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Taking The Lord’s Name In Vain

Written by David Banks

“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

Nothing bugs me more than to hear someone say the Lord’s name in vain. It is especially disturbing when I hear a Christian say it. Certainly, using the Lord’s name as a cuss word or a curse word or a slang word must incur the wrath of God, but I think that the concept of taking the name of the Lord in vain goes much deeper than what we say.

When the Israelites first heard the command they heard it straight from the mouth of God in His own voice. It is, of course, the third of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Israel. We do not have this precise command repeated anywhere in the New Testament. We do, however, have the concept and like other Old Testament commandments that are restated the requirements are enhanced in the New Testament.

When my wife and I got married one of the greatest privileges for me was for her to take my name. Not only was it a great privilege but it was also a great responsibility for both of us. We each have a responsibility to protect the reputation of this name. A good reputation equals a good name and vice versa. I believe the Biblical concept is similar to that. When God said to the Israelites, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” I believe that He was referring to the reputation for which they became responsible because they wore God’s name. They could take the Lord’s name in vain not only by what they said but also by how they lived.

The same is true for us. When we obey the Gospel we become Christians. We take the name of Christ. Peter wrote, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name” (1Peter 4:14-16). As Christians, those who wear the name of Christ, we take upon ourselves the responsibility of bringing glory and honor to that name. To speak and live in a manner that brings shame on us is to take the name of Christ in vain. The apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).

To do something in vain means that your efforts and your good intentions have been wasted. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth encouraging them to live their lives worthy of the Gospel. He wrote, “Brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain” (1Corinthians 15:1-2). The clear implication is that if you do not live in a way that honors your commitment to Christ then the Gospel in which you believed and by which you were saved will be of no benefit to you on the day of judgment. So at the conclusion of this statement, Paul wrote, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (v. 58).

If you are a Christian then you have taken upon yourself the responsibility of protecting the reputation of the name of Christ. “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is sinful to take the name of the Lord your God in vain. “For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

Church of Christ
100 Rena Road
Van Buren Arkansas

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