Summary: An Exposition of the Third Commandment with Emphasis on its Current Application


I. The Third Commandment is based on God’s holiness

A. (Lev. 11:44-45; I Sam. 2:2; I Peter 1:15, 16)

B. Because God is holy, even his name is to be respected.

1. A name is more than a word; it is always associated with a person. A name in the Bible is an expression of a person’s character and communicated something of what that person stood for.

2. To “misuse” or “take God’s name in vain” literally means “to lift it up to or to attach it to emptiness”

C. The Jews considered God’s name so holy that they would not even say it or spell it. They would not even use it in prayer lest they misuse it. Instead they would substitute other words for it.

“When the scribes came to write out the name of God, on this safety-first principle they never wrote it out in full, but only the four consonants. And when they did come to write the Hebrew letters ‘YHWH’ they would wash, put on new clothes, use a new quill, write the name and then throw the quill away. When they came to read the word aloud, rather than pronounce it they substituted the word ‘the LORD’.” (J. John, Living the Ten Commandments in the 21ST Century, p. 222)

D. This command also underscores the importance of our speech:- Command I – Love God supremely: II – with your body, III- with your speech.

II. The Significance of the Commandment

A. It forbids using God’s name in profanity – Concise Oxford Dictionary “Jesus (Christ) exclamation, expression of surprise or impatience, etc. [name of the founder of Christian religion d. c. AD 30]”. Even though we use a substitute

B. It forbids making a false pledge or vow using his name (Lev. 19:12)

C. It forbids using God’s name in a manipulative way, i.e. in magic or to curse someone and thus for selfish or evil purposes, and therefore seeking to usurp his authority (Psalm 139:20)

D. It forbids using God’s name carelessly or frivolously “vain” shav means “empty, idle, insincere, phony, frivolous, lacking in reality or truth.” e.g. as gap-fillers in conversation

E. It forbids using God’s name unthinkingly in worship – needless repetition, mouthing words without a deep sense of reverence or concentration

F. The positive side of the command requires that we honour and reverence God’s name, i.e. God himself:

1. By not using his name in an irreverent, frivolous and disrespectful way

2. By taking people to task for using God’s name in this way

3. By not using God’s name to make us look good or to further our own projects, i.e. to lend credibility to what is our hunch or our own wish.

4. By not cheating God of his honour – by failing to give Him glory for the things he does in our life and taking all the credit ourselves.

5. By not living an inconsistent life. As the people of God we are bearers of his name and guardians of his reputation (N.B. Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46).

6. By guarding and cultivating our speech (Eph 4:29; Col. 4:6).

“A missionary in the orient tells how a 20 year-old man approached a temple, removed his sandals, and bowed before the idol. Drawing a dagger from beneath his shirt, in one quick swipe he cut off his tongue and offered it to the silent, lifeless image. In minutes he lay unconscious in a pool of blood at the feet of the statue. God wants our tongues, not cut off and placed before him, but dedicated to his worship, service and honour.”