A homily on the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.”
We’re continuing to use the Westminster Larger Catechism’s exposition of the Ten Commandments. That exposition is always biblical, thorough, and convicting.
Q. 112. What is required in the third commandment?
A. The third commandment requires, that the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.
This commandment reminds us of the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Your Name.” God makes His Name known by revelation. He reveals Himself to be the great I AM to Moses at the burning bush – as well as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And He makes Himself known to us in the Gospel as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God’s Name is part and parcel of God’s Word – His revelation, His self-disclosure.
God’s Name is holy. And so we are NOT to take God’s name in vain – by lightly using it, with expressions like, “Swear to God!” We are not to take VOWS lightly in His Name. Christian wedding vows. Church membership vows. To break such vows is to take God’s Name in vain, and to invoke His judgment.
And God’s WORD is holy. That means we should not read or hear God’s Word lightly. When the Scriptures are read and faithfully preached, God is speaking. His Word is to be received with holiness and reverence. God has allowed His Word to be preached through weak and sinful vessels. But if we focus on the vessel – whether we think the vessel is ugly or attractive – and ignore the voice of God, we have taken God’s Name in vain.
We may find ourselves often distracted, inattentive, casual, critical, chatty, as the Scriptures are read and preached. Let’s be clear. This is sin. Not against the preacher, or the church, but against God. We treat His Word, His Name, as a common and profane thing. And so all of us, including this preacher, are condemned by this commandment.
But Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. He comes into this world to glorify His Father’s Name. He does so by honoring His Name and obeying His Word – even unto death. And the death He dies is for us. For us who take God’s Name in vain – in our thoughts, words, and deeds. On the Cross, Jesus is treated as the worst blasphemer who ever lived, so that you would be treated as one who has perfectly hallowed God’s Name. This is the great exchange of the Gospel. This is good news for blasphemers like us. Jesus is made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. So let us confess our sins, and glorify God’s Name by faith in His Gospel.