Church of God, New World Ministries

The Ten Commandments - Part Three

The Third Commandment

How do you know WHO God is? Have you been taking His name in vain? Here is the 3rd article of a series explaining the Ten Commandments – the eternal LAW of our Creator.

Is God really first in your personal life? Results of a poll of 1500 college students showed that they had two sets of values toward which they professed allegiance: the first level, toward self, family and friends; the second level, to mankind (in general) and God.

It is notable that God was least regarded by these “educated” young people! Yet in the same poll, 90% of those questioned indicated a belief in God.

This prevailing spiritual lethargy and passive disrespect toward God – and toward the great magnitude of His office and power – is indicative of a growing trend even among churchgoers and professing Christians. People like to talk about religion and God, but they do not stand in AWE of His position and His name. And this spiritual cancer has within it the seeds of the destruction of our western civilization!

In the first two articles of this series, we discussed the first and second commandments. We found that we must guard against making a “god” out of anything – and putting it in place of the true God. And we learned that God commands us to worship Him directly – to walk with Him, to talk with Him, to really know and worship Him in spirit and truth – and to avoid using any image, picture or physical object to “remind” us of the great Creator, or as an “aid” to worship.

The 3rd commandment deals with God’s name, His office, His position to the great sovereign Ruler of the universe: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7).

In the Bible, personal names have a meaning. The first man was named Adam because the word Adam means “red earth” – the very “dust of the earth” from which Adam was created! The original Hebrew name of Abram was changed to Abraham – for Abraham means “a father of many nations.” And Abraham was destined to become just that – “a father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5). So it is with God.

Every name or title of God reveals some attribute of the Divine character. In studying God’s Word, we learn new facts about God’s nature and character with each new name by which He reveals Himself. In other words, God names Himself what He is!

If men use the name of God in a way which denies the true meaning and character of God, they are breaking the 3rd commandment.

God declares through Isaiah: “Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord, and made mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness” (Isa. 48:1). People to whom this prophecy applies use the name of God, but fail to obey the revelation of God contained in His name.

And shocking though it may be, many religious people repeat over and over the name of God in sermons or prayers. They are taking God’s name in vain – to no good use or purpose!

The original command says: “The Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.” The Hebrew word here rendered “guiltless” may better be translated “clean” – “the Lord will not hold him to be clean that takes his name in vain.”  The test of spiritual cleanliness is the attitude of a man to the name of God! A man is clean or unclean according as he uses the name of God in truth – or for vanity.

Do you realize what this means? It certainly indicates that a man is better off who – because of sincere religious doubts – has dropped the name of God out of his vocabulary, than is a professing Christian who is always talking about God continually, but denying Him in his daily life!

First of all, however, let us make it clear to those who may have been misinformed on the subject that reverencing God’s “name” does not mean trying to speak Hebrew or Greek or learning to pronounce God’s name in the original Biblical languages! There are certain sects which make a great matter out of this. Some claim that “Jehovah” is the Father’s name.  “Jehovah,” others “Yahvah,” and others use still different variations. The truth of the matter is that since all admit that the Hebrew vowels have not been preserved, no one knows how the Hebrew names of God should be pronounced!

Also, and even more important, God Himself inspired Daniel and Ezra to use the Aramaic word for God in nine chapters of the Bible which they wrote in this language, and the New Testament writers all were inspired to use the Greek words for deity.

The real importance of the matter, of course, lies not in the phonetic sound which is used to describe God, but in the meaning which His names convey!

Describing the significance of one’s name in Hebrew, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament states under the word names: “By a usage chiefly Hebraistic the name is used for everything which the name covers (therefore) for one’s rank, authority, interest, pleasure command excellencies, deeds, etc.”

Thus, this respected authority or Biblical linguistics clearly shows that one’s name signifies one’s office, authority, interest, and therefore one’s character. The names of God show us what God is like – they reveal His character.

Do you really know what God is like? Do you respect His various offices and His name as you should? Turn to your Bible and check up!

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). In this very first verse of the Bible, God reveals Himself by the Hebrew name “Elohim.”

The word Elohim is a uni-plural noun, it is a word like “church” or “family.” There is one family – but many members. There is one church – but many members. Thus, there is one God – but more than one member in the Godhead or God Family!

This same word, “Elohim,” is used in Gen. 1:26. “And God (Elohim) said, let us made man in our image, after our likeness.” Here it is clearly seen - in context with the passage itself – that more than one person shares the name of God – “Elohim.”

From the New Testament, this is made clear by its revelation that God the Father created all things by and through Jesus Christ – who was with God and was God from the beginning (John 1:1-14; Eph. 3:9, etc.).

In this passage, therefore, it is revealed that God is more than one person – God the Father and the “Word” or Spokesman, who later became Jesus Christ when born into the human flesh. This Father-Son relationship shows that God is a Family. And the way the word “Elohim” is used in the early passages in Genesis and elsewhere certainly indicate that God is the creating kingdom or family!

God, by virtue of being Creator, is also the Ruler over His creation. We find that immediately after creating the first man and women, God gave them both a blessing and a command: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). Yes, the true God is Ruler and you should obey Him because he made you and gives you every breath of air you breathe!

In dealing with Abraham, God sometimes calls Himself “El Shaddai,” which means “Almighty God.” So God is the source of all power! His name should be revered, because it stands for the One who is the source of all power, all might, and all authority.

The name most commonly translated “Lord” in the Old Testament is translated from the Hebrew letters YHWH, sometimes rendered Yahweh or Yahveh. The original Hebrew word means the “Eternal” or “Self-Existent One.” The word is both used and defined in Genesis 21:33. “And Abraham planned a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the Lord (YHWH), the everlasting God.” This Hebrew word, often translated “Jehovah” in some of the revised versions, shows God’s character as the Ever-Living God and is used to show His everlasting office in a covenant relation to those whom He has created.

God has always existed and will always exist to carry out His blessings, His promises, and His covenant with His people! Our God is the Eternal – the Self-Existent One.

Throughout His Word, God’s name is connected with His attributes – His power, His   eternal existence, His mercy, His faithfulness, His wisdom, His love. Notice how the prophet David connects God’s name with His creative power: “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers the moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; what is man, that thou are mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visits him” (Ps. 8:1-4)?

Here God is pictured as setting His “glory” above the heavens. Then David proceeds to show that God has created the heavens, the earth and man. No wonder God’s name and office are to be respected!

In Ps. 9:2, David writes: “I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.”

Now notice why David will sing praises to God’s name: “When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence. For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right” (vs. 3-4). David praised God because God was his protector and redeemer. God was the great omnipotent power to which David turned for help in the time of need! He worshipped and praised God for this: “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee” (v. 10).

Notice the titles or attributes David ascribes to God in Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength, in whom will I trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” David worshipped the living God who protected, delivered and saved him from every trouble and calamity!

The prophet David, whom God loved and used, did not think of Him as an “inner-presence” or “idea” or a God who had gone “way off” somewhere and didn’t supernaturally intervene in the affairs of this earth and His people. Rather, these titles that David under inspiration applies to God, reveal Him as a living, vital, active Ruler over His creation and as the protector and sustainer of those who serve Him! In the 45th chapter of Isaiah, God describes His omnipotence and how He has created all things: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil; I the Lord do all these things” (v. 7). Then God proceeds to show how He has raised up various men and nations to do His will.

He tells the nations: “Assemble yourselves,” and dares them to produce any other God who has the power that He does. Then He declares: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: For I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word has gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (vs. 22-23).

Here the true God shows He is the One men must worship and obey! No wonder we are to reverence and hallow His name!

Perhaps many don’t’ fully realize it, but this earth is literally filled with men and women who abuse the name of Almighty God in many different and varying ways! It is time to repent of taking the very name of our Creator and God in vain!

Men and women from every facet of our society have begun to think that it is “cute” or the popular thing to do to swear by God’s name or invoke His name in some oath of condemnation. In the United States, and elsewhere, actors and actresses have for years parroted oaths of profanity which are inserted by the playwright seemingly only for the purpose of “entertaining” the audience by using God’s name in a vain or frivolous manner. Now, even the motion pictures are using more and more profanity into their scripts. But the true God is not going to stand for this very much longer! This very thing is one of the many reasons why He is soon going to punish our so-called “Christian” nation with the greatest national punishment that has ever been meted out to any peoples in all earth’s history!

In our everyday speech, many of us are damning the very name of our Creator and our God! We are using our breath to curse and damn the name of the very One who gives us our life and the very breath with which these individuals curse His name!

As expression used with terrible frequency is asking God to “damn” someone. Poor men and wealthy men alike give ready tongue to this vile oath – and often think they are proving their “manhood” or getting away with something by doing it! Yet it would be hard to find any normal human being anywhere who would like to see this phrase carried out with respect to his fellow man in all of its terrible meaning. This expression is trifling with the name of our God – asking Him to do something which he has never intended to do.

God never “damned” a man in the way men seem to think! This idea is an awful heresy! God’s work is the work of salvation, and no man is punished or deprived of life except by his own volition and will.

The false idea that God arbitrarily “damns” men is being thrust into the minds of men by their own profanity of language. It is a blasphemous assertion, and it is a libel upon the very nature and character of God Himself! God’s Word thunders His warning against this into our ears today. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”!

A similar form of taking God ‘s name in vain is the habit of so many in some sections of society to tell stories in such a way that the name of God is made use of in a light and frivolous manner. Such stories should be shunned as men should shun the fire of hell! People using the name of their God in such a frivolous manner are robbing themselves of that deep sense of veneration and reverence for God without which there is no real worship in spirit and in truth.

God says: “To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2) The very same thing may be said about the deep respect and godly fear we should have for God’s name – which directly represents God’s character, His Word, and His purposes.

Men today are accustomed not only to profane swearing and involving God’s name to back up their oaths, but also many legal ceremonies in some lands invoke the name of God in a form of swearing or an oath.

Jesus Christ said: “But I say unto you, swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth; for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King” (Matt. 5:34-35).

God’s name is so sacred and Holy that we are commanded not to invoke it to back up our words or our oath! Fortunately, the American nation was founded by men who read their Bibles and made great allowance for religious liberty and freedom. Therefore, even though many public officials will, on occasion, ask you to raise your hand and “swear,” they all realize that provision has been made so that you can employ the word “affirm” instead of swearing.

And actually, as we should all know, the simple affirmation or formal word of a God-fearing Christian is far more to be relied upon than ten thousand oaths given by some servant of hell on the witness stand! The travesty of business men, politicians and even college professors taking God’s name in vain on the witness stand in this manner bears ample proof of this statement!

Speaking of using certain expressions as a religious title, Christ said: “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). Although there is a flagrant and obvious abuse of this command in some large religious organizations, this statement of God’s Word is clear to anyone who wishes to obey it.

Our only spiritual “Father” is God! Any application of this word as a religious title to a man is simply a direct blasphemy against the Creator who has made all men – even the weak, corruptible human beings who impudently take to themselves and falsely assume that which is a divine title.

Of course, we should call our human parents “father” as God Himself does in the 5th commandment!

Another common misuse of the divine name is the application of the term “Reverend” to any human being – be he a minister or otherwise. For God applies this title to Himself alone. “He sent redemption unto his people: He hath commanded his covenant forever: Holy and reverent is His name” (Ps 111:9).

“Reverend” means someone to be revered – someone worthy of worship! No mortal man is worthy of such a title! Even so great a servant of God as the apostle Paul himself was inspired to write: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwells no good thing” (Rom. 7:18). Any man who thinks he is worthy of worship – or deserves the title “Reverend” – is someday going to have to repent of breaking the 3rd commandment.

In teaching His disciples and us as Christians, how to pray, Jesus Christ set forth the right manner of approach to Almighty God and the attitude of reverence in which we should hold His office and His name. In the opening phrases of what is commonly called “The Lord’s prayer,” our authorized translations of the Bible give what is more probably a false punctuation.

After the invocation, “Our Father which art in heaven” – the approach of the man to God – there are three requests linked together, and then a sentence following which conditions all three, and not the last one only. The correct rendering would be as follows:

“Our Father which art in heaven, thy name be hallowed, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.” The phrase, “As in heaven, so on earth,” has reference, not merely to “thy will be done,” but to “thy kingdom come,” and to “hallowed be thy name.”

These thoughts contained in what is called the Lord’s prayer – the hallowing of God’s name, the coming of His kingdom, and the doing of His will – are simply different phrases of the same thing. For a man hallows God’s name by submission to His kingdom and government, and by doing His will and obeying His laws

Simply holding the phonetic sound of God’s name in reverence is only a small part of fulfillment of the 3rd commandment.

Jesus asked: “And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say” (Luke 6:46)? Prayer without obedience is a subtle form of blasphemy!

The supposedly religious people who talk about religion and God but refuse to obey His Word and His law are guilty of greater sin than the man who admittedly goes his own way of the flesh and at least refuses to pretend otherwise!

The hypocrisy of religious denominations and religious people is infinitely worse than the profanity of the street. Praise offered to God which is counter-acted by rebellion against His ways and His laws is certainly blasphemy – and it is taking the name of God in vain!

A man or minister that preaches and prays with eloquent lips and beautiful sentences and devotional attitude, but then goes home to break the least of God’s commandments (Matt. 5:19), that man blasphemes when he prays! But even if he deceived the world, never deceives God!

 If a man takes the name of God for vanity, if truth and unquestioning obedience is not behind his worship, he had better not worship at all!

And let us note at this point – as we have already implied – that a man who frivolously or vainly uses the name of Jesus Christ is also breaking the 3rd commandment. For Jesus Christ is God. For the apostle Paul was inspired to write in Hebrews: “But unto the Son he saith, thy throne, O God is forever and ever” (Heb. 1:8). So the throne and the office and the name of Jesus Christ must be respected and reverenced!

As is the case with the Father, Christ’s name represents His character and His great office as our Saviour, our Head and our coming King of kings, For God the Father has given Christ a name, “far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:21).

But the man who professes with his lips to honor God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son, and yet denies the will of God in his life, is committing a far greater crime against God than the man who openly blasphemes and makes no profession of honoring God! The most subtle and awful form of breaking the 3rd commandment is that of religious hypocrisy.

Speaking of the “religionists” of His day who refused complete obedience to the will and law of God, Jesus declared: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain, do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:6-7). In like manner, many today profess God with their lips but their worship is vain!

Not everyone that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

May God grant you the willingness to obey the will and law of your Creator! May you learn to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. May you learn to honor and reverence His great NAME – for it represents His creative power, His wisdom, His faithfulness, His love, and kindness and patience and infinite mercy. It represents the character and office and dignity of the great God who sits at the controls of this entire universe.

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