord today. He is faithful to forgive.

Passages for Further Study

Leviticus 19:12
Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:20; 23:23
Matthew 5:33–37
James 5:12

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