The Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.”
The Westminster Larger Catechism gives a biblical exposition of the sins forbidden in the Third Commandment. Let’s consider one of the phrases found in answer 113: “The sins forbidden… are …misinterpreting, misapplying, or any way perverting the word, or any part of it…”
To mishandle the Word of God is to take the Name of God in vain. God’s Name is one part of His self-disclosure in His Word. God reveals Himself, He reveals His Name, by His Word. To misinterpret, misapply, or pervert His Word is blasphemy.
Consider what the apostle Peter says about the writings of the apostle Paul. In 2 Peter, chapter 3, Peter speaks God’s Word about the second coming of Christ, and the new heavens and new earth, the home of righteousness. In light of Christ’s return and the renewal of all things, we are to be diligent to be found in Christ, without spot and blameless. In verses 15 & 16, Peter writes, …the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation – as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
Twisting or perverting the Scriptures is deadly, dangerous business. It blasphemes God’s Name, and it exposes us to destruction – to God’s eternal judgment. To take the meaning or application of God’s Word lightly is to take the Name of God lightly. It is to profane His Name. And yet we are so ready to speak our opinions about the meaning and application of God’s Word. Did you ever think that certain kinds of Bible study, where Christians sit around and talk about what a passage “means to me,” may well be an exercise in blasphemy? Potentially in “twisting the Scriptures”? That God’s Name is taken in vain to an even greater degree than what you might hear at a local sports bar? Not merely USING God’s Name in an empty, irreverent way – but misinterpreting and misapplying His Word. TWISTING the Scriptures.
The Word of God is not about you, or me, or “what it means to me.” The Word of God is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Word of God made flesh. The One who came to perfectly reveal the meaning of God’s Word – and its application. He came to show us that God’s Law is true. We are sinners – blasphemers – worthy of destruction. And yet, He gives His own flesh on the Cross to bear the destruction, the judgment, we deserve in our place. To forgive us our sins. To justify us. To reconcile us to God. To renew us – as those who would treasure God’s Word as the revelation of His mercy and grace to us in Jesus.
So let us repent of our casual, proud, self-centered commentary on God’s Word. Let us embrace by faith this Jesus – crucified and risen – who is the whole point of God’s Word. And by His grace, let us see and confess our sin, and our Savior, whenever we open our Bibles, or our mouths about God’s Word.