Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain

On Sunday, we continued our series of messages called “Keep it Simple”  I talked about how we need to, as time management guru Steven Covey puts it,  “keep the main thing, the main thing.”  The apostle Paul in his writings responds to a disagreement on a particular issue, and asked his readers to remember what is really important.  He tells them that one of those priorities is to “keep God's commands.”  Jesus summarized what God commands in Matthew 22:34-40

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 Jesus is basically summarizing the ten commandments (Exodus 20).  They can be condensed into two key  principles: Love God and Love People.  The first four commands tells us how to love God.  The last six teach on loving people.  The Bible tells that when it comes to loving God we must.

  • Put Him first – “You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
  • Don't have any idols – “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.You shall not bow down to them or worship them;” Exodus 20: 4-5
  • Don't misuse his name – “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Exodus 20:7
  • Have a day to worship God and rest. – “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work,” Exodus 20:8-9.

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name…”

I want to write about the third principle.  “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name…” I've never had much of a problem with swearing or inappropriate language.   I was raised in an environment, where I wasn't mosinners-love-a-checklistdelled this kind of behaviour (Thanks Mom and Dad). Particularly taking the Lord's name in vain, for me that was always clearly a line I wouldn't cross.  Even when social media made the phrase “OMG” popular and socially acceptable (I actually feel a sense of guilt typing it in to this blog post), I wouldn't do it.  So in a quick reading of these verses, I was always swift to be able to check that off my list.  I don't have to worry about that one!  But I think there is a another side to this principle or command.  Could this concept be deeper than just the words we speak?

In the early church,  followers of Jesus were called a couple different names.  In Acts 22 they were called  “Followers of the Way”.  The one that really stuck started in the city of Antioch.  Acts 11 tells us, “The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.”  It is how most of us in the church define ourselves today:  We are Christians – We bear His name.

The New Testament is full of this concept.    Our identity is completely enveloped by our position and association in Christ.  John Piper in his blog post, The Stupendous Reality of being “in Christ Jesus”, gives this summation of scripture.

  1. In Christ Jesus you were given grace before the world was created. 2 Timothy 1:9, “He gave us grace in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”
  2. In Christ Jesus you were chosen by God before creation. Ephesians 1:4, “God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world.”
  3. In Christ Jesus you are loved by God with an inseparable love. Romans 8:38–39, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  4. In Christ Jesus you were redeemed and forgiven for all your sins. Ephesians 1:7, “In Christ we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.”
  5. In Christ Jesus you are justified before God and the righteousness of God in Christ is imputed to you. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
  6. In Christ Jesus you have become a new creation and a son of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Galatians 3:26, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
  7. In Christ Jesus you have been seated in the heavenly places even while he lived on earth. Ephesians 2:6, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
  8. In Christ Jesus all the promises of God are Yes for you. 2 Corinthians 1:20, “All the promises of God find their Yes in Christ.”
  9. In Christ Jesus you are being sanctified and made holy. 1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus.
  10. In Christ Jesus everything you really needed will be supplied. Philippians 4:19, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
  11. In Christ Jesus the peace of God will guard your heart and mind. Philippians 4:7, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
  12. In Christ Jesus you have eternal life. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  13. And in Christ Jesus you will be raised from the dead at the coming of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” All those united to Adam in the first humanity die. All those united to Christ in the new humanity rise to live again.

Our identity. who we are, is completely connected to Christ.  Another interesting scripture that ties to this is when the disciples  were being persecuted and mistreated in Acts 5:41 they responded in this way: “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”  They were grateful in suffering because it showed their association and connection to the name of Christ.

The apostle Paul when talking about the behaviour of followers of Jesus told us that everything needed to be related to the concept of bearing his name.

And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

The Apostle Paul is stating that all our behaviour should reflect and is connected to the name of Jesus.  Since, we bear the name of Christ, not only do our words, but also our actions needs to be in congruence with His name.  So, when we behave in such a way that we bring dishonour to our Lord, we are, in our behaviour, taking his name is vain, because we bear His name.

The next time, when you are going to quickly check this off your list, remember to take a closer look at this concept.  Ask yourself this question, “Because I bear his name, is there any part of my behaviour or actions that is not lining up to the Word of God?”





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