Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Churches Violation of the Third Commandment

Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain: The Churches Violation of the 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  -The Third Commandment

There is perhaps no group of people on earth today who need to take this commandment to heart like the Church of Jesus Christ.  While many have relegated this commandment to those who say a mere word while cursing, the commandment itself is much broader than that.

While we should have known better, it is my contention that we the church are profoundly guilty of breaking this command.  For this reason it is my intention to show three things concerning this text.
  1. What is meant by “the name” of the Lord.
  2. What is meant by “vain”.
  3. How this commandment can be broken.
I) What is meant by “the name” of the Lord.

When we turn to scripture it is quickly apparent that “the name” or “His name” is referring to much more than just a word.

Following are some examples:

·         “…then men began to call on the name of the Lord.”
Genesis 4:26

·         But to you who fear My name the sun of righteousness shall arise…”
Malachi 4:2

In these verses, as in many others, the “name of the Lord” or “My name” refers to all that God is and often highlights some attribute or another in the context of the passage.

·         And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him.”
Deuteronomy 18:19

·         But the prophet which shall presume to speak in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.”
Deuteronomy 18:20

In these verses, as in many others, “in the name of the Lord” is another way of saying “by His authority”, “by His command”, “in His stead”, or “in His place”.  It speaks of someone doing or even just claiming to do something by His express command, such as speaking a message from Him.

·         If my people, which are called by My name…”
2 Chronicles 7:14

·         And all the people of the Earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee.”
Deuteronomy 28:10

In these verses the “name” of the Lord speaks of people who are closely associated with Him.

·         Is this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?….”
Jeremiah 7:11

·         For the children of Israel have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it.”
Jeremiah 7:30

In these verses, the name of the Lord speaks of a place closely associate with Him.

·         And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him, from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubim.”
2 Samuel 6:2

In this verse the name of the Lord speaks of a thing closely associated with Him.

These are just some of the ways in which “the name of the Lord”, “His name” or “My name” are used in Scripture: To encompass all that God is, often highlighting some attribute or another, to speak of someone who does something or even claims to do something by His authority and direct command; and to speak of people, places and things closely associated with Him.

II) Secondly, what is meant by the word “vain”.

This word has numerous shades of meaning in Scripture. It speaks something that is foolish, silly, trivial or insignificant.  It speaks of uselessness, emptiness, falsehood and deception. It speaks of something marked by futility and ineffectualness; something which has no value or importance.  It is often used in the context of idolatry, idols and false religion for false religion is empty and devoid of substance.  It is useless, it has no value and it does not accomplish anything for the one practicing it.  

Now when we put these things together it becomes abundantly clear that “taking the name of the Lord in vain” has much less to do with how we use a word and much more to do with our attitude toward the God who is represented by those words.

III) Thirdly, some ways in which this commandment can be broken.

1) Using the Lord’s name out of anger while cursing or as an exclamation.

While people will often say that they did not mean anything by it, that is exactly the point of this commandment; it’s not to be used in a meaningless or careless manner. Such a use of His name exhibits a flippant attitude toward who God is.
2) By using euphemisms meant to convey the words without actually saying the words themselves.
3) By lying or attempting to deceive someone by swearing on the Bible or “by the temple” (Matthew 23:16-22). In this way and other ways something closely associated with God or “called by His name” is being used in a vain manner.
4) By saying that you are a Christian, one of those called by His name, when you are not.
5) By living in sin while professing to be a Christian. This “pollutes” (Jeremiah 34:16) and dishonors God’s name, giving unbelievers the opportunity to blaspheme against it.
6) By saying “the Lord told me….” or “the Lord said to me….”

How prevalent this has become in the church today! But we know from Scripture that God is no longer giving supernatural direct revelation to anyone. 

We know that supernatural gifts were worked in and through the apostles in order to validate their apostleship (2 Cor.12:12) that they might form the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20) by organizing the Church and committing to writing the new revelation given to them. We also know that apostles had to have seen Jesus Christ (1 Cor.9:1), and that Paul was the last (1 Cor. 15:8).  We know that there are no longer any Apostles and that the supernatural gifts associated with them began to die off as the New Testament canon was committed to writing and the Apostles martyred.  Even in their own lifetime’s these miraculous gifts were beginning to wane (2 Tim. 4:20).

The Apostles and those closely associated with them are gone. The cannon of Scripture is closed and the foundation is laid unchangeable; never to be added to nor taken away from. The written Word of God is all that we need and sufficient for every circumstance of every aspect of life (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). God is not giving audible, direct and infallible revelation to anyone at this time.

So if you claim that God has spoken to you audibly giving you new, direct and infallible revelation, then we know not to listen to you.  And if you did not hear an audible voice from heaven, then why are you saying “the Lord told me…”?  Attaching the Lord’s name to your feelings and impressions is dishonest, deceptive and dangerously similar to the sin of the false prophets of old who tried to give their words an authority that they did not have by using the Lord’s name in a vain, empty, deceitful manner.  If you did not mean that God actually spoke to you then why are you saying that He did?  You are being careless with the name of God.
7) By making God, His word, His people or anything else closely associated with Him the subject and butt of our jokes.

While humor and laughter are both good in the proper circumstances, making jokes of the things of God trivializes and demeans them. We are dealing with matters of eternal consequence; we’re sinners dealing with a Holy God!  How can we make jokes of these matters one minute and then expect the world to take them seriously the next?  By our very attitude towards these things we are bleeding them of their weight and importance before the eyes of an on looking world.
8) By having any sort of flippant, careless or trivial attitude toward God.

While there is much more that could be said, this summarizes it all.

The Third Commandment is not about a word or words; it’s about our attitude towards the God of those words.  This is about the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “…hallowed be Thy name.” The Lord must be treated as holy by all who would come near Him (Lev. 10:3).

But nonetheless, a trivial, flippant attitude has swept over the church like a flood.  It is seen everywhere we look.  It’s seen in the blasphemous attitude that speaks of God as being “cool” or views Him as a “buddy”. Those who came closest to the presence of God in Scripture fell down before Him as if dead (Rev. 1:17, Ez. 1:28) , condemned themselves for their sinfulness (Is. 6:5, Luke 5:8, Job 40:4) and trembled with fear (Acts 9:6, Ex. 3:6). Without exception they were awestruck and filled with reverence. No one treated God like their “buddy”.

This attitude is even seen in the way people dress to come into the public worship and special presence of God. According to scripture, the Lord is present in a special sense when His people meet corporately to worship Him (Matt. 18:20) and they are to prepare themselves for this meeting (Ex. 19:11).  Who would not prepare themselves to meet with a mere earthly ruler, such as a Governor or the President, by dressing cleanly and nicely in order to show honor and respect?  But when it comes to meeting with the King of Kings in corporate worship our kids often look like they’re going to play in the dirt, teenagers like they’re going to a rock concert and parents like we’re going to go work in the garden. And even worse than that, many young women come dressed in blatantly immodest clothing (the attire of a harlot Pr. 7:10) in direct violation of God's word (1 Timothy 2:9). While it is true that God looks at the heart, let’s be honest, our attire reflects a great deal of what we think, feel and value in our heart.

Where do we stop?  This flippant attitude toward God is seen in the way that professing Christians often treat each other, in the man exalting and God belittling theology embraced by so many, in the funny little pithy sermons meant to draw a crowd and please men while avoiding the offensive and difficult truths of God’s word.  It’s seen in the way people do not pay attention to the Word preached, the way people do not sing with the congregational singing, the way people only go to church occasionally. It’s seen in the bad theology sung by so many Christian performers and by the endless multitude of "Christian" rock groups who mimic the world like a little boy who longs to be like his big brother.

Brethren, how can we avoid the conclusion; we have broken this commandment on a massive scale! So much of what we say and do reveals how little we think of our God. We have emptied eternal matters of their gravity, weight and power.  We have trivialized the things of God and have made buffoons of ourselves! We have taken His name in vain and Romans 3:18 condemns us; “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” To put it simply the Church is irreverent!

Brethren, we should cry to the Lord to give us a heart that we may fear Him, that good may come to us and our children (Jer. 32:39).

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”

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