Taking the Name of God in Vain

By Dr. Ken Matto

(Exo 20:7 KJV) 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.

Some months before I penned this article I wrote a similar one called “Jocularity and the Name of God.” It was in response to a “religious joke” I received which took the name of God in a very flippant manner. As I was looking at the above verse, it is teaching that taking the name of God in vain is not only done by means of the mouth but also our actions. Now this article basically is focused on Christians because we expect the world to take God’s name in a vile manner but when Christians presume upon the good nature of God toward His children and then use His Name with levity, then we really need to check our Christian walk.
The words “take” and “taketh” in the above verse not only directs us to the course of the mouth but these words also have the meaning of “bear” or “carry.” Every true Christian carries with them the name of God.
(Rev 14:1 KJV) And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads.
The 144,000 is representative of the completion of the body of believers. In other words, every true Christian symbolically has the name of God in their foreheads. Of course, we know it is not a visible mark but a spiritual one. Each Christian carries the name of God with them. It does not matter who is being mentioned, whether it is God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit. All three come under the warning of Exodus 20:7. As Christians we represent God to the world as His ambassadors. We do this because we go into the world with the Gospel to bring God’s Elect out of the world system.
(Rev 18:4 KJV) And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
The only people who are going to obey the voice of God are those who He has predestined for salvation. They are the ones given the spiritual ears. Those who are not the Elect will remain spiritually dead in the world system. The world system is very hostile to the true Christian but we expect this given the fact that Satan is their master under God’s authority.
What I want to bring to light in this article are several ways that Christians actually violate the third commandment. I am sure that they do not mean it but we must be very careful how we project God to the world and to other Christians. So without further ado, let us look at some of the ways we bear God’s name in a vain way. You may disagree with what I am going to present, but I serve God, not you!
Use it to force a doctrine upon others
(Jer 14:15 KJV) Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.
During the time of Jeremiah, there were many self-proclaimed prophets speaking in the name of the Lord when the Lord did not send them. God told Jeremiah to prophesy to Judah that their coming captivity was going to be seventy years. Yet, there were false prophets who were saying that the captivity was only going to be two years.
(Jer 28:1-3 KJV) And it came to pass the same year, in the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year, and in the fifth month, that Hananiah the son of Azur the prophet, which was of Gibeon, spake unto me in the house of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and of all the people, saying, {2} Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. {3} Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the LORD'S house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon:
Now let us bring this evil practice up to our time. How many times have we heard self-proclaimed prophets in the churches blather out some type of prophesy to proclaim some type of teaching. This practice is not only limited to those who believe in signs and wonders, but it also applies to any Christian who wishes to elevate an erroneous doctrine. For example, have you ever heard free will preachers proclaim that God wants everyone to go to heaven? God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked but He has chosen to save only those whom He has Elected to salvation. I have heard free will preachers say, “that they would never want to serve a God like that.” Guess what, the free will God does not exist in Scripture, yet people are constantly being told that God wants everyone to be saved. This is a vain use of His name to force a doctrine. This can be done with anyone who says “thus saith the Lord” when He has not said it.
Plaster His Name all over trinkets
(Psa 111:9 KJV) He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.
The name of God is holy which means it is to be reverenced and set apart. If you walk into a Christian book store, you will find all kinds of junk with the name of the Lord Jesus Christ on it. This is only a scheme for the manufacturers to sell things. Christian book stores will sell anything for a buck. They are houses of literary prostitution. If you take a look at some of these trinkets, you may be surprised to find that much of this junk is made in China which is the biggest persecutor of Christians.
When we plaster His name all over innocuous Bumper stickers
(Jer 9:5 KJV) And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity.
Just as in the time of Jeremiah, people were taught to not speak the truth but instead speak lies. We do this same practice when we paste bumper stickers on our cars such as “Jesus loves You,” or “God Loves You,” or “Honk if You Love Jesus.” How do you know that God loves that person behind you? You are using the name of God to project a false belief. If the person behind you is not a Christian, then God does not love them unless they get saved. The love of God is qualified and we better understand that. God loves His Elect!
(Psa 5:5 KJV) The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.
(Psa 7:11 KJV) God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.
If that person behind you is not saved, then you are projecting a false sense of security in their life. They might think that if God loves me, then all is well, until they wake up at the judgment seat of Christ on the last day. If you are going to place a bumper sticker on your car, let it have a specific, true biblical message. I have three bumper stickers on my car:
1) Truth not Tolerance
2) If you are living like there is no God, you better be right
3) Jesus Christ is not a Swear Word!
All three of these stickers have something in common, they cause the person who reads them to think and maybe get angry but none of them project a false message of sinners’ appeasement. God will judge sin and the sinners on the last day, who are we to coddle them in the present? Shouldn’t we be warning them instead?
When a False Church names themselves after Christ
(Rom 2:24 KJV) For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he was chiding some in the Roman church that because of their actions, the unbelievers on the outside were blaspheming the name of God. Whenever a church takes the name of Christ and then becomes a false church by spiritual attrition or they take His name and preach false gospels under that name, they have borne the name of God in vain.
When we claim to be a Christian and then act like the world
(Mat 7:16 KJV) Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
One of the biggest misuses of God’s name is the Christian who claims redemption and then acts like the world. Remember, the name Christian carries the name “Christ” in it. So a person who is a Christian is proclaiming they are a follower or adherent of Christ. When the name Christian is mocked by the unbelievers, they are doing the same thing that the unbelievers did to the Roman Church, they were using the sinful actions as an excuse to blaspheme God. This is why those who claim to be Christians, must watch their walk and make sure they are doing nothing to bring down the wrath of the unbeliever on them and giving them an excuse to vilify CHRISTianity.
When we try to unite worldly systems with the Bible
(John 17:17 KJV) Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Take a look at all the psychology books which have called themselves Christian by invoking the name of God on some type of failed worldly theory. Those who read all these “Christian” psychology books will always see that the Scriptures take a back seat to the manipulative psychological theories so eloquently imbedded in the text while they project a false Christian point of view. How many Christians have partaken in twelve step programs under the aegis of some professional psychologist who claims to be Christian. The problem is that over the years I have seen people transfer their addiction from their initial problem to the counselor. Go into any Christian book store and you will see the shelves loaded with self help books and all psychology based with a tincture of Bible. Every one of them invoke the name of God for their theories. This is a vain use of God’s name and they use it to try and add some type of divine authority to their theories from “Abaddon and Apollyon.”
As Christians we must be very careful how we bear the name of God. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is not just done by mouth but mainly by action. I gave a few examples of how we do it. Unfortunately, as Christians, we sometimes do not have discernment in our actions. We must be very sensitive to how we handle the Lord’s name. It is not to be used for profit motive, false emotional based teaching, using it to get what we want, etc. We can violate the Third Commandment with our actions as well as someone doing it with words. Each of us needs to be concerned about the common use of God’s name. He allows us to use His Name but only in the confines of teaching biblical truth and we need to check ourselves to make sure that is the only time we use His Name. It could be that many Christians are in a state of perpetual chastisement because of this reoccurring sin in their life. (Psa 8:9 KJV) O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!