People in general often refer to taking the Lord’s name in vain as using the name of God along with a curse word. It is even thought that using the name of Jesus with a curse word is the same difference. Using any name referencing God/Jesus in a defamatory way or using them in a fit of frustration is often thought to equate to taking the Lord’s name in vain. All of these are true in a manner of speaking but not for the reason that most people attribute it to. Understanding how holy God’s name is should in itself make it obvious why you would not want to attach any word which carries a negative connotation. This is basic reasoning and most sinners even know the vocabulary, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” Even the unrepentant sinner most generally attaches this meaning to this phrase and some even have the moral capacity to not use God’s name in such a way.
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
This commandment exists among one of the most widely known religious documents in existence, the Decalogue (The Ten Commandments). It is probably one of the better known commandments out of the ten.
It seems to be necessary to define at least two words to understand this particular commandment, the words “take” and “vain”. The commandment is to not take God’s name in vain. The consequence of doing so is that God will not hold you guiltless. You will stand guilty before God if you stay unrepentant in this sin. We are not to the consequence section of the scripture yet so let me regress.
The word “take” in most of its applications gives off the impression of obtaining by either force or acceptance of something given. It can also have the meaning of “to bear, lift up, carry”. All of these definitions are defined in a state of continuity: To bear continually, to lift up continually, to carry continually. To “take” in the manner in which the commandment is speaking is not to take a thing up and apathetically lay it down again. It is imperative, it is of the utmost importance to keep a hold of whatever it is that you have taken in this sense of the word. Different avenues of thought could be explored with the word “take” but the information given is sufficient for this article.
The word “vain” has a wide variety of definitions: “deceitful, falsely, lying, worthless, emptiness, deception, falsehood, false, vanity, lies, vain, deceit, empty, false visions”. All of these definitions point to the same idea, vain in essence means something that is not of a true nature, not legitimate. Whether it be illegitimate by way of deception, flat out lying, or simply not having God fully in your life the word vain does not bear a good meaning.
By defining these two words we can get a more accurate view of the meaning of this commandment. The phrase “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” could be understood as do not bear the name of God in falsehood, do not receive God’s name in deception, or do not try to lift up the name of God in emptiness. Let us not ignore that the word vain can hold the meaning of false visions. Let us not use the name of God, supposedly being called by God’s name, and proclaim visions that are false. Since Jesus is the word, any vision that does not come directly from the Bible is vain. Visions and the such bear little importance to the idea of this article hence I move on.
I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
It is plainly understood from these scriptures that the name of God is the name by which the apostles were to be kept. If you read a few verses further past this passage you will find that Jesus is praying for not only the apostles but others. It was not Jesus’ prayer that only the apostles be kept through God’s name but everyone who would eventually hear and believe by their word. This seems to bear two different groups, the apostles and the other people.
Without going into much detail the word ekklesia means “out of the called”. It would take a whole post in itself to explain this word and why exactly it is in this order. I will however say that within the pages of the Bible, if we read close enough, we can see that this definition is correct. In Luke 6:12-16 we find the ordination of the apostles. This can also be found in Mark 3:13-19 and Matthew 10:1-4. In the Luke reference, if we actually read it, we see that He called unto him all his disciples but chose twelve out of them, “out of the called”. In Mark’s telling of the event we find that Jesus went up into a mountain, and He “calleth unto him whom he would”. It was not just a general call but it was “whom he would”. This indicates a choice. There were others that had just been around getting delivered of plagues and unclean spirits before He got to the mountain. He did not give just a general call for all of them but this call was of His choosing.
If we put the two gospel accounts together we understand that people were getting delivered and Jesus had all of His disciples come with him out toward a mountain. Out of that group of disciples He chose twelve to be Apostles that they should be with Him. In the last few verses of Ephesians 2 we find that the foundation consists of Jesus Christ as the chief Corner stone, Prophets and Apostles. The Apostles being ordained “that they might be with him” completed a foundation that had been started in the Old Testament with the Prophets. This topic would be a whole other blog post yet again. Since we don’t want to start another blog post I will finish this particular thought with this thought, there apparently was a group chosen by Christ.
Since Ekklesia means “out of the called” we gather that the apostles were the Ekklesia of the time. The normalized English translation for Ekklesia is “church”. If Jesus prayed that the Apostles be kept through the name of the Father, which is God, we could reckon that referring to the apostles as “the church of God” is sensible. The ones who were chosen out of the called to serve a particular purpose. This is still in effect today, although not as apostles since the foundation is finished and no man can lay another. Jesus did a good enough job with the foundation and I think any Christian would not decry Jesus as not performing a proper job.
If those who are chosen as “the church of God”, the ones who out of the called are chosen, bear the name of God let it be so in reverent fear. If Jesus prayed not only for the Apostles but also for all who hear by their word, let them only accept being called by the name of God in fear. Should it be if you bear the name of God, that is a holy thing, should it be that it is treated as nothing significant? It should never be so that the ones who bear the name of God do so in vain. They should not do it in emptiness, as liars, or in falsehoods.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
Meats for the belly, and the belly for meats: but God shall destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.
And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid.
What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
That was a good bit of Scripture and to dissect each verse would drag this post out so I will not do that. I will however try to summarize the ideas behind them. The “church of God”, as defined previously, has been purchased with the blood of Christ. In the Jewish culture the man usually had to give what was known as a dowry to the father of the woman that he wished to marry. The blood of Jesus was the dowry which purchased, as the Bible says, the church of God. The traditional way that marriage works is that when a man and woman get married she takes the man’s last name. This name was received or taken by the son from his father. In essence the bride would take on the name of the Bridegroom’s father. If we transfer this thinking to Christ and the church in correlation with the prayer that He prayed for them to be kept by the Father’s name we can see that the church is the bride. As such, it takes on the Father’s name, which is God: the church of God.
We find in the second scripture reference some troubling thoughts that the writer addresses. It is apparent that in one aspect or another there were fornicators, harlots, among the people at the church. They had become members of Christ, took the name of God, but they had taken it in vain. They were running the harlot. Your body and spirit, according to scripture, are supposed to be for God. It is so because “the church of God” is His possession. If you take the name of God you are no longer your own, you are God’s. The blood of Jesus Christ has purchased you. He has paid the dowry to have you. You have received the name of God.
Is it in vain? Do you bear the name of God in vain? Was you a liar when you said yes to Jesus, to take the name of His father? Was it done under a falsehood? Are you a harlot and just want the name of God attached to you to take away your reproach? Any who desire to be called “the church”, do you really want the “of God” attached to you? Is it only in vain that you do? Do you only want to be “the chosen” but in vain take God’s name?
You notice the word church is lower case anytime you see it in the Bible, it is God that is capital. This should be fairly obvious as to why but there is apparent need to go on and explain. Being chosen or “the church” is not what makes anyone holy, it is the name of God that does. It is the being chosen by God that makes one Holy. Just being a “church” does not in itself make up very much of anything. The word Ekklesia was used of the assembly that Demetrius the silversmith invoked. He made shrines for the goddess Diana. I would not presume that the assembly (Ekklesia) that he formed was of God, would you? It is the name of God that makes the difference. Ought we to receive this most holy name in vain? I say not.
It should not be necessary to clarify the idea conveyed here but most likely it will be. This is by no means a degradation of any denomination or church otherwise that has the name “Church of God” affiliated in any way shape or form. Every group that has this name capitalizes the words since it is considered a proper name per proper English grammar. I have kept the words “the church of” in lower case letters as the Bible has it written, so that in itself should differentiate between proper names and concepts. More than likely anyone who would be offended by this post has probably stopped reading by now but the few who hears a matter to the end, this explanation should suffice.
Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.
All that pass by clap their hands at thee; they hiss and wag their head at the daughter of Jerusalem, saying, Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?
We defined the word “vain” earlier in this post. One of the definitions we found and have not covered yet is false visions. An interesting definition of the word vision is “something unreal or imaginary; a creation of fancy”. It seems like this definition could fit the verses in Lamentations 2:14-15. It states that the prophets of that day had a vision of false burdens and causes of banishment. In modern words, they were making stuff up that people would get in trouble for but it wasn’t from God. It was imaginary, it was false, it was not a real vision from God. We ought to take heed from these and not use the name of God to promote agendas of false burdens and false reasons of banishment. Do people question our sincerity and ask “Is this the city that men call The perfection of beauty, The joy of the whole earth?” We ought not bear God’s name in vain or use it for our own purposes lest we give reason to those who would ask this of us.
They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.
Have ye not seen a vain vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken?
Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD.
And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel; and ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.
In this passage it basically reiterates the Lamentations verses. The prophets were saying that they come in the name of God, that they had some thing that God had given them but they were liars. They used God’s name to prophesy what they wanted instead of what God told them to say. Actually, it says that God didn’t even send them. How many today say that they have received a special vision from God but it is a false vision? A great deal of people, is the answer. These sort say the Lord has said that something is this way or that way but God did not actually say it. The only thing which can not be in error is the Bible. It is the finished product of God’s word. It is finished and is not to be added to or took away from. With this being fact, Christians should acknowledge that accepting the Bible way is the only way to not have false vision or accepting the Bible is the only way to not take the name of God in vain.
God said in this passage that He is against those who say he sent them, those who say that He told them to say this or that and He did not. The Bible calls them liars. The consequences of these sort of actions are told plain in the Bible: “they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, neither shall they enter into the land of Israel”. We talked earlier about the assembly of God, you do not get to take or use God’s name in vain and stay in God’s assembly. You will be removed by God Himself. Their name will not be amongst the church roll, the writing of the house of Israel. This displeases God so much that the ones who do these things will not even be allowed to enter the land of Israel. This is not a false banishment like we read about before, this is being banished by God Himself. Very much so a reality. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, for God said to those who use His name wrongfully, “ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
There seems to be in the above verses an issue that arose concerning Jesus’ disciples not following the traditions of the elders. Jesus’ rebuttal was a question to the pharisees and scribes, He basically asked, why do you transgress God’s commandment by your tradition? In modern terms it could be a question such as, why do you put your ways and your thoughts above what God actually says?
The Pharisees and scribes were from Jerusalem, the main city of Israel. This city is where the feasts and such happened, where the gathering of the Jews occurred for such events. By who the Pharisees/Scribes were and where they were from, they should of known better but had fallen into traditions and making doctrines out of commandments of men.
The leaders of Israel had formed what was known as an Oral Torah or Oral Law. It was laws which had been spoken by men but never written in the Law of God by Moses. Scribes and Pharisees considered this Oral Law of traditions to be equal with scripture. Jesus rebuked them for this and said your traditions go against the very commandments of God.
The issue came about with the 5th Commandment about honoring your father and mother. There was a process called Korban/Corban in the Oral Torah that excused a child from this commandment if they vowed a portion of money to the temple. With this idea, a child was not required to help an elderly ailing parent financially or otherwise if they pledged that money to the temple. In modern terms, a person could get out of helping their parents in old age if they said “Well what I would have given to you or what I would have helped you with I have in reserve for the church”, “I can not help you because that money is for the church”. The commandment to Honor Father and Mother was long before Oral tradition took over to excuse it. This excuse probably arose because the Scribes and Pharisees were paid out of the treasury. More money in the treasury meant more money for them. Sometimes the people would even lie about having money reserved for the temple just so they wouldn’t have to help someone, they would then keep it for their self. Using God’s name, using reserving something for God as an excuse not to do what is plainly wrote in the Book of God, The Bible.
Jesus said that their traditions went against God’s commandments. He said that those leaders “draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” They talk a good talk but don’t walk the good walk in other words. “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” They had a form of Godliness but denied the power. They took their own oral law and made it equal with the written law of God. It would be like any people now in days that take church tradition passed down through the years over the Bible. They teach commandments of men for doctrine. Just like we read earlier, they invented false burdens and reasons for banishment. It is the same difference today when churches support rights and wrongs that are not founded only in the Bible. It is vain, it is false, it is not God’s commandment thus insignificant to a Christian to finish the course. God did a good enough job with the Bible, He doesn’t need men to write down laws as though He forgot some thing and needs them to fill in the blanks. You want to know why? He didn’t forget anything. Anything we need to know to get to heaven is in the Bible and the Bible only.
All of this may seem to be off topic. I laid the groundwork so that this could be said, God’s name is not to be used to support anything that is false. These leaders of Israel used God’s name to okay all of their tradition and Oral Law. They said the Oral Torah was from God. Jesus, God’s own son, rebuked them for it. Jesus came from the Father sooooo…. I would say that He knows God’s will better than any of us.
Before I continue down a never ending rabbit hole of thoughts I should conclude. If you have read down this far and I have not lost your attention I hope you take the intended concept away from this post. God’s name is holy. We should not attach His name to anything unholy. We should not use God’s name to further our own agenda. We should deny ourselves, crucify the flesh, die daily, and only then can the name of God be not blasphemed in our lives. Only then can we not take the name of God in vain.
We should not take the name of God upon ourselves under false pretenses. We should not say that anything comes from God if it does not. All of these things are taking the Lord’s name in vain. It is not only attaching God’s name to a curse word. This is so as well because it uses God’s name in a false way that is not the intended way. I hope that through this article there was some knowledge gained as to what it can really mean to “take the name of the LORD thy God in vain”. We can not take His name in vain and be a Christian “for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
The most important thing:
If you don’t know Jesus and want to here’s what to do…
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
And you know it works because…
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.