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Bible verses about Taking God's Name in Vain
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:7

This commandment, like the second, includes a warning within it. What does He mean by "not hold him guiltless"? Sometimes God deliberately understates a warning as a subtle form of emphasis, which ultimately magnifies its meaning. The penalty for taking God's name in vain is death!

It is helpful to define four words used in this command:

» Take: Several Hebrew words are translated into the English word "take," but this one means "lift up," "bear," "carry," "use," "appropriate."

» Name: The Hebrew root denotes something high or elevated, a monument implying majesty or excellence. It is an outstanding mark, sign, or reputation. Thus "name" is a word by which a person, place, or thing is distinctively known. A name identifies, signifies, and specifies.

» Vain: The underlying Hebrew word suggests emptiness, futility, and/or falsehood. It implies lacking in reality, value, or truth. Its single-word synonyms—depending upon the context—are "futile," "worthless," "profane," "foolish," "reproachful," "curse," "blaspheme," "purposeless," "useless," "inconsequential," "unsubstantial," and "vaporous."

» Guiltless: This word indicates "free," "clear," "innocent," "clean," "blameless," "unpunished."

This commandment has nothing to do with the proper pronunciation of God's name, which no one knows for certain how to say anyway. It also has nothing to do with superstition or magic. This commandment's application is much broader, deeper, and more dignified than that.

This commandment is certainly against common swearing, including the use of euphemisms so common in this Protestant society, examples of which are "gee," "gosh," "golly," "cheese and rice," "got all muddy," "jiminy cricket," and "doggone." However, it also includes the light or disrespectful use of any of God's attributes or character traits. More directly than any other, the third commandment teaches how much God is to be a part of our every word, deed, and attitude.

It pays dividends in insight and understanding to take notice of biblical names. In biblical thought, a name is not merely a label of identification but also an expression of the bearer's essential nature. It includes its bearer's reputation, character, and distinctiveness from others. For example, in all probability Adam named the beasts based on his observations of the distinctiveness of their natures. Similarly, to know the name of God is to know God as He has revealed Himself, that is, to know some of His nature.

This same thought is true of many biblical characters, providing insight into understanding them within the events recorded about them. To illustrate, Jacob supplants his brother Esau twice. A supplanter is one who by skill, deceit, or force takes the place of another. When this happens the second time, Esau says, "Is he not rightly named Jacob?" (Genesis 27:36). Regarding the birthright and blessing, Jacob takes Esau's place using his supplanting nature.

Another clear example occurs when Abigail pleads with David for Nabal's life: "As his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him!" (I Samuel 25:25). Nabal means "a dolt, a vile person." Thus, the Bible shows that a name tends to exercise constraint on a person to conform to its nature.

In Hebrew thought, then, a name is inextricably bound with the named thing's existence. Nothing exists unless it has a name, and its essence is concentrated in its name. Hence, creation is not complete until Adam names all the creatures. To cut off a person's name is to end the bearer's existence, or to change a person's name is to indicate a shift in his character and standing before God.

To speak or act in another's name is to act as that person's agent and to participate in his authority. To be called by another's name implies that person's ownership, and one bearing that name falls under the authority and protection of the one whose name is called upon.

The third commandment sets the standard of the spiritual cleanliness in a person using the name of God because it is so weighty. It must be used or borne in truth, without hypocrisy or vanity but in purity of conduct. A person is better off being sincerely wrong than being a professing Christian and denying God's name by the conduct of his life.

Consider that to help us to know David, the Bible shows him as shepherd, warrior, king, prophet, poet, husband, father, musician, sinner, and penitent—each part of a rich and varied nature. Yet, God is manifold times greater than David! The Bible reveals Him, His nature, in a similar way, by adding names to aid us in identifying His many glorious characteristics. God names Himself what He is, just as He names people what they are. Thus, Jacob is at first a supplanter, yet when he changes, God names him more appropriately for his new life. Israel is "one who prevails with God."

Herbert Lockyer's book, All the Divine Names and Titles, lists 364 names and titles for Jesus Christ alone. Through His names and titles, God has chosen to reveal a great deal about His attributes, offices, authority, prerogatives, and will. Each name designates some distinct virtue or characteristic of God's nature. Thus, God has made known the glory of His nature through His names. They are not to be abused.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment


 

Leviticus 18:21

God said these other nations had defiled themselves and the land because they had violated the third commandment, "taking the name of God in vain." We break this commandment, not only in speech, but also by using or bearing His name in an unworthy, profane way in our conduct.

Martin G. Collins
The Third Commandment


 

Matthew 28:19

We have been baptized into the name. Since being baptized and receiving God's Holy Spirit, we bear that same name! It is our spiritual Family name—God!

Does that have any effect on the way that we conduct our lives? Do we ever think that we bear that name? No, most of the time, we think only of the name that has been passed on to us by our fathers or the name that we have taken due to marriage. We are now immersed into the Family of God and bear the name of God. Even as a son physically bears the name of his father, we now have this spiritual family name.

The first commandment has to do with what we worship—the Almighty Creator. The second commandment deals with how we worship: We worship in spirit and in truth. The third commandment covers the quality of our personal witness to everything that the name we bear implies.

Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold." One's name might be considered a person's most valuable asset. Since we bear the name of God, it is most precious. The third commandment says, "You shall not bear the name of the LORD your God in vain."

What are we doing to uphold the Family name? Are we guiltless? Are we clean in our bearing of it? What is our witness like before men? What is our witness like before God? These questions need to be asked, now that we know that we bear that name. How high of a quality is our Christian lives?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

John 17:6

Notice that Jesus never mentions how to pronounce the Father's name. Salvation is not based on its pronunciation! Far more important is doing the will of God, an absolute necessity in truly fearing His name. The Father's name guards us from evil by the Word of God, which is truth.

Martin G. Collins
The Third Commandment


 

Romans 2:17-24

By our conduct, we hallow or profane God's name. We keep or break the third commandment the same way. This commandment sets the standard for our witness and tests its quality. God's name is the standard. If we take the name of God and use it in any way that denies its true meaning and God's character, we are either breaking this commandment or are on the way to doing so.

People can judge and accuse, saying, "This is God's church, and they do such things? If this is the true church, why doesn't God do something about it?" He is patient and longsuffering, and He will do something about it. He will save His people for His name's sake, but it will hurt.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment


 

1 Peter 3:1-2

Quite a number of translators and commentators read into this verse that the example of the godly wife wins the husband to Christ. But Peter makes no mention of Jesus in these verses, nor is he saying that a godly wife has the ability to call (see John 6:44), let alone convert, an unbelieving husband. God alone retains the power to open a person's mind and give him the faith that produces spiritual salvation.

This is not to denigrate the power of a good example in the least. Our example is a large part of whether we are upholding the holiness of God's name or bearing it in vain. Our example gives evidence of our spiritual paternity, for either we will resemble Satan or we will resemble God. When we display the same characteristics as our heavenly Father, He is glorified, and those who observe our good example can see that God's way of life produces good results.

However, even the very best example will not convert another unless God is also calling him or her. Even after 3½ years of walking and preaching on earth, the perfect witness of the Son of God did not convert everyone He encountered. If a good example were all that was needed, we could expect that everyone who observed Jesus would come to Him—but that is not what happened at all! After His death, there were only about 120 disciples (or perhaps 120 families; Acts 1:15). Obviously, God did not call every person who encountered Jesus—He will call them when they are resurrected.

Clearly, the conduct of a child of God is of utmost importance, particularly in the case of one spouse being called and converted while the other is not. Yet, even if the believing spouse sets a perfect example, “chaste conduct accompanied by fear” will not win the unbelieving spouse for Christ. Instead, the “winning” or the “gaining” in I Peter 3:1 is similar to the gaining of our brother in Matthew 18:15. Just as it may be possible (through our efforts) to have a more profitable relationship with a brother who sinned against us, so it may also be possible for a godly wife to gain the heart of an unbelieving husband, so that he respects her more and begins to let go of his animosity.

This is similar to Proverbs 16:7: “When a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” God can cause an enemy to begin looking favorably on one of His children, and thus the former foe is gained. By our efforts, though, we can only gain a person in terms of the human relationship. We cannot cause a relationship to occur between man and God—only God can initiate that.

In the same way, the winning or gaining that Paul is striving for in I Corinthians 9:19-22 is simply protecting or improving the connection he had with the people he encountered. His gaining of these people was not the same thing as converting them or of opening their minds to the reality of God. He was trying not to be unnecessarily offensive, but the scope of his behavior was entirely on the level of human interaction, not on getting people saved in a spiritual or eternal sense.

David C. Grabbe
Can We Win People For Christ?


 

 




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