Taking God’s Name in Vain

In Exodus 20:7, the 3rd Commandment says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.” What does this mean? The common thought is the God’s actual name should not be used in any way that dishonors Him. It is thought that as long as we do not use God’s name in cursing or in a profane way we have honored this commitment. Although this is true in our faith as it is true in any religious faith, the purpose embodied in this commandment goes much deeper in a very profound way.

When you take a person’s name, it implies a covenant relationship with that person. For example, when a wife takes the surname of her husband, it implies a covenant relationship characterized by unconditional love and fidelity. When this covenant relationship is violated, it is common that divorce results and the person who violated the covenant is ostracized.

Using this analogy, what then is the scriptural intent of what it means to “take” the name of the Lord in vain? One of the great theological disciplines is the study of the names of God. Although the actual number of the names of God that are revealed in Scripture is debated, what is agreed is that the names of God reveal His attributes as well as the essence of His character, which is sometimes referred to as His communicable attributes i.e. those attributes that we, as humans, can possess.

At the incarnation of Jesus Christ, that is, when He became human, He became the personification of God in every way. This truth is at the very heart of our Trinitarian belief. His character and conduct were on full display which is a major theme in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. In the Gospel of John, Jesus emphatically stated that to see Him was to see the Father. The study Jesus’ character and conduct as seen in His humanity is a study of God the Father in every way that we can humanly comprehend. This is dramatically seen in Jesus teachings in the beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-13. Jesus’ expectations of kingdom citizens were not only clearly taught, but they were also seen in His character and conduct. A parallel illustration of these expectations is also seen in the writings of the Apostle Paul. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul’s description of the expected character of believers, which is prompted by the fruit of the Spirit of God, includes love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we take on all the expectant kingdom citizen traits as well as the spiritual fruit that is prompted by the Holy Spirit. In essence. Taking the “name” of the Lord is tantamount of displaying all these traits in one’s life. So to take the name of the Lord in vain is to live one’s life in the absence of, or not being aware that with the name “Christian” comes the Scriptural expectations that God desires us to mirror the full stature and person of

Jesus Christ in everything we say and do. Anything short of this is taking His name in vain.

In one of the great conditional promises of God to His people recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:14, God addresses His people as those who are called by His name. From God’s perspective, there is a spiritual and physical reality in the promise offered based on His covenant relationship with His people. The challenge before each one of us today is no different. We are called “Christians” based on our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ. We must live in such a way where our character and conduct reflect the person of Jesus Christ. Let us live in such a way that God is glorified in our lives even as Jesus Christ lived and glorified His Father, who is in heaven.

Rev. Dr. Olah L. Moore

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.