The Third Commandment

The third commandment states, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for He shalt not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.” In reading this command­ment, there are two things which are striking. First, the personal aspect of the command when the Lord is called “Thy God.” And second, the antithetical nature of this command in the way in which God presents the command to us.

The reason why God presents this third com­mandment to us antithetically lies in the very nature of God Himself. He is holy. And, His name, unlike ourselves, is a revelation of Him­self. All of the names we read in Scripture which are attributed to God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or as God Triune are revelations of the very essence of God Himself. Do you want to know who God is? Then know the Names of the Lord. There are many human expressions in Scripture God uses to reveal to us the Name of the Lord because there is no one word that can describe His infinite being of holiness.

However, there seems to be a paradox in this command of Jehovah. How can the Holy One of Israel in whom is no sin, come to us who are sin­ful and be our God personally? Holiness is the rejection of all that which is evil. It finds sin repugnant. And what fellowship can light have with darkness? Yet in this commandment the Lord calls Himself “Thy God.” How can this be? The answer lies in the nature of God Himself. He is a covenant God.

God is Triune: within the Trinity the three Persons of God have perfect communication. When God created man, He established that covenant relation with man. But man broke that bond of friendship when he sinned. He no longer was the friend of God, but became His enemy and man’s love for God turned to hatred. But God, Who is merciful, did not abandon man; rather He redeemed him through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, the God-Man, became the Mediator of God’s covenant. And through Jesus Christ, God has chosen unto Himself a people to be His possession, His Church. Out of love for His Church God appointed Jesus Christ to be their Redeemer. And out of love for His Father and for the church universal God had given Him, Jesus willingly died and shed His blood for His people for the forgiveness of their sins. There was no other way. The holiness of God required this. The soul that sinneth must die. And Jesus willingly did this for us out of love. No greater love hath a man than that he lay down his life for his friend.

Now we are the friends of God, through Jesus Christ. We have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ. We are made holy in the sight of God. Now the Holy God of heaven and earth sees us through Christ as holy. Wow! It is possible for God to say that He is our God.

As friends of God, how are we to behave our­selves? Jesus says that if we are His friends we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And if we love God we are to obey and do His commandments.

Who among us would even consider taking the name of a good friend and dragging it in the dirt? No, rather we speak highly of our friend to others. That is the essence of friendship. How much more then should we highly exalt the Name of our God? But when we take God’s Name in vain, that is to make it a common thing among men by swearing or irreverently swearing oaths, we drag down God’s Name and His holi­ness. Then we do not demonstrate to others and ourselves that we are the friends of God. Our bond of friendship and faith becomes strained.

You see, faith is not only knowledge of the Word, but also confidence. And the confidence of faith comes only by being doers of the Word and not just hearers only. Therefore, we must strive with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength to do this Word of God, not to take His Name in vain. Then we will grow in faith and become more confident that yes, we are the friends of God through Jesus Christ.

And to those who do not demonstrate their love to God and show that they are not the friends of God, but rather His enemies, the Lord will not hold them guiltless. The cross of Jesus Christ is not for him. This is therefore the anti­thetical nature of the third commandment. Are you the friend of God?