Sermons & Sunday Schools

The Ten Commandments Past and Present — The Third Commandment

In this sermon on the third of the Ten Commandments, Pastor Babij teaches Christians how to reverence the name of God before the world and what the consequences are of not doing so. Pastor points out three ways people violate God’s name:

1) Connecting God’s name to falsehood
2) Abusing God’s name by treating it in a careless manner
3) Hypocritically invoking God’s name in a heartless manner

Pastor concludes by reminding Christians that speaking God’s name is a serious matter, especially when dealing with the unsaved.

Full Transcript:

We are continuing to look at the Ten Commandments, past and present, and we’re looking at the third commandment. Exodus 20:1-7

Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3“You shall have no other gods before Me. 4“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. 7“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

Let us pray:

Lord, as we approach Your word, make us people that want to receive it, and want it to be part of our life and our thinking. I pray, Your word would change us, sanctify us by Your spirit, and cause us to humble ourselves under Your mighty hand because You are worthy. Your name is higher than any other. There is no one like you. There never was and there never will be. Lord, we come before the God, who created the heaven and the earth and who set out the plan of redemption leading right to Christ and the Cross. Lord, still we know that Christ has ascended into heaven and we are awaiting His return. I pray, Lord, until then, You would make us faithful and make us ready to do Your work here on Earth and for Your presence someday. I pray this in Your precious name, Amen.

As we come to this third commandment:

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

At first, it seems to be easily understood, but have we, as Christians, stopped and really considered how it would be possible to take the name of God in vain? I want to try to wrestle down what it means to take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.

Remember, this is before the people went into the Promised Land. The law of God was laid out before God’s people once again, and it’s recorded in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy 5:11 it says:

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

This becomes a commandment that is very important for us to grasp and understand. The commandments clearly spell out what is involved in our relationship with God, who is holy. First, it means recognizing that He alone is God and is to have first place in our hearts and our lives. Otherwise, all of life and its relationships are in disorder. The worship of anything or anyone other than the redeemer God is absolutely prohibited. This first relationship is man’s primary responsibility.

Secondly, man must not attempt to make any visible representation of the invisible God. To do so is to degrade Him and distort His holiness. Furthermore, the idol that is intended to represent God as an aid to worship eventually becomes God in the minds of the worshippers.

Thirdly, we have a responsibility to take up the name of God, and we are responsible for His reputation before a lost and dying world. God’s children should not even think of taking up the name of another God upon their lips. It was the Psalmist who said in Psalm 16:4:

The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood, Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

This leads me to the first of the two points. The first one is a principle within this third commandment, and the principal revealed is the command to revere the name of God:

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…

Have you ever thought about the importance of a name? In our culture, we don’t really put a great emphasis of thought into the meaning and significance of names. We do research on names, and we come up with unique names. Today, names are very unique. They are combinations of other names, family names, friends’ names, pets’ names, and they put them all together and make a name.

In the Bible, names are always important. For example, Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, was a name that meant supplanter because he was a deceptive and crafty man. After a spiritual encounter with the Lord, he was given the name Israel, which means prince of God. His name came to represent the whole nation of Israel.

Another example is the name for one of the Apostles, whose name was Simon. Until the day he boldly proclaimed that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God, Jesus told him from that point on that he would be known as Peter, which means a little rock or stone. Within his confession, he has set forth the very foundation of the Christian faith and would be given the keys to unlock the Gospel for the Jewish people and to build the church on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

We are told very firmly a truth about one of the greatest names that we would ever hear. Acts 4:12 says:

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

There is nothing more important than understanding God through His names, and there are many names for God. His name’s reveal to us God’s character, what He’s like, and who He is. For instance, when He calls Himself the Lord God, He is revealing to us His power, His glory, as well as His right to rule the universe and even our own lives.

There are many names for God in Scripture, and they are given to us in order for us to comprehend everything God wants us to know about Himself. That’s how He makes Himself known. The proper name of God, in the commandments, is Jehovah, which is the name God gave to Moses, “The Great I Am.” Exodus 6:3 says:

and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.

To His people He did, but to others He did not. God knew that God was almighty, but not everyone knew that He was the personal covenant-keeping God, the one who sets out a plan of redemption to deliver His people. Not only from Egypt, but we know the greater deliverance, which is from the bondage of sin that comes by believing in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.

There are personal titles and names all throughout Scripture that really give us a sense of the relationship that He has toward humanity. He’s called, in Ephesians, the God and Father of Christ. He is called, in Isaiah, the high and exalted one. He Is called, in 1 Peter, the God of mercy, grace, and peace. He is called, in the Psalms, the God of salvation. He is called, in 2 Corinthians, the God of comfort.

In the book of Acts, He is the God of Glory. In Joshua, He is the God of gods. In Revelation, He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. In Exodus, He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the Hebrews. Again, in Isaiah, He is the God of the whole earth. Then, in 2 Corinthians 1:3, it says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort

Again, in Isaiah, He is the creator for it says in Isaiah 40:28:

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.

We’re learning things about God as we understand His character from these names. It says in Job that He’s the preserver of men. It says in Isaiah that He is the King, the Judge, and the Lawgiver. Also, in Isaiah, it says that He is the savior and redeemer. In the Gospel of John, He’s the comforter.

Then, the most personal names are that He is considered the Father. We know God in the Son, in the Word, in Jesus Christ, and in the spirit of God. He is the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning, and the End. All these names are communicated to us in Scripture so we would know more about God. The more God’s children do learn about how great and how awesome God is, through His name, the more it should cause us to revere, honor, and respect His name. Also, to manifest His name in our own personal life.

Israel already knew God as creator, sustainer, and deliver. Also, they were learning that He was the redeemer and the protector of His people. When we go through the word of God, we find passages of Scripture like Psalm 8:1 where it says:

O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!

Then, Psalm 29:2 says:

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in holy array.

Then, when we come to the New Testament, the Lord begins to teach us about prayer, and He says in Matthew 6:9:

Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

These passages bleed with holy reverence to God’s great name. That His name must be used neither with contempt, irreverently, or needlessly. So then, the name of God is to be held profoundly sacred by believers and those who know Him. The greatest of sobriety and reverence is called for when we consider the names of God. It needs to be pointed out that the only time the term “reverend” is found is in the King James Bible where Psalm 111:9 reads:

He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

The New American Standard and other translations say:

holy and awesome is His name!

I think they should just have left reverend. It is a good word and it’s a word we don’t often use, but it does give us a sense that there’s something special about the name of God that is connected to His character, which we need to know because it helps us to properly worship Him. The command is coupled with a severe warning found in the second half of Exodus 20, and what it says is quite sobering for us:

…for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain

That is pretty serious. Remember, this is talking about our speech, but it’s also talking about how we think about God. Meaning, the more we grow in Christ, and in our knowledge and wisdom of Scripture, the name of God is going to become weightier and heavier in our mind. It’s going to push out all wrong thinking and concepts about who God is and replace it with what the Bible actually has revealed to us about who God really is.

In doing so, it makes us soberer and more serious. When talking about the name of God, we make sure that when it comes out of our lips, it’s talking about the God of the Bible in such a serious, humble, and reverent way that people immediately get from us that God’s important to us and His name is important. So, how serious was it if someone broke this commandment in the Old Testament? In Leviticus 24:11-16, there is a young man, who cursed God by using His name in the wrong way:

The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name and cursed. So they brought him to Moses. (Now his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) 12They put him in custody so that the command of the LORD might be made clear to them. 13Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 14“Bring the one who has cursed outside the camp, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then let all the congregation stone him. 15“You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If anyone curses his God, then he will bear his sin. 16‘Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

That’s pretty serious and heavy. You’ve got to be completely foolish to know that would happen to you if you would curse God or use His name in a wrong manner. So, God will not allow the violators of this command to go unpunished because He will not allow His character to be defamed through misuse of His name.

As God’s people, we are given a responsibility. While we walk through this world, we are to uphold God’s reputation before an ungodly world. We know how the world uses and misuses the name of God, Jesus Christ, and everything else that is sacred. To take His name in vain means much more than avoiding profanity. There are several goals in view of helping us understand this third commandment.

The first would be to cherish, more than ever, the name of the Lord. More than we have cherished it even before today. Secondly, to bear witness to others concerning the holiness of God’s name. Lastly, to know all forms of profanity are wrong. These goals come out within this passage, so there are different ways in which a person could violate this third commandment. I want to share with you at least three.

The first would be connecting God’s name with what is false. That is, perjuring ourselves by attesting to that which is false. Also, by not carrying out that which we engage upon in an oath, covenant, or swearing to something. Either by entering into something too quickly without thoughtful consideration, or not giving due diligence as to whether we have the power to perform it or to fulfill an obligation that we spew out of our mouths. For example, in Leviticus 19:12, we get a very straightforward understanding of swearing falsely:

You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the LORD.

The Hebrew word for “swore” is “nasa,” and it means to lift up or to carry or to take away. The common gesture would be to lift one’s hands after an oath was taken in the name of a deity. In other words, God’s people were not to raise the name of God in any kind of oaths or buy any kind of swearing in matters that would misrepresent Him, profane His name, or drag His worthy name through the mud by false oaths and evil speech.

God could swear by His own name because what He swears, he will also be able to perform such as His promise to Abraham where He says in Exodus 6:8:

‘I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD.’

Whatever the Lord says, He has the ability and power to perform and carryout to its fullest what he says, but we are not able to do that. When we do make oaths, when we do say things with our mouths, the Bible is stressing that we ought to the speaking the truth. For example, in Malachi 3:5, it says:

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely…

This is definitely something that we ought to be considering, and we bring the same thoughts to the New Testament. Remember, the Lord said on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:33-37:

Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ 34“But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36“Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37“But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

If you swear anything, don’t do it unless it is all the truth and nothing but the truth because we represent the Lord, who is the God of Truth. As Jeremiah, the prophet said to us very clearly in Jeremiah 4:2:

And you will swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’ In truth, in justice and in righteousness; Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, And in Him they will glory.”

If the truth is not being given, everything else does breakdown and doesn’t mean much. Now, I want to use an example of oath-taking from the New Testament, so turn to Acts 23:11-14. Here, we have Jewish men, who knew the Ten Commandments, and in their strong desire to see their plan go forward, this is what they did:

But on the night immediately following, the Lord stood at his side and said, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.” 12When it was day, the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. 13There were more than forty who formed this plot. 14They came to the chief priests and the elders and said, “We have bound ourselves under a solemn oath to taste nothing until we have killed Paul.

To commit sin and break the sixth commandment is bad enough, but to swear to commit sin is worse. It is a high profaning of God’s name, and as it were, it calls God to approve of your plan, which is how we treat the name of the Lord in vain. Also, when you call God to approve your own misguided intentions many times by strong desire. For example, when Christians say things like, “God wants me to do that… God said to me… God told me to do that.”

Yes, the Holy Spirit presses us to do this or that, but not apart from His revealed word and surely not in violation of His revealed word. This could be like the foolishness of the false prophets of the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 23:25-28, we get a good sense of how the prophets came up with their own dreams, and then they prophesied their dreams as those dreams coming from God:

“I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ 26“How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart, 27who intend to make My people forget My name by their dreams which they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot My name because of Baal? 28“The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the LORD.

The point is that it has nothing in common. The truth has nothing in common with those who want to propagate falsehood and attach the name of God to it by saying, “I got this from God.” It is very dangerous when we use loose language to say God spoke to me, or that God said this when He may have not said that.

To attach God’s name on the back of our plans as an absolute endorsement of God’s approval may be to ascribe a false sense of authority to those very plans. Several Christian leaders seem to agree that the culture of today’s Church experiences too much of this kind of language spoken without thought, without question, and not even considering that it is breaking the third commandment. Former pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and President of Wheaton College communicated this thought very well:

A more serious way to break the third commandment is by using God’s name to advance our own agenda. Some Christians say, “The Lord told me to do this.” Or worse, they say, “The Lord told me to tell you to do this.” This is false prophecy! God has already said whatever he needs to say to us in his Word. Of course, there is also an inward leading of the Holy Spirit. But this is only an inward leading, and it should not be misrepresented as an authoritative word from God.

We have to be very careful. That kind of language is prevalent wherever you go in Christian circles, and that’s very dangerous. If I don’t speak the truth about what I connect God’s name to, then that is a false prophecy. That is the kind of thing that brings the name of God down, and that is using His name in vain.

A second violation that is very common to us is the violation to abuse God’s name by treating it in a careless, rash, or flippant manner. Again, Exodus 20:7 says:

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…

The word “vain” really does mean worthless. It means to speak falsely. Also, it means to misuse a name. In this case, Christians need to abandon their pet expressions that actually show disrespect toward the divine names of God. Many Christians may think I’m safe from this third commandment because they don’t swear, but from time to time, you will use toned down expressions of sinful swearing. In a moment of excitement, you will use expressions like this:

“Oh, gosh,” which is a watered-down version of, “Oh, God.” Or, “jeez,” which is really short for, “Jesus,” or “oh my God.” Then, we use text that use “OMG,” and that’s very prevalent today. We use things like “darn,” which really means “damn.” We use the name Jesus Christ as an expression of anger, indignation, or surprise. We say things like, “the Man upstairs.”

All these kinds of expressions are most likely bad habits or pet expressions that you are using without even thinking about it, but today you need to think about it. These kinds of expressions actually treat the Lord’s name in a frivolous way in which we are thinking lightly and carelessly. So, what does that really show about our attitude toward God Almighty and our understanding of His character?

We are kicking around these phrases and not thinking about them. We are to bear the name of God in an honoring way before the world. These default expressions need to drop out of our Christian vocabulary. These slang expressions must be abandoned for good because they really misrepresent and demean the great names of our God.

I know that sometimes it’s just habit. I know that sometimes we do say those things and use those things in a way that we don’t really think about it, but today, that needs to change. We need to think about how we use God’s name. How we use the name of Jesus Christ. How we use expressions, examine them, and throw them out of our vocabulary for good. We should be very cognizant of not abusing these the names of God in our language every day.

A third violation is hypocritically evoking God’s name with no heart. God’s name is profaned and abused when we do not make progress and improve upward and the inward principles of faith in and love to Jesus Christ. In other words, we are being phony in our Christian life. We don’t come with our heart ready to receive the word of God. We don’t come ready to serve. We don’t come in a way that honors the character and the names of God.

We are being phony. In other words, we’re being hypocritical. It was Malachi, the last word of the prophets, who said something very interesting where he examined the hypocrisy of the day and where hypocrisy actually leads people in their public conversation. Malachi 3:14 says:

You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the LORD of hosts?

Once we realize this, we mourn. This has been our conversation. We have even thought and have said to other people, “what’s the point of serving God? It’s empty to serve God! What profit is there in serving God?” That’s the end result of phony baloney-ism in the “Christian” life. It is being hypocritical. If we’re going to say one thing and not do something. That’s the same thing as speaking something that we think is true, but in our lifestyle, it proves that it is false.

That happens all over the word of God even places in Scripture where it says that if we do anything that is not of faith, it is sin, and without faith, it is impossible to please God. See, the goal of instruction of the Word is to love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere Faith.

These things are some things that we need to be watching out for in our Christian pilgrimage as we walk through this world. That we would honor the name of the Lord not only in what we say, but also in what we do. There is the principle related to life today. One’s name represents one’s character. What we claim to do in God’s name, we do by His authority.

To say the Lord led me to do wrong is to take His name in vain. To take the name of Christian and live like His enemies is to take His name in vain. Taking up the name and lifting up the name of God is to lay out before the world who God is, and to do it in a way that we show honor and respect in all manner of life.

Of course, this means a couple of things. Number one, we watch our language – our words are important. For example, take the words of the Psalmist, which is a good place to go when it comes to honoring the name of God. Psalm 105:1-3 says:

Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. 2Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; Speak of all His wonders. 3Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad.

Taking up God’s name is necessary to honor Him. When we don’t, we hide, we bury, and we deny the excellencies and the usefulness of His great and awesome name. We should not deny that from Him. We should be very vocal and personify those things in our life. Also, it is to watch your life and thoughts. Psalms 104:34 says:

Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.

Then, Psalm 139:17-18 says:

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.

We must allow the Lord to glorify His own name in our lives by removing from our hearts the remaining atheism, ignorance, idolatry, and profaneness, which really tends to dishonor His name. Humans tend to dishonor His name so easily, and so frequently, we lower the thoughts of God before people. They never seem to discern with high regard what is due the name of God. Yet, when we go to Psalms 50:21-23, we get things like this:

These things you have done, and I kept silence; You thought that I was just like you; I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes. 22“Now consider this, you who forget God, Or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver. 23“He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; And to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”

Just thinking about God in a way that is consistent with what the word of God says about Him. It’s transforming our mind about who God is and as our words are examined, as our thoughts are being lifted up about who God is, that does bleed into our deeds. It’s got to come out of our life. It not only comes out of our life first and believing, but like the Bible says in Romans 10:10:

for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

So, it is believing and then leading others to Christ, to salvation, to holiness. By our words, we profess Him. By our deeds, we show that we know Him and aim to please Him, and we hedge against living like the Cretans of Titus 1:12:

One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”

He finishes by saying in Titus 1:16:

They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

Our words, thoughts, and deeds all come into play as we consider this principle that is related to daily life. We obey the third commandment by living as Christians. By speaking and doing everything according to our family name. We are in the family of God, right? We are born again into the family of God.

When we go out there and into the world, we are representing our new family. We are representing Jesus Christ, which means we are representing the God who created the Heaven and the Earth. We’re going out and we are representing the name of our family. When we do that, we show high value on the name that is above all names. Colossians 3:17 says:

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

We narrow it down to some very simple things. This commandment can be broken, has been broken, will be broken, but we also now know that when we consider this commandment, it is a serious thing. How we speak about God, how we listen to others, how they speak about God, how they make jokes and innuendos, and bring down and defame the name of God. That’s when we need to speak out. We need to say something.

We need to show them what that means in how we live our life, where we go, the activities that were involved with, and whether we’re growing in the truth so we can share with them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bring them to a saving knowledge of the Lord.

We go and we represent the name of God. I want to see you and myself do it in a way that really shows what family were part of, and shows that we’re different in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Let’s pray:

Lord, thank You that we find again, in the word of God, the very commandments that You’ve given humanity and specifically Your people to know how to go into a world filled with idols, filled with demons, and filled with those who hate You. That we would represent Your name in a way that will honor You, and in a way that will show who we belong to. I pray, Lord, that You would definitely allow us to go and examine our own words, expressions, and habits that are not good anymore. I pray that we lay them aside and that we would think very clearly and soberly about how we speak before You, and how we represent You in our life. I pray Lord, as we do that, then we will be doing the opposite of the command in the sense that we will be not treating Your name carelessly, but we would be treating Your name with great care. I pray this in Your name, Amen.