What is the Third Commandment?


Introduction

The questions and answers below are copied from different catechisms. Please see the note at the end of each question for the reference.

Third Commandment

  • You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain (Exodus 20:7 ESV).
  • You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain (Deuteronomy 5:11 ESV).

 


Which is the third commandment?1

The third commandment is , “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7)

What is required in the third commandment?2

The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use of God’s names, titles, attributes, ordinances, words, and works. (Psalms 29:2; Deuteronomy 32:1-4; Deuteronomy 28:58, 59; Psalms 111:9; Matthew 6:9, Ecclesiastes 5:1; Psalms 138:2, Job 36:24; Revelation 15:3,4; Revelation 4:8)

What is forbidden in the third commandment?3

The third commandment forbids all profaning and abusing of any thing whereby God makes Himself known. (Malachi 1:6, 7; Leviticus 20:3; 19:12; Matthew 5:34-37; Isaiah 52:5)

What is the reason annexed to the third commandment?4

The reason annexed to the third commandment is, that howsoever the breakers of this commandment may escape punishment from men, yet the Lord our God will not suffer them to escape His righteous judgment. (Deuteronomy 28:58, 59; Malachi 2:2)

How is God’s name misused?5

God’s name is misused when people

  • Speak God’s name uselessly or carelessly (see Exodus 20:7)
  • Curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name

What is cursing by God’s name?6

Cursing by God’s name is

  • Blaspheming God by speaking evil of Him or mocking Him (Leviticus 24:15).
    • Bible narratives: They mocked Jesus when He was hanging on the cross (Matthew 27:39-43). The Assyrian field commander blasphemed the God of Israel (2 Kings 18:28-35; 19:21-22). Some Jews accused Jesus of being possessed by a demon (John 8:48-59).
  • Calling down the anger and punishment of God upon oneself or any other person or thing (James 3:9-10).
    • Bible narratives: The people at Jesus’ trial cursed themselves and their children (Matthew 27:25). Peter cursed (Matthew 26:74). James and John asked Jesus if they should ask God to destroy a Samaritan village (Luke 9:51-55).

What is swearing by God’s name?7

Swearing by God’s name is taking an oath in which we call on God to witness the truth of what we say or promise and to punish us if we lie or break our promise.

When are we permitted, and even required, to swear by God’s name?8

We are permitted, and even required, to take an oath by God’s name when an oath is necessary for the glory of God or the welfare of our neighbor. Examples include the following: testimony in court, oath of office, wedding vows (Romans 13:1; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 6:13; Hebrews 6:16).

Bible narratives: Jesus permitted Himself to be put under oath (Matthew 26:63-64). Abraham put his servant under oath (Genesis 24:3).

When is swearing forbidden?9

Swearing is forbidden when it is done falsely, thoughtlessly, or in sinful, uncertain, or unimportant matters (Leviticus 19:12; Matthew 5:33-37).

Bible narratives: Peter swore falsely and thus committed perjury (Matthew 26:72). Certain Jews swore to commit murder (Acts 23:12). Herod swore in an unknown and unimportant matter (Matthew 14:6-9). Jephthah’s thoughtless oath (Judges 11:30-40).

What is using satanic arts by God’s name?10

Using satanic arts by God’s name is

  • Using God’s name in order to perform or claim to perform supernatural things with the help of the devil, such as casting spells, calling up a spirit, fortunetelling, consulting the dead, or other occult practices (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)
    • Bible narratives: The Egyptian sorcerers performed supernatural things with the help of the devil (Exodus 7-8). The sons of Sceva used Jesus’ name to cast out spirits, but they did not have faith (Acts 19:13-29).
  • Joining with or seeking the aid of people who practice these and similar satanic arts or worship Satan (Leviticus 19:31)
    • Bible narrative: King Saul sought the help of the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28).
  • Depending on horoscopes or similar ways to foretell the future (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

What is lying and deceiving by God’s name?11

Lying and deceiving by God’s name is

  • Teaching false doctrine and saying that it is God’s Word or revelation (Deuteronomy 12:32; Jeremiah 23:31; Matthew 15:9)
    • Bible narrative: The lie of a false prophet caused a prophet of God to be deceived and killed (1 Kings 13:11-30).
  • Covering up an unbelieving heart or a sinful life by pretending to be a Christian (Matthew 7:21; Matthew 15:8)
    • Bible narratives: Many scribes and Pharisees were hypocrites (Matthew 23:13-33). Ananias and Sapphira were hypocrites (Acts 5:1-11).

Footnotes

  1. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 59.
  2. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 60.
  3. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 61.
  4. Baptist Catechism (1677), Question 62.
  5. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 27.
  6. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 28.
  7. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 29.
  8. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 30.
  9. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 31.
  10. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 32.
  11. Luther’s Small Catechism (1529), Question 33.

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